By Konbowei Benson.
Aside from being a pathway linking two or more geographical areas, a bridge is symbolic of communication, union and an unfolding of limitless opportunities. It is inherently an invitation to explore the best of both sides. Be it a physical engineering construction or an abstract build as regards individuals and relationships, bridges take quite a toll to build. Hence, the apparent reluctance to do so, especially in unfavourable circumstances and terrains. It takes one with vision and commitment to surmount the obstacles and go ahead with the task as the benefits often far outweigh the initial woes.
Bayelsa state is known to have notoriously difficult geography, often leaving leaders and constructors with long periods of head-scratching dilemmas and most times very little will to shape the state into a beneficial landscape for the good of the economy and its people. So when the news of how well Governor Diri Douye is handling infrastructural development in the state filters around the country, one can only marvel at such desire and commitment to both human and environmental development. Owing to a recent spate of infrastructural engagements by the Bayelsa state government, it was no surprise when the good people of Nembe and Brass areas of the state trooped out in mass to celebrate in approval and appreciation of the fact that at last a solid surfaced transit structure is about to connect both historic areas.
In the company of a representative of the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Rasheed Fashola to flag off the construction of a trans-Atlantic highway from the ancient and very strategic Nembe region to Twon-Brass on the cusps of the Atlantic Ocean, Diri Douye and various stakeholders had on the 24th of June 2022 enjoyed a heart warming welcome from the people as construction work was flagged off. It is worthy of note that the Nembe-Brass regions of Bayelsa state play a massive role in the growth of the economy of not just Bayelsa state but Nigeria as a whole. It is quite puzzling that this development didn’t come up in much earlier years of leadership in the state. Well, I believe it boils down to the earlier stated fact that it takes a determined leader to surmount seemingly difficult situations. Governor Diri Douye is proving to be one such leader.
This important construction is to be handled by construction giant, Setraco Nigeria Limited with all paperwork seemingly completed, hence the celebrations that accompanied the flag off of work. This is keeping in line with the promises made by the self-styled “miracle governor” who had made a solemn pledge to the people of this vital area that his administration will work hard to ease their plight. A clear difficulty in the movement of goods and services across rural areas, the worrisome idea of the hinterland being effectively cut off from the bubbling business districts and the daily loss of lives and properties while attempting to surmount the obstacles posed by the Atlantic Ocean and mashy swamps. All these pose a serious debacle to these people for far too long and now will be a thing of the past.
The immense show of upliftment on the faces of the people as they danced wasn’t only of elation but also relief and satisfaction towards a promise kept and warm reception of equity. The people are well aware of the role their lands play in national revenue generation and only an equitable leadership can recognise the importance of such a project. The Nembe-brass areas have the highest availability of oil wells in the state and Nembe is particularly known to have deep in its grounds the most valued type of crude. The Brent crude oil is of enormous financial status on the international market, one benefit that the Nigerian state has been feeding off since its creation. This region is in the Bayelsa East senatorial district which also hosts sites of national historical reference, most notable among which is Oloibiri, the site where crude was first discovered in Nigeria.
The socio-economic benefits of completing a linking road across the Atlantic to connect these areas are of enormous positive proportions. Aside from easing the transit pains and mitigating the loss of lives and properties on the ocean, it will further maximise the economic benefits the areas offer to the state and the country. The project will also boost various areas of human livelihood and create alternative outlets of revenue as the tourism potential in the area is huge if well enhanced. The people are of course predominantly into the fishing trade. This highway will boost this sector of trade as goods can easily be exchanged between the main business districts of the state and the hinterlands, definitely echoing limitless possibilities for both markets and their traders.
This project will also bring into play a staggeringly huge amount of capable human resources attached to the area. Illustrious sons and daughters that maybe, have been put off by the age-long constraints of proper commuting from the area shying away from directing wealth creation it’s the way. This will give these capable hands the impetus to invest and help develop the area even more. The trans-Atlantic highway is set to open up the rural swampy areas of Nembe-Brass and will be a defining legacy for this administration, hopefully when it is completed. A testament to the people-oriented projects that the Diri Douye led government is prioritising, keeping in line with its manifesto to the people. Completing this seemingly mammoth task will give more vibration to the idea of establishing a seaport that is flirting around in some quarters. This idea although still in its postulating stages will be massive for the state and Nigeria as a whole, particularly bearing in mind the various oil and natural gas projects ongoing in the area. It will no doubt open up the country to vast opportunities and ease of doing business in the oil, fertilizer and petrochemical industries.
Despite the challenges prevalent in these times, the Governor is showing commitment to solving age-long problems in the land and waters of Bayelsa state. A persistent menace of militancy spiralling into sustained acts of sea piracy and kidnappings is set to see a downward trend. As the sounds of heavy machinery and construction chatters reverberate around the airwaves of the Nembe-Brass region, I am sure it will be good music to the ears of the populace. Just another testament to the fact that the present administration is out to make a lasting impact on the lives of Bayelsans.
*Dr. Benson is the former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government.