Interviews

May 6, 2023

Okowa Leaving Delta In Safe Hands Under Oborevwori

Okowa

Okowa

Ukah celebrates Okowa’s 8 years’ score card

•How Delta economy grew 53% in first five years

•Asaba now fastest growing West African city

As the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, around whom the levers of governance revolve in 

the Delta State administration, Mr Patrick Ukah is in a proper position to synchronize and situate the affairs of the outgoing administration. He is even more so, having climbed through the ropes in the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa political machine, having served as commissioner for information and education.

Besides his fitting grasp of governance, Mr Ukah is also a political disciple of Okowa’s and played strategic roles in the triumph of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the recent governorship election.

From the tripod of governance, politics and stakeholder, Ukah in this interview ventilates on the successes and challenges of the Okowa administration, he gives breath on the politics that led to victory of the PDP in the governorship election, and as a stakeholder affirms why the state is in safe hands with Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori as governor from May 29, 2023.

After 8 years in office what are the highlights of the performance of the Ifeanyi Okowa administration in Delta State?

The Okowa administration came into office at the time of the universal economic meltdown which greatly affected the availability of finances to execute mapped out projects. And he was transparent to let all Deltans know, including the civil servants.

 However, through the SMART Agenda and later the Stronger Delta mantra, the administration felt it wise to tighten the noose through commitment to basic principles of prudent management of public finances and strict adherence to due process among other protocols. The fiscal consolidation measures resulted in substantial macroeconomic stability and some of the direct consequences are:

•Unfaltering capacity to pay the salaries of all categories of public servants;

•Delta State economy grew from N2.96trillion in 2015 to N4.43trillion in 2020, representing a growth of 53% based on GDP at current rate. In 2020, the state was rated as the 2nd least poor State (behind Lagos State) by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS);

* Delivery of an Ultra-Modern Secretariat Complex; 

*  24-hour,  8.5MW Gas Fired Power Independent Power Plant to tackle the menace of power failure in Asaba Capital Territory;

* Establishment of a Wealth and Job Creation Bureau;

* Refocusing of Technical and Vocational Education through a string of mutually reinforcing policies resulting in the establishment of 9 new international standard Technical Colleges and Vocational Skills Development Centers in all the local government areas in the state;

•Creation of Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency and Warri/Uvwie/Environs Development Agency;

•Establishment of 3 new Universities and Teachers Development Centre;

•Establishment of Maryam Babangida Leisure Park and Film Village to drive the Nollywood industry in Nigeria;

•Establishment of Kwale Industrial Park with NEPZA status targeting 22billion Dollars investment especially in gas projects;

•Establishment of Contributory Health Insurance Scheme;

•Establishment of Local Content Development Agency;

•Redevelopment and concessioning of Asaba International Airport;

•Construction of a storm water drainage in the Asaba Capital Territory and Warri environs;

* Over 883 road projects covering; over 2000 kilometer length of roads, about 1,400 kilometer length of drainage channels, 7 completed bridges and 14 ongoing bridges across the state.

 •Healthcare development such as the upgrade of Primary Health Centers in the 25 local government areas,  building of Asaba Specialist Hospital (ASH) and countless other health facilities;

Are you sure you’re not blowing your trumpets? Critics say the governor concentrated so much in Asaba and Agbor, his home town while other areas suffered.

The projects are there for everyone to see, from the highlight I just reeled out, you can see that the projects embarked upon by this administration cut across the three Senatorial districts of the state. Are you saying the administration should not have developed the state capital?

That is not fair. From what Asaba was before the coming of the Okowa administration to what it is now, you will discover that it has become the fastest growing city in West Africa and businesses are springing up in the state capital. This would not have been so if Asaba was neglected by the administration. Agbor is just one of the major cities in Delta State and projects were sited there just like other cities. Every town and city in Delta State has the right to be developed  irrespective of who comes from there. Let me tell you, this administration pioneered road development in the hinterlands of coastal communities which had never had such projects since the creation of the state.  Such projects include the 20.29 kilometres Obotobo – I Obotobo – II –Sokebolou-Yokri Road in Burutu Local Government Area; the Effurun-OtoriOvwor Bridge in Ughelli South Local Government Area and the Uduophori/Toru-Angiama/Toru – Apelerebi/Patani Road which links Patani and Bomadi Local Government Areas and an ultra-modern Ogheye Floating Market in Warri North Local Government Area. These places are not in Asaba or Agbor.

In addition,  we have State Universities in Abraka and Ozoro, a Polytechnic in Otefe-Oghara, School of Marine Technology in Burutu, and two Colleges of Education in Warri and Mosogar.This administration also constructed Ayakoromor bridge across River Forcados and Oviri-Olomu/Egodor Road across Ughelli South and Burutu Local Government areas and Kwale-Beneku Bridge across Ndokwa East and Ndokwa West local government areas.

