From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has promised to assist local governments to beef up security in the coastal communities of the Niger Delta region.
The Interim Administrator of NDDC, Mr. Efiong Akwa, stated this when a delegation from members of the Local Government Chairmen of Niger Delta Coastal Communities visited his office at the headquarters of the Commission in Port Harcourt.
Akwa said that although the responsibility for securing life and property in the country rested with the Federal Government, the NDDC as an interventionist agency had a duty to assist communities in its mandate states.
The NDDC boss assured that the Commission would support the Federal Government to bridge the gap in addressing the security problems in the country, stating that the requests of the Council Chairmen would be forwarded to the Federal Government through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
Akwa advised the local government chairmen to ensure a proper and effective use of the high speed boats when they become available, promising that the assistance to the coastal communities would be done in phases.
The NDDC boss said that there may be need for the re-introduction of marine police and also involve the amphibious unit of the Nigerian Army, noting that if the poor security situation was allowed to deteriorate further, it would adversely affect the fish farmers. “No government will sit back and allow the livelihood of our people to be ruined,” he said.
He charged the Council Chairman to be prepared to share security information with security agencies in the region, stating that the Niger Delta was critical to the economic wellbeing of the country and thus its security must be taken as priority by development agencies.
He said: “It is good that as local government chairmen you are also interested in ensuring security in the rural areas. I am glad that as Council Chairmen, you are keen on finding solutions to our security challenges.”
Earlier, the Chairman of Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Williams Mkpah, solicited the assistance of the NDDC in the procurement of security boats and engines for fishermen in the coastal communities of the Niger Delta region.
He lamented that for many years, fishermen and commercial activities in the coastal communities of the Niger Delta region had suffered several attacks from sea pirates who operate along the Atlantic coast and creeks.
He further said that the attacks, which started many years ago, assumed an alarming rate in the last few years, especially in 2020 with the coming of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, noting: “In the month of October, 2020, about 46 outboard engines were stolen from the fishermen, each valued at about N3.5 million. In November, 2020, a total of 62 outboard engines were stolen.”
Mkpah said that the sea pirates moved further to include kidnapping of fishermen to their atrocities, regretting that “in all these, there has been very little or no government intervention to curb the menace.
The Council Chairman said the fishermen had decided to apply self-help to redeem their situation at a great cost to them.
He noted: “It is becoming increasingly difficult for the fishermen to cope with the financial costs.”
He noted that the provision of facilities would go a long way to secure the water ways and bring back commercial activities in the coastal areas for the benefit of the people.
He commended the NDDC boss for “his resolve and tactical approach in turning around activities of the Commission as an agency to trust in service delivery to the people of the region.”