President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday responded to allegations that the Igbo were under-represented in his government, saying that the South East region was not marginalised in appointments into his cabinet.
Receiving some leaders from the region who visited him at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, President Buhari said there are “four substantive ministers” from the South East region while seven states in the North only got appointments as ministers of state.
Buhari said: “I gave the South-East four substantive ministers in the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment, Science and Technology and Labour.
“Seven states in the North got ministers of state. And of the two ministries headed by your sons, I cannot take any decision on foreign policy and investments without their input.”
President Buhari also assured stakeholders from the South East, who were led by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, that the region would benefit more from roads and coastal rail projects, which he said are of critical importance to the economy.
The President, according to a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, declared that the 2nd Niger Bridge, the East-West Road and the Coastal rail project were receiving utmost attention from his administration.
He said that counterpart funding from the Chinese government would substantially fund the projects, which when completed would improve the welfare, well-being and economy of the people in the region.
The President said: “I know the Chinese are very competent in handling such projects and we will ensure that we get the money for the projects to take off.
“I thank you for articulating your demands, and I want to assure that we are doing our best for the country.
“If we can stop people from stealing, then there will be more resources to put into projects that will create employment for Nigerians.”
The President also promised the leaders, comprising governors and ministers from the region, the President of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo and representatives from the National Assembly, that he will visit the states in the zone soon.
“I want to assure you that I came into government with a clear conscience and I will also leave with a clear conscience,’’ he said.
Earlier, the President of Ohanaeze, while articulating the demands of the zone to the President, highlighted the issue of state creation, restructuring, federal projects in the South East, namely Enugu-Onitsha Road, Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road, among others.
Nwodo also demanded urgent presidential interventions on the Enugu Airport, reticulation of the gas pipelines in the South East and the standard gauge plan for railway construction.
Commending the President’s remarkable achievements on security and the fight against corruption, Nwodo said: “We are ready to work with you. We are determined to work with you. We know you are a decisive leader and we know God will continue to give you the wisdom to govern Nigeria.’’
Also speaking, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State expressed satisfaction on the outcome of their discussions with the President on critical issues and topics affecting the region.
“You have no hatred for any state. You have treated all states with equality. What one state gets in the north, the other gets in the south,’’ the governor said, referring to budget support facility and stabilisation fund released to states and local governments since the inception of the administration.