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The Ondo State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan has assured that the State Government will not relent in championing the course for the development of the Niger Delta region and advocating its interest at every opportunity and forum.

Igbasan disclosed this on Friday 6th October, when he paid a courtesy visit to the Corporate Headquarters of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC).

Welcoming the Commissioner, the Chairman of the Commission, Hon. Sam Erejuwa reeled out some of his administration’s activities across communities in the mandate areas, since his assumption of office.

These include construction of roads, renovation of schools, construction of water treatment plant in Molutehin, reconstruction of the abandoned General Hospital, Agadagba-Obon and the construction of the School of Maritime Transport and Logistics, in Ugbo-Nla among others.

Erejuwa further highlighted some of the challenges confronting the people of the mandate areas in their daily lives. Of major concern are the lack of concrete jetties and walkways (with many dilapidated ones) dearth of well equiped health centres, dilapidated schools, lack of portable water for drinking and domestic use and absence of toilets facilities.

Speaking further, Erejuwa revealed that to mitigate the current economic reality, the Commission has concluded plans to increase Bursary Award paid to assist students from the mandate areas studying various courses across higher institutions in the country from N40,000 to N50,000.

Also, palliatives are to be provided for staff and selected people across the mandate areas.These, Erejuwa said necessitated the preparation of a supplementary budget.

Reacting, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan commended the Sam Erejuwa led Board and Management for its leadership and positive impacts in the mandate areas.

While lauding the Commission for its giant strides in the area of infrastructures, Igbasan advised that the Commission should look inward on how to tap from the abundant potentials of the coastal areas, thereby boosting its economy. He equally charged that human capital development should receive more priority to strike a balance.

According to him, there is the need to train our youths who are now digitally inclined. For many years, Ayetoro Community was reputable for technical activities, innovation, skills and entrepreneurship before the recent sea encroachment. This he said can be replicated to empower the teeming youths who would in turn contribute to the development of their communities.

While advocating for prudency and cost-effective service delivery in the award and executing of projects, lgbasan advised that projects should equitably spread across the various communities in Ilaje and Ese-Odo.

The Commissioner sympathized with the people of Ayetoro and other communities on the shorelines over the ravaging sea incursion which has caused severe damages to properties disrupted daily activities and great loss to their means of livelihood. He however advised that experts should be consulted for technical and professional advice so as to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the disaster, as well as the best possible approach towards its mitigation.

Responding, the Chairman, Sam Erejuwa said his administration has always been guided by the REDEEMED Agenda of the State Government. This he said has metamorphosed into massive investment in infrastructure and human capital development.

“The School of Maritime Transport and Logistics, Ugbo-Nla, a satellite campus of the Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa (OAUSTECH) was conceived to train and award our youths with relevant degrees which would enable them harness the opportunities in the Blue Economy.

“Also, the approval of the State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, CON is being awaited to facilitate the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with investors aspiring to establish a private refinery in Ilaje. This would surely bring unlimited gains to Ondo State in general, but particularly, our people will be productively engaged and the development of our land would be accelerated.

“We are partnering with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) on road constructions which will open up the mandate areas in anticipation and preparation for our sea port (Port Ondo). We are also collaborating with Governmental and Non-governmental Agencies to facilitate both physical and human capital development.

“Recently, we cried to the Ecological office, under the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) to save our communities in Ilaje from extinction. This is in addition to the calls we have put across to other agencies and corporate bodies within and outside the country.

“The wealth of Ilajeland is in the Sea. Unfortunately, our people can no longer access the sea. Aside Ayetoro; communities like Idiogba, Erunna and Ugbo-Nla are not safe. We cannot afford to remain silent”.

Concluding, Erejuwa lamented that many projects which are captured in the socio-economic plans of his administration cannot be implemented due to paucity of fund as the bulk of the Commission’s allocation are expended on surveillance and recurrent expenditures.

While appreciating Pastor Igbasan for his concern and passion towards the mandate areas, the Secretary of the Commission Dr. Victor Koledoye assured that the Commissioner’s perspectives are noted for necessary action, especially when preparing subsequent budgets.