Plans are underway by the Federal Government to make oil producing communities in the Niger-Delta region petrochemical industrial hubs in the country to give a sense of belonging and mitigate restiveness. Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, announced this at a Town Hall meeting in Uyo, during his one-day official visit to Akwa Ibom State on Thursday.
He said that the Town Hall meeting was to enable him interact with the stakeholders and people of the state with a view to identifying their problems and proffer solutions adding that, he was in the state as an emissary of President Muhammadu Buhari who, after the visit of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, leadership to the presidency in November last year, called for the tour of oil bearing communities to enable the federal government strategize on the development of the region.
Professor Osinbajo, who assured the people of the state of federal government’s commitment to the realisation of the Ibom Deep Seaport project and upgrading of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron said, “The federal government takes seriously the Ibaka Deep Seaport project. Already we have made provision of N1 billion in this year’s budget to support the project”.
He also, announced the award of contract for the dualisation of the Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene-Aba federal highway explaining that, the road was critical to the development of the nation’s economy and would also facilitate movement of people in the neighbouring states.
While stating government’s determination to ensuring all round development of the Niger Delta region, he described as privilege, opportunity to be hosted by Akwa Ibom people whom he said are blessed with a rich ancestry. He lauded the political elites and youths of the state for letting go their political differences and come together in a Town Hall meeting to seek redress on issues affecting their community and particularly, expressed appreciation to the youths for their peaceful disposition in tackling their problems maintaining that, “there is no pleasure in destroying assets in the community and driving potential investors away” but, cautioned that the struggle for fairness and justice can be done peacefully with great results.
Prof. Osinbajo used the occasion to call on the people to cooperate with President Buhari administration to drive the vision that will engender development and peaceful coexistence in the country. Earlier, Governor Emmanuel called on the federal government to resuscitate the ailing Aluminium Smelter Company at Ikot Abasi and the Paper Mill Limited at Oku Iboku, Itu Local Government Area of the state and highlighted the economic benefits of the projects to the people.
Governor Emmanuel made a case for more funding to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to enable the ministry deliver on its mandate and, urged the Federal government to establish a skill development centre for oil and gas in the state as a way of domiciling the Local Content Act emphasizing that, “If the Local Content Act must succeed, there must be a development centre for oil and gas to train youths for technological development that can fetch them employment”.
In their separate presentations, stakeholders asked the Federal government to direct all multinational oil and gas companies operating in the region to relocate their headquarters to their states of operations to fore stall the persistent marginalization and restiveness by the host communities.
A Chieftain of PAN-Niger Delta Forum, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga particularly called on the federal government to take steps to implement issues raised in the 16-point dialogue document laid before the President and commended the Federal government’s decision to stop destruction of modular refineries saying that, the policy would boost local content of the petroleum industry by creating wealth and employment as well as safe guard the environment.
Also, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, expressed appreciation to the federal government for appointing Akwa Ibom indigenes into positions of responsibility and listed the appointees to include; the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma; Managing Director, NDDC, Obong Nsima Ekere; MD, Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone, Obong Umana Okon Umana; and others saying the federal government has shown appreciation and love for the people of the state.
On the communal clash between the people of Ikot Offiong in Cross River State and their Akwa Ibom neighbours in Itu Local Government Area, Sen. Akpabio called on the federal government to consider the construction of a military barrack at the boundary between the warring communities to avert further bloodshed and destruction of properties.
The Minister of States, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu also said that, the federal government was serious in consulting the oil producing communities for the realisation of a peaceful business environment and that Akwa Ibom, being an oil producing state, has been considered for special attention in the country and enjoined that, “it is time the people of the Niger Delta region act by using the God-given resources for meaningful development”.
On arrival, the Vice President inspected the 2nd Runway Project at Ibom International Airport and also paid homage to the State Traditional Rulers Council, where he was conferred with a Chieftaincy title of Obong Emem Akwa Ibom by the Chairman, State Council of Chiefs and Paramount Ruler of Ibeno, HRM (Ovung) Effiong Bassey Achianga.