The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has called for the collaboration and support of Belgium in areas of health, environment, youth empowerment and development of critical infrastructure in the Niger Delta region.
The NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, made the call when the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Daniel Bertrand, paid him a courtesy visit at the Commission’s new headquarters in Port Harcourt.
He commended the Ambassador for visiting the NDDC because of its strategic role in the development of the Niger Delta region, stating: “We want collaboration in the areas of health, environment, training, agriculture and developing a new Master Plan.”
He said further: “Health is a major challenge in the Niger Delta region and Belgium has what it takes to assist us, considering the way it was able to successfully tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Akwa observed that Belgium, as the headquarters of European Union, was in a vantage position to coordinate other multi-national companies doing business in the Niger Delta region to partner with the NDDC to speed up development of the region. He said that physical infrastructural development, as well as boosting agriculture, aquaculture and training of the youths in various vocations, were prime issues that called for collaborative efforts.
The NDDC boss noted that part of the health challenges emanated from environmental degradation due to oil spill and gas flaring; stressing the need for assistance and co-operation of multinational companies operating in the Niger Delta region to stop gas flaring and check environmental degradation through collaborative efforts.
He lamented: “Our environment has been put in jeopardy because of the oil and gas exploration and exploitation of multinational companies in the region.”
Akwa called for collaboration with the Belgian Government in its efforts to produce a revised Regional Development Master Plan for the Niger Delta region.
He remarked that the Master Plan, which had a life-span of 15 years, expired in 2020. He, therefore, appealed to the Belgian Government for a partnership to produce another Master Plan that would facilitate the rapid development of Nigeria’s oil-rich region.
He said that the Niger Delta region had great potentials in agriculture, noting: “Our people are predominantly fishermen and farmers and agriculture is the strength of the region.
Earlier in his remarks, the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Bertrand, said that the Belgian Government was interested in deepening the bilateral ties with development agencies in Nigeria, stating: “I am looking forward to working together with the NDDC to deepen our excellent relationship.”
The Envoy stated that he was in the Commission on a fact finding mission to have firsthand knowledge of the mandate of the NDDC and seek ways of partnering with her. “I wanted to see you to understand what you are doing, your priorities and see what we can do together,” he said.