By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, who recently visited Lagos, spoke on the achievements of Governor Seriake Dickson, as the state gets ready for its 6th year anniversary in office. He also shed light on on-going reforms in the state civil service.
Significance of 6th year anniversary?
I think the basic significance would be a candid stock taking and informing the people what their government had done to improve their lives and hope for a better tomorrow. To that extent, then, we can confidently say that the Restoration Administration has in the last six years changed our narrative as we used to know it so fundamentally. It is now incontrovertible because the achievements of this government ably led by the contriman governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, are now everywhere and good enough the people can relate with them in the various sectors.
Education, for instance, has received an unusual attention; and posterity will definitely remember Governor Dickson for that. Now we have the best secondary schools in the whole country. Even in a recession, government started a revolutionary education programme that you cannot find in any other state. A programme where government is selecting boys and girls from their families and putting them through a competitive examination process in all local governments, putting them in model secondary schools built by government,feeding them, clothing them, providing books and computers for them. In a recession, government is also building tertiary schools, the University of Africa, the College of Health Technology in Otuogodi and making resources available for all their facilities and getting accreditation of all their courses. The same thing applies to the college of education, it will be a degree awarding college affiliated to the Niger Delta University, so that they can mentor it. The administration is also supporting the Niger Delta University; supporting the take-off of the polytechnic, building science and technical colleges throughout our state this year. If you go to the Ijaw National Academy, you will understand the point I am making here. That is the foundation Governor Dickson is inspiring, making us to believe in ourselves and establish a home grown development initiative which is already attracting interest from far and wide.
I think the establishment of the education development trust fund is also a thing we should commend regarding training and educating between 5000 and to 15000 young people at every given time. This has implication for rapid development because such huge investments in education as we are doing in Bayelsa will come with so much benefits in the future.
Before now we cannot in serious reckoning claim to have modern hospitals in the state but that has now changed. In Brass we have a modern one there. We have completed the one for Ekeremor, ready for furnishing and take off; we have completed the one for Sagbama, ready for furnishing and take off; same for Kolokuma/Opokuma, Oporoma and now completing the one for Ogbia in spite of some initial delay. Governor Dickson has also directed that another one be built in Nembe, making it two for use there. Then we have the Bayelsa Diagnostic Centre in Yenagoa, a major facility of world class standard. That is a modern diagnostic centre, one of the best in the country. People now come from Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and many other states to Bayelsa for diagnosis. It was built, equipped and handed over to American specialists to run it for efficiency. And to ensure that fake drugs do not compound the health situations of our people, government built the drug mart and Bayelsa pharmaceutical centre, ready for commissioning. Now on top of these investments, we have introduced the health insurance programme.
But government is doing more and before the end of December 2018, every ward will have a functional health centre, equipped with quarters where nurses and doctors will stay. By the way, the health insurance scheme recorded over 300,000 people with the one man, wife and four children. The governor has also approved 5% of our IGR for “Dicksoncare”. This year, government is coming up with a policy for our pregnant women —from the month a woman becomes pregnant, she becomes government property.She will be registered and taken care of. We will have the health centres set, with computers so women who are pregnant can confirm their pregnancy and put on a special allowance, we then register them to have their data so that we can monitor.
Roads and infrastructure
It’s been revealing, having to open up the state through roads in all the senatorial districts. I hope you all took notice that Governor Dickson last Christmas actually drove to Aleibiri and by December this year he will be driving straight to Ekeremor. For all those who are familiar with the stories behind such historic efforts, we should commend the contriman governor. What people thought were impossible are now possible and that speaks to leadership and vision.
You are going to see major investments in public housing and a lot of empowerment drive. Women and youths being put together, trained, in cooperatives and other ways and given money; bank loans, to start up. Government has set aside1billion naira for women and 1billion naira for youths. The operational modality will follow a structure in the state-owned Izon-Ibe Micro Finance Bank which also has branches in all our local government areas. The whole money will be given to the Izon Ibe Micro-Finance bank to disburse. Governor Dickson believes in private enterprise and has consistently supported such moves that can unleash the creativity of young Bayelsans and government is also building shops to support them in that area. I can confirm here that the housing programme for the elites has already started and in the next few weeks, allocation letters of about seven hundred to eight hundred plots in the GRA will be ready. This is the New Yenagoa Governor Dickson has been talking about, it’s now established and ready. A lot of infrastructure are now being put in place to make the place exceptionally modern and beautiful. The island leading to River Nun is the new Yenagoa city. Every plot will be planned and it is very cheap to buy the forms. The plots there will be four million naira per plot because it is almost four plots in one. Government has also made a funding arrangement where one does not need to pay all, you will pay a percentage and then the bank gives a mortgage. Of course, government is also opening up a lower one for the low-income bracket.
I think it is all about misinformation or deliberate misinformation perpetrated by the politicians. The point is that the local governments have had some problems paying their workers’ salary. It is not the state that does not pay salary, it’s the local councils due to obvious challenges in recent times. The state government only owe three months backlog, carried over when allocation went down so bad. But the good news is that the issue of any council owing salary will soon be over. As I talk with you here, Governor Dickson has given the councils marching order to find a way around the issue by paying their workers regularly. On the part of the state government, it has now cleared one and half month just two weeks ago and soon the remaining part of the three months backlog will also be cleared.Please tell the public that Bayelsa State is not owing workers contrary to such misinformation.Government will take that money from the Local Government’s allocation and will do the payment directly to the primary school teachers. The money for the primary and secondary school teachers will be paid at the same time.
Public service reform
The reform is actually on-going basically to reposition the state civil service for greater efficiency. The civil service is a very essential arm of government; if it collapses then we are in trouble. So government is concerned and really keen to leave behind a more professional civil service. You must behave like a professional civil servant, go to work and do what is expected of you. Let me also say here that the reform will also help in upgrading the mentality and performance of the teachers. In the enlightened appreciation of the issues by the government, most of these teachers do not have what it takes to teach our children anymore. This is well informed, by the way. Seeking to solve the problem and in consonance with the huge investment of government in the critical sector, government sent a bill to the assembly to improve the standard of teaching throughout the state. So please tell our people that government is not sacking any teacher in Bayelsa, no teacher should be afraid over loss of job.
Beyond reforms, however, our communities will also receive a lot of support from the government this year. This is an assurance from the governor. I am aware that government has budgeted over a billion naira for community support in fulfillment of campaign promises.There will also be a lot of business opportunities for those into tourism and housing.
Bayelsa State is assured in glowing epitaph as a visionary who came and conquered. He’s just terrific looking at it all together. He definitely has made a huge difference and his stewardship remains indelible. I thank you all for coming.