Sixty years after it was conceptualised, history was made on Saturday as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off a strategic bridge linking the riverine Oporoma, the headquarters of the largest local government area in Nigeria, Southern Ijaw, in Bayelsa State.
The flag-off, which was held at Angiama community, was preceded by a historic drive on the Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie road, which construction has reached Angiama.
Vice President Osinbajo commended Governor Diri for continuing projects that predated his administration, saying the 36km Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie road was significant as it will improve the economy of the people and reduce the incidence of sea piracy.
He noted that the partnership between the federal and state governments was working as evidenced in the refund of money spent by the state government on federal roads, assuring that the federal government will continue to support the state to enable it meet its developmental aspirations.
Prof. Osinbajo said the rural communities in Southern Ijaw were hosts to the nation’s oil and gas wealth and therefore deserved developmental projects such as the historic road.
The nation’s number two man said no inclusive prosperity can thrive without linking communities by road and charged the people of Southern Ijaw to take ownership of the project.
He also called on people of the state to support the Governor Diri administration to enable it deliver on its mandate.
He expressed the optimism that the project would be completed by the governor and urged him to continue to serve the people of the state diligently.
His words: “Let me thank my brother, Governor Diri, for inviting me to be part of the second anniversary celebrations and the traditional rulers for the title conferred on me.
“I also bring you warm greetings from President (Muhammadu)Buhari.
“I am, of course, very excited to join you for this project. Driving through the road, I appreciate the wonderful gift that nature has bestowed on the state.
“There will be no inclusive prosperity without linking communities by road. So this project is very important. We must commend our dear brother, Governor Diri and his team for continuing with this project that has been on the drawing board for over 60 years.
“The partnership between the federal and state government is working as evidenced in the refund of money used by the state for federal roads. We are confident that what your administration has started will be completed at the highest quality.
“I assure you of the support of the federal government and that you have not been forgotten. Once more, I congratulate Governor Diri and the beneficiary communities.”
In his remarks, Governor Douye Diri described the flag off of the link bridge as significant to the people of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area given the fact that it has been on the drawing board for over 60 years.
The governor said despite the daunting hurdles and notwithstanding the lean financial situation of the state, his Prosperity Government decided to prioritise the completion of the Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie road in furtherance of a strategic government master plan.
Describing the project as a Trunk A federal road, he expressed the readiness of the state government to partner the federal government to ensure the speedy completion of the project.
While commending the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC) for doing a good job so far, Diri directed the Ministry of Finance and its Works and Infrastructure counterpart to release not less than 70 per cent of the contract sum to the firm to enhance its job.
The state’s helmsman thanked the Vice President for finding time out of his right schedule to flag off the project and described him as a lover of the state and a friend of the Niger Delta.
He said: “That we are here today is the culmination of the collective prayers, resoluteness and singlemindedness of the people of Bayelsa State and a demonstration of the fact that determination and perseverance can make the most unlikely dream come true. Thank you for joining us to change the trajectory of development of Bayelsa State.
“Interestingly, this bridge project evokes a symbolism that is compelling. When the wonderful story of how a bridge changed the destiny of a people would be told, Your Excellency, your name will be conspicuously mentioned.
“Mr. Vice President, there is a particular symbolism in today’s event. In the same way that physical bridges connect places, collaboration is a ‘bridge’ that connects people and interests. Your presence exemplifies the bridge of cooperation that endures between this Government of Prosperity and the Federal Government. And similarly, it takes time, effort and planning to build cooperation, as it does a physical bridge. We are greatly encouraged by your attendance.
“This Yenagoa-Oporoma-Ukubie road project is only one of the few projects by the federal government in Bayelsa State. That this project has been ongoing for 60 long years is a sad parable of the lack of attention that successive federal governments have paid to the region that continues to provide the bulk of the nation’s resources, at severe and sacrificial cost.”
In a welcome address, the chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Chief Nigeria Kia, said the day was one of the happiest in the lives of all Southern Ijaw people given the significance of the project.
He said the local government, which has over 200 communities, has only about five connected by road.
Kia thanked Governor Diri for prioritising the project while assuring that the people of the area will continue to support him.
Also, the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Moses Teibowei, said the road was one of the three senatorial road projects aimed at opening up the state and boosting economic activities while also decongesting Yenagoa and reducing sea piracy.
Teibowei lauded CCECC and expressed optimism that the road will be completed within the specified time.
The traditional institution in the area conferred on Osinbajo the title of Ebi-akubowei 1 (one who seeks good or progress) of Angiama Kingdom.
Earlier, the Vice President Osinbajo paid a courtesy visit on the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council where he thanked custodians of the Ijaw tradition for the warm reception accorded him.
In his welcome remarks, Vice Chairman of the Traditional Rulers Council, King Malla Sasime, thanked Osinbajo for recognising the traditional stool by the visit.
Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State Governor