How successful were the job creation programmes? Can you tell us how many people benefited and the impact they have made to the economy?

The job creation programmes were very successful and more than 9,000 youths have been trained and given start-up packs to start businesses in their choice areas where they have been trained. The establishment of the Job and Wealth Creation Bureau by Law is also another major channel for achieving our vision of a diversified economy capable of providing sustainable opportunities for addressing the youth unemployment challenge. The programmes and initiatives of the Bureau include Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Youth Agricultural Entrepreneur Programme (YAGEP); Graduates Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Production and Processing Support Programme (PPSP); Agro-Industrial Park; Aboh-Ogwashi-Uku; Foods Export Initiative and the Concessioning of Owanta Agro-Centre. STEP and YAGEP were implemented in seven cycles comprising 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Under STEP and YAGEP, thousands of youth entrepreneurs and business owners were created, with attendant transformation or upliftment of their livelihoods and economic wellbeing.

The PPSP’s tractor support initiative improved farmers’ access to tractors and implements for land preparation. Smallholder farmers have enjoyed improved access to farm inputs particularly fertilizer and planting materials. The food export initiative (pilot demonstration project) was successfully implemented. It has positively impacted hundreds of cassava farmers, cassava transporters and cassava processors. Also, it has opened up markets for the state to export high quality garri that meets international standards. The project has demonstrated the workability and potency of market-stimulated improvement of the commodity value chain. The agro-industrial park in Aboh Ogwashi-Uku has reached 68% completion. When operational, the agro-industrial park will uplift farmers through ready markets, fair prices and steady incomes while creating tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs along the agricultural value chain.  Let me quickly add that the Governor created a Girl-Child Ministry to cater for the job creation and empowerment needs of girls in the state.

 Warri, an oil city remains in terrible state, with bad roads, flood problems etc. It was a point opposition parties highlighted in their campaigns, promising to right the wrongs of PDP administration in the area. Your comments please.

It is indeed surprising that the opposition party is saying that this administration  is not doing anything in Warri and environs. In 2019, the administration of Senator Dr.  Ifeanyi Okowa established the Warri-Uvwie Area and Environs Development Agency  to bring  sustainable development to Warri, Effurun and environs  in order to transform  the area to an attractive destination  for investors and urban dwellers. A total of  N9.5 billion  contract was awarded  for  storm water drainage  in Warri/Uvwie metropolis  to control flood water with a total of 76 drainage sites.

To date, the agency has awarded 24 projects, eleven of which have been completed while ten are ongoing. From the governorship of Felix Ibru, through James Ibori’s and then Uduaghan’s, a lot of infrastructural provision was made in Warri. Where are they today? They have all being messed up by the flood issues of warri. Did it make sense to immediately pour more monies to infrastructure in Warri, knowing the futility, without dealing with huge flood issues in Warri? The answer is clearly NO. This would have been an unsustainable approach to development.

This is the fundamental thinking that led to the deliberate policy of dealing with the flood challenge through the STORM DRAINAGE projects at enormous costs. Now, roads have started to roll out and even the stadium is being reconstructed. In terms of performance, 11.625 kilometers of roads and 44.958 of drains have been completed. The short-term goal is to ensure that flooding issue becomes a thing of the past in Warri/Uvwie and environs. The Okowa administration also rehabilitated the Ubeji access road in Warri  South LGA, NPA Road linking Warri refinery in Effurun to other parts of  Uvwie LGA. The administration has also renovated Ighogbadu Secondary School, Okumagba layout, constructed the Army Day Secondary School, Effurun, as well as a Model Technical College, Effurun. Worthy of note is the 25.8km trans Warri-Ode-Itsekeri Bridge/Access Road which is a flagship project of the government  in the area.

You’ll agree that Delta has not done well on the issue of security. Herdsmen have taken over many of your farms. The Buhari administration has failed in this area and Delta appears helpless. SAD. Can you defend your action on security? What with many kidnappings and killings?

Insecurity is a national problem which the Federal Government has not handled appropriately and Delta State is an integral part of the country. It is unfortunate that the picture of security matters in the state being painted outside is very different from the reality on ground. Let me ask you a question, is it possible to host  National Sports Festival, which is the largest sports event in the country, in Asaba if the state was experiencing  security challenges?

