By Desmond Ejibas
Mr Nsima Ekere, the Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has called on ex-agitators and youths to form an umbrella body to negotiate with the Federal Government.
Ekere made the call in Port Harcourt on Wednesday at a meeting with ex-agitators and youth leaders in the Niger Delta as part of moves to end hostilities in the region.
He said government was willing to discuss and engage groups but was unable to do so due to lack of a unified body representing all interest groups in the region.
“The Federal Government has difficulties discussing with groups in the Niger Delta because there are no established leadership structure.
“It is important that interest groups unite and come up with a robust body that will carry every youth together with one common agenda.
“NDDC is focused and highly committed to the economic empowerment and development of youths of the Niger Delta – hence the need for groups to be united and speak with one voice”, he said.
Ekere said the federal government was in discussion to establish modular refineries geared towards empowering youths in the Niger Delta.
He said NDDC had partnered with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to establish a state-of-the-art technology refinery aimed at ending environmental degradation caused by illegal refineries.
According to him, the commission will set-up specialised bank to grant soft loans to enable youths from the region to start their own businesses.
“We are also speaking with Sao Tome and Principe with intent to draw some of their unused fibre optics cable which will make Niger Delta an ICT hub thus create jobs for youths.
“The major reason for meeting with the youths is to rub minds and agree on a sustainable economic empowerment for youths of the Niger Delta with focus to empower them”, he said.
According to Ekere, many youths have left the region due to restiveness occasioned by attacks on oil and gas installations.
The managing director urged youths to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and assured that government was committed to infrastructure and human development.