Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
A better Approach To Governor Ibori’s Developmental Efforts In Warri
From the specter of unremitting ethnic schisms, rabid militancy, unrelenting anarchy and consummate anguish the vocabulary of events emanating from and pertaining to Warri have in recent times witnessed significantly impressive changes. The first and inarguably most profound of these changes are the ongoing peace efforts between the warring Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic groups, which have seen the cessation of hostilities at the first instance. Reportedly brokered by the war weary ethnic groups themselves ably facilitated by the Delta State Government, the peace process, which cumulated in the signing of a much-sought peace accord between the Ijaw and Itsekiri, has been severally and deservedly hailed as one decisive step towards the normalization of life in that unfortunate spot; a life that was so brutish, miserable and unpredictable just a few months back. Now we can better appreciate the value and virtues of peace having endured the horrendous moments that were the heydays of the Warri crisis and perhaps more apt in agreeing completely with the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, the renown American Public Official, Writer and Scientist, when he stated "there never was a good war, or a bad peace”.
It is however to the second piece of good news that this article sets out to scrutinize; the spate of road construction/dualisation works presently taking place in the Warri area. The Government’s developmental efforts in Warri are not recent measures, having commenced at its inception in 1999. The pace slowed down considerably as Warri witnessed one crisis or the other for the intervening period and speedily picked up again as peace moves yielded fruit and created the congenial atmosphere for developmental activities to recommence. No doubt this Administration has performed creditably in Warri in terms of improving the city’s dilapidated infrastructure; far more than any other Government before its tenure. It has tarred roads where no one hitherto anticipated (e.g. the NPA Bypass), comparatively did better to repair and maintain failed road portions and now, the novelty; it is the first State Government to dualise roads within Warri; a concept designed to make Warri more “cityish” than “townish”. These are obviously laudable steps in the right direction as Warri steps up to regain its lost glory. It is our fervent prayer that any and everything be done to ensure the goods are delivered at the end of the day. To all warfi people I say “forward ever and backward never” as we begin the onerous project of freeing ourselves from the constricting embrace of underdevelopment and impoverishment largely occasioned by internecine conflict.
A very popular adage among our peoples goes thus; “If you praise a man for a small good deed, he will do greater and mightier things”. This might explain the need for the niceties of the preceding paragraph in an article deliberately written to scrutinize and (constructively) criticize the method and approach with which developmental activities are conceived, planned and implemented in the Warri area. If we all agree that “beauty is the eyes of the beholder”, it will be logically acceptable to assert that there are more than one way(s) of developing and/or appreciating the development of Warri and that while there may be “no one best way” there can definitely be a “better way”. The question as to who decides which and what is a better way is another matter altogether but suffice it to say that two GOOD heads (in this case, Government and the well-considered opinions of the people it governs and seeks to develop) are better than one. This article takes the view that it is the “two heads are better than one” typology that results in the best kinds of development. In other words, the impacts of development are bound to be strikingly greater when the suggestions, wishes and aspirations of the people (if you like civil society) are infused with or form the basis of Government’s development plans.
Having said the foregoing, we can proceed to the issue at hand by asking ourselves a few questions on the basis of what is presently on ground in Warri per road construction. Are the present efforts parts of a coherent holistic plan to tackle once and for all the mess that is core Warri city or are they intermittent spurts of Governmental action designed basically for publicity? Are they ethnically biased; covertly tailored towards the maintenance of a rigid caste system of development within the city? Who and/or what bodies are responsible for the choice(s) as to which roads are tarred, which are dualised and such other matters as where or where not roundabouts should be placed? What criteria are at play in the determination of the choices so made? The list of questions that could be raised by a discerning mind is endless but I seem to believe answers to the foregoing (especially the last question) will serve the course of this exercise. The last question is most relevant and crucial as I see in it the potentials for genuine answers to the others.
