MAGNUS Ngei Abe, senator representing Rivers South East Senatorial District, has enjoined Rivers State stakeholders to ensure that there is peace and unity in the state, saying it would be in their best interest.
Speaking at the Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Engagement Meeting with the acting president, Yemi Osibanjo, SAN, at Aztec Arcum Event Centre in Port Harcourt, Abe said that certain developments on the visit of the acting president indicated that unity and peace were far from being attained in the state.
He said there was a deliberate scheme by the state authorities, which prevented stakeholders who are APC members or sympathisers as well as those who shared dissenting views from the state authorities, in attending the Niger Delta Stakeholders’ Engagement Meeting with Osinbajo.
Abe who is the chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, revealed that himself, a serving senator of the state, was not invited by the state government for the forum, adding that he was only invited by the acting president’s aides at the airport.
He further stated that had there been peace and unity that he (Abe) ought to be at the forum where the interest of the state was discussed.
Abe said that the interest of Rivers people and the Niger Delta region in general supersedes any personal or partisan interest and cautioned those who are playing partisan politics with Rivers interest to stop it forthwith as the state stands to gain if united.
“People talked so much about unity at the forum; how we are all united and how what was happening in Government House is the united position of all Rivers people. But, Mr. President sir, let me say that unity is not what we say or do when the acting president of Nigeria is seated and all the television stations are tuned in to what we are doing. Unity is what we do when the acting president is not there; when the cameras are not there. As a Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria, I did not receive an invitation to yesterday’s meeting. It was at the airport your own staff tried to give us invitation. That is not an act that will promote unity”.
The former secretary to Rivers State government, further stated that the present state government had continued with divisive politics even in the State House of Assembly, where it acquired vehicles for the legislators and exempted the 6 APC lawmakers.
“Mr. President sir, the Rivers State House of Assembly has 32 members. Out of the 32 members, the six members of the All Progressives Congress, who are members of the Assembly are the only six people that take taxis to the assembly. All other members drive cars that were bought by the Rivers State Government and the governor tells us it is his personal contribution to the House and these other 6 people are not entitled. In an atmosphere of that nature, it is clear that there can be no unity because it is not the words that we say in the front of television cameras that will bring unity. It is the actions that we take when nobody is watching”.
Abe also frowned at the politics of intolerance adopted by the state government, where the banners mounted by the APC, welcoming the acting president were pulled down by a PDP chieftain in the state.
“We put up our banners to welcome you to this state, a leading member of PDP had the boldness to go and pull them down. We have reported the matter to the Police. We believe that action must be taken so that the impunity that existed before can no longer exist under this administration”.
Speaking further, he said it was regrettable that the state government at the forum was critical of the federal government on the issue of the Ogoni clean-up but failed to admit that the UNEP report was submitted six years ago to the past administration who made no effort to remediate the situation.
“I am from Ogoni, yesterday, when they were talking about Ogoni, the governor started by blaming the federal government for the things that have not been done. But, he failed to acknowledge that the UNEP report was submitted 6 years ago and that in one year, this government has done more than any previous government”.
Senator Abe commended the acting president for giving other stakeholders the opportunity to engage with him, considering their exclusion from the previous forum in Government House.
“I want to thank you for coming here today because if you did not come here, you will not have known that these numbers of Rivers people were shamelessly excluded from what happened yesterday. Let me use this opportunity to call on the federal government to take a very clear and decisive step to try to bring peace in Rivers State”.
In his response, the acting president thanked the APC and other stakeholders for maintaining peace.
He assured them that the federal government was committed to changing the narratives in the Niger Delta region.
On the implementation of the UNEP report, the acting president said that the project had commenced.
“Most of what was said yesterday by the different communities that came are the same things that have been said all along. For example, issues of the Ogoni clean-up. I have explained a great detail about what has been done so far. In fact, not only has the project coordinator, the gentleman from Ogoniland, been appointed, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), has been compelled to give the one billion dollars, which is proposed to be for the clean-up, in 5 tranches of 200 million dollars a year. They have already given a take-off grant. Now, that take off grant, we are going to begin to use it for certain remediation exercises immediately and also for different community projects in Ogoniland. And on the 12th of January, we have already constituted the Project Coordination Office (PCO). On the 16th of February, we are going to kick off some of the projects. We already have timelines. Everything is set. We will not be like those who made commitments for many years and did not fulfill them. We will definitely do what we said we will do. And everybody who knows President Buhari, knows that he is a man of his words”, Osinbajo said.
— Feb 15, 2017 @ 18:10 GMT