The United State has identified dialogue and practical efforts in the development of the Niger Delta, as veritable means to resolve the security and other related challenges of the region.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Ambassador David Young, stated this during a courtesy call on Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson in Government House, Yenagoa on Wednesday.
The Envoy, who is visiting Bayelsa for the first time,,implored the Federal Government to put in place, measures that would improve the living conditions of the Niger Delta people.
While calling on all stakeholders to embrace dialogue, as part of the process of resolving the crisis in the region, Young observed that successive governments in the country have been making efforts to achieve the best possible means to deploy the wealth generated from the Niger Delta to impact on the lives of the people.
According to him, the US government was ready to partner with Nigeria and Bayelsa state in the area of funding development and economic prosperity, through a variety of programmes, including agriculture, health, education and maritime security, without losing focus on transparency and fiscal responsibility.
Young said, “The US government feels very strongly that all stakeholders should be engaged in dialogue, as part of the process to arrive at equitable and fair solution for all involved. We believe that a bit of challenge for Nigeria, is to transform the region of oil wells (the Niger Delta) into improvement in the life of the average Deltan. And, that is something we feel very strongly about.
“We encourage Nigerians to work for common goals as against violence and criminal activities. We encourage Nigeria to establish conditions and mechanisms for lasting change over time and provide economic opportunities and services for Deltans… US provides assistance to the region, through maritime security training, aviation security, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, good governance planning, agric system and a number of other activities. So we want to be your partner.”
In his response, Dickson lamented the level of environmental damage in the Niger Delta and renewed his call on multinational corporate organisations, particularly the oil majors to adhere to international standards in their operations in the region.
While calling for caution on the part of troops, being deployed to the region, Governor Dickson said that, the solution to the problems of the Niger Delta lies squarely on development and environmental justice, which he noted, could only be achieved through meaningful dialogue.
Describing the environment as a critical heritage of any people, the Governor commended the Federal Government for kick-starting the Ogoniland Clean-Up Programme and called for its extension to other parts of the region, stressing that Bayelsa environment remains the most polluted in the Niger Delta.
According to him, as the place where oil was first struck in commercial quantity, Bayelsa records an average of three oil pollutions in a day and requires a special attention from the Federal Government and the multi-Nationals.
Dickson expressed gratitude to the US envoy and his team for the visit, and solicited their assistance in the areas of education, infrastructural development and promotion of peace and stability in the Niger Delta.
His said, “We believe that the issues of the Niger Delta are not such that can be resolved by means of confrontation or show of military strength. We believe that these are essentially issues of development; they are issues about the environment.
“So, we as a government, community leaders, corporate executives particularly the oil majors that are operating here and the Federal Government, its agencies and the friends of our country should work together to resolve the challenges of the Niger Delta.
“These are issues that working together sincerely and following a clear roadmap, we think can be resolved in such a way that communities will be prosperous; Government, agencies and businesses within our region will benefit from the overall climate of stability and security that will be generated when there is a consensus building effort. That is where we stand and I believe that has been the position of the US Mission.”