20 March 2017

Nigeria: Govt Okays New Package for Niger-Delta

The Presidency has finally come out with a bumper package aimed at accelerating the return of peace to the troubled Niger Delta region and ensure steady production of oil, Nigeria's biggest foreign exchange earner, and gas, the badly-needed feedstock for the nation's power generating plants.

On the cards are the renewal, and re-award of existing oil pipeline protection contracts, possibly to militant leaders; overhaul of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, and the immediate take-off of the controversial National Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Gbaramatu, Delta State.

It was gathered from presidency sources that the Federal Government is considering the vexatious issue of pipeline protection contracts, which were handled by key militant leaders under the previous administration but abruptly terminated when the Buhari administration took over.

However, it was learned that in a bid to ensure peace, the Presidency had already directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at the protection contracts for the pipelines to ensure that host communities are also incorporated, while ensuring a comprehensive review of existing ones.

A top Presidency official, who is familiar with the roadmap being fine-tuned by the Buhari administration to address the crisis in the Niger Delta, confirmed to Vanguard, last night, necessary directives have been given to the agencies of the administration saddled with the strategic tasks to revamp the Niger Delta and give the people a new lease of life.

According to the official, an implantation planning meeting was held, last week, in the Presidency where several ministers and relevant MDAs started putting draft measures that will ensure the immediate take-off of the programmes aimed at transforming the region.

On the Maritime University, under the comprehensive work plan for the development of the Niger Delta, the Federal Government has activated a process for the smooth take-off of the institution, with the Petroleum Trust Development Fund as the lead agency in the implementation of the plan, another presidency source disclosed.

"In this regard, the Federal Government is considering the release of a substantial take-off grant for the university while awaiting the conclusion of legislation on the establishment of the university by the National Assembly.

"The Federal Government is also seeking international collaboration with universities across the world for commencement of academic programmes at the university.

"The Presidency has directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in conjunction with the Petroleum Trust Development Fund, PTDF and other stakeholders to come up with a proposal for an effective funding model for the university.

"The Presidency has also directed the NDDC to liaise with the relevant agencies and organisations to facilitate the construction of an access road that will pass through Escravos to the university in Gbaramatu community.

Registering of illegal refineries

On modular refineries, unlike in the past when the government attempted to chase away illegal refiners, the source said the administration was considering securing crude for them to refine under certain conditions.

The source said, "The modular refinery initiative of the administration will be private sector led and will entail independent indigenous oil producers working with oil-producing communities to formalize the process of converting illegal refineries in their domains into legal entities that would be run in collaboration with government.

"Under the new arrangement, the Federal Government is considering a situation where operators of illegal refineries in the oil-producing communities will legally receive crude oil at reasonable rates for refining while modalities would be worked out for them to register such refineries as legal entities.

According to the presidency source, "Uunder the new plan, operators of such illegal refineries could become shareholders with additional investments made in their businesses."

It was learned that the presidency has directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, as the anchor of the modular refinery initiative, to work in conjunction with the NDDC and state governments in the region to actualize the goal.

The presidency, it was also gathered, has directed the NDDC to evolve a strategy that would organise all modular refinery operators in the region into co-operatives to enable them access better funding and related support from the relevant organizations.

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