Leaders from the South East were on a thank you visit to President Muhammadu Buhari over the construction of the long abandoned Second Niger Bridge.
The delegation led by Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and three governors were on the visit on the platform of South-East Governors’ Forum on Wednesday.
They appealed for the reduction of the completion period of the Second Niger Bridge from 42 months to 24 months.
Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ebonyi, Mr Dave Umahi, said after a closed-door meeting that members of the forum were at the Villa on behalf South-East people to thank the president for the award of the N206 billion contract of the Bridge.
“We came to thank the president on behalf of South-East for the award of the second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger at the sum of N206 billion.
“We understand that N7 billion has been paid as mobilization.
“So, we came to ask the president if there is the possibility of paying up to 50 per cent of the sum and secure the other 50 per cent as bond.”
According to him, this is expected so that we can sleep with our two eyes closed and be assured that the job will not be abandoned.
“We also asked that the construction period be reduced from 42 months to 24 months. We made it clear to Julius Berger that it is achievable.
“We are also asking for economic free trade zone in Eyimba in Abia and he promised to come and commission it; the license has been given.’’
The governor disclosed that the meeting also deliberated on the state of Enugu international airport, saying that the president was urged to ensure the completion of the cargo section of the airport and extension of the runway.
“Of course, we talked about the Geometric Power Plant in Aba and we asked him to assist in resolving whatever the issues are so that power will be deployed to the industrial clusters in Aba and environs.
“We reminded him that the Enugu state government has done quite a lot on the issue of relocating major infrastructure that has been obstructing smooth operations of lives. We requested that he should take over the compensations of the affected lands.
“And of course, the issue of gas distribution should be linked to the five eastern states, to the industrial clusters so as to boost economic activities,’’ he added.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who also spoke to the correspondents after the meeting, said the visit by the leaders was remarkable.
He debunked the impression that the Federal Government was not doing enough for South-East people.
He, therefore, pledged that the zone would continue to be accorded their appropriate place in the scheme of things.
Mustapha reminded the people that their political investment in the re-election of Buhari in 2019 election would determine their fate in 2023.
He said: “we received very high-powered delegation today led by the Deputy President of the Senate and three of their governors and a deputy governor, and the Director-General of Forum of South-East governors.
“I think it is a remarkable visit because they came essentially to thank the president over the major activities that have taken place in the South-East.
“They appreciate the fact that the second Niger Bridge was a paper issue in the last five, six decades.
“They are convinced that the decision to complete the Niger Bridge is real; contract has been awarded by this government for N206 billion.
“It is a mark of appreciation for the leadership that President Muhammadu Buhari is providing for this country.
“The South-East is an integral part of this country; it must be accorded its appropriate place in the scheme of things and we believe strongly that this particular government has extended its hands of friendship to the South East.”
He expressed hope that South-East leaders would continue to cooperate with the government to ensure the development of their people and bringing prosperity, peace and tranquility to the area.
The SGF reiterated that the Buhari administration would continue to do everything possible to ensure speedy development of the zone as well as other parts of the country.
On whether Buhari solicited the votes of the South-East at the meeting, Mustapha said: “this obviously might not be most appropriate time.
“You remember there was a programme in the South-East where the president asked me to represent him and I flew the kite by telling the Southeast states that their quickest and easiest means to presidency is to support Buhari’s second term.
“This means that they can short-circuit the period in terms of only having him there for another four years.
“Whatever they do in 2019 will determine what will happen thereafter because politics is a game of numbers and it is like a cooperative society.
“Whatever you bring as an investment when dividends are going to be shared, you will get proportionate with your investment and your investment in politics is what you bring to the table.
“I urge the Southeast to look at this matter seriously that every time we have a presidency in Nigeria, it is negotiated in several ways.
“It is either negotiated by votes or what you bring to the table and you must negotiate from the position of strength. You can’t negotiate from the point of weakness.”