By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has called for a tripartite funding arrangement to expedite action on the completion of the Akenfa Bridge project awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission since 2009.
Ewhrudjakpo, who made the call yesterday during a meeting with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and representatives of Akenfa Community in Yenagoa, explained that the proposed funding arrangement is expected to involve SPDC, NDDC, and the state government.
He noted that when completed, the bridge, which is being built across the Epie Creek, will link Akenfa I & II communities, and also serve as a spur to the Igbogene-Onopa Gateway Road.
His words, “We are suggesting a tripartite funding arrangement involving NDDC, Shell, and the state government like we did on the Ogbia-Nembe and Etegwe-Tombia road projects, where refunds were made to the state government after completion of the projects.
“We are not making this suggestion because we have enough money. No, we are making it because that project is very strategic and important not only to the people of Akenfa Community but to the state in general.
“We are now constructing the Ecumenical Centre (Igbogene)-Government House stretch of the Gateway Road. If that bridge is completed, it will now serve as a spur so that those who want to cross over to the other side of Akenfa, can do so with ease.
“Another nagging problem is the drowning or loss of lives every year in that area due to the high current during the floods following the construction work done there. We can’t afford to allow this loss. So, we attach urgency to the completion of the bridge.
“We believe Shell and government have to sit together with NDDC to look at three areas. First, we need to know how much NDDC has actually paid and the extent of work done.
“And then, we have to set up a joint project team to visit the site and ascertain what is left to be done and how much is required to get the remaining work done and how much each party will bring to the table.
“When the project is completed, then NDDC will refund us whatever we paid the contractor to finish the job so that we can sleep peacefully. We should adopt this collective approach to get this problem solved.”
Ewhrudjakpo used the opportunity to commend the Akenfa Community for their peaceful disposition, especially for heeding the government’s advice of allowing MORPOL, an Oil servicing company, to continue its work on a Shell pipeline project in their area.
Responding to questions, the External Relations Manager, SPDC, Mr. Evans Krukrubo, stated that the company was not part of the contract arrangement for the construction of the Akenfa bridge.
According to him, Shell makes a three percent statutory contribution from its annual budget to NDDC to enable the Commission to carry out its developmental projects in the Niger Delta.
While expressing Shell’s commitment to working with the state government to ensure the completion of the project, Mr. Krukrubo urged Akenfa and other communities to make judicious use of funds accruing to them to avoid distrust and unnecessary conflicts.