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BUHARI’S ECONOMIC RECESSION AND THE NIGER DELTA – By Emmanuel Jakpa

buhariA week ago President Buhari held a one-day summit with his cabinet on the economic recession and on the following day, Mr. Udo Udoma, SAN, the Honourable Minister of Economic Planning was on Channels Television to meet the press on the outcome of the economic discussions.

Two things stand out about the presidential parley and the ensuing press interview; that Mr. Udoma is now de facto Minister of the Economy, the Finance Minister having taken a back seat and the official government line is that the militancy in the Niger delta is to blame for the economic recession.

The Americans have a curious phrase for a minister who wields the most influence in a presidential system, they call it ‘the guy who gets the most facetime’ because he/she gets to spend more time with the President and then more time with the press. In the recent weeks, Mr. Udoma’s statute has grown as Mrs Adeosun’s shadow has receded. The latter’s grasp of economics was always in doubt, but the former’s economics is now in doubt, even as his stature grows and grows. This view of face time is supported by the Federal Executive Council photo shoots which often place Udoma at the President’s elbow.

Mr. Udoma, a very smart lawyer and picture of the most debonair suavity is scion of a path breaking legal icon and former Supreme Court Justice. He was for a while PDP Senator and is now an APC tier-one Federal Minister. In his interview he insisted the Niger delta militancy is the cause of the present economic recession.

According to Mr. Udoma oil production fell from 2.2 million barrels per day to 1.1 million barrels and thereby deprived Government of the capacity to fund the budget. According to the respected lawyer, the Government has been unable to fund capital budget by more than 20% although recurrent expenditure has been fully funded. His views, as the official government position, has in the last few days being reinforced by the cerebral Vice President, Prof Osinbajo.

In choosing this official position of Government, these two brilliant lawyers have chosen to range themselves against two formidable past Governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a smattering of economists who argue that it is policy mismatch rather than loss of earning from the commodity market that is responsible for what the President has described forebodingly as “economic doldrums.”

Two weeks before all these, the Emir of Kano, former Governor CBN and fervent APC supporter had gone to town with his disagreement with the official government line that oil production cut was solely responsible for the recession. His argument was that a component of the economy that contributesa mere 15% of the economy even if reduced to zero cannot force the entire economy into recession.

The government’s position that it is the militancy that is responsible for the recession seems self-defeating, but it warrants further examination. First, assuming this is right; it would mean that the recession is political and not economic in origin. In which case, government being an association of politiciansis eminently suited to solving the problem without resort to ‘outside help’ from the economists. Now, what political ‘measures’ have the government taken to resolve the problems? For months while the militancy raged in the delta, government paid lip service to a political solution to the problems and demands of the region, and while the militancy seemed to have subsided, mobilised a military force of occupation into the region. Never mind that the armada mobilised was asymmetrical to the terrain. Of what use are tanks patrolling the streets of Warri and Port Harcourt, when the ‘war’ the government proposes to fight is in the creeks, which are totally inaccessible to such crafts? At best it serves propaganda purposes, at worst it is aimed at terrorising the civil populace. Is that a political or a military solution?

In contrast, sometime in May, at the height of the militancy Dr. Kachikwu the minister of state for petroleum (who seemed to have had more facetime at the time) offered the makings of a political solution when in a town hall meeting in Uyo, he proposed to fund the Maritime University at Okerenkoko if the responsible minister for transport, was, well, not going to be responsible. For it.

Two weeks later or so he was taken off as the GMD of NNPC, some say as punishment for his overzealousness, and all talk of a political solution fizzled out. Instead we had the military exercises, wherein crocodiles were supposed to smile! For the cameras, perhaps? Neither the nation nor the region could force a smile since so we are left wondering what was the purpose of entire crocodilesmile exercise!

So assuming, without conceding, as lawyers often put it, that the entire cause of the recession is political, what has this government done to address the concerns in the Niger delta, which are at the roots of the recession according to government theology?Nothing? It simply means the government is not convinced of its own prognosis, or it is derelict in its perceived obligation. Either way it has not acted responsibly. Unresponsive government is often irresponsible, too.

Take Brexit for example, an economic problem with a political cause in the UK. The British public, like the people of the Niger Delta region, believe rightly or wrongly, that have been short changed in a transfer union in which they have consistently given more than they have received. Their vote to opt out presented a political problem. Prime Minister Cameron falls on his sword, and Mrs May emerges new Prime Minister. She hits the ground running. A new cabinet with defined responsibilities within 24 hours is formed and engagement with the rest of Europe is sustained ever since. Why? Because the UK economy is built on services, particularly financial services since the Big Bang in 1986. London’s place as the preeminent transatlantic financial services hub depends on it. Every day that passes and London’s status in the European firmament is not resolved is a day closer to the ruin of British enterprise and Mrs. May knows it!

In contrast nobody seems to know what to do about the Niger delta, except parade crocodile smiles. The paralysis over the Niger delta mirrors the paralysis of this government on every issue. A paralysis brought about by motive conflicts. Take the Niger delta issue as reference point again. First, Mr. Amaechi boldly claimed the nation had no need for a Maritime University – in a world where three quarters of the planet is covered by water and Nigeria boasts the longest coastline in West Africa! Then he said it was a bare piece of ground and Nigeria would rather have her money back that pay half the price of Lagos for a swamp in the middle of nowhere. Then Dr. Kachikwu seemed to reverse that trend at a town-hall in Uyo, only for that change to change again, and we are presented with crocodile smiles. Even the hoary Nobel laureate has had to re-echo the frustrations of the region, to no avail.

Question: if really the militancy in the Niger delta is the cause of the recession, barring fall in commodity prices, absence of trade and industrial policy, policy somersaults and the like, what has this administration done to engage and manage the issues politically?

Because, if militancy in the Niger delta is the cause of Nigeria’s recession, and operation Crocodile Smile is the way to go, I don’t think the CBN Governor Mr. Emefiele would be the right person to tell us the end of the recession is in sight. We should be hanging on every last word of General Burutai and the last time I checked, he had nothing to say about the end of the recession. Hello midnight!

Emmanuel Jakpa, a Legal Practitioner, lives in Warri, Delta state.

