Rivers Govt as Host for NDDC’s Project HOPE By IFEATU AGBU

As hosts to the headquarters of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, the Rivers State Government has once again shown that it is accommodating and understanding by providing the necessary platforms for the development of the Niger Delta region.

On September 7, 2023, when the Minister of Niger Delta Development, Engr. Abubakar Momoh, visited the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, at the Government House, in the company of the NDDC Managing Director, Dr Samuel Ogbuku, the governor assured the Minister that his government was open to partnership.

He said: “If the NDDC is committed, we are ready to partner with them on the Borikiri-Okrika Road project, because it will complete the Port Harcourt Ring Road which we flagged off recently.”

The Okrika-Borokiri Bridge project in Okrika Local Government Area, which the governor referred to, had just been visited by the Minister and the NDDC boss. During the inspection, Ogbuku observed that it would provide a lot of benefits to the people, as it would connect several communities to the Rivers State capital.

He said that when completed, the road would reduce traffic congestion on the refinery axis of the East-West Road as well as reduce travel time from Okrika to Port Harcourt.

The Rivers State government is consolidating on that collaboration in the interest of the people of Nigeria’s oil-rich region. The latest of this show of camaraderie came to the fore on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, when it threw the doors of the Rivers State Information and Communication Technology, ICT, Department open to the NDDC for the training of youths under the Holistic Opportunity Projects of Engagement, HOPE, project.

It was a profound gesture of friendship and love for the development and empowerment of the youths of the state and the Niger Delta region at large.

That pragmatic act of goodwill underlines the state’s deep commitment to the prosperity of the Niger Delta, by equipping the youths with needed skills in a world driven by technology.

To augment this collaboration and uphold the partnership, the NDDC pledged to revamp the ICT Centre to ensure that the facility is not just available but in top shape, ready to accommodate the anticipated vast number of participants in the Commission’s ICT hub and job creation initiative.

After inspecting the ICT facility in Port Harcourt, the NDDC Managing Director, full of praises for the Rivers State Government for supporting the Commission in its quest to foster sustainable development in the Niger Delta.

Ogbuku thanked the Rivers State Governor for approving the use of to the ICT center for the training of youths, pledging to upgrade the facility. He assured that the NDDC would replicate the training centre in all the nine states of the Niger Delta region.

He said: “One of our core visions is to make the Niger Delta a technology hub. This facility is going to compliment such efforts. If we empower our youths in technology, it will further strengthen sustainable development. Tech is one of the core areas of Project HOPE, alongside agriculture, because they help in job-creation. The government cannot create jobs for everyone.”

He noted: “What we are experiencing today is the dawn of reality. We have gone beyond planning and we are now collaborating with the states, as key stakeholders, to bring Project HOPE to reality. We believe that this process is sustainable.”

Ogbuku, who was taken round the training facility by the Director Rivers State ICT Centre, Mrs. Aleruchi Akani, pledged that the NDDC would ensure that the centre worked optimally.

He stated: “We believe that the projects under the Project HOPE is more holistic and sustainable. What we are doing here is partnering with the Rivers State Government to ensure that this ICT Centre is put into proper use. This Centre will be used optimally because through Project HOPE, we are looking at making the Niger Delta region a technology hub. Under Project HOPE, we are focusing on technology and agriculture.”

In the spirit of partnership, the Commissioner for Youth Development, Dr. Chisom Wali commended the NDDC for taking the initiative to partner with the Rivers State Government noting that the efforts of the Commission bode well for the future of youths in the Niger Delta region.

The journey to a brighter future started on July 12, with the flag off of the youth development and empowerment scheme designed to create a comprehensive resources database of the youth population of the Niger Delta region at the NDDC headquarters.

On that occasion, Ogbuku declared: “Today marks a new dawn in the NDDC because we are kicking off project HOPE to touch the lives of youths in the Niger Delta. It is holistic because it will be all-encompassing and sustainable.

“We encourage every youth in the Niger Delta to take advantage of this programme and register through the database because this is a new approach that conforms with the present-day realities. Every Niger Deltan, entrepreneur, man, and woman are encouraged to register and take advantage of this opportunity.”

Ogbuku explained that Project HOPE was a response to the recent interactive forum with the youths of the region, where they discussed their needs, measures, and recommendations to address them.

According to Ogbuku, HOPE will develop an exhaustive digital repository comprising vital information about the youths of the Niger Delta region, including their qualifications, skills, interests, needs, and current employment status. He said that this database will serve as a plank for data-driven planning, enabling the formulation of impactful policies and programmes targeted at the youths.

The NDDC boss said that once the youths are registered on the database, the platform would enable the commission to know their interests and needs. He said knowing the preferences of the youths would enable the Commission to streamline its empowerment programmes to suit their needs.

“To this end, we will no longer go about nominating people to benefit from our training programmes as we will only pick from the database.

“For example, if we want to train welders, then we will go to the database to pick those whose interest are welding. So, nobody needs to know anybody to benefit.

“The database will eliminate political interest in the area of nominations while giving every youth equal opportunity to obtain support from the NDDC and government.

“Also, this programme will help eliminate the past practice of youths benefitting in our programmes multiple times. But now, once you’ve been engaged, it will be recorded in our database,” he added.

“From this Project Hope, we are going to ensure that lots of jobs are created because we are looking at creating about 10,000 jobs with 1,000 per state minimum. We are going back to go into agro-allied investments where we are going to engage our youths.

Ogbuku said: “Over the years what has been happening is that because of political interests, people are given slots to nominate participants for empowerment programmes and most of these participants never had passion for these training programmes.

“After the training programmes, you see people selling off the starter-packs and other equipment that were given to them after the training.

“In this case, we believe that once we pick you from the data based on your area of interest and passion, you are going to excel from there. And since you are in our data base, we will also have our monitoring process in the data base to be monitoring.”

The resource person for Project HOPE, Blessing Fubara, said the time had come for a serious development model to kick-off in the Niger Delta region, noting that the database would provide the parameters for employment generation, youth empowerment and capacity development in the Niger Delta.

He said that so far, over 110,000 youths have registered since the commencement of the programme in August.

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Written by Tom Chiahemen

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