THE Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio Wednesday said that any crisis in the south-south like what is happening in the southeast and other crisis-ridden regions of the country would have drastic consequences on the economic survival of the nation.
The Minister also told political actors especially those in leadership positions to always interface with their constituents regularly and not to make make Abuja as their permanent address.
Senator Akpabio stated this while fielding questions on his peace initiative with some south south stakeholders over the ultimatum to reconstitute the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minister spoke with journalists after meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday night.
He said that he met with ex-agitators in the region for the sake of preserving the economic backbone of the country.
Besides, he said his meeting with the stakeholders was a way of calming tension and recommended the same to political leaders of other crisis-prone regions to stem restiveness in their areas.
While noting that he was not under pressure to reconstitute the NDDC board, he said: “No. Everything is politics whether it’s development or composition.
Nobody has put me under pressure to reconstitute the board. I can sponsor any group of people to make a statement but the major thing is the peace of the region.
“The region is very critical to the economy of the country. So, when I made the move, I made to go and talk to stakeholders, it was for the purpose of the economy of the nation and also, we cannot afford for the south south region, particularly the Niger Delta to go into crisis like what we are witnessing in southeast and all that.
“And I think the example I set is what is being emulated now in the southeast that there is need for those in government to go home and interact with the grassroots and explain things to them so that we can stop the restiveness that we are witnessing in many zones in the country.
“So, my going into the creeks to meet with the traditional fathers and all… I can tell you we don’t have militants any longer because of the amnesty programme but you can say ex-agitators.
“It was in the interest not just for the security of the region but also the peace of the region and by implication ensure that critical infrastructure that affect the economy of the country were maintained and were not tempered with.
“I think it was a step in the right direction; I can see even the southeast is also emulating that example and I want to also urge other zones in the country to do so.
“We can’t all concentrate in Abuja. We should go back home and get the feelings of our people and explain things to them. That way, you will reduce the tension because sometimes ignorance can lead to insurgence and insecurity.
“So, I will continue to interact with my people, you may call it ultimatum or anything. It’s not. Sometimes, is a way of trying to say, come home and talk to us and let us know what is going on.
“So, the constitution of the board is on course and also is the forensic audit but you cannot separate the two because it’s the result of the audit that the board will use in repositioning the NDDC.”
On the reconstitution of the NNDC board, he posited that the process has been fast-tracked, noting that the names of nominees would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.
However, he insisted that the ongoing field forensic audit to the commission must be completed as the outcome would serve as a guide to the board’s operations, adding that the audit report should be turned in by the end of July.
Asked on the update of the board’s reconstitution, Senator Akpabio said, “That we have fast-tracked the process but we insist that the most important thing is not just to clean up the mess but how to reposition the NDDC to ensure optimal performance as against the practice in the past where it was just an agency for the purposes of election only. So, the field forensic audit is on course and is progressing very well.
“I am happy with the progress so far and I am very certain that come the end of July is just a month and few weeks away, the final result will be given to Mr. President tor final implementation.
“In terms of the composition of the board of the NDDC, of course we have fast-tracked the process, the National Assembly will soon get the list. But that is not as important as the forensic audit which we have already given a deadline.
“Our belief is that the new board will use those recommendations to turn around the agency. You know, what happened in the past for 10, 15 years, where the headquarters that was started 25 years ago nobody was interested in completing it.
They were pursuing projects that were beneficial either to the staff or the management and not projects that benefited the region.
“The east-west road is another area of concentration which I think that even the NDDC itself should have taken interest in because as governor.
I used to also concentrate on federal roads and to the glory of God, this president has refunded most of the monies that states used in intervening in federal roads, which means it was a good gesture and the president reciprocated by refunding the monies.
“So, I think the NDDC should have been interested in the completion of that road because of the economic importance of the east-west road.
“Just three days ago, we almost had a mishap where one of the bridges had a problem, the approach to the bridge and so it caused a lot of traffic in Port Harcourt for hours, and we had to move in and to the glory of God, we have repaired the damaged section of the bridge and traffic is now flowing.
And we are working very hard to make sure that we complete that come next year not just for the Niger Delta but for the benefit of Nigerians.”