By: Our Reporter in Delta state
The time has really come for the amiable governor of the oil rich Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Udaughan to write his name in gold as far as development of the state is concern and when this is done wholeheartedly it will forever remain in the history of the state because history is the witness of time according to Cicero a Roman historian, lawyer, philosopher, orator and powerful writer of blessed memory who lived about 40 years before the Birth of Jesus Christ ones remarked that “History is the witness of the times, the touch of truth and the life of memory.”
Gov. Uduaghan’s focus as a leader, even his opponents have admitted, has been on one unwavering course. No wonder he has been able to achieve so much despite despicable attempts to derail his vision. Indeed, Uduaghan has done much in the last five years; but he still has much more to do. That realization, perhaps, informed his election-winning blueprint, which he enunciated throughout the campaign period.
It was Socrates that once said that “After the storm comes the rain.” For Delta state, the campaign and election periods were much like a stormy weather. But now that the storm is over, according to Uduaghan, development and democracy dividends would pour like rain on the people. Those who have tasted his promise-keeping feat know that his words can be taken to any bank worldwide!
To start with, Gov. Uduaghan has repeatedly talked about industrialization of the state as a key tool to job creation and empowerment, to this end some investors from Saudi Arabia and India had visited the state and according to the listening and indefatigable governor of Delta state when asked what their mission was he explained thus “The Saudis came here mainly for the Petrochemical plant which is located at Koko. The Indians were here also for the Fertilizer plant located at Koko.
Let me first of all start by saying that these projects were initiated by the Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in conjunction with foreign firms. We are lucky that these projects are located in Delta State. These projects started several years ago when the NNPC started the Nigerian Gas Master Plan. Then, I was just coming in as the governor during my first tenure and I took a lot of interest in what they were doing, knowing that Delta is a state with a lot of gas resources apart from the oil.
I took an interest in what they were doing in developing the Nigerian Gas Master Plan. I got in contact with the officials in NNPC and I was invited by NNPC to be part of the team that went round the world on a road show for the Nigerian Gas Master plan. And at those meetings in UK, Singapore and other parts of the world, I had to talk on the security issues in the Niger Delta because then security was a major problem. I did this because I was hoping that the Federal Government would use Delta State for whatever project they wanted to develop under the Nigerian Master Gas Plan.
I got in touch with a lot of people and fortunately the master plan was unveiled and today we are happy that Delta State is a major beneficiary of the master plan. The gas master plan has three project facilities; one in Akwa Ibom, the second is in Rivers State and the third is in Delta State. The feasibility study contract for the one in Delta State has been awarded.
But beyond that, we found out that because of this master plan, companies have already started taking interest in sitting petrochemical plants in Nigeria, and Delta State was chosen as one of the favoured locations of the petrochemical plant by the Saudis. Also, when the Indians came, they chose Delta State as a favoured site for the fertilizer plant. And fortunately, at the same time too, one of the things that still help us to the Koko location is that the Federal Government pursued very rigorously under the Yar Adua’s administration the issue of giving us two export free zones in the state, one in Koko and one in Warri. He graciously approved one for us- the Koko free zone.
And that helped us in locating this plant there because we know that many investors, from the word go, are interested in the tax they pay. So because it is an export free zone, Koko was a favourable site for the plant. We are still pursuing the Warri Export Free Zone, I think Mr. President has approved it and we are just waiting for the papers for the Warri Export Free Zone. As I said, investors were the ones who really decided the best site for them to locate their plants. They had taken the one in Koko because we have done a lot of work in ensuring that Koko becomes an export free zone, coupled with the fact that we also have peace in Delta State, and that we have followed closely the issue of the Gas Master Plan.”
Throwing more light on what the Nigerian gas Mater plan is all about, the governor explained that “The Nigerian Gas Master Plan is an arrangement that ensures that the natural gas that come from the ground is fully utilized. Every industry in the oil and gas industry is prospecting for oil. There is no company that is prospecting for oil ended up in having a bye product and that is gas. So that is what they call flared gas. Now what happens is that most of it is seen as a waste product.
