Nigerian govt to treat Niger Delta as special development zone – Osinbajo

*Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria.

…Says Buhari committed lasting peace and prosperity of region

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

17 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has proclaimed the Federal Government’s intention to treat the Niger Delta region of the country as a special zone which requires special development initiatives.

Osinbajo also called for synergy among federal, state governments and civil society organisations to solve the numerous challenges in the Niger Delta region.

Speaking on Monday in Osceola, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, where he flagged off the peace tour of the Niger Delta, the Vice President appealed to the stakeholders of the region to embrace peace, explaining that this was why President Muhammadu Buhari sent him to the Niger Delta.

He said, “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 worse than it is today and to prepare for a great and promising future for the Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Delta as a whole, three things must happen.

“Firstly, 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 special economic zone, then we must treat it as a special development zone.”

Osinbajo added that “Long ago in the Willinks Commission, it has been acknowledged that because of the peculiar environment and terrain of the Niger Delta and the profound challenges it pose for development, it should be treated 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 federal government, state government, 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.”

According to him, “The federal government alone cannot solve the problems of the Niger Delta. It is impossible for the federal government alone. We must sit down with the state governments and the representatives to actualise the promises we made to the people. The state must be prepared to devote a substantial part of their budget to this special programme.”

Osinbajo went down memory in recalling the challenges of the region. He lamented that despite different initiatives embarked upon by previous governments, the Niger Delta was still lagging behind.

He also highlighted the effects of attacks on oil installations and appealed to the people to “get ready” for the future.

“I have come with a message for the people of the Gbaramatu Kingdom and the people of the Niger Delta as a whole. It is a short message and I quote ‘we must prepare for the future,’” he said.

“The Niger Delta that you see today, including this kingdom we are now, is an area with poor infrastructures. No schools no hospital and 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. Illiteracy is poor, thousands of health challenges especially from environmental degradation.

“The Niger Delta of today, everywhere you go there are signboards of proposed infrastructural projects, mostly uncompleted and many simply abandoned. 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 NDDC and the amnesty programme, many of these projects have not been able to meet the objectives they were set up to do. My message to you today: 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.”

Before he arrived in Delta State, the Vice President took to his Tweeter feed to note that, “Starting on Monday, January 16, I’ll be leading a high-level FG delegation to oil-producing communities interacting with people in 3 states. President Buhari is fully committed to finding lasting and negotiated solutions to secure the peace and prosperity of the Niger Delta and Nigeria.

“The interactions will start in Delta State and then we proceed to Bayelsa & Rivers States at a later date to be announced soon.”

The vice president, who was on a fact-finding visit to some states in the Niger Delta, said the Federal Government alone could not solve all the problems in the region.

Osinbajo and his entourage were received by the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oboro Gbaraun 11.

He advised governors in the region to make sufficient provisions in their annual budgets for the development of the region.

Osinbajo, who tagged his visit as: “We must prepare for the future,” said this is the time to prepare for the future.

He said that the Niger Delta Development Commission and other commissions set up by the government had not met their mandate.

Osinbajo said: “The Federal Government cannot solve the problem of Niger Delta alone; it requires the collaboration of the state, National Assembly and CSOs.”

The vice president also inspected the temporary site of the Nigerian Maritime University in Kurutie, a stone throw from Oporoza.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who was on the entourage, said the visit would bring changes to the region.

Okowa said, “I urge you to give peace a chance to bring development to our region.”

The President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eradiri Udengs, who spoke, assured that the Ijaw youths would work with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.

Udengs said: “This visit is a confidence-building visit; we will work with President Buhari.”

On the entourage were the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu and Senator James Manager, among others.

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