Mr. Valentine Governor, as Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson is fondly called by political associates, will on the 14th of February mark sixth year in office. Our Yenagoa correspondent, AKAM ANIEFIOK, x-rays his performances with the realities on ground during the period under review.
Since February 14th, 2012, when he took over as Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson has implemented several people-oriented and projects which have catapulted the state to becoming the Jerusalem of the Ijaw people as he promised.
The cardinal objective is to transform the state into an industrial hub as declared by the governor, and clearly place the state on a pedestal of progress that will bring about a better life for its people.
This year’s celebration is unique and remarkable for several reasons: first, the tradition for all the ministries in the state to give account of their perceived achievements for the past six years and also the commissioning of landmark projects amongst other events.
The aim is to allow commissioners after commissioner take the hot seat, give honest and accurate account of their stewardship matched with pictorials, while journalists and other stakeholders observed some of them that are just sitting in the office and doing nothing while receiving salaries.
The venue for the just concluded inter-Ministerial briefings, was the Gabriel Okara cultural centre.
Flagging off the event, Governor Dickson appreciated the people for their overwhelming and continuous support.
He stated that the current government’s successes achieved in the past six years under his leadership as a result on the investment of a strong and robust security system established since 2012 when it took over.
He explained that his administration instituted a state security outfit called Duo-Akpo both on land and on the sea to check and address any criminal activities to keep the state safe, adding that the vision of the government has lead the state to this point.
Dickson, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, noted that he has not relented in driving the process himself, adding that since the foundation has been laid already the state is building towards a critical point.
He admonished the people to support the government in ensuring that it succeeds, noting that Nigeria is what he calls an un-equal country, where nobody will help you solve your problem unless you solve it yourself.
In his opening speech, the host and the state’s commissioner for Information and Orientation, Hon. Markson Iworiso, noted that the last six years have been a watershed, adding that no doubt it has been challenging but the important thing is the resolve of the government’s focused leadership to make a difference against all odds.
He submitted that the occasion was an avenue to duly acknowledge and appreciate the governor for his sterling stewardship that has changed the collective story in the state, noting that things that have been thought impossible in the past have become possible and thereby giving the people hope for a brighter tomorrow.
He furthermore stated that “From all indications, the next foreseeable years will come with so come much improvement in the quality of life for the people. That is when our people can better appreciate the true meaning and impact of the investment in education, building model boarding schools across the state with over 5,000 students on scholarship enjoying free nutritious meals, free uniforms, school sandals, school bags and free textbooks”
“Bayelsa has been truly restored to its pride of place as the Jerusalem of the Ijaw nation. In all of this, we have our leader and governor to thank for his leadership and vision. Through thick and thin, he exhibited uncommon approach to governance. He is firm, resolute and doggedly pursuing his goals with vigor despite many distractions and undue criticism”
For the state commissioner for works and infrastructure, Mr. Lawrence Ewrujakpor, it was another opportunity for the orator to inform the crowd with PowerPoint presentation on countless projects.
Mr. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, stated that motive behind the occasion was to create awareness on what will be done in the next coming years and also show all that has been done in the past 6 years by the current administration.
Ewhrudjakpo, said that the government doesn’t believe there’s any project that will be abandoned because it wasn’t conceived by it, adding that the whole part of the state would have been impacted by development but the major part of the 2014 recession that affected the state.
He explained that the Airport built by the government is a necessity to bring development to the state, adding that the government has also declared colonial bridges out of Yenagoa, the capital city.
He noted that the numerous constructions happening in the state has also generated jobs for thousands of youths and developed their capacity.
Some of the projects mentioned includes: Dualised Diete Spiff Road, Azikoro Road, Eradiri Road, Road Safety Road, Water Board Road and Hospital Road. Roads constructed are – the Amassoma/Tombia Road, Igbogene Access Road, Restoration Flyover, Bayelsa Palm Road, Deeper Life Road, Justice Tabai Road, Swali/Oxbow Lake Road, Hero’s Park Access Road, Toru-Ebeni/Ogobiri Road, and the list goes on and on.
On infrastructure and public buildings, the list of completed projects includes the Ecumenical Centre, Governor’s Office, Oxbow Lake Pavilion, Multi-Door Court House, Boro Town Residential Buildings, State Archive, Additional Secretariat Blocks, Heliport Terminal and again the list goes on and on.
