In this report, NDUBUISI UGAH writes on the mixed feelings, which have trailed the probable end of the World Bank, European Union (EU) and the Delta State Government’s tripartite partnership on the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) projects in the state.
When, about seven years ago, the Federal Government put pen on paper to seal a tripartite agreement between it, the World Bank and European Union (EU), for the establishment and subsequent take-off of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) project in four Niger Delta states of the federation, which includes; Delta, Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers, all the parties involved in the deal were at home with the objectives behind the entire exercise.
The objectives, according to Saturday Telegraph checks, was among other things targeted at enhancing the employment opportunities, access to socio-economic services as well as improving public expenditure management systems of the participating states.
It was also gathered that the wholesome idea would be driven through enabling indigenes of the participating states acquire new skills in different vocations that would further allow them gain employment or better still, become self-employed through their articulate involvements in small public works and community driven development initiatives. Also, the initiative, the tripartite concurrence stated, would enhance capacity building of public servants and providing technical assistance to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the participating states that are responsible for managing public Finances.
The whole essence of the deal, no doubt, was a calculated and deliberate efforts by the parties involved in assisting the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme and other developmental initiatives of participating state governments in ensuring that sustainable peace was fully restored to the hitherto troubled Niger Delta Region.
To say that the effort has been yielding, or better put, has yielded the desired result is stating just the obvious as it has been impacting positively on the economic lives of indigenes of the participating states given the surging number of youths that have so far been employed through the interventionist programme/project.
In Delta State for instance, where the state government has often been adjudged the most compliant state given its uncompromised commitment to the project in relation to its regular payments of its counterpart fund, the project, without resort to hyperbole, has recorded mindblowing success/achievements.
The project which became effectively operational in the state barely seven years ago, precisely July 2013 after the signing of the financial agreement between the Federal Government and the foreign partners on the one hand, the state government and the Federal Ministry of Finance on the other hand, has recorded enormous impact in both the public works sub-component, Socio sub-component and the economic sub-component of the project.
For instance, it would be recalled that within the first phase of its public works sub-component, the SEEFOR project in Delta state had engaged about 430 youths in Asaba (comprising skilled and unskilled youths) in 2013 just as over 2,000 youths were also engaged same year under its road maintenance public works sub-component.
The programme which, originally had a lifespan of five year agreement, it was further gathered, was extended twice following the socio-economic relevance of the project in the life of the benefitting communities. While it was extended by one year in 2018 following the release of the EU grant component of the Project, the World Bank, also in 2019, approved another extension until September, 2020. In view of the above, the Project’s focus has been on completing all outstanding implementation activities within the limits of the available funds.
Seven years down the line, the project has not only grown in leaps and bounds, it has, indisputably impacted positively on the socio-economic lives of Deltans. Saturday Telegraph checks across the three senatorial districts of the state revealed that operators of the scheme are confident that the project has achieved the desired result, haven exceeded its initial target by over 90 per cent Residents in some of the benefitting communities in the state have continued to count their blessings following what they described as the unrivalled socio-economic impact of the community-driven projects sited in their various localities.
A visit to some of the project sites across the state, witnessed some unprecedented jubilation by the locals as they lauded the state government, the World Bank and EU for the projects which they noted have been impacting positively on their socio-economic lives.
During the tour, some of the completed project sites visited include; well-equipped state-of-the-art science laboratory at Ogor Technical College, Otor-Ogor, a Large capacity examination hall at Unenurhie Secondary School; multi-purpose hall and open market stalls at Oviri-Olomu; multi-purpose hall and renovated staff quarters/corpers’ lodge at Aragba-Orogun; and renovated multi-purpose hall and borehole at Igbuku community, among others.
In their various remarks, some of the residents, who included Pa. Julius Arenerian of Unenurhie and Pa. David Okoro of Oviri- Olomu, both said their respective communities chose the projects which were executed in their localities with the donor Agencies contributing 90 per cent of the cost while the benefiting communities raised the balance 10 per cent as counterpart funds.
