June 18, 2009

More N-Delta Cities

PROFESSOR Omo Omoruyi, the Director of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies has suggested creation of more cities in the Niger Delta to bring development closer to the people, and stabilise the area.

This call is very pertinent and we support it in its totality. One of the problems besetting the Niger Delta areas that are closer to the coasts is lack of adequate solid ground to build decent human settlements.

This problem is particularly peculiar to Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and parts of Ondo States. Over the centuries, indigenes of these areas, some of whom are nomadic fishermen, erected rickety and makeshift structures on water in which they dwelt.

Such humanly unsuitable abodes have no facilities for potable water, toilets or access to public power supply. People just come out of their homes and answer the call of nature into the same water that they depend upon for domestic needs.

The surrounding areas are swampy and difficult to develop towns on. As population increased and fortunes from fishing dwindled due to the destructive activities of crude oil exploration, many youths and the productively active populations were forced to seek opportunities in the cities.

It is a fact that many Niger Delta States do not have enough planned townships and organised settlements to accommodate their people, especially in the more coastal zones. Rivers State is still a one-city state, even though efforts are being made to upgrade towns like Onne.

This should not be the case because a situation where all indigenes of Rivers State come to Port Harcourt to access city life imposes avoidable social tensions and lowers the life span of the existing infrastructure in the city.

There is a need for the states and federal government, as well as the companies prospecting for oil resources to plug into the Niger Delta master plan on the development of new towns and settlements. The strategy of the British, our former colonial rulers in planning urban centres in different parts of the country, taking into cognisance the economic, political and social needs of the people of the areas is worthy of emulation.

Chosen territories in the Niger Delta can be sand-filled and infrastructure such as pipe-borne water, electricity lines, drainage, schools and hospitals built. Affordable and accessible housing is also important.  When the cities have this level of infrastructure, small to medium scale industries, to provide jobs for the people, would be attracted to the areas.

Only development programmes that would lift the people out of their poverty and generate more economic activities in which the people can participate would eventually stabilise the region. On the surface, oil exploration appears to be a great economic activity, but it goes on without the people and in most cases, the people lose their own economic engagements (farming and fishing) to oil exploration.

Why are governments disinterested in the Niger Delta Development Commission master plan that also emphasises this plank of development?