Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Godswill Akpabio has said Nigeria cannot afford to have a crisis in south south of the magnitude of the southeast and other crisis-ridden regions of the country because of its importance to the economic survival of the nation.
He spoke with State House correspondents after a meeting with the chief of staff to the president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday night.
He also affirmed that he met with ex-agitators in the region for the sake of preserving the economic backbone of the country.
Akpabio noted that his meeting with the stakeholders was a way of calming tension and recommended the same to political leaders of other crisis-prone region to stem restiveness in their areas.
While noting that he was not under pressure to reconstitute the board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), he said: “No. Everything is politics whether it’s development or composition. Nobody has put me under pressure to reconstitute the board. I can sponsor any group of people to make a statement but the major thing is peace in the region.
“The region is very critical to the economy of the country. So, when I made the move, I made to go and talk to stakeholders, it was for the purpose of the economy of the nation and also, we cannot afford for the south south region, particularly the Niger Delta, to go into a crisis like what we are witnessing in the southeast and all that.
“And I think the example I set is what is being emulated now in the southeast, that there is a need for those in government to go home and interact with the grassroots and explain things to them so that we can stop the restiveness that we are witnessing in many zones in the country.
“So, my going into the creeks to meet with the traditional fathers and I can tell you we don’t have militants any longer because of the amnesty programme but you can say ex-agitators.
“It was in the interest not just for the security of the region but also the peace of the region and by implication to ensure that critical infrastructure that affects the economy of the country were maintained and were not tempered with.
“I think it was a step in the right direction because I can see even the southeast is also emulating that example and I want to also urge other zones in the country to do so.
“We can’t all concentrate in Abuja. We should go back home and get the feelings of our people and explain things to them. That way, you will reduce the tension because sometimes ignorance can lead to insurgence and insecurity.
“So, I will continue to interact with my people, you may call it an ultimatum or anything. It’s not. Sometimes, is a way of trying to say, come home and talk to us and let us know what is going on.
“So, the constitution of the board is on course and also is the forensic audit but you cannot separate the two because it’s the result of the audit that the board will use in repositioning the NDDC.”
On the reconstitution of the NNDC board, he posited that the process has been fast-tracked, noting that the names of nominees would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.
However, he insisted that the ongoing field forensic audit must be completed as the outcome would serve as a guide to the board’s operations.
According to him, the audit report should be turned in by the end of July.
Asked to give an update of the board’s reconstitution, the former Akwa Ibom State governor stated: “That we have fast-tracked the process but we insist that the most important thing is not just to clean up the mess but how to reposition the NDDC to ensure optimal performance as against the practice in the past where it was just an agency for the purposes of election only. So, the field forensic audit is on course and is progressing very well.