We have a plant that dries some of this gas and use them for power plants, for fertilizer plants, chemical plant and even your cooking gas and all that. So the gas that is been dried as gas is being sold and that gas is tied to the West African Gas Project Pipeline which some of it is in Sapele Power Plant. We also have the AG Gas Plant in Escravos by Chevron.
The bulk of the gas that comes with oil is flared. What the Federal Government wants to do with the master gas plant is to ensure that all the gas that is flared is collected to a port and that all the gas that is being collected is pulled towards that central processing plant which will dies the gas. These processes take the waste part away and leave the dry gas for the domestic use. And what is domestic use; people who run fertilizer plants, people who want to put it into gas cylinder and sell to people in their homes and there is power plant. The gas plant is very vital and one of the benefits is the petrochemical plant.
Now the petrochemical and fertilizer plants are huge projects that amount to over 10 billion dollars. In fact, the two of them will take about 16 billion dollars and it will be one of the heaviest investments in this country in recent years. And having a 16 billion dollars investment in a state is a good development because of the opportunities it will create. The opportunities will be two parts. The construction alone will employ a lot of our people. There is also the indirect benefit for those who sell drinks to the people that are constructing. The women, for example, who sell soft drinks or rice at the construction site for the construction workers will benefit from it.
The public transport owners who will transport the workers from Warri to Koko will also benefit from it. So the benefits are quite huge. And of course when the plants are finished they will employ many thousands of persons and many of them will be people from Delta State. So we have a lot of benefits from it and there are several industries that will spring up from these plants. Industries that will utilize the bye products of these plants, and industries that will make parts for these plants will also benefit. So with the cooperation of every Deltan and everyone around the future is very bright.”
One of Uduaghan’s pet plans is optimum economic transformation of the state which he has repeatedly stressed that is dear to his heart. No wonder in his words, President Goodluck Jonathan, described Uduaghan’s as one governor who doesn’t play politics with development. In fact, he derives pleasure in beautifying the landscape with futuristic but enduring and sustainable infrastructure. In his second term, therefore, it is not envisaged that the governor intends to slack on his widely acclaimed massive infrastructural development across the state.
Knowing fully well the importance of what investors can attract to a state, the governor revealed his plans when asked which other investors are coming to the state and what is the government’s plan on revamping the ailing industries?.
According to governor Uduaghan “The thing is that there are so many people coming in for investment in the state. At the same time too, many of them trusted that their investment are safe here. I will tell you one area in which we have problem, in which I believe that God will help us. When I started so many people came and say just give us land. I gave over 15 investors land, but once they get the certificate of ownership, I think some of them need to raise money to finance the projects. We have some Chinese investors that are interested in putting fertilizer plant in the refinery areas.
We have some Chinese who are interested in putting fertilizer plant in Kwale area. We are getting in touch with them and in fact we have signed some MoU with them. We also have some Chinese who are also interested in taking over the Bendel Steel Structure at Enerhen. We also have investors who are interested in agriculture, in the mode of Obasanjo Agric Farm which aimed at making it one of the biggest poultry farm in Nigeria established in Delta.
It is going to be an integrated poultry farm. Right now we are already producing eggs and it is quite a big farm. We also have investors that are interested in other agricultural stuff like banana and cassava. Of course, we have the Oleri Tourism Park, the Delta State leisure park. It is already been under construction and it is going to be one of the biggest in the world. We have investors who are coming and who want to take over some of our industries like the Bendel Plant Factory. We are signing an agreement with the Chinese and some independent people. So we have a lot of investors.
On our airports, we have people who are interested in the cargo concession, the airport itself and even the furnishing of the airport; we have people who are interested. Around Asaba now and around the airport, we have so many people who are interested in building warehouses for the traders to have where to put their goods.”
Political analysts have opined that Uduaghan achieved so much because he is never afraid of opposition. With the level of negative criticisms from propagandists, some other persons would have been discouraged. Dr. Uduaghan is aware that they are not interested in development; all they want to do is criticize. So, not wanting to be distracted, he doesn’t waste time listening to them. Contrary to expectation, he believes opposition is important in a democracy even the Bible tells us woe to that leader that does not have opposition. Opposition strengthens and deepens democracy, it also helps to test the will of the people and at the end of the elections the people are able to distinguish between propaganda and achievement.
