By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi –
It is pedestrian information that the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Western Zone, comprising Delta, Edo and Ondo States, in a recent media statement signed by the trio of Comrade (Dr) Doubra Collins Okotete (Zonal chairman), Comrade Olu Derimo (secretary) and Lugard Izoukumor (Information Officer), specifically called on Gov. Oborevwori to commence work on the long-awaited Ayakoromor bridge project, the Ogulagha-Odimodi road project, the permanent site of the School of Marine Technology, Burutu among other critical projects.
Indeed, while there exists glaring evidence that Gov Oborevwori have in the last 100 days of his administration in the state demonstrated some hopeful signs to democratize infrastructural development in the state particularly, his recent approval in the state of three new flyovers and other projects to the tune of 78 billion naira, this piece on the other hand believes that present call by the youth group is not in any way lacking in merit. It is a truth that despite socioeconomic importance of the coastal communities to the state, the sleepy but egalitarian region remains conspicuously laced with portraits of neglect and pictures of socioeconomic deprivations with no state government’s presence,
In this light, the now abandoned Ayakoromor bridge project comes to mind.
Adding context to the discourse, Ayakoromor bridge project which was awarded in 2013 by the Uduaghan-led administration to link several communities in Burutu LGA and other communities in the adjourning local governments within the coastal part of the state, have spanned three different administrations—Emmanuel Uduaghan (2007- 2015), Governor Ifeanyi Okowa May 2015-May 2023) and presently, Oboreivwori led government. It is by all standards a bad press that it took Delta state government over 10years to construct without completion, a link Bridge that is not more than a kilometer.
It is highly unpleasant to the ears!
Further qualifying the condition of the Ayakromo community as a contradiction of sorts and a reality that all Deltans of goodwill, including Elder Oboreivwori led state government, must indeed worry about is the sad awareness that the bridge project was never starved of budgetary allocation yet not completed.
Aside from several interventions in the past to draw the attention of the state government of the need to have the project completed, why this piece is particularly concerned about the abandonment of the bridge and of course, a major reason why Governor Oboreivwori must urgently give priority attention to the project is that out gone leaderships in the state have at different times and places made public declarations/promises that the projects must be completed without fulfillment.
For instance, when the former Governor Ifeanyi Okowa led administration learnt in January 2020, that the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative and Ayakoromo youths planned a protest against the ‘abandonment’ of the bridge, the Okowa-led administration, through the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, in a statement in Asaba, stated that the state leadership was committed to the completion of road projects it has embarked on. It added that the Ayakoromo bridge project had not been abandoned and, therefore, urged the groups to shun their planned protest. The statement also noted that the state government had already made provisions for the completion of the bridge in the 2020 budget and that it was desirous of completing the project.
Again, six months after that statement, precisely in June 2020, the Delta State Government in a similar style assured that the Ayakoromo Bridge would be vigorously executed as a top priority project. This time around, the Commissioner for Works, Chief James Aguoye, made the disclosure in Ayakoromo while speaking to newsmen. Aguoye, according to media reports said that the project had a budgetary provision of N1bn in the 2020 budget. The commissioner added that the project would be up-scaled in 2021.
In January 2022, after the first Executive Council meeting, which was presided over by Governor Okowa, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, announced that the Delta State government has recently approved an upward review of the contract cost of the Ayakoromo Bridge project from N6bn to N10.5bn, noting that the review was necessary as a result of present economic realities in the country.
In May 2023, the unthinkable happened.
Instead of delivering on the protracted promised as persistently made, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, , contrary to expectation reportedly rendered an unreserved apology to Delta Ijaw for his administration’s failure to complete the Ayakoromo bridge project after 8 years just as he tasked the incoming Governor, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori to mobilise the contractor to site.
Okowa who spoke at the Valedictory Dinner Night in Asaba, organized in honour of his government, noted that the previous construction company, ZEROCK slowed down the pace of work despite the government meeting up to financial demands-which led to the state government’s termination of the contract with ZEROCK and re-awarded it to SETRACO Nig. Ltd. with an upward review as approved.
While noting that an initial sum of #2bn has been paid to SETRACO with plans on top gear with the incoming government to pay another #2bn, making it #4bn to mobilize contractors, the former Governor in strong terms, called on the incoming administration, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, then governor-elect and his team to implore dedicated measures to ensure the completion of the Ayakoromo bridge.
Though Governor Okowa apologized but the truth remains that the Ayakoromo Bridge would have been a very key achievement of his two terms as governor of the state because if completed, it will connect some parts of Burutu local government communities with four other local governments with internal roads which will also make easy and improve the economic activities of the riverine dwellers.
Definitely, the underlying objective of this piece is not to chastise any individual or group, but to draw the attention of the Oboreivwori -led government to this mess, in ways that will assist him to perform the traditional but universal responsibility of provision of economic and infrastructural succour to the citizenry, which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on him.
As an incentive, now that Oboreivwori -led government has brought Julius Berger Construction Company to the state, it will be highly rewarding if Ayakromo project is handed over to Julius Barger as it is backed with adequate funds, superior technical skills and experience to replace the current contractor, who obviously lacks the wherewithal to complete the bridge. Government must give the desired new lease of life and satisfactory service/governance to the people of the community.
Most importantly, the state government must not fail to remember that the Bobougbene community and its environs in Burutu LGA are reputed for the production of palm oil in commercial quantity and supply of same to Warri metropolis and Okwuagbe markets in Ugheli-South LGA. The bridge when completed will provide easy access to these markets. This is a very important reason why the state must pay disciplined attention to that project. It must not for any reason be abandoned.
Above all, the state government must design more creative and development-focused ways to holistically serve and save Deltans.
- Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), The Social And Economic Justice Advocacy(SEJA). He could be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org or 08032725374.