The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN has advocated peace, especially in the Niger Delta in order to secure gas for generation of additional 3,000Mega Watts (MW) .
According to him, “that will give comfort to small businesses, villages, communities, welders, when we have the extra 3,000MW. Then it is in that atmosphere of peace that we can then solve the problems of our brothers. Everybody wins when there is peace and nobody wins when there is conflict.”
Fashola, who spoke while touring on-going Federal road projects across the five South-South States of the country, said in spite of political and ideological differences, the most important objective of the nation was to develop Nigeria for the benefit of all Nigerians.
His Special Adviser on Communication, Hakeem Bello disclosed this in a statement Tuesday.
The minister, said the statement, noted that in all the States he paid courtesy calls on the Governors after inspecting the projects, the Minister reiterated the importance of peace as a vehicle of development through investments by both local and foreign investors pointing out that no investor would want to commit his capital in an insecure and conflict prone environment.
Speaking against the backdrop of constant sabotage of gas pipelines in the Niger Delta region which had a negative impact on Gas supply to power plants in the country, Fashola told his hosts, “We need to find peace here very quickly and the story must change and this is not a place the story suggests you can’t work”, adding that the main reason for his visit was to come and see first-hand whether what was being said about the region was true.
The Minister, who acknowledged that the grievances of those who sabotage the pipelines was equally important added, “You will see that in the last few days, the Acting President has been particularly busy in this area trying to reach out to communities to see what methods and efforts would bring peace; because that is really when we will begin to talk of the economy and prosperity, when we have peace”.
“So as I continue to say, our brothers who are angry in this Nigerian family must understand that damaging the household is not the best way to express their anger. That does not make their grievances unimportant; but destroying the house and bringing down the roof does not solve their anger. So there must be a meeting of minds somewhere”, the Minister said.
According to him, “Let us produce fuel, let us earn money; we fought for OPEC to cut production so that the price can go up so why are we now breaking the pipelines? It means that we can’t produce and benefit from what we fought for. The price of oil has gone up from over $40 to over $50. We made all the efforts through OPEC and now we can’t benefit from it, it doesn’t make sense”.
The Minister, who pointed out that peace would mean that teachers and workers could be paid, while gas production would be enhanced to support more power production, declared, “That will give comfort to small businesses, villages, communities, welders, when we have the extra 3,000MW. Then it is in that atmosphere of peace that we can then solve the problems of our brothers. Everybody wins when there is peace and nobody wins when there is conflict”.
Fashola, who said more ambassadors were needed who would be proud and feel safe to work in the region, said that would encourage investments in infrastructure which, according to him is desperately needed in the region adding, “But we can only do that by collaboration, by peace and partnership.”
The Minister, therefore, advocated a better synergy between the Federal and State governments in the development of the country pointing out that the Federal Controllers of Work in the various states were sent as ambassadors of the Federal Government for the establishment of partnership between the two levels of government.
At the Government House Yenagoa where he paid a courtesy call on the Governor of Bayelsa State, for example, Fashola reiterated his message to all the other Governors he had visited during the tour of the region, “I will urge you to accord the Federal Controller of Works here the same if not better treatment which we accord the foreign people that come here. They are our Ambassadors for partnership and collaboration with you and not to compete with you”.
According to the Minister, “We can only address the infrastructure work that needs to be done here by peace and partnership”, adding that not only did the Governor and himself have their jobs cut out for them but the governors in the South-South “must step up now and change the conversation” around the region.
At an interview after inspecting the road projects in the State including the construction of the Yenagoa-Okaki –Kolo Road, the Minister, who acknowledged the challenges of infrastructure in the region due to its topography, however, said the importance of the region to the Federal Government was such that it must get all the attention it deserved.
He reiterated that paucity of fund was not the major challenge to completion of road projects, especially in the Niger Delta region adding that it took the commitment of the Buhari administration, which he said increased capital budget from 15 per cent in the 2015 and previously to 30 per cent in 2016, to remobilize contractors back to sites they abandoned for more than two years due to non-payment of contract fees.
According to the Minister, “As at the time when we had money, when a barrel of oil sold for $100 per barrel, we did not take the issue of roads seriously because the capital budget then used to be 15 per cent. It is the Buhari administration which is increasing capital budget to 30 per cent which means that this government is taking the issue of roads more seriously and that is why we are here.”
The Minister commended the members of National Assembly for their supportive role in approving budgetary provisions for the Ministry and especially for their cooperation towards the proposed new bulk budgeting system for infrastructure development which would help ensure that Contractors no longer abandon project sites simply because their names were not in the budget for a particular year.
Fashola also thanked the lawmakers especially those representing the people of the Niger Delta states, for their contribution and support to the on-going infrastructure development across the country and Niger Delta saying their cooperation had enabled the government to forge ahead with the remobilization of contractors to previously abandoned road contracts including the Yenagoa-Okaki –Kolo Road.