Posted by By Charles Ozoemena on
ABUJA—SUPPORT for improved revenue for the Niger Delta came, yesterday, from the United Nations Development Programme....
* Lists ways out of poverty in the region
* As Obasanjo insists on procedure for recruitment
ABUJA—SUPPORT for improved revenue for the Niger Delta came, yesterday, from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as it unveiled its scoreboard on the region’s development. This came on a day the third forum of the Presidential Council on the development of the Niger Delta took place in Abuja.
The UNDP in a report written by a consortium of Nigerian experts said: “The pros and cons of the derivation policy notwithstanding, the bottom-line is that a credible and equitable revenue allocation formula represents a viable way of lessening the tension, agitation and perceptions of unfairness, if not total disillusionment in the Niger Delta.
“The implementation of a viable programme for the rapid human development would be a lot easier to achieve with a revenue allocation formula that the peoples of the Delta could consider equitable and acceptable.”
In order to transform the Niger Delta, the report called for the amendment of existing laws to give equity stake-holdings in oil and gas exploration to communities and states in the coastal states, stating that revenue accruing from this should be administered by trust funds with 50 per cent used for urgent infrastructure needs and the remaining saved for the future.
The report submitted by the Officer-in-Charge of UNDP Nigeria, Mr. Alfred Sallia Fawundu, and which listed a seven-point agenda for sustainable human development including promotion of peace, making local governance effective, diversifying the regions economy and taking an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS, also called for government programmes centred on people.
“The real wealth of the Delta is its people,” the report emphasized, explaining that areas without oil facilities appear to fare better on the poverty index than those with oil facilities — an indication of the unequal distribution of oil resources.
Way out of poverty
The UNDP also called for participatory and people-centred approach to development thinking, planning and implementation as the key to lifting the Niger Delta out of poverty and maintained that “the Niger Delta is a region suffering from administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.”
President Olusegun Obasanjo in launching the report emphasized the need for all stakeholders to play their own part in ensuring the overall development of the Niger Delta. “We know that Niger Delta is an opportunity. We know that Niger Delta is a reality. That is what we are saying. If we do not know what we should do at individual level, family level, community level, at local government level, at state and federal government levels, of course that would be an opportunity wasted,” he said.
We are on the right track—OBASANJO
President Obasanjo in his closing remarks at the meeting expressed optimism that efforts towards the development of the Niger Delta were in the right direction, and challenged the people of the region not to remain cynical.
“I believe we are on the right track and we will surely get there.”
While urging the governors of the coastal states of the Niger Delta to hold a similar forum in their states, Obasanjo said: “I believe we are tasking and challenging ourselves,” and urged the people of the Niger Delta not to remain cynical.
President Obasanjo who noted the renewed determination on the part of states and oil companies to boost development in the region, said “a new wind of change is blowing over the Niger Delta.”
After listening to reports from state governors and oil company chief executives on their development plans for the Niger Delta, the President said the programmes would be collated for proper coordination and verification of their implementation.
He enjoined federal, state, oil company officials to be more specific about projects on ground during the next quarterly meeting scheduled for October 26 when local government chairmen will also be invited to brief the Council on their development programmes.
President Obasanjo commended the governors in particular for attending and reporting on projects in their domain “which they can be held responsible for,” noting that “this is a new beginning.”
Gov Agagu lauded
President Obasanjo commended the efforts of Governor Olusegun Agagu of Ondo State in the management of the 13 per cent derivation fund for the sustainable development of coastal areas of the state.
The president had at an earlier meeting directed the governors of these states to make presentation on what they have been doing to accelerate the development of their coastal communities.
The president described presentation made by Governor Agagu as “very focused, lucid and pragmatic for the development strategies of coastal communities.”
Specifically, the president said “the Ondo initiative in the establishment of a commission to manage 40 per cent of 13 per cent derivation fund is laudable.”
Meanwhile, President Obasanjo said council members would not take over the powers of government establishments in matters of recruitment. “We will have action but we are not going to short-circuit. We want the best and we are not going to short-circuit the process,” he added.
He said in the area of recruitment, “the level of politicisation will be minimal.”
Obasanjo spoke in response to an allegation by an observer at the meeting that some of the pronouncements on recruitment into the armed forces and the police that were reported to the meeting were not actually carried out. He said it was wrong for council members to assume that they could take over the powers of the various government outfits in matters of recruitment.
On oil sales
Also yesterday, President Obasanjo said in spite of high earnings from crude oil sales, government expenditures had remained minimal without engaging in frugality. He made the remark when he hosted World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, during a breakfast meeting.
“The use of excess crude account has helped us to ensure that high crude oil prices do not lead to higher expenditure. Instead, we use the excess crude earnings to stabilise the budget in the event of a shortfall in earnings, and this has helped keep inflation low,” he said.
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