Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said that the Niger Delta being a special zone for the Nigerian Economy, must be treated as a special development zone.
He made the comments when he visited the Gbaramatu Kingdom, an oil producing community in Delta State.
Osinbajo’s visit was in continuation of mediation efforts by the federal government to see that peace returns to the oil-rich region from where Nigeria generates over 80% of its foreign exchange.He said Nigeria must start preparing for the future where oil will not be as valuable as it is now , saying that developed countries were developing other forms of energy like solar and wind energy.
The Vice President said: “To prepare for a great future for the Gbaramatu kingdom, three things must happen: we must recognise the unique environmental challenges the Niger Delta is facing, we must also recognise that the Niger Delta is a special economic zone for this nation so we must treat it as a special development zone.
“This means the federal government, state government, National Assembly, NDDC, civil societies representing Niger Delta must sit together and develop a plan for rapid development.
“There is no excuse for not planning together. The federal government cannot solve the problem of Niger Delta.“It is impossible for the FG to do it alone. The state should devote substantial portion of its budget to this special project,” Osinbajo said.
The vice president, who spoke at the palace of the traditional ruler of Gbaramatu kingdom, Oboro Gbaraun II, noted that incidents of pipeline vandalisation have led to needless loss, urging the people to “be smart and act intelligently and fast”.
Osinbajo said that it was unfortunate that “In 2013 alone, there are over3700 incidents of pipeline vandalisation.”
“From January to June 2016, there were over 1447 incidents of vandalisation.
“The Niger Delta of today is one where aside environmental degradation,between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents arising from breaching of the pipelines,” he added.
He pointed out that the document presented by the PAN Niger Delta Forum,PANDEF, during a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 will be extremely helpful in ascertaining the key development priorities.
“It is an important working document that represents an excellent road map to the future of Niger Delta,” the Vice President said.
Osinbajo also said that the federal government is interested in completing every project it had begun in the Niger Delta region.
“When I leave here we will visit the site of the Maritime University. The president has directed the ministry of petroleum to work quick to see to the realisation of all of the objectives of implementing this crucial educational institution,” he said.
“Establishing this university has passed the second reading in the National Assembly and I know we have the commitment of the members of the national assembly to fast track this bill so that the maritime school will be completed as soon as possible.”
The vice president however called for a cessation in the destruction of oil facilities as doing so further reduces Nigeria’s revenue generation without which government projects could not be completed.“If there is no revenue, we are deceiving ourselves. There must be revenue and it can only come when there is peace. There should be commitment to peace.”
He also assured of government’s commitment to cleaning up communities that had been contaminated as a result of oil exploration activities.
“The Ogoni cleanup has been flagged off. For the cleanup not be a waste of money, we must enforce strict environmental standard for the oil producing companies. And all our communities must prevent vandalisation which is also a major source of environmental degradation.”