The Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Efiong Akwa, has called for a collaboration with the United States government in its efforts to produce a revised Regional Development Master Plan for the Niger Delta region.
Akwa made the call when a delegation from the United States Consulate in Lagos, led by the Political and Economic Chief, Mr. Brandom Hudspeth, paid him a courtesy visit at the Commission’s new headquarters in Port Harcourt.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer remarked that the Master Plan for the region, which had a lifespan of 15 years expired in 2020. He, therefore, appealed to the US for a partnership to produce another master plan that will be tailored to address the needs of Niger Delta people and American citizens in the region.
He said that the Niger Delta, as an oil-rich region, should be looking beyond its oil wealth, stating that the region had great potentials in agriculture. He added: “Our people are predominantly fishermen and farmers and agriculture is the strength of the region. We can feed the world in collaboration with America.”
He called for the support of the U.S Consulate in Nigeria in ensuring that U.S Oil and Gas companies operating in the Niger Delta region remit payments due to the NDDC as at when due as stipulated by the Law.
Akwa said: “We have a good relationship with the oil companies but sometimes they delay in paying their statutory remittances. The law says that they should pay three per cent of their annual budget to NDDC for the development of the Niger Delta region. Most of these funds are often delayed. They should be made to fulfill their obligations to the commission. This will help in stabilizing the region because security of the region means security for oil production.”
Speaking further, Akwa requested for the support of its Postgraduate Foreign Scholarship Programme, which he said had been part of NDDC’s manpower development, noting: “We have been sending out our graduates to foreign universities for post-graduate trainings.
“Unfortunately, we have not received anything in return to encourage us. We have not received sufficient appreciation from the various universities in terms of waivers and complementary scholarships. If we sponsor 20 students, the universities should be able to give us scholarship for additional two students or grant us a waiver. This will help us to sustain the programme.”
The NDDC Interim Administrator equally called on the United States Consulate to establish an office in Port Harcourt to ease off the stress on residents and peoples of the Niger Delta region who have to transact business with the U.S Consulate. “Please open an office here in Port Harcourt so those of us in the Niger Delta region would not need to travel all the way to Lagos to transact our business with you,” Akwa urged.
In the area of health, the NDDC boss said that the challenge of Covid-19 was an eye opener. “We need assistance to leverage on the health sector, recognizing that health is wealth. You can help in training health workers to cope with the pandemic. People in the region need to be vaccinated against the virus and the US can help in providing the vaccines,” he said.
Earlier in his remarks, the head of the U.S Consulate delegation, Mr. Brandon Hudspeth noted that Nigeria and the United States were close allies working together to foster the bilateral relationship between both countries to improve lives, especially in the Niger Delta region.
He said that the US would continue to work with the NDDC to strengthen collaboration on strategies to improve peace and security to facilitate the sustainable development of the Niger Delta region.