Olugbenga Edema is the immediate past chairman of Ondo State intervention agency, OSOPADEC. In this interview with Femi Salako of Triangle Media, Edema talks about his achievements while in the saddle as the commission’s chairman. He also throws light on how OSOPADEC has been positioned for quality and effective service delivery under his leadership. Gbenga Edema also talks on his expectations in the second term administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the economic importance of the proposed deep sea port project to Ondo State.
What could you describe as your
flagship achievements as OSOPADEC Chairman ?
Thank you very much. First of all, I want to thank God for the opportunity that He gave me to serve in OSOPADEC for 4 years. I also want to thank our Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN for given me the opportunity to also serve. Why do I say so, you may be a good player in your small locality; but unless and until you are called to the national team, you may not be regarded as a good sport person. Out of one million and one persons playing soccer all over the world even within the same country; only 22 or thereabout are invited to the national team. It is when you excel in the national team that you can become a hero. So, if he had not given me the opportunity to serve, there was no way I could have been able to built or achieve anything as OSOPADEC Chairman. This is the reason why I’m thanking God for the opportunity to serve.
The first thing we did was to lift the morale of the workforce while in the saddle. Two, we also needed to profile Ondo State as one of the oil producing states. There is this erroneous belief that only 4 or 5 states are oil producing states in the country. That is why in the Niger Delta family, they hardly reckon with Ondo, Imo and Abia States. But whether you like it or not, we also have our own contributions to the national economy. So, we profiled Ondo State and it was what led to the 2nd Niger Delta Council meeting that was held in September, 2017 and was unveiled by the then Acting President of the country, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. Essence of that was to show to the whole world that Ondo State is indeed an oil producing state and deserves all the benefits because we also suffer the same fate as far as environmental degradation is concerned.
Today, when talking about communities or states in the Niger Delta, Ondo State cannot be pushed backward. Having done that in 2017 and 2018, we also embarked on physical infrastructural development. Before then, we had a culture of giving scholarship to our indigent students in tertiary institutions; but it was stopped in 2014. So when we came in 2017, we had to start paying backlogs of scholarships benefits to our students in various tertiary institutions.We have made three batches of payment in the last three year and we were still on the 4th batch payment when schools were shut due to Covid-19. The Governor graciously approved N300 million per annum in our budget for this exercise and we truly paid and everybody was happy. That was for human capital development. We also built staff quarters that were attached to institutions like primary schools, secondary schools and primary health care centers . Anyone posted to these institutions is sure of well-furnished two-bedroom flats and this actually encouraged people to stay in their places of assignment. By weekend, they may not even be interested in traveling to the city again because of the availability of befitting accommodation. This also helped to reduce the incidents of truancy in our public institutions. To the glory of God, we were able to allocate 100 of this housing units in three years. We also did well in the area of walkways. We built close to 100 while in office.
You will recall that we were inaugurated on April 10, 2017 and we met OSOPADEC in an obscure state while the morale of workers were at the lowest ebb. This was a period when workers were owed 6 to 7 months salary arrears and OSOPADEC staff were practically trekking to work on a daily basis before we came to office. So, when we came on board, we first dealt with the issues of workers welfare. Like I use to tell my people, the best asset any country or organization could have is the workforce. If you do not have human capital that is truly viable and vibrant to execute your vision, such vision may at best remain a dream. The workforce will definitely be needed to carry your vision through and they must have the capacity and capability. We also embarked on aggressive training of the workforce because they have not gone for any in a long time.
We also constructed several kilometers of wooden walkways. We opted for wooden walkways because it was a cheap mode of construction and transportation in our communities. People had criticized the issue of wooden walkways and I have also challenged them. It actually provides easy job for the people in the community because they are already accustomed to building these walkways and we do not need big contractors for the construction. Three, in the course of doing so, you would have provided job for the supplier of planks, for the supplier of nails, for the youths who are going to erect the wooden walkways. Therefore, the multiplier effects on the economy of our community is also what we have to appreciate. So, we did so many of these walkways in the last 3 years. Of course, a good one is the Agutan -Atijere road which is 14.5 kilometers. It was initially awarded during the regime of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, but nothing could be done because it was wrongly conceived. It was a contractor-financing project which made it to be very expensive. So, when this government came on board, Arakunrin Akeredolu said we should renegotiate and make it a client-financing project. We did the renegotiation in conjunction with the Special Adviser to Governor Akeredolu before it was eventually re-awarded. As I am talking with you now, work is going on at the site.
