By ‘Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President
*We’re encouraged by Government’s efforts – EU
The Buhari administration, in line with its New Vision for the Niger Delta to develop it, will integrate more youths in the region in its Social Investment Programmes, particularly the N-Power and theGovernment Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP), according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo said this will help reduce unemployment by creating more jobs for young graduates, as well as providing additional assistance for entrepreneurs and artisans in the region.
The take-off of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State, ongoing process of licencing for modular refineries and the Ogoni clean-up are indications of the Federal Government’s resolve to ensure the long-term development of the region, while it will also continue to engage with stakeholders to ensure continuous peace and security in the region, the Vice President added.
Prof. Osinbajo said this on Thursday when a delegation of ambassadors from the US, UK and the European Union (EU), led by Mr. Ketil Karlsen, paid him a courtesy call on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Vice President noted that the Federal Government has made a lot of efforts in engaging the communities and towards improving peace and security in the region since President Muhammadu Buhari first met with Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF, and stakeholders in the region last year November.
Prof. Osinbajo further emphasised that the Buhari administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta is aimed at developing the region through its partnership with state governments, the local communities and private sector.
The Vice President noted that the vast majority of people in the region want sustained peace and security.
He said, “Our engagements with PANDEF and various groups in the Niger Delta is a continuous one; an Inter-Ministerial Committee was set up for this. Practically every other week, we are in some form of engagement or the other. The overriding motive is that of those who wish to see progress in the region. What we have been doing so far is to ensure that we meet the demands of the people for development.
“The Maritime University has practically taken off, we have placed advertisement for staff; the sum of N1 billion has been given by the Federal Government, and there is N5bn allocation for the University included in the 2018 budget. Also, a lot has been done in the ongoing Ogoni clean-up process.”
In his remarks, the Ambassador/Head of the EU Delegation, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, commended the Vice President for his personal leadership in driving engagements and the Buhari administration for its efforts in promoting peace, security and development in the region.
“We acknowledge that significant progress has been made, in the Ogoni clean-up process, Maritime University, and the development of a Strategic Implementation Work Plan for the Niger Delta. We are also encouraged by the peace-making efforts,” Karlsen said.
While adding that the EU will look at ways of providing support for the Maritime University, Karlsen noted that it was important for the Federal Government to sustain its long–term commitment in order to build trust with people in the region.
Also present were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani.
Other representatives of the EU at the meeting include the French Ambassador, Denys Gaver; Italian Ambassador, Stefano Pontesilli; Netherlands Ambassador, Robert Petri; German Deputy Ambassador, Regina Hess; EU Deputy Head of Delegation, Richard Young; as well as British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright; and the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington.