By Dapo Akinrefon
THE Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF and the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy, UNDEDSS, on Monday, restated calls for the Federal Government to relocate the mega dry dock, specifically designed for the region, from Lagos waters.
The groups said the dry dock had been lying unused and should be relocated to the Niger Delta, saying it will open up the economy of the region.
Rising from a special webinar meeting in Lagos, chaired to mark the 93rd birthday anniversary of PANDEF leader, Chief Edwin Clark, the Niger Delta leaders stated that the Shipbuilding Dry Dock, which is the largest in Africa, would be the ideal enterprise for President Muhammadu Buhari to commission in the post-COVID -19 Nigerian economy.
In a statement on the webinar meeting of the groups in Lagos, UNDEDSS Executive Secretary and General Secretary of PANDEF, Mr. Tony Uranta, said the benefits of the dock to the region would be immeasurable considering the Maritime University in Delta.
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Uranta said: “Relocating the dry dock project to the Niger Delta would be the biggest investment, post COVID-19, in the region and would open up the economy of the region.”
The House of Representatives had, in March, urged the Federal Government and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to return and install the floating dock acquired at a cost of over N50 billion in Okerenkoko, Delta.
The dock, since its arrival in the country on June 11, 2018, had been in a storage cart, owing to controversial bureaucratic wrangling over where it would be located as its operational base.
Uranta, however, stated that the Okerenkoko floating dock project was duly considered and approved by the Federal Executive Council at its 37th meeting on October 23, 2013, and the approval was conveyed to the Federal Ministry of Transport on October 29, 2013.
He said: “The location of the dry dock to Badagry in Lagos State is contrary to the initial approval by the Federal Government for its location in Delta.
“Our appeal is that the dry dock should be moved permanently, installed and commissioned in Delta, considering the contributions of the region to the nation’s economy.
“The dry dock is lying fallow in the waters of Lagos State and should be taken to Delta next to the maritime university to provide practical knowledge to the students.
“The dry dock if located in the Niger Delta will open up the region and make it more viable, including the employment it will generate and the trainings on shipbuilding processes.”
He hinted that the meeting had set up a committee to be chaired by Professor Utomi, to look at its institutions, state leaderships and contributions of its elected members in the National Assembly to the development of the region.
He added: “We are going to begin to study, more rigorously, the daily records of how many bills promoted by the region’s representatives at the NASS.
“Our focus will also be on state governments and its ministries in the region to ascertain utilisation of statutory funds to cut down corruption.”
He, however, said that the coalition appealed for more palliatives to the Niger Delta to keep it robust and assist its people whose lands were no longer viable for farming due to abuses of its lands occasioned by excavation and explorations.
Uranta said that the region remained a cash cow for the nation, pointing out that while oil prices had crashed, gas prices had gone up
He reiterated the groups’ positions, supporting the Federal Government’s ordered audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NNDC, and for cleansing the Ogoniland oil spills.
He also said that the group urged governors of the region to step up action for internal security of their states.