By EMMA AMAIZE
ASABA—DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Delta Capital Territory Development Agency, DCTDA, Asaba, Delta State, Chief Clement Ofuani, has revealed that the Asaba, capital of the oil-rich state, has no development master plan 24 years after creation of the state in 1991. Ofuani, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice in his office at Asaba, asserted that what had happened over the years was a hit and miss expansion, which his agency was determined to bring to a halt. Excerpts.
How are you going about the business of developing Asaba, particularly when some parts of the state think that it has gotten its fair share as capital of Delta?
I think the decision to create the Delta Capital Territory Development Agency, DCTDA, at this point in the history of the state, 24 years after its creation, is an indication that it has not attained the status it ought to have in terms of infrastructure and living conditions of the citizens in the capital city. That is why government created the agency to give it that bite and focus.
The first thing of course is to ensure that there is a discernible master plan that drives development and what has happened over the years is that several master plans were commissioned but never completed and , therefore, they did not become instruments to drive the development of the capital territory. You see a lot of spontaneous development, people come to us today and say they want to collaborate with you to build this and that for people. We would love to work in partnership with them to build houses but without a master plan, I will be doing exactly what they did before, just point at one vacant land and say go and build there.
That is not right, we need to master plan the capital territory, decide that this zone is high density, this zone is low density, this zone should have four-storey buildings, 12 –storey buildings, these are the kinds of infrastructure that one must provide before you can even construct a house, etc. It is when you have such master plan that you will start to talk about development. That is how they do it in any other city; you also include master plans for drainage, sewerage and sewage treatment, supply of water, mass transit system, etc. They will all be integrated and then, we start addressing them one by one.
Is this master plan ready now?
No, we are just about to initiate it, we inherited some level work but then, it has to be reviewed, a whole number of social-economic factors used in that plan have been overtaken by events. Therefore, you now need to revisit those socio-economic factors and re-plan in accordance to what you will find in the field. We also have to do the survey, nowadays because of the advancement in technology; you can do satellite mapping, aerial survey and ground control to validate what your photography is giving you. These will help us in doing detailed planning for the capital territory.
Can the people have a peep of what the new Asaba will look like even though the master plan is not yet ready?
While we are still working on the general master plan, we also know that aside from the global master plan that gives you what will be in what sector, there will also be detailed plans for various districts. Now, we are picking some districts of high interest to drive development in the near term.
I can easily talk about three now. One is the Delta Commercial City, it is a 350-hectare parcel of land along the Asaba-Benin highway, just by the River Niger and we want to develop it as a master plan community with all the facilities you expect in a district of such nature. I am talking about leisure, residential and industrial areas, commercial and retail sections plus luxury facilities. That is just one.
The other one is the Asaba River Waterfront, which again is something that many people have spoken about because every city in the world that has this kind of river geography builds with that river as a major asset. and living at the water front commands premium but here, we are running away from the waterfront because we have not been able to control flooding, create the appropriate levy and so on, which makes the land almost like a waste land.
However, we intend to attract the required level of private sector investment in order to maximize the use of that land and create luxury real estate around there. It is an area of more than 2,000 hectares stretching from the Niger Bridge along the entire coastline of Asaba to Anwai, Ugbolu section, which is one. Then, what we call our commercial business district, which is Ogbegonogo corridor, is also been redesigned in terms of its architecture and functionality.
By the time we finish that, we are going to begin the development; it is a prime land for real estate development. Where you should have had 500 shops, we roughly have 100-200 because of improper planning. We intend to do all of that planning and increase the use of the place, but at the same time, we want to ensure the green area and the ease of flow of traffic and circulation within the market. All of these are the parameters we are using in the redesigning of the districts.
The designs are almost ready, so we hope to begin actual implementation this year. The other one that touches everybody who comes to Asaba during the raining season is the issue of flooding. We have taken a great look at the problem, which is one of the things that our consultant has worked on extensively. I insisted that I went to see a holistic engineering solution to the flooding in Asaba, not a situation where you do drainage for this road and it leads to nowhere.
I want a situation where run-off water coming from anywhere in the capital territory find their way to a central sewer and exit to our natural drain, which is the River Niger. That has been concluded and estimated, we are faced with the challenge of money to do it and it is one of the areas that we brainstorming with the administration to find a way of dealing with it.
The governor is committed to it, but there is this issue of the general environment, there is so much dirtiness, people are just not happy. We are, however, taking the view that environmental sanitation poses a lot of responsibility on everybody in the territory, it is not just about government appropriation, it is about everybody performing their assigned roles and together ,we will give a face-lift to the territory.
We are proposing appropriate legislations for the management of waste, etc. We expect that if the legislation is in place and we are actually implementing, there will be a general rise in the level of cleanliness of the entire capital territory because we are going to people play their part. As I drive, I see outside people’s homes a lot of dirt and I wonder how they live there, so it does not occur to them that they should clean the place.
What is the deal between your agency and Fight Against Desert Encroachment, FADE, founded by foremost environmentalist, Chief Newton Jibunoh?
When you travel to major cities all over the world and look around, you find that the houses are not seemingly beautiful than those in our own capital city. They have fine buildings, we have finer buildings, they have this, we have that, but somehow, I find out that there is total lack of harmony in our case because of the fact there was no master plan for our buildings.
And secondly, the level of greening of the city actually makes it a more livable environment and we realize that we spend all our times cutting our trees, cutting everything away and think that it is bring light and development. However, in actuality, that is turning development upside down. We have to learn to live with the environment; first, it helps us to reduce the emissions and beautify the city. Having understood all of these, we went into agreement with FADE, a United Nations environmental protection agency and internationally recognized NGO that advocates for green environment and all of that and has capacity in assisting us.
One is to develop green corridors within the capital territory and develop programmes to ensure we plant trees in the green corridors. They will also bring their expertise to help us as we develop the master plan to identify areas where we have to develop green parks. The green parks are necessary for recreation and other things; the organization will develop and manage them.
First is that it is irony that this is coming that this is coming at a time of huge fiscal constraints to the government, both at state and federal levels. The issue is not about pumping money into Asaba, where is coming from, our understanding of our mandate here is for us to think out of the box, a whole lot of the initiatives I have enumerated are not going to be funded from the appropriation.
There are business initiatives that we are going to sell to smart investors and show them what they stand to benefit. It is going to be mostly private sector funding, which is actually the plank of our being here. So those who think that Asaba Capital Territory Development Agency is Delta North DESOPADEC are totally mistaken because we have no such provision in the law, there is nowhere that kind of funding is going to come from. We are to find ways of bringing development and getting people to take up the development challenges.
Recently I visited a potential investor, who is developing a 501-hectare estate in Abuja and my rough estimate of total investment in that piece of land is nothing less than N300 billion, which is more than the budget of the state. The investors are interested in coming to collaborate with us in developing our Delta Commercial City, which is just a fraction of what we are doing.
So, if we are able to assemble that kind of private-sector investment and develop 350 hectares and are able to attract N200 billion of investment into it, it is more than the entire capital budget of the state. You see, this can be raised by the private sector with no exposure to us, it will be done because they are convinced that this is good for them in terms of their business.