* Minister says Buhari eager to leave legacy in Niger Delta
By Codratus Godson
When the Minister of Niger Delta Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio, visited Okochiri kingdom on Thursday, January 14, 2021, the biggest request that confronted him was to deliver the East West Road.
The road was created after the civil war to carve a new connection by road between the south-south Nigeria and the West and federal capital then, without having to pass through the former Biafra territory (south-east). The likes of Samuel Ogbemudia and Diete Spiff hatched the idea.
Now, Olusegun Obasanjo as civilian president approved the road for full construction and dualisation but no budget was put to it. Goodluck Jonathan later took over and pushed it to N725.77Bn but did not commission it until President Muhammadu Buhari came to power to release the first N20Bn from the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). The project has been protracted.
When the royal fathers dropped the huge request on his lap, the minister pleaded that he too was as concerned as Rivers people because the road leads to his hometown. He gave insights on how he intends to get it done.
The Ministry of Niger Delta is shopping for N100Bn to deliver the controversial N725.77Bn East West Road which links all core Niger Delta states from Benin to Oron in Akwa Ibom State through Calabar in Cross River State.
The Minister, Godswll Akpabio, who disclosed in Okochiri near Okrika in Rivers State Thursday evening January 14, 2021, said the federal budget cannot deliver the project which began again after over three years of the Muhammadu Buhari era with almost N20Bn from the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
The minister who led the CEOs of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (Milland Dikio Dixon) and the newly appointed interim CEO of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Effiong Akwa, disclosed that the Ministry now seeks what he called multiple sources of funds this time around.
Saying the federal budget alone cannot deliver that road, the former Akwa Ibom State governor said the Ministry was looking for many sources. “We are mopping up funds to do it. The Ministry of Niger Delta is devoting two thirds of its 2021 budget to it. The NDDC would have to contribute N35Bn and other sources would bring in N35Bn. We target N100Bn. With it, we hope to deliver the all-important road in 2022.”
Akpabio who was moved by the presence of royal fathers at the event in Okochiri to support the Amanyanabo of Okochiri, Ateke Tom, stated thus: “I came as minister of Niger Delta Ministry but I also came with your son, the DG of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta development Commission (NDDC).
“We must realize that every fight ends on a round table. Here is one such round table. We have always said that hunger or development has no religion. If roads are built, every religious group would drive on it.
“East West Road (EWR) is one important project and we all are committed to it. I have personal commitment to it because it’s the road to my hometown. Funding is a crucial issue. Before I became minister, the funding was from the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) but there was so much delay as things went to and forth. I simply went to Mr President. Now, things started moving.”
Should the N100Bn be found, one key bridge on the road to be rebuilt is the Eleme Bridge that has often collapsed. The bridge delivers traffic from Port Harcourt to Onne and Eleme where there are over 200 national and international companies and the free trade zone.
The minister said; “This bridge has to be rebuilt. East West Road ends at Oron. In the Ogoni area, only one lane is in use into Akwa Ibom State.
“For the NDDC, there has been no budget. The National Assembly just given us a budget (2020). There is systemic corruption, there is endemic corruption. The NDDC headquarters is now to be commissioned since 1995 when Horsfall was the head (OMPADEC). It will be commissioned on February 23, 2021.
“I want the President to leave a legacy in the Niger Delta. That is why we are going to do big-ticket projects in the region. The roads we want to leave behind in the region now would be world class and durable.
“How I test roads: When I was governor, I would test a road by sitting with and reading a newspaper while the driver drives on a road. If the newspaper shakes, I would say no, go back to the road. A good road sings a particular song. I will not sing it here, but there is a song by any good road. That is the kind of road we want to leave behind in the Niger Delta. We know that delivering a good road in the region is very difficult.”
