By Mary Oyibocha-Agbajoh
Leadership everywhere is a burden that involves hard work and sacrifice so as to meet up with the yearnings and demands of the masses.
In more developed climes, where level of idea are perhaps more elevated, leaders are commonly criticised and characterized in the vilest of terms.
This has become exceedingly well established in Nigeria, and President Muhammadu Buhari has become its most widely recognised victim. No Nigerian leader since independence has been exposed to the amount of hateful vilification that has been President Buhari’s lot. Either as street-level criticism or as partisan challenges from the opposition, the trend has confused the landscape so profoundly, that his achievements have been concealed.
Be that as it may, voices need to be raised in his defense. Voices are needed to draw attention to the several ways in which his administration has transformed our lives.
Most importantly, we must not allow the preponderance of vilification and hate speeches to create the impression that there is an absence of idealism and patriotic service in our country. We must be reminded that Mr President along with several others, are providing useful service, infrastructure and sweating day and night to transform our great country Nigeria.
At this level, it will be better to showcase some of the achievements of Buhari with particular reference to Niger Delta region which has been neglected by past administration.
On resumption of office in 2015, many taught the Niger Delta region will be neglected by Buhari. The reasons being that Buhari is from the Northern extraction of Nigeria and the man he took over power from, Dr Goodluck Jonathan is from the Niger Delta region. Amazing, those with such erroneous notions about the person of Buhari were put to shame when he pointed magic wand of development towards the Niger Delta region.
To prove critics wrong, the Buhari administration introduced the New Vision for the Niger-Delta which encompasses robust solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger-Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth.
He initiated the take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. The University was granted approval in January 2018 by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to commence undergraduate degree programmes effective 2017/18 session, and commenced academic activities on April 12, 2018.
To ensure that all privileges accorded to other federal universities should be enjoyed by the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. Buhari approved an increase in the take-off grant allocated to the Maritime University from the N2 billion to N5 billion. Similarly, in November 2017, the President also approved an additional N1 billion to support essential infrastructure works and staff recruitment in the University.
In an effort to reduce the effect of oil pollution in Niger Delta environment Buhari led administration flagged off the Ogoni cleanup project in 2017 by setting aside $170 million USD seed funding for the Ogoni Clean Up, in an Escrow Account established for that purpose. The Escrow Agreement Signing Ceremony took place in April 2018. The Ogoni cleanup project is being managed by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) of the Ministry of Environment and ever since its commencement, the Buhari-led administration has trained graduates from Ogoni who studied Environmental Sciences in order to enhance their capacity for the remediation work.
The Buhari-led administration also flagged off the Ogoni Health Outreach Programme and about 5,815 patients were attended to and 65 surgical cases treated.
The fear that Buhari will abolish the Presidential Amnesty Programme was put to rest when he approved an additional N35 billion for the 2016 budget of the Programme to ensure the rehabilitation and sustainable re-integration of ex-agitators of the Niger-Delta region. He further ensured that indigenes of the region are placed on full academic scholarship so that they can have access to quality education with monthly stipends.
Under President Buhari’s administration, approvals for the establishment of Modular Refineries across the nine States of the Niger-Delta and a total of 38 licenses have been issued, covering high-scale refineries of 50,000 to 250,000 barrels per day. About 10 of the modular refineries have secured their permit to construct and two of these 10 refineries are already under construction, and will be completed by the end of 2018 under the Buhari-led administration. When these refineries kick off, they will provide employment for the youths and create business opportunity which will result in the development of the region.
Aware of the importance of infrastructure and good road network in the socio-economic development of a society, the Buhari-led administration has ensured the resumption of construction work on abandoned projects awarded to different contractors across the Niger-Delta region since 2006, including the all-important abandoned East-West Road and the second Niger Bridge. Both projects are at the last phase of completion. It was also under his administration that the N120billion Bonny-Bodo road project was flagged-off by the Vice President, Prof.Yemi Osinbajo.
In an attempt to provide sufficient food and commodities at affordable prices for the masses, Buhari’s administration set up Presidential Initiative to Boost Agriculture and Industry in the nine states of the Niger-Delta and Enugu, an initiative to revamp moribund industries in the region and to also inject new life into the agricultural sector. The administration has completed six cassava processing plants in Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Ondo, Cross River and Imo states.
Under the President Buhari administration, more than seven hundred youths and women have acquired skills in different areas of business, trade and craft. Thus, one hundred and thirty youths in the Niger Delta were trained on poultry, aquaculture, crop production and were given N1 million naira each by the Buhari-led administration. By doing this, the restive youths of Niger Delta were not taking away from the streets, they were made to be good shining example for the younger ones to emulate.
Buhari administration equally encouraged the Niger Delta to learn how to fish, instead of begging for fish. No fewer than two hundred and fourteen Niger Delta women who specialized in poultry and snail production were given between N350,000 to N500,00 each by the Buhari-led administration to start-up their businesses. Beside, one hundred and ninety-eight women and youths in the region were trained on ICT and business hub, poultry and fish production. Sixty youths from the Niger-Delta region were also trained on assemblage and repair of phones under Under Buhari’s administration, no fewer than hundred and seventy-five youths in the Niger-Delta region have benefitted from the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and its joint venture agro skills acquisition through the Green Rivers Project Scheme.
In Buhari’s administration, the Presidential Amnesty Programme engaged ex-militants and youths from the impacted communities in formal education, vocational skills acquisition and empowerment schemes with World Class Vocational Centres across the region. Only recently the Presidential Amnesty Programme commissioned a Vocational In Agadagba-obon, Ese Odo Local Government Area, Ondo State.for training of our youths in oil and gas related field.
The Vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo paid a visit to the Niger Delta region, where he met with their elders and engaged them in discussions that restored peace to the region.
Under President Buhari’s Administration, the abandoned AKK pipeline that will enable delivery of gas from the south into the north and open up gas delivery to homes was repaired and restored. His administration was able to work with the Niger-Delta leaders hence, the PANDEF group was set up which makes it easy to have a body that could engage the federal government.
The administration came up with the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme which was aimed at addressing the exit of gas flaring in the Niger Delta region. President Buhari’s Administration has put up a framework for community-based participation in the protection of oil and gas pipelines, and oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta region.
The socio-economic development of Niger Delta region by the Buhari’s administration as narrated above has created relative peace in the region which has led to increase in oil production and economic boom of the country.
The Central Corridor Railway Line linking the Warri Port to Abuja through the North Central, home to iron ore, steel plants, coal resources and pegmatite bearing lithium, is also under construction.
“The rail line from the Warri Port through Ajaokuta to Itakpe is already completed. The completion of the ongoing works in the Warri Port and Escravos will ease access to the deep-sea and open up business opportunities for Ajaokuta and Delta steel plants by paving way for the shipment of bulk goods to and from seaports.” – Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr Bawa Bwari.
The completion and commercial operation of the rail line was welcomed by huge fanfare and celebrations by residents. Most conspicuous was a lady captured on video whose jubilation trended on Facebook and Twitter with residents chanting “Warri nor dey carry last, Warri nor dey carry last”. Mr Arumuowa Johnson captured the general mood of the joy people of Warri, Aladja, Ujevwu, Egini etc feel at the opportunity to travel to Kogi and Abuja with ease via the railway.
The people of Niger Delta have had it so good in the three and half years reign of Buhari and it will be of great importance to re-elect him for another four years next week.
Barrister Agbajoh writes from Abuja