President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the people of Niger Delta to embrace peace in order to allow his administration effect the planned massive development for the region.
The President made the admonision on Tuesday, June 2 in Abuja during a conference entitled: ‘President Muhammadu Buhari and the Niger Delta struggle for development.’ President Buhari who was represented by Chief Ikechi Emenike, a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said that the new administration was desirous of developing the Niger Delta.
He said that the President very strongly identifies with the Niger Delta people, recalling that during his inaugural speech, there was no other region that was mentioned apart from the Niger Delta. According to him, President Buhari promised to invest heavily in the Niger Delta, adding that all that is left is for the people of the region to play their part by maintaining peace. He noted that all he needs now is peace and demands real commitment of peace from the Niger Delta. This, he noted, would bring the desired development to the oil-rich region because without peace nothing can work. “The message is that I am part of you and will want to develop the area but needs your co-operation. As I have promised, I will not only tackle the problem of Boko Haram but that of Niger Delta. I also promised that money will be judiciously used for development,” he said.
The Chairman on the occasion and former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, urged the people of Niger Delta to embrace peace and support the new administration. According to him, Buhari is the only man since Nigeria’s independence who has prepared fully to be President, having been armed with a Nigerian Project document on governance since 2002. He expressed confidence that President Buhari will fulfil his promise of addressing the problems of the Niger Delta people and putting the Nigerian economy back on track.
In his keynote address, the former Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Timi Alaibe made far-reaching suggestions of what could be done in immediate and long term to cause a real change in the lifestyle of the people of the region. Some of the measures according to the former NDDC chief include infrastructure revamp, creating deliberate access for the people of the region to actively participate in the economic activities of the region as it relates to the natural endowments of the zone, as well as cleaning up and protecting the environment from the effects of oil exploration.
He said that the provision of infrastructure and social amenities are germane because they are the things that can make life more meaningful and enable them communicate and compete on equal terms with other parts of the country and the world.
Alaibe urged the new administration to quickly identify all on-going, abandoned and newly awarded federal government projects in the region and put them on a fast track completion plan, adding that some of the funds for these could be sourced from the over N750 billion the federal government is owing the region.
He also called for the expeditious delivery of the ongoing work at the East-West road, as well as commencing work on the coastal highway from Akwa-Ibom to Epe, Lagos, stressing that such a project could provide linear infrastructure backbone that could trigger development explosion across the region, especially as it will create a hub.
In order to achieve prompt response to environmental issues, Alaibe called for the relocation of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) from Abuja to any town or city in the Niger Delta region.
Alaibe, then urged the Buhari administration to take urgent steps to actualize the Brass LNG project and a review of the gas master plan of the region as a way of boosting its industrialisation potential. He explained that the malaise of oil theft will continue unless there was a radical restructuring of the pipeline surveillance system by ensuring it co-functions with the communities along with relevant security agencies.
The event was organised by a civil rights organisation, Change Ambassadors of Nigeria (CAN) an Initiative of Gatekeepers Foundation. In his address, the Chief host and convener of CAN, Mr. Blessing Agbomhere, said the group identified with President Buhari because they were confident he would bring development not only to the Niger Delta region but all over the country.