President Muhammadu Buhari has called on people of the Niger Delta region to exercise restraint and allow conducive atmosphere for implementation of the several government developmental projects and programmes initiated for the area.
Buhari made the appeal in Abuja at the opening of a two day management retreat organised by Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs at the Presidential Villa.
Represented by the minister of transportation, Muazu Jaji Sambo, President Buhari noted government’s huge commitments to the region to give the people a new lease of life.
According to him, his administration was poised to implement more prudent policies and programmes aimed at bringing about a better Niger Delta region.
Buhari said, “I urge all well- meaning Nigerians, especially the Niger Deltans, to exercise restraint and ensure a conducive and secured environment for implementation of the several developmental projects and programmes in the region.”
He particularly cited the ongoing East-West Road Project as one of the largest infrastructures in Nigeria, and strategic in connecting the country’s busiest and foremost commercial cities, in the region.
He noted that the project was a priority to the administration and assured that it will be completed before the end of his tenure as president next year.
This came as he directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited and its subsidiaries to step in, with a view to fixing the Section 4 of the East-West Road (Eleme Roundabout to Onne junction) through the tax credit scheme.
“This should be expeditiously addressed considering the importance of the road to our national economy,” he added.
President Buhari hinted of government’s plan to constitute a new board for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), while acknowledging receipt of the forensic audit report on the commission earlier called by the governors of the South-South region.
To this end, the president disclosed that his government has already begun a phased implementation of the recommendations submitted.
“In pursuance of our determination to curb corruption and in response to the call of the Governors of South-South for a Forensic Audit of NDDC, I undertook some critical reforms and requested a Forensic Audit of NDDC from inception to 2019.
“The Report of the Audit has been submitted and implementation of its recommendations has commenced in phases. This process will soon usher in a new Management and Board for the Commission,” he said.
President Buhari said the Strategic Implementation Work Plan (SIWP), a framework that focuses on the objectives raised in the Federal Government’s 20-point Agenda and the Pan Niger Delta Forum’s (PANDEF) 16-point Agenda will be strengthened to provide the framework for coordination of development initiatives in the Niger Delta Region to achieve maximum impact, especially at this critical time.
Buhari also mandated the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to carry out a comprehensive staff audit of the commission, ensuring that, right staffing and proper placement is achieved. This, according to the president, is to furthermore strengthen the internal structure of the NDDC.
He said these, among other efforts, are geared towards repositioning the commission for optimal performance in the provision of the needed infrastructural and socio-economic development for the people of the Niger Delta Region.
While noting the significance of the retreat which, he said could not have come at a better time, especially, post Forensic Audit of the NDDC, President Buhari said concerted efforts are on by the authorities to reposition the commission for better service delivery in accordance with the provisions of the public service rules, the financial regulations and the Public Procurement Act.
Reiterating his administration’s commitment to stamp out the menace of graft, President Buhari vowed that henceforth, fraudulent practices and violation of the procurement laws will be meted with appropriate sanctions as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act.
The president further enjoined the stakeholders to take advantage of the gathering to correct whatever irregularities that existed in the past, and thereby attain an effective and prosperous working relationship for the best interest of the region, and the nation at large.
Earlier, minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Umana Okon Umana assured of the ministry’s readiness to utilize the remaining few months left in the life of the administration to impact and facilitate concrete development of the Niger Delta area.
The minister also called on stakeholders in the region to extend hand of fellowship and partnership to the government with a view to consolidating on the gains so far achieved to improve the living standard of the people of the region.
The minister said the forum will take major decisions towards effective collaboration to derive value for money in the developmental initiatives by all the stakeholders in the region.
The expanded retreat had the governors of oil producing states, chairmen of the relevant committees of both the Senate and House of Representatives, oil companies, ministries, departments and agencies in attendance.
Also speaking, Governor Hope Uzodinma said that President Buhari’s call will bring about the needed development of the Niger Delta.
Represented by Dr Jimmy Imo, a special adviser, Uzodinma said, “I definitely believe the President’s call for synergy between the Niger Delta states and all the development partners. I believe the President’s call, if heeded, it will bring about the needed development, especially infrastructural development in the Niger Delta, that’s what the Niger Delta area needs.”