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*How NDDC Transformed Boro’s Kaiama
By Ifeatu Agbu
The late Ijaw activist, Major Isaac Adaka Boro may find it difficult to recognise Kaiama, his ancestral home, were he to visit from the world beyond. This is because his once sleepy homestead has witnessed a lot of modern transformations in recent times. Kaiama’s journey into the modern world entered the fast lane on September 5, 2008, when the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, extended electricity to the historic town.
It was as if electricity was the beacon they were waiting for to attract other development projects to the town. Now the NDDC has added a solar water project to the package. It recently commissioned a 20,000-gallon per day Solar Water project for the community. So, a visiting Adaka Boro will not only find houses in his village illumined, he will also find potable water to quench his thirst. The Amanaowei of Kaiama, His Royal Highness Jerry Burutolu, and his subjects were delighted that the NDDC has lived up to expectations in the provision of the much needed infrastructure in the region and Kaiama community in particular. He described the electrification project as a trail blazer. “We are enjoying it”. He, however, lamented the over five decades of deprivation and neglect of the community by successive governments, despite its strategic and economic importance. He thanked the NDDC for coming to their aid with a mega shore-line protection project, solar-powered water project and 100KVA generating plant as well as eight 300 KVA transformers to boost electricity distribution in the community. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing its composite 8 states.
The multi-million naira electricity project at Kaiama, the headquarters of Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, links the town and other neighbouring communities to the national grid. Thus, one can appreciate the upbeat mood of the traditional; ruler who said their gratitude to the NDDC was boundless. “Isaac Boro will be turning in his grave in happiness”, he said. Today, the Kaiama transformation has been taken a notch higher by the NDDC with the commissioning of a solar-powered water project which bypasses the problem of fuel and generator hiccups. The solar technology also eliminates the problem of power failure.
Chief Burutolo said the solar water project marked another turning point in the modernization of his domain. According to him, it signalled their liberation from “decades of dependence on the highly polluted creek water to an era of scientifically improved water”. The paramount ruler said that the water project would help to arrest the incidents of deaths caused by drinking polluted water.
For the chairman of the NDDC Governing Board, Dr. Tarilah Tebepah, it was a glorious homecoming to his people in Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA as they rolled out the drums to receive him and pray for his success in directing the affairs of the foremost interventionist agency in the Niger Delta. He exuded joy and contentment as he cut the tape to commission the solar water project. He assured his fellow Ijaws that the commission was determined to intervene in the needs of the people in line with the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan.
He stated that while efforts would be made to complete ongoing projects, developing the capacity of the people was also imperative. “We will endeavour to complete ongoing projects, but it has become clear that the people cannot survive only on roads and other infrastructure. They need their capacity developed”.
Dr. Tebepah said that the commission has resolved to embark on massive employment generation through various capacity development programmes in line with the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. “There will be massive recruitment programmes, there will be jobs, I have the support of the Board to embark on Mr. President’s transformation Agenda”, he said.
The commissioning ceremony provided an opportunity for Kaiama, which occupies a special place for Ijaw people, to bubble once again. Politicians and top government officials stormed the community in what took the semblance of a carnival. Chief Nestor Binabo, the then Acting Governor of Bayelsa State, led a retinue of top government functionaries to the occasion. He promised that the state would collaborate with NDDC in driving development programmes for the benefit of the people. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria's Niger Delta Region showing Port Harcourt
Chief Johnson Adokemeh, one of the politicians that accompanied the acting governor, said he was delighted that many communities in Bayelsa State were now given the benefit of drinking clean and safe water. He praised the NDDC for completing what he called a most valuable project. “This is an indispensible project for our people who have over the years relied on polluted water from the rivers and streams”, he said.
Adokemmeh commended the people of Kaiama for cooperating with NDDC to ensure that the project was successfully completed. He charged other communities to emulate them in order to attract development to their areas too. He advised the beneficiaries of the water scheme to jealously guard it to ensure its sustainability. Adokemeh stated that Niger Delta communities should have potable water as a right and not a privilege, noting that “water is a key component in sustainable human development”.
The pomp and ceremony that attended the commissioning at Kaiama demonstrated the importance the people attached to the project, which provides them with the vital liquid of life. The project will also satisfy the thirst of other communities around. One of the major beneficiaries would be the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, orientation camp in Kaima. In addition to getting portable water, the NDDC Board Chairman assured that the commission would transform the camp into a permanent site.
Mrs Miriam Isoun, who represented the firm that handled the solar water project, said that with the low maintenance costs and the simplicity of the design, the project would have a long lifespan."The potable water will contribute to the health of the people in the Niger-Delta."
She said that previous water projects that relied on petrol or diesel pumps could not be sustained because they often ran out of fuel, a commodity paradoxically expensive and difficult to transport in remote areas of the Niger Delta. “With solar power, the story is different”, she said. However, solar power projects also need to be maintained. So, the NDDC took proactive steps by laying the foundation for a smooth and seamless maintenance programme for its solar projects. Recently, the commission inaugurated 15 solar equipment shops across the region. The project which is a partnership between the commission and Tricee Solution Nigeria Limited is being managed by graduates of the NDDC solar energy training scheme in a deliberate effort to launch the region into the world of renewable energy technology. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Map of Nigeria showing some major cities, including the Federal capital (Abuja or FCT)
Inaugurating one of the shops in Port Harcourt, the NDDC Managing Director, Dr Christian Oboh explained that the initiative was not only geared towards developing the capacity of the youths, but to enable them participate in Federal Government’s drive to launch Nigeria into the global renewable energy industry. He said that 82 of the 150 successful Niger Delta youths trained on solar energy installation and maintenance have received international certification, putting them at par with their colleagues in other parts of the world.
The NDDC Director, Commercial and Industrial Development, Mr. Aniete Usen gave further reasons for setting up the shops. He said: “With huge sums of money invested by the NDDC in solar water projects and electrification, there was the need to be proactive and think about how these solar energy equipment will be maintained”.
He said that after a thorough review of the numerous solar power projects undertaken by the commission, particularly with respect to solar-powered bore holes and solar-powered street lights, it became imperative to provide hands on repair and maintenance training for youths in the region. “This is to ensure the success and sustainability of the solar powered projects, not just in the Niger Delta region but also in other parts of our country”.
The NDDC is not alone in the efforts to provide sustainable water projects for communities in the Niger Delta. Some environmentalists in conjunction with the Engineers Without Borders had in the past undertaken site visits to several communities in the region for the evaluation of Dodo River in Bayelsa State, Egbema-Gbaramatu in Delta State and Idama in Rivers State. The team inspected and analyzed the water supply and storage systems, the sanitation systems and practices, the health and hygiene practices as well as the energy sources within each area.
Their verdict delivered by Nancy Gilbert, the Project Manager for the evaluation, read thus: ‘’In one community for example, the water quality sample tested from a newly constructed well was brackish and had a Total Dissolved Solid/Salts (TDS) of 2385mg/1 as against the World Health Organization Standard of 500mg/1. This makes it not drinkable’’.
Other health indices emanating from the region indicate similar negative trends. To get around these life-threatening conditions, health experts advise that the region should be provided with projects that guarantee potable water. They warn that without potable water, it would be difficult to check the spread of diseases like cholera and dysentery which are prevalent in polluted environments.
Mr. Ifeatu Agbu ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
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