From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

In addition to other recommendations for better infrastructure for the Niger Delta, President Bola Tinubu has assured the South South Monarch Forum that he would look into the construction of the East West Road.

The contract for dualisation of the 338-kilometre East West Road was awarded in four sections to four different contractors under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, but almost two decades later, the road has not progressed.

The Abdul Ningi-led Senate Ad-hoc Committee on fact-finding on East West Road, had last October expressed concern over the duplication of East West Road contract by the Federal Ministry of Works, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), state and local governments, stating that the development threw up compromises on the road engineering concepts and construction.

Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Chairman of Delta State Traditional Rulers, Felix Mujakpiruo, along with the paramount ruler of Emuoha Kingdom, Sergeant Awuse, said the monarchs visited to present catalogue of requests for the development of the Niger Delta region.

Mujakpiruo bemoaned the lack of infrastructure in the area and the necessity of providing the Niger Delta’s youths with tools to work. He added that building the Itakpe-Abuja railway will facilitate a secure drive from Warri to Abuja.

The monarch forum also called for the resuscitation of the abandoned ports in the region, adding it will facilitate employment for the people and also improve the economy of Nigeria.

“We come to our listening president with a catalogue of our requests in the region. In the region we produce and we give resources to the country and yet we are suffering amid plenty. So, we just have to catalogue our sufferings and what we want the president to do for us so that we can feel we are part of this country. The president said he would look at our requests and do the needful

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“We also felt like he should try and link up the Itakpe railway to Abuja railway so that from Warri we can safely drive to Abuja, what about the abandoned ports? We feel if those ports are revived it will bring employment for our people  and it will improve the economy of this country” he said.

Chairman, Delta State Traditional Rulers said the Niger Delta is the major oil-producing region of the country and should not be left to agonise amidst ample resources. 

Minister of Niger Delta, Abubakar Momoh, on his part, said the government needs to interrogate further about what is being tagged oil theft. He said the issue of pipeline vandalisation should be holistically checked to ensure Niger Delta youths are not wrongly accused of the crime.

He called for empowerment of youths in the region, saying entrepreneurship training is crucial to reducing the wave of oil theft in the region.

“I think we may also carry out some kind of holistic examination on what we call oil theft in Nigeria whether it is not the kind of professional stealing from the people who are producing the oil because if there is no vandalisation and yet you are talking of oil theft, I think it has got to a point where the government will also look critically into this oil theft whether it is oil theft or those people who are in charge are the ones stealing the oil and giving it a different name believing it is the youths of the region.”

The minister commended President Tinubu for giving an audience to the forum, saying consistent engagement of the forum by the government would strengthen the peace in the region.

“These are the owners of the region, the more you engage them they will talk to the youths and those who are involved but when you keep them away it becomes a problem because they will not have that sense of belonging of continuing to talk to the people,” he said.