Benin City – The ancient city of Benin, yesterday stood still for the acting President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo who paid a presidential visit to Edo state to have a stakeholders’ meeting with the Oil Producing Communities in the state.
Prof. Osibanjo at the meeting which held at the Samuel Ogbemudia multi-purpose Hall, New Era College, Benin, assured the Oil Producing Communities in the three local governments areas of Ovia North-East, Ikpoba-Okha and Orhiomwon that they will henceforth adequately feel the presence of government in terms of infrastructure and empowerment.
The acting President who commended Edo leaders and the youths for their non-violent approach to issues said the federal government is engaging the Oil Producing Communities directly to properly understand what their issues are in the areas, hence the stakeholders meeting.
He promised that government will look into all issues raised by the various speakers and representatives of the local governments involved with a view to finding lasting solutions to their problems.
On the issues of projects or contracts executed only on papers, substandard quality and abandoned projects in the areas, the acting President said it is not going to be business as usual, insisting that any contractor who collected money from government for projects must be held accountable and those who abandoned projects already paid for must be made to face prosecution.
On the papers submitted by the Executive Director of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor which dwelt on how the elite and those in authority deprived the common people of opportunity to fully enjoy the common wealth of the land and how they compromised in contractual agreement to the detriment of the down trodden, and others, the acting President promised that government will look into all issues raised by ANEEJ. He also promised to come back to visit some of the host Communities.
Osibanjo pointed out that government is aware of most of the issues in the areas, ranging from marginalization, deprivations and lack, saying that despite the huge amount of money voted for projects in the areas on papers, there was nothing on ground to show.
“These are the issues we must deal with “, he said and assured that government is to signpost a new era in the Niger Delta, promising that government is committed to everything it plans to do to better the lots of the people.
He also promised that government will work on the Gelegele Sea Port to fast track the economic development of Edo state.
According to him the Gelegele Export Free Zone is supposed to be a supply Port to larger Ports like Lagos and others in the country.
In an address, the state Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki appealed to the Acting President to look into the demands of host Communities while also requesting the Acting President to find time to visit the host Communities in order to appreciate the situation as earlier demanded by the Youth of the areas who protested during the meeting that the acting President must visit their Communities to see for himself.
Governor Obaseki vowed that the state government will no longer allow Oil companies to operate in Edo state without adhering to the Master Plan of the state, and requested the backing of the presidency.
He told the Acting President that the state was already diversifying as it has earmarked about 5000 hectares of land for Agric purposes in the current planting season.
Meanwhile, it took the efforts of the Governor and his Deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu to save the situation that would have been a huge embarrassment as some angry Niger Delta youths refused the minister of Niger Delta Affairs to speak, demanding that the Acting President should visit host Communities. The duo had to come down to calm the frayed nerves of the protesters as they both appealed to Edo people to maintain peace which the state is well known for.