Victim Petitions IG over Delta Police Shooting


ANGERED by the manner he was shot and abandoned by security operatives drafted to maintain peace in a family quarrel at Ubulu Okiti, Aniocha South Council of Delta State, Mr. Chiasa Okeleke has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, in his quest for justice.

Delta State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Mr. Charles Muka said that he could not comment on the shooting as he was currently on course. Persistent attempts to reach his deputy and subordinates proved abortive.

Currently recuperating at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba, Delta State, Okeleke, who had gained admission to study Sociology at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), explained on his hospital bed that a family feud on September 5 led to the case being reported to the police by his cousins – Pastor Chris Anukposi, Francis Anukposi and Austine Chika Okeleke.

He said that when the police came to their home, they did not meet any of the suspects there as they were at a youth meeting.

The three cousins led the police to the venue of the meeting.

According to Okeleke, the police addressed the gathering and demanded that they report the following day to the police station.

The victim said he was surprised to learn, on his way to the Ogwashi-Uku Police Division, that his eldest brother had been arrested at a police checkpoint near Issele-Uku.

He accused the police of shooting sporadically for over 40 minutes, which forced the scared residents of the area to take to their heels.
Source: The Guardian, 1st November 2011.


The ill-Informed ripples over the transfer of non-Indigenes in Abia State Public Service

By Nduka Ugbade

Abia State Chapter of Niger Delta Youth Movement, have heard and seen the vitality of lending our stake holding voice and position on the vexed issue of transferring non-Abians, working in the State Public Service, back to their states of origin. This concern warranted the conveying of an emergency general meeting after our delegated spokes persons were detailed to liaise with designated government emissaries to properly educate us on the nitty-gritty of this programme and what it portends for Abians.

The nerve calming fall out of that fact finding session has made this public position inevitable.
But before accommodating other issues of critical importance, it will be appropriate to vehemently disagree with Mr. Femi Adesina, Deputy Managing Director and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Sun Newspapers. We take exception to his brand of those defending the Governor’s Policy as hirelings. They are duty bound to rally round the governor given the obvious truth that this government position is intended to protect the interest of Abians. Mr. Femi Adesina is right to have observed that majority of non-Abians in Abia State Civil Service hail from neighbouring states like Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi, but we can emphatically posit that he is oblivious of the wickedness Abia State Civil servants suffered in the hands of these States under review some years ago. 

Records do not lie, therefore the past and present government of our sister states can perfectly recall the holocaust of dismissals they un-leashed on Civil Servants of Abia extraction over 10 years ago and recently, 2002, 2006 and 2010. It was Late Chief C.C. Onoh of blessed memory, who championed this course probably for economic reasons, and the protection of his (Enugu) peoples’ interest. 

Consequently, throngs of Abians in Enugu Civil Service, numbering over 1,438 were transferred back to Abia. Imo later took a cue but unfortunately, executed theirs in a most dehumanizing manner. Aside the merciless sacking of Abians in Imo Civil Service, shortly after the creation of Abia state, there was a repeat occurrence just yesterday, under the watchful eyes of Achike Udenwa. Some 1198 teachers and Civil Servants were hounded back to Abia State from Imo and before Abians could blink an eye lid, the former government of Ikedi Ohakim bundled back the files of Abia indigenes who worked and retired in Imo state, for Abia to inherit the payment of their pensions and gratuities. Haba! 

Why is it that we are feigning ignorance of all these unwholesome acts meted out to Abians only to embark on these flotilla of attacks and incredible name calling on the person of Governor T.A. Orji, whose reason for trying to rationalize is equally hinged on economic indices and a little protection of the interest of Abians who as it were, have been completely out numbered in the State Public Service? We are of the opinion that some of us probably did not know or are still mastering the art of writing or better still have not become high flying media executives like we are today, and lubricating our popularity by pretending to be apostles of one Nigeria when infact, we are heroes of tribalism in that little position we are occupying. 

We had expected those who picked holes in this latest policy of Abia State, to replicate same on the originating states like Enugu, Imo, Benue, which sacked (380) Abians, Ebonyi (394), Cross River (310) and Akwa-Ibom (98), but all to no avail. We are however, aware that most columnists who wrote about it, and pretended not to know these incontrovertible truths are largely because they were advancing the course of their people who have been affected by this exercise.