The Commissioner who described Governor Dickson as a true patriot with penchant for development, transparency, accountability and single minded commitment to the public good, said posterity will be kind to the governor.
Education: the foundation for the phenomenal successes recorded by the Dickson’s Administration was laid immediately he took over in 2012. The governor knowing how backward the state is educationally, immediately followed it up with an executive bill on compulsory education for all in the state.
Governor Dickson embarked on what are now fondly referred to as the legacy projects, in education, health, roads construction, the hospitality industry, religion and industrialization. Education was his first port of call.
Having witnessed at close quarters how difficult it was for Bayelsans to access education, he introduced free and compulsory education at the primary and secondary school levels.
According to his education department, the governor also spent over N60billion on education to build over 30 first ever model boarding secondary schools in the 24 state constituencies, as well as 400 primary schools with headmaster/staff quarters in many parts of the state.
In addition, government gave primary school pupils and secondary school students free textbooks, uniforms, sandals, bags, and writing materials.
Government also picked the bills for students registering for WAEC, NECO, and JAMB examinations.
Part of the N60billion was spent on scholarships to enable Bayelsans and other Ijaw-speaking peoples study for graduate and post-graduate degrees in some of the best of universities in Nigeria and the world.
Governor Dickson also tackled teacher education, which had been neglected for many years due to inconsistent government policies. The absence of training schools for teachers, he learnt, was responsible for the fall in the standard of education in the country.
To change the situation, he established a Teachers’ Training Institute and equipped it with modern teaching facilities for the training and re-training of teachers.
The deliberate efforts to reposition education in the State have been so phenomenal that by 2014, Bayelsa State became the fourth best- performing state with a pass rate of 52.83 per cent as 34, 242 students scored five credits and above, including Mathematics and English in the West African Examinations Council results.
The commissioner for Education, Hon. Jonathan Obuebite, in his brief, noted that the government has also spent over N3 billion as counterpart fund in the Education sector in the last six years.
The gesture, he stated, was aimed at attracting Federal Government’s support and presence for the state.
Obuebite stated this on Thursday in Yenagoa at the ongoing Inter-Ministerial Briefing as part of the activities lined up for the 6th Anniversary of the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson’s administration.
He stated that the declaration of state of emergency and the huge investment in the educational sector since 2012 has continued to yield positive results in contrast to the deplorable condition of schools inherited by the present administration.
The Commissioner said the infrastructures were in a state of decay while the performance of the students at externally conducted examination (SSSCE and NECO) were nothing to write home about.
Obuebite said with the declaration of the state of emergency, the state has now become one of the leading states in the education sector.
He cited the construction of headmasters’ quarters, teachers’ quarters and six classroom blocks in more than 500 Primary Schools, renovated over 160 Secondary Schools across the state, introduction of boarding schools and free school feeding programme.
Others listed include the accreditation of the courses at the state-owned Niger Delta University, establishment of the University of Africa, Toru Orua and Bayelsa State Polytechnic at Aleibiri, and funding of scholarship programmes within and outside the country.
The Commissioner commended the governor for his vision and commitment, especially in conceptualizing the Ijaw National Academy, and expressed appreciation to the State House of Assembly for passing education related bills into law, which he noted would go a long way to sustaining the laudable educational programmes of the present administration.
Fielding questions from the audience, Obuebite, assured that the state government is working towards ensuring the successful commencement of the Maritime Academy in Okpoama but however warned the public not to pay any money to any person for admission as government has not ordered for such.
He also explained that beneficiaries of the state scholarship to Lincoln University in 2014, followed due process.
Obuebite appealed to parents/guardians to invest in the education of their children/wards as it is the only legacy they can leave for them and enjoined political appointees at all levels to extend their goodwill by investing in the education of at least one youth in the state.
He also called on students to prioritize their education to better their lot, promising that the Restoration Government of Governor Seriake Dickson would not pay lip service to the development of any sector in the state especially the education sector.
The governor had promised to regularly render account of monies accruing to the State from the Federation account.
He then followed it up with an executive Bill, which was passed into law by the Bayesla State House of Assembly. The law stipulates that the Governor of Bayelsa State must always render account of all monies accruing to the State, including the Federation account, to the people of the State.
