Let me, on behalf of the government and the good people of Akwa Ibom State, thank the organisers of this summit, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Let me welcome all of you to this important summit.
We keep saying the issue of security is a primary responsibility, if not the very reason why modern states came into existence. The present crop of governors that we have in the Niger Delta has given the Federal Government the highest level of support in terms of security than have ever experienced elsewhere. When there were issues in the Niger Delta, all the governors rose in one accord.
The then Acting President, now Vice President, went round all the states and we pledged our support. Our youths, elders and traditional rulers pledged their supports, and we all delivered. Today, everywhere is calm. Everything is good. If the production is back and oil price is above 50 dollars per barrel, how come our revenue has not improved?
Permit me to commend men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force for their spectacular performance in the jobs they have done securing lives and property of Nigerians.
No matter how, anywhere that is being run by human beings, there will still be some loopholes and challenges here and there. Human attitude will come in. I know they are looking for ways and means of ensuring peaceful coexistence so that individuals may pursue their legitimate businesses, but today we are gathered here to look at security challenges facing the Niger Delta, it’s a welcome development.
The topic for this Summit, Insecurity: Socio Economic Impacts and Conflict Resolution Perspectives, is very apt. The Niger Delta region is the oil hub of our country and the main cash cow of this nation. Numerous oil companies operate from this region especially the IOCs, and the expectations are that, given the specific role, security of lives and property must be utmost in any governance. Government has tried to provide peaceful atmosphere for commerce, industry and businesses to thrive in this region.
One may ask what accounts for this security challenge in the whole country, let me take my region for example. I know people may say that government has done a whole lot that this kind of summit must always address. Has the federal government done enough to address the issues that gave rise to the agitations in the region? There is a limit to what the state government can do. We don’t have control of any of the armed forces, everything comes from the centre.
People are speculating in that in the next 10 years… 10 years is a long time. If we can even get enough money to invest in this country economically, in another 10 years, we would make a whole lot of difference. Don’t let anybody deceive you that oil will no longer be relevant in 10 years. Oil will still be relevant in 10 years. It’s for us to look at what we need to do. Let there be a little more of federal presence in the region.
Recently, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) came together, did a 16-point agenda and submitted to the Federal Government. As at today, I’m not sure anything has been done in terms of that. We need to look at the economy of this area.
In all over the world, where the IOCs are operating, they operate from the base where they exploit the oil. How come it is completely different in Nigeria? All the IOCs are in Lagos, and they are coming here to spill oil and nothing is being said and done. Why can’t Mobil operate from Akwa Ibom State? What do they want? We have The International Airport, we have good roads. Why can’t they operate from here?
When we are talking about insecurity, what gives rise to insecurity? Why is it that in Nigeria, we can spend almost $5 billion to lay pipes in the deep ocean from the region that oil is being exploited to where they want to go and refine? And then you tell us, that is where the market is. It is in the same country, we are going outside to import the refined product.
So why can’t we refine it from the region that we are exploiting from? It is not enough excuse to say that there is no market here. Consumption is a function of availability. Create the market here also and people will come to buy from here. Give us $5 billion and we will set at least seven industrial parks that can change the industrial face of this region.
The Federal Government should look at development agencies that were set up. Have they performed? You can’t set up a development agency and hand it over to politicians. They will politicize the development. Let development agencies go to people that know how to manage resources, people who have done it overtime and know what to do with it so that they can also bring development into the region.
In Akwa Ibom State, the largest producer of oil, there is not even a single depot. How do you now contribute to the economic wellbeing of the people here? You are talking about federal allocation that I don’t have control over. It’s what you give me that I bring back. It is the man who shares the meat from his mouth, and cuts and brings one piece out, that knows what is remaining inside his mouth. If you cut meat from your mouth and give, how do I know the size of what remains in your mouth?
We have serious issues here. We have been complaining of federal government presence. Even the federal government roads, if you are talking ecological problems, there is a major issue in the Niger Delta region. See what erosion is doing to us and no support. The little meager revenue that we have, we use it to protect the lives of our people.
There have been lots of agreements, one of which is strategic implementation work plan 2017 to 2019 entered into between the federal government and the region’s stakeholders, where over 400 projects were instituted in the nine states of this region. The implementation of this agreement has not been done up till now. So, when we are talking of insecurity, let us also take it from the grassroots.
A young man who leaves his house in the morning and works till 6pm, when he returns home, he will be struggling to take his shower and sleep for the next day. He won’t even remember anything like crime. It is a joint effort. Let us all determine within us to tackle insecurity.
Let me also use this opportunity that the MD of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is here to state clearly that NDDC does not own even a piece of land. It is the governors that are in charge of land. NDDC should not enter any of the nine states to do any project without permission from the governors. That is why they have not been able to execute even a kilometer of road in my state, they have never commissioned even one kilometer of road in my state. Because the projects are politicized… so we can actually come together for the benefit of our people. This thing is a joint force.
The state government, federal government agencies joining together to actually make sure we impact on the lives of our people. When it is time for politics we will play politics, when it’s time for development, let’s develop and impact on the lives of our people and leave some of these things that we are doing.
Let’s know that it is time we come together and get some things done for our people.
I’ve said this over and over again, and any day I have the opportunity, I will repeat myself because anything you want to emphasize on, you must say it a minimum of sixteen times. In America, they say anywhere California goes, so the United States of America goes. In Nigeria, wherever Niger Delta goes, Nigeria goes the same way. God bless you all