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I NEVER CANCELLED NIGER RIVER DREDGING – JONATHAN

By LUCKY NWANKWERE, Abuja



Goodluck

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday he had neither cancelled the N36 billion River Niger dredging project flagged off by President Umaru Yar'Adua last September nor diverted money meant for it to another project.

He said the allegation being peddled around to that effect was totally false and calculated to tarnish his image, pointing out that he was not only committed to the completion of the project, but was also determined to deliver it as one of the priority projects of his administration.

His senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro in a statement in Abuja yesterday urged the public to ignore the allegation that the acting president diverted the sum of N19 billion from the River Niger dredging project into shore protection and land reclamation projects in the Niger Delta region, describing those behind the rumour as desperate persons who were determined to tamper with the peace and unity of the country.

He said there was no relationship whatsoever between the River Niger dredging project and the proposed shore protection and land reclamation projects proposed for the Niger Delta States, which approval was given last week. The shore protection and land reclamation projects, according to him, were part of the post amnesty projects planned for the region, and were to be funded from a 'ring fenced' fund dedicated to the Niger Delta amnesty programme.

He further explained that the sum of N5.5 billion, part of the dedicated amnesty fund under the 2009 supplementary appropriation, was set aside by the Ministry of Transportation for improvement of waterways and related issues in the Niger Delta.

'The ministry therefore proposed to dredge a channel through the River Nun, taking off from Onya in Delta through Odoni, Kalama, Tombia, Yenagoa, Okodogu, Okokiri, Nembe ( with a spur to Brass), Apiama, Ndukiri, Sand Village, Ekulama, Idama, Tombiabok(with a spur to Degema), Bobake, Ndorokiri, Obekiri, Yekiri, Okungba up to Port Harcourt,' he stated, adding that the total cost of this project was estimated at N19 billion.

Niboro, however, said the decision to that effect had to be reviewed when it was discovered that there were more pressing projects in the Niger Delta states as indicated by the Niger Delta governors.

Acting President Jonathan, he said, directed the governors of the Niger Delta states to consult with the people on the priority areas, which they gave as shore protection and land reclamation, since many of the riverine communities were steadily being washed away by erosion.

'There was also complete agreement that the Federal Government moves quickly to consolidate the gains of the amnesty, and be seen to be delivering on its commitments to the people of the area.

'Following the presentation of the governors, a unanimous decision was taken to embark on a vigorous effort to protect the shores of vulnerable communities, and reclaim lands that have been washed away.

'The acting president subsequently directed the finance minister to begin a virement process to move the N5.5 billion provided in the supplementary appropriation for this project, under the amnesty initiative, to the Niger Delta ministry.