Now, let us look at the tenability and veracity of these reasons as postulated by the Executive Committee of Abia State Government, which made the adoption of back-loading on transfer unavoidable:

(A) That so many Abians who reside and work in some Northern parts of the Country, have been displaced and no thanks to the violent upsurge, spearheaded by Muslim fundamentalists most of whom go by the acronym: Boko-Haram. Some even opted to come home so as not to die innocently and carelessly. These returnee Abians, are now pestering Abia government for re-absorption. This is aside from the fact that the government of Abia State conducted a recruitment exercise into the State Civil Service some time during the Governor’s first tenure. Almost one year into the Governor’s second tenure, no single Abian has benefited from that exercise. Reason being that the system is simply bloated and cannot tolerate more hands, except there is a rational re-engineering.

(B) That the pupil-teacher ratio in the state has gotten to an un-bearable stage due to the alarming scenario of having 3-4 teachers in a class of 30-35 pupils. Regrettably too, these teachers, majority of whom are non-indigenes delight in abdicating their official responsibilities to lavish official time to their shops and businesses. 

(C) That the reality of the N18,000 minimum wage, can only fly, if the system is rationalized with a view to accommodating other realities and essentialities. Abia is desirous of infrastructural breather with a view to attracting more domestic and foreign investments. The critical financial situation of the state, demands being conscientious, so as not to sheepishly mal-administer the state. As stakeholders in the state, and if the likes of Mr. Femi Adesina will care to believe this truth, the oil producing status of Abia State, is not commensurate with federation allocation accruing to her. As incredible as it may sound, the truth still remains that the financial implications of the recovered 43 oil wells erroneously farmed to neighbouring Rivers State is yet to be computed.

If workers wage bill, presently stands at N1.9 billion monthly, exclusive of the non-negotiable N18,000 minimum wage, an estimated addition of another N1.9 billion in the event of complying with the new wage regime would flatten other critical sectors of the state socio-economic endeavour except something is urgently done. Mr. Femi Adesina will be up in arms against Governor T.A. Orji for making himself a salary paying governor who cared little or nothing about basic amenities. But he is refusing to see reasons why Abia should re-engineer to do better, but will not deny that over time, his organization have had to rationalize for optimum performance. The public sector is fast changing from becoming an all covers affairs. This reality is forcing government in every state to embrace far reaching reforms and introduce checks and balances, to smoke out ghost workers and swoop on corrupt officials, who delights in falsification of retirement records, so as to keep elongating their stay.

Kaduna and Yobe States are presently reforming their public service structure for better performance. Every State Governor is expected to make impact in their respective States, without prejudice to Nigerian Unity. After all, no body will ask chief T.A. Orji what he achieved in Nigeria but in Abia, when he was Governor of the State. The difficult but inevitable option of rationalizing the work force of Abia State, began with Abians themselves. Before the expiration of 2011, over 120 Directors and 26 Permanent Secretaries would have bided good bye to the service. Reason: the introduction of a terminal 8 years for Directors and 4 years for Permanent Secretaries, will affect so many Abians in that cadre. Government is desirous of balancing the lopsided nature of those sensitive positions with a view to accommodating the interest of other zones in the State.

Identifying with the option of transferring non-Abians back to their States was indeed a bitter pill which Governor T.A. Orji fought hard to swallow. In the light of its necessity, the governor quietly wrote his brother Governors in the South-East, in a two page letter prostrating and explaining to his brothers, why the state executive council of Abia State had to do what they did and urging them to accept their indigenes likely to be affected by the transfer including Abia women married by our brothers in other South-East States. If the action of Abia State Government was in retaliation for the humiliation Abians suffered in the hands of other South-East States in the past, the government of Chief T.A. Orji would have executed same, during his first tenure.

One wonders why this civil position is pedestrian and watery for Mr. Femi Adesina to accept when juxtaposed with the no excuse situation that heralded the horrendous ejection of Abians from the employ of other South-East States. Let us recall that during the days under review, the rate of unemployment wasn’t this worrisome and neither was a certain wage bill, forced down the throat of any state government, yet our sister States treated us like out casts. Would our dear Mr. Femi Adesina have preferred that our kit and kin in the volatile regions of the north continue to suffer pogrom like they suffered before the Nigerian-Biafra Civil War, simply because they have sympathy for one Nigeria? 

Hell no. Igbos, nay Abians have sacrificed the most in this business of one Nigeria. They have consistently fallen victim of every provocation no matter how little. Some of our people in the north dusted their feet as biblically admonished to return home for shelter and no responsible government will her own.

