Nigeria: Again, Yar’Adua Offers Olive Branch to Militants

Abuja — President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has urged militants in the Niger Delta to embrace his amnesty offer and join hands with the government to develop the region for the benefit of its people.

He also reiterated his administration’s commitment to electoral reform as an essential means of strengthening democracy but warned that there was need to complement the proposed institutional reform with an attitudinal one as “systems alone will not give us free and fair elections. All of us, especially the political elite, must be ready to play by the rules”.

Yar’Adua, in his speech early this morning to commemorate a decade of democracy in Nigeria, said his government had continued to work for peace and security in the Niger Delta “that are essential for the successful implementation of our agenda for the resolution of the developmental problems of the region”.

The Niger Delta has come under heavy military bombardment in the last two weeks following the seizure of a dozen soldiers by the militants.

The reported sacking of villages and the humanitarian crisis have received local and international attention, with many groups calling on the military to halt its operation in the region.

Yar’Adua said in pursuit of the strategic approach to the development of Niger Delta as encapsulated in the Seven-Point agenda, “we have created a Federal Ministry for the Niger Delta with the specific mandate of attending to the infrastructural needs and the challenge of youth unemployment in the area. We also have retained the Niger Delta Development Commission as a Federal Government intervention agency and ensured that its statutory allocations are paid in full.”

He said knowing that these efforts and other developmental efforts would be ineffectual if there was no peace in the region, the government was taking necessary steps to ensure greater security in the area.

“Our offer of amnesty to militants in the region who lay down their arms remains on the table. I urge them to avail themselves of this offer and join hands with us and their peaceful and law-abiding compatriots to develop the Niger Delta for the benefit of its people,” he said.

Appraising 10 years of Nigeria in Nigeria, the President said the conduct of three successive general elections and peaceful transfer of power from one civilian administration “is a clear testimony of Nigerians’ preference for democratic governance and an abiding faith in its transformative power”.

He said today’s commemoration of ten years of uninterrupted democratic rule and the second anniversary of his administration “is an occasion to reflect on the steady progress the nation has made over the past decade and the challenges that still lie ahead”.

He also spoke on the power situation.

“We recognised from the onset of our tenure that stable power supply was critical for both individual actualization and collective growth. We set a target of generating 6000 megawatts of electricity by December this year as an initial measure for ensuring relatively stable power supply across the country. I am pleased to report that we have taken concrete steps towards meeting this target and achieving 10,000MW by early 2011.

“The targets will be met by building on the latent power generation capacities that are now being restored through our aggressive plant rehabilitation programme. We have also provided $1.5 billion for investment in gas network infrastructure which will, among other things, ensure the adequate supply of gas to our thermal stations.
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“We recently awarded contracts for the rehabilitation and construction of 34 Federal Highways in the six geo-political zones of the country at the cost of about N140 billion. Also, we have completed 13 of the major highway works inherited from the previous administration which cuts across four geo-political zones and span over 1,000 kilometres,” he said.

He said his administration remained “strongly committed” to electoral reform as an essential means of strengthening democracy “and I cannot but commend members of the National Assembly for the seriousness with which they are treating the seven Bills I submitted to them on the issue”.

He concluded: “My dear countrymen, as we march purposely into the next decade of our democracy, we need to keep the faith in our institutions, in ourselves and in our country. With true dedication, commitment and perseverance, we can certainly overcome all present difficulties and achieve our vision of a strong, united and prosperous nation.”

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