Published On: Mon, Jun 5th, 2017

Reflections on the Acting President’s visit to Cross Rivers State -By Paul Boroh

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As a practical demonstration of the determination of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to  meet the over 60-year peculiar challenges  of the Niger Delta and oil production, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, GCON,  visited Cross Rivers State from June1-2, 2017. This was also to find solution to the twin issues of sustainable peace   and development in the Region.  Having visited other oil producing states, building bridges of understanding, putting all-inclusive programmes of development in place, listening to the people and involving them in practical solutions, the visit to Cross Rivers state was one of consolidation.

Apart from carrying the President’s message of hope, cooperation, peace and development to the people, fundamental achievements of His Excellency, Professor Ben Ayade’s government  in the state, were also to be commissioned, underling the fact that the Niger Delta States have fundamental roles to play in the Region’s transformation.

However, two days before the commencement of the visit, an unfortunate security challenge arose; a misunderstanding between some Naval personnel and policemen on the street snowballed into a shooting match. Fortunately, the situation was quickly brought under control. As  part of the Acting President’s advance team,  I met with the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oladapo Oluwole and emphasized that while tension can rise amongst security agencies, the functionaries have the professional duty to exercise restraint, display decorum and unite to ensure security for the citizenry.

As is the culture of this administration to consult widely with all stakeholders irrespective of class, gender or age,  a Town Hall meeting was held. But it had the peculiar characteristics of Cross Rivers State; a State with the inhabitants of Bakassi who had been displaced as a result of Nigeria conceding their ancestral home to neigbouring Cameroun. Bakassi  was a three-fold  issue.  The first is the loss of our sovereignty over the territory. On  this, the Acting President who is also a Professor of Law, declared: “The ceding of Bakassi as a result of the judgment of the ICJ (International Court of Justice) is a development that we all consider a loss.’’

The second issue arising from ceding Bakassi is the displaced people who need to be adequately catered for. In explaining  this, Professor Osinbajo told the people “The President strongly believes that while we ruminate over the legal issues, we must not allow Nigerian citizens in Ikang and elsewhere to suffer. The Federal Government will certainly do more and engage more with the displaced in Bakassi. This is our duty and our commitment’’

The third issue on Bakassi is militancy in the area, the response of security forces and the fall-out which has negatively affected the people. On this, the Acting President assured that a lasting solution will be found.

He emphasized  the need to take initiatives and implement programmes that will develop the Niger Delta. He returned to the theme he had developed during his tour of Bayelsa State; that of  the states, oil companies and the Federal Government working in synergy  to vastly improve living conditions and develop the Region. He told the people that  “The vision of President Muhammadu Buhari for Nigeria is one where the Federal Government partners with the States to create industrial, commercial and professional opportunities for all our citizens.”

Amongst the Federal Government projects in the state the Acting President listed are the Calabar-Lagos  Railway which has the potentials of reviving the economy of the area,  and the Udokpani – Ikot Ekpene Road which are captured in the 2017 Budget, and the on-going road and erosion control projects including the Calabar-Ogoja Road. He also said in order to cushion the effects of the economic challenges in the country, the Government under President Buhari had given bailout funds to the states  to support payment of salaries, pension,  and to address ecological issues.

Cross Rivers State which has strived to develop its tourist destinations and has the most patronized international tourism festival in the country; the  annual Calabar Festival, received the Federal Government’s praises for  setting the pace in the hospitality and tourism industry in the country.

The Acting President commissioned the Cross Rivers State mono rail, its garment factory, inspected the Calabar Pharmaceuticals; the CalabarPharm, and performed the groundbreaking   ceremony for the  Rice City. He commended Governor Ayade for his development-oriented projects. He also visited the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Clinic as well as an  exhibition of made-in-Nigeria products.

At the Palace of the Obong of Calabar, Edidem  Ekpo  Okon Abasi-Out V, the Acting President returned to a strong message that he had taken round; the need for unity, and the wisdom in our country  remaining a united entity  which he explained, is the reason why we are respected internationally.

One memory of the visit that sticks to the brain is not the tangible programmes or plans, but  the infectious connection between  the Acting President and the children. It was like him saying, ‘let the children come to me’ as they swarmed round  him and the government delegation. The children  were happy and showed a lot of enthusiasm. It is their generation that will harvest  the seeds the President Buhari government is planting and watering in the Niger Delta today. Seeds we need to culture to sprout into sustainable peace and development not only in the Region, but the country as a whole.

*Brigadier General Paul Tarela Boroh (Rtd.) is the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta and the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty programmme.


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