By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Federal Government has said it has not in any way breached any agreement it had with the notorious Niger Delta Avengers (NDA).
Last week, the militant group threatened to resume hostilities in the oil rich region over the failure of government to honour its agreements with them.
But while address Political Editors in Lagos yesterday, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, refuted the claims by the group, saying it is totally not true.
The Minister admitted that the threat was unsettling the Federal Government because of its effect on the nation’s economy; he however appealed for calm from the group.
“We are very worried about it (threat) because if the Avengers should start destroying our oil installations, it is going to bring the country back to its knees.
“And that is why we are appealing to them. We have not breached any agreement with them and we will rather appeal to them to understand that there is more to gain by all sides in engaging than in going back to the trenches.
“Even power has improved in the Niger Delta as well as infrastructure. Contractors can now go and work there.
“We are talking of University of Maritime Technology in the Niger Delta, Second Niger bridge and East- West road. I think what they are fighting for will be achieved much more if there is peace and we will continue our engagements with them because it will not be in the interest of anybody to have crisis,” Mr Mohammed told journalists.
Reacting to a question on how Nigerians doubt statements attributed to him, the Minister, who was the spokesman of the then opposition party now the ruling party, said, “I have two burdens. The first is that I happen to be the face of the opposition and PDP has not forgiven me and they will never forgive me.
“I think they look at the magnitude of what has happened to them and they hold me solely responsible; which is not fair.
“But, I did my beat. Now, becoming the face of government again, it is automatic that whatever comes from Lai Mohammed, we must shoot it down as fake news and a lie. Unfortunately, my father gave me the name Lai also.
“So, it makes it very easy for them. But, what I challenge them every time is, please, give me one thing I said that is not true.
“Emotionally, you may not agree with me, but in terms of facts and figures, I have never said anything which they can dispute. You don’t have to like them, but you can’t deny that they are facts.”
On the 2019 polls, the Minister warned Nigerians never to return the PDP to power.
“As to whether we are afraid of whether we are afraid of the PDP staging a comeback, I can confidently tell you that we are not even contemplating it. It will be a tragedy for Nigeria to fall back into the hands of PDP.
“They dropped us in hell and we are taking people out of hell. How can Nigeria now go back to Egypt? It is not about APC or President Buhari. With the kind of revelation that is coming out, the kind of rot, you want those people to come back and preside over the affairs of Nigeria again? What will happen to the investigations that were carried out if the PDP should win elections again? It will be swept under the carpet.
“This is the first time in the history of this country that we are making real recoveries. Just recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Swiss government to return $321 million that was stolen from the country. This is the first time this country is actually looking at our problems from a realistic and pragmatic viewpoint.
“We are not talking of what we are going to achieve in two years or three years. We are talking about laying a solid foundation for a Nigeria that our children will be able to thrive. Unfortunately, the reform agenda is always longer than the political agenda. In many parts of the world, they plan for 10, 15, 20 years. Nobody plans for four years.
“When you look at our Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), we are talking about 2020, even though we know that there may be a change of administration depending on the outcome of the presidential election. But, you do not think in the short term. Nigerians should never pray for PDP to come back.
“When we negotiated with the Swiss government to return late General Sani Abacha’s loot, they gave us some conditions; one of which is that we must identify what programme we want to use the money for and that the World Bank will supervise what we are using the money for.
“When we argued that we are a sovereign country and that they can’t dictate to us how we are going to spend money that was stolen from our country, which they are returning, they said ‘yes, but when we returned part of it to your country under Goodluck Jonathan, you relooted it,’ and that is true.”
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