Five years of Okowa’s smart initiatives in Delta

Five years of Okowa’s smart initiatives in Delta

By Charles Aniagwu 
On May 29, 2020, Delta State Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa will be celebrating five years on the saddle in the administration of the state since he took oath of office as governor for the first time on May 29, 2015. As Governor of the oil-rich Delta, it has not been a smooth sail for the Ika born medical doctor turned politician. 
On assumption of office in 2015, he met huge challenges ranging from heavy salary burden, huge debts as well as crisis in the oil producing communities across the state. He nevertheless was prepared for the huge task having held away as Council Secretary, Chairman, Commissioner in the ministries of Water Resources, Agriculture and Health, Secretary to the State Government and later as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, he distinguished himself as Chairman Senate Committee on Health with the passing of the National Health Act, one of the most important legislation in the 7th Senate.
A careful assessment of the five-year development trajectory of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration in Delta State, suggests a clear and systematic departure from the past when most major achievements were concentrated in the urban areas. During his inauguration on May 29, 2015, Gov. Okowa in his inaugural address, told the good people of Delta that his administration will pay a special attention to rural development because “majority of our people live in the rural areas”. In an ex­plicit commitment to rural development, Okowa emphasized that his administration will open up the rural areas, create more urban centres, develop fresh economic opportunities and reduce pressure on urban cities to boost socio-economic expansion and give rural dwellers a sense of belonging by upscaling the development of infrastructure and modernizing some satellite towns.
On becoming Governor, one of the first steps he took was to renegotiate Delta’s huge debt burden and bailed out local government councils to enable them pay backlog of workers salaries in that tier of government. In the early days of the administration, the debt overhang impacted negatively on Okowa’s dire need to speed up the delivery of his campaign promises. However, the seeming set-back became a catalyst to work harder in his determination to keep faith with the promises and move the state forward. Five years later, we can simply look back and say Okowa has done quite well in delivering on his campaign promises and more. 

