Ovie Okpare, Warri
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo led a Federal Government delegation to the Niger Delta on Monday and lamented that the geopolitical zone had long been neglected.
He said most of the developmental initiatives embarked on in the past by successive regimes had not been able to achieve their developmental objectives for the geopolitical zone.
Osinbajo, however, assured the people that with the needed cooperation, unity and collaboration with all the stakeholders, the present administration would bring about the much-expected infrastructural development to the Niger Delta.
Osinbajo and his delegation comprising the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, landed in Oporoza in a Nigerian Navy 231 helicopter about 12.04pm.
They were received by His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe, Agadagba, the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom in the Warri South West Local Government Area of the state.
The Vice-President, who had earlier led his delegation into a closed door meeting with the Gbaramatu monarch and other prominent Ijaw leaders including King Alfred Diete-Spiff, were later received at the Palace Stadium-Pavilion where he addressed the jubilating Ijaw people who turned out in their thousands to welcome him.
He said the delegation were in Gbaramatu at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari towards finding lasting peace in the region.
The Vice-President said, “We are here as messengers of President Buhari. I have come with a message for the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the people of the Niger Delta as whole. It is a short message and I quote ‘we must prepare for the future.’
“The Niger Delta that you see today, including this kingdom we are now, is an area with poor infrastructure. No schools, no hospital but only severe pollution. The Niger Delta of today is that of daily pipeline vandalisation. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalisation. From January to June 2016, there were over 1,447 incidents of vandalisation.
“The Niger Delta of today aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2016, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents arising from breaches of pipelines…
“Many of the initiatives to change the story have not been able to make those changes. From the Niger Delta Development Board in the 1960s to ONPADEC to the NDDC and the amnesty programme, many of these projects have not been able to meet the objectives they were set up to achieve. My message to you today is, it is time to prepare for the future.
“It is not the future of degradation, poor infrastructure and it is not the future of no roads. It is not the future of harassment and locking up. Our future is the future of progress and development. Unfortunately, there is no time because the future is already here. Fellow citizens, to ensure that the future is not worst than today and to prepare for a great and promising future for the Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Niger Delta as a whole, three things must happen.
“First, we must recognise the unique environment and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta. We must also recognise that the Niger Delta is a special place and a special economic zone, and then we must treat it as a special development zone.
“And I agree in entirety that this zone ought to be treated as a special development zone. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that the FG, state governments, National Assembly representatives from this region alongside the NDDC and the civil society representatives of the Niger Delta people must sit together and develop a plan for rapid development. There is no excuse for not planning together.
This, he said, was because the “Federal Government alone cannot solve the problems of the Niger Delta.”
The Vice-President, whose delegation also visited the temporary site for the take-off of the Nigeria Maritime University in Kurutie, noted that he was impressed with the infrastructural facilities at the institution.
Earlier, Okowa had told Osinbajo that the state government was ready to partner the Federal Government and the people of the area to bring about lasting peace.
He noted that the Vice-President’s visit would go a long way to ensure enduring peace in the region.
Kachikwu, in his remarks, charged the people of the region to look beyond oil for development, noting that tourism would enhance the Niger Delta’s growth.
The Chief Edwin Clark-led Pan Niger Delta Forum in its submission in Oporoza said the visit showed the Federal Government’s readiness to interact and develop the long-neglected people of the Niger Delta region.
A former Police Affairs Minister, Alaowei Bozimo, who was mandated by PANDEF to speak on its behalf, urged the Federal Government “to expeditiously name the Government Negotiating Team to engage PANDEF’s representatives to kick-start the dialogue process for the resolution of the lingering Niger Delta Question.”
On his part, the spokesman for the Gbaramatu Kingdom, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who spoke on behalf of HRM, Oboro Gbaraun II, the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, said the visit of the Federal Government would engender peace and economic boom in the country.
The event was attended by Senator James Manager; Brig. Gen. Paul Boron; the Delta State Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro; the first military administrator of Old Rivers and the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass, King Alfred Diete-Spiff; one-time Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Bozimo and a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Julius Pondi.
Others include Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, a former Acting Managing Director of the the Niger Delta Development Commission, Pastor Power Aginighan; the National President of the Ijaw Youths Council, Udengs Eradiri; representative of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Jenkins Okponipre and prominent Ijaw chiefs and clerics. (Punchng.com)