Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has bemoaned the poor condition of critical infrastructure in the Niger Delta region, particularly roads, calling on the Federal Government and relevant MDAs, to give immediate and urgent attention to transportation in the region.
The group in a communiqué by the national chair, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.), after a national leadership retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, highlighted the East-West Road, from Benin to Calabar, Calabar – Itu – Ikot Ekpene – Aba Road, Ogoja – Ikom – Calabar Road and Port Harcourt to Aba section.
PANDEF encouraged Governors of the region and all political office holders, elected and appointed, “to give greater attention to issues like job creation, rural women and youth development, healthcare and education, to check the growing rate of youth delinquency.”
National officers, elders, state chairs, secretaries, state women and youth leaders of PANDEF attended the retreat with the theme, “Re-engineering for the Future Together.”
The regional body restated its position on restructuring and appealed to the federal government “to as a matter of urgency begin a constructive dialogue process on the restructuring of the country.”
It welcomed the order of President Muhammadu Buhari for “a forensic audit of the NDDC accounts from 2001 to 2019,” but demanded, “names of beneficiaries of contracts of the commission over the period under review should be made public.”
“In addition, we insist that for NDDC to function effectively there must be adequate funding and less political interference,” it added.
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“PANDEF further urges Mr. President to extend the order of forensic audit to other national interventionist organizations like the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
“PANDEF also used the opportunity of the retreat to interact with critical stakeholders and key NGOs working in the region, including the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang,” the communiqué stated.
The group also restated its commitment to engage with all critical stakeholders of the region in its work, irrespective of political inclination, for the betterment of the region.”
It commended the federal government for the peaceful resolution of the contentious issue concerning the license/operation of OML 25 located in Belema, Offoinama, and Ngeje communities in Kula kingdom of Akuku Toru Local Government Area, Rivers State.
However, it implored the government “to deploy the same approach to other host communities in the Niger Delta where there are disputes over Oil Marginal License/operation.”
PANDEF applauded the people of Kula Kingdom “for their steadfastness and resilience, and for remaining peaceful throughout the period of the dispute.”
It similarly commended the Nigerian Military for its professional conduct in handling the matter, as well as “Belemaoil for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that oil and gas producing companies can do better in developing the human and infrastructural development in the oil and gas-bearing host communities.”
The South-South group pleaded with international and indigenous oil companies (IOCs) operating the region to respect and honour Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Global Memorandum of Understanding entered with host communities in the interest of peace in the region or possibly adopt the Belemaoil model of developing host communities.
It resolved to continue to work with other regional bodies in the country in the efforts “to enthrone an egalitarian nation that would be run on the fundamental principles of equity, fairness, and justice.”
PANDEF extolled two non-governmental organizations operating in the Niger Delta region, Academic Associates Peace Works/Niger Delta Dialogue and Stakeholder Democracy Network for facilitating the retreat and further committed the group to steadfast pursuit of shared interests along with promoting understanding and peaceful co-existence amongst the various ethnic nationalities of the region.
National Leader of PANDEF and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark sent goodwill message to participants, which enriched the deliberations.