How Dickson’s Bayelsa works
By Samuel Oyadongha
WHEN Mr. Henry Dickson was inaugurated as the fourth executive governor of Bayelsa State on February 14, 2012, he left no one in doubt on his determination to turn around the fortunes of the state.
“We shall undertake fundamental reform of the governance culture to emphasize transparency, accountability, due process and value re-orientation by all institutions and functionaries of government, beginning with my humble self, he said.”
He also promised to block all sources of corruption which had been the bane of the state’s undedevelopment, noting that he would use the resources of the state to fund road construction, education, promote tourism, generate wealth and develop agriculture instead of funding graft and greed.
Accordingly Dickson said, ‘’to do nothing now about the corrupt and self serving status quo, poses a clear and present danger to the very existence of our state and will be the greatest disservice to our aspirations as Ijaw people. If Bayelsa fails, the Ijaw nation also fails and so will the Niger Delta with grave consequences for national stability.”
This radical stance not only awakened old passions and pains, it raised fresh hopes. However some Bayelsans were not convinced that the new administration would deliver. To this group, the governor’s message was nothing but rhetoric.
Mistakes of the past: Dickson must have studied the mistakes of past administrations, hence he made an elaborate plan of action to develop the state in line with the dreams of the founding fathers. Being a product of the Ijaw struggle, he seems to be marching his words with actions.
Remarkably, the administration has laid the matrix for rapid infrastructure and human capital development.
Another remarkable feat was the signing into law of the Bayelsa symbols and anthem. This move however, was seen as a ploy to secede by many. But the development was however defended by a cross section of Bayelsans including the state Commissioner for Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Mr. Felix Tuodolo.
He said the state flag, coat of arms and anthem were in tandem with the vision of the founding fathers and the administration’s stand on Ijaw mobilization and integration.
”This decision also underscores government’s belief that this state, like any other states is where the Ijaws, the fourth largest ethnic nationality, has as its home. Bayelsa is home to all Ijaws both at home and abroad. The emblem therefore, will help serve as a unifying force and rallying point for all our people,” he said.
Before now,some observers averred that the development of the state had not kept pace with the resources accruing to it. For instance, the development of the state was reportedly stifled by corruption in the civil service, unemployment. Crime was also on the increase with cultists turning Yenagoa the state capital into a killing field and leaving an average of five people killed daily.
Secret cult and kidnapping law
But the state governor, who is a former Attorney-General of the state, ensured that the Bayelsa State Secret Cult, Kidnapping and Similar Offences (Prohibition) Bill 2012, was among the first bills sent to the state House of Assembly.
With the signing of the Secret Cults (Prohibition) Law 2012, all cult groups in the state were proscribed. Anybody convicted will serve 10 years in prison without an option of fine. Similarly, any landlord who allows his building to be used for meeting by cultists, will on conviction, forfeit such building to the state.
The governor is currently pushing for an amendment to the law prescribing death penalty for convicted kidnappers. The state has also invested heavily in security enhancements in the form of technology and intelligence gathering to ensure that Bayelsa is adequately policed and secured.
Also, the governor’s zero tolerance for corruption and decision to entrench due process in the use of public funds, has earned him the sobriquet ‘super glue’. His decision to make public, the state’s monthly income and expenditure has won him the confidence of the citizenry.
Observers have lauded what they term the most pragmatic innovation in the governance of the state, which is in line with the promises made by the governor, to initiate the Bayelsa State Income and Expenditure Transparency Bill along with the state Fiscal Responsibility Bill.
Dickson said the bill was intended to entrench transparency and accountability in the business of governance and also place at the doorstep of the people, the right to inquire about any aspect of governance.
Relatedly, leakages were blocked, thereby leading to a sharp drop in the state’s wage bill from N5.4billion to N4.1billion. This figure is expected to drop further with the completion of the biometric exercise.
Road construction was also given priority making the state capital a huge construction yard. This however is not limited to Yenogoa alone, as Bayelsa West Senatorial District road linking Sagbama town to Toru-Orua, Ofoni, Toru-Ebeni, Ekeremor and Agge on the Atlantic fringe is being constructed.
Conducting newsmen round some of the on-going road construction projects, the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, said the allocations coming into the state in the last one year, had been put into key projects.
He said over N40 billion had been paid as mobilization for 41 on-going roads and building projects across the state.
Some of the new roads under construction, according to him include, Access road to Nembe, Edepie-Tombia-Amassoma road, Yenagoa-Oporoma road, dualisation of the Isaac Boro Expressway with two fly overs, dualisation of Igbogene junction to Glory Drive, expansion of 18 kilometre Mbiama-Yenagoa road, expansion of Azikoro road and construction of 13 high profile roads.
The administration which viewed education as the most critical component of development, has made huge investments in the sector.
Consequently, it has awarded a total of 137 PhD and close to 300 Masters degree scholarships to Bayelsans, who are currently studying in universities in various parts of the world.
Though the administration according to the governor made initial provision of One billion Naira for the post graduate scholarship scheme, it has since overshot that amount in view of the massive demands it got.
“The sums involved are quite staggering, but we believe it is a good investment. Because of our passion for human capacity development, we have since overshot the N1 billion mark we originally earmarked for the scheme. And I don’t regret it,” Dickson declared.
He added that the administration also cleared backlog of unpaid fees for Bayelsa undergraduates in higher institutions of learning in various parts of the world, in addition to the award of 250 post primary school scholarships in leading secondary schools across the country.
The administration, Dickson noted, was motivated to invest massively in education because of the urgent need to give Bayelsans the required training and skills to be able to contribute meaningfully to the global economy.
Commercial motorcycles popularly known as Okada have been banned, thereby reducing the rate of auto-related accidents. As a replacement for Okada, a new and safer mass transit system is now in place in Yenagoa. Though the desired impact is yet to be achieved, it is the expectation of many that the situation would improve in the capital city when on going road constructions are completed.
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