REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE 6TH ANNIVERSARY LECTURE OF THE GBARAMATU VOICE
I am delighted to be here at this very important forum of conversation about our country’s economic future. The theme you have chosen: “The Dwindling State of Crude Oil Demand in the Global Market: The Way Forward” is especially timely. It is no secret that revenue from crude oil, accounts for about 90% of our foreign exchange earnings. Within the last decade we have borne witness to the revolution in fracking technology which led to the Shale boom and the attendant decline in demand for our crude oil. In the past year, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an equally adverse impact on global energy demand and thence on our earnings. Thus, the current situation, more than ever before, calls for a creative and holistic approach to the task of fostering economic growth.
Beyond its oil wealth, the Niger Delta region is incredibly blessed with diverse human capital across education, sports, technology, creative arts, entertainment, economy and many other sectors.
Even before the onslaught of the pandemic, the imperatives before us had become clear and we had responded accordingly. Right from the inception of this administration, we have demonstrated a commitment towards the challenge of creating economic opportunities for our fast growing population in a post-oil future. Our entire strategic outlook has been shaped by the concept of “Nigeria Beyond Oil” – a paradigm that encompasses measures aimed at repositioning our economy by taking advantage of global trends in the energy sector.
Nigeria is currently ranked as having the ninth largest gas reserves in the world with over 200 trillion cubic feet of this resource within our shores. As part of our drive to encourage investments in gas production and optimize our nation’s enormous gas potential, the Federal Government declared the period of 2020-2030 as the decade of gas. To this end, last November, the Federal Government launched its National Gas Expansion Programme, a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan, which focuses on the distribution of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) across gas stations operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
By the end of this year, this administration will commence distribution of CNG as part of our strategy to gradually replace the high sulfur petrol. Our objective is two-fold.
First, this is the administration’s effort at managing the necessary energy transition from crude oil to natural gas. The NNPC has estimated that domestic demand for natural gas will rise from current levels of 1.5 billion cubic feet per day to 7.4 billion cubic feet per day by 2027.We intend to increase our domestic gas supply to meet this demand by exploiting our abundant reserves of natural gas.
Secondly, we are aiming to develop CNG into an alternative automobile fuel as a means of affording Nigerians cheaper, cleaner and additional fuel. In this way, we will reduce the ecological and economic costs of energy.
The Gas Masterplan provides for investment in the necessary infrastructure for gas transportation across the nation. All of these will basically reduce our local crude oil dependency, whilst strengthening our drive for cleaner sources of energy as a nation. And crucially, it will create jobs in what will be a fast expanding frontier of opportunity.
Concurrently, we have also invested significantly in the Niger Delta as the region that holds the energy resources that have powered our progress for six decades as well as the keys to an emergent gas economy. In 2017, following my tour of the Niger Delta, which involved extensive consultations with key stakeholders in the region, the New Vision for the Niger Delta was birthed in response to the various challenges which had been plaguing our people. The objective of this New Vision is to ensure that the people of the region benefit maximally from their wealth, through promoting infrastructural developments, environmental remediation and local content development.
We also have the Solar Power Naija Programme under the Administrations Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) which will complement the Federal Governments effort towards providing affordable electricity access to 5 million households, serving about 25 million Nigerians in rural areas and under-served urban communities nationwide.
Today, I am pleased to announce that the New Vision for the Niger Delta has begun to yield some tangible achievements. As part of the quest to expand economic opportunities in the region, this administration has promoted investments in modular refineries. The objective of this initiative is to address our present energy demands and empower the Niger Delta people through promoting local content. So far, 3 Modular Refineries have now been completed, these are: the Niger Delta Petroleum Resources (NDPR) Modular Refinery in Rivers State; OPAC Modular Refinery in Delta State and Walter Smith Modular Refinery in Imo State, whilst there are several others at different stages of completion across the region.
The remediation exercise happening in Ogoni land, under the recommendations of UNEP is another milestone we are proud to announce as an administration. The Clean-Up commenced in January 2019, with the handover of the first batch of sites to the selected remediation firms. A total of about 57 sites has so far been handed over to contractors by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) under the Federal Ministry of Environment. It is important to note that the Ogoni clean-up is the first of its kind in the history of the Niger Delta. Indeed, this is the first time the Federal Government is directly involved in remediation activities within the region.
We are equally committed to expanding infrastructure in the region. This includes the ongoing construction work on the 34-kilometres Bonny-Bodo Road/Bridge. This project, which was abandoned for decades, is a tripartite agreement between the Federal Government, Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) and Julius Berger Nigeria. When completed, the Bonny-Bodo Road/bridge, which was flagged off in October 2017, would connect several major communities and boost socioeconomic development in the region.
The Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line project, which was commissioned by Mr. President in September 2020, and has the capacity to handle both passengers and freight services, is connecting several communities and promoting commerce within the region.
The Federal Government is also developing a number of deep sea ports across the region, including the Bonny, Warri and Ibom Deep Sea Ports, among other development projects such as the establishment of Export Processing Zones to boost economic activities.
In 2018, the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved the commencement of undergraduate degree programmes at the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State. President Buhari approved a 5 billion Naira take-off grant to support this university, which happens to be situated in the great Gbaramatu Kingdom. The University currently has students spread across 13 undergraduate programmes in three Faculties, namely: Transport, Engineering and Environmental Management.
In terms of addressing concerns around public safety and social security in the region, while ensuring peace and stability in the region, the administration has, among other things, sustained its commitment to the Presidential Amnesty Programme under which youths and ex-agitators are engaged in formal education, vocational skills acquisition and empowerment programmes that offer a pathway towards productive and dignified livelihoods.
The cumulative effect of all these measures are certain to have a positively transformational impact on the Niger Delta and on the future of our nation as a whole. This path of progress and prosperity is one that we will pave by maintaining the partnerships between the administration, the leaders of the region and the communities.
I would like to commend the Gbaramatu Voice for organizing this forum and for being one of the agents of change working for sustainable peace and progress in the Niger Delta.
I am told that the publishers of GbaramatuVoice Newspaper, will also use this event to launch a Media Institute and Resource Centre for Niger Delta studies that will be located in the region. The Centre, as I have been informed, would “provide a platform where young graduates would be trained on different media skills for self-reliance, while providing a space for research into finding sustainable solutions to challenges within the region. This is commendable and I hope it would, in the future, become a reference point for critical studies focused on developing the region.
On our part, this administration is determined to see through to completion all the critical projects that we have embarked upon in the region. Indeed, we are committed to doing so confident in the knowledge that what we do for the benefit of the Niger Delta redounds to the benefit of the entire nation at large.