Since the dawn of creation, agriculture has played a prominent factor in the establishing of civilizations, empires, kingdoms and society.
While it is debatable whether agriculture is the first profession of man, the fact remains that any country that is not self sufficient in food production is likely to be at the mercy of those that export food to her. Such was the scenario during the height of the cold war between defunct USSR and the United States of America.
The American government used grain as a political and diplomatic weapon against USSR.
The same logic can also be extended to the realm of transportation ranging from the use of donkey, bicycle, and cars to trains and planes.
Thus in line with the two dominant roles of food and transportation, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Honourable Austin Chikezie and his counterpart in Transport, Honourable Vincent Uduaghan explained to Deltans through the press what their ministries had achieved in the past three years of the Okowa administration.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Honourable Austin Chikezie explained the objectives of his ministry. Said he: ‘The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has the mandate to facilitate the production of sufficient food for the teeming population of the state through direct assistance to farmers in the area of agricultural mechanization, provision of improved and high yielding seeds and other agricultural inputs, loans in cash and in kind and extension services. Other services provided include veterinary and produce inspection services‘.
Based on this core mandate of the ministry, Chikezie disclosed that there have been great achievements in the areas of oil palm development programme, cassava cuttings multiplication and distribution, rice production, fisheries, livestock development, the CBN anchor borrowers scheme, extension services, agricultural mechanization, farm settlement and Fadama among others. On the oil palm development programme, he stated that the scheme is tailored towards assisting oil palm farmers to increase their yields and production.
Chikezie said that in the year 2016, 220,000 improved oil palm seedlings were raised for distribution to farmers and to cultivate five hundred hectares of oil palm plantation. In 2017, the sum of one hundred and ninety-eight million naira was approved for the expansion of oil palm project, according to the commissioner. Similarly, in 2018, the sum of one hundred and ninety-five million naira has been approved to further consolidate the Small Holder Oil Palm scheme in the state.
On rice production, the commissioner stated thus :‘In the 2016 rice programme, the sum of fifty-one million Naira was approved and released to promote all season rice farming in the state. Sixty beneficiaries were selected, trained and supported in cash and kind. Three rice processing mills were purchased for rice farmers at Obior in Aniocha North, Ikweghwu-Agbarho in Ughelli North and Onicha Ukwani in Ndokwa west local government areas respectively. The programme created 60 direct jobs and 180 indirect jobs. In the Year 2017, the sum of fifty million Naira was approved for rice development project to further encourage its production. 198 rice farmers benefitted. A total of 242Ha of rice farms were cultivated to produce 1,500 metric tonnes of rice. Farm inputs consisting of 15,000kg of rice seeds, 900 bags of NPK fertilizer, 600 bags of Urea, 900 litres of glyphosphate and 600 litres of orizo plus were distributed to the rice programme beneficiaries. In this year 2018, the sum of N200,000.000.00 is budgeted for the rice programme which is targeted at 219 farmers to cultivate 300 hectares of rice farms when operational‘.
In the areas of fisheries, according to Chikezie, two cluster fish farms were established at Ewulu and Mbiri, saying that a total of 80 ponds were constructed at the clusters and that currently 50 participants are engaged by the programme. He also spoke of the benefit of the CBN anchor borrowers’ scheme and that over sixty thousands have been registered across the selected enterprises of cassava, rice and fisheries.
To help farmers make more yield, he said the government has approved the sum of N422,757,600.00 for the purchase of twenty new tractors and implements for farmers use.
On farm settlement, this what the commissioner said: ‘Delta state has three functional farm settlements namely Mbiri, Utagba-Uno and Okunigho Jesse farm settlements. They are presently inhabited by 319 selected farmers who are engaged in Tree and arable crop production such as oil palm, rubber, cassava, tomatoes, okra and vegetables‘.