 

DELTA: The Story of An Airport

A history of sorts was made on Thursday March 24, and Friday March 25, 2011, when the long awaited and much maligned Asaba International Airport embraced the landing of the first aircrafts on its airstrip. This first flight which can be described as a test run took off in Abuja at about 1:15pm and landed at the airport at about 2pm, on March 24th. The craft, a 48-sitter commercial aircraft owned by Overland Airlines flew over the adjoining towns to create awareness on the epoch making event.

The pilot Gilbert Sampa said the flight was an interesting one and that he was happy to be part of the history making flight. He described the airport as one which has international standards and even made favorable comparisons with the international airport in Bangok, Thailand, adding that said he flew with lot of experience because it was his first time in the area. The second aircraft, a Six seater, France Air passenger Lear Jet, D/CPDR, landed at the Asaba International Airport on Friday, March 25, 2011 from Abuja at about 9am. The pilot, Frenchman, Ekstrand Rolf said it took him 25 minutes to fly from Abuja to Asaba. The passenger plane, was said to have carried the Nigerian hip hop star, Wande Coal, who entertained the impressive crowd which had gathered to witnessed the event. The plane eventually took off at exactly 10:00 am.

Originally, the first flight at the airport had been scheduled for November 16, 2010. However several logistics,  technical and administrative problems arose which delayed the landing of the first aircraft until Thursday, March 24, 2011 when the Overland Airways, ATR42 (5N-BND), said to have been chartered by the Delta State Government landed at Asaba Airport at about 1.15pm on Thursday, March 24, 2011 even when the airport terminal building is still incomplete and may take some time before commercial operations can commence fully.

With this dramatic and obviously unexpected event, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan may have succeded in proving some of his critics wrong and ultimately secured a major propaganda point in his political ambition to return to Government House on a second term bid, as the first flight touched down in the much hyped and discussed, Asaba International Airport, which is interestingly still under-going construction. Dr Uduaghan apparently elated by the success of the first flight mocked “doubting Thomases” to come and see the actuality on ground and said he was happy to see his dream transform into reality.

His words “I am so happy with this achievement. My dream has come true and all those who criticized the project will now shut up their mouth”. Dr Uduaghan further said that the construction of an airport takes up to seven years and expressed happiness that within a period of three years an aircraft was able to land at the airport, adding that the airport will bring economic boom along with what he called “enormous multiplier effect” He then commended the people of the airport communities of Asaba, Ibusa, Okpanam and Ogwashi-uku for their contributions and prayers even as he said that the credit of the airport should be shared by all.

However, it is absolutely imperative to place the matter of this Asaba International Airport in its proper perspective, from the onset of the project to date, for us to fully understand the import of what happened on the 24th and 25th of March, 2011, with the landing of the first flights on the airstrip of the airport.

Brief History:

It is generally believed that it was the administration of Chief James Onanefe Ibori , from 1999-2007, that first muted the idea of building a standard category C Airport, capable of handling big planes like Boeing 737 and Cargo aircrafts in Asaba, the Delta state Capital, with the stated objectives of enhancing air travels revolving around the state, generating more revenue to boost the financial base of the State at completion and creating a modern, convenient and attractive transportation option and landmark for both the national and international community.

The perculiar ethno/political arguments and considerations which attend such huge infrastructural initiatives in Delta state may have contributed greatly towards the failure of the Ibori administration to embark on the project and the onus was then placed on Dr. Emmanuel Ewata Uduaghan, who was the annointed successor of Chief Ibori, to use the Airport project as one of the cardinal promises to the people of Delta North and a key component of his well quoted Three- point Agenda of Peace and Security, Human Capital Development and Infrastructural Development, to secure the landslide votes of his election victory which he got from the Anioma axis.

Exactly one year after Governor Uduaghan’s election victory, precisely on May 7, 2008, the foundation stone of the airport was laid by the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor and one of the very key promises which the Governor made on that day was to assure Deltans that the airport project will not be abandoned, despite competing needs for scarce state resources. He also added that the waste of man hours in travelling to neighbouring states by people living in Asaba was unacceptable and would be addressed once the airport was completed.

The contract for the construction of the Airport was awarded to U.L.O .Consultants Ltd, at an initial cost of N6.47 Billion. ULO consultants Ltd, is an indigenous firm owned by Ogbueshi Uche Luke Okpuno, an Asaba indigene and widely regarded in several quarters as a key business player in the Chief Ibori administration, now passed on to Governor Uduaghan for strategic reasons.

At an inspection tour of the Airport in September 2010, two years after the foundation laying ceremony and in the presence of former Finance Minister and currently the Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, amongst others, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was quoted as saying that: “Asaba has been suffering the problem of no airport for a very long time This will not be an abandoned project. Asaba is long overdue for an airport and we are determined to complete it no matter the cost…The airport is located in Asaba because of the strategic position of Asaba itself. Asaba is the quickest link to the East. The federal government has approved the license for this airport and with this we are going to accelerate work on it and complete it within a few months time. The airport will become functional soon.”

However, the contractor, Ogbueshi Uche Okpuno was reported to have reviewed the cost to an additional sum of N22 billion within this period, a sum which he said was needed to complete the Asaba International Airport project. Ogbueshi Okpuno had further expalined that the delay in completing the project was caused by a fundamental modification of the original design of the project which was at the insistence of the aviation regulatory bodies.

Butressing the point made by his boss further, on why the State did not anticipate the massive adjustments embarked upon midway into the project, the Airport Project Director, Mr. Austin Ayemidejor, himself a former Commissioner for Higher Education in the Chief Ibori administration, blamed it on the expansion of the initial design of the airport to accommodate much larger aircrafts.

According to him, “The contractor ULO consultants moved to site precisely in February 2008. I was given a target date of delivery of 24 months and that would have been February this year (2010), but because of the obvious expansion of the scope of work, we could not deliver on deadline. The reasons are not far fetched; the run-way was extended from 3 kilometres to 3.4 kilometres. We also have some additional work at the terminal building by introducing a concourse to receive the 3 passenger bridges. Initially we thought a 50 meters taxi-way will solve the problem of taxiing for aircrafts that are landing, but now we have over 1.5 kilometre taxi-way. There are 4 taxi-ways as against 1 taxiway initially anticipated.

We also have additional work of drains to de-flood the airport which was not anticipated. So all of this put together is making it difficult to meet the February 2010 deadline. Now, most importantly, we need to excavate about 1.2 kilometres of earthwork to create a buffer for the runway with a depth of about 9 metres”.