Resolution of crisis in the oil producing communities 
Recall that when he assumed office, there was serious crisis in the riverine and oil producing communities in the state over lack of development despite producing the nations oil resources that accounts for sizable percent of the total revenue available to government at all levels in the country.
He identified infrastructural transformation and youth empowerment as panacea for hostilities in coastal communities in the state. He saw that the provision of basic amenities like roads, bridges and other infrastructure stemmed incessant hostilities in the riverside communities of Delta and so had to set up a peace advocacy committee headed by the Deputy Governor Kingsley Otuaro to engage the people assuring them of his administration’s resolve to better their lots. As the Otuaro Committee set out to work and eventually secured peace in the state, he braved the odds by embarking on projects with direct bearing on the lives of the people.
He provided good governance; rapid rural development; traders and youth empowerments; worked harmoniously with his Deputy Deacon Kingsley Burutu Otuaro to ensure peace and harmony among the political class and critical support for security agencies, among others, and has indeed kept faith with his campaign promises to the people of Delta State. 
Speaking recently to TVC, Governor Okowa said that what the coastal communities lacked previously was infrastructural development, and that his administration took the bull by-the-horn by embarking on projects like bridges, roads, schools, health centers, among others which had direct impact on the lives of citizens. He assured that more of such projects would be done within the limit of funds available to the state government for development.
“We have been in good communication with our people; we engage all stakeholders and ensure that they understand the need for us to give peace a chance. As at today, a lot of our youths have been engaged in intelligence work and in other aspects of governance and a lot of them are also being trained.
“They are beginning to see a lot of things in the proper direction and they are happy about it. Secondly, we have done a lot of construction of infrastructure in the various riverside areas which has enabled them to buy into the programmes of peace that we have. A lot of roads have been constructed in various areas – Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Ogulaha, and these are all oil-producing communities, including Burutu. In Ogidigben, we are also doing road construction and these are things they never saw before, and because they saw development brought into their place they began to see the need to cooperate with government to ensure peace for more development to take place.
“The Deputy Governor, Kingsley Otuaro, led a stakeholders’ committee to engage the people and we also have the Advisory Committee of the state made up of very prominent members in the state, they all did a great job as opinion leaders engaging the people. We have engaged the traditional rulers and various youth formations and it is helping us quite a lot but very importantly, the people saw that it was possible to bring development to their area, hence saw no need to continue with disruption of oil facilities. The whole thing about hostility was going on before because the people felt neglected even when they were producing the oil. There is no neglect at the moment because they are seeing a lot of infrastructure,” he stated
Operation Delta Hawk
In a bid to address the problems of farmers/herders clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery and other security challenges in the state, the Okowa led administration agreed to set up Operation Delta Hawk. It is a joint security outfit comprising the various security agencies and which was being put together to have a more proactive approach to security operations where all the security agencies will be on board, and they can share intelligence, share operations and it is believed that this will help the state because in recent times we have seen an increase in crime rate particularly in terms of kidnapping and cultism among youths and also lots of clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the state. 
Road Construction 
Nick-named the “Road Master” in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in road construction spanning over 450 roads and several line drainages. His biggest achievement no doubt is in the area of flood control in Asaba the state capital. Piqued by the embarrassment and hardship posed by flooding in the state capital, the Governor awarded multi-billion naira storm drainage contracts to check the perennial flooding of the state capital. As at today, the whole of DLA, Okpanam Road, DBS road, Ralph Uwechie road and several others including the Okotomi area of Okpanam have been rescued from the annual flooding ritual. Indeed this is one star project of the Okowa administration. Buoyed by the successes recorded in the Asaba storm drainage project, the Governor recently award over N3billion contracts for the construction of storm drainages in Warri Uvwie and environs to check the perennial flooding in the oil city.
Beyond flood control measures by the government, Governor Okowa remains a promise keeper, who is committed to even development of the state. As Sunny Onuesoke puts it, “if there is one area the Okowa administration has excelled, it is in the development of road and physical infrastructure in Delta State.”
According to Onuesoke, “Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s road imprints are now seen everywhere across Delta State. In Asaba, the capital of Delta State we have lost count of the number of roads the Delta State government has constructed or refurbished. “Okowa’s administration has even advanced further by going into roads in the difficult terrains of Forcados and Burutu and some riverine areas of Warri South and Warri North. Places where princes feared to tread,” he stated. 
Onuesoke disclosed that one novel thing about the roads embarked upon by the Delta State government is that they seem to concentrate on roads that would positively affect the economic fortunes of the people in the affected areas. He explained that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s interest in road construction was borne out of the desire to open up the state for investors.
Indeed, Governor Okowa is making the communities accessible, the roads are concentrated in economic routes that are very vital to the socio-economic development of the people . The roads, obviously will attract investors, create job opportunities and contribute to the development of Delta state. The Governor’s road construction is all-inclusive as no local government in the state had not witnessed his footprints in road construction.
The people of Obomkpa, Issele-Uku, Onicha-Olona, Idumuje-Uno, Ukwu-Nzu, Issele-Mkpitime, among others in Aniocha North as well as Irri, Oleh, Ozoro, Iyede, Emede, Owhelogbo, Ellu, Ofagbe, Ikpide-Irri all in Isoko North and Isoko South and Ughelli, Amekpa, Afiesere, Ofuoma, Oteri, Abraka, Orerokpe, and several other communities in Delta central all have stories to tell of Okowa’s footprints in road construction into their various communities. The story is not different in riverine communities of Burutu Town, Ogulagha, Yokri, Obotobo, Sokebolo, Okerenkoko, Ogidigben, Koko among others. 
While also constructing feeder roads, he is continuing construction on the Ughelli Asaba dualisation project. A trip to the project site along the Sector C which includes from Asaba to Oloh-Ossisa reveals massive construction work currently ongoing as well as the Sector A from Ughelli to Isoko. 

Health Infrastructure 
In the last 5 years on the saddle, Governor Okowa has revolutionised the health sector in Delta. He upgraded facilities at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital at Oghara, completed the long abandoned Asaba Specilist Hospital, built a hospital at Abavo in Ika South and rehabilitated several others in Patani, Agbor among others.
The State Government also launched the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme for all Deltans with government paying for the Under 5, pregnant women and the elderly in the society. As at date, the Delta State Contributory Health Commission, DSCHC, has a total of 702,413 enrollees comprising Formal Health Plan – 168,516, Informal Health Plan – 11,187 and Equity Health Plan – 522,710 and counting have so far registered for the Contributory Health Insurance and to encourage effective health coverage. To give vent to the Univeral Health Coverage in the state, the Okowa administration has completed rehabilitation works on 63 Secondary Health Care facilities and 110 Primary Health Care facilities as well as the engagement of 52 standard Private Health Care providers for the scheme.
Job Creation 
When the Governor promised prosperity for all Deltans, he meant that he will empower Deltans to become prosperous and be employers of labour and not job seekers. This he did by establishing the Job Creation Scheme, aimed at training, supporting and promoting micro, small and medium scale enterprises which would trigger off economic growth, social inclusion and sustainable development in the state. 
The Office of the Chief Jobs Creation Officer headed by a University Professor, Eric Eboh, a renowned Policy Economist and Development Specialist commenced work effectively and set up Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP). So far, the State Government has trained and established 27,214 graduands directly through technical and vocational education and agriculture. Through the Job Creation Scheme, 6,450 unemployed youths between 2015 and 2019 have become business owners across the various skills such as agricultural production and processing, food packaging, information, communication technology, catering, event management, beauty services, tilling, plumbing, and electrical installation among others. 

