FEATURES – Oborevwori in measured steps, warms into Deltans with aplomb

FEATURES – Oborevwori in measured steps, warms into Deltans with aplomb

Governor Oborevwori, with mic, making an address at the Warri Stadium project.

By Chukwudi Abiandu

Since he stepped into the saddle of leadership after taking oath of office as governor of Delta State, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Francis Orohwedor Oborevwori has become absorbed and dogged in letting the people to grasp the point that he actually meant his claim to being a servant leader to them. The Governor has in not a few ways, and with skills and poise proved this point since hitting the ground running. The tasks and missions that he has so far engaged in are indications of measured steps by which he has warmed himself into Deltans. A few instances will suffice presently.

It does not in any way come as a surprise that he has thus far discharged himself equitably with the tendency of one who understands politics. Yes, it would have been a misnomer if he had done otherwise. He has proved that he is a man who knows where his heart beat is, politics, and he went for it as a matter of choice, studying political science in his first degree and capped it up subsequently with a Master’s degree in the same discipline.

Therefore, as a political scientist, Oborevwori understands that the academic field and scientific study of politics is a social science that experts identify as dealing with the analysis and implementation of systems of governance and their impact on societies. Having learnt the theories of political science in schools, which prepared him for political leadership, he has since stepped in to deploy the theories into practical realities. He maximized this knowledge as Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, serving two successive and applause-filled terms on that seat. While many believe that the achievement is a feat, however, not a few understand that the knowledge acquired in his study of political science in school has so much to do with the success made of his former office as Speaker. A combination of the theory and the practical experiences garnered seems to be serving him well in his new responsibility as Governor.

Governor Oborevwori, in cap, being shown a drainage point in Warri.

It is such that since May 29, 2023, Governor Oborevwori has proved that political power is to be used to achieve good governance by delivering the specific needs and interests peculiar to the peoples. A pointer that he will do just that can be picked from his inaugural speech at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, shortly after his oath of office as Governor of Delta State. He said:”Today marks the beginning not only of a new administration, but of an era that will advance Delta State to greater heights in people-centre policies…the new administration is poised to ADVANCE the State through the M.O.R.E. agenda, which stands for Meaningful development, Opportunities for all, Realistic reforms, and Enhanced peace and security.”

So far, Oborevwori has swung into action, first by showing that he meant what he said that his administration would give priority to the development of Warri and environs. On Monday, June 26, he went on a working visit to the oil city and inspected the Phases One and Two of the on-going Warri-Effurun Storm Water Control Projects in Warri South and Uvwie Council areas. Seeing the unpleasant scenarios causing flooding hazards, he did not waste time in ordering the demolition of all the structures erected on water ways across the state.

Of course, that directive is a welcome directive given the menace that flooding is causing to both the rich and poor, and in extreme cases causing deaths of citizens. The Governor rightly justified his order when he pointed out that there’s no place in the world that allows people to build structures on water ways. He said: “”We started the inspection with Phase ll of the storm water drainage project being handled by CCECC. They have five catchment areas. We have looked at their works and realised that they have done a lot as they have gone very far.

“They have some obstacles and we also looked at what is causing the obstacles and got to know that there are some buildings on natural waterways, which is causing obstructions and slowing down the speed of work being done by the construction firm.

Governor Oborevwori (3rd left) points at an object of interest the Sector ‘C’ of the Ughelli-Asaba Road dualisation under construction during the his inspection of the project.

“We also assured the contractors that all the buildings on the water ways, both in Phase l and Phase ll, will be brought down by the State Government to enable them finish their work seamlessly.

“They have assured us that they need 21 days for some of the areas they have opened, that are causing gridlock, to be properly fixed and the drainage crossing Airport Road by Fani Kayode was casted on Saturday and they need about 19 days for that area to be fixed also.

“On Phase One of the project, there are a lot of buildings on the waterways and l have called on the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Works to liaise with the Ministry of Lands to see how those buildings on water ways can be brought down to enable the construction firm have unfettered access to do their work.”

Indeed, no one will deny the fact that the Governor meant well with the directive given that structures blocking water ways must be pulled down to ease bottlenecks hindering free flow of water. This is for the good of the people and it is well taken by them.

But the Governor continued with his inspection of projects, which also took him to the Warri Stadium, where rehabilitation work is on-going. There he said he was not satisfied with the work being done by the contractor, and that he would study the contract to ensure prompt and quality delivery of the project.

He said: “l came here to see what the contractor handling the project has done and l am not too satisfied with what has been done. But the contractor said what they are doing is according to the scope of the contract awarded to them. So, we are going to look at the contract and see what can be done to ensure speedy and quality delivery of the project. Some of the areas that are not properly scoped will be rescoped. We want the best for Warri and this is the Warri City Stadium,” he said.

The takeaway here is that Governor Oborevwori has given a spur to his promise that his administration will give attention to the development of Warri and environs. He thus proved that he is a talk na do Governor.

Delta Governor, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori (2nd right), accompanied by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works, Mr. Fred Dafiogor (3rd left), the Area General Manager, LEVANT Construction Company, Fondel Ghansel (right), and others while inspecting the Sector A of the Asaba-Ughelli road dualization on Monday.

Besides, and while still on the tour of projects at Otovwodo Junction, Ughelli, Governor Oborevwori ordered relocation of the Delta Appreciate Park and those trading along the road. Reason is for the safety of lives and belongings of the people, especially the traders, most of who stubbornly and with reckless abandon stay on the road to trade in defiance of the obvious danger that vehicles plying the road can cause to their lives. It is against this background that the governor frowned at the continued trading on that road.

