The Federal Government, through the Ministry of Niger Delta has signed a deal with a United States based firm, Atlanta Global Resources Inc, for the construction of a $15bn rail project that will stretch across all nine Niger Delta states.
The deal was signed on Tuesday at the NDDC Public-Private Partnership summit in Lagos, with the theme, ‘Rewind to Rebirth’.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Umana, said the PPP was an initiative geared towards attracting foreign and private investors to fund the massive developmental challenges in the Niger Delta.
The Minister, who said he inherited a “very messy situation,” added that the PPP was part of an action plan to reposition the NDDC.
He regretted that the region faced many challenges, such as environmental degradation, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and underdevelopment.
Umana said, “The Federal Government recognises the need to address these challenges and to ensure that the people of the Niger Delta enjoy the benefits of their resources and potential. That is why the government established the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2000 with the sole mandate of facilitating the region’s rapid, even, and sustainable development.
“In this regard, the NDDC has been implementing various projects and programmes in sectors such as health, education, agriculture, the environment, youth empowerment, transportation and social welfare. In the process, the commission has delivered quality roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, water supply schemes, electrification projects, skill acquisition centres, agricultural inputs and equipment, waste management facilities, and scholarships.”
Umana also said that the ministry alone could not cater to the needs of the Niger Delta people, and that the private sector was critical to providing funding, technology and expertise needed to take the region to the next level of developmental strides.
He added that the NDDC was opened to dialogue and receptive to feedback from the private sector on ways to improve its policies and processes that would facilitate partnership and participation.
The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Samuel Ogbuku, said the NDDC could not shoulder the enormous responsibility of developing the Niger Delta region alone, and that all hands must be on deck, especially to provide the necessary funds for the task.
He identified setbacks emanating from inconsistent statutory contributions from the Federal Government and failure of some oil and gas companies operating within the region to remit their contributions in line with the NDDC Act as some of the factors that informed the Public-Private Partnership.
Ogbuku noted that in working with stakeholders, the NDDC had resolved to make its 2024 budget an all-inclusive one that accommodates the interests of all key players in the Niger Delta region.
To achieve this, the NDDC MD said the commission had charged the Budget Committee to give stakeholders the opportunity to tell the NDDC the kind of projects they wanted in their areas of operations, so that they could be included in the budget.
He said, “Consequently, in January, 2023, we constituted a management committee on Public Private Partnership to drive our vision of fast-tracking the development of the Niger Delta region.
“The Committee is expected to review all the commission’s existing partnerships as well as explore new partnerships that will result in enduring regional projects.
“Our approach to partnership is to engage specific sectors in their areas of strength. For instance, the private sector is better equipped with expertise, resources, and technology to drive economic growth and development. By partnering with this sector, we can successfully leverage these resources to implement our programmes and projects.”