Governor Dickson is the only State Chief executive who chose, through an Act of Parliament, to compulsorily render account of monies accruing to the State.
Rendering the score, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Revenue, Treasury and Accounts, Timipre Seipulou, who spoke onbehalf of the commissioner Ministry of Finance, said that the present administration has succeeded in increasing the state annual IGR from a paltry N4.7bn in 2012 to N12.14bn as at the end of last year, representing an average of one billion naira per month.
He said, “When this administration came on board in 2012, secondary school teachers’ wage bill was 866 million naira. But as at November 2017 it was reduced to 600 million naira. For primary schools, which had staff strength of 11,355, the wage bill was 757million naira as at February 2012, but through our verification exercises we were able to reduce it 9000 staff with a wage bill of 569million.”
Seipulou enumerated other achievements to include instituting the monthly transparency briefing, anti-salary fraud law, income and expenditure law, and successful restructuring of the bond obligation inherited by the present administration.
Bayelsa state government says its various policies and programmes in the health sector are now impacting tremendously on the lives of the people, as it has improved health care delivery services.
The government in partnership with the Federal government, World Bank and other related agencies is now embarking on a project tagged, “Save One million Lives for Result Programme” to ensure accessibility and affordability of health services.
This was disclosed by the State Commissioner for Health, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu, while presenting his Ministry’s score card at the Inter-Ministerial/Agency Briefing on Tuesday at the Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa.
Professor Etebu attributed the numerous achievements recorded in the sector in the last six years to the leadership style of Governor Seriake Dickson, adding that, the sector was in a state of decay, prior to the present administration.
According to him, most of the health facilities inherited from previous administrations were obsolete, while the so called General Hospitals were mere consulting clinics without personnel.
“It is sad to note that, prior to this period, our people travelled several kilometers to neighbouring states for medical treatment and in the process many lost their lives.”
However, with the present administration’s disposition to the sector and its huge investments, the sector with trained personnel and facilities on ground can handle any health related situation.
On the outbreak of Lassa fever in some parts of the Country, Professor Etebu assured that, measures have been put in place to check the spread, however, stressed the need for proper hygiene and healthy environment.
His words, ‘there is no reported case of Lassa Fever in any part of the state, but our people need to be conscious of their environment and if there is any incident of the disease, please report it to the nearest hospital for prompt attention.
We need to be proactive in the way and manner we handle health related and other issues, which is why the present administration is committing so much to the sector.
Commenting on the various policies and programmes of the government with direct impact on the people of the state, the Commissioner said, the newly introduced Bayelsa Health Service Scheme is now gaining ground as people are beginning to know its importance.
He said the people of the state now have access to Medical/Health facilities with their monthly savings, adding that, the programme has been expanded to cater for all pregnant women in the state.
Professor Etebu said the programme was expanded to cater for the pregnant women and reduce the maternal and infant mortality rate in the state.
On other achievements of the present administration, the Commissioner highlighted the establishment of the Diagnostic Centre, Drug Storage and Distribution Centre, Construction of modern referral Centres across the 8 local government areas, construction of house officers’ quarters at the Federal Medical Centre, produced specialist manpower as well as performed recanalization surgery for diabetic and stroke patients.
Bayelsa state government has announced the take off of both academic and sports training activities at the State-owned Sports Academy, Asoama in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area.
The Commissioner for Sports Development, Hon. Perekiye Buruboyefe, stated this while presenting the activities of his Ministry since the inception of the present administration in 2012.
According to him, the Academy, which was established by law in 2013, is expected to provide effective training for young, talented and potential sports men and women to ensure their successful participation in sports.
Hon. Buruboyefe explained that, the Academy, which is taking off with 150 students, is equipped with an Information and Communication Centre as well as various sporting facilities.
He also remarked that, the Nembe city stadium has since been completed while others in Brass, Ebedebiri, Biogbolo are under construction.
Commenting on the Samson Siasia Sports Complex, Hon. Buruboyefe noted that, the government has provided the best astro turf football pitch, stating that, efforts are on to put in place, a 6-lane tartan track, an electronic score board, with a playback system, flood lights and other world class facilities in the next couple of weeks.
The Sports Commissioner also noted that, the golf course estate has reached advanced stage of completion and would be ready for use , before 2020, with plots of land available for sale to the public.