About three and half months ago, precisely from February 14, 2022, Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, rolled out the red carpet, and the drums, to celebrate two years of his prosperity administration in office. What better way to celebrate than to use the occasion to inaugurate projects the administration had executed.
Some of the dignitaries invited by Governor Diri to inaugurate the projects were Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Oyo State Governor, Oluseyi Makinde, his counterparts, namely Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Senator Bala Mohammed of Bauchi, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
To ensure facilities are up to date at the state-owned Medical University in Yenagoa, the government commissioned lecture halls and laboratories at the institution. The administration also inaugurated a befitting office for the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme. Also inaugurated was the ultra-modern Ernest Ikoli Media Complex, which houses the state government-owned newspaper, radio and television corporations.
In the area of infrastructure, Governor Diri commissioned the Nembe Unity bridge as well as the Elebele bridge that links a substantial part of Ogbia Local Government Area to Yenagoa, the state capital. The bridge had collapsed earlier and was reconstructed. The people of Igbedi community had their lifelong dream actualized with the commissioning of a road to the town. The road project is significant to the people and the local government area as a whole because Igbedi is the only community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government not connected by road. Still in the Kolokuma/Opokuma axis of the state, the Kaiama Referral Hospital has been completed and inaugurated.
Also inaugurated was the Igbogene-AIT stretch of the Igbogene/Bayelsa Palm road as well as the Glory Drive road project, which together form the outer ring road, which is intended to decongest the very busy Melford Okilo Road. The New Yenagoa City link road stretching from the bridge at Onopa all the was to the new city. Other important projects commissioned include the Sampou flood protection project, the Sampou by-pass as well as the Transport Terminal building at Igbogene, which is a one-stop shop for all inter-state transporters coming into Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, complete with arrival and departure halls and a banking hall.
Before the inauguration of the 2nd anniversary legacy projects, the present administration had embarked on the rehabilitation of several roads in Yenagoa metropolis, that had gone bad. This was part of the governor’s grand urban renewal programme, which also involved the demolition of illegal structures and generally giving Yenagoa city and environs, a facelift.
The urban renewal programme has transformed the popular Edepie-Etegwe roundabout as well as Swali market. In addition, contracts have been awarded to build 20 new internal roads in Yenagoa. Major roads in Yenagoa now glow at night with the installation of street lights. The kerbs of the roads have also been painted to give Yenagoa City a new look.
The former governor, Seriake Dickson successfully completed a 4.5km-runway international airport but the facility could not be put to use because the relevant authorities had not issued an operating licence. Governor Diri followed up on the paper work until the operating licence was issued and today the airport is operational with regular, daily flights to and from Abuja and Lagos.
In the Bayelsa East Senatorial District, the present administration completed the reconstruction of the collapsed Imiringi bridge started by the previous administration and in the Bayelsa West Senatorial District, the 47.5 km Sagbama/Ekeremor road is well on course. It is a project initiated by the immediate past governor, Senator Seriake Dickson but Diri opted to take it on because of the immense Socio-Economic benefits that the road will attract.
The present administration has also given the 24 km Yenagoa/Oporoma road project a pride of place as work on the road is on-going. The road, when completed, will open up many riverine communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state. On Saturday, February 19, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo performed the ground breaking ceremony of the Angiama bridge that will take the road project to Oporoma, headquarters of the local government area.
Speaking on the three senatorial roads, which will open up the entire state, the State Governor, Senator Douye Diri said, “So far, of the three senatorial roads, work is going on speedily in the West and Central districts but yet to commence in the East. The reason is known to all of us but as a government we want to start something there.
“We have done our best to involve the international oil companies there, particularly the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, and the Federal Government. But if the responses do not come as expected, I think we still have some surprises there.”
It was therefore no surprise when the governor awarded the contract for the construction of the N54 billion Nembe-Brass road, which is perhaps the biggest and most audacious project so far embarked upon by Diri. With the number of companies in the area and the ones that will be established when the road is completed, like the Brass Liquefied Natural Gas project, Brass Island is a critical asset to the state and country. The award of this contract is the icing on the cake in the story of infrastructural development in the state.
With Senator Diri’s modest achievements in the space of two years, the governor has endeared himself to the hearts of the citizens. It is now time for the governor to roll up his sleeves, change gear and step on the gas because there is still a lot of work to be done.
The Prosperity Government is revolutionising agriculture by investing massively in the sector. In
the bid to ensure food security, the government, through a partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has trained over 3,000 selected farmers, allocated farm lands and provided them with seedlings and other tools for rice, cassava, plantain and poultry farming. Attention will also be given to food processing.
