EU Mulls Partnership with Ministry of Niger Delta, Commits £6.5 Million
The European Union (EU) is exploring a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Niger Delta Development to formulate a community-centric strategy aimed at transforming criminal activities and violence in the Niger Delta region into opportunities. The EU has allocated £6.5 million to address some of the challenges prevalent in the oil-rich region, it was learnt.
Mr. Ruben Alba Aguilera, the Acting Head of Cooperation Team Leader/Head of Section for Democracy, Governance, and Migration at the European Union, disclosed this during a courtesy visit to Hon. Engr. Abubakar Momoh, the Minister of Niger Delta Development, in Abuja on Tuesday.
Mr. Aguilera stated, “As a reminder, we are concluding our strategy for the period up to 2024. We have already mobilized over £500 million for Nigeria as a whole. Looking ahead to the period from 2025 to 2027, we are exploring the possibility of providing investment for the Niger Delta region. However, the key question is how and for what purpose?”
“We are currently in discussions with civil society organizations and have mobilized £6.5 million. Our intention is to closely collaborate with communities, employing a community-centric approach to convert criminal activities and violence in the Niger Delta into opportunities. This aligns with your vision, Honorable Minister,” he added.
Mr. Aguilera emphasized that this meeting marked the beginning of the European Union’s collaboration with the Niger Delta Development Ministry. He expressed his purpose for visiting as getting acquainted with the ministry’s work and congratulated the Minister on his appointment, believing that his leadership would effectively address the region’s challenges.
He further explained, “The European Union has a long history of partnership with Nigeria and has previously invested in the Niger Delta region. We supported the Niger Delta dialogue process and invested in micro-projects that have positively impacted communities. These investments remain valuable to the communities.”
“As challenges persist, we recognize, as the Minister pointed out, that development cannot occur without security. We are eager to engage in discussions and gain a better understanding of how we can assist in addressing these challenges. We have already initiated interventions to tackle some of these issues.”
He expressed hope that the EU Ambassador would attend future meetings and even visit the region to witness the challenges faced by the people firsthand. The EU’s focus includes addressing poverty and providing alternative livelihoods for Nigeria’s population, particularly in the Niger Delta.
Mr. Aguilera lamented the paradox of a region that contributes significantly to Nigeria’s wealth but continues to grapple with difficulties. He cited the staggering daily loss of 400 barrels of oil out of a production of 2 million barrels, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of such theft and resource loss, including environmental and health issues.
His words, “The deteriorating air quality in the region is a cause for concern due to its adverse effects on the health of the population and erosion, rising sea levels, and decreasing environmental protection. These challenges must be addressed holistically,” he said.
The purpose of their presence, he stated, was to initiate a conversation and gain a better understanding of how the ministry and the new administration intend to tackle these challenges. He said, “The EU aims to complement these efforts by identifying top priorities and utilizing resources effectively”.
“The Niger Delta region remains a priority for us, given its ongoing challenges. The European Union is committed to supporting the authorities moving forward. We plan to implement programs initially in Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers States due to limited funds. Our goal is to address issues related to oil bunkering, oil theft, and collaborate with various stakeholders, including security forces, the private sector, media, policymakers, and the Ministry of Niger Delta, to create social inclusion opportunities, expand economic prospects, and address environmental degradation challenges through small-scale investments, not massive infrastructure projects.”
“We are encouraged by the signs, plans, and vision of the ministry and the new government. The challenge now is to translate these into concrete actions and harness our resources to make a meaningful difference for the benefit of the people,” Mr. Aguilera concluded.