A number of Niger Delta youths are to be trained as shipbuilders to enable them to take advantage of the global opportunities in the maritime sector.

The decision is also a part of the programmes of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to tackle youth unemployment and reduce restiveness in the oil-rich region.

The NDDC Interim Administrator, Effiong Akwa, made this known at the weekend.

Also, a first-class traditional ruler in Delta State, Obukhowo Monday-Whiskey, supported the call by some persons and groups for the return of the NDDC to the Presidency.

Akwa, in a statement after the opening of Norfin Offshore Shipyard and the launching of MV Norfin Swift in Ikot-Ukpong, Oruk Anam Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, said the commission has a blueprint for turning the Niger Delta into a hub for maritime activities

Akwa, represented by his Special Adviser on Youths, Udengs Eradiri, said the first set of the youth would be sent to Norfin Offshore Shipyard for training in partnership with the firm.

He said: “You will agree with me that this shipyard is part of the development we need in the region to bring about economic growth, which is why we must support and protect it as ours.

“As part of Barr. Effiong Akwa, the sole administrator’s core focus, which is on youth development and training, we will be sending youths to this shipyard for training in the different fields to avail them the opportunity of becoming professional shipbuilders to enable them get jobs in any part of the world.

“Let me use this opportunity to call on the governors of the Niger Delta states to collaborate and support the NDDC to drive development, expedite projects, and build the capacity of the young people of the region to grow the Niger Delta of our dreams.”

Eradiri said the NDDC under Akwa, would focus on developing the region in the areas of education, agriculture, and capacity building.

He added: “This administration’s core mandate is to ensure effective training and skills development programmes aimed at the youths of the oil-rich Niger Delta as an antidote to curb hostilities and militancy and in the same vein develop key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity.

“We will be partnering with universities and colleges to upgrade their facilities to meet world-class standards to train youths in the oil and gas sector. This would prepare them for projects and job opportunities in areas that are currently in need of this skilled manpower.

The Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom, King Monday-Whiskey, condemned the call for the scrapping of the NDDC, saying it should rather be transferred to the Presidency from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.

The monarch, who was in Abuja to make a presentation at the House of Representatives’ public hearing on the Petroleum Industry Bill, kicked against the appointment of a sole administrator for the commission.

He also called on President Mohammadu Buhari to inaugurate the board of the NDDC 

Monday-Whiskey said: “There is no crime in retracing your steps when you go the wrong way. That decision to appoint someone as a sole administrator is not just unpopular; it is most unreasonable because there are stakeholders in this project.

“You have the royal institutions who are the closest people to these communities producing this oil. So, if the president from all available facts now made a mistake, there is nothing wrong to reverse and inaugurate the already screened NDDC board.

“One of the best things the President would do today is to revert the NDDC to the Presidency and to remove the hand of an individual from the control of the commission.

“We all know is that if NDDC had any problem in the last four years, an individual is responsible for the problem. So, the government ought to know what to do. The agency called the NDDC was originally domiciled in the Presidency just like the North East Development Commission (NEDC).

“The NEDC is still in the Presidency. We have all come to see the consequences of giving the commonwealth of a region to an individual. The last we heard was that over N87 billion went missing. They misappropriated it. There was nothing on the ground to show that such money was used.

“We say no to sole administrator in the NDDC. For the first time in the history of this country, a board was screened, confirmed, and is waiting for inauguration. One sharp guy used one sharp method and pulled off the rug from the feet of everybody.”

Meanwhile, about 13 groups of ex-militants have warned the NDDC against disengaging youths, who went through duly established recruitment processes and received employment letters.

The ex-agitators at the weekend lambasted some groups, who they said were recruited to attack youths for agitating for their rights.

The leaders of the groups, under the auspices of the Coalition of Niger Delta Transparency Advocates (CNDTA), described those attacking the youths as selfish, wicked and anti-patriotic to the Niger Delta struggle.

The leaders’ position was signed by Oghenekaro Duku, Watchdogs for Truth and Good Governance (WTGG); Ebi Ogolo, Graduates of the Niger Delta Movement (GNDM); Peter Johnson, Giant Strides of Niger Delta Force (GSNDF) and Amadi Frederick, Niger Delta Peoples Movement (NDPM).

They said: “These qualified sons and daughters of the region were duly issued letters of employment and were well documented. As we speak their respective files are in the Human Resources Department of the commission. The Director, Mr Silas Anyanwu, is aware of this and can confirm this indisputable fact.

“It would be recalled that this was exactly the same attitude displayed by the commission in respect of nonpayment of benefits to the 2019 NDDC Scholarship beneficiaries. They virtually had to protest abroad for what was due to them.

“Let it be known that as a coalition saddled with the vision of speaking for the oppressed in the Niger Delta region, we shall not watch the brains of the region be intimidated and shortchanged all because they haven’t resorted to violence.”