Edo youths disrupt Osinbajo’s meeting with stakeholders
The meeting organised by the Federal Government between the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and stakeholders in the oil-producing communities in Edo State was on Monday partially disrupted following a protest by angry youths over the alleged neglect of the communities.
The protesters, who waved placards inside the Samuel Ogbemudia Hall of the New Era College, venue of the meeting, accused the Federal Government of sidelining the oil-producing communities located in Orhionmwon, Ikpoba-Okha and Ovia North-East LGAs, in the amnesty programme.
They also threatened to stall oil production if the government failed to visit the host communities in order to see, first-hand, the level of underdevelopment in the affected areas.
The protest lasted for over 30 minutes as security operatives from the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army, Department of State Services, Nigerian Prison Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps had a hard time trying to control the situation.
It, however, took the intervention of Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, to calm the protesters.
Also present at the meeting were the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru, and the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
Osinbajo had been expected to visit some of the communities during his one-day tour of the state.
But the acting President, who later addressed the youths, explained that the visit was not shelved due to security reasons but to enable him to return to Abuja before the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport for repairs on Tuesday (today).
He said, “Our plan is to ensure that we visit all of the oil-producing communities. Just as was rightly said, we had stationed at the (Benin) airport our helicopters in order to take us there.
“There is no issue of insecurity at all. We have been to other oil-producing communities.”
He described the devastation in oil-producing communities in Edo as a challenge that was prevalent in the Niger Delta region.
Osinbajo, who had earlier paid a courtesy call on the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ewuare II, stated that the Gele Gele Seaport and export-free zone in Ovia North-East was an important project to the Federal Government and would be worked on seriously to serve as a supplier to other ports.
While noting that he was not unaware of several projects abandoned in the oil-rich states, Osinbajo said that the Federal Government would prosecute any contractor who had received payment for the execution of projects in the region but abandoned them in the end.
“We have already ordered all of the contractors who had abandoned their projects back to site. We are going to ensure that any contractor who has taken money and has abandoned his project is prosecuted.
“They must be held accountable. Nobody can be allowed to get away with an abandoned project and take away the money. We will make sure that anybody who has taken a contract is held to account and I can assure you that that will be done.”
Osinbajo, also accused the elite of depriving the people of the Niger Delta of the benefits of their natural resources, adding that the host communities must be made the hub for both small and large petrochemical industries.
On his part, Obaseki described the protest by the oil communities as an expression of the feelings of deprivation caused by years of corruption, adding that this had bedevilled government’s effort to develop the region.
He said, “What you have seen today is representative of who we are; we express our feelings. At the end of the day, we are a people who know how to talk to each other.”
“We have issues, just like every other group in Nigeria, but we know how to address such issues and how to resolve our issues.”
The governor urged the acting President to reconsider the various reports on the Niger Delta and visit the affected communities.