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President Jonathan Flags-off $16bn Ogidigben EPZ Project

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… Says No Sacrifice Too Much For Peace
SAN FRANCISCO, March 27, (THEWILL)  – President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday stated that no sacrifice was too much to preserve peace in the country.

He stated this at the much-awaited groundbreaking ceremony of the N16 billion Export Processing Zone project in Ogidigben, Delta State.

The President spoke against the backdrop of the controversy which trailed his inability to perform the earlier schedule inauguration of the project last November .

Ethnic warlords, including former militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) and Chief Ayiri Emami, had locked horns over the earlier botched exercise with Ayiri accusing Tompolo of railroading Jonathan from performing the groundbreaking.

Itsekiri people have also threatened to vote down Jonathan during the Presidential election if he continues to delay the take-off of the project before the election .

However, the official foundation stone laying ceremony performed by Jonathan on Thursday in Ogidigben, Warri South-West Local Government Area of the state, may have put to rest the acrimony and bitterness which had trailed the earlier botched exercise.

Jonathan in his address gave a graphic details why the project was delayed, saying his decision to stay away initially was to ensure that the peace in the area was not disrupted.

“I am fully aware of the challenges that initially beset the project because I was to do the ground-breaking in November last year and we heard that there was some kind of tension in this place.

“Having worked very hard to bring peace to this region, I felt that no sacrifice was too much to preserve the peace especially that many of our investors are foreigners, any story of crisis would put them off.

“My first visit as Vice President was in camp five (Tompolo's hideout in the days of militancy) and when we got to Warri, they sent words that they would host me but that I should not come with anybody carrying guns and all the security operatives asked us to go back to Abuja, but I insisted that I must go. It was difficult to convince some of them that it was the right thing.

“I was not insulated from any attacks, and a month before the election, my house was invaded by angry militants that had trailed me and the house was bombed because they thought I was in the house, but I still decided to go.

“We got the amnesty process and we are now having relative peace. So when we sent the signals (postponing the event), people were angry, but it was a sacrifice to make sure that our good intentions were not misconstrued,'' he explained.

He said that the 16 billion dollars Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP), would guarantee over four million jobs, adding that it will create more than 150,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction, observing that it will to a large extent, solve the employment problems in Nigeria with over four million naira when it comes on stream fully.

According to Jonathan, with the project, Nigeria was in the path of industrialisation , saying the project would turn out to be the biggest gas and deep sea port in the country and sub-Saharan Africa.

He said that the project wouldn't only strengthen the nation's economy but would boot foreign investment and set Nigeria on the global map as gas industrialised nation.

“Like in most parts of the world, the challenge of unemployment remains a prime focus of this administration. Only like this should we make progress.

This initiative will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and many more in construction. It's my intention to make this industrial park a desirable location for investors'', he added.

Jonathan however assured international investors that the project would be completed on schedule and therefore announced the constitution of a Steering Committee for the project headed by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke.

This, he explained, would ensure that the Federal Government and not just the President is briefed regularly on the progress of work at the project site, adding that the government was determined to deliver the project on schedule.

“This project will meet world standards and would be accorded proper attention. I am setting up a central steering committee to be headed by the Minister of Petroleum and this committee would report to the Federal Executive Council regularly every week.

“In the last few years, we have grown our economy in an interesting rate, making our economy the fastest growing economy in Africa. The Gas City project, Ogidigben and the Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu will reposition Nigeria as the regional hub for gas-based industries. With our abundant natural resources, Nigeria should be among the most industrialised nations in the world.

“This is a project which will diversify our economy, the Federal Government will benefit from revenue, Delta State government will benefit from revenue, host communities will get jobs and there are benefits for everybody, this project will be private-sector driven with assistance for its take-off from the Federal Government,” he said.

He however expressed gratitude to the Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse II who were personally present at the ceremony and the Gbaramatu Kingdom's Regent as well as the various host communities for their efforts towards actualising the project and for providing the enabling environment to perform the ground breaking ceremony.

While speaking, an elated Governor Uduaghan thanked God Almighty for the ground-breaking ceremony , saying with the project, he can leave office as a fulfilled man.

He stated that the benefits of having the project in Delta State are enormous both to the present and future generations.

“At last we are here today, the President is here live to do the ground-breaking ceremony of the biggest gas city project in the world and the deep sea port; this project is not about clearing of grass, it is not about sand-filling but a project which will be beneficial not only to those who are alive now but those yet to be born.

“There is no doubt that our people are appreciative of what is being done here today, we pledge to protect this project because, we are the primary beneficiaries,” Uduaghan said.