The federal government has with militant groups in the Niger Delta region, especially the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, to be patient as efforts are made to meet their demands.
Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani made the appeal while speaking with State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday.
He observed that the issues brought up by agitators are germane to the development of the region, adding that the president has directed action towards resolving them.
He said: “The government of which I am part, my role as minister in charge of the region, we have been appealing with them to just be patient with us because, most of the time, the issues that are brought up are those that tend to portray the quest for development of the region.
“And that is all we have been doing, to say, a patient with us. These issues raised genuinely to the benefits of people of the region are being attended to.
“For instance, the Okerekenko University. You are aware that the Vice President has directed that that University must take off. And he also directed that a minimum of N5billion be budgeted for the take off the University.
“So, it’s a matter of patience knowing that some of these things have a procedure. So, it will not be because it did not happen the way they wanted so it will not happen. Everything has a phase of planning and a phase of execution.”
The minister said that it is not true that government has failed to fulfil its promises to the area citing the case of University as an example.
He said the other demand is about the communities becoming part of the surveillance of oil infrastructure in the region as well as the implementation of modular refineries, all of which he said are being attended to.
According to him, “they are also on because the process of building a refinery or even getting the necessary procedures to establish such is not just a one day business.
“Advertisements have been made, people have indicated interest and of course, to get it sustainable, the government is having the state governments involved but privately driven so that all concerned will be on a common page to be able to be sure that whenever it takes off, there is no frustration or sabotage.”
He said the government is prepared to meet with any group which shows a willingness to discuss with the administration.
He stated: “For us as a government, there hasn’t been any group from the region that intended to meet with any arm of government that has been rebuffed.
“So, if any people make such overtures, we happy to receive them. We have been receiving different groups. We are not limiting our dialogue or discussions to any particular group.”
Usani said however that the issue of the Niger Delta Avengers did not feature in his meeting with President Buhari on Monday.
He added: “Well, we haven’t discussed the Avengers per se. But it is of the essence as the President has always shown an indication that whatever we need to and can do to sustain peace in the region, we would continue to do it.
“And of course, the benefit of that, you are aware that the Vice President has been chairing the committee that handles the issues they are raising.
“And so, while that goes on operationally, headed by the Vice President’s position in the committee, the President just needs to be briefed on our efforts though we know that the Vice President is briefing him from time to time.
“But per se, the Avengers issues were not discussed. On a general note, it is understood that we have to be engaged to be able to sustain the peace that prevailed for a while.”
On the general situation in the Niger Delta region, Usani expressed delight that all stakeholders are listening to themselves.
“Well, we glad so far that all parties have listened to one another. Government, Avengers, Elders and so on. We would wish that this continues so, we would advise all of us to remain so calm and see the things that we agitated for coming little by little,” he declared.