In His First Visit to Niger Delta... Yar’Adua Warns on Future of Oil
From Ahamefula Ogbu in Port Harcourt, Segun James and Juliana Taiwo in Yenagoa, 05.11.2008
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua yesterday visited Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State in what is his first visit to the Niger Delta region since he was sworn in as president of the federal republic. He used the occasion to warn that unless the youth restiveness in the Niger Delta stops immediately, Nigeria may lose her ranking as the number one oil producing country in Africa to Angola.
Yar’Adua had been adv-ised based on security reports to shelve the visit to Bayelsa State following a bomb blast which occurred within the premises of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) But he defied the warning and added colour to the flagging off of the gubernatorial campaigns of the party’s candidate in the re-run election scheduled for May 24, Mr Timipre Sylva.
Yar’Adua had arrived in Port Harcourt in a Presidential jet marked 5N-FGS at the Air Force Base where Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, Chief Godswill Akpabio came to receive him.
After the formal airport reception, Yar'Adua who arrived with PDP national Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and other party chieftains held a closed door session with traditional rulers and other stakeholders. He later removed the light coffee-coloured kaftan and changed into the campaign attire.
He was airlifted in an Air Force Augusta helicopter marked NAF 540 from the base to Yenagoa. He left the Air Force base at 12.50 pm.
The president who addressed a large crowd of party supporters and prospective voters at the Yenagoa Sports Complex urged for restraint in the manner youths in the nation’s oil producing areas are agitating for better conditions in their area. He said unless oil exploration and production are allowed to go on uninterrupted and in a peaceful atmosphere, the nation may be pushed out of her number one position in Africa by Angola.
He said his administration is already on top of the situation in the region with Vice President Jonathan Goodluck charged with the responsibility of ensuring a peaceful dialogue with the people.
Yar’Adua said the Niger Delta region has the potential of becoming the petrochemical power in Africa, as no other part of the continent has the potential, but lamented that the absence of peace has retarded African development in the past 50 years.
He regretted that the increase in world crude oil price is blamed on the situation in Iran , Iraq and the lack of peace in the Niger Delta “because we, ourselves, gave them the opportunity to do so.”
“There is a growing energy situation in the world and the energy demand is becoming worrisome, the situation has started driving upward the price of crude oil. When the world press talks about it, they said it is due to the lack of peace in Iran , Iraq and now the Niger Delta region.
“This assertion is becoming true. It is because we provide the world with the opportunity to do so. It is painful for me because we have the potentials to become the petrochemical hub of the region,” he said.
He said the growing energy demand all over the world, which is responsible for the rise in oil price, is due to the needs of growing economies of China and some other Asian countries and not unrest in the Niger Delta.
As part of his seven-point agenda, the president assures that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) will receive all its entitlements in the 2008 budget, according to the NDDC Act.
He said among those empowerment provided by his administration is the making of the issue of the release of the Niger Delta Devel-opment Commission (ND-DC) funds as a priority and in accordance with the Act establishing it.
“We have set aside funds for the Oil producing states of the country, and in the supplementary budget, we will make the issue of power/energy, security and the Niger Delta region, a priority. The administration is doing everything possible to lay foundation for development,” he said.
The President however insisted that without peace and unity, such desired development cannot be achieved.
“The Vice President is leading the process of dialogue. I appeal that you co-operate with the Vice President, the National Assembly and the Government. This conference will provide a way forward for peace and I appeal in the name of God. I am talking from the bottom of my heart. It is painful that we could lose our position,” he said.
On the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State, Yar’Adua said Chief Timipre Sylva will be the third PDP governor to serve a five-year term, as he had no doubt that the party will win the election.
He says PDP will campaign in all the nooks and crannies of the state. “I know this election has been lost by AC and won by PDP,” he said.
Among those who came for the rally are Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP national chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor, who formally presented Sylva to the people, Senate President, David Mark, and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu NDDC Managing Director, Mr. Timi Alabe, NDDC Chairman Sam Edem, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and his Akwa Ibom counterpart, , Godswill Akpabio, and Senator Heineken Lokpobiri.
Speaking at the occasion, former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha said he was not campaigning for any particular candidate as the outcome of the election was already clear, going by the crowd of people at the flag off.
Alamieyeseigha warned the people against violence as those contesting the election are brothers. He said weapons are not ballot papers and urged the people to conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the election.