Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State Governor
Delta Communities Accuse State Govt Of Marginalisation, Filed N10bn Suit
People of Ndokwa/Ukwani of Delta North Senatorial District, Delta State, have accused both the past and current State Governors of depriving and marginalising them.
Consequently, the people of Ndokwa/Ukwani through their representatives, Chief Tony Amechi and Barrister Evans Ufeli, have filed a N10 billion fundamentauit rights enforcement suit against the State government.
Joined as respondents alongside the State Governor in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/449/2020, are; the Delta State Executive Council; Delta State House of Assembly and the State’s Attorney-General.
Apart from the award of N10 billion for as general damages for the violation of their fundamental rights against the all the respondents, the applicants also asked the court for a declaration that the deliberate exclusion of Ndokwa/Ukwani land from the developmental projects of the first defendant is discriminatory and amount to a violation of their fundamental rights and the entire people of Ndokwa/Ukwani in Delta State as protected and guaranteed by Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
An order directing/mandating the first, second and fourh respondents to immediately review the road construction projects with immediate effect and make the necessary adjustments to include roads in Ndokwa/Ukwani Land in the projects.
An order directing the first respondent to send an additional Bill the State House of Assembly to also site a University in Ndokwa/Ukwani land. And an order restraining the State House of Assembly from approving any Executive Bill from the State Governor, that excludes (discriminates) Ndokwa/Ukwani land/people from developmental projects.
The applicants in a 26 paragraph-affidavit deposed to by Barrister Evans Ufeli that Ndokwa/Ukwani Land is part of Delta State with the second largest population and second largest oil producing area in Delta State. And that Ndokwa/Ukwani Land produces a huge mass of the oil and gas resources that contributes to the 13 percent Oil Derivation Fund accruing to the Delta State Government every month from the Federal Government.
He averred that in December 2020 the second respondent approved the construction of 13 roads across Delta State and a flyover along Ibusa Road at Koka junction, Asaba (as presented to them by the State Governor). The approved roads include: the rehabilitation of 11.85km Odimodi, Ogulaha road in Burutu at a cost of N2.1Billion Naira; the construction of rigid concrete pavement of 2.025km Stadium Road, Ugborodo in Warri South-West Local Government Area at a cost of N1.2 billion naira; the construction of 6.7km access road to Ekuku Bridge in Otefe-Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area at a cost of N1.01 Billion Naira; widening and rehabilitation of 12.6km Jeddo, Ughoton road with a spur to Egbokodo in Okpe Local Government Area at a cost of N1.8 billion. And construction of 5.2km Alizomor, Alizor, Omumu Road in Ika South Local Government Area at a cost of N1.4 billion Naira,
Others include; construction of 11.6km Owa-Alero Umunede Road in Ika North East Local Government Area at a cost of N3.2 Billion; construction of 10.6km Boji-Boji Owa, Otolokpo road 1n Ika North East Local Government Area at a cost of N3.1 billion; Construction of Isheagwu Ewulu Road in Aniocha South Local Government Area 9.1km at N2.5 Billion Naira; construction of 500 meters bridge with five stands across Orere River with access roads of 4.3km in Orere Town in Ughelli South Local Government Area at a cost of N9.8 billion; construction of 24km Ellu, Ovrode, Olagbe, Orie-Irri, Okpe-Isoko, Uro-Irri and Ada-Iri road in Isoko North and Isoko South Local Government Areas N4.3billion.
It also includes construction of flyover along Ibusa Road by Koka Junction, Asaba Benin Expressway at N6.2billion; and completion of the construction of 4.1km Akwukwu-Igbo, Ugbolu Road Phase 2 at a cost of N2.8 billion: and flood control measures along Madonna College Road in Asaba Oshimili South Local Government Area at N1.8 billion and rehabilitation of Eku Agbor road, Section 1 Agbor to Umutu 41.2km at a cost of N424.4m whole section 2 from Umutu to Eku 35.2km will cost N382.8 million.
The deponent stated that in a vanguard publication dated the 23 of December 2020 the State Commissioner for Works, Chief James Augoye, disclosed the approval of the above listed road while briefing newsmen after the State Executive Council meeting where he said the Ministry would complete the procurement processes for the projects by the end of January, 2021, and that in the whole of these projects, there is no provision for Ndokwa/Ukwani land in the entire project.
