By Festus Ahon
Transportation infrastructure is one of the indices of measuring the social and economic development of any society. As such, the nature of transportation infrastructure of any nation also contributes to the GDP and life expectancy ratio of its citizens.
As observed by the International Trade Office of the US Department of Commerce, Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit is 40% short of World Bank standard. Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit, amounting to 30% of its gross domestic product (GDP), falls short of the international benchmark of 70% set by the World Bank.
Nigeria, as one of the largest economies in Africa with a potential population growth of 400 million people by 2050, is expected to surpass the United States as the third-most populous Country in the world. However, Nigeria ranks 152 out of 188 Countries in the UN’s Human Development Index, mostly due to the extreme poverty of its Niger Delta region.
The Niger Delta region produces 75 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings. However, it’s residents lack access to health care and other basic social services and the youths are vulnerable to recruitment by gangs and militant groups with 43 percent of the Niger Delta population living below the poverty line.
Part of the effort to rewrite the development narrative of the region is the resolve of its Governors to engage with President Bola Tinubu on the need to fastrack completion of the East-West road which traverses Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom States.
Speaking recently when he played host to the Senate Adhoc Committee on non-completion of the East-West road, led by Senator Abdul Ningi at Government House in Asaba, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State said Governors of the South-South region had taken the East-West road as a top priority project for the region in view of its strategic importance to the economy of the nation.
He said that the road, which connects the South-South, South-East and Western parts of the Country, remained in a bad state and uncompleted despite several attempts to complete the road.
The Governor said that the region, which produces the highest wealth of the nation, should be given better treatment by ensuring that the road was completed.
Oborevwori said: “The East-West road is very strategic to all of us in this region. With what we have contributed to the nation in the past and with the region contributing the highest wealth to the nation today, it is proper that attention is paid to this region.
“We also happy about this visit because in one of our National Economic Council meetings, we have agreed collectively as Governors from the South-South to work on the East-West road.
“My appeal to you is that you fast track whatever investigation and inspection you are to carry out, so that by the beginning of the next dry season, work can commence on the road.
“So your coming is a good one and I know that we will enjoy a lot of benefits, if the East-West road is completed because apart from oil producing States, we also have agrarian States in this region,” he said.
Earlier, Senator Ningi had told Oborevwori that they were in Delta on a fact-finding mission on why subsequent administrations had failed to complete the East-West road despite the enormous funds appropriated and disbursed for the road.
He congratulated Oborevwori for his landslide victory at the polls and for hitting the ground running, adding that the Committee would ascertain the level of work so far done on the East-West Road with a view to determining whether the work done was commensurate with what the Federal Government had spent on the road.
He pointed out that the East West Road was a strategic and critical road infrastructure which cuts across the South-South geopolitical zone of the Country, adding that the road project cannot continue to suffer unnecessary delay because of its strategic importance to the economy of the people in the region.
In a related development, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori has pledged continued commitment to promoting inclusive economic growth and strengthening financial management for sustainable development of the State.
The Governor gave the pledge when he received on courtesy visit, the 59th President and Chairman, Governing Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Dr Innocent Okwuosa and his delegation at Government House, Asaba on Wednesday.
Represented by his Deputy, Sir Monday Onyeme, a fellow of the Institute, Oborevwori said Delta would continue to partner with the Accountants’ body for improved services in revenue generation and service delivery.
He said Delta remained a major stakeholder in the Institute, having produced two past Presidents of the Institute, Prof. Francis Ojaide and Dame Onome Adewuyi.
He assured that his administration would appoint more Chartered Accountants into the State service, especially as there were plans to reposition the State Board of Internal Revenue.
Earlier, Dr Okwuosa congratulated Oborevwori on his victory at the polls and commended him for choosing one of their own, Sir Monday Onyeme, as Deputy Governor and for other appointments within the State Civil Service.
Okwuosa added that the mandate given to him by Deltans speak volume about the confidence they have in him and prayed God to give him the wisdom and strength that is required to deliver on the well-deserved mandate.
Recall that Governor Oborevwori was also at First Baptist Church, Eku, on Sunday for the Thanksgiving service of Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Arthur Akpowowo, where he promised to boost the manpower needs in Baptist Government Hospital, Eku and other hospitals in the State.
The Governor, who was responding to a request to revamp the Eku Baptist Government Hospital, said the State Government would engage consultants in accordance with its needs.
In another development, Governor Oborevwori’s approval for the recruitment of 2,183 teaching and non-teaching jobs, across 22 Local Government Areas of the State, has elicited the commendation of the State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).
NUT Chairman in the State, Comrade Titus Okotie described the approval as an economic relief to graduates, their families and a signal of brighter future for the State’s education sector.
Okotie described Gov. Oborevwori as a promise keeper who within three months of his administration has fulfilled his campaign promise to the Union to revamp the education sector.
He said the new jobs include 1,630 vacancies for teachers of NCE level and above, 99 for non-teaching University degrees and Higher National Diploma holders, 77 for clerical assistants and 377 for Grade Level 01 workers such as cleaners and watchmen.
The elated NUT Chairman said Governor Oborevwori has proven to be a man of his words with the inclusion of relevant stakeholders in the planning, implementation and the advancement of the education sector in the State.
He also commended the State Government for augmenting the minimum wage of primary school teachers with N113m every month. This is as the approval for more teachers means more cost in the augmentation which otherwise should have been the sole responsibility of the Local Governments.
Delta State’s reputation for hosting National and international sports events was again brought to the fore when Gov. Oborevwori announced the State’s readiness to serve as one of Nigeria’s host cities for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in 2027.
Speaking when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Bidding Inspection Committee visited him in Asaba on Tuesday, Gov. Oborevwori said the State was peaceful and conducive to host the continental football tournament and assured of top-notch security and facilities for the event, if selected.
Earlier, Bid Coordinator for Nigeria and Benin Republic, Mainasara Illoh said the team was in Delta State because Asaba was found worthy of being put forward as a host city.
Illoh stated that Nigeria was expected to provide six venues while Benin Republic provides two. He urged the State Government to invest more in improving the facilities used in hosting previous sports events to increase the State’s chances of being selected.
With the steps taken to ensure completion of the East-West road, approval for the recruitment of teaching and non-teaching staff, recruitment of various health professionals for hospitals across the State and the State’s preparedness to host the 2027 African Cup of Nations, Gov. Oborevwori remains undaunted in his quest for the socio-economic development of the State and the oil rich Niger Delta Region.
- Ahon is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Delta State.