Continuing, Ayemidejor said that: “The airport was initially awarded at the cost of N6.4 billion but at that time the runway was 3 kilometres long and 45 meters width and we thought that if we were developing an airport of that magnitude to just take Boeing 737 why not expand it to take a 747 and even an Airbus 380? We felt that all we needed do is to bring in additional cost and it will be more beneficial to Deltans.”

Speaking further, Ayemidejor said that the work on the various units was progressing and these included the access way which is 100 per cent complete, while over, 80 per cent work has been done on the parking lot with a capacity to hold 1300 cars.

On the critical runway, the Project Director said: “we have achieved the zero point of the 3.4 kilometres, what we are doing now is the additional excavation work of 1.2kilometres to create the buffer as recommended by NCAA and the final laying of the asphalt is currently being done . With that complete, we would have been done with the runway. We have achieved 70 per cent work on the taxiway. The tarmac is ready for use”.

Aside from the physical construction work, Ayemidejor noted that the navigational aids which include the airfield lighting system were ready for installation, so also were the escalators, elevators and the baggage carrousel. Justifying the increase in contract cost, and the scope of work being done, he said the cost is moderate when compared to airport development globally. “You discover that this is prudent management of resources. Government is prudently applying resources in a manner that you have value for money”.

Another critical aspect of the airport project, according to Ayemidejor, which has been given priority, is the fire department, of which he confirmed that four fire tenders and two ambulances have been purchased to underscore the importance of safety in airport management. The Project Director admits that the regulatory agency had set stringent conditions which the State has promptly complied with. He then dispelled insinuations that standards will be compromised, pointing out that airport development is a global phenomenon that cannot be done domestically without the international regulatory agencies being interested.

His words, “Apart from the approval by Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will also give endorsement and I can assure you that the few periods they have come for monitoring they have given us a pass mark and affirmed that what we are doing here is in consonance with what is expected to be done on any airport anywhere in the world”.

However, it was not quite clear if the whole of the additional funds requested by the ULO contractor was actually provided because in October 2010, the Delta state Commissioner for Information, Oma Djebah, obviously piqued by the media reports that N40 billion has been expended on the construction of Asaba International Airport project, gathered newsmen together in his conference hall at the Ministry premises and stated categorically that only N17.5 billion has so far been approved for the completion of the project.

Djebah, who spoke to newsmen on the outcome of a State Executive Council meeting at that time, claimed that the Delta state government had at no time set aside N40 billion for the project, adding that with the current indices of other airports in Africa, Asaba International Airport remained the cheapest and one of the major airports in the continent, according to statistics sourced from Atlanta, Georgia. He attributed the delay in the completion of the airport to the wide scope of work to be done, stating that the magnitude of work so far undertaken was appropriate to the funds approved.

Djebah then expressed optimism that the airport would be completed and commissioned soon, assured the general public especially political opponents that government would not relent in its efforts at ensuring its completion, cautioned rumour mongers from peddling dangerous rumours that could heat up the polity and added that the airport project deserved commendation instead of criticism.

The Political Scenario

Not too long after this clarification by Oma Djebah, precisely on November 9, 2010, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin city, Edo state, annulled the 2007 governorship election that brought Governor Uduaghan into office and ordered a re-run within 90 days.

In Uduaghan’s absence, Rt.Hon Sam Obi took over as acting governor and one of the major decisions of his two month old administration was to take a N20 billion loan from some financial houses, of which a large chunk was reportedly expended in paying certain contractors in the state including the ULO contractor handling the Asaba airport.

Dr. Uduaghan won the re-run election on January 6, 2011 and was sworn-in on January 10. 2011. He then instructed his legal team to approach the Federal High Court, Asaba, Delta state, on February 14, 2011, to seek clarification on the length of his mandate and ask the court to determine whether his tenure would terminate in 2015 by virtue of the fact that he took a new oath of office on January 10, 2011.

His case was further strengthened to include the prayer that he be granted tenure elongation following his victory in the January 6, 2011, re-run election, after five governors were granted tenure extentions by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, as pronounced by Justice Adamu Bello, on February 23, 2010. In the application by his counsel Mr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), the governor had argued that the November 2010 judgment by the Benin appellate court nullified both his earlier victory and the May 29, 2007 oath of office.

But on March 15, 2011, the Federal High Court, Asaba, ruled that Governor Uduaghan was not eligible for tenure elongation because according to Justice Ibrahim Buba: “I hold that the plaintiff (Uduaghan) is not entitled to four years term having regards to the amendment of section 180(2A). In the final analysis, he is not entitled to the reliefs sought, and subsequently the declarative relief sought and the injunction sought cannot be granted, the case of the plaintiff (Uduaghan) fails and the case is hereby dismissed.”

Governor Uduaghan, who interestingly was campaigning in Obiaruku, for the April 2011 governorship election, on the same day of the ruling in Asaba, was then compelled to continue his campaign, as many had thought he was afraid to contest the election in April, 2011, an assumption which has been quickly debunked by one of his aides and Manager Communications, Mr. Paul Odili.

At the moment however, three years into the Asaba airport project, the general assumption on most of the streets of Asaba and the rest of Delta is that the cost of the project has moved from the initially projected N6.4billion to N12billion, later N22billion and now N40 billion. This upward review scenario was confirmed by an announcement in Asaba in late 2010, at a media parley by the authorities concerned, to inform the public of the first flight which had then been scheduled to land on November 16, 2010.

That initial first landing on the Asaba airport was however truncated by the Court of Appeal ruling in Benin on November 9, 2010, just one week to the scheduled landing, but two months into his renewed mandate , on March 24 and 25, 2011, the first flights have landed on the airstrip of  the Asaba airport, which in a way may have justified the earlier projections of the Uduaghan administration on the timing of the first landings at the airport.

The Implications of the Landings

It will be recalled that at the foundation laying ceremony of the Asaba International airport, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan had announced in the presence of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that the airport, which was initially estimated at N14 billion, a sum considered too high for the government would now cost N7 billion. The governor also assured the public that the project would be completed in 18 months, as the airport is a star project of his administration.

Unfortunately, there has been conflicting reasons for the endless reviews of the real cost of the airport from the principal actors. For instance, in a report by a very reputable national newspaper, in a September 2010 edition entitled: First flight to Asaba Airport on November 16, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was quoted as saying that the airport would cost N40 billion while Chief Okpuno, the Chairman of firm handling the construction said, “The N12 billion was arrived at when the airport was envisaged and designed to be a domestic one.”

