317 Roads: Why Okowa is Called Roadmaster
By Barth Ozah
If there is one area in which the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has excelled, it is in the development of road and physical infrastructure in Delta State. The robust momentum in this sector received further boost in the 2019 budget proposals presented by Okowa to the Delta State House of Assembly on Wednesday, October 17, 2018. Road and rural infrastructure took the lion share of N79.6b out of the proposed N367, 095,083,451.
You could see the nod of approval and commendation of many persons in the hallowed chamber of the Assembly when the Governor announced that his administration has embarked on the construction/rehabilitation of 317 roads across the State. “Our road projects portfolio since May 2015,” according to him, “is 317 projects comprising 1,000km of roads and 344km of drains valued at over N243bn. Out of this number, 135 projects covering 405km of roads and 159km of drainage channels (alongside roads) have been completed.
“Worthy of mention are the roads that have been embarked upon in riverine communities with their difficult terrain. In particular, I will like to cite the Main Axial Road and Okerenkoko Township roads in Warri South West Local Government Areas as some of the flagship projects of this administration. There is also the on-going rehabilitation and Asphalt Overlay of the 19.7km Obutobo 1 –Obutobo11 – Sokebolou – Yokori road in Burutu Local Government Area. These projects have excited the residents of these communities and underscore our resolve to break new frontiers and bring development to every part of the State no matter how remote.”
Even the die-hard critic cannot but acknowledge Governor Okowa’s efforts in ensuring that roads in the state are receiving the desired attention they deserve. Some of the major road projects that readily come to mind are the 10.8km km Okpare-Umolo-Ovwodokpor-Kiagbodo road in Ughelli South and Burutu LGAs, Jeddo-Ughoton road in Okpe LGA and Construction of Access road to Eagle Heights University, Oteri Township road in Ughelli North LGA and Okpe-Olomu/Otor-Orere Olomu road Ughelli South LGA.
There are others such as the expansion and rehabilitation of sections of Oghara Junction to Otefe Road in Ethiope West LGA Oghara, access road to Jesse town, access road to Ugbuwangue new layout, construction of Okuomowa road to Osubi to link Efekpo lane, the construction of Ekete main road, off DSC Expressway, the rehabilitation of Ekreravwe/Orhoakpor/Isiokolo Road in Ethiope East LGA, Abraka Township Roads Phase 1, and the reconstructed 8.5km Ughelli-Afiesere-Ofuoma road in Ughelli North LGA.
In Asaba, roads like the Cable Point Dual Carriageway and several township roads have given the state capital a befitting face lift. Residents now have alternative routes as against the usual hiccups that characterised the main access road, the Nnebisi road. The recently commissioned Kwale -Ogume- Obiaruku and Ozoro -Oleh roads have greatly enhanced the economic activities of the people of those areas. High transportation fares coupled with excruciating pains of having to ply deplorable roads are becoming a thing of the past.
Also worthy of note is that the State Government has worked hard to shore up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), to complement receipts from the Federation Account Allocation Committee. The IGR of the State has witnessed steady improvements after the downturn occasioned by the economic crisis in 2014 and the relocation of some oil multinationals like Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, Pan Ocean Oil Corporation, and other oil servicing companies from the State. In 2016 and 2017, IGR of the State stood at N44bn and N51bn respectively. As at the end of the first half of 2018, the sum of N31.2bn has been generated.
In his budget address, the Governor attributed the improvement to reforms embarked upon by his administration in tax collection and administration. According to Okowa, these reforms included “expanding the tax payers’ base, fortifying enforcement/regulatory measures, introduction of e-Receipt and Central Billing System aimed at blocking leakages, as well as other fiscal management reforms. As a result of these measures, the tax agent database for the formal sector rose from 1,800 to 7,200. Also, the database of taxpayers in the informal sector jumped from about 5,000 to 336,061.”
The Governor also used the opportunity of the budget presentation to highlight his administration’s achievements in human capital development. The first of these is the enterprise development programmes of the Government, which he said was conceived “to build a knowledge economy, equip our people with the skill sets to create jobs and wealth, stimulate the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and enhance the business competitiveness of the State.” It is now on record that 15,041 persons have been trained and established in their choice enterprises by the Okowa administration.
In addition, The Governor disclosed that “the SEEFOR project “has provided direct employment for over 8,455 youths and indirect employment for about 5,000 persons in the State. In addition 733 youths were trained on short-term vocational enterprises under Technical, Vocational, Educational and Agricultural Training (TVEAT), in a project co-founded by the State.”
The Governor was quick to remind his audience that “these figures do not include the multiplied thousands of direct and indirect private sector jobs created through our massive investment in road and physical infrastructure, agricultural value chain support schemes, microcredit, contributory health insurance, technical education, public environmental works and other socio-economic initiatives.”
In an age when skills acquisition has become the norm, technical and vocational education continues to receive priority attention from the Okowa administration. Following the infrastructural upgrade and proper equipping of the six technical colleges in the State, enrolment into the colleges has more than doubled, jumping from 2, 424 in 2015 to 4,979 in 2018. Meanwhile, full accreditation has been obtained for all programmes in the six technical colleges from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
It was clear from the budget presentation that Governor Okowa is keeping faith with the promises he made during his electioneering campaigns in 2014/2015. Undoubtedly, he is preparing the ground for a strong, diversified and inclusive economy in Delta State.