Jonathan diverts N19bn into Niger Delta reclamation

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Ihuoma Chiedozie

The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday directed that a N19bn intervention fund hitherto set aside for the dredging of the lower River Niger should be used to fund shoreline protection and land reclamation projects in affected communities in the Niger Delta region.

The Acting President gave the directive at a meeting with governors of the Niger Delta states at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He directed the Federal Ministry of Finance to hand over the N19bn to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs for the execution of the projects.

The meeting, which was described as that of the Steering Council on Niger Delta Amnesty, considered various proposals on ways to accelerate infrastructural development in the Niger Delta region.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, who addressed journalists after the meeting behind closed doors, explained that Jonathan gave the directive after the governors reached a consensus that the shoreline protection project was a priority for communities in the region.

He said, “At the Steering Council on Niger Delta Amnesty meeting, the main issue was actually to take a decision on certain areas of need for the Niger Delta area.

“There was a proposal to dredge the lower Niger and because of some issues about the area, the Acting President decided to get the governors to take a look at these proposals and see the areas of critical need of their own states so that we take a bottom-up approach in the area of infrastructural development of the Niger Delta.

“Basically, the issue was between the dredging of the lower River Niger to areas that impact on the communities vis-a-vis shoreline protection and land reclamation and all the governors reached a consensus that the most urgent requirement was land reclamation and shoreline protection.”

He noted that the governors’ decision was informed by the fact that several communities in the Niger Delta region had lost large parts of their shorelines to the ocean.

He said, “There have been several instances of communities that have lost much of their shorelines to the ocean; in fact, Bayelsa State has lost almost one kilometre, if not more of its shoreline, to the ocean.

“So, today, the Acting President directed that the N19bn intervention fund should be passed to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs from the Ministry of Finance for this shoreline protection initiative.”

He added that besides land reclamation and shoreline protection, water projects would also form part of the intervention.

According to Niboro, “During the period, there will certainly be some challenges about water sources because those activities will cause some measure of mudding-up of water channels.

“So, there will be some water projects as part of this process to ensure that there is water.”

He further explained that the project for dredging of the lower River Niger would commence once the land reclamation and shoreline protection project was concluded.

“Subsequently, when these areas have been well protected and land adequately reclaimed, we can go into the area of dredging of the lower Niger,” he said.

Jonathan, in the same vein, was said to have directed that there should be no political consideration in the selection of communities that would benefit from the project.

Niboro said, “So, that was the decision at the meeting today and the Acting President also directed that consideration for the communities to be protected should not have any political undertone.

“It should be those communities that are seriously impacted because many communities have lost most of their land to water, anybody from the area can attest to that.”

He also offered further clarification on where the N19bn would be sourced from.

He said, “There was a special intervention fund that was supposed to be for the dredging of that part (of River Niger).

“ So, instead of using it to dredge now, which will cause greater challenges; you know when you dredge, the water channels become deeper, flow becomes faster and it will actually impact more on the shorelines of the communities.

“It is that fund that is to be redeployed to protect the shorelines according to the request of the communities.

“We had a meeting last week and the governors were mandated to seek the opinion of the communities on what exactly was their requirements and this is their consensus.”

He said that the project would commence “as soon as possible.”

“It is an urgent project which does not need any time wasting; there are procurement issues involved.

“Once those issues are sorted out, the projects will not waste any time,” he added.

Niboro said the shoreline protection and land reclamation projects were “also part of the amnesty programme.”

“As you know, infrastructure is also part of the amnesty programme. When you talk about infrastructure you are also talking about that aspect of amnesty,” he said.

Governors at the meeting included Chief Godswill Akpabio of Akwa-Ibom, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Timipreye Sylva of Bayelsa and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers.

Federal Government officials at the meeting included the Ministers of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Ufot Ekaette and Mr. Godsday Orubebe, and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Mansur Muhtar, as well as the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Timi Alaibe.


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