From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The European Union (EU) has challenged the Federal Government to make respect for the rule of law the centrepiece of its fight against corruption.
This, the EU said, was necessary to avoid innocent persons being subjected to unlawful detention and other forms of injustice.
EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Michel Arion gave the advice when he spoke with newsmen, shortly after meeting with Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, in Abuja, at the weekend.
“Impunity is not good in the fight against corruption or any other perceived impunity in the society. Respect for the rule of law remains the best and there’s need for the Federal Government to improve on that. We have observed that a lot of people are kept in detention without trial. That is total violation of their fundamental right of freedom,” said Arion.
He said his visit to the NDDC chairman was to familiarise himself with the regional development agency and also, inform Ndoma-Egba of upcoming EU plans and programmes, “targeted at expediting the developmental agenda of the region by the Nigerian government.”
He added: “We are already doing a lot in the region. As a matter of fact, we are deeply involved in finding lasting solution to the periodic agitation in the region. We are also involved in cooperation programmes such as provision of potable water, power, sanitation, health, immunization campaigns and other community projects.
“In fact, we have 700 micro-projects currently going on in region. The issue of environmental degradation and impact of climate change is also on our priority list. But, in as much as we place great importance on security, we believe that military action alone cannot solve the problem of militancy and unrest in the region.”
The NDDC chairman appreciated EU’s desire and commitment to support the reinvigorated effort of the commission’s new management, which is to restore peace and engender development in the oil rich region.
Ndoma-Egba reminded the EU delegation that plans were underway to revisit the NDDC masterplan, with a view to either revalidate, update or entirely develop a fresh one that would properly guide the speedy development of the region.
“The current Niger Delta Masterplan is 10 years old, out of its 15 years lifespan.
“Regrettably, 10 years into the plan, it has not been implemented, due to inconsistency in funding.
“So, we plan to either revalidate, update or entirely develop a fresh one. But, before we do that, there must be a framework for critical stakeholders engagement to harness their input,” Ndoma-Egba told the EU delegation.