N140 billion is required to complete 35 percent of the remaining work on the East-West road criss-crossing the Niger Delta region, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe said yesterday.

In an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos, Orubebe also lauded what he described as the security situation in the region as he asserted that the spate of recent kidnappings in the region to armed robbers who he said were operative in all parts of the country. He said the improved security had rubbed positively on the country through improved oil earnings.

Orubebe who has been variously linked to the governorship of his native Delta State, however, shied away from a question on whether he would be on seat to herald the completion of the road project which he said remained fixed for December, 2014.

Flanked by senior officials of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, he said the present administration took over the project when it was just 10 per cent completed and without a design.

Orubebe said: “Today we stand at over 65 percent completion and as we stand over N209 billion has been spent on that road and what is needed to complete that road is about N140 billion.”

He assured that funding for the project was no longer a worry given financial framework worked out with the President and other stakeholders upon which N50 billion was obtained from the African Development Bank. Besides, he said funding for the project is also being derived from SURE-P and the annual budget of the Federal Government.

He said: “Based on the pressures from us and the understanding of Mr. President, we have been able to put a financial framework that is geared for us to complete the road and we believe that in the way forward, that finance may not be a serious problem again.

“We are making arrangements with the African Development Bank and we have been able to get about N50 billion from the African Development Bank and of course, the SURE-P fund is also there as support for the East-West Road and besides that, the annual budget.

“So with these three areas put together we are on course to say that the road is completed by December 2014.”

Affirming that whatever crisis in the area is largely due to activities of criminals, he said that the former militant movement instigated by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, has been confirmed dead by its former leadership.

“So whatever crisis we are having now, I think that they are criminals, it is not Niger Delta youths that are doing that, these are criminals which we have in every society.

“The kidnapping that you hear of today is done by criminals. It has nothing to do with the challenges that we have, these are purely criminals that are doing their activities and I think that the security agencies are handling them very well.

“The former leader of MEND came on air in a paid advert and told Nigerians and the world that MEND is dead. I am talking of Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo). So, anybody talking about MEND should go and talk to Tompolo, he announced to us that MEND is dead and as far as government is concerned, MEND is not in existence because the leader said so.”

“Today, Tompolo is doing a lot of good job for this nation, he is working with government in tackling the issues of security in the Niger Delta.”