By Michael Jegede
The Head of European Union (EU) in Nigeria, Ambassador Michel Arrion, has disclosed that the international organization has 700 different micro projects across the Niger Delta region.
Ambassador Arrion made the disclosure when he paid a courtesy call on the Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, to pledge the support of the EU to the new leadership of the intervention agency.
According to the EU Envoy, the Niger Delta issue needs a global response and approach in addition to all other methods being applied to solve the problem of the oil-rich region.
His words: “We are already doing a lot (in the Niger Delta region). We are involved in the dialogue. We are involved in the discussions. We are also involved today in a lot of programmes – in water, sanitation and health. We are funding the immunization campaigns. We are trying to help some communities to fix their problems in the field of water, in sanitation. We have 700 micro projects in the Niger Delta region. So, we are doing a lot. What we would like to do now also is to be a bit more specific in few, I would say, economic infrastructure programmes. We cannot be everywhere. So, I think we need all the forces of the external partners together with Nigerian authorities to come with a set of priorities. I insisted on power, on energy, electricity. You cannot do anything without water. You cannot have any economic investment without power. So, fixing the problem of power is certainly important. No investor will come without security. So we need all those things fixed in a consistent manner. And I was really delighted to hear from the Chairman that one of the priorities is to look at the master plan. What is the plan? And how can we work together and transform it into an action plan where Nigeria will play the first role in that. But the international community can assist, support and complement.”
He stressed the need for individuals to contribute their quota to the task of overcoming the manifold challenges confronting the Niger Delta region, saying: “People should not expect always from the government to fix their problems. They should ask themselves what they can do for themselves.”
The EU leader in Nigeria appealed to those behind the vandalization of oil pipelines and attack on other oil facilities in the Niger Delta area to have a rethink and stop the destruction, as according to him, such action will never help to solve the problem. He said: “People do not realize that when they sabotage pipelines they are spoiling their own soil.”
In an interaction with journalists after his meeting with the EU Emissary, the NDDC Chairman while speaking on the Niger Delta master plan, said: “I believe you were here when I mentioned to his Excellency (Ambassador Arrion) that the master plan that we have for the Niger Delta region is 10 years old and it had a life span of 15 years. It was envisaged for 15 years. Ten years into the plan, it hasn’t been implemented. So, you need to first either revalidate or you update or you come up with a brand new plan. But there needs to be a framework for stakeholder engagement because all stakeholders must be part of that plan. The annual budget of the Niger Delta should just be an incremental step towards realizing an overall plan. But for now we have annual budgets that are not of any plan. So, we must go back to a master plan. What kind of region do we envisage? What kind of region do we want to see in ten years, in 15 years? And we begin to benchmark whatever we do to implement the plan.”
While disclosing that the commission was planning to organize a retreat to generate fresh ideas on the way forward for the Niger Delta, Ndoma-Egba said a comprehensive audit of the NDDC would also be conducted “to know where we are. Because if we don’t know where we are, we certainly will not know where we are going.”
Mrs. Clara Braide, Special Assistant on Communications to the NDDC Chairman said: “The meeting of the EU delegation with the Chairman NDDC is timely and in sync with the committed developmental agenda of the present leadership of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the Niger Delta Region. Nigeria is a key strategic partner of the European Union, being Africa’s most populous nation, its biggest economy and the biggest EU diplomatic hub in the continent.”
FROM MICHAEL JEGEDE