In another breath, “the Project Director, Austin Ayemidejor, had in August, 2010, said that the value of the airport had been raised to N12 billion from N6.4 billion and had given “midway expansions” of the airport as the reason for the upward review of the contract sum, adding that it was for the same reason that the completion date was shifted from February to December.

And just before the annulment of the April 2007 governorship election by a Benin Court of Appeal, the Delta state Information Commissioner, Oma Djebah had confirmed that the state government had budgeted only N17.6 billion for the airport.

The scenario that stares Deltans and Delta watchers in the face now is the fact that from 2008, when the contractor ULO, mobilized to site till date the sum of N17.6 billion which has so far been expended on the airport has just been to achieve the singular objective of having an aircraft land on the airport. In other words, the work done so far is N17.6 billion worth and from every available indication from the present state of things, the Asaba International airport is still very far from completion and full operations; or better still there is still about N23 billion worth of work to be done, thus bringing the total sum to the Uche Okpuno estimated N40 billion before the airport is finally completed and ready for commercial activities. If this is the case, then the cost of the airport is way too high.

The incessant reviews of the cost of the airport project and the conflicting completion date have put to question, the sincerity of both the contractor and the government and Deltans have continued to agitate over the huge and upward review of the cost of airport project to tune the tune of N40 billion as announced by Chief Uche Okpuno, the contractor handling the project.

It is regrettable to note that such an important project would be subjected to this kind of manipulation and one is therefore tempted to ask, like some concerned citizens have already done,  if this project actually passed through due process of any form. Is this N40 billion justifiable for an airport in Asaba, going by the non-marshy topography of the area? Or are there latest airport innovations outside the current norm that is being added? Was there no proper costing and project evaluation from the consultants before the commencement of the project? Why would such an important project be the subject of suspicious reviews thereby fuelling doubts on whether the project actually passed through due process? The answers to these disturbing questions have remained largely unsatisfactory for the simple reason that the airport is still a very long way from completion.

In fact an assessment of the things that allegedly still needs to be done at the airport indicate that even the anticipated N23 billion may still not be sufficient to complete the airport which will in turn attract another upward review in the next administration in the state.

A summary of some of those things, according to an inside source, include: the runway which is half ready, the tower, the tarmac, the fire service office, the airport’s communication equipment and navigational aids, the apron, the arrivals and departure halls, the baggage reclaim sections, business lounge, carousel, check-in counters and departure lounge, executive lounge and some other necessary fixtures of any standard airport, all of which are neither ready nor visible, not to talk of the employment of staff; a matter which generated a lot of controversy not too long ago as Deltans were made to purchase application forms for employment at the airport in what eventually turned out to be a huge scam over which such monies have still not been refunded to those who bought the forms by the airport authorities despite the instruction of Governor Uduaghan to that effect.

Indeed, the very space of the Asaba International airport is still one big construction site with work going on phlegmatically, a situation which some pundits have attributed to the fact that the funding demanded and required to drive the work at a much faster pace has not been provided by the state government, a situation which led to a recent destructive protest by some workers who complained that they had not been paid for several months, inspite of the huge amounts of money allegedly approprited and expended to the contractor for the airport construction.

In fact, the token construction activity witnessed at the site on March 24 and 25, 2011, was said to be as a result of the arranged landing, which took almost everyone by surprise. One of the staff handling the airport project was reportedly quoted as saying that everybody was surprised and shocked when they saw aircrafts landing on the runway of the airport that is not even near completion. This position was allegedly confirmed by a close aide to Governor Uduaghan who was said to have noted that: “as you can see the tower, tarmac, and fire service office are not ready. What we are doing is just to test-run the runway and in no distance time the airport shall be ready.”

Governor Uduaghan himself, while speaking on national television on the day of the landings, even tried to put a diplomatic face on the matter and also concurred with the general opinion that the Asaba International airport was far from ready. What he said however was that the landings was to confirm that the airstrip was ready and that the Delta state government was in some kind of arrangement with private airline operators in the country to encourage the landing of chartered flights in the interim, until the airport was fully completed and operational.

In other words, the state Govt has not said that the airport was being commissioned. Rather, what it has implied is that it is undergoing test-running which is a process that every new airport goes through. The success of this test run therefore indicates that the airport is ready to enter its next phase of development. The message of course is very clear; a renewed mandate for a second term as governor will definitely ensure the completition of the arport.

The Reactions to the Landings

What, however has angered many Deltans is the timing of the first landings on the airport, especially against the backdrop of the huge sums of money allegedly expended and expected to be spent on the airport before completion. The second is the lavish commentaries, accolades and spins, especially by some of Governor Uduaghan’s cronies, which has accompanied the event.

On the question of timing, many Deltans are wondering why Governor Uduaghan decided to go ahead with the first landings on the Asaba airport, just a couple of weeks to the April general elections. The general feeling amongst a sizeable section of Deltans is that this is strictly a Political strategy and that the Airport is far from being ready for any serious commercial activity. What Governor Uduaghan has done, they reason, is just political gimmickry and the fact that he has contrived to package these landings is a sure sign of what they refer to as the desperation which has overtaken his political ambition to return as the governor of Delta State for a second term.

But what has probably angered many Deltans more and even cast Delta state in an uncivilized light is the glee with which a few people, especially in Uduaghan’s cabinet, have celebrated this so called achievement of the landing of an aircraft on an airstrip in this modern day and age when other states have started and completed airports with minimum publicity and fanfare while those in other climes are celebrating major breakthroughs in science and technology.

One viewer who was watching the event on national television was forced to retort sarcastically when he saw the dancing crowd and top government officials rejoicing and backslapping themselves at the airport: “Where are these people from? Were they brought from the village for this purpose? Even your Commissioners are clapping and rejoicing because a plane landed, just like we used to do when we were kids. I had thought that you Deltans were very intelligent and well travelled people. This is really laughable”.

Indeed this is the same sentiment that seemed to pervade the mindset of most Deltans surveyed for this report. The feeling was that the way and manner the landings have been celeberated has actually undermined the real importance of the event, which is to underscore the courage and political nerve of Governor Uduaghan to pull off such a high risk political caper at a sensitive period of elections like this.

