THE DICKSON ADMINISTRATION’S EYES ON SERVICE DELIVERY BY DENNIS ALEMU
Within the context of democratic governance and service delivery, it is quite evident that the Dickson Administration has already exceeded some of its targets in some of the sectors, as delineated in its campaign manifesto.
A dispassionate and unbiased look at what the government has been able to achieve since February 14, 2012 when the Governor assumed office on the strength of his February 11, 2012 electoral mandate, clearly shows strides in virtually all sectors. These landmark achievements bear eloquent testimony to a focused leadership, which has been able to lay a solid foundation for enduring legacies in the pursuit of the common good.
The Restoration Agenda is the optic fibre of the new vision brought into governance. The Restoration Agenda is an agenda whose goals are to build and rebuild, to restore, to transform and to lay the requisite foundation for sustainable and holistic development of Bayelsa State. It houses the various programmes and policies crafted and configured to foster development, create jobs, reduce poverty, ensure peace and security and to create a business-supportive climate for private enterprise to thrive in the state.
Across all sectors of the state – from power to education; from agriculture to tourism, etc – keeping an accurate and up-to-date data bank of projects either completed or being executed by the Dickson Administration has become a truly taxing assignment. In fact, archivists and commentators are not having an easy time, in their bid to keep up with the pace of development! Interestingly, they seem to have a Hobson’s choice here because the government is not prepared to be in a low gear.
On the education sector, the administration has delivered on most of the campaign commitments it made. The BYCAS has been reintroduced into the education cartography of the State. The model schools it promised are underway in all the LGAs of the State. The college of Education has since been overhauled and is receiving the best policy attention it can possibly get. The primary schools have undergone serious renovation works, building of Head Master quarters has been completed in most cases, while the teachers’ training institute (TTI), Sports Academy, Institute of Agriculture has been established. The compulsory free primary/secondary education is in full swing, complemented by the provision of free books, free uniforms, overwriting of NECO and WAEC fees by the State Government.
The multidimensional framework in the education sector also encompasses the award of scholarship to hundreds of students of Bayelsa origin from the secondary to the PhD level, and the training of 190 youths at the Songhai Agricultural Training Institute in Porto Novo, Benin Republic.
Being the engine of development, governance is accorded the dexterity it deserves by the Restoration team. In line with its campaign manifesto, a proper delineation of the problems and challenges of besetting the state and its people has been made, and this has been used as the raw material to formulate most of its foolsproof policies. An enduring component of governance in the state is the monthly transparency briefing, whereby the state Chief Executive offers a breakdown of the income and expenditure. This is in fulfillment of the promise to create room for transparency and accountability in the running of the affairs of the state.
The promises to do away with enrichment without labour and funding the greed and avarice of a few and the undertaking of fundamental reform of the governance culture to emphasize transparency, accountability due process and value re-orientation by institutions and functionaries of government have been fulfilled. The government has also met its promise to enforce zero tolerance for corruption, and prevent wastage in public expenditure. For the first time the history of Bayelsa State, government has institutionalized savings cultures in the state. The government also resourcefully waged a wage war in the state to rid wage-related fraud in the payroll.
Given the government’s dissatisfaction with the prevailing security situation it met on the ground in the state, the Dickson Administration, on assumption of office, outlawed cultism with the immediateness it deserved. The State Anti-Cultism Law was passed by the House of Assembly as proposed by the executive. Under the law, cultists, once convicted are to serve a jail term of 10 years without an option of fine. It subsequently commended the registration of repented cultists with a view to reintegrate them to society so that they can contribute their quota to societal development. Similarly, it introduced Operation Doo-Akpo into the security infrastructure of the state, to restore order. So far, ODA is another success story. The government equally invested in the Integrated Security Management System.
