By Fred Edoreh
Olorogun David Edevbie was emphatic when he declared that, when elected as Governor, he will pay high attention to the development of riverine communities.
“We cannot achieve any meaningful development if we do not pay more attention and devote more resources to opening up, connecting and integrating the riverine communities in our development process,” he reasoned.
“Riverine communities are a great asset to any nation and developing them means developing the nation. They present great values for agriculture, fisheries, transportation, processing industries, commerce and many more.”
Our experience in Delta and many other parts of Nigeria is that the riverine communities have always been left out in development. The situation has presented serious inequity in human and economic development, leaving majority of the people mostly in poverty and low standard of living.
The usual excuse is that, being riverine, the terrain is expensive to develop. The added negative impact is that, being undeveloped, it becomes difficult to draw in infrastructures which also makes it difficult for investors to go in to drive industrialisation which in turn also makes it difficult to create meaningful employment opportunities and platforms for enterprise.
“We need to reverse this outlook. It is true that the riverine area is expensive to develop but we must also recognise that the same riverine areas provide a significant portion of the state and national revenue through their oil and gas deposits, agricultural and marine resources. From whom much is taken, much also should be given.
“The true symbol of any nations civilisation and growth is in the political willingness and ability to develop its riverine and inner communities. Some of the most beautiful cities in the world are in riverine communities. Take Miami, take Tennessee, take Columbia regions in the US, take Venice in Italy. Examples abound. We have the the Third Mainland Bridge and they are planning a Fourth and Fifth Mainland Bridge in Lagos. They are all long bridges over water. Even desert regions like Dubai have also been developed as world centres. It all shows that there is no terrain that cannot be developed. What is required is understanding their value and having the willingness to invest in meeting their needs to integrate them effectively in the development process.
“We must therefore be willing to spend more money to develop and more robustly connect our riverine communities with our upland areas to integrate our development architecture.
“This will enable the penetration of more physical and social infrastructure to make it easy and attractive for investors and industries to go in. This will support greater output in agriculture and fisheries, improve transportation and commercial activities and provide opportunities for jobs and wealth creation in the area.
“We recognised this early in Chief James Ibori’s administration and that led to the construction of the Omadino, Bomadi and Aboh bridges. Before then, many of the riverine communities were terribly cut off and it looked like they were not part of our world. With those bridges, there has been fair measure of connection.
“Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has built on that and contributed fairly in connecting some of the communities, but so much more still needs to be done. Life in the riverine communities is still a far cry from what it should be.”
Edevbie has it all mapped out with a huge plan to provide a coastal road connecting Oko to Abala area in Delta North and linking it up to Patani in Delta South. The plan means providing another major artery of connection and development in Delta State.
Added to the major coastal road is the need to also provide a network of roads linking the hundreds of inner communities in the riverine areas while also improving on river navigation and transportation. This is included in the plan.
His plans also include deliberate action to reactivate operations in Warri port and revamp the Koko and Burutu ports.
It is indeed a tragedy that these ports have been allowed to wallow in inactivity or under capacity utilisation and Edevbie says deliberate action would be taken through partnership with the private sector and negotiations with the Federal Government and various marine authorities to bring these ports back to life.
Before now, the Federal Government saw reasons to invest in the development of river basins and we had Niger-Delta and Benin-Owena as part of the 19 River Basin development authorities.
At last, it has been see that the intention was not actually to develop the areas in terms of infrastructure but only mostly to exploit the water resources of the regions to improve on agricultural output during the great drought in the Sahel region. Today, the river basin authorities are no longer functioning.
We must therefore take our destiny in our hands in recognition that it is our duty to develop our own space, to provide and equip our people with the necessary capacity to widen their horizon and elevate their standard of living through access to roads, greater interaction and exchange with wider world and opportunities for greater enterprise, industrialisation, power supply, commerce, access to new technologies, digitisation and employment opportunities.
This is why the Edevbie agenda for the development of the riverine areas of Delta State is profoundly imperative.