A Niger Delta environmental rights activist, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, has hailed Delta state Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for the approval of 70 road projects across the state.
The state government, during the last week executive council meeting, approved the construction and rehabilitation of 70 roads across the three senatorial districts in the state.
In a press statement made available to journallists in Asaba, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, who hails from Kokodiagene community in Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South West local government area of the state, said the roads would contribute immensely to the economic wellbeing of the state, especially in the area of transportation, free flow of commercial activities and alleviating the sufferings of road users.
But he called on Governor Okowa to be fair to the Ijaw and Itsekiri riverine communities and review the allocation of the projects so as to accommodate the interest of the two ethnic groups who happened to be the most vulnerable to environmental degradation due to oil exploration activities that keep the state and the country economically vibrant.
He said: “The omission of Ijaw communities in the 70 road projects is not fair and this has shown the inequality in the distribution of development projects across the state. This form of subtle marginalisation is capable of engendering a sense of injustice, breeding resentment and ultimately working against efforts for peaceful co-existence.
“Delta state source of revenue from the federal government is from the Ijaw and Itsekiri land, the state budget is funded from what is generated from the area. Governor Okowa is yet to give adequate attention to our people.
“The Ijaws cannot be relegated to the background in terms of road projects. There must be fair sharing and need to pay special attention to Ijaw communities that were neglected by the past administration.
“Governor Okowa should know that the major Ijaw local governments in the state also suffer and experience a glaring lack of schools, hospitals and other social amenities. These inequities were inherited from the past administrations that concentrated the state resources in selected areas.
“However, the recent 70 roads projects omitting or neglecting Ijaws and Itsekiris riverine communities benefiting from the road allocation seem to be a continuation of policy that neglects areas that generate the states revenue,” he said.
He added that the only administration that impacted developmentally on the Ijaws in Delta state was that of former Governor Chief James Onanefe Ibori during 1999-2007, saying: “The former governor built the 612 metre long Bomadi Bridge over River Forcados.
“Prior to the construction, cars had no access to Bomadi local government area and its other 11 communities, namely: Ogriagbene, Esama, Akugbene, Bomadi, Kpakiama, Ekamuta-gbene, Azebiri, Ogodobiri, Okoloba and Kalafuo-gbene. The bridge made possible the first road connection between the Ijaw mainland and the riverine areas.
“Eleven years after Ibori had left office, Ijaw could not boast of any tangible project from former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration. Ijaw areas were utterly neglected by former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan,” he added.
According to him: “Instead of gloating over completed and ongoing skeletal projects that could not measure up to 2 billion naira in spite of our huge contributions, such as the Burutu township roads, the 18.9km, Obotobo 1- Obotobo 2- Tsekebolo- Yokri road Project, the rehabilitated Kiagbodo road, the construction of the Egodor/Agbordobri road, the Burutu market project, Concert pavement Walkway in Oporoza and Okerenkoko, Okowa can do better.
“These projects cannot quantify our contributions. We hope that Governor Okowa will not preside over the gross injustice of neglecting the area that generates what is funding the state budget. Okowa’s project on ground does not show regard and appreciation of the Ijaw people in Delta state.”