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N’Delta Leaders Raise Concern Over Underdevelopment of Oil Region

Governors of the Niger Delta region, Ministers and other stakeholders in the oil and gas sector have said there was dire need to tackle the level of poverty and development in the nation’s oil rich region.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the stakeholders stated that there was need for urgent action to make communities in the region benefit directly from the volume of economic activities and investment going on in the area.
Governor of Cross Rivers State, Prof. Ben Ayade, decried that the underlying issues of conflict in the region have not been properly tackled. Ayade, who disclosed that plans were underway to resume work on the construction of the proposed 260 km super highway in the state, said there were key disconnections that must urgently be resolved in the oil region.
Ayade said his government is currently putting up “structure to provide job opportunities, training and entrepreneurship, to ensure that the issue of vandalism is addressed in the Niger Delta region.
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson said there was need for massive industrialisation of the region.
He disclosed that collaborative efforts launched by the state in partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) to address economic challenges in the region, was yielding results.
Dickson, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara stressed the need for the federal government to invest in empowering the region.
Also speaking at the conference, Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa insisted that the impression of peace building as a catalyst for economic growth in the region was key to nation’s development.
Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, who insisted that the region must return to agriculture, noted that transparency and accountability was needed to ensure that communities in the region are beneficial of investment in the area.
Disclosing that over $40 billion has been spent in the region in the past 15 to 20 years, Dr Kachikwu stressed the need to change the narrative in the region.
He said: “The first thing is to look at transparency, how we spend the money that we have. Over the last 15 -20 years over $40 billion dollars have been spent in that region today you won’t believe there was anything of such. So transparency is key at state and federal levels”.
He called for collaborative effort from the different stakeholders, adding that the people must be carried along to determine what meet their needs.
“We need to go down to the states and know what they want. Sometimes we assume. We may build a big hospital and no one show up. If they are not participating in what they want there will waste of investment. The time has come for the people to involve, If we do this we can position the investment,” the Minister said.
The minister said the sheer youth population in Niger Delta must not be overlooked, stressing that the strategic need to continue on the ongoing gains in creating value and employment was be prioritised.
He said investors must also invest in infrastructure to allow it drive the economy of the region.
Managing Director of Oildata Wireline, Emeka Ene, stressed on the need for collaboration, adding that stakeholder in the sector must integrate economic solutions to socio-economic problems.

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