By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
ASABA- THERE is a mixed reaction in Delta State on the first 100 days of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as Governor of the oil-rich state. The governor, his deputy, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, chair in the state, Chief Henry Uzor, the Obi of Owa Kingdom, HRM Emmanuel Efeizomor and others believe the government is on course.
However, executive director of the Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged, Warri, Delta State, Barrister Oghenjabor Ikimi, Jesutega Onokpasa Esq and a considerable number think otherwise.
Okowa, Otuaro impressed with strides
In a post on his Facebook page, the governor exuded satisfaction with his administration’s target to create 6,000 direct employment every six months through the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurship Programme, YAGEP and Skill Training and Entrepreneurship Programme, STEP, which had commenced with the first two batches already enrolled at Songhai-Delta, Amukpe.
“When we advertised for people to en-roll for the programme, over seventy thousand youths applied and through a credible process, the first batch of over one thousand four hundred trainees were selected and have completed their first one week of intensive training preparatory to their being attached to relevant centres for them to acquire practical know-how on their chosen fields. Thereafter we will provide them with ‘starter pack,’ he enthused.
Okowa asserted, “We will monitor their progress and also allow them to keep constant touch with the job creation office in case they need clarification in their field of business”. I have appointed the Executive Secretary of the Vocational Skills Education Board and we are going ahead with the inauguration of other boards soon.
He also listed the amendment of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC Act, creation of Capital Territory Development Authority and Bill to introduce Contributory Health Insurance Scheme as part of measures taken by his administration to put the state back on the path of speedy development.
His deputy, Otuaro, who maintained that Okowa’s programme is encapsulated in his SMART agenda, said, “His Excellency’s vision for the state is encapsulated within his Prosperity for All Deltans mantra.. We are on course.
HRM, Obi Efeizomor expressed satisfaction with the governor’s steady steps, a view shared by PDP chair in the state, Chief Uzor.
Nothing to cheer – Ikimi
Activist and lawyer, Ikimi, does not see anything impressive in Okowa’s administration in the last 100 days. He said, “My score card for Governor Okowa is low as it has been a 100 days of business as usual. To put it succinctly, Governor Okowa’s 100 days in office has been 100 days of commotion in the governance of the State, reminiscent of the television drama series, “Fuji house of commotion”.
His words, “In Governor Okowa’s first public outing after he was sworn in as governor, he addressed members of the State House of Assembly and in the process, intimated bewildered Deltans that his administration inherited a whopping debt profile of N637 billion.
He called on them to be ready to make sacrifices necessary to put the state on the path of economic recovery. However, prior to the said visit, Governor Okowa had reportedly taken a loan of N10 billion from a commercial bank without the approval of the legislators.”
“ Furthermore, the 97- man transition committee set up by Governor Okowa in its report among other things had put the number of civil commissioners in the erstwhile administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan at 33 while that of his special advisers, executive assistants and political aides were put at 165.
However, within 100 days in office, Governor Okowa has appointed 12 civil commissioners as his first batch of commissioners in the state and another batch of 8 civil commissioners that are yet to be cleared by the state legislators.
“Within the above period, over 130 political aides either as special advisers, special assistants, executive assistants, project directors and personal aides, including a 30- man advisory and peace committee headed by Professor Sam Oyovbaire, a former Minister of Information has been appointed by the incumbent Governor,” he asserted.
He said, “A common feature of the above appointments made so far by Governor Okowa is that of duplicity of job description and functions that tell on public funds. For instance, Governor Okowa has a chief press secretary, a communications manager, four press secretaries, ie electronic media, social media, print media and community newspapers, all doing the same job of image laundering for the governor, while the State is saddled with a debt burden of N647 billion or more.”
“One is therefore at a loss as to what has informed these bogus appointments bearing in mind the present debt profile of state. Are these appointments the necessary sacrifices the citizens of the state need to make to put their dear state on the part of economic recovery?
Are the above bogus appointments indices to the economic recovery Governor Okowa talked about while addressing members of the state House of Assembly? The above appointments no doubt were merely done to provide jobs for the boys and not in the collective interest of the state,” he asserted.
Where is the road map?
His words, “At his inception in office, Governor Okowa sent three executive bills to the state House of Assembly for passage into Law. That is 1) A bill for a Law to establish the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, 2) A bill for a Law amending the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Commission and 3) A bill for the Law establishing the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education.”
“These bills were passed by the State House of Assembly with supersonic speed. First, the passage of the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency Law was retrogressive, sectional and a clannish piece of legislation meant to develop Asaba without recourse to other parts of the state. Governor Okowa since the passage of the above law has not told Deltans his blue print or his road map on how he intends to develop the other parts of the state.
“Recently while swearing in 12 civil commissioners and 5 special advisers in the state, Governor Okowa reiterated the fact that his administration has zero tolerance for disunity, sectionalism, and corruption in the State. Is the passage of the above legislation to develop Asaba without recourse to other parts of the State not sectional?
Ikimi added, “Secondly, the law amending the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) merely restructured the Commission like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). However, the problem with the Commission was far from that of mere restructuring, as the Commission was plagued with undue political interference.”
“Rather than insulate the Commission from politics by appointing seasoned technocrat to man same so that the developmental needs of host communities can be met, Governor Okowa resorted to appointing his party loyalists as the Commission’s board members, leaving the issue of political interference unresolved.
He said: “His five- point agenda with the acronym, SMART, is still a mere political slogan reminiscent of the former Governor Uduaghan’s three- point agenda as the blue print for the actualization of same is yet to be laid. For instance, one of the cardinal points of Governor Okowa’s five point agenda is job generation and creation.”
Uzor slams opponents
Contrary to the position of Ikimi and Onokpasa, Chief Uzor said the SMART agenda was well-thought out to bring prosperity to Deltans and in expression of its resolve to meaningfully engage 6000 youths in six months, Okowa administration had rolled out the YAGEP, STEP, and Production and Processing Support Programme , PPSP.
He also said the Okowa administration, in its determination to develop the state capital, has graciously created the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency to achieve this task without increasing the debt burden of the state. Uzor said the issue of debt burden was not peculiar to the state and urged Deltans to give more support to the PDP government.