Amb. Nkoyo Toyo, Co-Facilitator
Following the 16-Point Agenda presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by PANDEF, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, on November 1, 2016, the Federal Government, through its Inter-Ministerial Committee, presented a Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP) to the Council on Niger Delta in September, 2017. The document aims to be the basis for developmental activities in the Niger Delta to address the concerns of the people of the Niger Delta. At this juncture, the Niger Delta Dialogue (NDD), a nongovernmental organisation initiates an interactive session for the people of Niger Delta, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to x-ray the Federal Government 2018 budget and find out if it reflects the priorities as outlined in the SIWP and the 16-Point Agenda. The Delta and Edo states segment of the interactive session, tagged: “NDD-CSOs Dialogue” was held at Westland Hotel, Orhuwhorhu, near Warri, Delta state. In this interview with the duo of Emmanuel Enebeli, Publisher of Ndokwa Reporters, and Emeka Nwokocha, Senior Correspondent at theBrief Online, Amb. Nkoyo Toyo, co-facilitator of a 2-day “NDD-CSOs explains vividly what the initiative, NDD-CSOs Dialogue is all about, its objectives and relevance to Niger Delta region.
Brief Profile of the Niger Delta Dialogue (NDD)
Niger Delta Dialogue (NDD) was conceived in June 2016 to initiate peace in the Niger Delta region at the time it was boiling following the emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers and accompanied explosions and blowing up of oil facilities. The cry of marginalization was at its peak as explosions rocked the Niger Delta region. At a point, we came up with an alternative and said, no! We don’t need to blow up the region which belongs to us. We opted for an option of a dialogue. We said, let us talk about the problems of our region; talk to ourselves and engage the relevant authorities in a dialogue to finding a lasting solution to raised issues of marginalization and other social and economic concerns.
Niger Delta Dialogue is fortunate to have the outstanding traditional rulers in Niger Delta as its members. Not long after NDD was created, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) came into existence, and they asked other groups to join them. PANDEF is our spokesperson; they engage the government at national level. We (NDD) are the think-tank, the activist arm of PANDEF.
The Objective of the NDD and CSOs Dialogue
The SIPW has not quite been understood by the region. Therefore, we are trying to operationalize all the things and plans we have on the ground. So we decided to have smaller meeting where we can domesticate the document and get the inputs and buy-in of the region. At this meeting, we look at situations where some projects captured in the document also find their way into the 2018 budget. This is where the issue of tracking the projects becomes relevant. Also, the SIWP, being a document for the region, we are holding the government accountable for the implementation of the document.
What is the benchmark in terms of the achievement NDD is looking up to within a period of five years?
The document, SIWP is premised on three pillars which are: to stabilize the region in terms of security; to enable economic development to happen; and lastly, to get the oil sector meet its target in terms of production. We believe if the government is able to implement the 475 projects in the document, the issue of security and growth in oil sector will happen. And that will usher a new wind of development in the region, stabilize the region and make it contribute its quota to national development. Actually, SIWP as a document belongs to the federal government. What we are doing is to hold the government responsible for the implementation of the items in it. We are not the one telling the government what to do; rather the government says this is what it wants to do as stated in the document. Then we say show us how you are doing it. When they say “we have put some items in the budget,” we will ask them to show us the items. You can see that our role is about monitoring. We take time to do a research on the activities of the government with regard to budgetary allocations to the Niger Delta Ministry. The SIWP document is about the Niger Delta and we are concerned about its implementation. We are telling our people in the Niger Delta to investigate the allocation of money to projects in the SIWP document to ensure there is proper accountability and execution of the projects. If they don’t understand what is in the document, they won’t know how money is allocated to projects and whether the projects are being executed or not.
There is the notion that SIWP is just a cover up by the government. What is your take?
I do not entirely agree or disagree with the SIWP document as it stands at the moments, SIWP. I had told you, we are just beginning to see whether the government is serious about implementation, until we exhaust our checking process which we have put in process, we may not make a verifiable statement on the document. We will look at the budget and match it with the reality on ground in terms of the projects being executed, by that; we can make a statement based on our analysis. I reiterate, we will not make a statement on whether the government is serious about the SIWP document by mere assumption. We must find out the true position of things before we can draw a conclusion on that. Our engagement with the stakeholders through this dialogue is what I term an evidence based investigation.
Do you think the people of Niger Delta have the intellectual capacity to understand the new trend of engagement the SIWP is crafted to achieve?
Yes, everybody at this dialogue session seems to understand what we are doing, and we do hope at the end of the day no one will say nothing is being done, which is a mindset we are making effort change, as we are beginning to get the people of our region to think differently by seeking facts before making a statement on any subject of public interest. I will say the Niger Delta people have the capacity when you take them through the specifics. For this particular activity, we are engaging six states of Edo, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa.
We have development partners that work with us. Initially, we had a couple of grants from the European Union, but that has finished. We have applied for another tranche of funding which we are waiting to come and it would last for 18 months.
Any programme on youths Development?
Of course, in the next grant we have applied for, we are going to have a large summit on youths. However, you must know that in Niger Delta, this concept of youths is very subjective as many who claim youth status are quite older to be in that class.