One very unhappy Deltan was heard to have stated bitterly when he heard a government official praising the landings: “Do they think we are fools or illiterates? This just goes to show you what the Uduaghan administration thinks of us Deltans. Uduaghan and his cronies have taken us for a ride in the last four years with all their phoney programmes and this is just another example of that joke. After having spent so much money, this is the best they can come up with after three years and they are clapping and dancing and want us to clap and dance with them. What a pity”

Incidentally, those who know how the minds of politicians work will tell you that Governor Uduaghan will not be overtly worried by what some people may think because like the wily politicians that he is, he has supposedly achieved the purpose for which the landings on the 24 and 25 March were staged and has since moved on to explore other potential vista for maximum political propaganda and mileage as he firms up his campaign for an anticipated victory in the April 16, 2011 governorship election.

However, the fact which some Delta watchers are pointing to is that the Asaba International airport is still very far from completion and the real permutation is that with the way things have gone so far, it may very well gulp something in the region of N40 billion to complete and make it fully operational, if Governor Uduaghan returns for a second term.

The second scenario which may eventually play out is the fact that Deltans may not be as gullible and illiterate as many people in Governor Uduaghan’s government tend to assume and believe. This was the rude awakening which was witnessed during the January 6, 2011 re-run election in the state and chances are that with this latest show of what some analysts refer to as ‘political chicanery’ on the part of the Uduaghan administration, the April 2011 elections will certainly provide an ample opportunity for Deltans to express exactly what they feel about all that has happened in the state in the last four years.

Who is Afraid of Sam Obi?

Rt. Hon Sam Obi, ersthwile Acting Governor of Delta state and substantive Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly may be heading for trouble with his boss Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, if the feelers making the rounds are to be believed. When, on November 9, 2010, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin city, the Edo state capital, annuled the over three years administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor of Delta state, the mantle of leadership immediately feel on Rt. Hon Sam Obi, who was constitutionally mandated to take over the running of the state in an acting capacity. For, about one month and twenty six days, Ag. Governor Sam Obi held sway and arguably acquitted himself to the best of his abilities. His immediate mandate was to ensure that the presence of Dr. Uduaghan was not dimished and eroded. Sam Obi did this excellently so much so that he received high praise from the National secretariat of the PDP when the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign team visited Asaba.

Sam Obi left no one in doubt that he was only holding forte for Dr. Uduaghan who he said was “on vacation” or “Sabbatical” Sam Obi was also at the fore front of the re-run campaign for Dr. Uduaghan and even headlined some important rallies Delta North. His rousing speech during the fund raising lunch for Dr. Uduaghan was excellent and intimidating, especially to the opposition, whom he told in very clear terms that “Uduaghan will win landslide”. But all his good work at that time seems to have been undone by a couple of decisions and actions which have allegedly become instruments to nail him politically. The first had to do with his style and utterances when he was Acting Governor. Many analysts noted at that time, his very direct and authoritarian language. He referred to his tenure as the’New Testament” administration and made veiled references to the fact that he was been compelled to accept ‘certain laxities which the former administration condoned’. Although he tried to gloss over these comments by reminding everyone of his military background and that he was once a soldier, the people who are supposedly after him now did not think it was funny or had anything to do with his barracks attitude. The second had to do with the N20Billion loan he took from some financial houses to run his administration. To be fair to him, Delta state witnessed a very rare and greatly welcomed cash flow in the system, especially during the yuletide period. In addition, he awarded contracts, paid for some the ones already completed a long time ago and ensured that some major projects which had appeared to be abandoned were rehabilitated. Some of the beneficairies of that loan, if reports are to be believed, were persons who were very close to the Uduaghan administration. The last was the acquisition of two bullet-proof jeeps, which many say he did without due consent from higher authorities in the state. Indeed it was rumoured that among the two luxury vehicles allegedly purchased by Rt. Hon. Obi, one was supposed to have been given to his wife, Mrs. Evelyn Obi who was the then Acting first lady of the state. Impeccable sources also hint that there was no love lost between Dr. Uduaghan’s wife and Hon. and Mrs Obi, especially over what the source claim was the alleged ‘reckless management of the state treasury in the few months spent in office as Acting governor’. Sources say that Mrs Obi may have incurred the wrath of Deaconess Sheila Uduaghan over the contract to purchase diesel for the street lights in Delta state and it was rumoured in certain quarters that the former Acting governor almost came to fisticuffs with former Federal lawmaker representing Ika Federal constituency, during one of the meetings held in Uduaghan’s private residence in Warri. Dr. Cairo Ojuogbo had allegedly admonished Obi over what he called fraudulent way Obi was dispensing the states wealth; an action for which the lanky lawmaker was said to have been showered with praises by Mrs. Uduaghan and others in the meeting for his demonstration of boldness. And so immediately after the re-run victory of Governor Uduaghan, it appears that Sam Obi may have to answer a few questions for which his interrogators may have already found him guilty, even before he defends himself. For starters, some government house sources have hinted at an allleged feud between governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and Rt. Hon. Sam Obi over what the sources suggest as alleged corrupt manner he (Obi) administered the state during his tenure as Acting governor. The sources have even speculated that a plot is afoot to perfect the impeachment of Sam Obi when the House of Assembly resumes sitting in february. There has also been mention of setting up Rt. Hon Sam Obi with the of Economic and Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) through petitions. Indeed, if feelers reaching Delta Focus is anything to go by then the alleged plot to impeach Speaker Sam Obi has almost been perfected and is only awaiting the endorsement of certain key members of the house have whose signatures is expected to put a final seal on the deal. But what many analysts have zeroed in on as the real crux of the matter is the relationship between Sam Obi and former SSG Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa. Governor Uduaghan is said to be already unhappy with the way Sam Obi managed the treasury and the purchase of the two bullet-proof jeeps, but what had hit the nail on the head is the said to be the unflinching loyalty which Sam Obi has for Dr. Okowa. Delta Focus was reliably informed that state chairman of PDP, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi did not approve of the purchase of the two expensive vehicles as well as the style of Obi’s administration. In fact in one of his first meetings as Acting Governor with Local Government Chairmen, Obi flayed Chairman Nwaoboshi for the way and manner he had condoned laxity among party officials who should lead by example. This was a very embarassing moment for the Oracle turned Miracle and from that day onwards the Acting governor and the PDP boss never maintained any cordial relationship. The matter was further aggravated when it was time for the PDP to choose candidates for the April elections. The party leadership led by Governor Uduaghan and Chairman Nwaoboshi had allegedly picked Dr. (Mrs.) Mariam Ali as its prefered candidate for the Delta North senatorial seat, but the obvious candidate of choice for the rest of Delta North was Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, whom Chief Nwaoboshi perceived to be his arch enemy. The scenario which played out duringb the Delta North PDP primaries is enough testimony to this assumption. So as Deltans wait for the House of Assembly to resume sitting, many are wondering what will be the fate of Rt. Hon Sam Obi, who was sworn-in as Speaker only a few months ago. Will he go the same way as the other Delta North Speakers viz: Olisa Imegwu and Martin Okonta? Only time will tell.