Governor Diri has also carved a niche for himself in the area of sports. Through massive investment in the sector, a 9-year-old Bayelsan, Deborah Quicken emerged as the champion of the African Youth Chess Championship last year. The state contingent to the 2020 National Sports Festival (NSF) in Edo State posted a commendable third position placing. A female Bayelsan, Ifiemi Gagbe, emerged as the most outstanding athlete at the festival with eight gold, two silver and five bronze medals, from swimming.
Last year, the state’s male and female football teams, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens, emerged as winners of the Aiteo FA Cup, the first time ever that a state will win in both the male and female categories. Bayelsa came tops at the Para-Sports Festival held at Abuja this year. Bayelsa Queens only recently won the Super 6, to be crowned champions of the NWFL 2021//2022 season.
In the education sector, under Senator Diri, more than 94% of the programmes in the three state-owned universities have full accreditation while the other programmes enjoy partial accreditation. The state government is aggressively embarking on the establishment of new secondary schools.
Realising that government alone cannot provide employment for the teeming youths of the state, Diri’s administration has embraced skills acquisition and vocational studies so that the graduands, when supported with starter packs and soft loans on completion of their programmes, can start their own businesses and become employers of labour. To this end the state government has embarked on the building of eight science and technical colleges across the state. These army of fresh employers of labour will increase the number of small and medium enterprises in the state, and these are the real drivers of the economy.
Senator Diri is doing something that most of the administrations before him did not, or could not, do.
Gratuities are being paid to pensioners regularly. He is clearing the backlog of gratuity arrears since 2008. The governor has also won the hearts and confidence of the workers by clearing outstanding salary arrears and other benefits attached to promotion.
Beside the physical and infrastructural projects, Governor Diri has been able to enthrone an unprecedented level of peace and stability in the state. This is as a result of the security measures the governor has initiated.
To reinvigorate the security architecture of the state, the government has been making huge investments in the area of security to ensure safety of lives and properties. Senator Diri has been having regular interface with heads of various security agencies in the state just as he has been making regular interventions to enhance the operations of the security outfits.
For instance, on Thursday, June 10, 2021, the state government donated 14 operational vehicles to security agencies in the state to enhance their operations. On Tuesday, December 14, 2021, Governor Diri re-launched the state security outfit code-named ‘Operation Doo-Akpo’. He also commissioned 50 new operational vehicles, 40 motorbikes and security gadgets to be distributed to the security agencies in the state.
In addition, the governor signed the Community Safety Corps Bill into law. The newly signed law is designed to bring the operations of security outfits such as the Operation Doo-Akpo, Bayelsa Volunteers and Bayelsa Vigilantes under one umbrella and in the process streamlining their operations.
The establishment of model secondary schools is a fantastic idea but teachers were moved from the other regular schools to increase the teaching population of the model schools, leaving most schools without teachers, especially in core subject areas like English, mathematics and the sciences so there is need to employ more teachers. Our schools need libraries and laboratories. This will gulp a lot of money so it can be done in phases, spread over years; the important thing is to start it.
In some schools, especially in primary schools in rural areas, pupils sit on the bare floor or perch by the window panes while receiving lessons. This should be urgently addressed. There is need to suspend the subvention being given to tertiary institutions because it is inadequate to meet up their wage bill. There is need to revert to what it was when lecturers salaries were paid direct by government.
Bayelsa is fast becoming the emerging sports powerhouse in Nigeria, especially when viewed against the background of the heart-warming successes recorded by athletes from the state in the last one year. However, the pressure on Samson Siasia Stadium, the only standard stadium in the state, is too much. There is need to upgrade the Nembe township stadium to serve Bayelsa East Senatorial District, and construct one each for the West and Central Senatorial Districts.
Under infrastructure, what is most needed now is the continuation of the three Senatorial roads as well as the competition of the 20 internal roads being constructed in Yenagoa metropolis. The uncompleted shopping mall by the bridge head, opposite Bolex carwash is deteriorating, and falling apart. Effort should be made to complete it and put into use.
Governor Diri has given assurance that the State Independent Electoral Commission (BYSIEC) will be conducting council polls shortly. The government must follow up on this and ensure the conduct of the election if it wants to be seen as serious. And finally, there is every need to begin to think out of the box and explore every available means of shoring up the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state because there is so much work to be done and so little money to do them.
If Governor Diri manages to execute these projects, he would have succeeded in endearing himself to the people. In addition, the projects will sell his candidacy for a second tenure in office.