This Day (Lagos)

15 November 2009

Nigeria: MEND - Yar'Adua Meets Soyinka, Akhigbe, Others

Abuja — President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua yesterday met with Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, former Chief of General Staff, Vice-Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd), and leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, (MEND), Mr. Henry Okah as he consolidates his administration's post-amnesty programme for the Niger Delta. The meeting held at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, also had Architect Denzi Amagbe Kentebe in attendance.

Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, who confirmed the meeting, said it was held to further the president's efforts to find a lasting solution to the problem of the Niger-Delta following his earlier promise to meet with any individual or group in that direction.

Adeniyi said, "The president used the session to reiterate his commitment to the overall peace and development of the Niger-Delta."

Yar'Adua had in his previous engagements with leaders of the region, offered a comprehensive development package as part of his administration's post-amnesty plan. They include:

-Community ownership, which will allows the people of oil-bearing communities in the region up to 10 per cent stake in all joint venture businesses. Under the president's plan, 5 per cent stake in all joint venture businesses would also be exclusively accessed by all Nigerians, of which people of Niger Delta will have up to 1 per cent direct individual participation;

-New Infrastructure: Under this plan, the president will embark on the dualisation and completion of the East-West highway. This will also entail a design and building of a new fast train system from Calabar to Benin City, in the first phase, and from Benin City to Lagos, in the second phase;

-Completion of the Ajaokuta - Warri rail system, which will be extended to Warri Port to give maritime traffic to the rail line and "designated the central line." It will also be extended from Ajaokuta to Abuja and the north, and a container terminal will be built in Owa-Oyibu, Delta State, to service the east. Owa-Oyibu is a strategic location because of the existence of a rail hub in the area;

-The government also plans a massive funding of the Niger Delta Ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commis-sion (NDDC) to be able to intervene in most communities in the area with respect to infrastructural development.

The ownership scheme will be reflected in the new Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) while the infrastructural development plan was billed to be presented as a supplementary budget to the National Assembly after the inputs of Niger Delta stakeholders, including the ex-militants.

The Federal Executive Council recently approved projects worth over N200 billion for Niger Delta states as part of the president's post-amnesty infrastructural plan for the region.

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