Delta Election Nullification: -How It Happened -Matters Arising

The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin Tuesday November 16, 2010, sacked ersthwhile Delta State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct another election into the office within 90 days.
The court ruled in an appeal filed by Chief Great Ogboru, candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) in the April 14, 2007 election.
Chief Ogboru had sued Dr. Uduaghan, the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP); and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to a Federal High Court in Asaba alleging that the election was rigged in favour of Uduaghan and the PDP. But the court delivered a judgement in favour of Uduaghan, ruling that he won the election having scored more votes.
Dissatisfied with the court’s ruling, Chief Ogboru filed an appeal at the Federal Court of Appeal in Benin City the Edo State capital where a five-man panel of justices ruled that ‘the election was characterized with a lot of irregularities.’
DELTA FOCUS gathered that the court started sitting at about 3.00pm on the same day, to deliver the judgement and eventually dropped the bombshell at about 7.00pm.
In a unanimous judgment the court said: “After looking at the submissions of counsel to both parties and the submission by INEC counsel it was obvious that the election was characterized with a lot of irregularities”.
The Justices held that Uduaghan, governor since May 29, 2007, was not rightly returned as the winner of the poll.
The Court of Appeal’s unanimous judgment was read by Justice Monica Bon Gban-Mensen.
In her judgememnt, Justice Gbam-Mensen said: “After looking at the submissions of counsel to both parties and the submission by INEC counsel, it was obvious that the election was characterized with a lot of irregularities. There were a lot of election malpractices by the umpire in favour of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which placed undue advantage on him and his party at the detriment of other contestants in the election.”
The judgment, which surprised many, dragged for over three years, moving from the lower tribunal to the appeal tribunal and back to the lower tribunal before being returned to the Court of Appeal, which delivered the verdict Tuesday.
In court were A. Adenipekun (SAN) for Uduaghan, Chief E.L Akpofore (SAN) for the PDP and Ken Mozia for INEC. Some of Dr. Uduaghan’s loyalists and PDP stalwarths from Delta state, including Barr. Raymos Guanah, Chief Nkem Okwuofu, Comrade Ovuozurie Macaulay and a few Delta legislators and government House aides were also noticed in the court and vicinity.
Ironically, the Appeal Court judgement in Benin came exactly 3 years and 7Months after Alhaji Ismaila Abdulkareem, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Delta state, made the infamous declaration that gave Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan victory over about 13 (23?) candidates from other political parties that ‘participated’ in that election process, which has now been nullified.

IN THE BEGINING

There were two major challengers of the election of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as governor of Delta State, after the April 14, 2007 elections. Peter Okocha, who contested on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) and Great Ogboru Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) had both gone to the Elections petitions Tribunal in Asaba to challenge the conduct and process of the election.
Okocha had approached the court to annul the election on the grounds that he was wrongfully excluded by INEC, but the defence had argued that he had no locus standi to file the petition since he was not even a proper candidate at the election he was challenging.
The averments of the defence had been upheld by the Justice Lokulo Shodipe-led tribunal that sat in Asaba. Consequently, the petition was dismissed. However many Delta watchers had believed at that time that Justice Lokulu-Shodipe had displayed some very questionable and objectionable tendencies in dispensation of his duties as Tribunal judge. Okocha subsequently proceeded to the Court of Appeal in Benin which was the final arbiter in Election matters and his case was finally dismissed on grounds which included the fact that hedid not have a proper running mate for the election.
Chief Great Ogboru, on the other hand had gone to the Tribunal to complain that there was no election on April 14, 2007. Ogboru had argued that the April 14, 2007 election was fraught with irregularities. His counsel averred: “The purported election said to have taken place on April 14, 2007 did not hold in all the 25 local government areas in that electoral materials did not get to the various local government areas, wards and polling units to declare Uduaghan as winner.” Ogboru’s counsel had even requested the tribunal to grant him permission to bring forensic experts from the London Metropolitan Poilce to take a proper look at the Ballot papers with the aim of establishing its validity, but his request was denied. He finally prayed the tribunal to order a re-election. But no one gave Ogboru a chance and as was generally anticipated, the Lokuku-Shodipe tribunal also dismissed the case.
However, the petitioners refused to accept the verdict of the Tribunal and Ogboru approached the Appeal Court, arguing that the lower tribunal misdirected itself in law by dismissing his petition. At the head of the Appeal Court that heard the case was the former President of the court, Justice Umaru Abdullahi, who not only directed that a fresh panel be constituted to hear the matter, but was said to have also echoed some very uncomplimentary comments about the performance of the Lokulu-Shodipe tribunal  in Asaba .Another five-man panel of judges, headed this time by Justice B. S. Mohammed was thus constituted to hear the petition afresh and in a unanimous verdict delivered on October 19, 2009, the Justice Mohammed tribunal held that the petitioners, who had the onus to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt, failed to do so. The petition was thus dismissed a second time.
In a swift reaction, Mr. Turner Ogboru, younger brother of the petitioner, dismissed the judgment as “another Asaba judgment” and, undaunted by the set back, the Ogboru legal team headed for the Court of Appeal again. “We are going to challenge that judgment at the Appeal Court. We will fight, until we get justice,” he said.
And on November 16, 2010, Great Ogboru finally got the justice they had been seeking when Court of Appeal in Benin and led by Justice Monica Bon Gban Mensen, ruled that there was merit in Ogboru’s petition, nullified the April 14, 2007 elections and order a re-run within 90days.
As a result,  Dr. Uduaghan and the PDP, rather than intensify the campaign for elections coming up in April 2011,  will now redirect their energies for another governorship election that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must conduct within the next 90 days. But Great Ogboru is smiling all the way and he so confident of defeating Uduaghan and the PDP even if the INEC decide to conduct the elections immediately after you finish reading this article.

