The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has commended youths of the region for coming together to speak with one voice over issues affecting the area.
The minister said the move showed unity and was coming at a time that President Muhammadu Buhari was doing a lot to better the region.
Speaking at the ministry when the youth leaders under the auspices of Niger Delta Ethnic Nationalities Youth Forum (NDENYF) paid him a courtesy call in Abuja, Senator Akpabio reminded them of the government’s efforts to diversify the country’s economy.
He also called on the visiting ethnic youth leaders to be at the vanguard of welcoming the government’s developmental initiatives to the region, adding “the people of the region should be the first to embrace it.
“Our youths must do everything possible to be part of this new interest; it is a region where a lot must be done because the youths need empowerment.
“In the past, the region was neglected by successive governments, but the current administration led by President Buhari is more than determined to make life meaningful for the people through infrastructural development and empowerment of the people.”
While attributing the prevailing peace enjoyed in the area to the youths being more focused, the former Akwa Ibom State governor urged them to sustain the current atmosphere to meet up with the government’s plan for the speedy development of the area.
“As a government determined to take care of the future of our youths, we have put in place, Skill Acquisition Centres across the region. At the just-concluded world forum in Paris, I canvassed for foreign investments in the region because of the peaceful disposition of our youths. I went there mainly to sell our potentials to the international investors and community,” he noted.
The former Senate Minority Leader further clarified his position on the controversy surrounding the constitution of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
According to him, a federal government-sponsored forensic audit “exposed over 14 thousand abandoned projects scattered all over the region. This exposure shows that the incoming board of the NDDC will have to continue and complete those projects for the people to own and use them. The current government will leave behind an NDDC with new terms of reference.”
“I am delighted to work with you as your Minister. We can talk to each other, in order to have a better understanding of ourselves as a people. Let there be constant communication amongst us. When we are not well informed, fake news thrives in the society,” he stressed.
On the East-West road, Akpabio reiterated the commitment of the government to its completion, saying “the Federal Government is not sleeping over the road. We are discussing special funding sources for the road. President Buhari wants to complete section four of the road before he leaves office. “
On their part, the NDENYF leaders led by the National President, Comrade Terry Obieh acknowledged “the commitment of the President in continuing with the Amnesty Programme; the ongoing works on the East-West road which we hope will be completed in 2022 and hereby pass a vote of confidence on Mr President and the Minister for their development strides in the region, since they came on board.”
Reading from a communique, Obieh said, appreciated the NDDC for completing abandoned projects in the region, noting “the new focus of the NDDC which is aimed at completing abandoned projects; some dating back to 14 years ago, and some which started during days of the OMPADEC, such as the completion and commissioning of the 14 storey NDDC headquarters complex, the recent commissioning of the SPU Quarters for the Nigeria Police and completion of over 77 roads in the region by the NDDC without awarding any new contract are commendable.
“We commend the Minister, Niger Delta Affairs on the efforts of his Ministry in fixing the failed section at Mkpolu which had claimed lives and obstructed commercial activities in the area. This is a major drainage channel which today, has saved lives of the residents.”
The communiqué also noted the efforts of the President Buhari-led administration towards the Ogoni Clean-Up, stressing, “We commend the President on the Ogoni- Clean-Up while urging him to extend the exercise to other parts of the Niger Delta. We appreciate the efforts of the Minister in ensuring the provision of electricity in Ondo South with a 132KVA substation, started by the NDDC over 12 years ago.
“We equally applaud the completion of the 1000 bed space hostel accommodation which will soon be commissioned at the University of Uyo by the NDDC. We urge the NDDC to look into the one at Niger Delta University. “
According to them, “with the completion of the Skill Acquisition Centres by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, we call on the NDDC and the Ministry to initiate empowerment programmes for Youths and take them off the streets, noting, with the upcoming Christmas celebrations, the Youths have asked us to inform the Minister and the NDDC to initiate programmes that will empower them for a peaceful celebration.”
The group declared its support for the recently concluded forensic audit exercise into the activities of the NDDC, stating, “We support the Forensic Audit exercise and we urge the President to make the report public in order to expose the offenders and recover monies looted from the NDDC for further development of the region, adding, we join other voices across the region and the country to call for the constitution of the NDDC board with terms of reference.”
The equally called “a special financing intervention for the East-West road. The information available to us is that the RCC handled the failed portions of the road. We request that Mr President directs that Julius Berger or some other competent hands take over the construction of the East-West road for the benefit of all.”