By Sam Eyoboka
CHRISTIAN leaders in the troubled Niger Delta, yesterday hailed the Federal Executive Councilâ€™s decision to approve the sum of N179.13 billion for 44 projects in the nine states of the region, saying it was a welcome development that could lead to genuine and lasting peace and justice.
Rising from an emergency executive council meeting at the Anglican Church, Warri in Delta State, the Christians, under aegis of Niger Delta Christian Leaders Forum, (NDCLF), an amalgam of Christian leaders drawn from all denominations in the nine oil producing states, described the gesture of government as a right step in the right direction.
The leadership of the group which had been at the forefront of campaign for total amnesty for militants in the region, also hailed the recent meeting between President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and one of the front line militants, Henry Okah, pointing out that such interventions capable of dousing tension in the region.
A statement signed by the president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and the secretary, Rev. Eddy Bebor, however, frowned on the silence on the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, which recently generated some controversy over a purported plan to move it to Kaduna.
The nine governors of the region as well as other stakeholders including the NDCLF, protesting the plan, urged the Federal Government not to do anything that would further impede peace in the region.
The NDCLF statement therefore re-emphasised its earlier appeal to the Federal Government to demonstrate its clarification on the controversy by releasing funds for the institution, so that people will not misjudge the intention of government in this direction.
â€œWe wish to express a cautious satisfaction that the controversial issue of relocating the Federal University of Petroleum Studies from Effurun, Delta State to Kaduna has been addressed by your government, that the said university is still in Effurun, Delta State.
â€œWe must say that it was a most welcome clarification. This, in no small measure, will assure our people that the Federal Government of Nigeria means well for the people of the Niger Delta. However, we request that this clarification, as important as it is, should be backed up with visible developmental projects at the university site.
We therefore implore the Federal Government of Nigeria to release adequate funds for the full take off and the running of the said university in Effurun,â€ the statement added.