The sleight hand of oneness if any has been largely exploited by our south-east relations at the disadvantage of Abians who rather harangue and shove them aside, when there is an opportunity to gain from any programme that will promote these brotherly bonds. State of origin becomes the yard stick for partaking in the ultimate reward. Just recently, the government of Imo state reviewed the school fees of Imo state University Owerri. That review came up with a lower school fees for indigenes of Imo State, while students of other states pays higher.

But all hell will let loose, if same is the case in Abia State University. Federal character, as provided for in the Nigerian constitution is a pre-requisite for the enjoyment of certain opportunities. Meaning that you need to be an indigene of a state or local government area before your qualification for a particular position is considered. If we keep indulging in the recognition of statehood, in other situations and hurriedly collapse it when it has to do with an Abian, we will make him look like a bat which is neither here nor there.

Our brother Femi Adesina, should not be more catholic than the pope. Niger Delta Youth Movement is not contesting your right to free speech but it would have made more sense, if there was a historical perspective to it. That is not to say that you are about to loose your teeming readers in Abia State, who read your column with ravishing relish. But we kindly advice, that when next you look at sensitive issues like this, do it from both sides of the coin.

We sincerely empathize with our people from South-East and other affected states and urge them to take it by their stride and see this as a necessary sacrifice that will help stabilize the already precarious but once vibrant Abia State Public Service. 

Niger Delta Youth Movement, Abia State Chapter still believes in one united and indivisible Ndi-Igbo irrespective of their states of origin.

Kingsley OkereHon. Felix A. Ogbonna
Ag. State Chairman National Welfare Officer 
Source: Ngex, 26th October 2011.


Delta denies alleged arrest of commissioner over drugs


Ubeku tasks Uduaghan on governance

AGAINST the backdrop of a newspaper report (not The Guardian) that a Delta State commissioner was recently arrested over the possession of illicit drugs, the state government has debunked the claim.

Meanwhile, a former Presidential aspirant of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Abel Ubeku at the weekend in Asaba urged Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to focus on providing basic social amenities in the state.

In a statement by the State Commissioner for Information Mr. Chike Ogeah yesterday, he said, “The attention of the Delta State Government has been drawn to a report in a newspaper of Saturday, October 15, 2011 to the effect that a serving commissioner in the state has been arrested on allegation of possessing cocaine. This is absolutely false. We state unequivocally that no commissioner in Delta State was arrested or suspected to be involved in the trafficking of hard drugs. Every commissioner and member of the Delta State Executive Council is accounted for.

“Although investigations are still ongoing, we have established the fact that in some instances, official documents of the Delta State Government certifying that the holder is an official of the state government may have been fraudulently issued. It has equally been established that the persons issued such documents were not indigenes of Delta State. However, the Delta State Government is collaborating with the relevant security agencies in ongoing investigations. In effect, all employees of the Abuja Liaison Office have been directed to cooperate with investigators in order to determine the source of and persons associated with unauthorised issuance of official state documents.”

Ubeku, who spoke with reporters when a delegation of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Delta State Bankers’ Award Night 2011 Edition visited Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN) decried the poor state of infrastructure in the state.

He said that the state government was duty bound to give an account for the several billions of dollars that had accrued to it since he assumed office in 2007.

He advised that the state’s resources should be focused on either road, electricity, water and others instead of handling several projects at a time without result.

He added, “While we are in position of authority we should improve on what we met on ground.

Let us leave a legacy behind, impact positively on where we come from.”

According to him, he spends so much to service his power generating set as a result of unstable power supply in the country, pleading with those in authority or those who have the opportunity to focus on priorities instead of pretending as if things were very difficult.

In his remarks, Utuama assured that the observations would be taken seriously, noting that the administration was committed to power supply through partnership with the Federal Government and had expended N15.7 billion on the Independent Power Project (IPP).
Source: The Guardian, 17
th October 2011.


Delta State Commissioner, Others Nabbed Over Cocaine Possession
Shehu Abubakar and Monday Osayande

Asaba — Officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and operatives of the State Security Services (SSS) have arrested a commissioner with Delta State government over possession of drugs. Some other officials from the state liaison office in Abuja have also been arrested and detained over complicity in the matter. NDLEA Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Mitchel Ofoyeju, confirmed the arrest but insisted that Weekly Trust should reach out to the SSS for further details. He said the agency would not want the identity of the suspects revealed at this stage of the investigation.

Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah however, told Weekly Trust in his office that an official of the state government attached to the Abuja Liaison Office was arrested by the SSS, allegedly in connection with unlawful possession of cocaine. "One or two elements within the system in Abuja office have been involved in the procurement of official Nigerian passports to non-Delta State indigenes by providing them with the state government letter head papers. I don't know whether the arrested person is the Abuja liaison officer or some people working under him."

Ogeah added: "I cannot confirm to you now his level, but I know there is someone who is under arrest he is helping the SSS in their investigations. The issue of using the state official documents to get fake official passport for certain persons, presenting them as Delta state government officials has been on for close to two years." He claimed that the drug barons are people from across the Niger who travel outside the country and were caught with Nigerian official passports, where it is indicated that they are Delta State government officials. They are not from Delta and are not commissioners as they claim. They just want to bring embarrassment to the state."

Both the suspected drug-peddler allegedly found with drugs and an official passport identifying him as a serving commissioner with Delta State government and officials of the state liaison office in Abuja as well as a young man accused of introducing the drug suspect to the Liaison Officer are being detained at the FCT Command of NDLEA at Gudu, in Abuja.

Officials at the SSS and Immigrations office in Abuja that refused to be quoted told Weekly Trust that the type of official passports found in custody of the drug baron are reserved for top government officials and holders of such passports enjoy a lot of immunity.
Source: Daily Trust,
th October 2011.


Delta communities, firm bicker over oil well location


ABOUT 22 communities in Delta State are currently at loggerheads with multinational oil company, Nigerian AGIP Oil Company Limited over the location of an oil well on a 500-hectare land within Bomadi and Burutu local government areas of the state.

The communities, during a mediation meeting with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, yesterday in Abuja, pointed out that AGIP only recognised two out of the 22 communities for compensation, while neglecting the   others.

Among the issues raised at the meeting are those of land ownership, citing of the oil well and water pollution, for which the minister had set up a six-man technical committee. The committee consisted of three persons representing the communities, two people from the ministry and one from AGIP.

The issue of water pollution came as a result of AGIP’s dredging to access the oil well location where it intends to begin exploration soon.

The minister instructed the committee to design a roadmap for the meeting to follow in resolving the issues. First of the issue is land ownership. This came about because AGIP currently only recognises two communities while 20 others are also claiming rights to the land and the compensation derivable from it.

According to representatives of the communities present at the meeting, the matter had earlier been tabled before the Delta State Government, which had recognised six more communities for compensation.

However, the other communities do not find that decision favourable, a reason they have resorted to having the Federal Government through the minister, settle it.

While speaking at the meeting, AGIP’s General Manager for Geo-services, Mr. Babatope Olaleye, said his company had intended to move into the area for exploration and would like to bring development into the area just like it had done in other areas where it operates.

He explained that AGIP had paid compensation to the two communities, which have ownership of the land where the well is to be located.

“But we started having issues with neighbouring communities after this. Delta State Government intervened and four other communities were added and we brought them on board. However, 22 communities are now laying claim to this land,” he said.

“We want to continue to work while the resolution process goes on,” Olaleye stated, pledging AGIP’s commitment to complying with whatever decision is reached in the end.

One of the communities’ representatives who spoke at the meeting noted that against AGIP’s statement that four other communities were recommended for compensation by the Delta State Government, the number was six, and that none of them had been compensated, except for the first two, Oyagbene and Labobulouseigha, which AGIP had compensated while neglecting the others.

The communities that had been compensated were however, not at the meeting.

Aside from compensation and land ownership, the communities claimed that the dredging carried out in the area in 2010, caused water pollution, which made drinking water scarce in the area. To this end, AGIP had not done anything, they said.

“The only reason there is still peace in the area is because we don’t want to embarrass our sons; the minister and the president. We’ve been writing to AGIP, but no response,” one of the community leaders said.

While speaking at the meeting, the minister implored the communities to rather embrace contractors instead of protesting and engaging in activities that would chase development workers away from the region. According to him, it was not needful for the communities to have gone to court like they did, over an issue that could be discussed and resolved amicably.

“We’re supposed to have understanding with the oil companies. People fought and lost their lives for the development of the Niger Delta. Unfortunately our people disturb the contractors instead of embracing them. If you don’t work as a group when your own is the president what will you do when your own is not there?

