Charles Ehiedu Aniagwu, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, in this interview with our correspondent, NOSA ERESOYEN, spoke on sundry issues relating to the governance and development of Delta State.
NINE months into the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, what have been the major challenges?
There have been breakthroughs and challenges in the past nine months of the new administration. Like the general problem in Nigeria at the moment, the low revenue profile of the country has been a major challenge of governance. But through the measures put up by Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, he is trying to as much as possible navigate through that challenge so as to realize the “SMART AGENDA” then bring about prosperity for all Deltans.
What are the achievements so far?
The first major achievement of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa administration is stabilizing the government; you cannot achieve much without stability. The new administration came on board when there were several problems which included debts and government not able to account for the huge debts burden. But today, the Okowa administration has been able to stabilize the government in such a way that decisions are taken to move government to the next level.
And to a large extent, many of those to be appointed to hold key positions and assist the governor in realizing his “SMART AGENDA” have been appointed. We do realize that part of the strategy to stabilize government and give strength to what the government is doing is the making of different political appointees. In appointing Commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, and other government functionaries, Governor Okowa ensured appointments reflected the diverse groups in the state. –
The second major achievement of the Okowa administration is diverting the attention of the youth because self-employed is the area of employment generation. Also on “YAGEP PROGRAMME” and then go into agriculture and for those who are not into agriculture who ever has other skill using the skills acquisition programme and also assisted by the state government. The state government is training them through the process of being trained and being mentored such that they begin to value the little resources that would be put at their disposal adding to the starter pack that will be made available for them.
Have there been achievements on road construction?
The Okowa administration has gone far in the area of road construction, both new and old, fixing the roads to make them motorable. The Delta State Government is still making use of the Direct Labour Agenda (DLA).
Several roads are currently under construction in the three senatorial districts of the state. In Asaba, Cable Point, Okpanam Road and other roads are under construction.
The governor visits the road construction sites to ensure the contractors are working according to specifications so that Delta will have value for the every public spending on roads. Dr. Okowa always insists on prudent spending.
The governor is trying as much as possible not to owe workers salary. When salary is delayed beyond the end of the month, by the first week of the next month, the salary is paid.
The governor is taking steps to ensure that revenue sources do not create burden for the less privileged or the poorest of the poor. He is working on the much richer persons in the state who are not in the tax net so that government will bring them into the tax net. The rich will be required to pay taxes to enable government generate the needed revenue to take care of the poor, provide them facilities and sustain other duties of government.
The airport project is still in progress to open the space for commerce and industrialization in the state.
The Marcopolo Buses disappeared, what happen?
Before the new government came on board they are issues of management, how the buses where being manage, the government of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa which is on board now retrieve the management of delta line before you can now begin to repair the buses and bring them back to the road. They have not stolen the buses, the buses are there but because they are not in a serviceable condition by the time the new administration came in on board and the government doesn’t have money to begin to repair the buses.
The major focus on Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa is by stabilizing the government ensuring that salary are been paid. Salary is not about what you take home; salary has a tax component, pension component, community component. If you are being paid a salary by the government reductions are made for different unions, reductions are made for your tax and pension.
What was being down before we came in on board, they pay you what you take home the salary component is not deducted, the pension component was not being deducted even the welfare component for the different association like Civil Service union that can be put into cooperative body to take care of yourself as member where not been deducted and remitted to this different agencies.
Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, a man who has been in the National Assembly, he knows the essence of law and ensure that you do the night thing without having to deceive your people.
The government has to take steps and address the issue, before we came on board pensioners where not receiving their salary and they spend months before they where been paid their salary but today in Okowa’s administration pensioners are being paid every month and the only thing the state government is trying to do is by reducing the back lock and that is what the government is tackling. So Deltans has to appreciate where we were and where we are at the moment to understand the extent of sacrifice and prudent, financial accountability that is being brought in the management of the slim resources of the state which is very important for Deltans to know. So as for the buses we are hoping that after the issue of putting the right management in place so that government don’t get back again to square one and we believe that government through the ministry of transport will also source some funds to first of all put all the buses in a serviceable condition so as to make the buses available for Deltans to make use of.
Were you impressed with the issue of child education discussed at the recent education summit?
Governor Okowa believes that for someone to take any decision that will directly touch the people, you need to consult the people that led the state government to hold the education summit in Asaba, the state capital. In the course of the education summit, Deltans from all works of live, parents, students, stakeholders in other fields, were brought together at Asaba to discuss the way forward. Questions was asked at the education summit that who owns the child, the parents, the society or the government. But to say that the load is going to be on the government alone, that cannot give you quality education. Let the government become very organize, the parents, the private sector and the society to give a helping hand.
Why is the Asaba Township Stadium abandoned?
Funds will be made by the state government to revive the Asaba Township Stadium so that the people of Delta State can put it to use. Much fund is needed to improve and provide the stadium the desired facilities.
Are Deltans feeling the impact of Okowa’s government and what are Deltans expecting in the next few months?
Deltans are already feeling the impact of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of the state. In a state where Deltans are over about five million in population, you cannot expect everybody to eat to their normal satisfaction. Some Deltans have benefitted from the governor through skill acquisition, YAGEP programme, Okowa’s SMART Agenda, construction of new roads, Security, Schools, Hospitals and Tertiary Institutions. These are areas of impact Deltans have benefited from the governor and many others.