My well-thought response to this very question, based on observation of the locations and type of roads constructed in Warri so far; as well as informed gossips and viewpoints garnered from knowledgeable individuals, is that the road construction works (i.e the choice of what roads should be tarred e.t.c) seem to be primarily influenced by any or all the following factors albeit in varying proportions viz; (1) the construction of those roads that link/lead to the residences of top Government Officials and politicians in Warri, (2) the construction of roads principally intended for prestige and showcasing of Government’s activities, (3) the construction of roads deliberately and consciously designed to bring succor to the mass of Warri people and (4) roads that meet all of the above listed criteria irrespective of the core or initial motivation of its “recommendators” . I may perhaps be tempted to add a muted fifth criterion espoused by an Okada rider who conveyed this writer recently. This fellow, who must have been of some sound education, insisted that Warri roads are deliberately constructed on ethnic grounds, i.e. the number, type and quality of roads to be tarred in any particular area of town are determined by the ethnic group owning or inhabiting that area. Though his forceful analysis lacked the robustness and substantiation of an academic work, his analogies, backed by vivid examples, made his argument somewhat persuasive. In this regard therefore, we can begin to question, on the basics of the aforementioned criteria the direction and trend of Warri development.
An on-the-spot assessment reveals the completion of the new NPA bypass, near completion of the much talked-about Airport road dualisation project, the rehabilitation of previously tarred roads within the city and as I speak, ongoing works and plans to dualise Ajamogha, Ekpen, Okere, Bowen, Odion, Cemetery, Lower/Upper Erejuwa roads and a short stretch at Okumagba Avenue. Now my first observation is that with the exception of NPA Bypass road, all others already exist. We are concentrating enormous resources on EXISTING roads, roads which have been in reasonably good condition; and which could at best be widened, like say, Mission road in Benin City. We are undertaking this venture in a city where only about five percent of roads are tarred; the rest in very pitiable conditions. I am constrained to ask; would it not have been better to spend the huge resources expended on just Airport road alone to tar the very many untarred roads in Warri? What sight do we behold when we venture from the seeming elegance of Airport road; utter desolation and dilapidation! I see in their hundreds, streets, some within shouting distance of Airport road, where cars are packed considerable distances from one’s abode; where makeshift bridges are constructed to guarantee access through flooded and muddy terrain; where the inhabitants could be able to win medals in Long and Triple jump (probably swimming too) at the Olympics considering the quality training they unknowingly acquire as they continually wade, leap, jump and climb from one high ground to the other, from one stone or pre-placed cement block to the other in the daily effort get to their dwellings in one piece, streets where fishing may have ironically become a regular and interesting pastime, streets that have been converted to football fields and playgrounds and even streets that are largely abandoned during the wet season. I speak of highly built-up and developed areas (not shanties) in core Warri City (not the outskirts). Can it not be safely inferred, with this kind of observable development, that the current Government’s developmental efforts are pre-eminently influenced by all the previously highlighted criteria with the exception of the most crucial; the deliberate construction of roads to alleviate the sufferings of many Warri residents? Is it not perhaps this kind of informed observation that could give vent to the unsubstantiated rumour that Shell, and not the Delta State Government, is responsible for the Airport road dualisation project considering that that road is significantly advantageous to the activities of Shell? How big is Warri (and immediate environs), the economic capital of Delta State and nexus of the Western Niger Delta, that we should subject to this kind of easily perceived diversionary, one-sided and uncoordinated development?
I say, in emulation of the choice of words recently employed by the renowned Literary giant, Chinue Achebe, in rejection of a national award bestowed on him, that the pathetic conditions of squalor and suffering in most parts of Warri have become “too dangerous for silence”. I go on to posit that for the Ibori Government to properly and rightfully assume the toga of Saviour and Messiah of and for Warri residents, the entire developmental process in Warri have to be radically overhauled to make it more Humanity (or Masses) friendly. A pragmatic, all embracing and impactful approach to Warri development should be worked out to correct the seeming developmental imbalance and mis-prioritisation. It is my recommendation here that such a redrawn plan include, as much as possible, the following; Construction of Warri central drainage with the canalization of the Okere creek, which runs through the city, to serve that purpose (a project previously commenced by this administration but abandoned for no apparent reason), construction of all or most roads in inner Warri (particularly Okumagba layout) such as Idiaregbe, Dimoni, Yossi, Akporume, Eruaye, Erhimohwo, Onogho, Sohworuwe, Ejemudaro, Eworitsemogha, Ekuruemu, Odjugo, Osiobe, Eduwaye, Rerri, Grey, Onofeghara, Omode, Enughe, Ohwoadjeke, Asiughwru, Omorogie, Omosekwofa, Gesimisi, Okotie, Willie, Mudiaga Odje, Frank Ailemen, Obodo, Metsarun, Mene, Oleh, Edjemudaro, Karien, Arubaye, Eti, Okoyibo and others too numerous to mention, all of which are located in built up areas (not shanties), construction