*‘How Delta is tackling the kidnapping challenge’
*Says 3-pt-agenda on course
By Dapo Akinrefon
MR Paul Odili is a Special Adviser to Delta State governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. In this interview, he speaks on the efforts of the state government to combat kidnapping. He also debunks the insinuation that there is a frosty relationship between Uduaghan and Chief E.K Clark, saying the governor has regard for the elder statesmen. Odili explains the decision by the state government to ban commercial motorcyclists popularly called Okada. He speaks on the efforts the state government is making to improve the living standard of Deltans. Excerpts:
MIXED reactions have greeted the recent ban on commercial motorcycles popularly known as Okada. Would you say this is a step in the right direction?
It is an excellent decision that has really transformed the transportation sub-sector and economy of the state.
Okada was banned not because the governor has any particular issue with the individual commercial motorcyclists. It is simply because, as governor, he has responsibility to ensure public safety and he has responsibility to ensure that an efficient transport system is in place. The decision to ban was not a decision taken in isolation but within the context of that particular policy. Initially there was a bit of a gap after the ban and the administration understood that there was a possibility of that happening and had proceeded to acquire tricycles which was sold at completely knocked down prices through the commercial motorcyclist association. The market price of each tricycle is N400,000; initially N200, 000 was approved to sell it to them, but, at the commissioning of the tricycles, the governor, following public appeal, reviewed it downwards to N150,000. And the way it was structured is that the motorcycle association would partner with a bank, which would provide the facilities because we also understood that some of these motorcyclists may not have the capital because an investment of N 150,000 may affect their personal economics.
So, the arrangement was that through a bank, they could obtain some kind of additional facility such that they would be able to acquire it. And the administration went beyond that to provide Marcopolo buses and small buses to support the movement of people. I can say that the situation has stabilized because more entrepreneurs saw a vacuum, an economic opportunity even though government has taken steps to block that gap and brought out a lot of commercial vehicles. Today, in Delta State, you will agree that it is a worthwhile decision and a commendable one and people are happy because there is safety and our streets are better organized. There is less noise pollution and irritation that came with the large number of motorcycles. I know Deltans are happy with it and it is a very good decision.
You mentioned safety earlier, but Deltans are worried over the rise in kidnapping cases in the state. What is the state government doing to tackle this menace?
Let’s be clear about this. The whole point about security is a national challenge, everybody knows that. But, as an administration, we have provided as much assistance as we can to the police and other security agencies in terms of logistics and all kinds of material support.
Let me also add that security is a collective responsibility, but, as a government, we are doing our best. I hope that the police are also doing their best. You might ask: how does the point fit into the clamour for state police? My submission is that it fits in very well because the governor has been talking about it. He would like, in amending our constitution, to accommodate that change that there is need for this country to have state police. As the chief executive of the state, he needs to have control on policing and the strategy that should be adopted in combating crime. Right now that is not the case. Strategy and operational control resides in Abuja. I feel that until that is done; we will not be able to resolve some of these issues. However and sadly too, some of the kidnap incidents, arrests have been made and what has become apparent is that quite a number of people who are close to those kidnapped have some link to what happened. It’s a tricky situation and quite unfortunate but that is the situation we find ourselves today.
What efforts has the Delta State government put in assisting victims of the flood disaster?
I think that the Delta State flood management is quite different in the sense that the governor has been widely commended for been on top of the flood situation. The governor has shown leadership and great support and empathy to those affected. At the height of the crisis, we provided relief materials, we ensured evacuation, and we provided as much comfort as possible. I want also to acknowledge that there was major support from the public by way of donations of materials, food and government, on its own, ensured that the health care and welfare of the people were taken care of.
We strategised to ensure that the school system was not affected. When the president announced the intervention fund, Delta State, I think, is the only state that set up a committee headed by Justice Tabai to manage that fund and the mandate is very simple: to see how that can be used to assist the affected. Before the camps were closed, the state government made provision for stipends: N5,000 for adults and N3,000 for kids in the camp. Generally, Delta has shown tremendous support because I can say that the model that we adopted was the envy of everyone including those that visited the camps. To a large extent, the people were assisted and they are happy.
There has been this clamour for power shift in Delta State. The Anioma people from Delta north are saying that power should shift come 2015. What is the position of the governor regarding this?
The governor has made the point clear that he is focused on governing at this point in time. At the time of politics, it will be discussed. I am from Delta north, of course, and I do also know there is an existing principle and I am hoping that, at the right time, the party leaders will make the right decision. On the basis of equity and justice, the right decision will be made. Let me leave it that way.
What is the relationship between the governor and Delta leaders, especially Chief E.K Clark?
The relationship between Chief Clark and the governor is good. He is an elder of the state just like we have so many other elders. But the governor continues to hold him in high esteem.
The way the governor has communicated so far has shown that he sees Chief Clark as his father and has continued to show him enormous regard. Chief Clark and his group are being carried along on the developments in Delta, that is a remarkable leadership example of the governor. So there is no issue today. You also know that in the past there were political differences but all of that is over.
Presently, there are caretaker committees at the local government councils. How soon will elections be conducted to elect council chairmen?
To be honest with you, I cannot tell you right away how soon that will happen. What I can say is that the issue about conducting elections is not a problem; this administration has conducted local government election in the past, so it is not a new experience.
How far has the state government gone on its Three-Point Agenda?
The agenda has been extremely successful. The three focal points have more than exceeded all expectations. If you take the first point which is peace and security, you will see that long before the amnesty programme became a policy of the Federal Government, the initiative to find a way to bring stability to the region, which was in a major crisis, was pioneered in Delta State.