Palace Watch

Why there is relative peace in Niger Delta under Buhari – HRH Suanu

By Gabriel Omonhinmin

When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office as Nigeria’s 15th President in 2015, his administration drew up a new vision for the Niger Delta region.

The new vision, which was launched in 2016, after engagements with leaders and representatives of the region under the aegis of the Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF), was for a prosperous Niger Delta in which the people of the region maximally benefit from the wealth of their land – through forthright partnership between the Federal Government, State Governments, Private Sector and the Local Government.

In President Buhari’s inauguration Speech, on May 29, 2015, he said, “The Government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place in the Niger Delta. I, therefore, call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the State and federal government in the rehabilitation programmes, which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.”

In the same vein, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on February 10, 2017, said, “We must focus on how to ensure that the people of the Niger Delta see the benefits of the land’s wealth. This new vision will define the future of this region.”

Since then, there has been an increase in the budgetary allocation to the region. In the year 2018 for instance, N71.20 billion Naira was allocated to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC). A total sum of N53.89 billion Naira was again allocated in the 2018 Budget for the Ministry of Niger Delta, up from the N34.20 billion Naira provided in the 2017 budgetary allocation.

As we enter the final phase of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as Nigeria’s President, Palace Watch reached out to His Royal Highness, Mene Dr Suanu Timothy Yormaadam Baridam JP, Ambassador. P. Gbenemene and Kasimene Bangha VII, to review the performance of this administration in the lives of the people and the region. King Suanu gives an insight as to why there is relative peace in the Niger Delta Region so far.

King Suanu: Well, as an Ogoni man and a Traditional Ruler from one of the Ogoni Kingdoms, let me begin with the issue of the Ogoni cleanup, which has been on the front burner of all the issues about the Niger Delta Region for some years now. Although a certain percentage of work has begun in this area of cleanup of our places, it is, however, not going on, at the pace we expected it to be.

When the new Minister for Environment, Mohammed Hassan Abdullahi, assumed office as Minister, he said “I do not envisage the completion of the entire Ogoni Cleanup project during the lifetime of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. The Minister gave this clarification while addressing State House Correspondents after his first meeting with President Buhari in Abuja.

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The Minister further elaborated, that the Ogoni cleanup project was cut into phases, out of which ten formerly polluted sites have been cleaned up, adding that there had been concerns about some aspects of the project. The concern the Minister raised during his briefing is yet to be addressed. The Minister again went further to say that the Federal Government had made moves at rallying all stakeholders so that the work could move faster. Thus, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari had instructed his Ministry to ensure that adequate attention is paid to delivering on the Ogoni project. As a traditional ruler, I am however speaking the minds of so many people in Ogoni land. We doubt very much whether this project will be delivered before the expiration of President Buhari’s administration.

“I had the opportunity to present to Mr President, in accordance with the key priorities of my Ministry, certain key projects that are undergoing some sort of review and seeking direction from Mr President. Firstly, you are all aware of the hydrocarbon pollution remediation project, which is called the Ogoni cleanup. It’s a major priority of this government and particularly, based on the undertaking and the promises made by Mr President, to deliver a very clear ecosystem for the Ogoni people.” If you must know the truth, our ecosystem is still messed up.”

The summary is that there are still a lot of polluted places in Ogoni land that have not been cleaned up. As far as we are concerned, seven years is enough time for these jobs to have been completed. Considering the fact that the livelihood of the majority of Ogoni people which is farming and fishing is dependent on the cleanup exercise.

In some areas of Ogoni land, some youths who are supposed to be in their farms and engaged in their daily fishing activities can’t do so because of the pollution, that’s why we are pushing for this project to be completed before President Buhari completes his tenure.

Suanu continued, “There have been many attempts and many plans made in the past to improve the lives of the people of the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria. Sadly, each ended with very little to show for the time and resources spent. Therefore, it is understandable that the people of the Niger Delta Region are quite disillusioned with plans at this time. The disenchantment of the people notwithstanding, it must be stated that the Niger Delta Master Plan is different in its goals, focus, and approach, and will not suffer, the fate of the others before it. This Master Plan is basically conceived as a tool that the millions of people of the region can use to actualize their common vision and build their future to the standard they desire.”

Another area, I must quickly comment on, is that the entire Ogoni land as we speak is not connected to the national electricity grid. We are asking that this be done, so that we can also have a regular electricity supply that will enhance the capability of our youths, to venture into little enterprises that will boost our local economy. Finally, let me seize this opportunity to appeal to all Nigerians to go out and register and vote, in the forthcoming elections, as this is the only way we can effectively take control of our country and make sure things work well as expected.”

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