In spite of impressive revenues of N99 billion that accrued to Bayelsa State in 2016, many ongoing projects in the state have been abandoned owing to poor funding by the state government.
Data obtained from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) indicate that Bayelsa received N99 billion between January and December 2016. Yet, the state owes workers a six-month backlog of salaries over the past year.
There was widespread public outrage when the state assembly recently approved a N3 billion loan to enable the state to acquire new cars for legislators, Governor Seriake Dickson and his deputy, as well as members of security services.
That questionable expenditure was brought to bold relief when a team of journalists on an independent tour of ongoing projects across the state observed inadequate or absent funding for various projects.
The two-day tour was initiated by the leadership of the Federated Correspondents’ chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Bayelsa State Council, under the chairmanship of Kola Oredipe. The reporters inspected projects covering such sectors as education, infrastructure, health, agriculture, and tourism.
Among the project sites visited were the Bayelsa West senatorial road linking Sagbama and Ekeremor local government areas, Africa University, Toru-Orua, cassava and poultry farms in Ebedebiri, Ijaw National Academy, Kaiama, and Bayelsa International Airport, Amassoma. Other projects were the aquaculture farm estate in Akenfa, Opolo-Elebele road, dualization of Isaac Boro Expressway, Elebele-Bayelsa Palm road section of the outer ring road, the pavilion at Ox-Bow Lake, Diagnostic Center, Imgbi Road, and the Samson Siasia sports complex.
At the Bayelsa Airport, the contractor handling the runway, apron and a terminal building remarked that, contrary to earlier reports that the project was almost ready, work done so far stood at 45 per cent completion.
According to Samson Anedi, the assistant project manager for Dantata and Sawoe, work was progressing at the apron, runway, and terminal building, but the project was suffering from poor funding.
“The project has a three-kilometer runway. The mandate is to deliver it as one of the best in the South-South, to surpass that of Port Harcourt. It is classed as Category D, the airport made up of 200 square meter apron where cargo and planes will park,” he said. He added: “A lot of sand filling was done initially due to the swampy nature of the terrain. Apron casting is about 35% complete and can accommodate four 747-cargo planes when completed.
“However, the taxiing way is suspended at the moment due to some issues.”
Mr. Anedi said that, with proper funding, the project should be ready for the first flight sometime in October of this year, adding that aviation authorities were already on the ground to supervise the work to ensure that it met standards and specifications.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, had said last year that the first flight would land at the airport by December 2016. That goal was not met.
At the Toru-Orua-Ekeremor road project, the project engineer, John Emonyon, said the 38-kilometer contract, which will cost N25 billion naira, had reached Ofoni community in Sagbama local government area. According to him, sand filling was over 11 kilometer while stone base was about 8.5 kilometer on the road that will connect three communities of Toru Orua, Angalabiri, and Ofoni.
Mr. Emonyon also spoke about the challenge of funding from the state government, explaining that the contractor could deliver the project within the next two years with adequate funding.
“We can deliver in the shortest possible time depending on all the factors. Work is going on. Even sand filling is being done from the Ekeremor end. In the next two years, we can finish it with adequate funding,” said Mr. Emonyon. He remarked that the cost of building materials had risen, adding that such price hikes might necessitate a variation in the cost of the contract. “The company has a cordial relationship with the host communities. We have enjoyed peace working here with no incidence of kidnapping so far,” he said.
Renovation at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex appeared to be going at a slow pace. The project’s Chief Security Officer, Teddy Bali, said all the civil engineering work had been done, and that installation of the synthetic grass was expected to commence anytime soon. He also said that the project was suffering from inadequate funding, a major reason for its incompletion. The renovation of the sports complex was scheduled for completion last year.