By Emma Amaize, Editor, South-South Jimitota Onoyume, Asst News Editor, Warri
Oil city of Warri in Delta State has gradually deteriorated. The transition started after 2009 when companies, including Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, started pulling out from the neighbourhood due to militancy.
Visitors, who thronged Warri with the portraits of other oil cities in the world in mind, are, more often than not, horror struck at the decadence that stare them on the face.
Most saddened are residents who know what life was in the doppelganger cities of Warri and Effurun, now referred to as Warri, and neighbouring Udu in the 80s and 90s.
Till date, Effurun, in Uvwie Local Government Area, which hosts the Warri Petrochemical and Refining Company, WRPC, and Ovwian-Aladja, host to the Delta Steel Company, Ovwian-Aladja, in Udu Local Government Area, are still snoozing.
An activist and Itsekiri leader, Comrade Amechi Ogbona, told Sunday Vanguard: “The Warri we used to know is no longer Warri. The place is sinking every day. At the Warri General Hospital, they still fetch water from the colonial well dug years ago.
“Look at Okere Road that used to be a business area, today it is at its lowest ebb because of the blockade by the Federal Prisons. This is the only road that is blocked by the prisons. SPDC is gone; the economy of the town is gone. Shell Clinic that was the best in Warri is dead.
“Delta State government spent billions of naira for the expansion of Osubi Airport, but when Shell wanted to sell, we all expected the state government to buy it. But you know that the government did not acquire the place.
“Warri suffers flood because there is no drainage, the town reeks. See the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, it is used to be a busy place, but it is also gone. Nothing is happening there. The economy of the town has dropped largely”.
Ogbona went on: “If there is downpour, no road around Angle Park, Federal Government College, Ekurede – Urhobo. All these areas are impassable whenever it rains.”
In addition, the rickety Warri-Sapele Road that runs the length of Effurun to Warri and adjoining rundown streets, nothing tells the heartbreaking story of Warri more cuttingly than Enerhen Junction, the popular intersection that link Warri South, Uvwie and Udu local government areas.
Immediate past Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who built a flyover bridge in Effurun, redesigned the Enerhen Junction during his tenure and also wanted to construct a Bus Rapid Transport, BRT, lanes on the Warri-Sapele Road, but he never really changed the Warri story.
The reconstructed Enerhen Junction and beautification project of the Uduaghan regime did not last. It collapsed less than two years after the inauguration fanfare in September, 2013 and his dream Warri Industrial City project is still on the drawing board.
We’re making efforts – Okowa
Few months after assumption of office, his successor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, reviewed the BRT project after consultation with stakeholders on the grounds that the project was imprudent.
Though Okowa recently promised that the state government would intensify its investment drive to restore the lost glory of Warri as the commercial nerve centre of the nation, it is obvious that the oil city has not caught his attention even at the twilight of his first tenure.
However, for the second time in two weeks, during the visit of the new officials of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to him at the Government House, Asaba, he said his administration was making effort to complete the Warri/Sapele Road, especially the Enerhen Junction; trans Warri/Ode-Itsekiri Road and the Ughelli/Asaba Road.It is not that Okowa has not commissioned road projects in Warri since he assumed office.
Only last April, he inaugurated five road projects in Warri North and Warri South local government areas.
Among the projects were the Iwere College Road, access road to Awaritse Industrial Park, Obite-Ugbo and Korobe Road in Warri North local government area. He also commissioned the Ugbuwangue/NPA Bye-pass Road, rehabilitated Okere/Ugborikoko Road, Frank Omare Crescent and Esiri Street in Warri South local government.
He is currently undertaking road projects in some riverine communities of the state, but the simple truth is that nothing has changed in Warri. Rather than growing, it cuts the image of a neglected town.
Martins Mukoro, a lawyer, who has maintained an office at Enerhen Junction for over 25 years, said: “To be fair to ex-Gov Uduaghan, he very well beautified Enerhen Junction. However he had no maintenance strategy and decay and deterioration set in quite early and the rot has continued.”
