From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja, 06.25.2008 (THISDAY Newspapers)
Chairman of the Steering Committee on the Niger Delta Summit, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has called on militants in the area to declare a 90-day truce to give the committee as well as next month’s summit the benefit of the doubt to bring lasting peace and development to the region.
Gambari, who addressed State House correspondents after his meeting with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday said his committee would reach out to all stakeholders with legitimate inputs to be made.
“Let us prove ourselves, judge by the results of our action and the process that we are going to put very much in place,” he said.
The United Nations (UN) envoy stated that the summit would be different from previous efforts because it would address the issue of the Niger Delta comprehensively.
He said it would also look at all aspects, the issue of decades of neglect, poor physical infrastructure, poor social infrastructure, education, health and environmental degradation.
According to him, the perception or the reality of marginalisation and economic development, particularly employment for the youths would be addressed.
He called on Nigerians to see the summit as a national issue rather than one organised by the Niger Delta for the Niger Delta, adding that the summit would comprehensive and address issues holistically.
“We hope to do a very good job because we want this summit to be different from the previous summits. We want a summit that will address the issue of the Niger Delta comprehensively, looking at all aspects, the issue of decades of neglect, poor physical infrastructure, poor social infrastructure, education and health, environmental degradation.
“This is a national summit, all Nigerians are stakeholders in the issue of the Niger Delta. It is not a Niger Delta problem, it is a national issue that manifests itself in a particular way in the Niger Delta and for durable solution. All of us Nigerians will have to be regarded as stakeholders.
“Beyond our shores, we also have the international dimension to the Niger Delta situation because for those of you following the event, you know that when you have an issue in the Niger Delta, it immediately reflects itself in the global oil prices which is therefore of concern to countries in our region and also even beyond.
“There is also the issue of small arms and light weapons and the militarisation of the area which further complicates the issue and we also add the national security dimension.
“So, that is the assignment. It is an honour and privilege as a Nigerian to be given this opportunity. Though we are yet to be inaugurated, I thought I should let you know that the process of consultation has started; is advancing and we hope at the end of the day we will produce a national summit that Nigerians will be proud of. The neigbouring countries will be happy with and international community will take due note,” he said.
On those to expect at the summit, Gambari said the committee would reach out to all stakeholders, both local and international, before reporting back to the President for the summit proper.
Reacting to criticisms of his choice as chairman of the committee, Gambari said it was the Nigerian government that asked for his release by the UN, having seen his mediating roles in both Myanmar and Iraq.