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NIGER DELTA SHOULD BE TREATED AS A SPECIAL DEVELOPMENT ZONE – OSINBANJO

  • Says FG committed in kick-starting Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko
  • Okowa calls for Peace and canvases support for Buhari
  • As PANDEF Urges Buhari to constitute a dialogue team
  • IYC President seek immediate release of all detained Ijaw Sons
  • Commence academic activities on the Nigerian Maritime University, EPZ projects says Gbaramatu Traditional Council

The Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo have aligned himself with the Willink Commission while stating that the Niger Delta region should be treated as a special development Zone.

Prof. Osinbanjo made the remark in Oporoza at the palace pavilion, Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State during his one day official fact finding visit to the Kingdom.

The Vice President while decrying the level of underdevelopment of the region, also noted that despite the establishment of developmental agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, OMPADEC and others for the development of the region, it has not been able to change the story of the region for good, adding that it remains a region with poor infrastructure, few schools, few hospitals and environmental pollution.

Prof. Osinbanjo also told the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and indeed Niger Deltans that the Federal Government is committed to the full commencement of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko.

In his words : “When I leave here, I will be visiting Kurutie, the site of the  Maritime University, the president has directed the Ministry of Petroleum to work quickly to see to the realization of all of the objectives in implementing this crucial education institution. The bill establishing the school has just passed second reading and I am sure we have the commitment of the Federal lawmakers to see that it comes to fruition that”

Speaking further, the Vice President urged Niger Deltans to prepare for the future, stressing that the future is now, he particularly call on stakeholders of the region to have a plan for its development, noting that the Federal Government alone cannot develop the region, he urged the people not to fail in planning the way forward together.

In his speech during the programme “I am here today as an emissary, a messenger of our President, President Mohammadu Buhari , the commander in Chief of the armed forces, federal Republic of Nigeria and I am also here as a citizen of our Country and a brother to you the great people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, I have come with a short message for the people of Niger Delta and Gbaramatu Kingdom, the message is that “we must prepare for the future,” the Niger Delta that we see today is an area of poor infrastructure: few schools, few hospitals and severe pollution, the Niger Delta of today is one of daily pipeline vandalization, in 2014 alone there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalization, from January to June 2016, there were over 1,447 incidents of vandalization, literacy is poor and thousands have health challenges especially from environmental pollution. Many of the initiatives to change the story have not been able to make the big changes required, the story of the Niger Delta especially OMPADEC, NDDC and other agencies set aside to address our stories have not been able to change our stories due to corruption as it has brought about years of official neglect and has created wastelands.

IMG_4545
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice president of Nigeria with the Pere of Gbaramatu kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun 11, Aketekpe, Agadagba during the fact finding visit to Oporoza, Gbaramatu kingdom, Delta state (Photo: Gbaramatu Voice)

“It is time to prepare for the future, our future is not a future of environmental degradation, is not a future of poor infrastructure, future of harassment and lurking up, our future is one of progress is a future of development, unfortunately there is no time, the future is now. Fellow citizens of Niger Delta, to ensure that the future is not worse than today, three things happen, the peculiarity of the environment, it must be seen as a special area for development and the states must also prepare to set aside funds in their budgets for the development of this area.

“Niger Delta should be treated as a special development zone, the Willink Commission have also long ago advocated for it, Niger Deltans must not fail to plan the development of the region, the National Assembly members in this area must sit together and develop a plan for funding arrangements, there should be no excuse for not planning together, as the Federal Government alone cannot develop the Niger Delta, States in the region and the multinational oil companies operating in the region must also involve their host communities; The Pan Niger Delta Forum have presented a concise list of 16 dialogue issues, that PANDEF document is an important working document, it is a document around which we can plan, it represents an excellent road map for the future of Niger Delta. We must also hold the oil companies accountable, Pipeline supervision and other such contracts should favour host communities, we must promote indigenous participation.” Prof. Osinbanjo stated.

Okowa calls for Peace and canvases support for Buhari
Meanwhile the Executive Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa while addressing the people, have appealed for the cooperation and partnership with the federal government.

Gov. Okowa who expressed joy and conviction that the visit will bring partnership between the Niger Delta and the federal government urge the people to provide the enabling environment for development to take place.

