President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday met with the national executive and leaders of the Ijaw Nation Congress, (INC), led by its president, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He commended the leadership of the INC, on their recent affirmation of belief in a united and indivisible Nigeria as well as for supporting the fight against insecurity in the country.
Buhari used the meeting to address some demands of the association on several issues, including environmental degradation, restructuring, creation of states, allocation of operational licenses for marginal fields to Ijaw people, inauguration of a substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), among others.
While talking about the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project, the President said he had directed the Federal Ministry of Environment to ensure that the remediation efforts in Ogoni are implemented with a high percentage of local content and inclusion of the surrounding communities.
He informed that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), under the same ministry of Environment, is working to ensure that oil spills are reduced and new ones prevented while all relevant agencies of government have been directed to ensure that they enforce compliance by the International Oil Companies to international best practices.
On the issue of restructuring, the President noted that the National Assembly whose responsibility it is to ensure that the constitution responds to the call for a restructured Nigeria has already concluded regional consultations.
Speaking on the creation of two additional states and more local government areas for Ijaw people, Buhari contended that it is a legislative matter, which should naturally be handled by the National Assembly with concurrence at the state levels.
Commenting on the allocation of operational licenses for marginal fields to Ijaw people, the President said: “the process of granting licenses is guided by laid down rules and regulations, most of which even favour local content and local contractors. I see no reason why they should not be granted such licenses if they qualify”.
On the issue of NDDC, he said: ‘‘A contentious issue that has been a subject of discourse amongst the Ijaw people of recent has been the need for the Niger Delta Development Commission to live up to its billing by delivering the required succor to the people of the region.
‘‘Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July, 2021.
‘‘I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.
‘‘However, I would like to implore you that the Ijaw National Congress should play a more active role in making sure that the mismanagement that occurred in the past is not repeated”.
He also assured that the completion of the East-West Road remains top on his infrastructure agenda, while adding that considerable progress have been made with the construction of the Bonny to Port Harcourt Bridge.
Earlier in his remarks, Prof. Okaba urged the President to mandate the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to direct the relocation of the headquarters of all oil companies to their operational bases in Ijaw land and the Niger Delta region.
According to him: ‘‘The excuse of insecurity is no longer tenable for it is common knowledge that nowhere in Nigeria is safer than the other. Secondly, the revamping of the major ports at Onne, Warri, Port Harcourt, Bonny will accelerate economic growth, reduce joblessness, youth criminality and contribute to national unity and stability”.
Okaba equally assured the President that the Ijaws have no secessionist agenda and reaffirmed their strong faith in the overall and mutual benefits of true federalism and resource control to the prosperity and stability of Nigeria.