- Says his government created 17,173 jobs in 11 months
Omon-Julius Onabu and Monday Osayande in Asaba
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has said his hands are clean regarding contracts for the ill-fated multi-billion naira Delta State independent power project (IPP) located at Oghara, which is currently under the searchlight of local and international probes.
Okowa, who stated this while fielding questions from journalists during a media parley in Asaba yesterday as part the first year anniversary of his administration, disclosed that his government was able to create a total of 17,173 jobs in its first 11 months.
Over N19 billion was said to have been expended by the Delta State Government on the IPP project awarded to Davnotch Nigeria Limited, a company established by ex-speaker of the state, Mr. Victor Ochei, without any concrete thing on ground to show for the huge amount spent.
The state House of Assembly instituted a probe into the project situated in Oghareki, Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state which was awarded at the cost of N23 billion to Davenotch in 2009.
The former Delta assembly speaker, who spoke through his personal aide, Mr. Nkem Osu, told THISDAY last week that Ochei ceased to be a director in the company about five years ago, having “resigned from the board even before he became Speaker, in accordance with the Code of Conduct Bureau.”
However, reacting to a question that he must have been aware of the deal since he was then Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Okowa said, “I can beat my chest because I speak with a clear conscience. Yes, I was SSG, but was not the commissioner for energy. So, I can pride myself that I never received one kobo from the (Oghara) IPP.”
Okowa denied stopping the probe by the lawmakers into the state IPP at Oghara, saying his government had opted for a new IPP to be located in Delta North.
He noted that these handicaps of the botched project included establishment of a gas supply access trunkline, evacuation facility and hooking of the facility to the national grid, all of which the governor said would cost the state billions of naira.
He observed that although the situation on ground was very gloomy due to the economic downturn and financial crunch in the country, he began streamlining government’s expenditure to meet the exigencies of governance.
Okowa, attributed the relative success of his government since its inauguration on May 29, 2015 to what he called “superior planning” which ensured that the budget was prepared and sent early to the state house of assembly thereby making possible its early passage and signing into law.
According to Okowa, “When I addressed the state immediately after my swearing-in as Governor on May 29, 2015, we were in the middle of a serious economic crisis, our monthly revenue both from the Federation Account and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) had dipped significantly; the non-oil sector of the economy remained largely untapped; the level of youth unemployment was troubling, posing a clear and present danger to the socio-political stability of the State; our credit was in bad shape, and the financial system was at best, shaky and at worst, perilous. Indeed, our promise of prosperity for all Deltans seemed illusory, but, we moved swiftly and decisively to restructure our liabilities and instituted processes and procedures to plug leakages, eliminate wastes and ensure fiscal discipline.”
Of the 17,173 jobs reportedly created by the government, Okowa said: “This figure consists of 6,800 direct jobs and 10,373 indirect jobs of both skilled and unskilled workers. As a Special Purpose Vehicle, the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer accounted for 7,522 of these jobs while the remaining 9,651 were created through projects, programmes and initiatives implemented through the various MDAs. The sectoral breakdown of the job creation scorecard is contained in the First Year performance report to be issued within days of this briefing.”
He stressed that Delta has its good share of the employment problem bedeviling Nigeria today with its palpable threat to “our collective safety and security” hence the initiation of the S.M.A.R.T agenda the heart of which is job and wealth creation.
Okowa said: “At the very core of our S.M.A.R.T agenda is job and wealth creation because we realise that the only way to achieve sustainable economic growth is to create new jobs, diversify the economy through the development of non-oil sectors, and provide the enabling environment for enterprises and industries to thrive. In August 2015, we launched the Job and Wealth Creation Scheme with the following programmes viz; Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP), and Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP).
“From May 2015 to April 30, 2016, the sum of N546m was disbursed to a total number of 3,110 within the various micro, small and medium enterprises. They included 2,052 females representing 66 per cent of the loan recipients and 1,058 males representing 34 per cent. The ratio is in compliance with CBN regulations that 60 per cent of micro credit should go to women.”
On infrastructure, he said: “To date, at least 54 road construction/rehabilitation contracts have been awarded through the State Tenders Board and the Ministerial Tenders Board. This figure does not include projects executed by the Direct Labour Agency (DLA).”
He stressed that the state’s priority attention to agriculture was borne out of understanding that agriculture represents the most realistic means of diversifying the economic of the country that had depend ended for too long on a single export product oil as a main source of revenue.
The governor also debunked insinuation that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled states were not receptive of the TSA policy even though it was initiated by a PDP government under then President Goodluck Jonathan.
Although, it has many advantages TSA also has its challenges, hence even the financial experts will tell you that the system has to be understand well before introducing it, Okowa said, noting that numerous states and not only PDP states were still studying it before adopting it as a policy.