Rising like a phoenix from the swamps of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region, the Avant-Garde Yenagoa residential City conceptualized by Governor Seriake Dickson compares with its peers in the more developed realms in terms of befitting security architecture, ultra-modern support infrastructure and aesthetic appeal. STANLEY NKWAZEMA speaks with Joseph Akedosu erstwhile Director of Protocol/Chairman of Housing and Land Allocation Committee of Bayelsa State
Funding has always been the key hurdle in building this scope of infrastructural development. How was this overcome?
It is really a wonderful project. I am amazed at the belief and enthusiasms Bayelsans have shown in this project. Before we completed the announcements and advertisements on radio and the print media, we were already oversubscribed by the initial figure of 800 standard plots. Now, the government has acquired more areas. Today we are talking of over 2000 plots and the mandatory amount that you have to pay to be entitled to full ownership of a plot there is just N3 million. As we speak, nearly 60 percent or even more have paid that amount.
What the governor has done is that instead of allocating funds from the treasury, he used the subscription monies to work on the infrastructure. For instance, we have defined the roads; the entire area has been cleared and marked. But you know that that it rains all the time here and we have what we call secondary forests in some areas but all the roads, pathways and cul-de-sacs have been defined by way of creating modern drainages on the sides of the roads including the cul-de-sacs. For the major roads, it is about two meters wide but the cul-de-sacs it’s just a meter.
Interest in the Yenagoa City project from Diaspora Bayelsans and state indigenes from Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt has reportedly spiked. Can you share some insight into this?
These have shown great interest and enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, if you look at the number of subscribers today, quite a lot of them are coming from outside, those in the military, serving and retired; those in public and private sectors. The governor is also giving incentives to big business men who are capable of developing the waterfront area where they can build mini quays so that their boats can berth. One is Chief Ephraim Faloughi, who is a boat enthusiast. He has got boats and yachts in Lagos and he wants to bring them home. People like that want to build immediately. We are facilitating the allocation of plots exceeding the regular sizes
Further, when I said the project has all the trappings of a modern city, I mean every word of it. There is a development brief, house types approved for the place and nobody is expected to build below that standard. The development brief would be followed. We have prototypes and you will not go below that standard so that you don’t deface the entire plan.
Are there other contiguous residential developments?
It’s an interesting thing, they are very close to town, once you cross the bridge and do like three to four minutes, and you are already in Yenagoa. I mean the Ikoli Bridge by Swali, built by former President Goodluck Johnathan when he was the governor of Bayelsa State. We have a housing estate in Agbura. It is after where we call Azikoro Village which is an affordable Housing project. But we have also made provision for people who are capable of building houses of certain aesthetic levels, where they can express themselves but within the development brief of the Lands and Housing Authority. We also have other housing projects like the one at Okaka with 12 flats/units in a block and so far, many of those houses have attained roofing levels.
What really explains Governor Seriake Dickson’s passion about housing?
I can tell you that the people have applauded this passion because they are tired of quarrels with native land owners over titles and all the troubles associated with it. But under Governor Dickson, government acquires the entire area and when you complete the necessary requirements, you are given your C of O and then you have no title problems. They are happy and they have believed and keyed into it. Basically, nobody expects that the new Yenagoa City could be built in 8 – 9 months remaining in Governor Seriake Dickson’s tenure as the governor of Bayelsa State.
But he has provided a basis in such a manner that whatever he has done has now become irreversible. People have been given their allocation papers. Indeed, when we are doing a tour of the projects in the forest, we saw that people were already fencing their sites and we wondered how they got into the area with the topography. That shows the extent of enthusiasm, wondering how they got their materials to that place because while we were waiting for the completion of the bridge, they went by boat or through or through the Nun River and the Epiye Creek.
They were working and getting ready to establish and start building. Though some of them were disturbed by the heavy rains; notwithstanding, people are just waiting because the governor wants the place ready before people can build. We are expecting the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to do the Tree Planting and Ground breaking in the next couple of weeks.