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As the country continues to find lasting solutions to the lingering Niger Delta issues, President Olusegun Obasanjo.....
As the country continues to find lasting solutions to the lingering Niger Delta issues, President Olusegun Obasanjo Tuesday commended the Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili for his untiring efforts in the provision of power, promotion of peace and reconciliation as well as the globally acknowledged Rivers State Sustainable Development Programme.
Mr President said this in Abuja, at the second edition of the Presidential Council on Socio-Economic Development of Coastal States.
According to Mr President, Governor Odili’s administration has paid adequate attention and touched three key areas of power, peace and reconciliation and sustainable development, amongst others. Agreeing that the state programme is a model, Mr President said, “if the Rivers State Sustainable Development Programme works in Rivers State it would work in the Niger Delta and if it succeeds in the Niger Delta, it would work in Nigeria”.
The president, who noted that a new wind of change was blowing in the Niger Delta, expressed optimism that efforts towards the development of the area were in the right direction, saying “we will surely get there.”
He enjoined federal, state and oil company officials to be more specific about projects on ground during the next quarterly meeting scheduled for October 26, when local government chairmen will also be invited to brief the council on their development programmes.
In his speech, Dr Peter Odili of Rivers State thanked the president for initiating the meeting on Niger Delta development and spoke about the current efforts made by the state since April, 2006 when the last session was held.
He observed that the Olu Obasanjo bypass had been commissioned in addition to other roads in both urban and rural areas, noting that work on the Unity Road (Ogoni-Opobo-Andoni Road) was in high speed from various points, and assured that the road would be commissioned before he leaves office.
He also talked about the Trans Kalabari Highway, which is now on going from different points to ensure early completion.
According to the governor, the Omoku power station is a few months away from commissioning when the stringing of towers is completed so that power could enter into Port Harcourt without delay while the riverine communities would be supplied electricity using underground water cables.
On agriculture, Gov Peter Odili disclosed that the state government in conjunction with Unilever Plc was undertaking the cultivation of allanblackia, a new specie of nuts that will serve as raw materials for the production of margarine and other spreads without cholesterols, and assured that the state government will take the challenge with seriousness.
Obasanjo, who presided over the meeting, also asked the Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, and his Senior Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mrs. Amina Ibrahim, to provide a detailed report of teachers undergoing in-service training in the coastal states during the next meeting of the presidential committee.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai, giving progress report on the directive given by the president during the last meeting as regards the recruitment of youths of the Niger Delta in the Armed Forces, stated that in the Army, 50 indigenes have been recruited from Ondo State, 100 from Delta, 100 from Bayelsa, 50 from Cross River, 100 from Rivers and 50 each from Edo and Akwa Ibom States.
On the Navy, he said, 30 have been recruited from Ondo, 50 from Delta and Rivers each, 46 from Bayelsa, 20 each from Cross River and Edo and 30 from Akwa Ibom.
Agwai added that in the Air Force, 89 have been selected from Akwa Ibom out of which 30 would be recruited, 80 from Bayelsa out of which 50 would be recruited, 95 from Cross River out of which 20 would be selected, 101 in Delta out of which 50 would be the lucky ones, 65 from Ondo, out of which 30 would be recruited and 83 from Rivers out of which 50 would be recruited.
The Inspector-General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, on his part, said that in line with the directive of President Obasanjo that 10,000 indigenes of the coastal states be employed in the Nigeria Police between June, 2006, and December, 2008, 1,500 have applied in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta each, 1,000 from Cross River and Edo each and 500 in Imo. He added that there is however, a shortfall in Abia State that has been allocated 400 slots but only 164 passed the exams.
In her presentation, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mrs. Amina Ibrahim, noted that although electricity was central to the improvement of socio-economic development, “yet only about 40 per cent of Nigerians have access to grid-based electricity”.
Ibrahim added that because of certain constraints that have made access to electricity to the rural communities very limited, “less than 20 per cent of rural communities are connected to the national grid and over 60 per cent of the rural settlements in the region are rural which has serious implications on poverty”.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engineer Funso Kupolokun, disclosed that 100,000 people have so far applied for 1,000 vacancies in the corporation out of which 200 would be picked from the Niger Delta in addition to a fair share in the remaining 800 vacancies, adding that the first set of employees who are being selected with the help of consultants are expected to be ready by the end of September.
The Minister of Health, Professor Eyitayo Lambo, while making his own presentation, disclosed that while at lease one HIV/AIDS treatment centre has been established in every state in the Niger Delta, the factory for the production of syringe that will be sited in Rivers State and expected to employ between 500 to 1,000 people will start production before May next year.
Apart from ministers, captains of the oil industry, traditional leaders, members of the diplomatic community, the governors of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo and Ondo attended the meeting.
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