Sweet Victories for Okonta, Nwaoboshi

These are indeed happy days for Rt. Hon Martin Okonta and Chief (Barr.) Peter Nwaoboshi of the PDP Delta State. Both men won impressive victories at the Courts recently to further consolidate their political pedigrees and enhance their influence in the political space not only in the PDP,  but in Delta State in general.
For Martin Okonta, the erstwhile Speaker of the Delta state House of Assembly, the music could not have been sweeter as the Supreme Court gave an order for his immediate reinstatement after he had been removed from office by an Abuja Court of Appeal a couple of months ago.  Okonta had gone to the Supreme Court asking it to evaluate the decision of the Court of Appeal, which nullified his election.
It will be recalled that the Court of Appeal had upheld the decision of a High Court and ruled that Okonta was not properly nominated as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 elections, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to his rival, Mr. Kingsley Philip as the representative of Ika South Constituency.
This decision did not go down well with the former Speaker who then went to the Supreme Court, after reliquishing both his seat and his position as Speaker in obedience to the Court ruling, thus paving the way for Prince Sam Obi to be sworn-in as Speaker of the House.
His decision has now fetched him a glorious victory as the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision of  a five-man panel of Justices led by Justice Dahiru Mustapha agreed with the counsel to the plaintiff’s submission that the suit filed at the trial court, which led to Okonta’s removal was faulty. The judgement was read by Justice Olufunlola Olufunke Adekeye. Consequently, the court set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court and that of the Appeal Court, which had earlier ruled that Okonta was not the rightfully elected candidate of the PDP for Ika South constituency.

In the ruling, Justice Adekeye said that the refusal of the plaintiff and the court to join Okonta in the suit was as good as breach of his right to fair hearing. “The decision of the Federal High Court which was upheld by the Court of Appeal and the affirming decision of the appellate court thereof are hereby set aside”, she said.

In a related development, the Federal High Court in Abuja has also ordered INEC to give full recognition to the, Barrister Peter Nwaoboshi led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta. and said that INEC had committed an error by not giving full recognition to the Nwaoboshi led Executive Committee of Delta State chapter of PDP on the basis that it was not properly constituted.
In his judgment, Justice Abdul Kafarati said INEC has no powers under the law to meddle with the internal affairs of the party. Justice Kafarati ruled that the PDP National Secretariat’s decision on the Delta Congress of February 2008 is “valid, lawful and constitutional.”
Consequently the court ordered INEC to immediately give full recognition to the leadership of PDP as constituted.
It will also be recalled that INEC had rejected the Executive Committees of the PDP in Delta State and seven other states on the contention that their emergence violated mandatory provisions of the Electoral Act, governing how States Executives Committee [SEC] emerged. Barrister Nwaboshi had gone to Court to seek a clear interpretation of the powers of INEC over political parties in the land and has been vindicated by the Court.
This ruling will surely bring to an end all speculations about who is really in charge of the PDP in Delta state, as Barrister Nwaoboshi had been in a running battle with Chief E.K Clark and a faction of the PDP over the leadership of the party in the state.
Nwaoboshi, who is fondly called the “Oracle turned Miracle”, by his political associates and asdmirers, as a result of his astute political foresight and triumphs has always held firmly that he was in charge of the PDP in Delta state. This ruling will not only help cement his political myth in the state but will most importantly, consolidate his authority in the affairs of the party as Deltans head for the re-run and general election in 2011.
As for Hon. Okonta, he will surely be heaving a huge sigh of relief as he overcomes the political embarassment which attended his removal not just as a member but when was the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly. He has already started warming up  up to re-turn to the House in 2011 and this victory will surely give his campaign a very major boost. It is not clear right now if  will still be Speaker, especially since a new Speaker is yet to be elected for the House, but everything is possible in Delta state these days.
But spare a thought for Kingsley Nonye Philips. His short lived adventure in the House may have left him deflated and he must be blaming his Lawyers for the ill advised technical oversight which has now undone him and dented his political pedigree. But he has already flagged off his campaign to return it is also possible that having tasted the sweetness of what being an Honourable can bring, he will even be more determined to ensure he returns once again and for all without all the fuss of the legal battle he has gone through this time around.

Omo-Agege Joins RPN .Set to Contest Re-run Election .Picks Kpokpogri as Campaign Director

Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege is certainly not joking in his efforts to become the next governor of Delta state and this relentless doggedness to secure a platform on which to pursue his ambition to a conclusive end must surely be giving some of his opponents sleepless nights.
Indeed the Delta State governorship re-run election has now become even more interesting with the nomination of Chief Ovie Omo-Agege to fly the flag of the Republican Party of Nigeria, RPN.
Omo-Agege, was nominated to replace the late Mr. Felix Azorbo who flew the RPN flag during the 2007 gubernatorial election that was recently annulled by the Court of Appeal. His nomination by the party clears the signs of uncertainty that had clouded his gubernatorial hopes following the unexpected dismissal of Dr. Uduaghan from office.
Ant to further make his candidacy a formidable force in the coming re-run, he has reportedly appointed Rear Admiral John Onoriode Kpokpogri as his Campaign Director. Those who know the fearless and courageous mien with which Kpokpogri battled the Uduaghan political machinery before the nullification judgement  will appreciate the fire power loaded in the combination of these two dogged fighters
When the Appeal Court in Benin city, Edo state headed by Justice Monica Bon Gbam Mensen annulled the 2007 Delta state governorship elections and ordered for a re-run, most political pundits quickly agreed and rightly so too that the rug had been swept from under his feet and Omo-Agege had once lost another opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming the governor of Delta state.
Prior to that annulment, Omo-Agege had allegedly fallen out with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and withdrawn his membership from the party over the decision of its leadership to re-present Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan as the governorship candidate of the party for the 2011 elections. Omo-Ageg, who had been working closely with the E.K Clark group in the PDP had wanted a fresh congress to elect new party executive members and replace the Peter Nwaoboshi led exco and also a fresh primaries under a new exco. But Wadata Plaza and National Chairman Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo had decided to maintain the status quo ante, following the several court cases involving party congresses in some states including Delta state.
The delay in resolving the matter prompted Omo-Agege to seek an alternative platform and he was reported to have joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in an astute move calculated to harness the growing political fortunes of the ACN and give the PDP a real fight in the state. Then came the bombshell that the 2007 election had been annulled and the ACN was not eligible for the re-run because its governorship candidate Peter Okocha (who had since relocated to the PDP with his mentor Atiku Abubakar) had been disqualified from that election.
Omo-Agege was then compelled to seek another legitimate platform for the prosecution of his ambition and from reports reaching Delta Focus, it appears he has finally found a base to contest the re-run election in Delta state. He researched meticulously and discovered a vacancy existed in the Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN), whose candidate in the 2007 election had reportedly passed on and according to the law guiding the re-run a party can field an alternative candidate if the former candidate had either died or has withdrawn his membership from the party. Omo-Agege then turned to the RPN and in keeping with his usual meticulous style of doing things, insisted that due process must be followed to guarantee and legitimize his emergence.
Thus it was that Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege emerged as the party’s candidate after defeating one Mr Godwin Okene in the primary election conducted by the party under the supervision of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Tuesday.
Reliable sources close to Delta Focus claim that Omo-Agege has also been cleared by INEC and his clearance was sequel to a written notice by the party to the leadership of INEC intimating the electoral body of the demise of their governorship candidate in the 2007 governorship election, Mr Azorbo who died on April 13th 2008 at the age of 57.
It was also learnt that death notice of the deceased governorship candidate, Mr Felix Ogbogbo Azorbo was accompanied by a certificate of death issued by the National Population Commission, NPC.
The Delta State INEC legal officer, Femi Adeyemi, disclosed that the leadership of the party had written to INEC headquarter to notify the commission of their intention to hold a congress to replace their deceased governorship candidate in the 20007 election on 4th December, 2010.
Adeyemi confirmed that three officials of the commission including himself were sent from Abuja to monitor the congress, which he said was free and fair. National Secretary of the party, Mr Ahmedu Suleiman, who led the party’s team, expressed joy at the emergence of Chief Ovie Omo-Agege as the party’s governorship candidate.
Suleiman said the emergence of Chief Ovie Omo_Agege has put the party in a better stead to win the re-run election.
Speaking further on the matter, the State Secretary of the RPN Mr Atebefia Egboh said that the candidature of Chief Ovie Omo-Agege was based on the working arrangement between the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and his party to join forces in partnership for the forthcoming elections in Delta state.
There is no doubt that with the emergence of Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, the re-run election in Delta state has become a three horse race, with Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and Chief Great Ogboru as the other two top candidates in the race. What is obvious from all this is the result of the re-run will be too close to call when ever the election is held and all calculations right now are pointing to a possible run-off election between the top two candidates if the situation remains as it is now till election day. But as the saying goes in political circles, a day is a very long time in politics and anything may yet happen before the day is truly over.

Effurun pavilion: Importing Europe to Warri

First, the site was the old Effurun Motor Park. It was very popular serving travellers from Warri, Agbarho, Ughelli, Ozoro, Oleh, Lagos, Ibadan and a few from the North and the South East. But unfortunately, it became subsumed by its own popularity as its handlers in the name of agboro rivalry made it a theatre of constant war of attrition. Their internal conflict grew to be too regular, fierce and became a source of societal disquiet and bitterness.
No government anywhere in the world would be comfortable with a known root of trouble and let it be. So the then Delta State government of Chief James Ibori did what it was supposed to do.First, acquired it, then closed down the Effurun Motor Park, then acquired a parcel of land in the outskirt of town along Effurun/Sapele Expressway and started the construction of the new Effurun Motor Park. It was a philosophy that worked. The new park is far from the city, not too popular and therefore took away the old politics of rivalry amongst the touts. Thus, peace returned to that old section of the town.
Meanwhile, the old site remained fenced off from public view. For a few years the place remained so and that non-action gave room to the rumour mill. Some said Chief Ibori had bought it over for the construction of a hotel; others speculated it would be a new housing complex.There were those who even said it was being converted into a shopping arena. But unfortunately before the Ibori government wound up, nothing tangible was done other than the sealing off.When the Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan-led government came up on May 29, 2007, feeler must have reached him that Effurun indigenes wanted a definite decision on the fate of the old motor park site. Naturally patience and time were asked for.And when the Delta State government concluded on what to do with the site, it was unique and ground-breaking. Then came again another round of rumour over what was going on there. The constructions were not too gigantic but averagely sized stylish building.However, it was not until very lately, to be precise mid-last year, when the sign board appeared and quite appropriately the People’s Court appeared as the new name. And even after this nobody knew what was going on inside until games apparatuses and other play features were sighted above the fence from the outside as far away as from the roundabout itself.It was then, according to a local residents, that the people’s awareness changed along the line of public entertainment to unwind tension”.Since then the people have been conscientized towards this revolutionary idea of relaxation. The construction is ideal for both the young and the old. The dummy was sold to the Delta State government by the company of Bramex Development Ltd. which equally undertook the construction at the cost of N76.4 million.
It is the first of its kind in the state and well sited at the Effurun Roundabout. This makes it convenient for those coming from the outside like Ughelli, Sapele Ozoro, Abraka, Eku, Kwale, etc.It is suitable for school children on excursion. The inside is well-fitted with playing ground equipment for children. Though there are experts as guides within but children are not allowed to come in except with their parents, guardians or teachers.A euphoric enthusiasm led a visitor to say that “this government has imported Europe to Delta State”. That conclusion cannot or may not be criticized in view of the sophisticated play items inside, many type most of the kids had only seen in the television and magazines.
At the gate, it is expressly posted: “Don’t bring in food, water, minerals, et al”. And one wonders why this in a tropical setting until one goes inside to the kitchenette. The furnishing of the eatery, the neatness and the quality of the food are superlative. It is a feeling only comparable to the environment at the Turf, Oria-Abraka another innovation private initiative golf resort centre.While the taste of the pavilion and kitchenette hold more hope for the people, is the wisdom of the Delta State government in the whole arrangement. After the state government bought the idea and gave the order for its construction, it also had another thought about it to skip official bottleneck.It built and rented it out to a handler. With this arrangement, there is no government interest in the day to day running of the place as long as the company keeps to the terms of hire.According to a worker at the People’s Court: “It is a resort every school in the state wants to visit, especially the private schools”. It will not be too much to advise the state government to extend this leisure to the other senatorial districts of the state.People desire leisure spots and government’s controlled involvement in this new direction besides being a good policy has succeeded in turning a once troubled spot into a pleasure area.
Mr. Idama , a public affairs commentator, writes from Delta State.