He said; “There is no better time in the quest for peace than now. So we must embrace peace, we must seek peace, I must thank the youths who have spoken, we must all come together and move the region forward. The time is now”. Okowa asserted.

As PANDEF Urges Buhari to constitute a dialogue team

On their part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF have again called on President Mohammadu Buhari to quickly institute a federal government dialogue team to chart the way forward for the region , noting that since the formation of the group, it has supported the Federal Government and would continue to do so.

Speaking on behalf of PANDEF, Alaowei Broderick Bozimor, calls for the immediate takeoff of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko among various issues bedevilling the entire Niger Delta.

According to the forum; “We are hopeful that with your visit today, the take off of the University will be finally resolved. That will be one important step towards peace and serenity

“May we also draw your attention to the other strategic projects that are pivotal to winning the peace we dearly crave for are, expediting work on the Export Processing Zones, dredging of the Escravos Bar to permit navigation of ocean-going vessels to the Warri, Koko and Sapele; the completion of the East- West Federal highway and completion of the Itakpe- Aladja railway” It noted.

The group also drew the attention of the Federal Government to the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Law and Justice issues, the effect of increased military presence in the Niger Delta, plight of Internally displaced persons,the Ogoni clean up environmental remediation, Key regional critical infrastructure, security surveillance and protection of oil and gas infrastructure, relocation of administrative and operational headquarters of IOCs.

IYC President seek immediate release of all detained Ijaw Sons
However, the President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC Worldwide Comr. Udengs Eradiri on his part have called for the end of what he described as endless political persecutions of Ijaw Sons, he particularly demands for the immediate release of Ijaws that have allegedly being arrested without any proper reason.

Engr. Eradiri advised President Buhari to emulate his predecessors for the free flow of oil in the Niger Delta region, while pledging his support for the Bulgari led government.

In his words; ” We are ready to work with you, we will support you but please put to an end the persecution of Ijaws, your visit today is a confidence building one ” Eradiri

Commence academic activities on the Nigerian Maritime University, EPZ projects says Gbaramatu Traditional Council

In an address presented by Gbaramatu Traditional Council Of Chiefs, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, the Ibe-benemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, expressed confidence  that the Vice-president’s visit should represent a game-changer-coming at a time of national economic recession and when the Niger Delta especially Gbaramatu Kingdom has become more endangered and feeling estranged from the Nigerian Nation.

Chief Gbenakama hoped that the visit will truly build confidence of the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Niger Delta on the Federal Government (FG) commitment to go beyond hirthero frustrating rhetorics,  not just in developing but according dignity and pride of place to the oil-rich region.

He noted that whereas Gbaramatu Kingdom plays host to a lots of federal oil assets important to the national and state economy, like the Abiteye flow Station, Egwa 1and 2 flow Station, Jones Creek flow Station, Utunana Flow Station, Macaraba flow Station among others, the entire landscape of the kingdom lacks federal infrastructure and wallows in utter government neglect. Appealing that the Gbaramatu kingdom derseve developmental attention.

The address read; “Your Excellency, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sir: We the Chiefs and good people of Gbaramatu Kingdom have the instructions of HRM, Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, The Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, to welcome you to Oporoza and indeed Gbaramatu Kingdom of the Ijaw nation, on this historic visit.

“We wish to express our profound appreciation for this visit which we believe should represent a game-changer–coming at a time of national economic recession and when the Niger Delta especially Gbaramatu Kingdom has become more endangered and feeling estranged from the Nigerian nation. We believe that this visit by Your Excellency, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, will truly build confidence of the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Niger Delta on the Federal Government (FG) commitment to go beyond hitherto frustrating rhetorics, not just in developing but according dignity and pride of place to the oil-rich region. Indeed, Gbaramatu Kingdom is tall and rich in national oil infrastructure that enriches the nation but lamentably lacking in infrastructure that benefits the people.

“Your Excellency, it is against the foregoing pitiable background that we herein raise issues of immediate concern, hoping that the FG will leverage on same to reconcile Gbaramatu Kingdom, the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta to the Nigerian nation.” It asserted.

