It is because the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has had little impact on the people of the region that the federal government recently endorsed the establishment of a "Multi-Stakeholder Trust Fund" aimed at creating development partners and stakeholders that would move the region to a "sustainable, prosperous and development height".
President Goodluck Jonathan, who gave the approval while formally inaugurating a 40-member National Council comprising government representatives, international organisations, development partners and others in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, said it would assist the Niger Delta ministry in coordinating development resources from different stakeholders to achieve the intended objectives. The trust fund is expected to mobilise an additional $200 million as the first tranche of funding to boost the neglected region.
The move, according to President Jonathan, was part of the efforts by the federal government to consolidate and re-affirm all commitments to the Niger Delta within the framework of the amnesty programme.
The federal government's new initiative may be seen in some quarters as a measure for improving the security situation, enhancing oil production and development activities and leveraging the prevailing peace in the region. These are similar to the expected roles of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. But, several years after the ministry was created, it has not achieved any of its mandates. Little effort has aimed at bringing permanent relief to every person living and doing business in the region.
When the Umaru Yar'Adua administration created the ministry in 2009, it was supposed to implement the Niger Delta Action Plan to complement the specific commitments contained in the presidential amnesty programme. While it may be argued that the amnesty programme that has attracted billions of taxpayers' money is on course, the region remains vulnerable to threats. There is no significant improvement in the Niger Delta to justify the creation of the ministry. Indeed, the region is still without a firm foundation, as there is no strong determination and commitment on the part of all stakeholders to address the state of the region.
Events of the last few months have indicated that the region is still susceptible to danger. The federal government must act quickly to forestall threats to development in the region. Happily, the government has indicated its readiness to consolidate on the current relative peace in the region, which has enhanced oil production.
Thanks to the amnesty programme introduced by the late President Yar'Adua, the security situation in the region has improved. Let the Niger Delta ministry complement that achievement by halting new threats to peace in the area through conscious development of the region. It should start moving fast now.