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Developing the Niger Delta areas is in Nigeria’s best interest – Orubebe’s

The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, in this interview with newsmen in Abuja, argues that the peace and development of the rest of Nigeria are dependent on the development of the region. JOHN ALECHENU was there. Excerpts:

There are agitations from the north that the Niger Delta is getting too much of our commonwealth. There are also fears that the NDDC and this Ministry could be scrapped. What is your take on this?

I think that governments all over the world are interested in doing those things that will stabilise the polity, those things that will provide resources to develop the country. Sometimes when I listen to these debates, I find that people react on impulse without actually analysing where we are coming from and where we are. This is a place that produces the resources that we use for development. That was why the NDDC was established. Before NDDC, there were other development agencies that government was using to develop the place. Now, the Ministry of Niger Delta has been established, that is to tell you that the challenges have not been addressed. Two things are fundamental, if these challenges are not addressed, it is not likely that we will have peace in the area. If these challenges are not addressed, we are not likely to have the resources that are needed for the development of this country whether Orubebe is here or not. Like I said, we have laid a solid framework; we have laid a structure that will sustain the peace that we are enjoying now. It is only a government that is not interested in peace and resources for the development of this country that will ever contemplate scrapping NDDC or the Niger Delta Ministry. I believe that this was a noble decision that was taken by government. I quote what President Yar’Adua said, he said, “This is the region that is providing for this country” that he totally agrees that this region should be developed and as President, he will do whatever was possible to do this. He wasn’t from the Niger Delta. He came from another region and he saw that this was what was needed for us to have peace and the resources for development. Any president who wants peace and development for the entire country will never think of scrapping NDDC or the Ministry of Niger Delta.

Some members of the National Assembly have opposed the provision of 10 per cent for host communities in the Petroleum Industry Bill. Do you share their concerns?

People should sit and also ask the question: How much money have we got from the Niger Delta for the development of this country? That is the fundamental question. I think that all the money that we have been talking about, and the money that region has generated from 1957 to date; what has gone into the Niger Delta is not up to five percent of the money that region has contributed to the development of this country. And so, it is not an issue for debate and that is why governments from 1960 to date have always talked about one agency or increasing (derivation) — remember, we started from 1.5 to 3 percent to 13 percent and these people were not from the Niger Delta but they came and saw the need for it and I believe that even Pharaoh, needed money to develop Egypt and so, he didn’t do those things that would make it impossible for him to get resources to develop Egypt. And I think that any President who wants to be a President of a country wants to develop the country and for you to develop, you need resources. There is no way you will have resources for the development of this country if the Niger Delta is not developed.

People have argued that the money so far given to the Niger Delta has not translated into concrete developments. Do you agree?

Again, I will like to say with all sense of seriousness that so many people that come on television and newspapers to talk are ill-informed about the Niger Delta itself. Development in the Niger Delta is very expensive. If you are not involved and they tell you, you won’t believe it. To construct a road in the Niger Delta, the first thing you need to do is to create land. You have to develop this first before you can even think of how you can construct the road. Money that you will use in creating the land will even be more than the cost of constructing the road and so, if in other areas you grade, you just cut some stones and you construct, in the Niger Delta development is very expensive. I can tell you that over the period, if anybody says that they have not seen anything on ground, let them visit the Niger Delta. Yes, we are not there yet but I think there is resonance of progress in terms of development in the Niger Delta considering where we were coming from where there was no hope. I can tell you that in a few years to come, the economic environment of the Niger Delta will turn around. You don’t expect development overnight but I can tell you that in years to come, that is the place people will love to go.

Would you say the governors have judiciously used the resources sent to the region?

The Niger Delta governors are trying their best. Now, take only the issue of security, the sustenance of security, the peace we have there today could not have been possible if the governors and the federal government were not working together. A lot of resources are being used, these are resources you can’t feel, these resources are producing results, particularly peace and because oil production has increased a lot of money is now available for the federal allocation committee to share. This could not have been possible if there was no peace. Coming from a polluted environment, for you to do any meaningful thing, you have to do a lot to address the challenges of the Ecosystem. These are things that if you are not there and you are judging from outside you will think that people are playing. There is a silent revolution going on in the Niger Delta. Governors are also coming together to do things jointly. It is a question of time.

You were recently engaged in a war of words with the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Ameachi. What went wrong?

What is important to note is that we are all adults that is the most important thing to know. Number two, we all have passion for the development of the Niger Delta. The only area of disagreement is the approach to developmental issues. It’s like you came to Abuja by flight and some people came by road. We don’t have any personal grievance against each other, we are Niger Deltans, people that have passion for the development of the Niger Delta, we have discussed in close quarters and there is a meeting point now and so that is where we are now and we are moving forward.

You are said to be nursing a 2015 governorship ambition, how true is this?

First, a number of people have speculated about my governorship ambition and sometimes they bring a lot of coloration. They talk about zoning and I think that is one of the challenges we have as a country, you talk about north, you talk about west, and you talk about south. Nobody is talking about the minorities. In Delta State for God’s sake, you have the Urhobos, you have the Itsekiris, you have the Ijaws, you have the Isokos, and you have the Igbo people. We have five ethnic nationalities. The Urhobos even when you are sharing had their turn; the Itsekiris have had their own, what of the Ijaw people? What of the Isoko people? What of the Igbo people? I am not against the idea of the thing rotating around the nationalities. If you are talking about Senatorial Districts, you are depriving other people. If you are talking about Senatorial (districts) you should talk about ethnic nationalities. But for me, as a student of political science, my take has been that if we are really a people united by geography I will say we are a people, we are working together; let us look for the best irrespective of where he is coming from. The Ijaw people in Delta State must be made to feel that they are also entitled to the governorship, the Isoko people must be made to feel they are entitled to it, the Igbo people the same thing but if that is the thinking, let us get the best material, somebody who will offer himself for the development of Delta State. That is what I talk about but today as Minister, my major concern is to support Mr. President to move Nigeria forward. What will happen in 2015 is still pregnant. Nobody knows but when 2015 comes then, we can talk of governorship and some other things.
Via Punch

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Posted by on Apr 4 2013. Filed under Headlines, newnigerianpolitics.com, Niger Delta. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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