OrderPaperToday – Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabimila, has said the time has come to end blame game and finger-pointing on the crisis in the Niger Delta and embark on honest conversations towards bringing sustained development to the region.

Gbjabimaila stated this on Thursday during the Post Covid-19 Petroleum Agenda for Nigeria (PoCoPAN) webinar organized by OrderPaper Nigeria in collaboration with the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta and the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC).

According to him, “we need to move past recrimination towards designing a new vision for the development of Niger Delta,” adding that “shortly, the House will commence action on far-reaching reforms for the oil and gas industry through the petroleum industry bill. Already, we are in the process of evaluating the performance of the Niger Delta Development Commission and other programs and projects of the federal government in the Niger Delta. If done correctly, with the legislative intervention hold substantial positive change for the region.”

The Speaker in a recorded message shared at the conference acknowledged that the Niger Delta region has suffered neglect despite the enormous contribution to Nigeria, he however called for an actionable plan instead of blame sharing and finger-pointing.

He stressed that reforms without contributions from the stakeholders will “inevitably fail” adding:

“The Niger Delta of Nigeria has contributed a great deal to our country and continue to do so over time. Yet the conditions of the Niger Delta do not reflect the significant contributions in human and material resources. All of us as leaders and citizens alike are obliged to resolve this political and moral failing by any means available to us.

“But we cannot achieve the changes we desire in the Niger Delta until we are ready to have honest conversations about the reason why things are the way they are. So long as the discussion about development and lack thereof are exercises in finger-pointing and blame-shifting, nothing of substance will be done to improve the circumstances of our brethren in that region.

“That is not to say there isn’t enough blame to go round, the failure of policy and polity, that have caused the economic social and environmental devastation we have seen in the region.”

While commending OrderPaper Nigeria for the PoCoPAN initiative, Gajabiamila stated that the House of Representatives will be interested in recommendations from the online conference.

He said: “I am aware that this conference is supposed to build on the Post Covid-19 Petroleum Agenda for Nigeria designed and implemented by OrderPaper Nigeria. I salute the Committee on Niger Delta Affairs and all the partners who have committed to work together to achieve a new Niger Delta. I implore you to do so within the shortest possible time.

The Speaker, therefore, urged the stakeholders to be ready to work with the House in the reform exercise soon to begin.

The webinar focused on the concerns and expectations of host communities in the context of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and had Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta; Mr. Ken Henshaw of We The People; and Dr. Timiebi Koripamo Agary, former federal Permanent Secretary, as speakers.

The well-attended webinar also had Dr. Ferdinand Ikwang, Chief Ken Robinson, Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); and Dr. Ukoha Ukiwo, Expert Advisory Panel of the NNRC, as panelists.

Also in attendance at the meeting were current and former members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Awaji Abiante (PDP, Rivers) and Prof Mojeed Alabi; Senior Special Assistant on the Niger Delta (Office of the Vice President), Mr. Edobor Iyamu; and several key stakeholders.

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