By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Olu of Warri, His Majesty, Ogiame Ikenwole, has appealed to the Federal Government to hasten action on the rehabilitation of Warri and Koko ports in Delta State so as to minimize the incidence of restiveness and rejuvenate economic activities in the area.
The Paramount ruler who paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, Friday, at the President’s office, Presidential Villa, Abuja, decried the deplorable condition of the ports which he said had been abandoned by the government.
But President Buhari has assured the natural ruler that the people of Niger Delta that his administration would continue to support rapid development in the region by consolidating on all ongoing projects as well as initiating new ones to create more economic opportunities and jobs for the people.
While receiving the Olu of Warri, President Buhari reiterated the Federal government’s commitment to maintaining peace and security in the Niger Delta for economic and social activities to thrive.
The President told the monarch and his delegation that developing the region remained a priority for his administration, adding that under his watch every region in the country would witness increased investments in critical infrastructure.
He appealed to the people of Niger Delta to complement ongoing efforts by the Federal government to bring more development in the region by maintaining peace, security and harmony.
President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femu Adesina, promised to look into some of the concerns raised by the delegation including the dredging of Escravos bar for Warri and Koko ports, the gas revolution industrial park and EPZ project in Ogidigben, the ecological challenges in Ode-Itsekiri, Ugborodo, Orere/Yanagho and Ogheye-Eghoroke, among others.
The President also used the occasion of the visit by the Royal Majesty to commend Itsekiri people for producing men of strong convictions like Prof Itse Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corruption (PACAC).
He said, ‘‘Thanks for producing a man like Prof. Itse Sagay, who is defending us robustly and stepping on many toes in the process. If he’s not a man of conviction, he couldn’t have done that.
‘‘What he is doing is exceptional. Despite coming from a minority area, he’s showing overwhelming influence at the centre.
‘‘Prof, I never had the opportunity to thank you personally for all you’re doing. Thank you very much,’’ the President said.
The Olu of Warri, who commiserated with the President over the loss of his two extended family members, also commended him for achieving his campaign promises on the fight against insurgency and corruption, as well as the successes recorded in reducing criminal acts of vandalism of oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta.
Addressing State House correspondents after the closed-door meeting, the Olu of Warri, accompanied by the immediate former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan called on the Federal Government intervention in the deplorable condition of the Koko and Warri ports.
He said, “Warri port and Koko port are very good and solid ports that are not working. While other ports in other areas are working, ours are just left unutilised and so we want the ports to be activated so that they can start working. That will mop up a lot of youths from the streets.”
Okenwole who attributed the menace of youth restiveness in the areas to the absence of activities at the ports, noted that “when the ports were working there was no restiveness in the area.”
According to him, “Apart from that, there is also the gas city, it is a fantastic project. The last president did the ground breaking before he left but since then nothing has been happening.
“We want the federal government to hasten action on it because that will mop up the over 300,000 youths from the streets. When all of our youths are engaged the restiveness will be minimized.
“We have the Koko road, that road will open up the area, and allow economic activities to expand. We have the escravos road, the railway that is going on now, we want it to come to the are. By that, the economic activities will thrive better and Nigerians will be happy for it.”
Also fielding questions from journalists, former Governor Uduaghan enumerated some other challenges facing the people of the area including insecurity, ecological problems and infrastructure among other critical issues.
He said they were the main issues that were discussed with the President during their visit.
He said, ”The problem of access to the ports is very critical. Delta has six ports and to be able to get to the ports there is a place call escravos bar which has been very shallow. Even the water channel is highly stilted and so we appealed to the federal government to dredge the escravos channels so that the bigger ships will be able to come into the ports of delta especially the Warri Ports.”
Meanwhile, at a separate audience with Dr Ado Ibrahim Atta 111, the Ohinoyi of Ebira land, President Buhari thanked the royal father for his continued support of his administration.
In his remarks, the Ohinoyi of Ebira land commended the President for his renewed interest in reviving the Ajaokuta Steel and expressed the hope that the project will come back to life and be inaugurated under Buhari’s administration.
‘‘You are a man of hope, courage and action. May all the good things you want for Nigeria come to pass,’’ the Ohinoyi said.