Thursday, August 27

We have invested $500 million to maintain peace in Niger Delta – EU

The European Union says it has so far spent about $500 million in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The Head of Co-operation and European Union delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Brian O’Neill disclosed this on Wednesday when he led an EU delegation to the Amnesty Office, in Abuja.

He said the $500 million spent in the region spanned for a period of 10 years, covering two circles of EU’s developmental and empowerment programmes in the region beginning from 2001 till date.
According to him, $250 million was expended in the first circle while another $250 million was spent in the second round of the programme, covering over 2000 projects.

He said his mission was to assess the extent of success of the intervention programmes and find out other ways the EU could be of assistance to Nigeria to bring enduring peace and development to the oil rich region.

‘‘The EU has spent $500 million in the past 10 years in Niger Delta region. We need to look into the progarmme and see how it can be sustainable and bring peace in the Nigeria Delta region.

‘‘There are many opportunities to be explored in the Niger Delta because it is a fertile land to be explored.

‘‘The EU will do everything it can to bring development in the area and attract other partners to bring peace and development to the Niger Delta.’’

O’neill also said that the EU support to Nigeria is not restricted to Niger Delta region but also to the North Eastern part of the country currently being ravaged by insurgents.

He informed that the Union donated $50 million to INEC for the 2015 general elections and had made some significant contribution in the fight against Ebola scourge in Nigeria and other African countries.

‘‘We felt that the Niger Delta region remains fragile and requires assistance in the area of youth empowerment and development and we are ready and open to the present government to explore other areas we can help to bring peace and development to Nigeria.

Responding to question on the demolition of local refineries in the Niger Delta, the EU head advised federal government to focus on expansion of the local refineries rather than demolishing them.

He however, warned that such steps have to be guided by safety precautions to avoid health hazards and environmental pollution.

‘‘I encourage government to look into expansion of the local refineries. But this has to be done under health and safety condition due to the pollution and oil spillage on the water.

‘‘Certainly, we encourage local refineries but government has to be economical and safety conscious.’’

In his remarks, the Coordinator, Amnesty Programme and Special Adviser on Niger Delta to the President, Brigadier General, Paul Boroh (rtd), thanked the EU delegation for their support and assured them that the Amnesty Office would do its bit to sustain the relationship.

Boroh said there is need for synergy and information flow between the amnesty office and the public, hence his directive for establishment of an Information Central system upon assumption office to bridge the existing gap in information flow.

He lamented the challenged posed by the single treasury account policy of the present administration, which he said had slowed down the operations of the office but expressed hope that the challenge would be surmounted, just as he said that he had cleared all outstanding allowance owned to the ex-militants both onshore and of shore.

He called on Nigerians to support the present administration in the ongoing change agenda, especially in the ongoing implementation of the UNEP report in the Niger Delta region.

‘‘On assumption office, we established a verification team and so far, we have cleared all arrears to ex-militants, more particularly, the offshore.

‘‘Initially, we had problem with the single treasury account policy, though will be resolved this week for our foreign account to be credited.

‘‘People should key into Mr. President’s plan. A lot of ex-militants will be integrated into jobs when some of his plans mature in terms of infrastructure revitalization, particularly in the Niger Delta. All interest groups in Niger Delta have to come together to address the challenge,’’ he said.

Earlier in a presentation by the Post Training ad Engagement unit of the amnesty office, the EU delegation was informed that hundreds of youths from the Niger Delta had been employed in the various EU programmes running in the region with plans to engage more in future.

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