The Commissioner for Transport, Hon Vincent Uduaghan stated that the broad goal of the ministry is to provide safe, reliable, efficient and integrated transport operations and infrastructure that will best meet the needs of passengers and freight services. He explained further on the policy thrust of the directorate :‘To channel all available resources to provide Delta State with adequate, sustainable, affordable, comfortable and safe transportation services in all modes as well as provide mechanical engineering/marine services to Deltans in general; to promote general mechanical/marine engineering practices in the execution of state policies and programmes and the provision of equipment support services as well as engineering practices relevant to the transportation industry for rapid development and improvement of transport infrastructure for the benefits of the citizens. The directorate is responsible for the design, supervision and administration of traffic control devices, inter-city/intra-city transportation and water craft services‘.
According to the commissioner, the Ministry of Transport under the period of review made some landmarks achievements in these areas :state urban transportation programme, development of tankers/trailers parks, collection of daily road tax, collection of revenue from the Warri tankers park, provision of road furniture, privatization of delta line, construction of Ultra-modern mechanic village, drivers‘ training school, delta state traffic management authority (DESTMA) and road safety measures among others.
On the state Urban Transportation Programme, Uduaghan has this to say: ‘You will recall that the previous administration procured many high capacity buses for intra and inter-city transportation and distributed to private operators at subsidized price. Some of these buses were returned with the approval of his Excellency, the governor, an inter-ministerial committee was set up to manage them.
Presently, these buses have been deployed and ply routes such as Asaba-Illah, Asaba-Otulu-Akwukwu Igbo and Asaba metropolis, charging subsidized fares to bring transportation closer to the people. Deltans and non Deltans are singing the praises of Governor Okowa led administration over the intra-city bus services.‘
The commissioner spoke of the divesting of Delta Line, saying that government divests 60 per cent of the state share under a private public partnership to avoid issues of mismanagement over the years. According to the commissioner, the benefits of this policy are :‘The arrangement will reposition the company in a better position to serve Deltans better. Deltans will have a feel of reaching their desired routes through the new partnership.‘
The commissioner also explained that the construction of the ultra-modern mechanic village will provide 83 mechanic workshops, 992 auto spare parts shop, a police post, a fire service post, a bank, a clinic, a designated motor park, car wash, central refuse dump and a union house. According to the commissioner, the project is 80 per cent completed.
He also spoke on the drivers‘ training school and the benefits to the products as ‘successful candidates can progress in their career from SLG 07 to SLG 14 as in the works superintendent cadre. The programme is meant also to polish drivers in terms of character and expression in the discharge of their duties. It also help in enhancing their general productivity mentally, psychologically and emotionally with their bosses and the public‘
Because of the chaotic traffic situation in Asaba and Warri, the state government established Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA). The Commissioner explained the benefits of this authority in these words :‘The State Government through the directorate inaugurated the Delta State Traffic Management Authority to take charge of traffic management in the state. The pioneer staff of the authority is drawn from the civil service (300) and newly recruited personnel (100) making 400 in all. The authority has commenced operations in Asaba, Warri/Effurun and Ughelli since 16th june, 2016. An 8-day induction training programme was carried out for the staff at Asaba from 7th-14th April, 2016. The training comprises para-military drills, practical and lectures delivered by officials of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA). The mandate of the authority is to ensure safety and total traffic compliance on our highways. To impact good driving habits on our drivers, it is hoped that with the inauguration of DESTMA accident cases on our highways will be reduced‘.
Since safety of passengers is paramount, the ministry of transport according to the commissioner put in place some road safety strategies in place. That the ministry has been constantly in road traffic patrol activities and general road checks throughout the state for the purpose of enforcing road traffic laws, edicts and regulations. It has also been involved in several road accidents rescue operations across the state.
On the collection of Certificate of Road Worthiness Fees, he explains thus :‘The directorate engaged a consultant, Tamfel Global Resources to process and issue certificate of road worthiness for vehicles across the state.
The demurrage accruing from the improved activities of the vehicle inspection activities has enhanced the internally generated revenue of the state‘. The testimonies of the two commissioners are reaffirmation of the resolve of the Okowa administration to make food available to Deltans and easy means of transportation from one point to another.