He was, however, at a loss over why Okowa, the acclaimed road master, would leave the oil city and the junction linking three local government areas in such a tattered condition.
On his part, an activist and the National Publicity Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Kunle Edun, who has lived the better part of his life in Warri, described the city as a slum, blaming government for the “abnormality”.
Stating that Enerhen Junction was an eyesore, he pointed out, “It started becoming a nightmare during the administration of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a Warri boy that left the city in a worse state.
“Uduaghan’s attempt at redesigning Enerhen Junction was just a facade because what Enerhen Junction needed is not a cosmetic decoration but a structural overhaul”.
What Okowa should do
H e added, “A serious government should know that as population increases, so facilities must also be constructed to accommodate the increasing human and vehicular population. What Enerhen Junction needs urgently is a three-way fly overbridge.
“What Jakpa Junction also needs also is a four-way flyover bridge, Ekpan Roundabout. Petroleum Training Institute Junction, PTI, Junction also require a fly over bridge across PTI Road to Osubi”.
Edun, who was acerbic in his criticism, stressed: “Does the Delta State government have a vision of what a city should look like? Instead of expanding the city frontier, ghettos and unplanned cities are surrounding Warri and Effurun.
“It should not be a surprise if the future ‘cities’ outside Warri are actually going to be ghettos. Mention them. Okuokoko, Ugbomro, Ugbokodo, Jeddo, Agbarho, Udu, etc
“The rot did not just start today. It started more than six years ago when Uduaghan was governor. Okowa just continued with the Uduaghan’s policy of abandonment”.
Another resident, Stanley Pius, said Enerhen Junction was a disgrace while John Tara said: “Enerhen Junction is a Federal Government road, not the state government to do repair.”
Borrow a leaf from Lagos – Lagbamue
But Israel Lagbamue, in a counter position, said: “It is unfortunate to reason that because a road is a federal road, the state should close its eyes to the obvious suffering of its people. Why should they not borrow the idea of Lagos State government which considers it citizens before anything else?
“Lagos State government will usually embark on massive road construction whether federal road or not all in a bid to make life more comfortable for residents and visitors to Lagos.
“A state can embark on the construction of federal roads and request for refund subsequently. Besides, Delta has the resources to make life meaningful for its citizens; we should, therefore, stop justifying what is wrong and bad”.
No excuses – Tobman
Amrokpa Tobman, who was riled by the comment that Warri-Sapele Road is a federal road said, asked: “Is the flyover bridge at Effurun Roundabout constructed by Uduaghan/Delta State government not on the same federal road? Is the roundabout at Airport Junction not on the same federal road?
“The restructuring of the Enerhen Junction and the bus stops/BRT under Uduaghan, were they not done when the road was still federal road? Is the DSC Roundabout Okowa is redesigning not on federal road? The bad spot that was patched sometime ago on Sapele Road, by Ohore, is that not a federal road? The states that repair federal roads in their territory, does the Federal Government not reimburse them? What are we defending here now?”
Citizen Mary Akujobi wondered why they call Okowa ‘Road master’ if he could not fix the bad Warri roads.
Henry Ataikuru sardonically observed that it was probably not part of the SMART agenda of the governor to fix Warri roads, adding: “It is not a pity, but a big shame, yet some will still sing praises of Okowa.”
Investors won’t come
The National President of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Eric Omare, among other residents, told Sunday Vanguard: “I think deliberate effort should be made to fix the infrastructure in Warri.”
Not a few maintained that fixing failed roads and constructing new ones where necessary were prime parts of a good government’s agenda, asking how the governor wants to attract investment to Warri and expect businesses to pay tax with the neglected state of Warri, the hub of the state’s economy.
They asked what has happened to the Warri Industrial City project that gulped billions of naira, lamenting that many of the roads constructed in the last four years in Warri/Effurun, including Refinery Road, Aiport Road, and NNPC Complex Road were already failing.