There was excitement in the air as Chiefs, Elders and Youths of Ogoni land trooped out enmasse at the Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), Yard, Eleme, Rivers State to welcome the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio who embarked on project inspection over the weekend.
The Minister who was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Babayo Addo and the Executive Director of Finance and Administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Mr Akwa Effiong inspected Sections 3 and 4 of the East West road.
Speaking on behalf of the Communities along the East West road, representative of the traditional rulers, Chief B.P. Festus and the Leader of Ogoni Youths Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yamaabana, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his renewed commitment towards the completion of the East West road and pledged total support and the cooperation of the people in ensuring the timely completion of the project.
Conducting the Minister round the Okuru bridge in Alito, along the East West road, the Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Barrister Philip Okparaji lamented the state of the bridge which he said was constructed in 1956 but was in serious state of dilapidation.
He said the road and bridge which leads to Akwa Ibom and Cross River State and eight Local Government Areas of Rivers State needed urgent attention and appealed to the Federal Government to expedite action on the road and bridges which were the gateways to multinational oil and gas companies in the Niger Delta.
In his response, Senator Akpabio said President Buhari has shown the political will in completing the East West road which was started by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He commended the President for the release of funds for the project and hinted that the Contractors have already been mobilized to the sites. He said because of the importance of the East West road to the economy of the country, the Ministry will work with other agencies to source for funds to complete the project by the end of 2021. Adding that he has directed NDDC to make provision in the budget for the completion of East-West road.
The Chairman of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) South-South Zone, Dr Joseph Obele commended President Buhari for the reform in the oil sector most especially the removal of oil subsidy and deregulation of the Petroleum sector.
“The subsidy was a racket to a cabal and the President has taken a bold step by removing the subsidy. We want to appeal to our brothers in the labour unions to shelve the proposed strike action and engage in dialogue and negotiations,” he said.
He gave kudos to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Akpabio for his zeal in getting the East West road completed. He said Section III of the East West road which construction started six years ago, would have been commissioned before now, but for lack of commitment the project suffered a lot of set back until Senator Akpabio was appointed the Minister and the project transferred to the Ministry.
Dr Obele appealed to the Minister to look into the payment of compensation for property owners affected by the expansion of the road.
Earlier Senator Akpabio and his entourage were similarly received at Ikot Usekong, Eket Local Government Area Section of the East West road where the Community defied the rain to welcome the Inspection team.