There is also the 32.7 kilometers Alape junction- Araromi road that was just awarded. The contractor had already been mobilized and he is currently working on the site. So, if I begin to count all these, I can beat my chest and say we have done tremendously well. Only yesterday, about 16 hilux vehicles were commissioned by the commission. Since we need operational vehicles, we supported the initiatives by drawing government’s attention to issues that concern our local government. The Araromi-Lekki road was supposed to be constructed by Ondo State Government through OSOPADEC and the NDDC. Unfortunately, in the last 4 to 5 years, NDDC has been operating without a board in place and this has been responsible for the delay in executing the project. Although I know that Mr Governor is very passionate about this job and I am aware that he had met with lots of people, especially those at ONDIPA and they are making arrangements.
Araromi to Lekki is less than 40 kilometres. As a matter of fact, it takes only 25 minutes to move from Araromi to Lekki with a bike. This is a place that our people traverse on a daily basis. Also, the Aboto Water Scheme that was
commissioned by the last administration could not be put to use because there were no pipes and pumps. But, this administration had procured the required pumps and pipes for the reticulation. As I am talking to you now, water is already flowing in Igbokoda.
We equally floated the Pumping Fleet Global Resources Limited of which OSOPADEC was the sole owner at that time. But along the line, we invited investors to take up 70% of the equity while we still retain 30%. The 30% ownership has encouraged these investors to source for fund to complete some of the projects we do not have resources to execute.
The water project in Aboto was commissioned by Mr governor last year but there is no way we can sustain that project with OSOPADEC fund. We have already invited the investment arms of OSOPADEC to look for people that can inject fund to expand the frontier. The water scheme is producing 2 million gallons per day. But how do we get this quantity water treated for the use of our people ? In Igbokoda, people still buy water. So, we decided to look for companies that can run our projects profitably. Over the years, we will recoup the investment and the fund could as well be used to touch other areas that are of importance to our people.
What could you describe as the major challenges facing the people of mandate areas ?
You see, the environmental degradation is very harsh. It makes the environment to be very harsh. Even the intervention agencies have not been able to deliver on their mandates appropriately because of funding issues. In 2015 or thereabout, the price of oil dropped from $100 per barrel to less than $40 per barrel and if all we do is to rely on 40 % or 38% of derivation funds, that simply means that we won’t be able to have money to fulfil all the things we desire to do for our people.
Similarly, in the last two and a half years, NDDC has not been able to work because the agency is being run by Sole Administrators that lack the power to award projects. What this mean is that they are not impacting the lives of people of the mandate areas. By and large, funding has remain a major challenge for us.
What are your expectations in the second term administration of Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu ?
We are looking forward to the deep-sea port that he promised and we intend to support him with all we have so that the deep-sea port can become a reality in his time. Another one is the Araromi- Lekki road. Our people in Ilaje will remain appreciative to Mr Governor.
Although we did show our appreciation foe the position of deputy governor given to us with the delivery of our votes to Governor Akeredolu. Also, a tree cannot make a forest. Since we are in APC and from the same local government, we have no choice than to work as a team. We have a collective destiny and a collective vision.
Still on the sea port, yes, the governor said we can plant a tree when we know we are not going to sit under it for shade. But even at that, sometimes you can also determine the lifespan of a tree you want to plant. There are trees that in 5 years they will mature and there are trees of 15 years as well as that of 25 years. So, if the idea of deep sea port becomes a reality during the second term of Governor Akeredolu; it will definitely impact the lives of Ondo State people directly and indirectly. I don’t want to ask for many things. Let him just focus on these two projects. Once he is able to deliver on these two projects; he would have scored 100% as far as Ilaje people are concerned.