Vice President Yemi Osibanjo has lauded the plan to dredge the Oguta/Orashi river as an economic transformation project, describing the effort as a game changer for the government of Governor Hope Uzodimma and the people of Imo State.
He spoke on Thursday at Oguta at a ceremony to flag-off the hydro-graphic survey and dredging of Oguta Lake and Orashi River to Degema in Rivers State up to the Atlantic Ocean.
He noted that “the Federal Government will support the Imo State Government to bring the dredging of Oguta Lake and Orashi River Development Project to fruition” and urged all to join hands to achieve the project.
The Vice President expressed delight to be part of the ceremony and informed that the project was initiated and approved by President Muhammadu Buhari as a result of several demands made on him by Governor Uzodimma.
He said, “the project is to revive the economic channels and enhance coastal connectivity and ensure security on the stretch of the two rivers opening up to the Atlantic Ocean,” adding that “the project when realised will offer economic opportunities to the host communities, Imo State and Nigeria in general.”
Furthermore, he reminded the audience that the President has approved a Free Trade Zone that will leverage the large gas carbon deposit in the area.
Osinbajo commended the foresight and political pragmatism of Governor Uzodimma and reiterated that “the project will not have been possible without Mr. President’s approval and Governor Uzodimma’s foresight,” hence he described the project as a game changer for the governor.
He said the project is a “unique one that comes with its economic transformation opening Imo State as a gateway to other West African countries.”
In his speech, Governor Uzodimma expressed gratitude to President Buhari whom he said “God used to make the day possible.”
He thanked Mr. President for “the approval to dredge the two rivers, for approval to locate the Naval Base in Imo State, for approval to uplift Federal Medical Centre Owerri to Federal University Teaching Hospital Owerri, for approval to make Alvan Ikoku College of Education a Federal University College of Education and for approval to establish Oil Reclamation Programme in Imo State.”
Most importantly, he expressed gratitude to President Buhari “for his support to recover Imo from bandits and hoodlums that terrorised the state.”
Governor Uzodimma was also full of appreciation to the Vice President, the Chief of Defense Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and other invited guests for being physically present saying that “the project is for trade and investment, economic transformation and fight against crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.”
The Governor who was excited over the flag-off noted that “the project will be achieved not with magic but by the miracle of Public Private Partnership (PPP).”
His words: “The dredging and opening of the two Rivers to the Atlantic will remove Imo State from being land-locked as it is encapsulated in security and economic development.”
He pointed out that the hydro-graphic survey and dredging is to determine the mapping and debt of the entire distance from Oguta Lake to the Atlantic.
“The success of the project will bring unquantifiable employment for Imo State, the South East and Nigeria at large, this will be followed by the establishment of an Industrial cluster leveraging on the gas deposits and other natural resources in the area.
“In addition, the project will bring about cultural ties between the South East and the South South when the security is strengthened and movement becomes seamless,” the Governor explained.
He once more thanked the President, the Vice President, the Service Chiefs, the Ministers of Trade and Industry and Transport for supporting the initiative and reassured that his government will rely on the efficacy of PPP to realise the project.
In his goodwill message, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor commended the dexterity of the Governor in pursuing the project, acknowledging that “the overall objective of the project is creating an economic and security environment along the river and the communities on the coast.”
He thanked President Buhari for giving the approval and promised that “the Army will leverage on the approval to support the realisation of the project.”
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awal Gambo described the project as a medium for transportation of goods and services, for curbing criminal activities and reducing oil theft in the area.
He recalled that by 1991 a Naval Base had been proposed for Imo State but that operations could only start “during the government of Governor Uzodimma in 2021.”
He said the presence of his officers and men in the area has reduced oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism by 65 per cent, noting that “the project could not have come at a better time than now.”
He assured of the support of the Nigerian Navy and commended the Governor for partnering with them, saying that “the Navy is poised to provide the needed security.”
He enjoined the community to take ownership of the project for their overall benefit.
In their different goodwill messages the former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Emeka Nduka and the President General Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, all commended the efforts of Governor Uzodimma as a great thinker and appealed to Ndi Imo to give him maximum support to realise the project and more.
They also thanked President Buhari for supporting the Governor and approving his demands aimed at making Imo State better.
The Speaker, on behalf of the Imo State House of Assembly, pledged their continued support and promised to work to bring the Governor back for a second tenure to continue with the good work he has started in Imo State.
Iwuanyanwu, while thanking Mr. President and Vice President and the Federal Executive Council for helping the Governor succeed, used the opportunity to request from President Buhari the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu before May 29.
The Traditional Institutions, represented by the Oni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Obi of Onitsha, HRM Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, the Eze Imo, HRM EC Okeke, HRM, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, HRH Eze Oliver Ohanwe and a host of other monarchs, commended the Governor for a job well done with the project, noting that when realised the cultural affinity between Oguta and Onitsha and their neighbours will be revived.
The Minister of Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo said he is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project and wished the Governor well in his plans to achieve its realisation.
The Chairman Governing Council Imo State University and a son of Oguta, Ernest Nwapa said that the project is a reenactment of something that was conceived some 100 years ago and thanked the Governor for resurrecting it.
While saying that he strongly believes it will be realised, Nwapa called on his people to support the Governor to recover Oguta and get ready to benefit from the project.
He also thanked Mr. President for his approval and support to the Governor.
The ceremony was witnessed by the high and mighty from across the country, including but not limited to captains of industries, academics, top government officials, traditional rulers, the religious and more.
The highpoint of the event was the formal cutting of the tape by Osinbajo supported by the Governor, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Ministers, and other high ranking invited guests who were also rapped by Capt. AY. Mohammed of the Hydro-graphic Office on the different maps connecting the Oguta Lake to other waterways in and out of Nigeria.