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Published On: Fri, Jul 18th, 2014

Steve Oru and the Challenges of Niger Delta

Minister of Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr Steve Oru

By Barr. Mary Oyibochs-Agbajoh

It is a thing of joy for Urhobo Nation, People of Niger Delta Region and Nigerians when the new Minister of Niger Delta Region, Dr Stephen Oru, assumed duty recently as the substantive minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta
It is a thing of happiness especially for the Urhobos because their own person had been appointed to oversee a ministry in which they are stakeholders. It is a thing of joy to the people of Niger Delta region because the new appointment was overdue hence Elder Godsday Orubebe the outgoing minister did not meet their expectation.
Nigerians and people of Niger Delta were more elated over the new appointment because the slow pace of development in the Region is having a serious impact on the Nation.
In his speech after his inauguration, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Steven Oru vowed to consolidate on the achievement of his predecessors in the Region, adding that having inherited already awarded failed contracts on the East-West road there is nothing he can do but channels all funds to paying contractors to ensure all important roads that lead to the heart of the great people of the Niger Delta is fully completed.
Oru who vowed to dedicate all his time for the realization of developing the Region in the time of President Goodluck Jonathan by concentrating on getting groused with financial economic gap he met on ground, described his appointment as a “Test Case” to prove his worth over years of his commitment and support for the Jonathan administration as Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Director Delta State and PDP Chairman of South South .
Having affirmed that he had sufficient knowledge of what the people of the region need and truly deserve, he pointed out that his capacity remain focus to make good use of the opportunity which
President Goodluck Jonathan termed “Injury time”.
While his statement is a welcome development, he should be quickly reminded that past leaders of the Ministry who were. found wanting for lack of performances have made similar promises. His name will go into the golden book of Niger Delta history if he excels in his new adventure.
It would be recalled that the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs was set up by late President Umaru Yar’Adua with the mandate to coordinate efforts at ensuring infrastructural development, environmental protection, youth empowerment and creation of peace in the once-restive region. It promptly set out to satisfy the national clamour to remediate the region by embarking on numerous lofty projects all at once in a bid to fast track his mandate.
These include road construction projects chief of which is the 337-kilometre East-West road traversing the region which the Ministry inherited from the Ministry of Works, various land reclamation and shoreline protection projects, building of skill acquisition centres across the oil producing states, various housing, water and rural electrification projects in communities spread across the region, among others.
Investigation, however , revealed that despite the huge amount in billions of Naira pumped into the Niger Delta Ministry since inception, no meaningful development has been achieved in the region.
Rather there were plethora of complained of inactiveness and allegation of misappropriation of funds against those saddled with responsibility of managing the affairs of the Ministry.
Initially, it was more convenient to believe that the plethora of complaints of inactivity and allegations of misappropriation of funds which has now become a daily chant were orchestrated by disgruntled contractors, marginalized communities and disenchanted indigenes but the sophistication of the protests which most times now come with real facts and figures is a pointer that if the federal government does not intervene now, the Niger Delta Ministry as an institution and even the spirit behind the Enabling Act may be completely destroyed not by people from outside region but “sons of the soil.”
For instance as at when former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe was removed for alleged lack of performances most land reclamation, shoreline protection and canalisation projects across the Niger Delta were still at consultancy stages with millions of naira budgeted, while construction of jetties, dredging and seaports development, as well as conservation and development of coastal ecosystems in seven states which have been budgeted for were yet to take off .
In the area of skill acquisition, over 34,004 youths were shortlisted for training in ten identified sectors ranging from oil and gas to maritime, but only 701 youths were sent to India, Benin Republic and Israel to be trained in just 3 out of 10 sectors, namely-agric (90 youths), oil and gas (341 youths) and maritime (270 youths).
The East–West Road traversing the Niger Delta region, and into the southern states of the Country as a putative Trunk “A” federal road, has remained in a terrible state in spite of the deadly nature that
the road has deteriorated to; and, rather than taking pragmatic steps to check the devastating trend, the outgoing Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has been more occupied with face saving media engagements. No wonder stakeholders are bothered that as at today no single capital project is ready for commissioning despite the billions of naira allocated to the Ministry year after year since its creation.
The aforementioned analysis on the flaws of the Niger Delta Ministry is to remind the new Minister of Niger Delta, Dr Steve Oru of. The herculean task ahead in disabusing the minds of the people of Niger
Delta region that he will not toe the line of his predecessors of none performance.
Being an Urhobo indigene and aware of Urhobo cry to President Goodluck Jonathan of marginalization the ball is now in his court to make the President believe that the Urhobos whom he had neglected for long are good managers, achievers and performer if giving the opportunity to work.
He should look at the demerit of his predecessors with respect to the mandate at which the Ministry was established by Late President Musa Yar’Adua and ensured the goals at which the Ministry was set up was not only achieved but were surpassed. He should also understand that President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed him as the Minister is from the Niger Delta region and as such should perform creditably well so as to make the President proud of having achieved his aim of developing his region.
It is cheering news that Oru while addressing the press after his swearing in ceremony affirmed that the challenges facing Niger Delta region were still there for him to address, maintaining that peace in the Niger Delta was germane to national development. He equally noted that achievements of the past should not be seen by staff as victory, as they still had much areas to cover.
Be that as it may, the Minister being an indigene of Niger Delta and from Urhobo nation which is saddled with responsible of producing on shore oil and gas knows where the shoe pinches and is expected to work extremely hard to amiolorate the pains and suffering of people of Niger Delta region.
A word is enough for a wise.
Barr. Mary Oyibochs-Agbajoh Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Delta
State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan wrote from Abuja

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