In line with the plan of government to make power generation and transmission a priority in the Restoration Agenda, the Administration has since awarded some strategic power projects in the state. Notably among these are the rehabilitation works at the Kolo Creek Power Station and Kunk line; the 33KVA, line from Gbaran to Sagbama, the 33KVA line to link parts Southern Ijaw to the National Grid, among others. Although the results of the Dickson Administration’s efforts at lighting up the state are yet to manifest, they will certainly do in the not distant future.
Women and youth development has been ranked as a big ticket item of the Restoration Agenda of the present administration. To this end, the government has left no stone unturned in the drive to empower the youths of Bayelsa State. It is to empower the youths that government is running the robust scholarship scheme which at the moment accommodates almost 1,000 youths enrolled in academic programmes at secondary, first degree, masters and PhD level. Women empowerment has also received the attention and resources it deserves. For example, through the efforts of the First Lady, Dr. (Mrs.) Rachel Dickson, Bayelsa State has exceeded to 35 percent Affirmative Action for Women, in both elective and appointive positions. In fact, the Administration has afforded women ample political space to prove their mettle in the running of government at local government, state and federal levels. The Girl-Child project of the First lady run under the auspices of the Friday Konyefa Foundation (FKF) is also addressing some critical issues bedeviling girl-child and women development in the State.
The Dickson Administration has equally shown remarkable dedication to the development of the health sector. This is also in congruence with its campaign promises to Bayelsans in the critical sector. For example, the modern and functional hospitals it promised to build are nearing completion in each of the LGAs in the State. Some of these are to offer referral services and facilities. More health centres are being built to expand the present coverage. Equally, the gigantic Melford Okilo Memorial Hospital is undergoing rationalization.
The Dickson government has kept faith with its promise to make infrastructural development the centerpiece of its policies and programmes. The commitment to complete all on-going projects it met on assumption of office has largely been met, except in few cases where some contractual hitches are yet to be decidedly ironed out. Key works are on-going on the three key senatorial projects, even as road construction takes the centre stage in the state capital. The dynamism displayed in this sphere derives from the unwavering determination of the present government to transform Bayelsa State. It is also aimed at bridging the infrastructural gap that was glaringly noticeable and through this, stimulate wealth creation.
On the economy, the government has taken decisive steps to diversify its revenue base. Key economic vectors identified to drive the economic diversification process are tourism and agriculture. Tourism in particular, is regarded as the inexhaustible bottom oil well that will pump dollars for the people. We now have a fully constituted tourism board, with eminently qualified individuals appointed to run its affairs. Moreover, there are the Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency, and the Bayelsa State Tourism and Hotels Development Company.
In the agricultural sector, the government is reviving the decrepit rice farms. The cassava replication centre and mill in Sagbama LGA has taken off. These would generate income for the state and create job opening for the youth. With government’s plans to capitalize the Songhai agriculture trainees, food production will receive a major boast in the state. Government is also collaborating with Malaysia to install oil mill at the Bayelsa Palm with a view to produce vegetable oil, soap, and other by-projects.
Another sector dear to the Governor and his team is the Civil Service. The government has kept left none in doubt of its commitment to reorganize it for better service delivery. Through appropriate policies, the administration has saved sizeable funds hitherto lost to payroll fraud. Government has also commenced payment of the five months arrears to civil servants early next year, accruable from the 18,000 minimum wage. The local government service is also undergoing vigorous rationalization, to give it the right tone for affective service delivery at the grassroots.
The housing sector has also got a boost in the state under the Restoration Agenda. The administration has since approved contracts for the construction of housing estates in the eight LGAs of the state. The Sani Abacha Housing Estate is also underway in the state capital. Similarly, work is nearing completion at the new Boro Town being built in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA by the Dickson Administration to immortalize the Ijaw hero.
Suffice to say that the administration promised to strengthen the traditional institution. As a practical demonstration of this, government has rebuilt the secretariat of the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council. It has also taken steps to review the status of the traditional stools in the state in consonance with the dictates of time.
Mr. Dennis is a member of the Bayelsa New Media Team.