Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the current Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, has said the party- led administration is not running away from the issue of power devolution as is being misconstrued by the opposition.
He explained that beyond the issue of restructuring the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration feels it is important to first address the looming social crisis caused by huge salaries which has left most of the state governments almost prostrate.
Okechukwu said the government felt that the first point is to restructure the substructure and to address the crisis of unemployment and unpaid workers salaries.
â€œWhen Muhammadu Buhari came, he looked into the treasury of the Nigerian federation and a beggarly sum was left to the extent that some states government of the country were owing salaries and pension arrears for 18 months, some 12 months and some six months.
â€œBetween his two years plus President Buhari has spent about a trillion naira in bailout funds to help reduce the suffering of the Nigerian people,â€ he said.
While defending non-prioritisation of the restructuring agenda by the present government, the VON DG
said that as far as he is aware the party considers the welfare of Nigerians as a more important thing to deal with.
â€œWhen you asked President Buhari why is he not using direct links on projects, he said for those that are not paid salaries, it means that their children are hungry and that the civil servant who is being owed is also owing the provision store person, owing the barber, the tailor, owing the seamstress.
â€œSo for him it was a passionate approach and when he started going round the country, people started criticising him but what was the outcome of his tour round the world? He came home with a basket of loans that was given principally because of integrity quotient.
Okechukwu also responded to the conditions given by the elder statesman from the Niger Delta, Chief Edwin Clark, to the federal government on behalf of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), saying the group has joined those who are out to use the restructure as a propaganda tool.
Clark had recently asked the federal government to as a matter of urgency, constitute a negotiation team to engage in talks with the regionâ€™s stakeholders before August 1.
The Ijaw national leader warned that youths of the region were becoming impatient over delay in the talks and would return to hostility after the date.
However, the VON DG advised Clark to ask Niger Delta Senators what was holding the signing of the loan to start up projects in the region as promised by the Federal Government.
â€œThese loans contains $500 million dollars to complete the road of the Niger Delta a road that passes the centre of the Niger Delta which Ike Clark and Co. never remembered to fix rather the record of the East West road is that of squandamania and the basket of the loan is about $11 million for a coastal rail line that goes from Lagos to Port Harcourt which will change the life of the same Niger Delta that Ike Clark never remembered.
â€œWe were given a four year tenure to start with, and if it suits the Nigerian people they will re-elect the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari again or any other candidate in the APC.
â€œI was not very impressed with Chief Clark, a man I have respect for because he is sounding as if everybody is opposed to devolution of power.
Okechukwu noted that Clark during the PDP administration had the opportunity to better the lots of the people of Niger Delta but never did.