On Saturday, June 19, 2010, the first President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ever produced from Niger Delta region and the South-South geopolitical zone of the country, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan paid a one day working visit to the state to commission the multi-billion Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DSUTH) and the Navy Logistic Headquarters all in Oghara, headquarters of Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State and home town of the embattled former governor of the state, Chief James Onanefe Ibori whose administration also initiated the gigantic projects and only completed by the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Despite all criticisms, the number one citizen without mincing words commended Governor Uduaghan for ensuring the completion of the multi-billion naira projects which was started by former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori adding that it’s not ease for a state to single-handedly fund such a capital intensive project such as the Naval Logistics Command headquarters before writing the Federal Government for refund. “It is not easy for a state to built this kind of edifice and hand it over to the federal government in most cases, State ask for refund but the state (referring to Delta) has not ask for refund and this structure was built on a virgin land and donated to the federal government for the use of the logistics Command of the Nigerian Navy. We sincerely thank and appreciate you” (referring to Delta State Governor).
Governor Uduaghan who took time to abreast the President with some of the achievements his government has so far recorded stated that “Three years ago on assuming office we placed before our people our three-point agenda of Peace and Security, Human Capital and Infrastructure Development as the road map for broad economic development of the state.
Our vision was defined by our goal of building a Delta State without oil, a state that will explore other opportunities outside of oil, a state that will develop clean energy as means for creating jobs and eliminating poverty. We have begun this work, which at the beginning looked like a tall order. In pursuing our goals, we were determined to give every Deltan a sense of belonging, in particular the oil producing communities.
To drive this vision, we created the Delta state Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, which receives fifty per cent allocation of the thirteen per cent derivation fund. The mandate of the commission is to interact with the people, gauge their feelings, assess their needs and address them. Today, developments are reaching the riverine communities long neglected. There is still much work to be done, but we have made a good start. Our infrastructure vision across the state is no less ambitious, with the overall aim of ensuring economic development.
Delta state is so well situated it can be a major logistics hub for the region, thus our emphasis on building major transportation infrastructure to take advantage of the opportunities available. Our investments in power supply, urbanization, industrial clusters, ICT development, transportation and road constructions, have the simple objectives of creating employment and reducing poverty. Most of these projects were begun three years ago and its impact as you shall see has been terrific. Aside from Asaba international airport and Osubi airport runway, we have three industrial clusters in the pipeline.
We have the Warri Industrial Business Park, the Koko Export Free Zone and the Asaba ICT Park. Substantial resources will be devoted to these projects, both from government and the private sector partnering with us. As these projects take shape, Your Excellency will be briefed and hopefully will find the time to visit us and be part of its progress and success story.
The Asaba airport should be ready by end of the year and we trust Mr. President will accept our request to commission this airport, which should be one of the best in the country. Mr. President Sir, I take pride in stating that in terms of highway, urban and rural roads development, drainage schemes, and waterways structures, our record is impressive. A few samplers will demonstrate this: We have completed over 483.67km of trunk roads, more than 93.55km of urban and township roads and awarded additional contracts for the construction of another 51.52km of urban and rural roads. In the same vein, 669.02km of drainage works are under construction in various parts of the State, out of which 424.79km have been completed.”
A few weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 2007 Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State organized a one day stakeholder’s summit and two days retreat at Grand Hotel, Asaba and Songhai-Delta, Amukpe, Sapele for all top government functionaries.
There he rolled out his three point agenda, Peace and security, human capital and infrastructural development which would act as guide in his developmental move.
The Warri crisis, political rumblings and youth militancy in the state between 1999 and 2007 brought distraction and suppressed transformation.
The instability led to non functional industries, bad road, low indigenous participation in the oil industry, poorly funded educational institutions, limited knowledge of investment opportunities and uncompleted projects by the James Ibori led administration.
To break the ice, especially in the area of human capital development Governor Uduaghan decided to use a two-pronged approach.
The Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, DESOPADEC and the state government. DESOPADEC which was constituted 16 July, 2007 is saddled with the responsibility of managing 50 per cent of the derivation fund revenue to the state.
Barely a year after, DESOPADEC which received a grant of N30 billion appropriations for 2007 from the state government recently, have over 200,000 persons treated of various ailments since the commencement of the exercise in 2007.
Though the beneficiary oil communities are comfortable but other communities in the state see it as marginalization.
Uduaghan since inception of office has been paying for students the West African Examination Council, WAEC and National Examination Council, NECO fees of indigene candidates.
As if that was not enough, Governor Uduaghan embarked on the construction of 10 new Model Primary schools across the three senatorial districts of the state which are been upgraded and to expose pupils early in life to electronic learning and academic excellence.
Dr. Uduaghan disclosed that the Model Primary Schools would comprise of nursery and primary sections and teachers for the Schools would be trained by the British Council and donor agencies.
He said although Primary Schools are the responsibility of Local Governments, the Model primary Schools will be funded and run by the state Government so that the burden would not be too much for local Governments to bear.
The Governor explained that when the schools become functional, the standard obtainable would be comparable to some of the best in the World.
Dr. Uduaghan said the Schools have the capacity to admit 420 pupils in the Primary section and 60 in the Nursery section.
The Governor said the classrooms would be well equipped and every child will be given the privilege to be admitted into the Schools. “These Model Schools are going to be different. Apart from their ultra-modern looks, they are going to be well equipped with the state of the art electronic learning equipments,” he said.
In its determination to reposition Asaba as a befitting state capital and a hub of social, economic and political activities, an airport at a cost of N17 billion has taken off. The airport, according to Austine Ayemidejor, Special Assistant to the Governor on the Airport said it would have three kilometres run way and capable of catering for passenger and cargo planes.
He said it will be ready for commissioning in the next two years. “The stress of flying to Benin before coming to Asaba will be eliminated despite the good roads. Bigger markets and employment would be created in the state”
To convince doubting Deltans, the Governor empower the State Beautification and Sanitation Task Force for Asaba and Warri and Ministry of Power and Energy with N20 billion to demolish all illegal structures in the cities and provide electricity for both rural and urban centres.
On transportation, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who has brought over 200 vehicles to the state recently commissioned 100 Hiace Toyota buses to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy as well as directed commercial transporters to revert to the old transport fares before the subsidy removal.
He also immediately set up a three man palliatives committee on the removal of fuel subsidy with Boardroom guru, Mr G. O. Onosode as chairman, with Chief Philip Asiodu and Mrs. Elizabeth Adegite as members with the mandate to monitor the implementation of the proceeds from subsidy removal in the state.
Governor Uduaghan stated that his administration would take delivery of 50-seater Marco polo buses and 130 boats for the riverine communities as palliative measures to help reduce the effect of the fuel subsidy removal on Deltans. “So far we have a total of 100 salon cars for taxis and over 500 buses in the scheme deployed to various areas of the state to improve on the transport sector and reduce the stress associated with daily movement of Deltans.”
On electricity, the Uduaghan administration has no doubt done enough on this sector with the connection of communities into the national grid as well as the provision of transformers even at that state Government was not mindful of the fact that stable power supply is the soul of every vibrant and viable economy, realizing also that the current 100 megawatts being distributed within the state by the public electricity organ, (as against the 1008MW needed by the state), is a critical shortfall and formidable threat to its quest to grow, diversify and wane its economy of undue dependence on oil, hence it has opted to build an Independent Power Plant (IPP) to boost public power supply in the state.
However, the euphoria and sense of eureka that attended this well-thought out project soon began to ebb as it (project) could not take-off after what seemed like an aeon because of its complex nature, coupled with the fact that the turbines, the nucleus of such projects, are usually customized, built according to specifications, and not readily available off the shelf like other commodities.
As the United Kingdom-based firm, Rolls Royce Energy, which the contracting firm had approached to design the turbines was still on it, the rumour mills, obviously fuelled by ignorance of the complexities associated with such projects, became agog with the fact that the project had gone the way of many Nigerian projects: Abandoned.