He notified the region that a substantive board for the NDDC would come into place in April 2021. “NDDC board will come in April 2021. The Interim Administrator will have to deliver the forensic audit first so that the new board will take off in a clean sheet. The president is committed to the Niger Delta region and a lot is being done so far. The only thing needed is sensitization so the people can evaluate the efforts of the FG.”
He urged the youth of the region to shake off the lethargy holding them down seek ways of making income. “Tell our girls to stop sitting on the internet and television. The youth need to get out there and do something. Even to get married, a lady needs to get out and mix up. If you attend a church and participate, as you dance, someone will ask, who is the father of that lady? Go to the market, go to the church, go to events, don’t just sit before TV or internet. It does not give husband. We urge the youth to give peace a chance.”
On Amnesty programme, he said: “The CEO is visiting you with the Ministry of Niger Delta and the NDDC to consult on how to reposition the PAP and move it from a centre for monthly collection to a centre that turns out entrepreneurial youths. It should no longer be about collecting monthly stipends but about helping the ex-militants to become entrepreneurs. It is not the first time such scheme has been contemplated or the agencies have thought about this but it is the first time the three agencies are coming together to work on this.”
At the end of a closed door meeting in the palace, the king of Okochiri read out a statement reached by ex-warlords and hailed President Buhari thus: “We hail President Muhammadu Buhari for these persons he appointed (NDDC, PAP). We will show him our own kindness. There will be peace in the Niger Delta. The new NDDC MD came in as child of circumstance. He is to complete the forensic audit and we know the President will confirm him. He is competent. Thanks for completing NDDC headquarters. All youths should cooperate and stop all forms of protests.”
Section 1 Warri (Delta) – Kaiama (Bayelsa)
Section 2 Kaiama – Port Harcourt
Section 3 Port – Akwa Ibom
Section 4 Zero Zero – Onne Port
Section 5 Oron – Calabar (23.9km added by Jonathan)
Distance; 338k (dual carriageway = 676km) from Oron/Calabar to Warri
Contractors: Reynolds Construction Company (RCC), Setraco, CCECC
- N211Bn by Obasanjo in 2006
- N725.77Bn revised by Jonathan from 2011 – 2014
- N245.9Bn for Sections 1, 2 on Aug 18, 2011 to Setraco
- N112.16Bn from N64.1Bn for Warri – Kaiama
- N48.9Bn from N29.9Bn for PH – Kaiama
- N84.75Bn from N44.8Bn for Ahoada – PH?
- N671m in October 2012 for consultancy to Suraj Nig Ltd for Oron section
- N479.2Bn approvals in 2014
- N165.25Bn in October 2012 for phase 1 (v) to CCECC
- N269.38Bn revised cost for Warri – Kaiama – Ahoada to Setraco
- N43.9Bn upgrade of 15km PH-Onne in Nov 2014
- N661.33m engineering supervision job on Oron – Calabar Dec 3, 2014
Financial history of the East West Road:
* N211Bn by Obasanjo in 2006 * N725.77Bn revised by Jonathan from 2011 – 2014
* N245.9Bn for Sections 1 & 2 on Aug 18, 2011 to Setraco * N112.16Bn from N64.1Bn for Warri – Kaiama * N48.9Bn from N29.9Bn for PH – Kaiama * N84.75Bn from N44.8Bn for Ahoada – PH * N671m in October 2012 for consultancy to Suraj Nig Ltd for Oron section * N479.2Bn approvals in 2014 * N165.25Bn in October 2012 for phase 1 (v) to CCECC * N269.38Bn revised cost for Warri – Kaiama – Ahoada to Setraco * N43.9Bn upgrade of 15km PH-Onne in Nov 2014 * N661.33m engineering supervision job on Oron – Calabar Dec 3, 2014 * N3Bn proposed contributions by companies to support Wike admin in 2015; details not available * NDDC intervention: Cost not yet available
Targets: Dec 2013; shifted to April 2015; Abandoned at last
Minister of Niger Delta says its 90%
Others say 70%
Motorists say abandoned