By Ononye VC
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has finally broken his silence on the ongoing agitations in the South-East region of the country by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Ngige, who spoke at an emergency stakeholders meeting of the Association of Eze Ndigbo in the 19 Northern States and Abuja during the weekend, blamed propaganda made by some unnamed elite on several attacks on the five states in the region.
Daily Trust reports that the South-East region had been under attacks by gunmen suspected to be members of IPOB where a lot of lives have been lost and public property were vandalised.
Speaking on the development at the meeting, which was convened to address the wanton killings and destruction, the minister wondered why such things could be happening if not the propaganda orchestrated by the elite.
He maintained that President Buhari had shown friendship to Ndigbo for six years, adding that the South-East had gotten a fair share of what is due to the zone, especially infrastructure wise.
“There is no maltreatment there. We are in the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is composed of a minister per state.
“But we have one extra ministerial slot. So, the South East is effectively represented to ensure justice is done to our people.
“We are there to talk when there is no justice,” he said.
Ngige, who berated those criticising President Buhari that his appointments were lopsided, stated that the people should stop talking about it because they don’t know how government works, saying Igbos had enjoyed key positions in the past.
According to him, “People can say that we are not honoured with appointments of Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Army Staff and Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF). These are positions we have enjoyed before in the Nigerian Federation.
”We had two Inspectors-General of Police (IGPs), Ogbonnaya Onovo and Mike Okiro. We had an SGF, Senator Pius Anyim. We had four Senate Presidents. Twice we produced Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker, Ike Ekweremadu and Emeka Ihedioha respectively.
“They were in charge of federal budgets for eight years from 2007 to 2015. That is the rule in the National Assembly.
“So, if you now talk about appointments, it becomes a matter of perception. I won’t blame them. Perception and reality are in the same line.
“A lot of them don’t understand how government works. A lot of them don’t understand that I, as a member of FEC can influence things that will come to my State, my zone or any other area and where we think things should be sited or done in Nigeria.
”For me, those people perceiving that are ignorant. I don’t want to use the word mischievous. But much more importantly, propaganda against the government by the elite in the South-East should stop because it is that propaganda that provoked troubles that we are now noticing.
”People have been brainwashed and the separatists humped on that foundation to now shout from the rooftops that we will give you Biafra and when we give you Biafra, all these things will disappear.
“There is no country that does not have its own problems. We have economic problems here and that is why we have unemployment and of course, we have a youth bulge in our population.
“About 60 per cent of them are youths and a lot of them are unemployed.
“So, the government is devising ways to tackle that. It is a work in progress.”
The former Anambra State governor stressed that the Owerri-Aba and Owerri-Umuahia roads construction were ongoing, just like the international highway from Enugu to Abakiliki to Cameroun where the stretch from Enugu to Abakiliki is completed while the stretch from Abakiliki to Cameroon is ongoing.
He added, “Enugu Airport used to be the worst airport in Nigeria.
“We had three Aviation Ministers, Fidelia Njeze, Stella Odua and Osita Chidoka and they did nothing there. Buhari put N10 billion in Enugu Airport. He does not hate Ndigbo.
“Then, the Second Niger Bridge is the biggest of them all. President Buhari took it up from a Private Public Partnership (PPP) Project by which tolls were to be collected.
“By which foreign loan companies’ financiers were relieved of doing what they wanted to do to stay there forever and ever and it is now a legacy project out of the five that is being done in the whole country.”
By Ononye VC