Poverty Reduction in Delta 
The success of the Job creation programme no doubt was felt beyond Delta as the National Bureau of Statistics NBS rated Delta well only second to Lagos as the least poor state in Nigeria. This implies that majority of people living in Delta live above the National poverty index.
The Bureau, in its latest Poverty Index Report, ranked Delta second after Lagos among the states with low poverty rate, and said that 40.1 per cent of Nigeria’s total population was poor. According to it, an average of four out of 10 individuals in Nigeria have real per capital expenditures below N137, 430 per year, meaning that monthly income of an individual in this category is less than N11,500 while income per day is N383.03. The report said “Lagos State has 4.50 per cent poverty head count rate and closely trailed by Delta with 6.02 per cent which translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians considered as poor by national standard.”
This report is indeed a true reflection of the “Prosperity for all Deltans’’ agenda being vigorously pursued by the Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa administration. This was achieved due to the enabling investment climate created by the Okowa led government, particularly in oil bearing communities, Delta had been one of the highest revenue earners from Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) which also indicated that the state government had been putting into judicious use the monies accrued to the state.
While I thank the NBS for conducting living standards survey 10 years after the last one and for using consumption expenditures approach in measuring poverty in Nigeria rather than income approach. Conceptually, consumption expenditures better reflects the achievements of a particular level of welfare by a household, while income represents the opportunity of reaching a certain level of well-being.
In the last couple of years Delta has remained one of the highest earners in the country in terms of crude oil revenues due to the peaceful relations between International Oil Companies IOCs and host communities. The Okowa administration in his first tenure promised Deltans prosperity for all and in his second term he said he would build a stronger Delta in terms of the economy, projects and of course, peaceful relations. The NBS rating is a pointer to the fact that Delta’s resources have been put to judicious use by the Okowa-led government thereby reducing poverty to a level that we can boldly say that we are working. Our desire as a state is to come top in the country and also further improve the standard of living of Deltans in line with best global standards.
Sports Development 
Sports Development under Governor Ifeanyi Okowa received massive boost with the completion of the Stephen Keshi Stadium Asaba, Ozoro Polytechnic Stadium at Ozoro as well as the succesful hosting of 52 countries for the African Senior Athletics Championships Asaba 2018. The State Government also hosted the AITEO Cup Finals in conjunction with the Nigeria Football Federation and got FIFA certification of Stephen Keshi Stadium Asaba as venue for International Matches which led to the succesful hosting of the Cranes of Uganda in an International friendly with the Super Eagles of Nigeria. 
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa also revamped school sports in the state with the relaunching of the annual Principals Cup Football Competition for Secondary Schools now known as the Zenith Bank Delta Principals Cup, the Annual Headmasters’ Cup Football Competition for Primary Schools as well as the maiden edition of the School Sports Festival which was held in May 2019. 
Under Governor Okowa, Delta State continued its dominance in sports in the country with the state coming tops in first position in all three (3) editions of the National Youth Games held in Ilorin, Kwara State in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as well first position in the 2018 National Sports Festival held in Abuja.
As Okowa is set to celebrate his five years in office and first anniversary of his second term, It is safe to say that Delta is lucky to have a man of his calibre and wise counsel, a medical doctor by training leading the state in these trying times of the global fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. has redefined governance and taken sustainable development and prosperity for all Deltans beyond mere promises as usually the case with most politicians. The next three years by the grace of God and by the unity, peaceful coexistence and cooperation of all Deltans, promises to be exciting years for Deltans as the Governor more than ever is committed to bequeathing “Stronger Delta” for our state.

*Aniagwu, is the Commissioner for Information, Delta State.

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