“We’ll not have this opportunity for a long time. This can’t take us anywhere.
Source: The Guardian, 13th October 2011.


Uduaghan and the Vermins

By Chioma Ugbechie

British politician, John Bright, now late, once wrote of Abraham Lincoln in the Cincinnati Gazette:  “He was like a waiter in a large eating house where all the bells are ringing at once; he cannot serve them all at once and so some grumblers are to be expected”. Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States . 

His ascendancy to the Presidency provoked a civil war era and it took his tact, emotional intelligence and far-sightedness to pull the American Union together in spite of the coalition of centrifugal forces trying to pull the Union apart. The southern confederates of the American Union did not fancy a Lincoln presidency which they feared would abolish their juicy slave business. Lincoln was vocal in his condemnation of slavery as an unjust act of man against a fellow man.

In the midst of the civil war, Americans saw America almost disintegrating. The Union needed a voice to rise above the maddening din of the hour and instil a sense of belonging in the people. Lincoln effectively played that role. He was gentle yet steely; soft yet firm but above all, he was able to galvanise the people to buy into his vision of a new America. A democrat to his marrows, but the circumstance of that time necessitated him to assume the halo of a dictator, making Lincoln to acquire more power than any American president before him.

Till date, his rousing of the people at Gettysburg (The Gettysburg Speech) remains one of the enduring totems of American civilisation. It is to the credit of the one the Americans call ‘Honest Abe’ that the United States of America still stands today as one indivisible Union. Yet, in spite of his sterling achievements and the legendary leadership skills he evinced while in office, there were still loud grumble from some Americans. While some perceived him as high-handed, others saw a dull and dour grump. Honest Abe, in spite of his well-known honesty, never pleased the whole of America .

This was what prompted Bright to comment in the Cincinnati Gazette on the cross Lincoln had to bear for doing good, to wit, rescuing America from the jaws of war. For his vision and steadfastness, Lincoln became a victim of the most vitriolic attacks from American politicians including members of his Republican party. It is the way of politics. Muck-raking is an essential ingredient of political shenanigan.

As a student of history and researcher on leadership, I have discovered that the most tasking aspect of leadership is not being the top cat of a multi-national corporation, it is leading men, no matter how few, in a democratic environment. Often, men take advantage of the liberties of free speech, free enterprise and freedom of association to undermine the establishment.

In Nigeria, one state comes close in comparison with the American example. Delta State , by far the most ethnically diverse state in the country, offers a clue to unlocking the dynamics of political leadership in the country. It parades the most acerbic opposition. It is governed by the ruling party, the PDP, yet even that has done little to shield the leadership from the darts of the opposition, and sometimes from the self-contrived implosion in the PDP. At the centre of the vortex is Emmanuel Uduaghan, a medical doctor and governor of the state.

Since he was sworn in as governor on May 29, 2007, he has come under a heavy weather of criticisms; some constructive, some puerile and some downright whimsical. Anybody who relies on the media spins of the opposition to assess the governor would come away with the impression that Uduaghan is under-performing. His traducers have sworn to an oath of selective amnesia: they will only see evil even where good is flourishing. 

They are incurable cynics who never see any good in another. A cynic sees nothing but faults and acknowledges nothing but lapses, most times such lapses are non-existent but mischievously created in his prejudiced imagination. Uduaghan’s critics, a small crowd of knockers who pretend to see the inside of a house better than those who live in it, do exactly this. They have gone senseless with their vicious criticisms and monotonous cynicisms. 

They epitomise the base values of the critic which Henry Beecher, the late American preacher once described as one who “never sees a good quality in a man, and never fails to see a bad one. He is the human owl, vigilant in darkness and blind to light, mousing for vermin and never seeing noble game”.

Uduaghan’s critics are vigilant in darkness. They are blind to light, blind to reality and the most pathetic of it all is their refusal to admit that the state is under-going transformation in diverse areas. They say the Asaba airport is a ruse; that it does not exist yet everyday they fly into and out of Asaba through the same airport. They speak of a decrepit healthcare system yet their mothers, sisters and aunts benefit from the free maternal care of the Uduaghan government. 

They talk about the sorry state of roads but everyday they cruise through the richly asphalted mesh of roads criss-crossing the state; they pretend not to see the solar-powered street lights that have helped to stymie the pervasion of crime in the state. No, they will not notice the far-reaching reforms in education, the turning of weapons of warfare to ploughshare by the militants. Never would they credit Uduaghan for his revolutionary peace initiatives and rapprochement which have birthed a new era of peace in a state that was once a theatre of savagery.