He also stated that the State Governor recently sent Executive Bill to the State Assembly, to upgrade three Higher Institutions of College of Education Agbor, to a University “of Education; Anwai Campus of the Delta State University, to Delta State University of Science and Agriculture; and the Ozoro Polytechnic, to Delta State University of Science and Technology. The story was published in Vanguard on the 27th of February 2021 and that none of these institutions is situated in Ndokwa/ Ukwani Land.
He deponent stated that it will amount to gross socio-economic injustice to leave Ndokwa/Ukwani Land without any meaningful developmental project as this will amount to lack of inclusiveness in governance especially when the area contributes immensely to the revenue generation of the State. And that the exclusion of Ndokwa/Ukwani land in the developmental projects of the State Governor is discriminatory and amount to a violation of their fundamental rights and the entire Ndokwa/Ukwani people of Delta State.
He stated that by a letter dated January 29, 2021, copied to the State Assembly, the Applicants demanded that the State Governor address this act of injustice by ensuring equitable distribution of developmental projects to include Ndokwa/Ukwani land as one of the beneficiaries, but the said letter was ignored by the State Governor.
He stated that it will serve the interest of justice if the State Governor is directed or ordered to review the road construction projects with immediate effect and make the necessary adjustments to include roads in Ndokwa /Ukwani Land in the projects. And that granting the reliefs will serve the interest of justice, and uphold the sanctity of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
But the respondents in a counter affidavit deposed to by Engineer John Okpesuru, a Deputy Director (Highways) at the Delta State Ministry of Works, stated that in each financial year, Delta State has limited available funds relative to its spending needs. The overall budget size defines the aggregate funds that are available for the State Government to spend. Once the Governor signs an Appropriation Bill from the House of Assembly into Law, Delta State allocates the available but limited budgetary resources to different sectors of the economy based on policy priorities in the Mediun Term Expenditure Funds (MTEF).
He stated that roads and infrastructure development, which fall under the Ministry of Works’ remit, is an area that receives priority attention in Delta State. However, the effect of limited funds is that the State cannot distribute projects to every community in the State at any one time. Nevertheless, Delta State ensures that it equitably spreads road and other projects across its 25 Local Government Areas.
He stated that as regards Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and Ukwuani Local Government Areas (LGAs), the road/construction projects indicated and approved during the State governor’s tenure, are either ongoing or complete. He specifically stated that Delta State has approved 27 infrastructure projects in Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and/or Ukwuani LGAs since 16 May 2016.
The deponet while admitting that Ndokwa/Ukwuani Land has the second largest population and is the second largest oil producing area in Delta State, however stated that Delta State distributes projects across all 25 Local Government Areas irrespective of population size or available natural resources. And repeated that the State’s Executive Council has approved 27 infrastructure projects in Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and/or Ukwuani LGAs since 16 May 2016.
He also averred that concerning the road projects, Delta State has approved 27 infrastructure projects in Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West and/or Ukwuani LGAs since 16 May 2016. And that second Respondent authorised four of those projects in 2020 and has approved two projects in 2021 so far. Adding that based on policy priorities in the MTEF, the State Assembly scrutiny of the MTEF and the budget ensures transparency in the entire process.
Regarding to the higher education institutions, the deponent stated that he was not aware of any provision that prevents an indigene of Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West or Ukwuani LGA (or indeed any Nigerian) from enrolling as a student in any higher education institution in Delta State; serving or applying to serve as an employee in any higher education institution in Delta State; or establishing a business in the environs of any higher education institution in Delta State.
Meanwhile, at the hearing of the suit on Friday, applicants’ counsel, Evans Ufeli, told the court that matter is ripe for hearing and that address has been filed on the issue of jurisdisction, which the court raised ‘suo moto’.
However, counsel to the respondents, Morakinyo Olasupo, who held the brief of Mr. Isaiah Bozimo, the State’s Attorney-General, asked the court for an adjoumment, as he told the court that the AG was unable to be in court due to short hearing notice.
Meanwhile, Justice Nicholas Oweibo, has fixed November 24, for the hearing of the suit.