In 15 years, the people of Delta State have witnessed massive road infrastructure development that cuts across the state
For the people of Ode-Itsekiri in Warri South-west Local Government area of Delta State, the advent of democracy in Nigeria in May 1999 is the best thing to have happened to their community. That year marked the beginning of a new era that ushered in infrastructure development in the community. For long before the advent of democracy in 1999, the people of the Niger Delta, which the Ode-Itsekiri are part of, had been craving for development of their region. Their aspirations were not met. When the then military governments of old Bendel and Delta states later responded to their calls, the efforts were considered half-hearted and inadequate. The reason that was often given for the failure to adequately meet the yearnings of the people of the region was the swampy nature of their terrain. It seemed as though succour was nowhere in sight until the elections that paved way for a democratically elected government on May 29, 1999. That was when the people of Ode-Itsekiri, and indeed some other riverine areas of Delta State, began to experience real development borne out of a genuine desire to develop part of a region that accounts largely for Nigeria’s wealth as the Niger Delta is home to the nation’s huge oil reserves that yield no less than 85 per cent of revenue for the country. The man who kick-started the process of bringing real joy to the people of Ode-Itsekiri was James Ibori who emerged the governor of Delta State in 1999. As governor, Ibori awarded the contract for the construction of bridges and roads across the rivers leading to the settlement, which a community member described as the ancestral home of the Itsekiri people. Called the Trans Warri/Ode-Itsekiri Roads and Bridges project, the 24-kilometre road works, by the time it is completed, will comprise 24 bridges and network of roads. Due to the volume of work and the terrain, the project was not completed before Ibori’s tenure ended in 2007.
It now fell on Emmanuel Uduaghan to continue where his predecessor stopped; and substantial progress has been made since 2007 that Uduaghan assumed the position of governor. Nigerians, over the years, have seen many projects die with the exit of their initiators but this one didn’t go that way. Indeed for Amos Agbe Utuama, SAN, the state deputy governor, this is one thing the government is happy about. He says, “one advantage we are enjoying in Delta State is that of continuity. Uduaghan was in the government for eight years, I was in the government for eight years. We knew the workings of government, we knew the strength and weaknesses of the state; we knew the direction to go”. Aware therefore of the importance of the project, Uduaghan’s administration made it a top priority to continue with it, and so, all efforts were geared towards funding the projects. Otimeyin Adams, Special Project Director, SPD, Trans Warri/Ode-Itsekiri Road Project, describes the development as one of the star projects that the Uduaghan administration is proud to showcase to the world. The magazine’s recent tour of project sites in the state showed the extent of work in the swampy terrain, with heavy construction equipment deployed to site to realise the dream of both the people and state government. The sheer scale of the project in this admittedly difficult terrain is quite unlike what many people know or have experienced of road projects in Nigeria. People of the community who spoke to the magazine, expressed their appreciation to the state government and said they can’t wait to see their dream come true. One of them is Alice Igben, who, having lived part of her life in Warri, returned to live in Ode-Itsekiri. While appreciating the Delta State government for awarding the contract, she however said it was taking long to complete and urged it to expedite action and ensure speedy completion of the work as the indigenes had been waiting for years to see this happen.
Just like indigenes of Ode-Itsekiri, people of Abigborodo, another riverine community in Delta State, now have a reason to be happy courtesy of the road and bridge projects now linking their village with Sapele and other areas. The contract was awarded by Uduaghan, himself an indigene of the community. Although the project was yet to be completed in May when TELL visited the area, the fact that a long stretch of road and bridge now links the community with the land area is something that people of the community celebrate and talk about. A journalist who visited the area on the day Uduaghan drove into Abigborodo accompanied by his aides on an inspection tour of the project, described the scene as one of indescribable joy as the villagers trooped out to show their appreciation to a worthy son who has ensured that indigenes of the community will now drive in and out of their ancestral land.
But long before this development in Abigborodo, people of Bomadi, another riverine area, already knew what it feels like to have a bridge link up its hitherto uncharted territory. Like in the case of Ode-Itsekiri, the man who made this possible was Ibori. According to Funkekeme Solomon, Commissioner for Works, Ibori’s administration began the process of linking up the riverine areas of Delta State and it was that foundation that the current administration is building upon. “Because of that bridge (Bomadi) there are now roads connecting various rural villages. Before Ibori came into office, construction of such bridges was believed to be impossible. Various people said that the area is so difficult that no one can even plant, but Ibori broke that jinx and successfully, within four or five years, commissioned the bridge. Now there is road to the right and left of all the neighbouring communities”.
It is however, not just people of the riverine areas that have benefited or are benefiting from bridges and roads in their areas. There are many other contracts for road projects that have been awarded and executed in other parts of the multi-ethnic state such as Asaba, Isoko, Ughelli, Ughoton, Ossisa, Eku and Agbor to mention a few. The magazine’s assessment of project sites in the state revealed that various roads in Asaba such as Ezenei Avenue, Erhuvwu Street, ABS Road, Ogagifo, Austin Okolo Street, St Brigids, Dennis Osadebey, Old Anwai Road, Miriam Babangida Road and Asaba–Okpanam roads have either been completed or at advanced stages of development. Also, the 168-kilometre Asaba–Ughelli dualisation which though is a federal government road, is being given priority attention for the purpose of boosting the economy of the state.
Other projects also completed or undergoing construction in some parts of the state are Peter Nwaboshi road in Ibusa linking up the Asaba International Airport, Ashaka–Ushie–Arhade Road in Ndokwa LGA, Owhelogbo township road, Ekuigbo–Iyede road, Uduothori–Toru Road(being handled by Levant Construction Company), Ubeji Access road by ARC Construction Company, Refinery Road in Warri among others. These strings of roads across the state, apart from the comfort it provides residents and motorists, have helped to easily link towns and villages within the state. John Momoh, a resident of Asaba, who has travelled extensively within Delta State since the mid-1990s, said that the road network in the state in the last 15 years of democracy has improved significantly. “Of course it cannot be compared in any way to what we had in those days of military rule. Those should be rather forgotten years,” he said.