Because they are blind to reality and are eternally fated to peddling falsehood, Uduaghan’s critics would not notice that while other states are convulsing with demonstrations and strike by workers over the non-implementation of the new minimum wage, Delta State is at peace. This is because long before the federal government decided to make the issue of minimum wage a state policy, Delta State was already paying a living wage to its workers.

Those of us who live in Delta know that the governor is not being vilified on account of non-performance. He is being attacked on account of where he comes from and not what he has done or failed to do in office. This is the peculiar nature of Delta politics. It is politics of ethnicity and of the belly. It is the most banal brand of politics. This is why Uduaghan should not lose sleep over a mob of cynics that is fated to seeing good as evil. 
Ugbechie writes from Warri.
Source: Sun, 27th September 2011.


Uduaghan lauds London court’s decision on Ogoni oil spill

Delta governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, on Friday, commended a British High Court, which ordered Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria to pay compensation to Bodo community in Ogoniland of Rivers.

He said that the court’s decision was a signal to other oil companies whose activities in the Niger Delta region had, over the years, denied the owners of the land, their means of livelihood through devastation of the environment.

In a statement in Asaba, by Mr Paul Odili, his Communication Manager, Uduaghan said that the London court’s verdict was an indication that justice is gradually being done to the people of the region after decades of neglect and protracted litigation.

He remarked that the situation was so bad for the people of the area that the oil firms even refused to clean up spillage and accept responsibility for their failures.

"For years, spillage have occurred incessantly in the zone, with no one accepting to halt the devastation that gradually eroded the livelihood of the people of the zone, who are mainly farmers and fishermen.

"I welcome the decision of the UK Court in London on the Bodo community petition over the oil spill that occurred in 2008.

‘’The suit filed by the affected community is a clear indication of the increasing awareness of the people to the harm being done to them and to seek justice through due process instead of violence. "

The governor disclosed that one of the causes of the Niger Delta crisis was that people of the area were forced into violence because of mass poverty occasioned by wanton degradation of their environment.

He, however, said that "the truth is that despite this victory, the Niger Delta is still an environmental wasteland on account of several oil spills not cleaned up as quickly as it should. 

Uduaghan said his interest in environmental issues was to seek ways to urge the international support to take more committed actions to protect the environment.

"I have, as part of steps to determine the harm done to Delta, appointed a university academic and international consultant, Prof. Richard Steiner, to study and conduct an assessment of the damage in the state from oil and gas exploration and exploitation over the last 50 years.

"The aims of this exercise are to identify the damage caused by five decades of oil and gas development in Delta, advice on remediation strategy and reduce the risk of future damage. "

He called on people of the area to see the court’s decision as the tonic needed to open their eyes more and strengthen them in the agitation for remedies to their sufferings and legal actions for enduring justice.
Source: Daily Independent, 7th August 2011.


Asaba Airport: New gateway to the East

IN July 2008, it was a dream. Yet, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State who saw a potential money-spinner, asked the former Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, to lay the foundation stone in Asaba, the state capital. On Monday, the vision has been realised with the landing of a commercial plane on the Asaba International Airport.

The Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah said with the successful landing of commercial flights on the airport, it was an indication that the edifice was fully ready for the purpose it was built.

An ecstatic Ogeah had said that with the landing of two airliners from Abuja with passengers last week Wednesday, commercial flights to the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos were set.

The two aircraft, one each from Prime Air and Overland had landed at the airport almost the same time at about 3.00 p.m. to the admiration of Dr. Uduaghan who was personally there with his deputy, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN) and other top government officials to welcome the passengers.

Another 48-seater Overland plane from Abuja marked 5N-BND landed at the airport on Monday at 12.17 p.m. When the doors swung open, among the 20 passengers who alighted from the plane was Sam Arowosafe, an engineer. He commended the standard of the airport facilities.

Arowosafe said that the project was a good development, as it would boost the economic development of the state:  “This is a good development. We are happy to be here and it will reduce cost.”

Another passenger, Ezechi Nwoye remarked that the airport has made air transport easy for the people living in neighbouring Anambra State just across the River Niger.

Both Arowosafe and Nwoye explained that before now they had to travel to Benin Airport, some 156km away to board flights but with the start of operations in Asaba, it will definitely cost them less to travel by air.