of roads to criss-cross the huge circle of swamp fringing the so-called interior boundaries of Okumagba Layout, Agaga Layout, Ugborikoko, and the Etuwewe/Marine gate area; that aerially unsightly “middle of town” one sees when approaching Warri from the air. Construction of a new road somewhere around the former Midwest College to link up Ugborikoko and thence Okumagba Layout, a new road running from the existing First Marine gate road to link up Okumagba Layout. Construction of a round about at Enerhen junction and then Abala Street to cut through Walter Odeli and emerge at Ugborikoko/Okumagba layout. A new road from across/opposite Emebiren by Okumagba road to cut through and come out at “small” Amoforitse street/Eboh area and the repair of that bad portion at the entrance to Eboh road from Upper Erejuwa. Construction and/or rehabilitation of the numerous roads/streets around the Ometan/Ginuwa/Agbassa axis e.g. Ogboru, Father Healey, Okandeji, Ope, Enamejuwa, Sam-Warri, Omoine, Old Welfare, Irigbegbe, Igbi and others. A new road running from the former dustbin ground (on the North side of Warri stadium where you have the Cherubim church) to come out at Skinn road and branch rightwards to Agbassa and thence running both left and right to come out at Warri /Sapele road. Construction of all or most link roads between Jakpa and Airport roads and between Jakpa and refinery roads; areas now built up with the choicest of structures. Create a new road somewhere around the former spare parts market in Effurun to run inwards to the well laid-out residential areas of the interior Aka Street and environs. Construct a road from Sokoh Estate road to run rightwards passing through the rear of DDPA estate, St. Mary, Ugboroke and thence to the new express road running from airport road to Ekpan by the College of Education. A round-about can be put at the end of the dualised portion by NNPC housing estate and, taking the route to the NNPC small gate (if we are ambitious enough), a whole new road running straight on to the Edjeba express way can be constructed by shifting-in the entire NNPC fence in that area. In the already constructed and highly publicised Airport road we can do better by creating roundabouts at the following locations to prevent the very cumbersome U-turns that cause accidents and stress the shafts of our front wheel drive vehicles as follows; Roundabout at Sokoh Estate road junction and a new road created from the opposite end cutting through the area now occupied by mechanics to run through and come out at the Izakpa/Water Resources road (perhaps too, continue by cutting across to the Lord Alams area and Oilfield/Walter Odeli roads). Another roundabout at Ugborikoko road junction and a new road constructed at the ‘abattoir” side of the road to DDPA Estate. A Roundabout at Ugboroke junction constructed in a manner to tie-in Giwa-Amu road. A roundabout at Edjeba junction and the possible the dualisation of the entire stretch of road from Fani kayode through Shell-Edjeba to terminate at NNPC small gate (to join up with the one earlier suggested to link up the Edjeba expressway). These, with those roundabouts already constructed, can be leased out to the various banks and companies along Airport road to maintain as flower packs and also used to advertise themselves. We can create new roads running through Ekurede Urhobo to come out at Airport road and also possibly create a link from Ogiyede through to Edjeba around the motel Oceania area. We can construct new roads from Olomu/Ighorue axis to link up Airport road and running across to link up Okere Market/Ekpen Street. Construct a new road by the Okere prison (near the culvert) to link up Esisi/G.R.A road. The list is endless and the task insurmountable at first glance, but it pales significantly when compared with the REAL cost of dualising Airport Road alone not to mention Ajamogha/Ekpen/Okere/Bowen/Odion/Cemetery/Erejuwa roads; costs which in totality can conveniently tar all roads in the Warri/Effurun/Udu/Agbarho area. We have not even highlighted and quantified (apart from this huge monetary expenditure) such other implied and hidden costs as the huge social and economic burden to the individuals that will be temporarily or permanently displaced, the cost of compensation, the cost of removing and reinstalling Nitel/ Nepa cables and installations as well as existing Waterworks, the attendant economic disruptions that the entire process will generate not to mention the cultural costs that may be occasioned by the demolition or alteration of antique structures in this old part of town that gives one a unique nostalgic sense of datedness. I state unequivocally that spending billions on prestige road dualisation projects as a first resort and as well-intentioned it may seem, in road-starved Warri suggests a Government very much out of touch with the reality on ground. There must be some Warri boys in Government to re-orient the development process to reflect and include the foregoing presentation. History will not judge this administration too kindly (not minding the number of dualised roads that may be in Warri) if at the expiration of its tenure in 2007, most of the aforementioned roads (particularly in Okumagba Layout) are still in their present pathetic states especially considering the amount of goodwill and resources it has enjoyed till date. What ought to be done, and speedily too, is that present efforts be concentrated on the broadening of Okumagba, Ajamogha, Okere, Odion, Cemetery, Lower and Upper Erejuwa roads instead of the planned dualisation and the rescued funds from this unnecessary and wasteful diversion channeled to the construction of new roads. If we must dualise roads, then such should either run concurrently with the construction of the roads here recommended or as a second phase of activities. I am totally in love with dualised roads but not and never at the expense of the neglect of Ninety percent of Warri roads.
