Town Hall Meeting: Gov Emmanuel, Onofiok Luke, Chief Ndueso Make Cases For N/Delta Dev
By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, the Honourable Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon (Barr) Onofiok Luke; and Elder Statesman, Chief Ndueso Essien, have explained to the Federal Government that the oil-rich Niger Delta region needs to be developed particularly the state.
Governor Emmanuel, in his speech during the Town Hall meeting with the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday at the Akwa Ibom State Government House Banquet Hall, Uyo, emphatically stated that “Today, as a state, we are already taking a step forward to find alternatives to crude oil. We have discovered globally that there is something that generates more revenue than crude oil.
“We are setting up a plantation of at least 2 million seedlings of coconut. We want to extract coconut oil. When the Minister of Agriculture heard about this, he jumped up and said if Akwa Ibom was actually doing that, he would make sure the federal government partners with us to set up the refinery.”
The Governor further explained that “Coconut yields for over 99 years and we are not sure if we will still have crude oil in the next 99 years. If the federal government supports us to have a coconut refinery which will also refine palm kernel oil, that will change a whole lot. A litre of coconut oil goes for 6 Dollars and I don’t think a litre of crude oil is anything near that.”
On the issue issue of federal appointments which, according to Governor Emmanuel, started when we were making appointments in the federal universities, he said: “In most cases, when NUC is appointing VCs into universities, they look at that locality and pick a professor that is qualified to be the VC of that university. If we are the highest producer of crude oil, how come we have never produced the MD of NNPC?
“I want to assure you that we have intelligent people that can fill up these vacancies. It is a political appointment, but look into it based on qualification. We are eager to also occupy some of those positions based on our strategic economic importance.
“Domestic airlines in Nigeria are having challenges because there is no standard maintenance facility anywhere in West Africa. We have started a maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) facility which could have catered for maintenance of some of the planes, but today, most of the aircrafts we have in Nigeria had been abandoned because the MRO that was supposed to serve as this maintenance have not been fully completed.
“The Akwa Ibom State Government has taken a giant step on this. We need to partner the Federal Government to see this done. Even if the Federal Government wants to give us as a loan, we would accept it so that we can complete the MRO and put it to use. We will pay back the loan from the revenue that will be generated out of that MRO.
“If you go to the domestic terminal in Lagos, you will the number of airplanes that are parked without facilities, meanwhile, we have a facility that is over 70 per cent completed. Which one is cheaper for the Federal Government?” Governor Emmanuel explained.
Also, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (AKHA), Hon. Onofiok Luke, in his speech, mentioned to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo that the youths in the Niger Delta region need training in digital technology, nothing that “We are now in a digital age, and that since Akwa Ibom has keyed into full digitalization, there was need for the federal government to partner the state in developing human capacity in this area.
“We plead with the Federal Government to partner the state government in training our youths in digital technology to make them, among others, qualified with requisite skills for jobs in the International Oil Companies instead of importing foreigners with the skills.”
On his own part, the Elder Statesman, Chief Ndueso Essien, pointed out that “The oil producing communities of Akwa Ibom state have demanded that oil companies operating in the state should move their headquarters to the oil communities of the state.
“They are also demanding that over N30 billion spent on the construction of the Eket-Ibeno road by the federal government be refunded to the state for application in the development of the communities.
Chief Essien maintained that since 1979, the oil companies have kept deceiving the oil communities with series of excuses which were no longer tenable, adding that with the airport, roads, communication services, housing accommodation, the companies should relocate their headquarters to their operational base immediately.
Other demands by the oil communities include allocation of oil blocks to some indigenous companies, commencement of the proposed Calabar-Lagos railway line project and the upgrade of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron to a degree awarding institution, as well as the completion of the East-West road project in line with the stipulated specifications.