Nigeria has the highest concentration of extremely poor people (91 million) in Africa and correspondingly, most of the component states are poor (NEEDS Report, 2003). According to the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) survey of 1996, sixty percent (60%) of Nigerians were living in extreme poverty.
Rural communities have been cut off from the mainstream of urban life because previous governments lacked effective machinery for the implementation of rural development plans in spite of the fact that eighty five percent (85%) of the extremely poor Nigerians currently live in the rural communities (George, 2006). Rural dwellers make up two thirds (2/3) of the country’s total population. The reality of rural areas is the painful paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty (George, 2006).
In Nigeria, the Niger-Delta region is endowed with oil that is explored and exploited by oil companies without compensation (Udoudoh, 2006). Consequently, many rural areas of this region (Niger Delta) are amongst the least developed in the country socially, physically, politically and economically.
Despite an increase in urbanization, the rural communities of the Niger Delta are faced with inadequate and sometimes total lack of basic amenities like all season access roads, electricity, jetties in riverine areas, skill development centres, education and vocational training centres and health centres to stimulate sustainable growth and development.
The neglect in the development of the rural sector has not only widened the gap between rural and urban incomes but has also increased rural unemployment, resulting in rural-urban migration, increase in poverty rate and inequalities in income and access to social amenities (George, 2006). On this basis, the study seeks to appraise the contributions of the European Union Micro-projects programme to the rural development of the Niger-Delta.
The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is the mainstream of Nigeria’s economy through its production of oil resources providing about ninety five percent (95%) of the government revenue (Udoudoh, 2006).
According to Onuorah (2005) cited in Udoudoh (2006), in spite of the contributions of this region to the growth of the national economy, the region (Niger Delta) has been neglected by the federal government and the operating multinational oil companies. This region is characterized by inadequate infrastructure like electricity, potable water and good feeder roads. The rural people have low purchasing power and standard of living (Olayiwola and Adeleye, 2005). Due to this situation, there has been a rising concern for indigenes and international organisations with a view to improving the living standard of the rural populace.
In a bid to improve these communities and enhance the living standards of the people, the European Union has set up a Micro-Project Programme as an instrument for the development of the rural communities of the Niger Delta under the authorization of the presidency through the National Planning Commission (MPP6 report, 2006). The European Union adopted its first Micro-Project Programme (MPP3) for the three (3) riverine states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers in December 1999. The programme (micro-projects programme) was further extended to cover Abia, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Ondo States (MPP6). Still, the European Union envisioned the amalgamation of the two (2) programmes to have Micro-Project Programme in nine (9) states of the Niger Delta (MPP9).
The micro-project programme (MPP6) in the six states was funded by the European Union and undertaken at the initiative of the rural communities who have to contribute to this implementation of providing at least twenty five percent (25%) of the project cost in labour, services, cash or kind. The programme commenced in May, 2003 with the objectives of improving the living standards in the poor settlements of the Niger Delta and to develop the people’s economic and social situation in response to the needs of the rural communities (MPP6 report 2006).
The rural communities of the Niger Delta earmarked for the micro-projects programme constitute 1/6th of the nation’s population with indicators of poverty. Some 75-80% of rural population lack sanitation and access to safe drinking water leading to the outbreak of periodic cholera and typhoid, while most schools and health institutions are in serious need of urgent rehabilitation because of increasing number of students and patients (MPP6 published news, 2005).
The programme seeks to enhance, alleviate and improve the living standards of the rural populace through the provision of civic centres, building of school blocks, construction of simple water and sanitary systems, micro-finance schemes, transportation and communication, health centres, income generation, saving and credit, vocational and educational training among others.
Having been in operation for a period of five years with well-defined objectives, it is expected that the activities of the programme (MPP6) will have had significant effects on the living standards of the target population. However, there is a dearth of literature to show the extent to which the operation of the programme (MPP6) has affected the Niger Delta people and the challenges the MPP6 went through in the course of achieving their objectives. It is on this basis that this study has become necessary to fill this gap.
The following research questions were formulated to direct the study.
The aim of this research is to appraise the contributions of the Micro-Projects Programme to the rural development of the Niger Delta.
To achieve this aim, the following objectives are pursued.