By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Festus Ahon & Perez Brisibe
ASABA—GOVERNOR Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, raised a fresh alarm that killings and attacks by herdsmen were escalating in the state and other parts of the country and called on the Federal Government to come up with tough measures to confront the menace.
Okowa, who spoke at a quarterly briefing with journalists in Asaba, scored his administration high in terms of infrastructural development, adding, “We have thus far, as at the last two years, awarded 98 roads, 20 of which have been commissioned. From the information available, about 25 of the roads will be commissioned in the course of this second year anniversary.”
The governor denied having hands in the impeachment of the former Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Chief Monday Igbuya, saying: “I do not have any hand in the impeachment of the former Speaker and that is why I spent time to resolve a lot of issues over the matter. It was an affair that a large majority of the members felt that the former Speaker needed to give way. I believe that the Delta State House of Assembly is knowledgeable enough and they have vibrant lawmakers as members.
“In fact, for four days, I did not do anything else because of the matter. As a governor, I do not believe that I have the right to impose things on them against their will and that is why the decision was taken by them and that decision stays and I do not think I will involve myself with the impeachment of the former Speaker,” he said.
He explained that the state government discontinued overseas scholarship programme for first-class students of the state origin because of shortage of funds, while the Delta Leisure Resorts, Oleri and Ogwashi-Uku Wild Life Park and Resorts projects were abandoned when it was discovered that investors contributed nothing to the supposedly private-sector driven projects after the government had pumped in billions of naira.
On the herdsmen menace, he said: “We are beginning to have a new form of crisis, not that it has not been there. It is the clash between herdsmen and our communities and farmers. It has been a very problematic issue, though not restricted to Delta State. It is very unfortunate that it is escalating, not only in Delta State, but across the country, but we are trying to work out the best ways to deal with it.
“I have been talking with the security agents and the Commissioner of Police, who has been very proactive and talking with my colleagues, many of them are challenged with the activities of the herdsmen.”
Noting the peculiar challenge at Abraka axis of the state, where herdsmen were alleged to be occupying an area described by locals as “Sambisa Forest,’ he said: “We are aware that there are challenges at the Abraka area but I will not call it Sambisa forest. The Commissioner of Police has also been in touch with the Assistant Inspector General of Police, South-South.”
“As I speak with you, in the past two weeks, two units of mobile policemen, about 126 policemen with some specially trained anti-terrorist policemen are already resident at Abraka, though at a high cost to us, looking at the best avenues to get these herdsmen to move out of the forest.
“It is something that has to be planned in such a manner that we do not have any casualties. But these operatives are providing security there and currently escorting farmers to their farms,” he said.
Admitting that the Delta State Government was misled on the Oleri Wildlife Park, the governor said: “From what is available to us, the state government was deceived by the private ‘investor’ who was supposed to fund the project and the situation is that there is nothing on ground at the project site to show that a kobo has come from the investor who started turning itself into a contractor.
“I think the past administration initially thought that the project would be a job spinner. The project is actually going to cost lot of monies which the state government cannot afford,” he added.
On his performance, he said: “We have continued to do a lot in road development, while we are continuing with some of the roads that were started by the previous administration, some new roads have been awarded and some old roads have been rehabilitated because they have been in very bad shape and as at the last count, we have thus far, as at the last two years, awarded 98 roads and of the 98 roads, 20 of them have been commissioned and from the information available, about 25 of the roads will be commissioned in the course of this second year anniversary.”
“We still have about 53 roads that are ongoing at various stages, some at completion and we are carrying out inspections in the course of town hall meetings we are having as part of activities to mark our second year anniversary in office,” he added.