Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday paid a visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, recommending that the region should have a special development zone status.
Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and was received in Delta State by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
In his address of welcome, entitled: ‘We must prepare for the future’, he advocated sustainable development for the Niger Delta region.
“An Area Of Poor Infrastructure”
“The Niger Delta that we see today, including this great kingdom, is an area of poor infrastructure – few schools, few hospitals, and severe pollution.
“The Niger Delta of today, is one of daily pipeline vandalism. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalism.
“The Niger Delta of today is one where, aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents, arising from breach of the pipeline.
“Everywhere you go, there are signboards of proposed projects, mostly uncompleted or abandoned altogether.
“Many of the initiatives to change the story, have not been able to make the big changes required,” the Vice President stated.
Citing several examples, dating back to the 60’s, down to the present day amnesty programmes, the Professor Osinbajo said many of such programmes have not been able to meet up with their objectives.
However, he charged the people, stressing that “the future, is not a future of environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, poor roads”and the likes.
Rather, it is a future of “progress and development” but according to him, “there is no time, as the future is already here”.
He then stated that in order to ensure that the future is not worse than today, three things must happen.
Also he believes that while the government plays its own part, the people have to combine efforts with it, in order to realise the desired development.
One of such things, he stressed, was that the people “must recognise the unique environmental and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta.
“We must recognise that the Niger Delta is a special development zone for this nation.
“It means that the Federal and State governments, the National Assembly representatives, along-side the NDDC and the civil society representatives, of the Niger Delta people must sit together, develop, plan and fund an arrangement for rapid development,” he stressed.
Also, in furtherance of development in the region, Professor Osinbajo revealed that the Pan Niger Delta Forum had come up with 16 dialogue issues that would be extremely helpful in ascertaining its key development priorities.
He stated that the region must also hold some of the international oil companies, to their agreement with host communities.
“We must promote indigenous participation in oil companies,” he added.
He also hinted that in the 2017 budget, provision had been made for the commencement of the Lagos-Calabar railway. (the coastal railway).
Mr Osinbajo is expected to also visit a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states, where he is expected to address issues affecting the region and bring an end to militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities.
According to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States at a later date to be announced.
Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.