Abuja – The people of Niger Delta region will soon breathe a sigh of relief following on-going efforts by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to improve their livelihoods.
The Niger Delta extends over about 70,000 km (27,000 sq miles) and makes up 7.5 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass.
Historically and cartographically, it consists of present-day Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States. In 2000, however, Ex President Olusengun Obasanjo’s regime included Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River State, Edo, Imo and Ondo States in the region.
Some 31 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups including the Bini, Efik, Esan, Ibibio, Igbo, Annang, Oron, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Itsekiri, Isoko, Urhobo, Ukwuani, Kalabari, Okrika and Ogoni, are among the inhabitants of the political Niger Delta, speaking about 250 different dialects.
Nigeria used to be West Africa’s biggest producer of petroleum, as some two million barrels (320,000 m) a day were extracted in the Niger Delta.
It was estimated that about 38 billion barrels of crude oil still reside under the delta as of early 2012.
But that has changed due to youth restiveness, militancy and agitation in the region.
This has slowed down the pace of development in the area as attempts made in the past to improve the lives of the people of the region had ended with very little results to show for the time and resources spent.
To this end, the Federal Government had designed a master plan to ensure the development of the region.
Brig-Gen. Paul Boroh, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, said the plan tagged; “Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan’’ was ready for submission to the President.
Boroh, who is also the Coordinator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday.
According to him, the Master Plan is basically conceived as a tool that the people of the region could use to actualise their common vision and build their future to the standard they desire.
“The Master Plan is designed to offer stakeholders at all levels individuals, groups and communities the opportunity to participate fully in the planning and decision making process.
“The coordinating consultants require the ideas and opinions of stakeholders as basis for defining focus areas for development and for producing a vivid picture of what the people want the region to look like in the future.
“This implies that the input of stakeholders today is what will determine the state of affairs both for individuals and communities in the region years to come,” he said.
The coordinator said the Master Plan, covers demography, environment and hydrology, agriculture and aquaculture with focus on economic activities biodiversity, transport and infrastructure.
Other areas he said includes rural, urban, regional planning and housing, community development, governance and capacity development, health, small and medium enterprises, water supply, and electricity.
The reast are telecommunication and vocational training with focus on employment generation, waste management and sanitation, large-scale industry, solid minerals, tourism, social welfare, arts, sports and culture among others.
According to him, it is understandable that the people of the region are quite disillusioned with plans at this time.
“The disenchantment of the people notwithstanding, it must be stated that the Niger Delta Master Plan is different in its goals, focus and approach, and will not suffer the fate of the others before it,” he said
The Federal Government recently held a National Summit on Niger Delta to secure Executive buy-in on the evolved Niger Delta Plan and Niger Delta Master Plan.
The summit also looked at ways to ensure implementation of the Niger Delta Sustainable Development Compact (NDSDC).