Adding that “Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West LGA of Delta State plays host to a host of federal oil assets important to the national and state economy. It is home to the Abiteye flow station, Egwa 1 and Egwa 2 Flow stations, Jones Creek Flow station, Utunana Flow station, Macaraba Flow station among others. Gbaramatu Kingdom therefore deserves developmental attention. The entire landscape of Gbaramatu Kingdom, however, lacks federal infrastructure and wallows in utter government neglect. It was against this backdrop that the immediate past administration established the Nigerian Maritime University at Okerenkoko, the only Federal Government initiative that rekindled hope of meaningfully engaging restive youths and held prospect of endearing the people to the Nigerian project. Sadly, no sooner than the present President Muhammadu Buhari administration was inaugurated, academic activities slated for commencement September 2015 were suspended over varied interests just as construction works at the permanent site at Okerenkoko were halted due to discontinued funding of Contractors by the Federal Government.

“Your Excellency, Sir, a visit to Kurutie, the take-off site of the Nigerian Maritime University would reveal a campus that can compete in infrastructure with other institutions in the world. It is therefore our appeal that you use your good offices to remove all restraints and ensure commencement, soonest, of academic activities in the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko to the benefit of all Nigerians.

“Gbaramatu Kingdom, as earlier hinted, is host to several oil assets. Under the guise of search for oil facility vandals, oil thieves and other criminals, the Nigerian military has become an army of occupation, committing serial invasions on Gbaramatu Kingdom. The consequences have been loss of several lives and property and huge humanitarian crisis. The relic of the 2009 military Joint Task Force (JTF) invasion and burning of the Palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom stands as sad reminder of one invasion too many. The military invasions are still counting when the FG is yet to pay compensation of N99 billion to the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom  as ordered by a Court of competent jurisdiction over the 2009 invasion.

“Your Excellency, we wish to place on record that Gbaramatu Kingdom is not at war with the Federal Government to warrant military occupation, incessant harassments and detentions. Nine innocent students were arrested and detained for nine months where they missed taking their WAEC Examinations last year. The people cannot enjoy sleep of night as they are often woken up by the staccato of gunfire!

“We believe that the continued military occupation,  invasions and unwarranted harassments give a lie to FG commitment to the dialogue option. we hold that dialogue will consequently address issues of agitation in the region and take the wind out of the sail of elements that have breached critical national oil assets thereby contributing to our present national economic recession. We think that deployment of military troops under cover of oil installations protection is a manifestation of “system (FG) failure” to use God-given resources to develop the owners who, over the decades, were not known to vandalize them. In any case, the entire Niger Delta region has embraced dialogue as symbolized by mandates for dialogue given to the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) who could pan out a way where the people would be involved in protecting the oil resources that also benefits them. It is therefore our appeal and hope that your visit today will pave way for demilitarization of the area for genuine and result-oriented dialogue. Dialogue under military occupation and harassments is dialogue in chains “The address noted.

Stressing that “The multi-billion dollars Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project with twin components, namely the Gas Industrial Park, Ogidigben and the Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu according to former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezanni Allison-Madueke, has the capacity of creating over 150,000 jobs/employments. The FG is therefore enjoined to expedite action on the take-off of the EPZ project to take restive youths off to gainful employments to promote the peace. We also seize this opportunity to appeal to the FG to prevail on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to renew its contract with Escravos Ship Pilot Nigeria Ltd which ran from March 2010 to March 2015. The Contract absorbed several scores of skilled and unskilled labour/persons from the entire Niger Delta and beyond. The workers, who have not been paid for over 20 months now, due to the awaited renewal of the contract, has suffered untold hardship.

“The people of Gbaramatu Kingdom wish to adopt the demand for fiscal federalism voiced over the years and included in the list of demands by PANDEF during its November 1, 2016 engagement with the FG in Abuja. We see practice of fiscal federalism as a demand that will benefit all parts of the federation. It will enable the component parts of the federation to pool resources and put up own plans for improvement.

“Your Excellency, we cannot be exhaustive here on issues but please be assured that the people of Gbaramatu kingdom are ready for dialogue that will change our status from a perpetually hunted people. We are ready for dialogue that will take us away from the backwaters of underdevelopment to physical advancement and education that will increase our value. We are set for the dialogue that will enable us partner with the Federal Government in peace-building and security in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian nation. We feel sure that the entire Niger Delta shares our commitment to dialogue. It is therefore our prayer that following your visit today, the Federal Government should set up its own dialogue committee to deepen its engagement processes in the Niger Delta and usher in enduring peace and reconciliation of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Niger Delta to the Nigerian nation.” It stated.

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