President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday reversed himself when he said he would not hesitate to give assent to any amendments to the 1999 Constitution on restructuring.
He spoke when the National Executive of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), led by Prof Benjamin Okaba, visited him at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
President Buhari had earlier vowed that he would never restructure Nigeria.
But reacting to numerous calls for restructuring, the President noted that the National Assembly, whose responsibility it is to amend the constitution, had concluded regional consultations.
“As soon as they finalize the process, necessary action would not be delayed on my part,” he said.
Advocates of restructuring will leave a sigh of relief after yesterday’s comment by the President.
This is unlike what he said at the weekend in a message at the Kudirat Abiola Sabon Gari Peace Foundation in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He said: “Those who are discussing restructuring, my question is, what are you going to restructure?
“If you ask many Nigerians what they are going to restructure, you will find out that they have nothing to talk about.
“Some of them have not even studied the 1999 Constitution. The 1999 Constitution is almost 70 to 80 per cent 1979 Constitution.”
Responding to other requests by the INC, the President said the creation of two additional states and more local government areas for the Ijaw are to be handled by the National Assembly.
He praised the INC leadership for affirming its belief in a united Nigeria.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, quoted the President as saying: “Make sure that we keep working together to keep this country a united, indivisible entity so that we can tackle our problems together and overcome our challenges together.”
On the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project, the President said he had directed the Federal Ministry of Environment to ensure that the remediation efforts in Ogoni are implemented with a high percentage of local content.
The President said the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, under the same ministry, is working to ensure that oil spills are prevented.
On the allocation of operational licenses for marginal fields to the Ijaw people, the President said: “The process of granting licenses is guided by laid down rules and regulations, most of which even favor local content and local contractors.
“I see no reason why they should not be granted such licenses if they qualify.”
On the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the President pledged that the Board would be inaugurated as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted.
“A contentious issue that has been a subject of discourse amongst the Ijaw people of recent has been the need for the NDDC to live up to its billing by delivering the required succor to the people of the region.
“Based on the mismanagement that had previously bedeviled the NDDC, a forensic audit was set up and the result is expected by the end of July 2021.
“I want to assure you that as soon as the forensic audit report is submitted and accepted, the NDDC Board will be inaugurated.
“I would like to implore the Ijaw National Congress to play a more active role in making sure that the mismanagement that occurred in the past is not repeated,” he said.
The President also assured the leadership of INC that the completion of the East-West Road remained top on his infrastructure agenda.
“We have made considerable progress with the construction of the Bonny to Port Harcourt Bridge,” he said.
Prof. Okaba reaffirmed INC’s belief in the “overall and mutual benefits of true federalism and resource control to the prosperity and stability of Nigeria”.
He assured the President that the Ijaws “have no secessionist agenda.”
He urged President Buhari to mandate the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to direct the relocation of the headquarters of all oil companies to their operational bases in the Niger Delta.
“The excuse of insecurity is no longer tenable. It is common knowledge that nowhere in Nigeria is safer than the other.
“The revamping of the major ports at Onne, Warri, Port Harcourt and Bonny will accelerate economic growth, reduce joblessness, youth criminality and contribute to national unity and stability,” he said.