Uduaghan who also made the historic flight on the Overland aircraft last Wednesday said that what once was a dream has manifested into concrete reality.

He explained that even the best airport in the world still has some minor works going on either in the form of renovation or adding more facilities.

The governor therefore appealed to Nigerians to be patient and follow the trend in airport development as it was not easy to completely finish work in an airport in one fell swoop.

Ogeah said that the runway, the control tower, the taxiway and all the necessary communication equipment have been installed.

According to him, safety gadgets, which are of international standard have been installed.

The Airport Project Director, Austin Ayemidejor added that aviation security, meteorological and other staff needed for the smooth running of the airport have been recruited.

He said that check-in counter, luggage scanners and landing instrument, have since been installed while workers of the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have been deployed to the various departments.

When Uduaghan announced late last year during an unscheduled visit that going by the progress of construction work on the airport, it was going to begin operations very shortly, not many took him serious. Of course, time and again, he had said that the first aircraft will indeed “land in a few weeks’ time”.

Way back on January 4, 2008 the then Commissioner for Information, Oma Djebah had assured that the government was committed to building a modern airport in Asaba.

Built on a vast virgin land on the Benin-Asaba highway, the project received a fair share of criticism from opposition members of the state. The cost was scoffed at so also is the duration. But all that seemed history now with the landing of four commercial flights on July 13 and 18.

The government had initially valued the airport project at N14 billion then scaled it down to N7 billion but eventually pumped in N17.5 billion after the initial N5 billion voted for it.

The airport comes with a three-kilometre runway, a modern terminal building and a car park for over 1,000 vehicles.

Even with a multinational-owned airport at Osubi, Effurun, the government had defended the project saying that it was not correct for the people of the state to travel by road to neighbouring states to board planes each time they wanted to travel.

As for Osubi Airport, Uduaghan assured that it will not be neglected as expansion work to pave way for the landing of bigger planes was on.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Uduaghan had promised to complete the project well ahead of the 24 months duration.

As a result of the expansion of the runway, he said that the airport could accommodate big passenger and cargo planes.

The governor said that he decided to go ahead with the project, which was conceived by his predecessor in office, Chief James Ibori because of many reasons.

According to him, people in Asaba have to travel to neighbouring states to fly and in the process, waste several man-hours on the road because of the simple fact that the Delta State capital did not have an airport.

With the huge eastern market just across the River Niger, Uduaghan said that the project would be viable.

“Asaba has been suffering the problem of no airport for a very long time. This will not be an abandoned project. Asaba is long overdue for an airport and we are determined to complete it no matter the cost,” he vowed.

Besides, the governor said that once the project takes off, a lot of jobs will be provided, adding that this will help in checking youth restiveness in the state, which is very rampant because of the high rate of unemployment.

According to him, the project was embarked upon to encourage investors and will be a major link to many parts of the country.

The Minister of Finance and a former Managing Director at the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala commended the project emphasizing that it would be an excellent business gateway to the eastern part of the country when completed.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala who had accompanied Uduaghan on an inspection tour of the project then expressed delight that the state governor not only had the will to begin the project but also was determined to complete it in quick time from the facts on the ground.

Even before the completion of construction work, the Federal Government promptly granted an operational licence to the airport, citing the facilities on ground which the former Minister of Aviation, Babatunde Omotoba said were of high standard.

He said: “You have made the right decision by building an airport of international standard in Asaba…I am very pleased with the project because you have channeled your resources in the right direction...”

For Utuama, the head of the project implementation team, the aim of the state government is to make the airport a world class.

He said that the project would make the government to realise its dream of turning the state to the hub of economic activities in the country.
Source: The Guardian, 24th July 2011.


Asaba airport begins flight operations today


AFTER the completion of installation of navigational and operational facilities, commercial flights will today begin at the Asaba Airport.

Delta State Commissioner of Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah in a statement made available to The Guardian said the opening of the airport today for flight operations brings to reality the vision of the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to open up the state not just to the rest of the country but the global business community.

Abuja and Lagos are the two routes to be serviced by Overland Airways which will operate daily flights to both cities.

The first flight departs Asaba for Lagos at 11.30am while the Asaba to Abuja flight takes off at 2.15pm.

The airport has been certified for commencement of commercial flights by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) which already have their complement of personnel on ground.
Source: The Guardian, 18th July 2011.


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