AMY Carmichael wrote: “To will what God wills brings peace”. The emergence of Senator Douye Diri as governor of Bayelsa State can be said to be divinely orchestrated. When it seemed like all hope was lost, like a flash the Supreme Court of the land ruled in his favour. His unlikely swearing-in as governor to steer the affairs of the state in the coming four years can be likened to the proverbial snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat.
His assumption of office came with twist and turns as it was far from rosy. He was confronted with the dilemma on how best to handle the COVID-19 disease which has placed the entire world in a challenging situation given the attendant negative human, economic, business and commercial impact being felt globally. Secondly, the inevitable reduction of federal allocation stared him in the face as a result of the drastic drop in crude oil prices. Bayelsa, an oil-dependent economy, has been trying to navigate through the uncertainties.
This is indeed a trying time for our nation. It is also a period that has exposed the calibre of leaders elected into public office. Governor Diri has shown true exemplary leadership that defines him as a principled visionary. His glittering political background has also equipped him for such a dire situation as we are confronted with. He is a man equipped for a day of adversity
Agu Osmond in 2013 opined that no institution of the size of the smallest public organisation can prosper without cost control, minimisation of expenses, blockage of revenue leakages and control of fraud, excesses and abuses, financial impropriety, extravagancies in the discharge of its responsibilities. In a bid to reduce excessive government spending and allocations, Governor Diri took the bold initiative to reduce the cost of governance by 50 per cent percent. This is because, COVID-19 presented difficult times economically as all countries of the world, including the super powers, are grappling with the effect of the outbreak, as well as the uncertainty on how to tackle the ripple effect on the economy.
Another intelligent measure put in place in cutting down the cost of governance, is the reduction in number of ministries. This reform is aimed at repositioning the service to make it more result-oriented, block wastages and leakages in the system and also create room for professionalism by collating and updating reliable data that will form the records of public service which have been in existence during the past administration.
The Pension act is another laudable achievement the state has witnessed since the inception of Governor Diri. The unpaid gratuities of pensioners in the state which was long overdue was cleared. In his words: “Senior citizens deserve to enjoy what they have laboured for in their working years,” hence, N250 million was released to offset part of the debt, which spanned over 12 years. In this new scheme, the first batch of retirees to get paid commenced from levels 1-12, while the senior level will follow suit. The initiative to address the pension problem will to a large extent provide a long-lasting solution to the long issues of delayed and non-payment of pensioners’ gratuity.
Civil servants welfare is another major landmark achievement of the government under the leadership of Governor Diri. Cognizant of the role cash flows in economic development, salaries of workers are paid on the 28th day of every month. He has further echoed his commitment to better the welfare of civil servants, taking into account the critical role the workforce plays in the success of any administration.
With the current economic situation, it is imperative to take into the account the critical need to improve the benefits and welfare packages of civil servants. This will in no small way boost their morale and mitigate the effect of the harsh economic condition. The resulting impact will be improved productivity.
Furthermore, as part of effort to accelerate the socio-economic growth of the state, Governor Diri signed into law three bills passed by the House of Assembly. They are: Public Procurement Amendment Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Amendment Bill and Debt Management Office Bill. The essence of the public procurement amendment bill is to check excesses of those charged with the responsibility of procurement in government’s ministries, department and agencies.
Access to electricity is also very important for economic development and prosperity. Many economic activities of people revolve around the use of electricity. It plays a vital role from production of goods to distribution. It also makes the social life of man easier and more interesting.
As a matter of fact, the importance of the industry cannot be overemphasised. Over the years constant power supply has only been but a dream. Instead power blackout has remained a constant nightmare for residents. In a bid to address the problem of inadequate electricity supply in the state and provide an enabling infrastructural environment for businesses to thrive, government partnered with the management of Port Harcourt Power Holding Company for an uninterrupted electricity supply. This is a major milestone as electricity has improved significantly.
The ripple effects will lead to the creation of more jobs and strengthen the state’s economy. Another alternative strategy underway to improve power supply in the state is the use of solar. The solar-based energy can contribute to the reduction of cost in generating and distributing electricity, especially when it is done on large scale. Solar power can be connected to Bayelsa electricity grid, or better still run off the grid. The initiative by Governor Diri after implementation will make the use of solar the most practical option in improving access to stable electricity across the state.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and lack of approved clinically tested and approved antiviral drugs or vaccines active against the disease has continued to pose enormous health, economic, environmental and social challenges to the entire population. For now, nations of the world have continued to battle the transmission of this disease by testing and tracing patients, quarantining suspected persons through contact tracing, restricting large public gatherings and maintaining lockdowns.
Diri has shown laudable commitment in the way it has handled the situation in Bayelsa State. This was even before the first index case was recorded in the state. He commissioned the newly built mother and child referral building to an 80-bed seater isolation centre apart from the Niger Delta teaching hospital to combat the pandemic.
Another measure he put in place to curtail the spread is to order the closure of the interstate borders and maritime domain of the state while observing a partial lockdown the state. Although, there were a few exemptions on the restriction of movement, to include, food stuffs markets, supermarkets, petrol and gas stations, pharmaceuticals as well as vehicles conveying foodstuff and other essential items People were further encouraged to observe social distancing and use hand sanitizers in public places.
He equally directed the state-owned International Institute of Hospitality and Tourism to strategize on modalities to produce face mask in large quantities that will be distributed to members of the public. As it was required for a face mask to be worn. His words: ‘’On the compulsory use of face mask directive countrywide, we must all now put on a face mask for our own health and safety. we have the option of a cloth face mask or the surgical mask.
Then again, other stringent measures he put in place to curb the further spread of the virus is the ban of public gatherings. All social gathering, including weddings and funerals, remained restricted. He went ahead to issue a note of warning to defaulters that the full weight of the law would be brought on anyone who refuses to comply with the directives. His words: ‘’ Let me caution that if we are not using the instruments of coercion, it does not mean that we cannot enforce the rules.
But, what we doing is for our security. So do not provoke security and health personnel and all other government officials whose responsibility it is to enforce the Executive order signed by the president and the governor for the safety and health of our state’’.
He implemented to the letter President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on the imposition of a nationwide curfew from 8pm-6am Consequently, in order to regulate prices and avoid commodity hike by traders. He, ordered the task force to supervise the activities of the traders in the markets. In a bid to cushion the hardship arising from COVID-19 on the citizens, the Governor ordered the onward distribution of palliatives to various local government areas in the state irrespective of party lines and affiliations in the distribution of items to the poor, less privileged and vulnerable in the state.
A second batch of palliatives and relief items was handed over to local government chairmen and the state emergency management agency for distribution. He stated thus: ”We are talking about the less privilege, the downtrodden in the society. Please, as you go on try and ensure that you bring in everybody, whether they are APC or PDP. The underlining thing is that they are Bayelsans; they are your brothers and sisters. And this government is poised to carry everybody along’’. This is highly commendable.
Governor Diri has received commendations for restoring sanity to Swali Market. In his words, the governor stressed that ‘’ As a result of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to ensure that our markets are clean and should not be death traps from where various diseases could be transmitted.”
Before this intervention which included the demolition of illegal structures, Swali Market which is the largest within Yenagoa metropolis was an eyesore as most of the traders over the years abandoned the stalls built by the state government inside the market and erected illegal structures on the road. In addition to the demolition exercise, over 600 stalls inside the market were fumigated so that traders could carry out their businesses in a clean and spacious environment.Read Full Story