Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has promised that the Federal Government will take urgent measures to include Abia in the amnesty programme designed for for oil-producing areas.
Osinbajo made the promise on Friday in Umuahia during a town hall meeting with representatives of different groups from the oil-producing commumites in the state, comprising traditional rulers, women and youth groups.
He said that the federal government and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs would work hand-in-hand with the state government to ensure that beneficiaries of the amnesty programme hailed from Asa, the oil-producing area of Ukwa West Local Government Area of the state.
Osinbajo was reacting to the protest by the people of the area at the meeting that the state was not included in the programme.
The people publicly disowned the purported list of 237 indigenes from the oil-producing communities alleged to have benefitted from the programme.
Vice president Osinbajo
Newsmen report Brig.-Gen. Paul Boroh, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, said at the forum that the record available to him showed that 237 people of the area had so far benefitted from the programme.
The vice president, however, expressed concern over the alleged discrepancy in the list and the agitation that Abia was excluded from the programme.
“It is clear from what happened here that somebody somewhere is doing something funny,” Osinbajo said.
He therefore assured the people that there would be closer rapport between the federal and Abia governments to ensure that the state benefitted from the programme.
Osinbajo also assured the people that government would also include Asa in the cleanup exercise as was being done in other Niger Delta regions in the country.
He further said that oil-producing communities in the country, including Asa, would also benefit from the modular refineries being planned by the federal government to integrate local refineries.
He said that the federal government had ordered contractors handling road projects in different parts of the country to return to site within 30 days or face prosecution.
He restated government’s commitment toward job creation and technical training for the nation’s youth, saying that no fewer than 2,000 Abia youths were registered in the N-Power programme.
On the agitation for the establishment of a federal university in the oil-rich area of the state, the vice president said that it could only be achieved through collaboration between the federal and state governments along with the Nigeria Universities Commission.
He assured that the federal government would soon announce the names of the representatives of Abia and Ondo states in the boards of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
He thanked the youths of the area for their peaceful disposition and also commended the government and traditional rulers for restraining them from militancy and violent agitations.
He said that federal government was seriously committed to developing the Niger Delta region with the oil resources.
He therefore urged the people to join hands with the government to ensure that oil was utilised to better the lot of the people of the region now that the resources were available.
Osinbajo said that with the increasing decline in the demand for oil in the international market, “we must make haste and move quickly to use the oil to transform the nation”.
He said that China, India and America, which were highest importers of oil from Nigeria no longer had need for oil since they had found alternative sources of fuel.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr Okey Enelama, said that Aba would benefit from the industrial parks and free trade zones being packaged by the federal government.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Usani Uguru, and Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachukwu, in their separate speeches underscored the various federal government initiatives to alleviate the plight of the oil-producing communities in Nigeria.
They said that the present administration was determined to redress the problem of environmental pollution and degradation in the Niger Delta region caused by years of neglect.
On his part, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu said that “no single Abia indigene has benefited from the amnesty programme”.
Ikpeazu said that he was happy with the drama that played out at the hall and called for an inquiry on the purported list of 237 beneficiaries from the state as presented by Boroh.
He also requested that the oil companies operating in Ukwa West should be made to respect the rules and laws on local content in order to give the oil-bearing communities a sense of belonging.
Representatives of the various groups in their separate speeches called for federal government’s presence in the area.
The speakers include, former Senate President, Sen. Adolfus Wabara, and National Assembly members from Abia South Senatorial District, including Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe and Rep. Uzoma Abonta.
Others were Eze Young Ogbonna, Mr Chima Nwogu, Chief Don Ubani and a former Abia representative in the NDDC board.
They also called on the federal government to address the infrastructure needs of the area.
They urged the oil companies to improve on their scholarship scheme as well as job opportunities for youths of the area to check restiveness.
Dignitaries at the meeting included the wife of Nigeria’s former Head of State, Mrs Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, pioneer NDDC Chairman, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, and a founding father of Abia, Dr Anagha Ezikpe.