By Sola Adebayo:

The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has come under intense pressure from the ethnic and political leaders of the Niger Delta to appoint indigenes of the zone as ministers in charge of four key ministries.

Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan

Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan

SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that the leaders of the region were specifically asking Jonathan to appoint his kinsmen in charge of the ministries of petroleum resources, transport, mines and steel as well as power in addition to other juicy cabinet positions.

Our correspondent gathered that the leaders of the region said the gesture would strategically position the area in the country‘s power equation as well as address its marginalisation in the composition of the highest decision making organ of the Federal Government.

Findings showed that the regional leaders were said to be worried that President Umaru Yar‘Adua, followed precedent by appointing his minister of petroleum resources from outside the core oil producing areas of the Niger Delta.

They considered the appointment of the oil minister from outside the region as ”unjust and insensitive” and urged Jonathan to halt the trend.

Already, a source in the region told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that emissaries had been dispatched to Abuja by the leaders to meet Jonathan ahead of the announcement of portfolios and inauguration of the new Federal Executive Council, on Tuesday, to accede to the request.

It was gathered that the delegation was mandated to discuss the distribution of ministerial slots as it affects the region with the Acting President.

The source who declined to reveal the identities of the members of the delegation, however, added that they would meet with the Acting President on Sunday night. (Tonight).

A leader of the region who craved anonymity said, ”We (Niger Delta leaders) are asking the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to pick his ministers of petroleum resources, transport, mines and steel as well as power in addition to other helmsmen of other ministries, from our area. We have a lot of qualified people from the region among the nominees, who could effectively steer these ministries.

”We are not making the demand just because our son is the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief, it is a legitimate demand.

“For instance, how do you explain the appointment of a petroleum minister from non-oil producing area of the country. This is unfair and unjust.

“An indigene of the core area of the region is hardly appointed as petroleum minister and this trend should not be allowed to continue.

“The gas required for power generation is from the Niger Delta and virtually all the oil and gas communities in this region are in darkness. A minister of power from this region would use our gas to provide electricity for the country and at the same time not forget his people by also giving them electricity.

”We are serious about our position and to convince the Acting President that we are not joking, we have raised a team to meet him to discuss the matter before the planned inauguration of the new ministers on Tuesday. The delegation may meet him on Sunday (today) night but we have decided not to make the membership of the delegation public.”

The leaders also favoured the appointment of the former Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, as the substantive minister of the ministry in the new arrangement.

They banked on him to resolve the interactable development challenges and crises confronting the region.

But the spokesperson of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Ms Annkio Briggs and the Director, Centre for Leadership Values and Policy, Mr. Mike Igini, who spoke to our correspondent on the look of FEC as it affects the Niger Delta insisted that Jonathan should appoint the petroleum resources minister from Rivers State.

They particularly asked Jonathan to appoint Mr. Odein Ajunogobia (SAN) as petroleum minister for continuity and experience.

They said, ”This administration does not have time required by the new ministers to embark on learning curves, particularly in critical sector like the oil and gas which requires cognate experience and continuity. Jonathan has just nine months and he needs to settle down quickly with experienced persons in key areas.

”For instance, for the sake of continuity and fairness and because the Acting President has brought most of the old ministers back, Odein Ajumogobia should be retained as petroleum minister. He is from an oil-rich local government area in Rivers State and that is the position of the people of the core states of Niger Delta.

“The people of Niger Delta deserve to have this position because in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, for example, the first 15 top positions are filled by persons from the northern axis of the country.

“Ajumogobia has been practising law in the oil industry in Nigeria for over 19 years and he has served as minister of state in the petroleum ministry for about three years.

“We are campaigning for justice and to put Ajumogobia back as petroleum minister is just. We are asking for change for the sake of continuity in the petroleum industry. The core oil producing states in the Niger Delta should be carried along in the management of the oil industry by appointing one of their own as minister in the petroleum ministry.”

Meanwhile, other leaders of the region also canvassed the appointment of another nominee from Edo State, Mr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, as minister of petroleum.

Ogiemwonyi headed some strategic business units of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, including Nigerian Gas Company and NAPIMS, before he retired from the corporation in 2009 as group executive director.

They argued that Ogiemwonyi would bring his vast experience in the oil industry to bear in the ministry.

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