Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange (Bayelsa East), has said plans are afoot to establish a Niger Delta Fund that is expected to rake in about N400 billion annually.
He said the Fund would focus on incremental development of the Niger Delta region, adding that the region’s leaders were already working on the initiative.
Barigha-Amange said the Fund would receive donations from the Federal Government, international communities and well-meaning corporations, adding that consultations were already on to launch the Fund.
According to him, the Fund would be managed by credible people to be drawn from the region and other parts of the country, saying this was the only way out of the development crisis in the region.
Speaking in an interview with journalists yesterday in Abuja, he noted that the problems of the region could not be effectively tackled by the newly created Ministry of Niger Delta and an interventionist organ such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He said the Niger Delta Fund, which is in the works, would specifically address the provision of infrastructure in the region.
“We are looking at infrastructure development in the Niger Delta especially road and bridges. We want to open up the place to the mainland.
“You see, people are confusing Warri and Port Harcourt as the Niger Delta. If you do something in Warri or Port Harcourt, they think they have done something for Niger Delta. No, people are living in the creeks and that is just the area from where the oil is being produced.
“The terrain is not as bad as painted. In the Netherlands, the airport is built on marshy land and it is there. In Lagos, Marina was a swamp; you have skyscrapers there now.
“So it is not out of place to develop the Niger Delta area; and, God knowing that this people live in very difficult terrain, decided to keep wealth to benefit them.
“Part of the wealth should be used to develop the place; that is the situation. Everybody in Nigeria should come up and say, we have cheated this people for so long, let us put hands together and assist them develop the area.
“Of course, the money you will use to develop the area cannot be more than 10 per cent of what the place is producing. Now for example, for the past three to six months, we have been losing N20 billion per day because of the unrest,” he said.
The lawmaker said as a result of the current crises in the region, the country is losing about N450 billion monthly, adding that the Niger Delta wants N400 billion to be spent on the development of the region per annum. He said the amount is less than 10 per cent of the money generated in the area.
Responding to a question on the current funding of the region, including the 13 per cent derivation, he said: “The 13 per cent-derivation fund you are talking of is not always 13 per cent in reality; if you calculate well, it is not even 13 per cent the states are receiving.”
According to him, “There are so many deductions here and there. But mainly, we have never believed in the capacities of all these Basin Authorities, NDDC, and Niger Delta Ministry to address the development problems in the Niger Delta.
“There must be a fund called the Niger Delta Fund which size is N400 billion per annum; and if it is established, it is not only the Federal Government that will donate to the fund, international communities will donate too and it will be managed by credible people; not only people from the Niger Delta but other Nigerians who want peace, unity and development.
“We are not going to wait for the Federal Government; we are going to move round Nigeria soliciting people so that we can launch this Fund and get people to manage it. It is the only way out.”