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The Nigerian government’s plan to develop the Niger Delta seems not to be in line with the projected views of some elders and leaders of the region. Stakeholders of the region will meet with President Muhammadu Buhari this Tuesday, but there are indications that they have decided reject the multi-trillion naira development package because the funding is private sector driven and not from the government. Questions are being asked if the focus should be the help or from whom the help is coming.

Last week, at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja, President Buhari flagged off the ‘7 Big Wins’, a roadmap for the development of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. Part of the development plan is a $10 billion (N4 trillion) infrastructural rebirth investment programme in the Niger Delta area.

The money would be used to build infrastructure in the oil region. The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu reportedly said the money is not necessarily going to come from government’s purse, rather from “oil companies, investors, individuals”.

According to reports, when the elders, leaders, and stakeholders of the Niger Delta region meet with Buhari tomorrow, they will inform him of their disapproval of the development plan for the oil region. “At the end of the day, other Nigerians will say ‘why complain when you have $10 billion?’ and the money is not there in the first place. If the companies have such money, they should pay the money owed the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, rather than blackmail the region with such money,” some of the leaders told the Vanguard.

The NDDC have had issues with oil companies operating in the Niger Delta for failing to pay the development levy to the regional development agency. In June, the National Assembly joint Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission issued a bench warrant on seven oil companies for failing to appear before it to defend themselves over the alleged non-remittance of their statutory development fund to the NDDC.

This is one of the concerns that have been raised by the elders of the oil region. This is a genuine point, which has to be given consideration. It is not okay when the money that was supposed to be compulsorily paid by these companies in the first place is now presented by the government as a ‘contribution’ towards government’s development plans.

However, as important as the concern raised is, it is not sufficient reason to delay the developmental plans that the government has for the region. By declaring their non-approval to the government plans in the region, this could be a bottleneck to the speedy execution of those plans.

Instead, the help in sight should be a greater focus and not necessarily the sources of the fund, which are legal after all. It is commendable that the government has come up with a specific plan that aims at committing these oil companies to the development of the region where they operate.

It will be better if the stakeholders from this region put more energy towards ensuring the government delivers on its promises. If the projected $10 billion is eventually spent on infrastructural development in different areas of the oil-producing region, this would be a sort of solace to those whose communities have long been short of significant development in past time.

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