This is why the Monday, May 7, 2012 inspection of the first batch of the turbines that have been delivered at the site of the project in Ogharaeki, Ethiope West Council Area is significant in more ways than one. Like the Secretary to the State Government, Comrade Ovouzorie Macaulay, rightly observed while addressing journalists at the occasion, “the development had brought to a close the insinuation that the project is another white elephant.”
The IPP, upon completion, also has the capacity to generate employment for the teeming population of the state, particularly youths who may wish to embrace entrepreneurship. What is more, economic activities would boom and more Deltans avail themselves of the stable power supply to establish their various enterprises.
Having set its hand on the plough, therefore, the state government cannot afford to look back. Instead, it should go the whole hog and ensure that the IPP becomes a reality within the shortest possible time, more so that the turbines have arrived and the platform for their erection has been completed.
The present administration true to its words has done a lot in diverse ways from empowerment such as agric programs like the Youth Empowerment through Agriculture and Farmers Support Programme, [YETA- FSP], the Delta Micro Credit Program [DMCP] and developing the people, as recorded in the Micro credit scheme which has won the state award from the CBN, to building generational infrastructure on ground which are aimed at further transforming the economic landscape of not only the state, but will benefit neighbouring states.
‘Wow! was the involuntary expression of a recent visitor to the state when she in company of her other media team were conducted round the new Government House project which is nearing completion in Asaba, the Delta state capital, by the Hon. Commissioner for Special Duties, Special Infrastructure, Barr. Mrs. Orezi Esievor.
The visitors who could not visibly hide their feelings described the facility as ‘magnificent’’. Also, the project Director of the trans- Warri Ode-Itsekin road/bridge project in Warri south local government, Mr. Otimenyi Adams described the bridge project as ‘one of the wonders of Uduaghan’’. Indeed the initiative is aimed at linking ten communities which were hitherto disconnected from land, social life and any form of business life, are speedily getting connected. An interaction with Mr. Adams revealed that the project will have twenty-two bridges to link the benefiting communities of Ifie, Ubeji, Ajeta, Orugbo, Usele, Ugbodede, Ajigba, Inorin, Ijala and Ode-Itsekiri .
No doubt, it takes great courage and a clearly defined sense of purpose to undertake this kind of project considering the very marshy terrain of these communities, Of course they must be attended to, their basic need which is access road that will connect them to land and people for social life and basically for economic development and enhancement as well as transformation must be attended to.
With this project in place, these communities are now being given a sense of belonging as businesses and buildings are already springing up and being sited in these areas.
Thus, the administration has such health programs as the Free-under Five health program where all the children within the age bracket of 0-5years are taken care of irrespective of the ailment;
The Free Maternal Health program which enables the government hospitals attend to pregnant and expectant mothers from conception to the period of delivery free of charge. In fact, one of the senior officials at the Warri Central Hospital disclosed that the Antenatal care unit of the hospital records up to two hundred to four hundred attendants on daily basis. The services include serious advocacy issues on care during pregnancy to other is- sues aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality, which, she said, had greatly reduced since the pro-gram was introduced by the government.
On the Free Rural Health Scheme program, the government of Delta state under Uguaghan has attended to the rural people in all parts of the state, treating various health needs of the people irrespective of the nature of the ailment free of charge. This is a scheme which demographic reach cuts across all ages and sexes as issues bordering on fibroid, hyenia, partial blindness and other sundry health challenges are tackled headlong with health care professionals who are relevant in different areas.
This magnanimous gesture on the part of the government has brought succour to people who ordinarily would not have been able to access the needed medical attention required for attending to their health needs either because of money or other unforeseen shortcomings.
Since becoming chief executive, Governor Uduaghan has won numerous awards including the THISDAY AWARD OF EXCELLENCE AND EMERGING TIGER, the Central Bank of Nigeria Best Support Governor for Micro Finance and the Kwame Nkrumah leadership award by the All Africa Students Union (AASU) based in Ghana.
However, despite all these achievements, the administration of Governor Uduaghan has come under series of attacks from the opposition party which was described as a visionless government by the state chairman of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Chief Tony Ezeagwu.