The Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Tayo Alasoadura, has directed staff of the ministry to make screening for Coronavirus (COVID-19) compulsory at every function, insisting that the dreaded pandemic is no respecter of persons.
The minister’s directive was handed down in Abuja at a roundtable discussion on the Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SWIP) for the Niger Delta with relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), development partners and key stakeholders.
The event was attended by members of the diplomatic community, representatives of international oil companies (IOCs), development partners, inter-ministerial agencies and other stakeholders.
In his opening remarks, Alasoadura, who represented the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, stated that Coronavirus had assumed a worrisome dimension globally, and therefore needed every effort to avert its spread in Nigeria.
He noted that participants at the event were not screened for COVID-19 before they were allowed into the venue of the conference at the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, adding that his conclusion stemmed from the fact that when arrived the venue, nobody subjected him to any form of screening at a time when the pandemic already constitutes a global emergency.
According to him, Coronavirus is not a respecter of persons, noting that the fact that a minister in Iran came down with the virus was indicative that even himself or anyone was not immune to the virus.
He appealed to the Permanent Secretary other staff to ensure that the necessary gadgets are provided at every fora for the screening of participants.
He said: “COVID-19 does not know who is who. It does not know whether you are a minister or not. In Iran, a minister tested positive to the virus.”
In Akpabio’s address, the minister noted that SWIP was conceived as a collaborative framework designed to coordinate development interventions of governmental and non-governmental institutions in the Niger Delta region, adding that the concept was the outcome of several high-level political conversations, facilitated by the Office of the Vice-President in 2016.
“Currently, the SIWP enjoys the technical support of the United Kingdom Government via the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN).
“I wish to remind our esteemed guests present, that SIWP is not a new programme. It is rather an aspect of a broader stakeholder engagement process, and a foundational document of a development compact for the Niger Delta Region which evolved out of the need for an effective tool that would enable the ministry to operationalise its coordination mandate of development initiatives in the region,” the minister said.
He added that to achieve full institutionalization of the SIWP programme as a step towards enhancing the internal capacity of the ministry for implementation coordination, it was pertinent that certain variables were critically x-rayed in at the rountable discussion, listing them as understanding the relevance of the SIWP as an instrument for joint collaboration and implementation of development projects in the region as well as exploring the connection between SIWP and the Niger Delta Action Plan.
He stressed that the role of stakeholders in the successful implementation of SIWP and the need to identify challenges and support needed by the ministry to fully operationalise the SIWP were also critical.
Presenting an overview of SWIP, Dr. Charles Achodo said a total of 475 projects in the Niger Delta would cost over N2 trillion, adding that the sources for the Plan as the development activities outlined in the 16-point agenda of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the 20-point agenda of government adopted as strategic sets of objectives, the specific development initiatives of the various agencies and ministries.
Others are the various corporate social responsibility projects by IOCs, needs identified by members of inter-ministerial technical team as well as the specific requests from communities presented to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
He stated that, among others, the projects would involve massive infrastructure initiatives, environmental remediation and clean-up and massive investments in gas-to-power. (THISDAY)