….Says contractors yet to deliver on projects’ll go to jail
By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN CITY-ACTING President Yemi Osinbanjo, yesterday, at the stakeholders meeting of oil producing communities in Benin, Edo State, said that the elites in the Niger Delta have over the years deprived the people the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of oil in their communities.
He vowed that the Federal Government will henceforth, deal directly with the communities and not with the elites.
He ordered all contractors handling projects that have been abandoned to go back to site, vowing that any contractor who has collected money for a project and abandon same will be sent to jail.
Meanwhile, following an incoming call from President Muhammadu Bahuari, the acting President suspended the programme for three minutes and rushed out to pick the President’s call. He came back to continue the programme.
The programme was well attended and attracted representatives from the oil producing communities.
Some of the signatories include the host governor, Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, His Royal Highness, King Alfred Diette-Spiff represented the Pan Niger Delta Area Petroleum Producing Forum, PANDEF, the Minister of State Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachukwu, Minister of State, Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani.
Others include representatives of the three oil producing communities of Ikpoba Okhai, Orhiomwon, Ovia North East. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri spoke on behalf of the the Ovia North East people, Johnson Acheghele spoke for Ikpoba Okhai people while Osaiten Osadolor spoke on behalf of Orhionmwon people.
Others who spoke include civil society organisations, namely Director of African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor and Chairman, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth International, Nimo Bassey.
However, the programme became chaotic for about 10 minutes when youths of Ijaw communities in Edo State led by ex-militant leader, Henry Binidodogha allias Egbema 1, stormed the venue to express their disappointment over the inability of the acting President to personally visit the communities, rather than “calling us to come and sit in this hall discussing what we don’t understand.”
He said: “We heard you said you cannot come because of lack of security, so we came to tell you that you should now leave our oil for us and go back, we are tired, our people are suffering and it is not a problem a town hall meeting will solve.”
It took the intervention of the deputy governor, Shaibu and security agents to douse the tension in the hall.
Obaseki, who spoke shortly after the incident, acknowledged the plight of the oil producing communities in the state and appealed to the Federal Government to look into the reports of the previous committees so as to find lasting solution to the problem of the Niger Delta people.
Speaking on other issues, the acting President narrated that “In November 2016, the PANDEF visited President Buhari and submitted a 16 point road map for the development of oil producing communities in Nigeria. The President decided that we must undertake a visit to these communities and hear from the people and seek a better solution to the problems. That is why I am here. The majority of the oil producing communities have suffered, the story of devastation is everywhere.
“I can tell you precisely how much has been voted to several communities and there is no sign of development in those areas. I can tell you how many of these projects are supposed to have been completed but when you look at the books they said they have been completed. They have not even been done, many have not even been started at all. This is the story not just in the oil producing communities but here in Edo state and everywhere.
“It is a story of many years of corruption that has deprived our people especially people from the oil producing communities of their means of livelihood. That is one of the issues that we intend to address. We want to impose a new way of doing things, a new era for oil producing communities in Nigeria. This is an important engagement, it is not an engagement that we are taking likely at all. The reason why we have spent the few days going from community to community, state to state is because this is a serious engagement.
“I will be working with the NDDC and the Niger Delta Minister to ensure that we get all abandoned projects on track and that we get defaulting contractors to account. And I have already ordered that all contractors who have abandoned their projects back to site.
”We are going to ensure that any contractor who has taken money and abandoned the project is prosecuted, they must be held accountable. Nobody will be allowed to abandoned a project and take away the money,” he stated.