I wish to express my delight at the opportunity to present a keynote address at the Technical Meeting of the 2nd  National Council on Niger Delta.  Before I proceed, I want to on behalf of the Local Organising Committee of this year’s meeting thank all the distinguished fellows that had travelled from the different parts of the country and had worked assiduously to ensure that this event takes place.  I particularly want to show appreciation to the Governor of the Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu for providing the necessary support required for Ondo State to play host to the rest of the Niger Delta.  The belief of the Mr Governor in the unconditional development of the oil producing areas has come out of clearly not only in his policies but also in all the practical steps he has taken since assuming office some six months ago. We thank you sir.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure we are not unaware of the objective of this gathering, which has got to do with evolving workable, implementable and sustainable approaches to actualising physical and economic transformation of the Niger Delta region.  While I might not have consider in necessary historicising the development challenges and intervention measures in the region,  I find it obligatory that we interpret today’s gathering in the context of the numerous socio-economic challenges that have bedevilled and continued to threaten the fabrics of our society. We cannot but reflect on the pains flowing from the unrealised expectations of the past and the large scale scepticism that today accompanies every genuine intention. No doubt, our shared consciousness, i am aware, is filled with visions of a beautiful and green Niger Delta, of a physically transformed landscape, and of an economically empowered population. Without mincing words or sounding immodest, these are no tall dreams.

The theme of this meeting “Fast-tracking the Development and Peace of the Niger Delta Region: Options and Prospects” is apt and revealing of the enormous task we have at hand, and the imperativeness of timely and decisive intervention. It is equally expressive of the moral burden we bear as leaders and representatives of the Niger Delta region each time we are confronted with the stark reality of state of things in the region. The theme imply tells us, “You fellow have stayed long enough on the slow lane all of this while.”

However, the fact that we can successfully come together to explore new strategies, and novel opportunities to grow the economy of the Niger Delta, improve its infrastructural base, safeguard the environment, and tackle the security challenges of the region attests to the belief we yet nurture about a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta.  This is a commitment I wish we all pursue beyond the space offered by this conference.

Ladies and gentlemen, a question that I understand may bother the mind of not a few of us present here today is how the current meeting will distinguish itself from previous efforts, especially in the area of actionable outcomes and the will to implement such. Permit me to remind us that Ondo State is hosting the 2nd Meeting of the National Council on Niger Delta. What this indicates is that there is already in place an on-going conversation, an enduring exchange, which the Niger Delta states have chosen to provoke among them. It is an open dialogue about inter-governmental and inter-agency synergy, constructive engagement, stakeholder participation, ownership and public-private initiative among other core development decisions that are capable of changing the face of region in the next few years.

We are optimistic about these goals and the capacity to deliver on them based on the political will the administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated in the matter of the development of the Niger Delta region.  We have a recent example in the Ogoni clean-up and restoration of ecosystem project.  Apart from being a strong statement from the present administration, it is assurance for other states that instances of environmental pollution will receive the desired attention from the government.  But more importantly, this process of self-appraisal, introspection, and peer-review should be seen as part of the efforts to entrench a culture of corperate governance in the affairs of the region.

At the end of this meeting it is our expectations that the presentations and robust discussions of the technical session will produce adequate knowledge on both the metaphorical and the literal fast track upon which development and peace agenda for the Niger Delta can conveniently be set.  In other words, the real worth of this conference can only be found in the profoundness of deliberations, depth of criticism offered, quality of alternatives proffered, and above all, the positive orientation demonstrated toward the development of the Niger Delta region.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, as a state, we have endeavoured to put together a meeting, which memory we hope will linger for long not just in terms of workable and actionable plan produced.  In which case, we have as well worked assiduously to ensure that you all enjoy your stay in Ondo State.  While we may with all confidence talk about the adequate arrangements we have made, it is yet possible that the comfort offered may not be comparable to what you enjoy in our respective homes.  Any shortcoming, we hope, will be taken in all sincerity as part of the sacrifices we make in our individual capacities, even as we are motivated by the fact of our direct involvement in efforts to achieve holistic and sustainable progress for our region.  We also request you to find time during your stay to visit the different pleasure sites and resorts that abound in our state and have a feel of our unmatchable hospitality.


I thank you all for your kind attention.

Hon. (Barrister) Olugbenga Edema

Chairman, Local Organising Committee.