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Nigeria Works out Plan to Resolve Oil-rich Niger Delta Crisis
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The Nigerian government has worked out a nine-point package plan to resolve the restive oil-rich Niger Delta crisis, local newspaper Vanguard reported Wednesday.

The report quoted Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as saying that the federal government had rolled out a string of definitive measures to develop the coastal states of the Niger Delta covering employment generation, transportation, education, health, telecommunications, environment, agriculture, power and water resources.

Under the development plan, Obasanjo said the government would resume construction of the abandoned East-West highway with an estimated investment of 230 billion naira (about US41.77 billion) to link the backward Niger Delta region with Lagos, the nation's commercial capital in a bid to eliminate poverty and promote economic development of the coastal states of the Niger Delta.

He added that construction of the East-West highway project would begin in May, which would provide some 20,000 jobs for local people.

Under the whole package plan, the short-term measures will be implemented within two years, medium-term within over a period of two to five years and long-term measures within five years and beyond.

Meanwhile, President Obasanjo warned militant youths of the region to cease fire, stressing that socioeconomic development programs cannot flow alongside violence. He asked the governors to take the responsibility of talking to those guys (militant youths).

"You cannot carry a gun and expect a warm handshake," he said.

Despite its huge oil wealth, the Niger Delta is afflicted by sabotage, kidnappings and other forms of violence as villagers there accuse oil firms of not doing anything to develop the impoverished area.

Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa or the world's sixth largest oil exporter with a usual daily output of 2.5 million barrels and Niger Delta region's crude oil accounts for more than 90 percent of the nation's total.

(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2006)

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