By Julius Oweh
Chief Clement Tudonemem Ofuani, the director- general of Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency is a household name and a man with intimidating educational and political profile. A graduate of the two most prestigious universities in Nigeria – the University of Nigeria, Nnsukka and the University of Lagos. He contested the last governorship primaries of PDP in the state and lost to the incumbent governor. Before then, he was Commissioner for Economic Planning and worked in the presidency during the tenure of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar‘Adua. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. He spoke to Saturday Vanguard recently on various issues about developing Asaba and the need for all Deltans to regard the place as a natural home. It was a vintage Ofuani in his elements as he rolled out the Okowa developmental plans for the capital city of the oil bearing state. Happy Reading.
How are you coping as the boss of Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency?
First it was a challenging assignment which requires somebody with a track record and a sense of commitment. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has 100 per cent confidence in me. Our activities at this agency will speak about the government agenda. The governor was conscious of the fact of making Asaba a befitting state capital and he called me and intimated me with his plan. This is very unusual in our clime where announcements are made on radio and television. The governor consulted me and I agreed to take on the appointment. I was humbled by that consultation of the governor. I also understood the significance of Asaba .During the campaign, the governor promised to transform Asaba into a modern state capital. A bill was sent to the State House of Assembly and majority of the legislators were in agreement with the tenor of that bill. It showed that every section of the state was in agreement to make Asaba, a befitting capital.
There was this insinuation in some quarters that you were not keen on taking the job more so that you also gunned for the position of the governor. Is that true?
It is really out of place for people to cook issues about what one was thinking in his mind. It is very far from reality. Despite the various political positions I held in the past at the state and national levels, I am one prepared to serve my people in any capacity. I presented myself for the PDP faithful as a governorship aspirant and only one person can emerge as the governorship candidate of the party. It was a free and fair primary. Okowa won that governorship primary, square and fair. The twenty-five aspirants accepted the result of the primaries. I called him and congratulated him. There was no time I had doubt about accepting the responsibility of transforming Asaba which the mandate of the agency represents.
You have held bigger positions before . . .
As a true patriot, I can serve in any position to uplift the living standard of my people. No matter how rich you may be, there is limit to the help you can render to your people. Public service offers you a platform to offer greater service to your people. It is really not the title of the job. That cannot define me. By my character, training and exposure, I can accept any government appointment that can add value to my people and the environment.
Was there a takeoff grant for the agency?
Yes it was about 58 million Naira as take off grant.
What is your agency doing about the Asaba massive flood problem?
Ans : I have a firsthand experience of the Asaba annual flood. Some of the causes could be traced to the rapid pace of development and urbanization of the city. Initially there was no adequate plan for the flood infrastructure and rapid urbanization. We needed a scientific answer to why drainage system was not working. The drainage system was not well planned, the size of the drainage and the buildings on the streets and roads. In some cases, there were no discharge points for the drainage. A typical example is the Direct Labour Agency Road, the drains on both sides of the roads were leading to nowhere. Today, however, the situation is different. We at this agency had consultants and engineers and working with the Ministry of Works, a massive drainage construction is going on the Nnebisi Road and the water shall be channelled into the Anwai River and the River Niger and very soon as the work is completed, flooding in Asaba shall become history.
In the beautification of Asaba, it seems that the banks are taking over the functions of your agency?
It is not true. The banks and the agency are working together. In fact, the banks came to us and asked us in which areas they could be of assistance in the beautification of Asaba. The banks are playing complementary roles. At the Interbau Roundabout, we worked together and replaced the former monument which was a bit racist. Today, we have a more befitting Ekumeku which truly represents what we are. Due to the financial constraints, the private sector is helping in the beautification of the city and we continue to appreciate them. There are no conflicts of roles between us and the said banks.
Is your agency also working for the Waste Management Board as many waste bins in Asaba have name of your agency inscribed on them?
The law setting up this agency is all encompassing. It is like a mini government. We are meant to implement every law of the state as it affects the provision of services – health, education, sanitation, transportation, roads construction and so on. We collaborate with other agencies of the government where necessary and same applies to the issues of sanitation in the capital city. We do that bearing in mind to reduce the cost of governance. Sanitation is a very key function of the agency that we cannot ignore. We carry out this important function and avoid friction in the delivery of services with other sister agencies with similar functions. Recently there was a meeting of local council chairmen, Ministry of Environment, Waste Management Board and our agency. And a committee was set up to develop a waste management plan for the state. It goes to show that we complement each other in service delivery to our people.
What can you say is the high point of your agency?
It is not in my place to pick one particular area as success. The people should give us the verdict of our successes or failures. However, let me give you one example. The Fine Home Estate along Summit Road, Asaba used to have problem of flooding. We developed a catch pit and today the flooding in the estate is no more.
What is your relationship with the Ministry of Urban Renewal?
The relationship is very cordial and it is one of collaboration. We are working together to provide the best services for our people. There is no duplication of efforts.
Don‘t you think that Asaba is singled out for development and special treatment to the detriment of Warri, Sapele, Ughelli , Agbor and other cities in the state?
Such thought process about neglect of other cities is a bit troubling. Asaba belongs to all Deltans. There are Urhobos, Isokos, Itsekiris, Ijaws who have houses in Asaba and even have streets named after them. Our core mandate here is to make Asaba the spiritual home of all Deltans, the way Jerusalem is the home of all Jews. The majority of people in the Asaba capital territory are not the natives of Asaba. Asaba today is a cosmopolitan city and the ethnic diversity of Delta and variety of other Nigerians are represented. The governor has been passionate to take the whole state as his constituency and this is represented by the Pan Deltan agenda of the administration. The other cities in states are not neglected. The governor is very creative in terms of infrastructural development across the length and breadth of the state.