In a moving speech that calmed already frayed nerves spoiling for a fight ahead of his visit to the troubled oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country, Vice –President Yemi Osinbajo who led a Federal Government delegation to the area yesterday told the people that the hour for the long-awaited and deserved government intervention has arrived.
Below is an excerpt of his address:
“I’m here as an emissary of the president and I’m here as a citizen of the country and brother to you. I have come with a message and it is a short one. We must prepare for the future. The Niger Delta that we see today is an area of poor infrastructure; a few schools and hospitals.
“In the Niger Delta today, there are signboards of projects that are abandoned all over the place. The Niger Delta is a special region which we have all benefited from and should be treated as a special region.”
“I have come with a message for the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and the people of the Niger Delta as whole. It is a short message and I quote ‘we must prepare for the future,’”
“Our future is the future of progress and development. Unfortunately, there is no time because the future is already here,”
“Fellow citizens, to ensure that the future is not worse than it is today and to prepare for a great and promising future for the Gbaramatu Kingdom and the Delta as a whole, three things must happen.
“Firstly, we must recognize the unique environment and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta. We must also recognize that the Niger Delta is a special place and special economic zone, then we must treat it as a special development zone.
“Long ago in the Willinks Commission, it has been acknowledged that because of the peculiar environment and terrain of the Niger Delta and the profound challenges it pose for development, it should be treated as a special development zone.
“And I agree in entirety that this zone ought to be treated as a special development zone. What does this mean in practical terms? It means that the federal government, state government, national assembly representatives from this region alongside the NDDC and the civil society representatives of the Niger delta people must sit together and develop a plan for rapid development.
“The federal government alone cannot solve the problems of the Niger Delta. It is impossible for the federal government alone. We must sit down with the state governments and the representatives to actualize the promises we made to the people. The state must be prepared to devote substantial part of their budget to this special program me.”
“The Niger Delta that you see today, including this kingdom we are now, is an area with poor infrastructures. No schools, no hospital and severe pollution. The Niger Delta of today is that of daily pipeline vandalisation. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalisation. From January to June 2016, there were over 1,447 incidents of vandalisation.
“The Niger Delta of today, aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2016, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents arising from breaches of pipelines. Illiteracy is poor, thousands of health challenges especially from environmental degradation.
“The Niger Delta of today, everywhere you go there are signboards of proposed infrastructural projects, mostly uncompleted and many simply abandoned. Many of the initiatives to change the story have not been able to make those changes. From the Niger Delta Development Board in the 1960s to ONPADEC to NDDC and the amnesty programme, many of these projects have not been able to meet the objectives they were set up to do. My message to you today: it is time to prepare for the future.
“It is not the future of degradation, poor infrastructure and it is not the future of no roads. It is not the future of harassment and locking up.”