He said: “We are planning something there but when you are planning you need to go and see the place and I saw a motor park at that junction and that’s not acceptable at all. Trading on the road is also not acceptable. You can see the risk involved in trading on the express road. We met with His Majesty, the Ovie of Ughelli, the Council Chairman and the President General and we discussed all these and that market needs to be relocated from that place because it’s causing a lot of hardship to travelers.

“I have directed the Council Chairman to ensure that the motor park is relocated from that place and that those trading on the road need to move. There is somewhere we have prepared for them and we have an issue of access roads. But I have also directed the Ministry of Works to come up with a proposal to enable us to have access road to the new market.”

Not done, Governor Oborevwori went to see the Isheagu-Ewulu Road and bridge, in Aniocha South Local Government Area, where he expressed satisfaction with work done by the contractor, assuring that the project would be ready for inauguration in September.

“I am satisfied with work done so far and the beauty of this road is that it connects two communities and coming from Isheagu to Ewulu you see the old bridge has collapsed so this new bridge is a saving grace for these two communities. The contractor has assured that by the end of August the entire bridge and 9.1km of road would be due for inauguration,” he said.

Thus, in about two months of taking charge as governor, Rt. Hon. Oborevwori has shown empathy in the assignments he has so far undertaken, and that they are for the good of the people. One of the many that space constraints will not permit to be recorded here is the feeling for the plight of unpaid pensioners in the 25 local government areas of the state. These are people who have served but have not reaped the fruits in retirement. Following a request by the Council chairmen, he came to the rescue and acceded to their request to support their decision for N40 billion loan from the Zenith Bank Plc to enable them settle the issue of unpaid local government pensioners. Out of sheer magnanimity, the Governor wrote to the supervising authority, the Delta State House of Assembly through the Speaker, requesting for approval for a N40 billion credit facility to assist the 25 local government councils to defray a substantial backlog of pensions owed retired primary school teachers and local government employees in the state.

The governor’s request received support from the lawmakers; all of whom acknowledged the need to address the challenges faced by local government council pensioners and approved the Governor’s request.

It should also be pointed out immediately that before long, the media, especially the social media became awash with insinuations and unfounded allegations that Governor Oborevwori was borrowing the money for his use. It took the intervention of the State’s Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), led by their Chairman, Victor Ebonka to debunk the insinuations and clarify the negative reports in the media.

At a press conference, and flanked by his colleagues in ALGON, Hon. Ebonka explained that it was the statutory duty of Local Governments to pay pensions to its retirees as well as Local Education Authority (primary school retirees), but that the problem arose because of error in the enrollment of the workers into the contributory pension scheme.

He said: “In this country constitutionally, we have three tiers of government; the Federal, the State and the Local Governments. We all have separate responsibilities. It is our constitutional responsibility to pay the Local Government staff and primary school teachers salaries.

“And we are not unmindful of the lingering problems that we have with regards to the pension benefits of the Local Government staff and that of the primary school teachers. This problem was inherited from the two previous administrations and it has to do with an error in the enrollment into the contributory pension scheme.

“And for these shortcomings, we have found ourselves owing their accrued rights from 2016 to date. The past administration set machinery in motion and has tried to ensure that the debt is liquidated by giving several grants totaling about N5 billion and increased statutory contribution from N200 million a month to N500 million.

“Despite all these grants from the State Government, we have not been able to clear the outstanding arrears and this made the immediate past administration to set up a Committee consisting of myself the ALGON Chairman, the Head of Service and other stakeholders.

“The Committee went to the bond market to get a facility but was not successful because the cost of funds was quite expensive. So, we approached the commercial bank to get the facility and we can say that Zenith Bank has agreed to afford us N40 billion out of the N51 billion indebted to the pensioners”.

For Ebonka and his ALGON colleagues who are overseeing operations at the local government councils, it is disingenuous of any one to read implausible meanings to genuine efforts by Governor Oborevwori to support hard pressed local government chairman out of the dilemma they faced in paying their pensioners their lawful entitlements.

“The State Government did not borrow N40 billion as reported in some quarters, Ebonka said, adding that the only role played by the State Government was to give approval and forward the same to the State Assembly for ratification.”

According to the Delta State ALGON Chairman, it is exclusively the Local Government Councils that are borrowing this money. “You know that by law, we need the approval of the State Government and the ratification of the State Assembly and that was sort for and it was granted by the Governor and approved by the State House of Assembly. So any moment from now, the pensioners will smile home. We also want to state that no penny from the N40 billion is going to the coffers of the Local Governments, he said, underscoring the point that the local governments are going to cover about ninety percent of the accrued rights from this money. All of the monies will be paid directly to the pensioners,” he said.

Since then, local government pensioners appear to have been swayed by the ALGON explanations even as they anxiously continue to wait for the green light to call them to receive their entitlements. They seem to have won Governor Oborevwori to their hearts.

Yet, in many other areas as in the appointments so far made, the Governor has also won the peoples applause. Take for instance, the appointment of Hon. Solomon Ighrakpata, there was jubilation as news made the rounds that he is now the new Chairman of Delta State Board of Internal Revenue Service (DBIRS). Report had it that those at the revenue office described Ighrakpata as a servant leader; one that they believe is upright, disciplined and amiable. So much so that Ighrakpata’s appointment was described as that of a square peg in a square hole. And the Governor was highly commended for his choice of the former lawmaker to head the revenue board.

Hon. Ighrakpata is an accountant, a Fellow of Certified National Accountant (FCNA)), Associate member, Chartered Institute of Taxation (ACTT) and Fellow, Nigerian Institute of management (FNIM). He was Delta State House of Assembly Chairman, Special Duties and Deputy House Committee Chairman, Public Accounts Committee from 20219 to 2923.

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