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The disclosure by Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Charles Achodo that government would invest about N1.7 trillion in the Niger Delta region before 2021 to address developmental challenges and create employment for the teeming population has elicited reactions from development economists.
The reactions are coming mainly from the perspective that the current Presidential Amnesty Programme of the Federal Government with fat budgetary provision remains unsustainable, as it does not totally address the challenges of the region to guarantee lasting peace.
Achodo had noted at the 7th Sustainability in the Extractive Industry (SITEI) conference organised by CSR-in-Action in Abuja, that the N1.7tr would be invested by the government in collaboration with International Oil Companies (IOCs) and some government agencies.
However, a development economist, Dr. Ken Igboanugo in a telephone interview, averred that “Time has passed when government take Niger Delta people for a ride”.
“Nigerians are now wiser and have understood how national budget works. Nigerians are aware that if a project is not contained in a national budget, forget whatever any government official is saying on delivering it.
“So my question is if government is targeting the investment of such huge fund between now and 2010, how much was first of all, budgeted on the same scheme this year”.
“Now, if the total budget for federal projects in Niger Delta for this year is less than N300bn, how can N1.7tr will be spent in changing the lives of residents of the region in a space of three years?
“To me, the Niger Delta leaders should watch this government very closely to avoid playing with their intelligence in next year’s election.
Continuing, Dr. Igboanugo recalled that the government is yet to enforce its executive order on International Oil Companies (IOCs) to relocate their head offices to Niger Delta; an order the same government gave about few months ago.
However, explaining more, the aide to the Minister of State, noted that “The amnesty is very clear, but it cannot be a solution to the state of insecurity in the Niger Delta. Rather, you use the amnesty to create an asymmetrical environment. A fragile environment does not like asymmetry, it likes more of a symmetrical response.
“A situation where you are paying people N65,000 every month to keep quiet does not solve the problem. If you multiply N65,000 by the number of militants and by the number of years the programme had been running, you are looking at close to N50 billion. That is a huge amount of money. It is not sustainable and it is not guaranteeing you what you expect in the place,” he noted.
Achodo lamented that $40 billion had been invested in 11,000 projects in the Niger Delta over the last 10 years without concrete impact, noting that this led to the launch of the Niger Delta Development Compact by the Federal Government to mobilise N1.7 trillion to the region in the short to medium term.
He said the $40 billion was invested through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and other government agencies.
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