In ensuring prompt and efficient project delivery, I propose the following guiding principles for roads construction in the Warri area viz; (1) Greater efforts to be concentrated on the construction of NEW or previously untarred roads (2) roads must be constructed to link up other roads; not cul-de sac road construction as we have at Ojagbugbe. (3) Roads should be constructed as wide as possible to forestall the practice of making narrow roads in Warri where ample space is available and encouraging the building of illegal structures by so doing e.g. Fani kayode Road. (4) Top priority to be given to roads in densely populated areas and with an expectantly high usage rate. (5) The entire developmental plan should be coherent and consistent such that whole sections of the city are penciled down for road development; not the present experience of isolated and disjointed road construction where, as we have it now, we tar Apala Street, neglect the important Enughe Street link, continue at Maduku, jump over Edjemudaro and the like. (6) Effective and efficient project monitoring which should entail frequent (possibly unscheduled) visits to the project sites by the Governor or a dedicated representative.
I will not close this article without commenting on the demolition of illegal structures in Warri. It is enough it to say at this time that it is a necessary and allied component of the developmental process which action may have been long overdue, but again, a major factor for the springing up of such structures is, amongst others, the paucity of markets in Warri/Effurun/Udu areas. For the demolition process to have a human face, the State Government should have long before now, built markets to absolve the mass of people that would be affected and done better in sensitizing the affected public on the seriousness and imminence of the “clearing-up” process through continuous news/media announcements. The whole process, if what was experienced at its peak was anything to go by, was carried out as if to inflict maximum pain on the victims most of who may have only just recovered from the trauma of Warri’s wars. I suggest here that, if not for the immediate purposes of road construction, we can employ a milder approach to this problem by placing fines and other sanctions on the Land owners where illegal make-shift and caravan structures are located and perhaps also require them by some enacted law to fence-in such structures pending properly approved development. Government can give realistic time frames within which to develop such strategically located property failing which they might risk forfeiture. These could serve to discourage Landowners from allowing illegal structures in their properties. A further and more crucial measure that should run simultaneously with the foregoing is the rehabilitation of existing markets and construction of new ones. To this end, I suggest as a matter of urgency, the completion of the SanSan/Ogbe-Ijoh markets, the construction of a new market somewhere around the Polokor area, rehabilitation and sanitization of Igbudu and Pessu markets, rebuilding McIver market (if so desired), the construction of new markets at suitable locations in Effurun and Udu (the new market in Effurun is definitely a step in the right direction). Additionally the State Government (alone or in conjunction with the respective Local Governments) should acquire choice land inside the city to build shopping malls and/or assist developers and Landowners to do same. I propose government action in this regard as the owners of such properties may not be sufficient buoyant to undertake such enterprise. To suddenly dislodge the mass of Warri people most of who subsist on pittance from petty trade is too big a price to pay at this point in time considering that the area, all its peoples and businesses, are still recovering from the devastation that was the Warri crises. I note here that most of these structures are now springing up again as no concrete development has yet taken place in the spots from which they were removed. Man must survive! Abi?
On a final and conclusive note I strongly believe that we have a listening Governor in the person of James Onanefe Ibori. I expect his Excellency will pay a personal inspection visit to the areas here mentioned and follow this up with some decisive action. This will greatly improve his standing amongst the long-suffering masses of the Warri area; most of whom have lost confidence on all forms of Government. We will be eagerly watching and praying for that ecstatic moment! God is not asleep!
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.