By Lazarus ILEMS – Port Harcourt
Prior to the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, there was almost nothing good to be said about the Niger Delta region.
The ‘Centre of Nigeria’s oil wealth’ as the region is fondly called, was the scene of protest, conflict, violence, militancy and kidnapping. Despite its abundant oil wealth, there was unimaginable level of poverty, unemployment, inequality, poor infrastructure, lack of social amenities and negligible development in the region.
The Niger Delta region of yesterday, particularly pre-2015, can be said to be a stark opposite of that of today. That of today, and especially under the pragmatic, trailblazing, visionary and transparent leadership of President Buhari, is one that is driving development in Niger Delta towards the ideal.
The region, which was hitherto, at the mercy of insurgency, seems to be fast regaining its lost glories, signposted by the prevailing peace and dividends of good governance Buhari-led administration is serving residents of the region a la carte.
Indeed, the former Military General, without sounding hyperbolic, has proven, by all standards, to be a good manager and transparent leader. Mr. President has recorded gargantuan strides in the region and has become the source of pride to the Niger deltans. Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about the region, under the Buhari administration, is that, it is now a massive construction site, saturated with uncountable life-saving programmes. The vast landscape of the Niger Delta is also dotted with massive, albeit legacy projects that has provided critical and essential social services to the people of the region.
Taking cognizance of the instructive statement of the late Marcus Tullius Cicero – a Roman philosopher, who said, “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others,” the Minister of Niger Delta Affiars, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, recently eulogized President Buhari, for changing the sour stories of millions of people living in the Niger delta region, submitting that posterity will be kind to the father of the modern Nigeria.
Umana, during a presentation for his ministry at the 20th edition of the Buhari administration scorecard series in Abuja, recently divulged many achievements of the President between 2015 and date. He named the construction of 1,874km of roads, the completion of 44 electrification projects, and the provision of 162 potable water facilities as part of the achievements of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the Niger Delta region during the last seven years.
Out of the 1,874km of roads, Umana said the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs completed more than 393km of the roads while the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) accounted for more than 1,481km of them. Therefore, the total tally of hard infrastructure projects in various sectors delivered by Federal government to the Niger Delta region during the reporting period stands at 2, 786, made up of 580 delivered by the Ministry and 2, 206 by the NDDC.
Apart from giving good roads to the people of Niger Delta, the Buhari administration has also provided hygienic water and electricity projects across the nine states of the region. For instance, record shows that the NDDC has delivered 288 transformers, 11,411 solar-powered street lamp posts, 44 school projects, 17 agro-processing plants, 21 social centres, and 15 market stalls to the region.
A renowned scholar, Olawale Daniel, said, “for one to grow capacity in his career, he needs to move from the place of position to a place of skill acquisition.” Perhaps, these illuminative words stirred President Buhari’s interest in the construction of a multi-skills acquisition centre with 500-student boarding capacity in each of the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
For instance, the skills acquisition centre in Bayelsa State was completed and handed over to the Federal University of Otuoke. According to Mr. Umana, two other centres completed in Ondo and Imo are awaiting presidential approval for handover to tertiary institutions in those states, while others will follow suit next year.
In terms of social programmes, record shows that, no fewer than 6, 293 women and youths were trained and empowered with cash and equipment worth N5.5 billion. Each of the trainees received cash support ranging from N300,000 to N500,000 as starter-packs. Materials delivered to the trainees included tractors, tricycles, sewing, grinding and hair-dressing machines.
Among the trainees, according to the Niger Delta Affairs Minister, were 3,864 non-militant youths and women who were trained in agriculture and its value chain, while 224 motorized tillers were delivered to the farmers. Training was also mounted for 75 youths in maritime dredging and photography, he said. The Minister said about 5000 youths and community stakeholders were engaged in peace and security programmes during the period.
However, a careful scrutiny of the current administration’s achievements reveal that, the key policy focus of Mr. President during the period included maintenance of peace and security in the Niger Delta region, coordination of development initiatives based on the harmonization of the various development plans into one holistic roadmap, and the repositioning of the NDDC for effective service delivery.
Also, the forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) had vindicated President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption not just in the region, but Country at large.
Indeed, Mr. President, as a true progressive, has in the last seven plus years majestically shouldered the burden of transforming Niger Delta region beyond anyone’s imagination and posterity will be kind to him ad infinitum.