By Daniel Idonor
ABUJAâ€”PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday reiterated the determination of the Federal Government to tackle the problem of security in the country, particularly in the South-East geo-political zone.
The President was responding to concerns of leaders from the South East, who paid a solidarity visit to State House, Abuja.
â€œWe are very concerned about the issue of security, and with the various options available to us, we are gradually getting on top of the situationâ€, he assured the delegation.
President Jonathan also told the South East leaders that he had directed the Ministry of Environment to provide funds in the next Federal Government budget for the fight against erosion in the country, because the Ecological Funds were inadequate.
He added that Vice President Namadi Sambo would take a critical look at the various Ecological Fund projects to ensure proper execution and timely completion.
The President said the second Niger Bridge would be funded like any other Federal project, because of its critical role as a link between the South East and other parts of country, and that efforts at the rehabilitation of various road projects would continue.
He assured the delegation that all their concerns would receive due attention from the appropriate ministries and departments of Government, emphasizing that he does not believe in reserving specific positions in Government for particular areas, but preferred to ensure constitutional balance.
Earlier, Mr. Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State and Chairman of the South East Governorsâ€™ Forum, had listed the zoneâ€™s requests to include security concerns, massive erosion, the second Niger Bridge, the need for a truly international status for the Enugu airport, federal appointments, reactivation of the Enugu coal mines and the state of federal roads.
Members of the delegation included Governors of the five South East States, Mr. Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Mr. Theodore Orji of Abia, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of Imo, Chief Martin Elechi of Ebonyi and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Senate Presidents Anyim Pius Anyim and Ken Nnamani, former Governors, traditional rulers and religious leaders.
In their letter of demands read to Jonathan by Chairman of South-East Governors Forum and Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, the leaders said:
â€œWe are heartened that Your Excellency has personally acknowledged the special menace of insecurity in the Southeast zone with embarrassing manifestations in kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes.
â€œAlthough the state governments of our zone have adopted a number of stringent measures to combat the menace, we request you sir, to accord a special security attention to the zone through logistical interventions and the provision of enhanced security infrastructure to sustainably address the situationâ€.
Another issue brought to the attention of the President was the appointment of South-Easterners into federal establishments; a development they assert has been declining.
â€œWe are concerned that some of the Commissions and agencies headed by only recently by South-Easterners are now progressively replaced by our brothers and sisters from other zones whenever changes are made in the headship of such commissions.
â€œSome examples include the headship of Independent National Electoral Commission, Bureau of Public Enterprises, and National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Immigration Service, among othersâ€.
The leaders further decried that â€œthe South-East is not proportionately represented at the Supreme Court in spite of large number of qualified legal luminaries in the South-East or even at the Appeal Courtsâ€, and urged Jonathan to correct the disparities.
Aside asking for additional state for the South-East zone, the delegation pleaded for federal attention to ecological problems in the zone; construction of the Second Niger Bridge and rehabilitation of federal roads in the South-East; upgrading of the Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu to international status and the reactivation of the Enugu coal mines.
They also demanded the federal government facilitates the exploration of crude oil and gas deposits in Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu states, since they belive the deposits there couls serve as national strategic reserve for future use.
â€œWe also seek Mr. Presidentâ€™s kind consideration to reactivate the Enugu depot of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which has not been functioningâ€, the leaders added.