By Felix Ayanruoh
The human and capital decay in Warri, our beloved city, is worrisome, unfortunate and painful. Having lived in old Warri (Essi Compound), opposite Ogbe Ijaw market, later Bendel Estate and Ugbosu Estate, I am bold to say that I am in a better position to tell the story of how ‘Warri take carry last’ in the scheme of human and capital development.
In its heyday, Warri, the urban sketch, was a by product of the concurrent rise of the middle class. The youth showed increasing gusto in education. I recall the swagger of a young Warri boy or girl preparing to take the West African School Certificate Examination or the Joint Admission Matriculation Examination (JAMB).Gone were the days when university students were treated as princes and princesses in the neighborhood. Warri was the melting-pot for all, where Emuobonuvie was married to his best friend Alero, Pere and Oreva were the envy of their peers, and Okwudili and Edidiong were happy attending the same church.
This was Warri until political and tribal brinkmanship set in. Warri, in its present state, is predominantly allegorical. It is the place where the real and the unreal merge. On the one hand, the city is one substance, but ironically different in every inch from one end to the other depending on political and tribal affiliation. Warri was pretty wonderful back in the days.
Since 1999, the city has degenerated into an isolated city. Employment has taken a toll on our beloved city while schools and road networks are nothing to write home about. It is instructive to note at this point that the city has lost over 40 companies to neighboring states.
It is alarming that after Shell left Warri, the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), a subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), wanted to move to Warri to take over the facilities of Shell, but was prevented from doing so by Edo State government. While the PDP administration in the state went to sleep, the Edo government offered NPDC investment friendly offer to make it remain in Benin. Also, Intergrated Data Sevices Company (IDSL), a subsidiary of NNPC, was conceded to Edo by the PDP government. These are companies that would have provide employment for our youths and provide tax revenue for the state.
Lets talk about roads and schools. Since the inception of the PDP government ‘Men have been at work’ along the Warri/ Sapele Road and many other roads but nothing tangible has been done. All you see are men digging the same selected portions of road and gutter, every election year. It is common knowledge that only selected schools are rehabilitated in Warri. This is wrong for the city of brotherliness.
This present petroleum industry barenness and hence economic doldrums is not good for the city in particular and the state in general. Warri is the employment engine of Delta State. The Ogboru-led government has a plan that will lift the city and, to a large extent, the state from its present state. The People’s General, within the first six months of his government will create Warri Economic Development Authority (WEDA). This agency, in conjunction with the Federal Government, will look into the revitalization of Warri Seaport and Delta Steel Company. Their terms of reference will include drilling the port and having a robust stakeholders meeting with all groups, including the youths on the issues of security, employment and other important issues. We all know that with an effective seaport and steel company in Warri, companies and opportunities will come back to Warri. The revitalization of these companies will not only create jobs in Delta but also Nigeria at large.
The General will also create local government areas development boards across the state with an annual budget of over N200 million per LGA to execute project selected by text message jury of voters in each LGA. The project will be closely monitored by the state government. A change model of public health system, built on patient doctor interaction using modern heath care technology at affordable cost, will be established to strengthen health care in the state.
To ease transportation in the riverine areas, flyover bridge, separating Deltans transport needs from the bustle of the waterways in Warri, Asaba, Sapele, Agbor, will be built to connect internal Delta rail hubs to the ports. Delta line will be rehabilitated and improved with special emphasis on courier services. It is projected that an improved Delta Line will not only provide thousands of jobs but also put funds in the state coffers.