By Julius Oweh
In the folklorist wisdom of the tortoise, it decided to bring its own accommodation to the world, hence the tortoise does not build house like other animals. Man however cannot live in the legend of tortoise and so he must provide accommodation for himself either as a tenant or landlord. Either way, he needs money to put roof over his head. And within the week, the importance of accommodation either for citizens or government establishment and habitual urban areas were brought to the fore when the Commissioner for Housing, Architect Joseph Ogeh and Hon Peter Forteta gave their account of stewardship to Deltans via the members of the press.
Ogeh in his briefing explained the philosophy behind his ministry and its core mandate. He said that the Ministry of Housing was saddled with the responsibility of ‘provision of affordable shelter that meets international habitation standard through the building of estates for staff of government and Deltans by partnering with private developers in the provision of residential and social infrastructure for its citizens. The mandate of the ministry also include construction of secretariat to reduce the rent paid by the government to property owners whose properties are used as government offices, infrastructural development in public schools and hospitals, creating avenue for revenue generation to the state through private partnership arrangement with interested developers in commercializing some of the under-utilized state government owned properties outside the state and partnering with building, research and technical institution in order to develop cost effective housing using innovative building solutions‘.
Ogeh said that since the inception of the Okowa administration, a lot of achievements have been recorded in the housing sector. He listed some of them to include construction of two hundred 3 and 4 bedroom bungalows at Okerenkoko, renovation of government quarters, renovation of government offices, construction of Head of Service Office complex at Asaba at the cost of N477,169,721.05, construction of office buildings for State Independent Electoral Commission (contract sum of N244,338,462.55), remodelling/rehabilitation of Governor‘s Lodge, Abuja, and the development of new central secretariat complex, Asaba. Others are construction /fencing of Mariam Babangida Women Development Centre, Asaba, renovation/rehabilitation of general hospitals at Bomadi, Agbor and remodelling of Central Hospital, Asaba, construction of standard Library complex, Asaba (contract sum of N494,098,028.420), construction of law Faculty DELSU, Oleh campus, completion of Delta State Towers, Abuja and Partnership with the private sector in housing delivery.
On the Okerenkoko New Town Development Project in Warri South West local government area, Ogeh explained the work done so far and the idea behind the gigantic project. He said thus; ‘The contract for the construction of 200 no. Three (3) and four (4) bedroom bungalow at Okerenkoko New Town Development Project was first awarded to Accelerated Building Technologies Limited in March, 2010 at the contract sum of N5,674,965,267.27. The contractor however left site in April 2011 due to security challenges and hostile working environment after executing some work. The contractor, Accelerated Building Technologies Limited, in 2017 reached an agreement with the state government to exit the contract. Consequently, a fresh contract for the completion of 154 three (3) and four (4) bedroom bungalows was awarded to Disek Integrated Global Limited in October, 2017 at the contract sum of N2, 905,385,852.23. The contract is on-going‘.
The Housing Commissioner also disclosed that the following government residential quarters: commissioners‘ quarters, legislators‘ quarters, permanent secretaries quarters, the Government Housing Estate Okwe, Fine Homes, Acquired Estate, VIP and VVIP Guest Houses were renovated. And that between May, 2015 to date, government has through the Ministry of Housing spent over N500,000,000.00 in renovating various quarters occupied by public servants. He said that the head of Service office complex has been completed at the contract sum of four hundred and seventy-seven million, one hundred and sixty-nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty-one Naira.
On the remodelling and rehabilitation of Governor‘s Lodge, Abuja, Ogeh disclosed thus: ‘The contract for the remodelling and rehabilitation of the Governor‘s Lodge, Abuja, which entails the restructuring of the governor‘s lodge, aides quarters and rehabilitation of the fence/gate house and general works was awarded to Fairfield Engineering Limited at the contract sum of N244,238,207.45 in December, 2015. The project has since been completed‘.
According to the Housing Commissioner, the Okowa administration bearing in mind the importance of reading culture to advance the educational fortunes of Deltans and residents in Asaba, constructed a state of the art library at the heart of the capital city. ‘‘The government of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has completed the construction of standard library complex, Asaba at a contract sum of N497,498,028.42`, he said
It is also instructive to note that the state government is putting up a strong presence in Abuja and this was demonstrated by the completion and concessioning of Delta State Towers. The commissioner said: ‘The Abuja Tower is a multi-story building that was started by the administration of Chief James Ibori: somehow the project was stalled for some years. At the inception of this administration, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa reorganised the importance of completion of this multi-use and very commercially viable project. This administration did not only complete it, but has also concessioned the property to a known property manager and it is generating revenue for the state‘.
The commissioner also disclosed that the private sectors were involved in building for the state and some of such active participants are Shelter Afrique for the development of 1000 Housing units, the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund for the construction of 650 housing units and Larfarge (Green Field) for the development of 10,000 Housing units. Despite these achievements, the commissioner admitted that there were some challenges facing his ministry. He blamed the economic situation for paucity of funds, the compromise of professional standards by a few staff of the ministry who in collaboration with dubious contractors carry out sub-standard projects and the security of officers of the ministry supervising government projects in violence prone areas of the state.
On the part of the Commissioner for Urban Renewal, Hon. Peter Forteta, he stressed the need to restore the environment to its pristine nature and citizens to savour the beauty of friendly environment. Forteta traced the history of the ministry to September 2015 when the state governor Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as part of the SMART agenda created it with a view of massive transformation and development of the entire state, in line with the standards expected of modern cities all over the world. The commissioner explained the mandate of his ministry as monitoring and identifying possible areas that require upgrading to urban centres, upgrading of infrastructural facilities in blight areas and empowerment of communities to create a sustainable environment.
Based on the above mentioned core values of the ministry, the commissioner stated that some major achievements were recorded in some areas. These among others include rehabilitation of Charles Street at Agbor, rehabilitation and construction of Amawha layout and Ideze Road at Oleh, construction of Burutu township roads, Burutu, rehabilitation and asphalt overlay of Obotobo I-Obotobo II-Sokobolu-Yokri Road in Burutu local government area, rehabilitation and overlay of Oha/Oviore Road with bridge in Okpe local government area, construction of NCC Institute/State Owner Occupier Housing Estate/CBN Housing Estate, off Asaba-Ugbolu-Illah Road in Oshimili North Local Government Area rehabilitation and Resurfacing of Obi Opute II Road, Aboh and rehabilitation of Irri College/Uzere Junction Road in Isoko South local government area.
Other projects undertaken were,‘Rehabilitation and Asphalt Overlay of Obotobo I-Obotobo II-Sokobolu –Yokri Road in Burutu local government. The 18.71km length road was awarded at the total sum of N1,667,629,659.70. The project is ongoing and has attained 60 per cent completion. There was also the rehabilitation and overlay of Oha/Orerokpe/Oviore road with bridge in Okpe local government area. The 7.9km length project was awarded on 15th December, 2016 at the sum of N1, 477,596,050.70. The project is ongoing and at 25 per cent of its completion‘.
The commissioner also showered enormous appreciation to the governor for the establishment of the Ministry of Urban Renewal. Hear Him: ‘I wish to use this medium, to appreciate the Governor, Senator Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa for the creation of the Ministry of Urban Renewal as one of the tools to realize the Urban Transformation of the SMART AGENDA of his administration. Similarly, I commend the various contractors of the Ministry for assiduously executing project to government specification. However, in spite of the above enumerated achievements, the ministry is faced with challenges namely: absence of vehicles for project supervision, inadequate office accommodation and equipment and absence of engineering and survey equipment‘