IN a passionate determination to boost domestic and international trade for the socio-economic benefit of Deltans, Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, in his wisdom, created the Directorate for Multi-Lateral Relations which gave an expanded mandate to the Abuja Office. The Directorate was established to serve in monitoring relationships of the state government with multi-lateral corporations and agencies to ensure a win-win position for all and to act more in a protective capacity to the local communities where they (the multi-lateral corporations and agencies) engage or operate.
Addressing Journalists on the activities of the Directorate in the last one year at the on-going ministerial press briefing organized by the Delta State Ministry of Information in collaboration with the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Commissioner in charge of the Directorate for Multi-lateral Relations and Abuja Office, Comrade Gloria Okolugbo said that the Directorate has gained great visibility, adding that “this is to establish from the very location and mandate of the office that the visibility it (the Directorate) seeks is really more external for the collective benefit of all the people of the state”.
While saying that most of the industries operating in the state are oil exploration companies, Okolugbo disclosed that there has been several entry points before the establishment of the Directorate, adding that upon its take off, the Directorate had a one year plan of tracking the activities and data gathering of the corporations which, she said, had revealed so much.
“Note that we have just returned from Rio + 20 where the world went to set the agenda for sustainable development. The Governor of Delta State, Dr. Uduaghan who is the Vice President of Africa and Arab States of the R + 20 has championed and is still championing the course to ensure that whatever technology is imported into Delta in the industry is clean technology and is determined to arrest the ugly situation of pollution”, she stated, pointing out that we might not be able to do something about the past, but we can do much about moving forward.
In the same vain, the commissioner said, though many multi-lateral corporations are serving within the state and are comfortable in taking advantage of their previous entry points, this briefing serves to let them know that their manner of engagement at the community level is appreciated by government which gives them all the support for same, adding that by same token, the tolerance level of communities in issues of negotiating the very essence of their existence which has been exploited over the years is of great concern “and this Directorate is involved in tracking such issues and intervention in same”.
Speaking further, Okolugbo said that one of the issues which occupied the interest of the Directorate during the Rio + 20 was the position paper that was presented by the indigenous communities from across the world at a collective platform, saying “we had supported input from the various affected communities and even supported delegations that went ahead to the New York lobby sessions where most of the positions were being negotiated before the world summit began”.
Continuing, she said “for us as a Directorate, we shall advise government appropriately on the true position as we come on an informed platform; what we are doing as a Directorate is to keep abreast with the existing protocols and agreement and call to mind, the fact that other avenues like holding host nations of these corporations accountable exist and we are ready to explore the possibilities that exist to ensure compliance”.
According to her, the place of effective lobbying in the international committee of nations cannot be ignored as that is where all the difference lies, saying that what has happened before now where we were exploited in our relationships was unacceptable in the present day realities just as she assured communities that go“vernment was doing so much to protect their interests and correct the mistakes of the past.
The commissioner further disclosed that the Delta State Towers in Abuja would be commissioned before the end of this year (2012), pointing out that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has, in the last one year, made the completion of Delta Towers a top priority in his agenda.
“While the construction of the edifice was going on under the purview of the State Ministry of Housing, Dr. Uduaghan takes time to monitor the progress of this project in between his busy scheduled meetings every time he is in the capital (Abuja). This has been a huge source of encouragement to us as an office and our expectation is to maximize the use of the facility once completed as a huge revenue base for the state as well as a comfort zone for Deltans outside home”, the Commissioner said.
Okolugbo who stated that the Directorate was looking anxiously to moving into the towers, however, added that it has become necessary to take proactive steps to ensure the full enjoyment of the facility because of the sensitive nature of security generally in Abuja.
Prior to the establishment of the Directorate, she said, the Abuja office stood as a liaison office with a sitting commissioner who, according to her, functions in an ambassadorial capacity, maintaining that the liaison office serves at the federal capital as a link on state matters at the national level, maintaining that communication between top government functionaries in all the line ministries were facilitated by the use of the liaison office of states at the federal capital.
In playing its role in the last one year, the commissioner said, the Directorate brought to bear, the use of modern day technologies in transmitting messages and easing communication, adding that “this has facilitated engagement by most of the line ministries back at home in Delta State as they are able to key into government programmes at the federal level of their ministries”.
She stated that it was also the function of the Abuja office to liaise with the diplomatic community to facilitate bilateral relations beyond national level on behalf of the state government, adding that there are functions like the facilitation of entry visa for official purpose as well as offering advice to other Deltans who seek same in interactions with other countries for educational, trade and investment relations when such negotiations are in the northern regions of Nigeria.
Okolugbo pointed out that the Abuja office which now functions as a Department of the newly created Directorate, handles all liaison matters on behalf of the state government in the entire northern region of Nigeria, adding that the functions of the Directorate was quite significant considering the prevailing circumstance in the contemporary Nigerian society.
The commissioner, therefore, called on Delta State indigenes like as it is done all over the world, to note that in the quest for trade and educational interactions which more often than not, take them to the north, they should identify themselves with the liaison department as it is available and has been functioning to guide and assist them.
One of the key functions of the Directorate in this regard, according to her, is the identification of Delta State indigenes and the issuance of certificate of indigeneship status, pointing out that this was often needed to facilitate their enjoyment of quotas for the state at various levels or even for use at the beginning of school sessions for children.
She maintained that the liaison office serves to bridge the gap and also earns revenue for the state in rendering the service which, she said, was highly supported by the state government as running the liaison unit was dedicated to offering Deltans service away from home, adding that the attestation unit of the Directorate handles such service.
Still explaining the duties of the Directorate, Okolugbo disclosed that the protocol officers in the liaison office function to ease the receipt of top government functionaries from the state and at the national level. “Taking cognizance of the kind of federation that we operate where all state governors, by the reason of their job, are compelled to shuttle so often between the capital and their states, the protocol for their reception is routine and vital to ensure speedy movement whilst in the capital and facilitate ease to return back home”, she added.
In conclusion, she said “in this one year, our work as a Directorate has been consistent, on-going and foundational. As Ambassadors of the state, we stand to make life within the North a community experience for Deltans outside home. Moving forward our road map for the year commencing, would entail more engagement, more visibility where it is needed and pursuing and aligning our mandate in actualizing the three point agenda of the Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan led administration of Delta State”.