It goes without saying that Ogba/Egema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) is a critical factor in the development of Rivers State and the Nigerian nation. Being the seat of oil and gas industry in Nigeria, ONELGA has propelled the country to its present level of economic growth and development. With many oil and gas producing and servicing companies including the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (TEPEG), and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Local Government Area has become the destination of job seekers and others who are in search of economic survival.
Besides, the local government area is blessed with friendly climate, several streams, creeks, ponds, gravels, soft sand, clay and wildlife which have presented viable options for such economic activities as farming, fishing, cane processing, as well as ceramic, burnt bricks, and saw mill ventures.
But the fact is that ONELGA is a paradox. With its rich endowment, the local government area is beset with a plethora of environmental and environment related problems including poverty, land degradation, resources depletion, air, water, and soil pollution, oil and gas pollution, and sewage disposal. The local government is challenged by the increasing rate of unemployment and the rising expectations of its few towns in terms of layout, land use, roads, architecture, education, health power, water supply, etc.
Worse still, there are no industries established by either the state government or the federal authorities in the local government area. Some of the roads in the area are among the worst in the country. And the people are virtually not found in the top and middle-level cadres of the Nigerian Army, Navy, or Air Force, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the security, the insurance industry, the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and the communication sector.
Apparently, the political leadership of the local government area, since its inception over 20 years ago, has neither contemplated on the slavish and obsequious status of the area nor done anything to address the unbearable and pitiable situation.
This, coupled with greed, and lust of office on the part of the leadership, explains the socio-economic backwardness of the area. it was the former American President, George Bush, who said: “Use power to help people. For we are given e power not to advance our l own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people”.
We hope that the current leadership of the Local Government Area would be guided by George Bush’s philosophy. On assumption of duty in August 2010, the Local Government Chairman, Hon Wokocha said that the days of misrule of the ONELGA council was over. He promised the people of the local government area a transparent, committed, and accountable administration which would deliver the dividends of democracy.
But in concrete terms, what is the purpose for which local government areas are created by nations across the world? In the words of J.S. Mills. The very objective of having local government is in order that those who have an interest in common which they do not share with the general body of their countrymen may manage that joint interest by themselves”. Whether these joint interests are in the areas of educational services, utilities, construction of roads, public welfare, sanitation, housing, or urban renewal, I think, the fundamental purpose of creating local governments is not only to provide for the people efficient, effective, attractive, and conducive environment for the full range of their activities, but also to ensure that the people partake of their own endowments and have a fair and equitable share of the national wealth.
The Wokocha administration must therefore start immediately to lay down the action steps, the vision, for the pursuit and achievement of this fundamental purpose. During the swearing in ceremony of his Vice Chairman and 17 councillors, Hon Wokocha promised to build in the local government area and deliver effective security, human capacity building, infrastructural development, and other social amenities.
Good enough. But he should quickly translate these aspirations into goals and the goals into measurable targets against which the success of his administration can be objectively determined.
He should also begin now to lay the foundation for a true urban life that is already characterizing the Omoku town, the headquarters of the local government area and the second largest city in Rivers State. This will involve putting in place holiday resorts, recreational centres or beach, a zoological garden, library, and a modern sports centre and ensuring that the Omoku river is restored. These would serve as tourist attraction and sources of funds for the local government council and also provide employment opportunities for the people especially the youths.
The Omoku river that served as a source of bathing, washing, and drinking water as well as for agricultural, industrial, transport ion and recreational purposes has virtually dried up. Now overgrown with weeds, the river has become a dumping site for refuse and all sorts of wastes and a home for mosquitoes and environmental pollutants. The Hon. Wokocha administration should be able to attract the attention of all relevant authorities including state and federal governments, the oil companies operating in the area, and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to this river that has lost its economic, social, and religious values to the people.
It will be recalled that the dredging of the river had been undertaken by the NDDC. And in fact, the contract for the dredging had been awarded even before the present board of the commission was constituted in 2009.
“All glory comes from daring to begin” says Eugene F. Ware. Let Hon. Wokocha and his council create a clear vision for the growth and development of ONELGA and build the capacity to translate it (the vision) into reality and his name and those of his team members will be written in gold.