Omon-Julius Onabu writes about the various efforts by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to bring progress and development to the people of Delta State in the last one year, in line with his campaign promises
To keep faith with the people, who he promised a new lease of life through the development agenda of his government, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has, in his first year in the saddle as Governor of Delta State, sought to execute several people-oriented programmes, despite the cash crunch in the national economy.
His developmental strides span infrastructure, urban renewal, health, education, agriculture/agribusiness as well as job and wealth creation among other policies and programmes of the state government.
His mission and vision for the state is encapsulated in his developmental blueprint called the S.M.A.R.T. Agenda, which he unveiled on assumption of office in May 2015.
The all-encompassing promise of ‘Prosperity for All Deltans’ through the application of the above-mentioned development programme seemingly created the impression that the physician-turned-politician had a tall order to fulfil.
However, the governor has sought to deliver on his promises in various sectors as contained in the development blueprint; some of which are highlighted below.
Unlike similar programmes in the past which sought to prepare people for employment, the Job and Wealth Creation Scheme – which the governor described as the “flagship of the S.M.A.R.T. Agenda” – seeks to produce wealth creators and job creators.
Beyond skills acquisition, the scheme focuses on building a knowledge economy with the ultimate goal of equipping participants with the technical know-how, vocational/technical skills, values and resources to become self-employed and employers of labour.
In the second batch in April, 540 beneficiaries of the Delta State Skill Training Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) were presented with starter-packs by the Governor. The beneficiaries are in three categories including Computer Hardware and Repairs, Fashion Designing/Tailoring and Electrical Installation /Repairs. A total of 771 successful trainees were earlier presented with starter-packs after a three-month training programme in various areas of entrepreneurship.
Overall, by April 30, 2016, Okowa revealed that his government was able to create total of 17,173 jobs in its first eleven months. The figure includes 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.
Sixty-six per cent of the beneficiaries of the loan scheme are female with the sum of N546 million being disbursed to a total number of 3,110 persons between May 2015 and April 30, 2016.
Within the first 11 months of the Okowa administration, a total of 34 roads across the three senatorial zones of the state were awarded with some roads completed and others ongoing.
Although, the stoppage of the multi-billion naira Warri-Effurun-Sapele Road Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, initiated by his predecessor, appears to attract widespread public attention, the major road projects initiated by Governor Okowa include the Cable Point-Nnebisi Road dual-carriage way and the Okpanam Road Storm-water project now under construction in Asaba.
Others include the Old Lagos-Benin Road, Boji-Boji Agbor, the Eku-Sapele Road and the Warri-Sapele-Benin express road rehabilitation, which is a federal road intervention project.
Health is Wealth
The mandatory contributory Health Insurance bill was passed and signed into law under the present administration, while the inauguration of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission on May 4, 2016 made it the first state in the country to have a mandatory health insurance scheme for the purpose of universal healthcare coverage.
As well, the law establishing the state commission on HIV/AIDS bill was passed by the state legislature and duly signed into law by the governor, who is now reputed to have sent more executive bills to the assembly than any of his predecessors.
Several hospital projects are ongoing with the Abavo Cottage Hospital already completed and recently unveiled by Okowa while the rejuvenated Patani General Hospital is awaiting unveiling.
Peace and Security
In August 2015, the state government inaugurated a 41-member Delta State Peace Building and Advisory Council comprising men and women of proven integrity and exemplary character. The Council meets regularly and has been very active in working to implement policies and programmes to increase public safety in Delta State.
Deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro is presently leading a special security advocacy team round the coastal areas of the state in a bid to check the resurgence of militancy with series of attacks on several oil installations in the state since January this year, which has worsened the oil and gas supply situation in the country.
Education for All
The present administration’s focus has been on technical and vocational education, and six technical schools are being restructured, with three of them at Okwagbe, Sapele and Agbor already fully rehabilitated, while curriculum review and retraining of the academic staff is in progress.
Technical partnerships are also being explored to improve on the functional quality of the products of the colleges. Infrastructural development is ongoing in the three campuses of the Delta State University, spread across the three senatorial zones including Abraka (main campus), Anwai-Asaba and Oleh.
The high point of development in Delta State’s education sector was the two-day Education Summit in February, 2016, which generated comprehensive resolutions that would revolutionise education not only in Delta but in Nigeria as a whole, according to experts.
Under the agriculture programme the main issue was distribution of tractors to 64 cooperative societies. Another set of 106 cooperative societies got Melon Shellers while 18 others received outboard engines and fishing gears and support packages.
Also, improved variety of cassava cuttings, fertiliser and cash were given to 475 cassava farmers; 100 fishery farmers were given fingerlings, feeds and cash; 100 poultry farmers were supported with 200-day-old chicks each, feeds and cash; 50 poultry layer farmers got 200 layers each, feeds and cash; 50 piggery farmers received 10 growers, feeds and cash; while 40 tomatoes farmers were supported with seedlings, agrochemicals and cash.
The decision by the state government to establish a new independent power plant (IPP) project has elicited some criticism; against the backdrop of the abandoned N23billion Independent Power Project (IPP), located in Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area of the state and awarded to Davnotch Nigeria Limited in 2009.
Over N19 billion has already been paid to the contractor with no visible evidence of any serious work done. Similarly, tongues have also been wagging about the huge cost of dismantling the N6 billion Warri/-Effurun BRT project, which the government is yet to disclose.
Governor Okowa does not pretend about the enormity of the huge task of developing Delta State that lies ahead still. Recently, he said “Certainly, we have achieved a lot in our first year which the people can identify with that we are on course; that is the clear proof of our commitment to the promise of ‘Prosperity for all Deltans’ through the instrumentality of the S.M.A.R.T. Agenda.
“Although we could have done more given more financial resources, however, there is a lot still to be done. We shall remain focused and united in our determination to deliver the best for our people.”
To the ebullient governor, the secret of his success so far is due to what he called “the cutting edge which superior planning provides.”
“Overall, by April 30, 2016, Okowa revealed that his government was able to create total of 17,173 jobs in its first eleven months. The figure includes 6,800 direct jobs and 10,373 indirect jobs of both skilled and unskilled workers”