The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the mouthpiece of the people of South-South region has bemoaned the poor condition of critical infrastructure in the Niger region, particularly roads, calling on the Federal Government and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to give immediate and urgent attention to transportation in the region.
The group, in a communiqué by the National Chairman, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), after a national leadership retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, highlighted the East–West Road, from Benin to Calabar, Calabar–Itu–Ikot Ekpene–Aba Road, Ogoja–Ikom–Calabar Road, and Port Harcourt to Aba section of Enugu-Port Harcourt Road.
PANDEF encouraged governors of the region and all political office holders, elected and appointed, “to give greater attention to issues like job creation, rural women and youth development, healthcare and education, to check the growing rate of youth delinquency.”
National officers, elders, state chairs, secretaries, state women and youth leaders of PANDEF attended the retreat with the theme, “Re-engineering for the Future Together.”
The regional body restated its position on restructuring and appealed to the Federal Government “to as a matter of urgency begin a constructive dialogue process on the restructuring of the country.”
It welcomed the order of President Muhammadu Buhari for “a forensic audit of the NDDC accounts from 2001 to 2019,” but demanded “names of beneficiaries of contracts of the commission over the period under review should be made public.
“In addition, we insist that for NDDC to function effectively there must be adequate funding and less political interference,” it added.
“PANDEF further urges Mr. President to extend the order of forensic audit to other national interventionist organizations like the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
“PANDEF also used the opportunity of the retreat to interact with critical stakeholders and key NGOs working in the region, including the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang,” the communiqué stated.
The group also restated its commitment to engage with all critical stakeholders of the region in its work, irrespective of political inclination, for the betterment of the region.
It commended the Federal Government for the peaceful resolution of the contentious issue concerning the license/operation of OML 25 located in Belema, Offoinama and Ngeje communities in Kula Kingdom of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Rivers State.
However, it implored government “to deploy same approach to other host communities in the Niger Delta where there are disputes over Oil Marginal License/operation.”
PANDEF applauded the people of Kula Kingdom “for their steadfastness and resilience, and for remaining peaceful throughout the period of the dispute.”
It similarly commended the Nigerian military for its professional conduct in handling the matter, as well as “Belemaoil for proving beyond reasonable doubt that oil and gas producing companies can do better in developing the human and infrastructural development in the oil and gas bearing host communities.”
The South-South group pleaded with international and indigenous oil companies (IOCs) operating the region to respect and honour Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) entered with host communities in the interest of peace in the region or possibly adopt the Belemaoil model of developing host communities.
It resolved to continue to work with other regional bodies in the country in the efforts “to enthrone an egalitarian nation that would be run on the fundamental principles of equity, fairness and justice.”
PANDEF extolled two non-governmental organizations operating in the Niger Delta region, Academic Associates Peace Works/Niger Delta Dialogue and Stakeholder Democracy Network for facilitating the retreat and further committed the group to steadfast pursuit of shared interests along with promoting understanding and peaceful co-existence amongst the various ethnic nationalities of the region.
The National Leader of PANDEF and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark sent goodwill message to participants, which enriched the deliberations.
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The Rivers State Government has expressed worries over the high level of non-compliance of health protocols with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that henceforth any resident caught without wearing facemask will be arrested and prosecuted.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim handed down the warning while speaking on a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt on Saturday and monitored by the Tide.
Nsirim who is Chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment for Covid-19 recalled the unhappiness of Governor Nyesom Wike during last Wednesday’s State broadcast with the attitude of many residents who flaunt extant directives on the wearing of facemask and other health protocols.
“The Governor in that broadcast also expressed concern that a lot of people in the State are not obeying the protocols. Social distancing, wearing of facemask and he spoke specifically in what is happening in some churches. Government will introduce policies, the onus is on the populace to obey those policies.
“Not just obeying it, the Covid-19 pandemic that we are talking about has defied medical solution for now. So to flatten the curve, everyone living and doing business in Rivers State has to take responsibility.
“If I take responsibility and everyone around me takes responsibility to observe the relevant protocol, we are sure to flatten the curve. But if people live righteously and just do as if nothing is happening because there are places where people are just living in denial.
“Some people still believe that there is nothing like Coronavirus. Two weeks ago, my committee rounded off street to street campaign in all the 23 local government areas of the State. They still met people who are in this denial. That is the challenge.
“The Governor is desirous that Rivers State remains safe. That is why he is initiating policies to ensure that strategically the state is somehow isolated from the national spread,” the Commissioner said.
Nsirim further said, “If you go around the State, since the executive order on facemask was introduced. You will notice that less than
30 per cent of the populace are really obeying that executive order. What we are seeing in the State is that people just put the mask around their chin.
“You go to some churches we see people open their mouth and things will be spewing out in the enclosed environment on the chin. The Governor is saying that to give this wearing of facemask the kind of weight that it deserves to save our people, a special taskforce be put in place.
“That is the only sure way because a lot of people are still living in denial. He said the governor’s broadcast is very clear, arrest and prosecute. Henceforth we will arrest and prosecute people not wearing facemask in public places,” he stated.
The Rivers State Government spokesman said arrangements have been concluded to monitor churches that fail to observe the guidelines of not more than 70 persons per church service, wearing of facemask, provision of water for hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, while weddings and burial ceremonies should not exceed 50 persons.
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