L dont think so. I am pretty sure that most Deltans would disagree with your assertion. Going forward, to ensure peace and security is maintained  in the state as enshrined in the SMART AGENDA, the Okowa-administration created a number of agencies and initiatives such as the Peace Building and Advisory Council, the Office of the Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution, the Delta State Waterways and Land Security Committees as well as Advocacy Committee Against Vandalism of Oil and Gas Facilities. Furthermore to enhance  the security architecture in the state, the Office of the Director-General (Security Matters) was created in 2015. This office has greatly enhanced the operations of the formal security agencies in the state. In this regard, it may be noted that the Director-General is the Coordinator/Administrative Head of the Operation Delta Hawk (OPDH) which is a Joint Security Task force in the state with operatives from the Army, Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The outfit has been especially helpful in checking violent crimes such as kidnapping, herdsmen/farmers clashes, among others. It  is pertinent  to note that the office of the Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution  has also made recommendations towards the resolution of intra and inter communal disputes. The office was particularly effective in resolving many of such disputes throughout the period of this administration which has contributed to the prevailing peace being enjoyed by communities in the state.

Ifeanyi Okowa is a medical doctor. What special thing has he done for the health sector?

The policy here is Health for all Deltans (HFAD) which guarantees qualitative, affordable, available, accessible and comprehensive healthcare for all Deltans. It is worth mentioning that the Okowa administration took very early steps to inaugurate the Delta State Contributory Health Insurance Commission, a bill signed into Law on 4th February, 2016.  The Commission now fully functional is responsible for implementing the Delta State Contributory Health Scheme. 

Very significant impacts were also made in Health infrastructure development and improvement, they include but not limited to: Completion and commissioning of Asaba Specialist Hospital (ASH), Asaba; completion and commissioning of Mother and Childcare Specialist Hospital, Owa-Alero; completion of Trauma Centre, Agbor; completion and commissioning of Advanced Diagnostic Medical Complex, Owa-Alero; resuscitation of Emergency Ambulance Services which operates from Warri, Sapele, Agbor and Ughelli Central Hospitals; computerization of all the operational activities at the Central Medical Stores; substantial scale up of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) programme by 4 folds in the state, leading up to an award to the Governor by the United States Centre for Disease Control; increase in the number of health facilities offering Family Planning Services from 320 to 464 health facilities between 2013 and 2022 and concomitant improvement in key family planning indices within the period; and sustained anti-malaria campaign, leading to reduction in maternal mortality and reduction in under 5 mortality.

A special mention needs to be given to our Sickle Cell Disorder Programme within the period of 2015-2023 because of our very productive partnership with the 05 Initiative of Her Excellency, Dame Edith Okowa, in this area.  This partnership has led to an increase in the number of children surviving and living with the sickle cell disorder.  The initiative has provided support in developing and equipping 24 Sickle Cell Clinics across the state in addition to donating the Newborn Hemoglobinopathy screening equipment to the Referral Centre at Asaba Specialist Hospital (ASH).  The combined effects of this multifarious support have been the better management of the teeming number of sickle cell patients that now access treatment in our hospitals.

Opposition made issue with federal allocation especially the 13 % derivation. They alleged mismanagement. And it is said to be same in Niger Delta states going by the accusations of Gov. Wike of Rivers State.

The Okowa-administration remains committed to transparency and accountability in all its financial dealings on behalf of the people. The total amount due to the state from the 13 per cent derivation arrears was N240 billion out of which the Federal Government agreed to pay in quarterly installment for a period of five years. So far, the state has only received N14.7 billion in three quarterly installment of N4.9 billion each. The State Government had initially applied for N150 billion bridging finance, which we later brought down to N100 billion from the expected refund of N240 billion to fund projects. The N30 billion accessed from the N100 billion bridging finance facility helped fund legacy projects such as the Kwale industrial park; Leisure park and film village; Koka interchange and flyover; Ughelli-Asaba dual carriage; three new State Universities; and the sum of N5 billion to address the issues of payment of pension for both the State Civil Service and Local Government workers.

What made PDP win the governorship election in Delta and what is the special thing about Sheriff Oborevwori, the governor-elect? And do you think his government  will sustain some of Okowa’s key projects?

The developmental strides of Governor Okowa across all the local government areas in the state in the past 8 years gave us the well-deserved victory during the recently concluded Governorship election. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has been in power in the state since the birth of the current democratic dispensation and our Governor made the party more popular by spreading developmental projects to all the nooks and crannies of the state. It was not surprising that we won in 21 Local Government Areas out of the 25 in the state. Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly and also the Governor-elect of the state. He is very qualified to be Governor of Delta State having been Speaker of the most vibrant House of Assembly in the country for six consecutive years. He has garnered a lot of experience that has prepared him for the position of Governor of the state. He has promised to continue with the good works of Senator IfeanyiOkowa and to consolidate on his achievements through his “MORE” Agenda.

The foundations for sustainable development have been massively laid and solidified by Okowa. Sheriff, doing MORE stands the chance of becoming a developmental hero in the State.