President Muhammadu Buhari in his speech at the National Assembly, Tuesday, announced an allocation of N53.89 billion for the Niger Delta Ministry and N71.20billion for the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the 2018 budget proposal, a marked increase over last year.
The total estimates for 2018 federal government budget is N8.612 trillion.
The allocation for the Niger Delta Ministry represents a 50 per cent increase when compared with the N34.20 billion that was allocated to it in last year’s budget.
There is 18 per cent increase in the allocation to the NDDC in the 2018 budget. For last year’s budget, the commission had N61 billion allocated to it.
Mr. Buhari said the increase was meant to further support the development of the country’s Niger Delta region.
The president, in his speech, underscored the need for peace in the Niger Delta and said that the federal government has retained N65 billion in the 2018 budget for the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the region.
“We will complete all critical projects, including the East-West Road, which has a provision of about N17.32 billion in 2018,” Mr. Buhari said.
The president said that his administration had constructed or rehabilitated 766 kilometres of “key strategic” roads across the country in 2017, and that, he said, included the rehabilitation of Aleshi-Ugep Road and the Iyamoyun-Ugep Section in Cross River State; and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road.
Mr. Buhari said that the government was partnering with the Nigeria LNG Limited to construct the Bonny-Bodo Road.
“This project was conceived decades ago but it was abandoned,” Mr. Buhari said.
“This administration restarted the project and when completed, it will enable road transportation access for key communities in the Niger- Delta region,” he added.
On a rail line that would connect the Niger Delta with other parts of the country, President Buhari said, “We have also kick-started the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line.
“This project has been on for over 17 years. We had to take some drastic measures but I am pleased to announce that work is ongoing and we expect to commission this service by September 2018. This service will start with seven standard gauge coaches.”
The president also spoke on the Ogoni clean-up project.
“We are working hard on the Ogoni Clean-up Project,” he said.
“During the year, we engaged eight international and local companies proposing different technologies for the mandate. To enable us select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work, we asked each company to conduct Demonstration Clean-up Exercises in the four Local Government Areas of Ogoni Land.
“These demonstrations were recently concluded and the results are being studied by the Governing Council of the Ogoni Clean-up Project.
“Although the project will be funded by the International Oil Companies, we have made provisions in the 2018 Budget for the costs of oversight and governance, to ensure effective implementation,” Mr. Buhari said.
The president thanked the communities and leaders in the Niger Delta for their support and vowed to honour the federal government’s commitments to the region.
“We cannot afford to go back to those dark days of insecurity and vandalism,” he said.
The relative peace in the Niger Delta has helped Nigeria maintain its almost two million barrels daily oil production. However, a militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, has announced plans to commence attacks on oil facilities, claiming the government has not honoured its commitment to the Niger Delta.