In continuation of his fact-finding tour to oil-producing in the country, Acting President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo, on Monday in Benin City, Edo State, stated that Nigeria’s oil-producing communities have suffered neglect and development due to the insensitivity and corrupt activities of leaders and politicians entrusted with positions of trust.
He however gave the assurance that the federal government’s new era and vision aimed at developing oil-bearing communities and other areas will boost development, unity and peaceful coexistence.
Prof Osinbajo stated this during the stakeholders meeting held at the Dr Samuel Ogbemudia College, Benin City, where stakeholders poured out their minds about the challenges that were being faced by oil-producing communities in Edo State and probable solutions to them.
Those who spoke before the Acting President included Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu; Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani and environmentalists, Rev David Ugolor.
Rev Ugolor said if the Federal government was determined to develop the Niger Delta, focus should be shifted from testifying traditional institutions to the people.
A mild drama ensued midway into the programme as youths from oil-producing communities staged a protest that stalled the event for about 30 minutes until they were prevailed upon by some notable personalities including Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, who took time to talk to the youths.
The youths were particularly irked that the Acting President did not visit their communities unlike when he visited Rivers and some other states, pointing out that they were not being accorded due respect as critical stakeholders in the development of the Niger Delta.
They also complained that they were not allowed to make their presentation at the event, vowing to make oil prospecting hard for multinational firms if their communities were not given due attention in the scheme of things.
Speaking after the unrest by the youths, Governor Obaseki said Edo was big part of oil-producing state in Nigeria with 38 oil-producing communities and 205 oil flowing wells, adding that “we have had our own share of neglect that has become a major threat to the state socio-economic development.”
In his speech, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, noted that the federal government was committed to completing ongoing projects in the Niger Delta region, most notably the East West Road, appealing to the state government to work with his ministry in order to complete the projects and start new ones.
In his address, Acting President Yemi Osibanjo said federal government’s plan was to ensure that the team visited all the oil-producing communities, but time did not allow for such due to the planned closure of the Abuja Airport, stressing that further arrangements would be made for a repeat visit.
He read the riot act to contractors handling government projects in the Niger Delta, especially those handling projects awarded by the Niger Development Commission (NDDC), assuring that an audit body would soon be constituted to look into all the contract awards and funds spent on the projects with a view to bringing the overall spendings before the Federal Executive Council for necessary action.
He said as an “emissary of President Muhammadu Buhari, the visit was aimed at engaging the people and the leadership to seek for better understanding and concerns as well as offer the oil communities a new vision and a new compass.”
The Acting President said, “I have listened to several of the complaints in several areas. I can tell you precisely how much had been voted in several of our own communities but there is no sign of development in those areas.”
“I can tell you how many of these projects are supposed to have been completed and when you look into some books, they said they had been completed but they have not been completed.”
They have not been done, many have not even been started at all. That is the story not just in the oil-producing communities of Edo State but the story everywhere.”
“We are committed to everyone of the things that we say we want to do. It does not make sense for leadership to look at the plight of the people, especially in the oil producing areas.”
“This is the source of the wealth of the nation and to ignore the people even if it is for a while; the time will come when you can no longer ignore them.”
“So o there is no question at all that we are committed to doing what we said we would do and that is a pledge coming directly from Mr President himself, President Muhammad Buhari.”
He promised a wholistic partnership between the federal government, governments at all levels, oil firms and the civil society groups towards the development of the oil-bearing communities.