By Julius Oweh
The third tier of government, the local council and the people culture are interwoven. For every Nigerian has his root in the grassroots with the promotion and sustenance of culture as a driving force.
That explains why in most festivals that are observed, be them at Christian or Islamic, the urban areas are always deserted for the rural areas.
Last week, the importance of culture, tourism and grassroots development were brought to the fore in Asaba when the Commissioner in charge of Directorate of Culture and Tourism, Honourable Chinye Bazim Emmanuel and that of Directorate of Local Government Affairs, Honourable Joyce Overah gave account of their stewardship as part of the accountability process of the Okowa administration.
Honourable Chinye Bazim Emmanuel, the Commissioner in charge of Directorate of Culture and Tourism stated that the propelling aims of the directorate as contained in the mission are : to package Delta State as a brand, to preserve and enhance the unique cultural heritage, natural landscape and biodiversity and to partner with all stake holders in the development of culture and tourism.
He explained further on the policy thrust of the Directorate: ‘The policy thrust or mandate of the directorate specifically involves the development of programmes and articulation of policies that would promote culture and tourism potentials of the state. The directorate also implements policies and directives on tourism development from the Federal Ministry of Culture and Tourism‘.
He said that the directorate has two parastatals namely the Delta State Tourism Board and the Delta State Council for Arts and Culture. The two bodies, according to the commissioner, are the instruments used in driving the policy thrust of the directorate. He said that to develop the tourism potentials of the state, some tourist centres are regularly maintained and upgraded.
He listed such developmental focus as :‘1.The Lander Brothers Anchorage, Asaba, a foremost tourist site comprises of an information centre, the Lander Brothers Museum, the expatriate grave yard, a restaurant and bar and most recently, a sit out by the river bank. All these facilities were given face lift during the period under review. Presently the Anchorage is run under a public private partnership arrangement. 2. The source of River Ethiope, Umuaja, the deepest inland waterway in West Africa was recently renovated. 3. To market and promote Delta State as a preferred tourist destination, two information desks were opened and equipped at the Asaba International Airport and Osubi Airport to provide first hand information to tourists and visitors coming to the state‘
Since tourism is related to entertainment, the state government, according to Emmanuel has a deliberate policy to harness and develop talents of young Deltans. Towards this end, the entertainment and talent development department of the Directorate offers logistic support for events and show promotions. He disclosed that some of the talent hunt shows organised included the Labour National Development Room Show(an equivalent of Big Brother Africa), Davidmon Talent Quest and that grants were given to some artists like Regina Daniels.
Still on tourism development, the commissioner stated that Delta State participated in the 61st United Nations World Tourism Organization, African Region at Abuja , June 2018. It is also on record that the Directorate celebrated the 2017 World Tourism Day and also recently concluded a familiarization tour of tourism sites and attractions within the state. This tour, according to the commissioner was geared towards having an accurate statistics data of the state tourism potentials and assets for developmental, promotional and marketing purposes.
Despite these achievements, the commissioner admitted that there were still some daunting challenges facing the Directorate. Hear Him; ‘The challenges of the directorate are enormous. However, some of the major challenges are: 1.Inadequate budgetary provision for capital and recurrent expenditure. 2. Lack of Art Gallery. The state does not have a befitting Art Gallery to house some of the best efforts of renowned Delta artists such as Bruce Onobrakpeya, Billy Omabegho among others. This is desired to showcase and significantly promote our cultural heritage and values in the state. 3. Shortage of manpower – The Arts Council strength has been drastically depleted due to retirement, death etc. This has impacted negatively on all departments especially the State Troupe‘.
The commissioner in charge of Directorate of Local Government Affairs, Honourable Joyce Overah, pointed out that the functions of the Directorate are to ensure effective coordination and supervision of local government councils via proper disbursement of allocations, training of political office holders and maintenance of law and order across the state.
Overah said that since the inception of the Okowa administration, the Directorate has recorded achievements in these areas : joint accounts allocation committee, prompt disbursement of the monthly allocation from the federation account, direct disbursement of funds to local government traditional rulers committees, zonal security and intelligence committee meetings, training of local government political functionaries and budget execution among others.
On the welfare of traditional rulers and peace building efforts at the grassroots, the commissioner said that it was one of the top priorities of the Okowa government. He puts it this way: ‘In order to ensure that this key function is efficiently carried out and cordial relationship is sustained between the traditional rulers and the councils, the directorate deemed it necessary to directly disburse funds meant for Local Government Traditional Rulers Committees in the state to avoid unpleasant stories of non-payment or delays of such payments. This has ensured peaceful co-existence between the traditional rulers and the local government chairmen`.
The Directorate, according to the commissioner, showed keen interest in the security situations at the grassroots level of governance bearing in mind that no meaningful development can take place in absence of people. He speaks further on the security issue :‘The Directorate through its zonal offices at Agbor, Warri and Ughelli organizes monthly meetings with all local government council chairmen, head of personnel management, all local government service chiefs (Commanding officers of the Navy, Army, State Security Services and the Area Commanding Officers) to discuss security issues in their zones. The reports of these meetings are forwarded to the State Security Council for information and necessary action, in order to enhance peace and security of lives and properties throughout the state. This cardinal function epitomizes the Directorate as the reservoir of information gathering regarding the security situation with which the state security apparatus is updated‘.
The commissioner mentioned some of the communal crises resolved by his directorate. They are the resolution of the crisis in Uwheru community over the nomination of membership of the community vigilante group, the case of clash between the Local Government Revenue ticket sellers and motor cycle/keke riders in Orogun community, the Evwreni community and the Fulani herdsmen clash over their farmland, Umusei-Ogbe versus Emu-Ebendo communal clash, Etua Oliogo youth leadership squabbles, threat on Otorogu Gas Plant by youths in the area, protest by members of Oghara community over acquisition of land by the Nigerian Navy, land dispute between Egbekeibo and Ophorigbala communities, Oviri Olomu and Okwamu in Ewu kingdom and Asama in Bomadi LGA and Gbaregolo in Ughelli South LGA.
The Directorate of Local Government Affairs is also involved in human capacity building and training of political functionaries. Hear the Commissioner: ‘On record, the Directorate has successfully trained all categories of political office holders at the local government, through mounting of seminars and workshop in collaboration with reputable consultants from May 2015 till date. Just recently, a two day retreat/orientation for 151 newly elected political office holders in state was organized by the directorate for chairmen, vice chairmen, secretaries to local governments, leaders, deputy leaders, majority leaders and minority leaders‘.
Overah, however, disclosed that it was not all smooth sailing for the directorate. He said that there were some challenges faced by the directorate in the period under review. He listed them as inadequate monthly subvention to meet the needs of the directorate and its three zonal offices, absence of project monitoring vehicles and lack of spacious accommodation.