24 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) has commended the Federal government for adopting its 16-point demands as a working document for the development of the Niger Delta region.
The body, in a statement issued at the weekend and signed a member of its Central Working Committee, Dr. Alfred Mulade, noted that Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s visit to the region last Monday must have influenced the decision.
“PANDEF notes with satisfaction the pronouncement made by Osinbajo on the adoption of its position paper, containing well-articulated 16-item dialogue issues, as a working document for the attainment of sustainable peace, equity, justice and development in the Niger Delta region, during his fact-finding visit to Delta State on January 16, 2017.
“PANDEF is confident that the vice president’s visit has afforded him the opportunity to interact for peace and fruitful engagement with the long-neglected and marginalised people of the Niger Delta,” it added.
The group maintained that the 16-item dialogue document embodies the core, broad and vexed issues that cut across every segment of the nationalities in the coastal states of the region.
It stated further: “PANDEF is impressed that beyond rhetorics, the federal government has given definite approval for the opening of the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko as well as the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) comprising the Gas City Project at Ogidigben and the Deep Seaport in Gbaramatu, Warri South-West LGA, Delta State.
“These projects, when fully operational, will definitely cause a turn-around of the socio-economic and security landscape of not just in Delta State, but the entire country,” the group said.
PANDEF however, said beyond the pronouncement, which has elicited joy in the region, the federal government must move the necessary steps further to fast-track the implementation of these projects.
It, therefore, appealed to the youths and all aggrieved stakeholders to continue to maintain peace, and eschew any act of vandalism and destruction of vital national assets and the ecosystem.
“Let us give the federal government a chance to carry out its plans for the development of the Niger Delta region. We believe, and will continue to uphold the ideals of a peaceful Niger Delta, hinged on equity and justice, a united and prosperous Nigeria,” it added.
Also, the former acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Pastor Power Ziakede Aginighan, appealed to Ijaws, Urhobos and Itsekiris to bury their differences and support the renewed efforts of the federal government to develop the Niger Delta region.
Aghinighan, a prominent Ijaw leader and All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain in the state said Osinbajo’s visit to the state last Monday has brighten the prospects of peace founded on socio-economic justice in the region.
He reiterated that the visit by the vice president has underscored the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to the sustainable development of the Niger Delta.
“There can be no stronger expression of Federal Government’s understanding of the situation in Niger Delta than the pronouncement by the vice president that the region should be treated as a special development zone.
“The federal government’s commitment to the take-off the Nigeria Maritime University Okerenkoko and the Gas City Project at Ogidigben gives a ray of hope that the oil-rich but hitherto alienated coastal belt of Delta State will be integrated into the mainstream of national development,” Aghinighan said.
He, however, urged the federal government to muster the political will to match words with action to bring the projects to into reality for the benefit of present and future generations of Niger Deltans and Nigerians in general.
“I appeal to leaders of the Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities to forge a united front for the speedy realisation of these legacy projects. Faced with the gloomy prospect of Nigeria where crude oil and gas may no longer be relevant, the future generations of Ijaw and Itsekiri sons and daughters will not forgive the leaders of today who frustrate the take-off of these projects for whatever reason,” he added.