The Secretary to the Delta State Government (SSG), Hon Festus Ovie, in this interview with OLA JAMES, enumerates Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s efforts to tame herdsmen and kidnappers in the state
What is your impression about Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s achievements so far?
Thank you very much. If you recall, Governor Okowa promised prosperity for all Deltans if he won the governorship election. By that he came up with a lot of programmes that dwelt on wealth creation, peace and security, educational health and urban regional development. For a start, let us look at wealth creation programme. We realize that government cannot single handedly employ every one of us in the civil service. Therefore, the way forward is to equip our youths in relevant skills to enable them become entrepreneurs and also employ people.
Over the years, we have this gigantic project in Songhai where we have successfully trained over 2,000 youths in various areas, such as agriculture and other technical skills like electrical-electronics, information technology. To that extent, we did not stop there; we delved into mentoring and monitoring them to see how they are faring and assist them in micro-credit programme.
We have invigorated our micro-credit agency, whereby we have given loan to various cooperative agencies to enable them grow and sustain their business, even as they have done very well in urban renewal. We have constructed some roads, especially both in Warri metropolis and urban areas where a lot of construction work is going on. I can tell you that government has already commenced the reconstruction of roads. If you drive round Warri you will see the efforts the government is making, it is the same thing in Ughelli, Sapele and Asaba.
In fact, I can say there is no hardly any local government you get to where government is not carrying out construction or rehabilitation of roads. The beautiful thing Governor Okowa has done is that before now we always complain the difficult terrain of the riverine areas. But today for the first time, we are doing a road to Ogulagha and we are doing same at Okerenkoko and also at Ogidigben. We believe firmly that people in riverine areas and those of us in upland should well treat.
What emphasis is Okowa giving to education?
This administration places premium on education. Before now, emphasis was on secondary education, but today we have successfully renovated and up-graded three technical schools in the three senatorial districts, such as Ogor, Okwagbe and in Agbor. Relatively in agriculture, we are doing very well and there are several programmes that have been lined up for execution. In agriculture too, we have also lined up several programmes with a lot of foreign fnvestors from South Africa who are here to build agricultural business.
What is the government doing to stem the rising security challenges?
Yes, you can see that the governor has scored a lot of pass mark in the area of peace and security. You know that without peace, there can be no development. The government has several times engaged our people, especially in the riverine area. We have spoken to them on the need to shun all forms of vandalism. We have also appealed to them to give both the federal and state governments the benefit of doubt so that government could implement her policies and programme for them. Relatively, you will agree that there have been a level of peace, and security. You will also recall we held a seminar on peace and security at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun.
Besides, we have done several engagements with traditional rulers, stakeholders, youths, women etc on the need to have peace in our state. And, we are sure that with the peace we have the level of oil production has risen tremendously and there will be automatic increase in the level of revenue accruing to the state and local government. In the area of kidnapping and nefarious activities of herdsmen we have also intervened to stem the situation.
We believe we are one Nigeria hence we held a summit on herdsmen/farmers relationship. In fact, it is a national problem but in our state we are trying to engage the leadership of Hausa/ Fulani, our traditional rulers and farmers for a peaceful co-existence.
Which area do you think Governor Okowa is failing and what are his major challenge?
Our major challenge is mostly the economic recession Nigerians are presently facing. In fact, the challenge has affected drastically the amount of allocation accruable to the state from the Federal Government; therefore; we would have been able to do more mostly in the area of roads, agriculture, sadly, one of our major challenges is funding and I tell you if we have enough fund, Okowa will move the world. We believe that the strike will be called off soonest.
Ex-governor James Ibori has just endorsed Okowa for a second tenure. What is your take on this?
With due respect, Chief Ibori is our leader; he has a right to his opinion. Luckily for us he has called on all Deltans in the three senatorial districts to support Governor Okowa so that he can translate his vision into action. So, I think as an individual, I am very happy, because whether you like it or not, he is a great factor in Delta State politics.
How can you describe the recent visit of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo to the state?
His Excellency, the Vice President was in the state and his visit has no doubt brought about the prevailing peace. To some extent, the level of militancy has dropped drastically. And I pray and wish that we sustain it. On the part of the Federal Government whatever agreement we have implemented to the letter is for the good of the Niger Delta people and Nigeria in general.
To our youths, I want to use this opportunity to call on them to shun all forms of violence and to avoid pipeline vandalism; because at the end of the day, the youths have the right to complain about marginalization. But the truth is that we are governed by the rule of law which is the right channel of expressing our grievances. I want to advise the youths once again to maintain peace because what we want is development.
They should employ civilized channel and should also take advantage of Federal Government hand of friendship. They should articulate their views and avoid all forms of violence that will hinder the progress of this country. Because when we opt for self help, it is better because when we destroy our oil facilities, the environment suffers and the revenue from the Federal Government will decline. They should shun all forms of anti social activities and open their mind for development.
What is your comment on the controversial Maritime University and the EPZ?
I am a Deltan and I wish the best for my state. I think the Federal Government is satisfied with the level of development going on there. I look forward to the period when the Federal Government will do the right thing. In the same vein the Federal Government has re-assured us that the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) project at Ogidigben will be given $20 billion facility. So, once again I want to appeal to our youths to shun all forms of vices.
I want to appeal to federal and state governments to create an enabling environment before the kick off of the project. The number of persons to be employed in the project will be enormous as well as the money that will be pumped into the project.