The Nigerian government has declared the southeastern part of the country an ecological disaster area. The region makes up a quarter of the country. The east fought a three-year civil war in the 1970's.
Prominent leaders in the area say the government intentionally neglected it to punish it for trying to break away from the rest of the country.The government says the area's poor infrastructure and environmental problems are caused mainly by years of neglect and leaders who stole the region's wealth. The government says it will now give more federal funds to develop the area, which borders the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta.
Godwin Onu is a professor of political science at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in the southeastern state of Anambra. He says the people of the southeast are skeptical about the promise.
"I think it is part of politics, it is also at the level of promise and we have had many promises before with regards to infrastructural provision in the southeast of Nigeria and most of them were not fulfilled, especially when one talks of issue of roads, the various erosion sites, the ecological disaster they are talking about because it did not start today, various government have been promised a lot, but at the end of the day nothing is done. All the roads in the southeastern part of Nigeria that belong to the federal government are completely abandoned".
He says the Nigerian government is punishing the area because of its decision to fight a civil war.
"The answer is very simple. People from the southeast part of Nigeria are paying the price of the civil war, the anger of the civil war is still bring visited on people from this part of the country ". Onu says the feeling of optimism by leaders of the area may be because of the new priorities of president Umaru Yar'Adua.
"I think Yar 'Adua's administration veers a little bit off from that of his predecessor in terms of seriousness and in terms of sincerity. I think Yar Adua is a different person. He looks more sincere and that must have been the anchor of their believe in what Goodluck Jonathan told them".