* Say robbery in the rivers has stopped
Chiefs in Nembe, a coastal community in Bayelsa State are said to have hailed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for completing the N24 billion Ogbia-Nembe Road, which has opened up land access to the community for the first time in history.
The road, constructed in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, covering 29 kilometres through swampy terrain with spurs to 14 other communities, is to be commissioned shortly, according to Prof Nelson Braimbaifa, the Acting Managing Director of the Commission.
Speaking in an interview in Nembe on Saturday, the Opu Nembe Bassambiri Council of Chiefs, through its secretary, Chief Afrebo Okpoma, said that with the completion of the Ogbia-Nembe Road, the communities in the area have been spared the dangers of travelling through the waterways. He observed: “Before the road, we were traveling through our waterways, but since the road was completed, we now drive in with our vehicles.”
Listing the benefits of the road, Chief Okpoma said that it had reduced the rate of theft in the communities. He noted: “When we were travelling through the waterways, there was always these bad boys confronting the passengers and robbing them. There was this fear each time we were travelling that the bad boys may be there. But since this road was constructed, we no longer witness such ugly incidents.
“Secondly, commercial activities have increased. Our Ibo brothers, who are not good swimmers, were not coming here to trade when we were coming through the waterways, you don’t see them coming here to trade. But since the road was completed, the Ibo traders are now coming in with their goods during our market days.
“Another benefit is that our people now commute between Nembe and Yenagoa freely up to late in the evening. If you leave here by 6pm, before 7.30pm you are in Yenagoa and likewise one can travel from Yenagoa to Nembe at any time. Our secondary schools have been upgraded from grade C to B because of the road link.”
Chief Okpoma remarked that before this time, building materials were brought through the sea and that made the items very expensive. He explained: “Today, we pay far less than what we were paying before the road. So, it has reduced the cost of building and increased the number of buildings in our communities. New buildings are springing up daily because of the road.
“What we can say to NDDC is that if you have a child that is doing well, you have to praise the child and encourage him to do more. The NDDC can help us to open our village roads for to help reduce the problem of unemployment for our youths.”
A regular user of the road and an indigene of Nembe Bassambri, Dr Iti Orugbani, described the road as fantastic. He stated: “You cannot compare any project to this road. The days of frequent boat mishaps are over for us. We are truly enjoying the road.”
“We are very grateful to the NDDC for constructing this road. We applaud the Commission because for us there is nothing you can compare to this road. In the past people used to hear about boat mishap in Nembe, but these days we hardly lose lives in the waterways because most people now use the road. We no longer have to deal with the problem of encountering sea pirates.”
He gave kudos to NDDC and the executive management, urging them to continue with the good work they were doing, advising that they should distance themselves from politics to avoid being distracted.
Okpoma also said that with the completion of the road, it is the excpectation of the community that work will commence on the Nembe – Brass section of the project. ‘The success story would be complete when the road gets to Brass which hosts the Agip oil export terminal’.
Present at the interview were other members of the council of chiefs including, Chief Senanyo Daniel Ben-Kuro, the chairman and the youth leader.
At the last Niger Delta Stakeholders Forum in Port Harcourt, Brambaifa said the ‘Nembe – Ogbia road will open up the whole area for renewed economic and agricultural growth.”