Uyo, March 3, 2017 (TNE): Nigeria has evolved a new vision for the Niger Delta: to treat the oil producing communities as special development areas, focusing on how to ensure that the people see the benefits of the wealth of the land.
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo rolled out the new package in Uyo at a town hall meeting he held with the people of the state, which is part of the region.
”This new vision will define the future of the region,” he declared.
”The majority of people of these communities and several parts of the oil producing States have heard of the wealth that oil has brought but have hardly benefited from it.
”And so we have come today on behalf of the President, Commander-in-Chief, with cabinet colleagues, and heads of relevant agencies to propose a new vision and to sign post a new era to the people of the oil producing communities of this State and Nigeria,” he said.
The Acting President’s visit was part of the engagement with the leadership and people of the oil producing communities, ”to hear them, to seek to understand their problems and concerns first hand and to offer to these communities in the Niger Delta a new vision and a new compact”.
He continued: ”I want to say this with all seriousness that we have seen several years before 2015, the situation where the central government has controlled resources and we have seen the result of that in the past 16 years.
”This government is barely two years old and what I see is that you must trust this government and give it the type pf patience that is required to achieve greatness and the great things that the people deserve.
”The Federal government itself has begun a partnership with the oil producing States, local governments, oil companies, private sector, and civil society organizations for the rapid development of these communities.”
Osinbajo said that as is the case in many oil-producing communities in this State and the Delta region of Nigeria, the blessing of oil has paradoxically become a curse or at best a burden.
”The means for our people, their livelihood, mainly fishing and farming, has consistently been destroyed by pollution. Worse still, huge resources earned over the years have simply disappeared in many
places and I have heard so many of the complaints here today- about the roads, schools, hospitals and social amenities that the oil wealth should have provided – are either not there or are patently inadequate.
Taking the issues and concerns one after the other, the acting president explained:
”I want to talk about amnesty. The Ministry of Petroleum Resources is already working something with the retired soldiers.
”Let me talk about the deep seaport. I want to state with all seriousness, this is a project that the Federal Government also takes seriously.
”indeed. In the 2017 budget, there is a $1 billion provision for it. It is a matter that we take seriously and it is a matter that we will work with the Akwa Ibom state government to actualise.
”There is a request that Maritime Academy in Oron be upgraded to a full-fledged university. We will work hard. I understand that there is a bill awaiting passage at the National Assembly and once that law is passed, we will of course go on with the programme.
”Naturally, it will be the business of the Federal Government to see that some of the things are done. The Calabar-Itu -Ikot Ekpene -Abanfederal Highway Dual project is ready for award -already appropriated in the 2016 budget-N6 billion, and is further provided I think in the 2017 budget,” he said.
The Acting President noted, however, that the biggest benefit to obtain was to attract more investment to this State, saying it is private investment that drives development.
”Whatever it is that the Federal and State governments can provide is only a fraction of what the private sector can bring, private investment is the driver of progress in every part of the world today.
”There is a private investment in Lagos now, a refinery project, 650,000 barrels of oil, that is more than all the refineries that the Federal Government has built in this country and it is the largest, single-line refinery in the world,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
He listed stability and relevant education as two important requirements for sustained investment, adding that the Federal Government would partner with Akwa Ibom to locate a technology hub in the state,
The Vice President Congratulated the young people of the state for their far-sightedness in not engaging in vandalism and violence, ”This is the smart thing to do. There is no real advantage to destruction of assets located in your communities. The consequences are environmental damage, and ultimately we drive away investment. The dialogue for the realization of our aspirations can be done peacefully, and I can assure you, with greater impact.”
Earlier, the traditional ruler of Uyo, His Royal Majesty Dr. Effiong Archianga conferred on the Acting President the honorary Chieftaincy title of Obong Emem of Akwa Ibom State, with a staff of office to go with it.
Expressing his appreciation for the honour, the Acting President said: ”I am deeply grateful for the honour and promise to be a good counselor to his Royal Highness and the council”. (TNE)