Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State says his government is ready to partner with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in building the proposed road and bridge linking Nembe to Brass. It is estimated to cost about N100 billion.
Governor Dickson made the pledge yesterday when the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, led other directors of the Commission to pay him a courtesy visit at Government House, Yenagoa.
The road and bridge project is the second phase of the Ogbia-Nembe Road, which the NDDC is implementing in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC. Governor Dickson stated that it had demonstrated the value of partnership in the development of the Niger Delta region.
While commending NDDC on its plans to extend the road to Brass, the Governor expressed delight at the Ogbia-Nembe road project which is opening up 14 communities on its stretch to economic activities and modern development.
He said: “We are sad that Brass is still cut off from the rest of Nigeria. For us in Bayelsa, our wealth is in the sea. This project will attract new business and link Brass to the rest of Nigeria.”
Hon. Dickson stated that the challenging terrain of the state was not sufficient reason for the non-performance of some contractors working on NDDC projects, a situation which he said left “a litany of abandoned NDDC projects in Bayelsa.”
Governor Dickson also commended the contributions of the NDDC in boosting agricultural development in the Niger Delta, stating that the future of Nigeria would be determined by its investments in agriculture.
“We will soon become a major hub for agriculture in the country,” he stated, adding: “Already we are setting up a school to train our youths in agriculture and we are going towards state-owned farms. We can partner with NDDC on rice cultivation and aquaculture because this is where we have comparative advantage.”
Governor Dickson regretted the killing of two soldiers at the site of the Ogbia-Nembe Road and assured that more efforts would be made to forestall future occurrence. He said that the state would need the support of the NDDC in that regard.
Earlier in her presentation, Mrs. Semenitari told Governor Dickson that the NDDC awarded 28 Regional Projects, with 20 ongoing, while two had been completed and commissioned. She said that a total of 658 other projects had also been awarded for shore protection, construction/repair of roads, sand-filling, construction of jetty, electrification, building of houses for professionals and solar water.
In addition, she said, NDDC is constructing the Akenfa Bridge awarded at a cost of N800, 993, 396.31, the prototype university hostel at the Niger Delta University, Amassoma and internal roads network (Phase 1) at the Federal University of Technology, Otuoke. Other areas of intervention, she said, included the award of overseas scholarship for graduates from Bayelsa State.
According to Mrs. Semenitari, “Bayelsa had not been left out. Today, we shall be boosting agriculture and food production in Bayelsa with the handing over of tractors to stakeholder farmers in the state. In NDDC, we believe that food security is critical to national security. We are doing this to expedite massive food production in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta region.
“We can beat our chest and say that NDDC has treated Bayelsa as a ‘Special Area’. The biggest, single, most ambitious project ever undertaken by NDDC since its inception is cited in Bayelsa. The Ogbia-Nembe Road, which is linking and opening-up about 14 communities in Bayelsa to development, is a mega-project which first phase had been scheduled for commissioning this month, April.
“It is a worthy collaboration between NDDC and SPDC, and is the result of what we can achieve when we work in partnership with development agencies, IOCs and State Governments. That road project is one of the Commission’s prescriptions for the rapid development of the region.”
The NDDC boss expressed regrets that the laudable project had become a victim of misguided actions by some youths from the region. She noted that gunmen had on Tuesday, April 5, killed 2 soldiers and kidnapped an expatriate worker, forcing SETRACO, the contractor handling the project to suspend work on the project.
She said: “I have condemned that attack which is reactionary and opposed to the agenda of NDDC in siting that road. It is equally anti-Ijaw and negates what Ijaw hero, Isaac Adaka Boro, and other Ijaw leaders fought for. It is entirely against the spirit and letter of the Kaiama Declaration of December 11, 1998 committed to by Ijaw youths.”
“That sad and unfortunate attack against Bayelsa State progress is unacceptable and must be condemned by all well-meaning members of the public, as well as all stakeholders in the Niger Delta region and beyond. I was truly saddened that lives were so brutally taken in the course of our effort to bring development to the Niger Delta region.
“The Ogbia – Nembe road, which is a major project in NDDC’s calendar, is envisioned to improve commerce, reduce incidents of piracy and criminal acts such as this, and improve the living conditions of the people.”
Mrs. Semenitari stated that the business of facilitating the sustainable development of the Niger Delta could not be conducted in in an insecure environment, adding that criminal elements should not be allowed to be a clog in the wheel of progress.
She urged the Bayelsa State Government to assist the NDDC to galvanise the local population to resist those who want to keep them behind the 21st Century. “We invite Civil Society Organisations and other Community Based Organisations to launch advocacy that will alter the thought process of these misguided youths,” she said.