The Federal Government is set to deliver 40 housing units to the Odi community in Bayelsa State, 14 years after it was annihilated by Nigerian troops on the orders of former President Olusegun Obasanjo following the killing of some policemen by a group of dissident youths in 1999.
The housing units comprising two and three-bedroom detached bungalows being handled by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and already at the last stage of completion will be ready for use by the beneficiaries in July.
Inspecting the project, Saturday, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, who expressed satisfaction with the pace of work, said the houses would be given out to the poorest in the community through a very transparent process.
The minister disclosed that the housing units are being replicated in the nine Niger Delta states, adding: "We want our citizens particularly those in this region to feel the impact of their resources and the families that will get the buildings will be transformed.
“When Odi was destroyed; there was a presidential directive to assist the community with some buildings. When the initiative came up, there were agitations from other states so we took a uniform decision that we should build 40-housing units for each of the nine states of the Niger Delta.
“Unfortunately, there were no budgetary provisions in 2012, very lean provisions in 2011 and so contractors stopped work. But this year, we have been able to squeeze some money to enable contractors complete these housing units so that we can give them indigenes to use,” he said.
Orubebe, who also inspected construction work at some sections of the East-West Road, particularly the flag off of the very critical Okoso Bridge in the Bayelsa axis, expressed joy that the bridge had already been completed, reassuring that the December 2014 timeline for the completion of the East-West road remains sacrosanct.
While calling on the youths in the Niger Delta to maintain the peace in order to allow the contractors work assiduously for the completion of the road, the minister pointed out that the development aspirations of the people can only be guaranteed under a peaceful atmosphere.
The minister regretted that but for the kidnapping of engineers working at the Okoso Bridge; the work would have been completed much earlier.
“As I speak to you, two of engineers supervising work here are still in the hands of kidnaps and we are appealing to those holding them to please set them free. There is no way the Federal Government can develop this area without peace.”
The Managing Director of Setraco – the contractors handling some sections of the road – Said Kalaf disclosed that 11 of the workers have so far been kidnapped since work commenced on the road in 2009.
“The morale of our workers is down and we are just doing our best the kidnap and killing of our expatriate workers have broken the company’s back bone. We are here to develop the area and we are hoping they will allow us to do that,” he said.