Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella body of traditional rulers, leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta region has accused the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbjo of causing confusion in the Niger Delta region with his purported abandonment of the Strategic Implementation Work Plan, SWIP, for development of the oil and gas-rich region.
The group’s delegation led by His Royal Majesty, Diette Spiff and King Jaja of Opobo, stated this in an interactive session with the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Niger Delta at Abuja.
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In a statement that suggested a communication gap between the group and Osinbajo, PANDEF said, “In the meantime, as a distraction, the Vice President’s Office seems to have abandoned the SWIP for what it now calls the New Vision for the Niger Delta.”
It regretted that efforts to avoid project duplication and promote concerted development action in the region have failed with the vice president’s new proposal, adding, “All the players in the region (Niger Delta Development Commission, Presidential Amnesty Programme and Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project), are working independently without synergy.
Given a background to the establishment of SWIP, PANDEF asserted, “SIWP is conceived in the context of a series of engagements with the stakeholders in the region, including the visit of the Vice President to the region where he made several commitments to come up with a document containing intervention/ measures covering the short and medium term.”
“That document, which is the SIWP, partially integrates the 16- point agenda of PANDEF and the government’s 20-point agenda as well as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the oil and gas operators into a coherent development work plan.
“Although its objective is to ensure coordinated delivery of the sets of interventions outlined by the various agencies and ministries of government and the oil and gas operators, the region is yet to see it’s take off.
“As a result, the deliverables are not there to be monitored, tracked for implementation and reports made on delivery outcomes. The SIWP is envisaged to also assist in mitigating duplication of efforts and promote coherence through commonly agreed sets of objectives and development outcomes for the region.
“In view of the above, a team of PANDEF and stakeholders from the region are here to interact with the NASS Committees on the Niger Delta and explore ways in the light of the 16-point agenda o of bringing meaningful development to the region,” they said.
The PANDEF statement read: “There was some initial reluctance by us to engage with Strategic Implementation Work Plan, but some argued for the region to test the sincerity of the Federal Government by accepting it, although they knew it was a hurriedly conceived plan for the region.
“The confidence that SIWP sought to exude in the beginning by pulling together the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Environment, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Presidential Amnesty Programme, with the support of the Office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with stakeholders from the Niger Delta, Oil and Gas companies and other relevant agencies for its conceptualization, seems to have ebbed as we see less and less involvement of high level officials in the affairs of SIWP.
“Secondly, the promise to engage the region to incorporate current and relevant project initiatives of the various agencies into the SIWP compact, particularly the host communities’ priorities, is yet to happen.
“Thirdly, the identification of a lead Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) to give effect to the SIWP has been lacking and therefore, actions, which include the establishment of a system for monitoring and evaluation as well as a joint accountability framework to track implementation, have not happened.
“Fourthly, the project activities outlined were to ensure the elimination of project duplication and promote concerted development action in the region. That has not happened as all the players in the region (Niger Delta Development Commission, Presidential Amnesty Programme and Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project), are working independently without synergy.
“Fifthly, the Inter-ministerial committee and technical working group on SIWP had since stopped inviting PANDEF to its meetings and as such, report on progress under the plan has not happened. In the meantime, as a distraction, the Vice President’s Office seems to have abandoned Strategic Implementation Work Plan for what it now calls the New Vision for the Niger Delta.
“Lastly, the funding of the SIWP under the 2017 and 2018 budgets shows a total lack of serious engagement with SIWP (2017-2019) and therefore a need to re-evaluate the future of SIWP as it enters its third year (which is the end of the short term).”
The group suggested: “That before the 2019 budget is presented, the NASS Committees must call for consultations with the Inter-Ministerial Committee and Working Group to establish how far they have gone in terms of implementation of SIWP and what the challenges are.
“That if SIWP is to remain a working tool for government and a more effective and holistic regional development strategy, the National Assembly Committees need to invite and engage the Ministries of National Planning & Budget and Finance over the inclusion of SIWP in the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF-2017-2019) and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP-2017-2020)
“That the engagement will be with all the relevant MDAs, particularly the Federal Ministries of National Planning and Budget and Finance to ensure that SIWP is an integral part of the formulation of the 2019 budget. We are of the view that SIWP should be part of the policies that determine the focus of this administration in dealing with the issues of revenue generation and natural resource management.
“That there is need to assess the 2017-2018 budget allocations and releases to know if the FG is committed to SIWP and what it has done to reverse some of the unfavorable trends affecting the region.
“That there is need to challenge all the MDAs working on the Region on the importance of having a coordinated strategy for bringing about development and reversing many of the negative outcomes of poor governance.”
It added, “In conclusion, we have worked hard to achieve the peace in the region, held back the agitation by the youth and ensured the flow of oil, however, the failure to implement the SIWP is in the least a betrayal of trust, a negation of the points canvassed in the 16-point agenda by PANDEF and a challenge to the existing peace in the region.”
The group advised, “To sustain that hard-won peace and support for this government, there is need to return to the drawing table and show political will by undertaking a total overhaul of the approach of Federal Government to the political will by undertaking a total overhaul.”