Assessing Okowa’s Eight Years of SMART Agenda

Assessing Okowa’s Eight Years of SMART Agenda

Deji Elumoye examines Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s achievements in terms of infrastructural development of Delta State in the last eight years.

On May 29, 2023, Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa will be handing over the baton of leadership to Governor-elect, Sheriff Oborevwori, after eight years in office. 

Okowa’s 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.

In his SMART agenda, he promised that his administration will ensure development of roads, bridges, and ancillary infrastructure to ease commercial activities and, consequently, enhance economic growth and personal well being of Deltans.

True to his words, his government has been on that development trajectory, constructing more than 1,932.14 kilometres of roads and six bridges, with 15 still under construction across the State.

As proof of the importance of infrastructural development to his administration, in its 2023 annual estimate, Delta State appropriated N111.4 billion for infrastructure through the state Ministry of Works.

Recently, the state government took some newsmen round the state to have first hand information on the strategic projects embarked upon by the outgoing Governor.

A survey of the projects and their location suggests a clear and systematic departure from the past when most focus is in the urban areas.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chief Patrick Ogoegbunam Ukah, said the media expose was intended to highlight the standing motivation and impact of infrastructure projects embarked upon by the Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa’s administration as it winds down.

The completed bridges include, the Over Rail crossing at Agbor, Ovwor/Effurun-Otor bridge, Agbarho/Orherhe Bridge, Oha/Orerokpe Bridge and the two pedestrian bridges in Asaba.

Other bridge projects which are spread across the three senatorial districts are: Ayakoromo Bridge across Forcados River, Five trans-Warri project bridges, Ogwashi-Uku Twin Bridges across Obo River, Orere Bridge, Obiaruku Bridge, Isheagu Bridge, Two Beneku Bridges, Ibusa Junction (Koka) Flyover along the Asaba/Benin Expressway in Asaba, Ovrode/Ofagbe Bridge and Ewulu/Isheagu Bridge.

The SSG said the media tour was coming after the general elections out of an intentional purpose of accountability and public record.

According to him, most times when outgoing governors decide to show interest in a preferred successor, the consideration is more about seamless transfer of governance and continuity of impactful projects than hidden agenda to cover malfeasance.

Some of the completed road projects in Delta state include the Koka flyover and Interchange, Ovwor/Effurun-Otor Bridge in Ugheli South Local Government Area, Oha/Orerokpe/Oviore Bridge in Okpe council and the Agbarho/Orherhe Bridge.

Some other projects already embarked upon under the SMART AGENDA of Okowa’s administration are expected to be continued by Sheriff Oborevwori, in his MORE AGENDA.

Two of such projects are the Ewu to Orere Bridge and the 150 kilometre-long Asaba-Warri expressway, which is designed to connect all the three Senatorial Districts.

According to the Chief Strategist to Governor Okowa, Dr. Festus Okubor, the spectacular long road is intended to ensure that Delta State reaps from the anticipated uplift of the Warri Port as well as avert similar bottlenecks associated with the traffic congestion around Apapa and Tincan Island Ports in Lagos.

On the import of the road and its potential for socio-economic enhancement of the state, Okubor said “This road is a major commercial necessity, because with it the Federal Government having done the Ughelli-Patani, Warri-Patani-Port Harcourt Road, we can then leverage to get the Port in Warri busy because most of the goods arriving Lagos anyway are headed for Onitsha.

“So, for us, it is ambush marketing for this road to be good enough to carry containers without fear of their falling over. That will be a major incentive for them to destine their goods for Warri Port. And then, of course, all the OPCs, all the police on the road and all the bribes and all of that.

 “So, with this road, you can then go from Oghara to Benin to Warri on a dualised road like this, which is a federal road and then go from Warri to Ughelli on a road like this and then come from Ughelli to Asaba on a road like this; this gives us a near complete ring road around the state. Then, as you go you will see a lot of roads that are constructed, spurring out of this road to link up the villages and local governments of the state.”

At the Ewu to Orere Bridge site, the Project Manager, Engineer Frank Uwuseba, declared that apart from its potential to improve the living condition of the people suffered from access road over the years, the bridge would help in the security of the entire axis.

He disclosed that villages usually cross the river with canoes, adding that when completed, the people have a virile alternative to get to Bomadi and surrounding communities.

Optimistic that the project will be completed by December 2023, Uwuseba said the Bridge has been in the works for about two years, and that the facility connects not less than 14 riverine communities from the Orere flank.

He said: “Before now, the villages from either divides always use canoes to access neighbouring communities. Those with motorcycles are also ferried across, but as you can see, the owners of these cars parked here had to leave them behind. But, by the time the bridge is up for use, cars and their owners would enjoy easy passage.”

Also at Ovwor, the project manager said: “There are a number of communities that this bridge links and usually before now, if those people have to go to Ughelli, they either go through and get to Beta Glass and go to Ughelli then from there to Ovwor before going to Ughelli.

 “So, it is a bridge that enhances commercial activities of both Effurun-Otor and the environs and Ovwor. The construction, which was done by Obakpor Engineering, lasted less than two years before it was completed and inaugurated in 2018.”

Okunbor said those who contend that the Okowa administration did not deliver as many roads in Delta as were expected miss the point. He explained that after studying the terrains and topography of the state, the governor decided on the massive construction of storm drainages as a veritable antidote to road failures.

He noted that while the state witnessed a lot of road construction during previous administrations, most of them were washed away, contending that it does not make sense to keep doing the same thing the same way and expect a different outcome.

As end to Okowa’s administration nears, the state has started reaping the benefits of the outgoing governor’s initiatives particularly in the areas of infrastructure.

Okowa’s approach has been very useful in helping to achieve rural-urban integration and urban renewal through massive development of infrastructure.

No wonder he was nick-named the “Road Master” in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in road construction.

It’s also no surprise that the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) in 2021 decorated Governor Okowa as the Best Performing Governor in Infrastructure Development in Nigeria, with a call on his colleagues to emulate him.

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