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EBENEZER ADUROKIYA writes on the recently-inaugurated Ogheye ultra-modern floating market in Koko, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Conceived by the administration of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, Okowa’s predecessor, but fully started in 2019, the Ogheye Ultra-Modern Floating Market, worth N4.2 billion, was captured in the 2020 state budget according to Fred Martins, member representing Warri North Constituency, Delta State House of Assembly, during a visit to the leadership of the Warri North Local Government Area in Koko, sometimes in 2019.
The state-of-the-art project, which is expected to positively impact the economy of the communities in the local government area, the state’s economy and beyond, could also go for a tourist centre for holiday seekers across the country and within West Africa given its alluring aesthetics, especially at night. This is to be aided by the provision of transport speed boats by the state government to ferry people off and on the platform.
The project was executed by three ministries namely: the Ministry of Works, which is responsible for constructing the platform, the Ministry of Housing, which built the stores and the Ministry of Trade and Investments which took delivery of the edifice for management and expected to have over to the Warri North Local Government.
A magnificent sight to behold in the midst of the sprawling waters, the floating platform is 80 meters by 70 meters with a landing jetty, 96 open shops, 80 lock-up shops, a security tower, a gate house, a canteen, an administrative building, a banking hall, a fish processing unit, a warehouse building, toilet facilities and a protective fence.
Nigerian Tribune gathered at the venue that the floating market has been in existence for many years, but was built with wooden planks which were susceptible to weather and subject to replacement and renewal every six months before the ‘imposition’ of the current permanent structure by the Okowa-led administration.
It was further gathered that from the location of the Ogheye Ultra-Modern Floating Market to neighbouring Ondo State, it is about 15 minutes journey by speed boat. So, from time immemorial, the market has been servicing traders, whose major preoccupation is fishing, not only in Delta State alone, but also Edo and Ondo states.
For the fishing communities to curb waste, fish preservation facilities and fish processing and drying equipment have been provided, just as a police post has been put in place amid a 24-hour huge power-generating set to ensure maximum security at the market and its environs against sea pirates and other criminals.
Besides, the all-encompassing state-of-the-art facilities, including comfortable public conveniences, have been put in place for traders, tourists, researchers and what have you.
At the location for the inauguration were Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, his deputy, Kingsley Otuaro, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Iyorchia Ayu, Olu of Warri Kingdom, Ogiame Atuwatse III and other royal fathers, PDP governorship candidate, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, commissioners and other top government functionaries.
Speaking before inaugurating the market, Senator Ayu, who had the honour of cutting the tape and unveiling the plaque, averred that Governor Okowa earned the party’s vice-presidential ticket for the forthcoming general elections based on his impeccable character and achievements as governor.
“Okowa is a calm, articulate and brilliant statesman and the leaders of our party, the PDP, decided that Delta State has to be rewarded for its contribution to the growth and development of the party and Nigeria,” he said, while thanking him for building the market to promote development and stability in the riverine area of the state to further checkmate restiveness.
Other projects inaugurated by the PDP National Chairman were Odokun Secondary School; 3-km pedestrian road linking Oboghoro to Ogheye-Dimigun and a pedestrian bridge crossing Jorojoro Creek to Ogheye-Dimigun, all in Warri North Local Government Area of the state.
Dr Ayu said that the projects, including the floating market, would contribute immensely to the growth of commerce in the coastal communities in the state, while urging Okowa’s possible successor, Oborevwori, to expand the market to make it an international market, indeed.
Governor Okowa had earlier in 2020 described the initiative as a major project “in which we are very proud of because many times those in the riverside areas have been neglected for too long but we have continued to partner them by doing projects that will improve their living condition.”
However speaking on Wednesday at the inauguration before ushering to the podium, Dr Ayu, the PDP Vice Presidential Candidate, had paid tribute to his predecessor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who actually conceived and started the construction of the market which was, reportedly, later abandoned due to financial constraints and non-performance by the previous contractor.
“I was part of the initiative when I visited Warri North for the inauguration of projects at Oboghoro and Utonlila communities and I visited the market project and assured that we would take steps to re-award the contract.
“We got a local contractor, an indigene of the community to take up the job and we thank God that in two years, he was able to deliver and it is important to state that our people have the capacity to do great things,” he enthused.
Speaking further, Okowa urged the party hierarchy to support the development of the region, pointing out that “it costs so much to execute projects in the Niger Delta”.
Host monarch of the day, the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, in his infectious excitement, commended the governor for ensuring the completion of the age-long market, adding that its completion would improve the growth of commerce in the area.
He described Koko as an area known for abundance of oil and gas, but regretted that the people had not benefited from the proceeds accruing from the exploitation of the resources, adding that building the market was laudable as commerce remained the best way to reposition Delta beyond oil and gas.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Works (Rural and Riverine Projects), Mr. Solomon Golley, had said that the Ogheye Ultra-Modern Floating Market was built at the mouth of the Benin River, by the Atlantic Ocean, on top of 6,000m2 reinforced concrete platform supported by over 160nos. of 450mm diameter piles.
Also, the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, while speaking at the sideline, described the market as a “signature project” of his outgoing boss. An elated Aniagwu, who’s the Campaign Spokesman of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Committee, said with the project and other laudable ones already executed or ongoing in the creeks of the state, calm and reason have returned to the oil-rich riverine areas of the state.
“The bridges, jetties, concrete pavements, schools, markets built among others have buried restiveness in Delta State. We now have the support of our people. Koko is like a confluence town; we promised the market in 2019, it used to be a wooden market, but today, the game has changed. Our creeks are now contributing more to the GDP. They gave us the peace; we have them development. Good life is now in the creeks of Delta, too. Their development is no longer in the pipelines. So, our people no longer break pipelines to find their development. History will record Okowa on the positive side,” he averred.
Speaking to journalists too at the market platform inauguration, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Patrick Ukah, disclosed that while in its primordial wooden state, the Ogheye floating market attracted commerce not only from withing the state of country, but from as far as Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin and other African states.
Ukah, while speaking on the motivating factor to build the market by the Okowa government, said it was the need to bring life to the people in the creeks, adding that the inauguration of the Ogheye Ultra-Modern Floating Market, “we have completely transformed the creeks.
He, however, disclosed that there’s more room for an improvement on the project for bigger expansion to make the market more international it is meant to be. “It’s a good motivation gotten right. Okowa has changed the narrative. He’s brought life to the creeks. The project has attracted a lot of fishponds whose owners were trained by the state government to the area.
“The market will create an assemblage for them to trade and exchange ideas. As you can see, one can reduce here for two, three months doing business and enjoying tourism without thinking about going to Warri or Asaba because the life in the upland is right here in the creeks,” Ukah noted.
Scores of excited indigenes, whose economic mainstay has been fishing and trading in the hitherto wooden floating market, expressed joy at the maturation and inauguration of the Ogheye Ultra-Modern Floating Market. The expression and conviviality came in various forms including the rich cultural display by Itsekiri troupes.