WELCOME ADDRESS BY THE EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF NEMBE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL, HON. EMINAH BIOGHOEMI BENNETH ON THE OCCASION OF HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. HENRY SERIAKE DICKSON’S THANK-YOU-TOUR TO NEMBE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA ON TUESDAY NOVEMBER 26, 2013 IN NEMBE
On behalf of Nembe Local Government Council and the entire people of Nembe, I warmly welcome Your Excellency and your distinguished entourage to the ancient city-state of Nembe. Noa o, our Countriman Governor!
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” – Matthew 12:35
We are happy and honoured to have Your Excellency in our midst today. For one, you are the first serving Governor of Bayelsa State to pay a thank-you-visit to us. This is an eloquent testimony that Your Excellency has an appreciative heart.
Two, we are happy because Your Excellency’s presence in our midst affords us good opportunity to formally recognize and appreciate your kind attitude towards Nembe LGA.
First, Your Excellency’s capable and vibrant Deputy is our illustrious father. A good number of appointees in your government are also our loving fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. So, on behalf of His Eminence, His Royal Majesties, Kings, Chiefs, Elders, Women, Youth, Children and the Political Class, I heartily thank Your Excellency for seeing in our kith and kin trustworthy partners in executing your Restoration Agenda in the State.
Second, the many capital projects being executed by Your Excellency in all nooks and crannies of our LGA deserve appreciation and commendation. Suffice to state that the Sports Complex under construction in Nembe City is one of the admirable State projects in the LGA.
Even then, some State projects in the LGA deserve exceptional attention and appreciation. One of these is the Unity Bridge in Nembe. This Bridge is of paramount importance to us in that it has the potential of promoting unity between Nembe City and Nembe-Bassambiri, and even fast-tracking the unification process. Hence it is quite pleasing to hear that Your Excellency has graciously released over N100m. (One Hundred Million Naira) to complete the Bridge.
Let me state here for the record that it was the realization of its great importance that motivated us to improvise temporary wooden platforms to put it into use. Since the improvisation, tons of commendations from both communities have been flooding the Council on a daily basis.
Also deserving of special appreciation is the largesse our school children are enjoying from Your Excellency. The huge burden of providing everything for our primary and post-primary school students has been made considerably light by the free education and free school uniforms programme of Your Excellency.
Besides, the social security payments made to our aged fathers and mothers – who are 75 years and above old – come from the generous heart of Your Excellency. We appreciate all this official humanity.
We must not forget to appreciate Your Excellency’s determined drive towards connecting Nembe to the Imiringi Gas Turbine. We learnt that some minor faults were spotted while test-running it. We pray that these faults be rectified in good time so we can begin to enjoy good supply of power from the turbine.
Over and above all, Your Excellency’s firm commitment to completing the Ogbia-Nembe Road by 2014 is quite heartening to us as a people. This is because the foundation stone of this particular project was laid far back 1973 but successive administrations in callous collaboration with SPDC have been paying lip-service to this project for about four decades now, despite the incontrovertible fact that Nembe LGA is the single largest oil producer in the country. Certainly, our joy will know no bounds the day you will personally commission this road project!
Our Countriman Governor, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, an occasion like this compels the host to give account of his or her stewardship. So permit me to fill you in on what our administration has done so far and what basic challenges we are confronting.
As we all know our administration is just eight months old. Within this short period we have recorded few milestones despite the huge financial constraint we face.
The importance of security to development is not far to fetch. No meaningful development effort can be done in an environment of insecurity. So we have been investing heavily in security in a bid to provide an enabling environment for development. So far, we have:
1. Brokered peace between Oluasiri and our neighbouring Ogbema people of Abua/Odual LGA of Rivers State;
2. Contained security threat in Agrisaba community;
3. Contained security threat in Okoroma Clan;
4. Constructed Police Post in Okoroma; and
5. Constructed Police Quarters in Oluasiri.
On assumption of office we realized the great infrastructural decay and deficiency in the LGA and the urgent need to address this challenge. So we swiftly swung into action. So far, we are happy to inform Your Excellency that we have given the Local Government Council Secretariat in Nembe City a face-lift.
Other capital projects we have completed and are executing include:
1. Reconstruction of Middle-Cadre Staff Quarters in Nembe City;
2. Completion of Primary Health Centre at Okipiri;
3. Construction of Engr. Wills Road in Nembe-Bassambiri;
4. Construction of concrete Access Road to the Local Government Council Secretariat in Nembe-Bassambiri; and
5. Construction of Town-Square at Eminama.
We welcomed Your Excellency’s partnership initiative to build a good number of low cost housing units in the LGA. As partners, we are pleased to inform Your Excellency that we have concluded talks with the leadership of the benefitting communities as to how to acquire land for the project as well as monitor and secure the project.
Your Excellency, we sincerely admire and welcome your commitment to run a transparent and accountable government in the State. We indeed felt duty-bound to follow your footsteps in this wise. So we periodically invite stakeholders to a Transparency Briefing Session in which we update them on financial inflows and outflows of the Council.
Besides, as a good community relations strategy we interact with various facets of the component communities at regular intervals to cross-fertilize ideas in an effort to foster mutual understanding and support.
We have also created a website for the LG Council where all information about the LGA is loaded for consumption by the general public.
Your Excellency, even as we welcome you with all our hearts our problems are smoking out of our pockets, no matter how hard we try to conceal them. Nembe Local Government Council faces a number of challenges but three are of critical concern to us for now. These are insecurity, indigence and NDDC.
