The partners implementing the Ogbia–Nembe road project in Bayelsa State have vowed to complete it as scheduled, despite the recent killing of two soldiers and the kidnapping of an expatriate worker at the site.
The N24 billion road project, is being implemented by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC.
The pledge was made yesterday at a meeting, which was initiated by the NDDC, to find a quick resolution to the impasse arising from the attack. The meeting, which was hosted by the Bayelsa State Government at Government House, Yenagoa, had in attendance representatives of all key stakeholders on the very important project.
These were the Bayelsa State government, led by Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (Rtd.), the Niger Delta Development Commission, led by Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, led by Mr. Evans Krukrubo and Setraco, the construction company, led by its Managing Director, Mr. Fayez Khalaf. Also in attendance were all arms of the Joint Task Force and security agencies, as well as representatives of communities impacted by the project, led by a representative of the Amanyanabo of Nembe, King Edmund Daukoru.
The Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, who presided at the meeting, said that the construction of the 25.7-kilometre Ogbia-Nembe Road was a dream come true for the over 14 communities on its path. He said that the loss of lives and kidnapping at the construction site was regrettable, but expressed delight that the contractor had made a commitment to redouble efforts in completing the project.
The Deputy Governor advised the security agencies to always collaborate and back each other to ensure effective coverage of the vulnerable communities, adding that the state government would continue to provide the necessary logistic support.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, thanked the Bayelsa State Government for hosting the meeting to drive the completion of the Ogbhia-Nembe road, which she described as a model in partnership. She commended the SPDC for remaining steadfast in funding the project, noting that the NDDC had so far committed over N8 billion to it.
Mrs. Semenitari commended the security agencies for their efforts in providing security for those working on the project and promised that the NDDC would provide assistance to relatives of the soldiers that lost their lives in the area. “We plead with the communities in the area to help us in safeguarding the lives of those who are working for the development of their area. We also appeal to the Bayelsa State Government to help to improve security in the communities to boost the confidence of the contractors who had agreed to go back to site,” she said.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the Commission was still counting on the partnership of SPDC in executing the second phase of the Ogbia-Nembe Road, which would extend to Brass. She explained: “We have made provisions in our budget for the second phase. We urge Shell to also prepare to partner with us on this. We expect the Bayelsa State Government to give us its design for the Nembe- Brass Road to enable us start work in that direction.”
The Community Interface Manager for SPDC, Mr. Evans Krukrubo, affirmed that the partnership with the NDDC on the Ogbia-Nembe Road had been very successful, stating that it was encouraging that the project had reached 97 per cent completion. “We are very proud to be associated with this project. This kind of partnership is what the Niger Delta needs,” he said.
According to Mr. Krukrubo, “we are almost at the finish line. We must make sure that we get there. We must get through with the challenges and complete the project.” He assured that SPDC would pay the outstanding Interim Payment Certificates to facilitate the speedy completion of the project.
The Managing Director of Setraco, Mr. Fayez Khalaf, promised to deploy more men on the project to ensure that the April 29 target date was met. To achieve this goal, however, he urged the funding partners to release more money for the project, as well as provide adequate security for the workers.
In his own remarks, the Chairman of Nembe Council of Chiefs, Chief Awaki Gamdede, said that the communities had set up monitoring groups to assist the security agencies in their efforts to provide adequate security in the area. He called for support for the monitoring teams to make them more effective.