By Ovie Okpare
The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Chief Festus Keyamo, SAN, on Tuesday pleaded with governors and leaders of the South-South not to oppose plans by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to take loans to finance critical infrastructure in the region.
Keyamo said if the federal government is taking loans to develop critical infrastructure in other regions of the country without opposition from leaders of those region, the people of the South-South region support similar gestures in the oil producing region.
The minister stated this on Tuesday while addressing participants at the Federal Government/South-South Stakeholders’ meeting with governors, traditional rulers and other leaders of the oil-rich region in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He was part of the Federal Government delegation led by President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, which also included the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and other ministers from the region.
Addressing the participants, Keyamo noted that he was in full support of the demands of the people of the region calling for true federalism and restructuring of the country.
He disclosed that as part of measures by the President Buhari-led government to open up the development of the region, the Federal Government has approved the construction of coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar in Cross River State.
Keyamo, who hails from Effurun in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State, stated further that the loan for the project was already being processed, and called for the support of the people of the region for the actualisation of the project.
He noted that efforts by the Federal Government to build a deep sea port in Pessu, Warri, was on course, disclosing that the project had been awarded.
According to him, “The Federal Executive Council has approved the Coastal Rail line from Lagos to Calabar. The loan for the coastal Rail line from Lagos to Calabar is actually being processed now. The other Rail line from Bonny to Maiduguri which is the Eastern flank has also been approved.
“That rail line begins from Bonny to Owerri, Makurdi and all the way to Maiduguri and the loans are being processed right now with the Chinese.
“Congratulations to Governor Okowa because the rails incidentally will begin from Warri and it will either go East West or West but it will certainly begin from Warri.
“As for the Ports, Governor Okowa mentioned the issue of the deep sea port and as we speak here, I can show you a message from the MD of RCCI, the contract has been awarded already for the Warri port. It is the deep sea port that they want to establish in Warri.
“For you to have a deep seaport you need at least 14 meters deep of water but the old Warri Port is about 8 meters deep and it will cost about $100million dollars to dredge. So, what we want to do is that we have been mandated to work with traditional rulers like Olu of Warri and others to try and get a location that is at least close to 14 meters deep.
“That is where I will beg my brother the Hon Minister of Petroleum, because the channel to go in is also barricaded by the NNPC pipelines and some of them are obsolete so we are thinking of sinking or relocating the pipes for the ships to come in because the pipes are already under the water.
“In a few days time, myself and the Chinese people will leave for Warri to make some of those investigations. Pessu was actually pencilled down for the port but its 8meters deep and I’m sure Governor Okowa knows about this.
“We are all part of the same region, am Urhobo like most of you here and when they tell you that the Federal Government should not take loan, tell them that they are taking loans to build railways in other parts of the country, so let us take loan to build our own too so don’t oppose it, we should build our own too with the Chinese loan as well.”
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Keyamo, commenting on the Osubi Airport near Warri, revealed that the federal government has taken over the running of the airport from Shoreline, assuring that the airport would be opened for business in the next few weeks.
“My elder brother, Professor G.G. Darah. let me add to your demands because being here today also part of you too making demand from the Federal Government, you didn’t mention the Warri airport which is also very important.
“Shoreline that was managing the Warri Airport couldn’t pay up all its bills to FAAN so the Federal Government had to take over the Warri airport, and some of us pursued it and credit must be given to the Minister of Petroleum and myself because we pursued it all the way.
“A proposal has been written to the Federal Government for the Ministry of Petroleum to take over the Warri Airport and the President has approved that.
“They are working on it now and in the next few weeks the Warri Airport will become functional again”, the minister added.
While stating his support for the demands of the people of the region, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria added, “ So, on a last note, I want to say that most of the demands if not all the demands of Governor Okowa as a child of the region who was born and bred in the region.
“I also support those demands because it is only a bastard who is not born of a father from the Niger Delta that will not support those demands.
“It’s not because we are here today, we will come back home tomorrow and any Niger Delta son that does not support resource control and fiscal federalism is a bastard of the region, so we support it, but I must caution that it must be a collective effort.
“Do not think that it is the fault from this government, it has always been there, our son was President, a southerner was President as a Yoruba man. Luckily for us, the Deputy Senate President is the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee, let us take our demands there, let’s go and fight our case there.
“Nobody should fall for the narrative that it is President Muhammadu Buhari that caused the problem why they have not amended the constitution. Let’s take all our demands there and let us go and fight it there.”