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OKOWA’S INGENIOUS WAYS OF TACKLING ECONOMIC CHALLENGES – By Fidelis Egugbo

OKOWAFor some time now, the fortunes of the country have been on the decline due to what financial analyst linked to the low price of petroleum products in the international market. That Nigeria is a blessed country is never in doubt. Can we say that groundnut pyramids of the North, Cocoa of the South West and Palm produce of the South East have suddenly become history?

This obviously was due to the discovery of oil in commercial quantities which made the country to be so rich to the extent that a former President was credited as saying that Nigeria did not know what to do with its money. That was the extent that the country’s situation was. The situation snowballed to the extent that the word ‘national cake’ was coined due to the profligacy of subsequent Military Presidents of the country who got into power not because of their intention to offer purposeful leadership but, what they stood to loot from the country’s treasury.

At the birth of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, the people heaved sigh of relief as their chosen representatives ascended positions of authorities. To date, despite the hues and cries, democracy remains the best form of government and it takes only an election year for the people to make their choice through the ballot box.

Since last year, the country has been faced by financial crisis as a result of the low price of oil in the international market. Of recent too, activities of militants in the creeks of the Niger Delta have also, reduced the production quantity of crude oil in the country with its multiplier effects of reduction of the country’s oil output.

It is a fact that when the situation was rosy, projects were duplicated in many communities. There were instances when the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) would be providing street lights in a community where the state’s Ministry for Power was executing same project and the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) would have also, awarded contracts for same project simply because of one influential politician coming from such community, whereas there are several communities begging for such amenities.

Bearing in mind the financial situation and the need for prudent management of resources, the Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, on Friday, July 1, 2016, signed the Economic Planning Council bill into law.

There is no doubt that the one term the Governor spent at the Senate representing the good people of Delta North Senatorial District had prepared him for the job of governance; he was abreast with law making organs and the importance of having legal backing to the activities of government. This he has utilized to the benefits of Deltans.

The Governor said, “in this particular law, local government Chairmen will be brought in as members of the Council and it will enable us to compare notes on economic plans between the local government councils and the state government, and ensure greater partnership in the delivery of economic dividends for our people.”

With the law to establish the Economic Council, duplication of projects would be greatly reduced in the state as the state economic team and those from the council areas would have to sit and harmonize their needs, especially, as it concerns project delivery. So, issues of clash of interests about project execution will be minimized in the future.

Governor Okowa deserves kudos for working to ensuring that things are properly done in the state. This is because, with this development, local government councils will prioritize their projects based on scale of preference in line with what the state government desires as projects to be executed.

With such arrangement, funds will be prudently managed and communities will get what they rightly deserve. This is because, projects will be sited in places they are really needed, not just based on political patronage. But, again, the state government should also, go a step further by ensuring that agencies of the Federal Government or international agencies will not also, come to the state and execute projects without prior knowledge of government officials or also, carrying out investigation to know if the state has executed similar projects in the past at same community and with such projects likely to be in functional state.

The law would ensure proper documentation of projects and where they are sited and this may give rise to communities ensuring protection of government facilities in their areas. This is because, chances are that, there will be no duplication of such project. A situation where a community will be getting water project every six months or annually simply because they have an illustrious son somewhere may not arise.

And again, the Economic Council will never lose focus on what will ensure speedy development cum industrialization of the state as agricultural programmes, the manufacturing sectors, power generation situation of the different local government councils would be looked into based on comparative advantage and the electorates will witness situation where all the local government councils will be in competition on how to grow the economies of their localities.

We cannot forget the fact that just like Nigeria, there is no local government area in the state that has no unique output, and richly blessed with one mineral resources or the other. From industrial clay, silica, lignite, kaolin, tar sand, decorative rocks, limestone, among other resources when harnessed, the state in the near future would be reputed as a place where quality ceramics, chalks, sanitary wares, decorative stones among others could be gotten from.

Of course, that glass and bottles are manufactured in Ughelli is no longer news, the state is very rich in oil and gas but, it is definitely, time that these resources are harnessed to the benefits of the people to ensure speedy industrialization of the state. I cannot also forget the fact that the state is also, blessed with matured coal deposit that has not been tapped.

Definitely, the end result of the Economic Council law would be a progressive Delta State that may not be dependant on revenue from the Federal Government before salaries of civil servants are paid in line with prosperity for all Deltans.

It is worthy to state here that the above postulations were personal without prejudice to the content of the Economic Council Law.

On that faithful day Governor Okowa signed the bill for the establishment of Economic Council into law, he also, signed three other bills into law and they were, the Delta State Security Trust Fund (amendment Bill) 2016, Delta State Anti-kidnapping (amendment) Bill 2016 and the Delta State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy (amendment) Bill 2016.

Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Monday Igbuya, accompanied by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Friday Osanebi and other principal Officers of the legislature witnessed the signing of the bills into law. Also, top officials of government were also at the occasion which took place at the Government House, Asaba.

 

 

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