Collaborating this, the Principal of Unenurhie Secondary School, Mrs. Tessy Ebah, said the school was already reaping the dividend of the large capacity examination hall constructed, just as candidates for the ongoing West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) were, during the visit, seen in the hall writing the paper for the day at the time of the visit.
Two other beneficiaries of starter packs, who included a 26-year old Mr. Vote Emmanuel and a 43-year old Godspower Omonuwa, said that the empowerment by EU and the World Bank have enhanced their economic wellbeing. According to them, they graduated from Ogor Technical College where the donor bodies also built and equipped the basic electricity laboratory in Otor-Ogor community.
Expressing appreciation, the principal of the technical college, Mr. Ugute Chuks, thanked the World Bank and the EU for the intervention in the electrical department but appealed for the resuscitation of the neglected foundering department. At the Ose Green House Farm, which is being done in partnership with FADAMA III in Ekwere-Agbarho, the coordinator, Mr. Samuel Oghenebrume, said the specie of pepper that was cultivated was of high yield, but lamented low sales.
At a media parley in Asaba, the state capital, the state’s Project Coordinator, Sir Frank Apokwu, said within the seven years operation of the project, no fewer than 9,515 direct employment were created through its labour intensive Small Public Works components.
This, according to Apokwu, was against the initial target of 8,736 which was earlier set by the World Bank in that instance. Also, Apokwu, while giving graphic breakdown of achievements recorded by the scheme within the period, disclosed that over 700,000 residents in the state, cutting across the three senatorial districts, benefitted from its community-driven development subcomponents of the project.
Again, according to the SEEFOR State Project Coordinator, the project within the period under review, has successfully trained in excess of 14,900 beneficiaries in technical, vocational and agricultural skills as against the initial target of 7,900 set by the World Bank. While saying the partnership deal had, within the period carried out over 106 road construction and rehabilitation as well as drainage projects, Apaokwu hinted that over 160 waste management contracts were implemented through its Public Sector Participants (PSPs) model. Meanwhile, the State Government, has assured residents in the state that despite the end of the tripartite partnership deal between it, the World Bank and European Union (EU) on SEEFOR, there was no cause for alarm as it had put in place adequate machineries that would engender robust sustainability of the programme.
Beyond its sustainability plan, the State Government, while lauding the socio-economic impact of the programme in the state since inception seven years ago, also said that it has opened discussion with the World Bank for more related intervention programmes in the State.
The Chairman, Steering committee of the programme in the State and Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr. Barry Gbe, gave the assurance while leading other members of the team on an inspection tour across some of the projects already executed where he commended the World Bank and EU for the partnership which he noted has enhanced the socio-economic development index of the state. Speaking passionately on government plans to enhance sustainability of the programme, Gbe also, eased the tension of workers at the SEEFOR office, assuring them that part of the State government’s sustainability plan was to ensure that they were not thrown out of job.
He said: “As the SEEFOR project ends September, this year, I wish to express our appreciation first to the World Bank and the EU for the programme so far, and, particularly to the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa for keying into the vision and sustaining it so far.
“Since inception seven years ago, the SEEFOR has become part of our budget and governance in Delta State; it has supported our budget to the extent that some of the funds we use in the development of some projects were supposed to be provided by the state government. “The SEEFOR Programme has been helping the State government in overcoming some of our funding constraints.
“SEEFOR, no doubt has been impacting positively on the socio-economic status of the State as it has been aiding it in developing some of its economic projects as well as performing its civic responsibilities to its citizenry.
“As a state, we are already putting up plans to ensure that the programme continues even after the event details of the partnership agreements. We are already talking with the Bank and they have assured us that they are already putting up other intervention programmes and warn that happens, the State will definitely key into it. “So, clearly, whatever SEEFOR is leaving behind, we will definitely continue.
The good news is that the departure of SEEFOR from the state come September 2020, does not mean that each and everyone of us working there would be thrown out of job. I can tell you on good authority that the state government is doing everything to address that.”