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Why Niger Delta ministry was created, by Yar’Adua 12/9/2008

Posted by From Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja on 2008/09/12 | Views: 2049 |

Why Niger Delta ministry was created, by Yar’Adua 12/9/2008

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua yesterday explained his joker for the Niger Delta crisis.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua yesterday explained his joker for the Niger Delta crisis.

He said the newly created Ministry of the Niger Delta will serve as the primary vehicle for the delivery of his Administration’s agenda for the rapid socio-economic development of the oil-rich, but long-neglected region.

The ministry, according to the government, is to co-ordinate environmental and youth empowerment policy initiatives for the development of the region.

It is to be run by two ministers - one to focus on infrastructure development; the other on youth empowerment. By the new order, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has been working on the development of the region, is under the ministry.

Speaking at a meeting with the British Minister for Africa, Lord Malloch – Brown, President Yar’Adua said that the new ministry would oversee the implementation of measures and policies to resolve the peculiar problems of the Niger Delta.

"The Ministry will co-ordinate our efforts to tackle the challenges of infrastructural development, environment protection and youth empowerment in the region," the President said.

He also assured Lord Malloch-Brown that measures were being taken by the Federal Government to deal with security aspects of the problems in the Niger Delta.

President Yar’Adua also reiterated his administration’s appreciation of the offer by the British Government to assist Nigeria with the development of a greater institutional and human capacity to resolve some of the challenges in the region.

The Niger Delta was not the only issue discussed. The President said that the Federal Government was studying Nigerian laws with a view to initiating amendments that may be required to "operationalise" a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Britain. Many Nigerians are in British prisons.

He reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to the war against corruption. "Nobody, no matter how highly placed, will be shielded, once caught in the web of corruption," President Yar’Adua told the British minister.

Malloch-Brown, who was accompanied to the State House by Mr. Bob Dewa, the British High Commissioner in Nigeria, said he discussed corruption and court cases concerning some Nigerian politicians with the President.

He also cleared the air on the nature of assistance his country offered to render in the Niger Delta, noting that it was purely on training.

Malloch-Brown said that at no time did Britain contemplate assistance in military hardware or sending down British soldiers to the Niger Delta.

He said: "It was the President himself that called for cooperation with us on some high court actions in the UK, which is enormously important priority for him and a broader commitment in fighting corruption and rule of law. In other words, he wants to ensure that the court in UK or here in Nigeria is fully respected in a way that you root out corruption and respect rule of law structure. He expressed cooperation and full support to what is happening in the law court in London."

Malloch-Brown also revealed that the case of former Governor James Ibori "came up in the context of what I have just said now."
"He pledged his full support and cooperation to the British legal authority handling the case," the envoy said.

Malloch-Brown also revealed that his discussion with President Yar’Adiua was a follow-up to the one that was opened during the President’s visit to UK in July.

"It was a follow-up to the issues that were raised in London when he was the guest of the government in July. It ranged from issues that had been raised then and he has instructed his ministers to follow up in the meantime. We had a good discussion on the good steps his government had taken. I also brought him warm regards from his good friend, Gordon Brown.

We also talked more of the existing warm relationship we have between Nigeria and UK as he knows I have been to Nigeria so many times and, for me, it is a homecoming. It is a great opportunity for me to feel what is going on the country," he said.

The Niger Delta, according to him, dominated the discussion.
"There has been large British development which has been going on here for a long time; it was touched on. The issues of the Niger Delta where we always try to support the government initiative to provide political solution to the issue and good governance to make sure the benefit of development reaches the people. We also want to make sure that the security forces operating in the Niger Delta are properly trained.

We20discussed the British role in supporting the development objective as well as security objective. And I do want to really stress because there has been a misunderstanding about this in the past and it is mainly the role of supporting and development in the Niger Delta that dominated the discussion."

Malloch-Brown blamed misunderstanding for the backlash that greeted the offer by his country at the height of militancy in the Niger Delta.

He said: "There is a misunderstanding about the proposal. The issue of training; we are already providing training for Nigerian peace-keeping and it is a long tradition of British training Nigerian defence forces. This is a training role in the background. It is not providing equipment and certainly not providing British soldiers. I think the bad reception and misunderstanding of the support, I think this is an extension of military training and cooperation, which has been going on between Nigeria and U.K.; it is not some new initiative or expansion of our role."

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