By Julius Oweh
The youths of any nation are the future because of their bubbling energy and uncommon trait to embrace change compared to their older folks. Furthermore, the provision of electricity is the bedrock of development as that would power industries and provide comfort for people at home.
These issues were brought to the front burner in Delta State recently when the Commissioner in the Directorate of Youth Development, Honourable Oghenekaro Ilolo and the Commissioner for Energy, Barrister Newworld Safugha presented their score cards to Deltans through the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the press.
Honourable Oghenekaro Ilolo explained that the Directorate of Youth Development was created in 2007 among others ‘to give adequate attention to youth matters or issues at all levels of government, to enhance youth empowerment and put an end to the marginalization and non-recognition of the youth as a critical factor in national development, to enhance youth policy and programmes implementation and to step up youth activities and programmes in both public and private sectors‘
Ilolo disclosed that on the part of the Delta State government, the mission of the directorate of youth development was ‘to provide sustainable framework for the integrated planning and development of youth policies and programmes through skill acquisition training and empowerment, thereby enhancing their employability or to be economically independent via the establishment of their own businesses‘
Based on this noble vision, according to Ilolo, the state governor Dr Ifeanyi Okowa in 2017 inaugurated a state steering committee on special youth intervention training and empowerment programme to complement the efforts of job creation office. He said that two hundred youths are beneficiaries being trained currently on various skill areas in the State Skill Acquisition Centres and they are under registered master trainers across the state.
To properly organise the youths, the Directorate of Youth Development registered 293 clubs, comprising of youth organizations and youth related NGOs from 2017 to June, 2018. He also listed the following as some of the achievements of the directorate: ‘The directorate through the efforts of the Commissioner has been making sure that there is no youth restiveness in the state. The directorate was able to nip in the bud the election crisis among the youths in Amai, Oko, Okpanam, Umuebu kingdom through the quick intervention of the Directorate and the Delta State Youth Council who held series of meetings with the youths and conducted free and fair elections in the above mentioned communities. The National Youth Council of Nigeria, Delta State chapter under the supervision of the Directorate of Youth Development, was able to conduct a successful state congress and elections in January, 2017 and also the state management meeting of the council in September, 2017 which was sponsored by the present administration‘
The commissioner also observed that the directorate was able to sponsor three youths to the Nigerian Youth parliament in 2017. To douse tension, the directorate held a one-day town hall meeting for community youths in the three senatorial districts on the need for dialogue in resolving security challenges in the training. Similarly, a 5-day training/capacity building workshop on skills for rescue mission and disaster management for 150 youths leaders (ten each from 15 selected voluntary organizations) involved in disaster management and control in the state.
On the international scene, Ilolo stated that the Delta State government sponsored two members of the state youth council to attend the year 2017 Melaka International World Assembly of Youth Dialogue at Melaka, Malaysia. Still on youth development, the commissioner maintained that in 2017, the directorate embarked on the documentation exercise of the leadership and executives of all autonomous communities and also disbursed the 2017 annual subvention of the sum of one hundred thousand naira each to 46 recognized voluntary organizations in the state to encourage them carry out their humanitarian services.
On the national youth service corps scheme, Ilolo said thus :‘The directorate is fully represented at the Board of the National Youth Service Corps, which has the secretary to the state government as the chairman. As part of the state government efforts to ensure that the camp is conducive for youth corps members, the governor has graciously approved the contract for the construction of a new male hostel block at the permanent orientation camp with the capacity to accommodate 700 corps members as well as the contract for the provision of water facilities at the total sum of N177,230.493.43‘.
On the future development of the directorate, the commissioner said that plans were at advanced stage to rehabilitate three development centres at Ashaka, Kokori and Ehwu and when functional shall be beneficial to their host communities and beyond after the rehabilitation work.
On the part of Barrister Newworld Safugha, the Commissioner for Energy, he told the press that the responsibilities of his ministry were formulation of energy policies, urban and rural electrification, provision of infrastructure for electricity power supply, electrical engineering services and electronics engineering technology. He maintained that the ministry under his watch has justified this core mandate. He explained the policy thrust of his ministry :‘The policy thrust of the state government in the energy sector is to ensure the adequate provision of electricity infrastructure and services to all communities in the state to enhance the standard of living , socio-economic and industrial growth and development‘.
On the achievements of the ministry, Safugha said that the state government had undertaken a total of eighty-three energy projects since May 2015 at a total cost of more than three billion naira. He also disclosed that within that period, to facilitate economic activities in the rural areas of the state, the ministry through its parastatal, Rural Development Agency executed over thirty-two projects with estimated cost of five hundred and seven million, twenty-five thousand and fifty Naira.
The commissioner stated that among other achievements in the electricity power supply were: “Rehabilitation/Maintenance of electricity power supply at Bolou-Apelebiri and Odorubu in Patani LGA, Olodinama and Bomadi in Bomadi LGA and Okpokunou in Burutu LGA; Reinforcement/Rehabilitation of Electricity power supply at Ibusa town, Oshimili North Local Government Area; Extension of electricity power supply from Etua-Etiti to Etua-Oliogo in Ndokwa West LGA; Installation of 7.5MVA, 33/11kv injection transformer substation at Master Key Road, near the new Central Hospital, Asaba in Oshimili South LGA; And construction of 33KV overhead high tension line and conversion of existing 30KVA, 11/0.415KV transformer substation at WAEC Road, Asaba`.
Following various complaints by electricity consumers in the state, the ministry according to Safugha held series of meetings with Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) and communities that were disconnected from the national grid by BEDC. These communities are Patani, Olomoro, Ibusa, Onicha-Ugbo, Akwukwu-Igbo, Issele-Uku, Ogwashi-Uku, Illah, Ubulu-Uku, Kwale, Abbi, Bomadi and Udu. The outcome of the meetings led to the reconnection of some of these communities to the national grid and also engendered peaceful and harmonious relationship between them.
Safugha also spoke about the challenges of maintaining the various street lights in some major towns and the conversion of generator powered street light to public power supply. The towns affected were Asaba, Warri, Effurun,Oghara metropolis, Ughelli and Sapele. He also disclosed that the state government was collaborating with Niger Delta Development Commission in the provision of sustainable electricity in Burutu.
The commissioner explained what the government was doing in the renewable energy development: ‘In keeping with the objective of the state government to diversify the economy of the state and create a green economic base, the ministry of energy is focusing on renewable energy activities that are strategic to the realization of this administration SMART agenda.
It is worthy of note that Delta State Ministry of Energy pioneered the deployment of solar street lights in Nigeria to complement grid powered street lights about a decade ago. In spite of the challenges encountered in the utilization of solar street lights that had made some other states to abandon them, Delta state has managed to forge ahead with several innovations (all in one technology) that have kept a good number of the solar street lights in good condition`.
The commissioner maintained that the state government was looking towards the future with optimism and that some strategies were being minted. He listed them as deliberate hands on capacity building through implementation of direct labour projects to hone the skills of the ministry engineers and technical officers, exploiting all financing options in the development of energy projects through public-private partnership and engaging in energy conservation awareness campaign.