It was no stroke of luck that Your Excellency was recently adjudged “the most security-conscious Governor in Nigeria”. This judgment was right because Your Excellency’s bold security initiative has yielded tangible results in most parts of the State. The hitherto widespread violence in the State is now history. An atmosphere of peace has evidently enveloped most parts of the State.
This success story is however different in the waterways of Nembe LGA. Years of boundary dispute with our Kalabari brothers in Akukutoru LGA of Rivers State has continued to pose serious security challenge to the Obioku and Oluasiri communities in our LGA. More often than not, criminals come from our eastern border to terrorize these communities without provocation.
As a matter of fact, we live and travel at the mercy of sea pirates. The Nembe/Port Harcourt route is greatly unsafe for our travellers and traders as sea pirates routinely prey upon them. Some of our own criminal brothers and sisters are worsening the situation by subjecting users of the Ogbia/Nembe route to nightmarish experiences every now and then.
The oil firms do their business at the mercy of pipeline vandals, oil thieves and other categories of criminals. The crude oil infrastructure is regularly vandalized.
As the third tier of government we do not have the wherewithal – in terms of money and personnel – to secure our waterways and oil facilities. Yet, as a government we cannot fold our hands and watch the criminals hold our people and territory hostage. So we have been trying our best to contain these threats without success. We have even tried to call in the major oil companies for partnership towards fighting these crimes but they are not forthcoming for reasons we do not understand.
Keeping security is no doubt capital-intensive. The nerve-racking security situation in our LGA has severely drained the Council in financial terms. We are in dire need of effective assistance from the State Government in this regard. We desperately need gun-boats to routinely patrol our waterways to save our lives, properties and the oil facilities. We also feel constrained to appeal for monthly financial support from the State Government to help recruit locals for support services in this area.
It may amaze most people present here to hear that Nembe LGA is a key oil and gas producer in the country but ranks second least in terms of size of federal allocation in Bayelsa State. This is the shocking truth we have been living with!
Even the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the Council is nothing to write home about. Since April we have received a pittance of N750, 000. from MTN as IGR only.
Curiously, the oil and gas companies doing business in the LGA are unwilling to cooperate with the Council in terms of statutory payments. For instance, the Oluasiri Gas Plant (hitherto known as Soku Gas Plant) is strangely unwilling to honour her statutory financial obligations to the Council. Such defiant and unpatriotic actions are provocative of legal retaliation.
So we plead with Your Excellency to prevail on the major oil and gas firms and their contracting companies operating in the LGA to honour their statutory obligations – financial and otherwise – to the Council. We hope that they would help us to help them for we desire mutually benefitting relations with all our individual and corporate tenants.
It was a source of great happiness for us when NDDC was established as an intervention agency to accelerate development in the Niger Delta. As a major oil and gas producing area, our optimism knew no bounds when it was set up given that we had been sadly neglected in terms of infrastructural development.
Regrettably however, NDDC is yet to visibly show its presence in Nembe since its inception. It is stomach-turning to note that NDDC is merely seen via signboards and abandoned projects in our landscape. Most outrageously, Nembe LGA is not considered at all in its 2012/2013 Budget Proposals!
Your Excellency, we pray you graciously intervene in our relations with NDDC to ensure that the LGA is favourably considered in its subsequent Budget Proposals and its abandoned projects completed.
Let me also use this opportunity to make some other demands from Your Excellency.
1. OKOROMA-ABOBIRI ROAD:
We understand that the construction of the Okoroma-Abobiri Road has been in the State Budgets for years. As evidence, clearing of the road was done some time ago but nothing beyond that has happened. We therefore passionately plead with Your Excellency to revisit this project with resolve and action, Sir.
2. OLUASIRI-ABUA ROAD:
The Oluasiri people of Bayelsa State and the Abuas of Rivers State have been good neighbours for many decades. The Oluasiri people usually access Yenagoa through Abua by boat. These two communities are very close by geographical location and socio-economic interests. We respectfully implore Your Excellency to use your good offices to nudge NDDC to construct a concrete road to link these neighbours, all in the interest of infrastructural development of the Niger Delta.
3. SHORE PROTECTION:
We further plead with Your Excellency to protect the shores of Nembe City and Nembe-Bassambiri. Alternatively, we respectfully urge Your Excellency to prevail on NDDC to complete its shore protection projects in these communities that have been abandoned.
We ask that Your Excellency helps expand the habitable landmass of Nembe City and Nembe-Bassambiri by embarking on massive sand-filling project in the two communities. The habitable land of these communities has been nearly used up.
5. OGBIA-NEMBE ROAD:
Most importantly, we passionately appeal to Your Excellency to break tradition by matching word with action in respect of completing the Ogbia-Nembe Road by 2014. Words may not be enough to thank Your Excellency if this road project is graciously completed and commissioned by you. We earnestly pray Your Excellency to do all within your power to turn the tragic story surrounding this project into a happy ending. You will be great in the eyes of Nembe, you did.
6. UNITY BRIDGE
It is no use restating that this bridge is critical to the process of re-unification of Nembe. We plead that Your Excellency kindly ensures that it is completed according to specifications.
Your Excellency, Nembe LGA is a PDP enclave and will remain so for many years to come. We sincerely believe in the party and in your Restoration Agenda. We assure you that, come rain or sunshine, we shall remain committed to our great party and to your government.
Once again, we welcome Your Excellency to Nembe LGA. We wish you and your entourage a happy stay. We pray for more of God’s mercies and favours upon your administration and tenure.
We thank you for your kind attention. May God bless us all. Noa O! O noa o!!
Long live Nembe Local Government Area!
Long live Bayelsa State!!
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!