Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, has said coastal communities in the state are in danger of being submerged by the Atlantic Ocean.
Governor Diri raised the alarm on Tuesday when he visited Odioama community in Brass Local Government Area to assess the devastation from ocean encroachment.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, in a statement, said the governor lamented the effects of coastal erosion on the community and others on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean while addressing the Odioama council of chiefs, elders, youths and women at the community town hall.
He said he decided to personally visit the community after sending a team to have a first-hand knowledge of the plight of the people.
Diri, who was accompanied on the visit by Speaker of the House of Assembly, Abraham Ingobere, Senator Nimi Barigha-Amange, commissioners and other government officials, assured that the state government will embark on a 1.5km shore protection project in order to check the ocean surge that had submerged about 250 buildings in the last 10 years.
Diri said the government will commence the shoreline project while awaiting federal government’s collaboration, noting however that it was beyond its scope to address such challenges in Odioama, Koluama, Sangana, Agge and other communities facing similar threats.
According to him, engineers in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure will on Wednesday brief the state executive council on the cost of the project.
He called for the intervention and support of the federal government on the shore protection project, stating that the federal government needed to reciprocate Bayelsa State’s immense contribution to the economic wellbeing of the country.
He said: “l did not come here for political campaign but rather to see the plight of the Odioama people and have first hand knowledge of what is happening to the community.
“I cannot sit in my office to hear that houses are giving way. I have been taken round and seen houses that are giving way to the ocean surge. The community’s cemetery has been threatened.
“By tomorrow (Wednesday), l will see what the engineers in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure will bring to the state executive council meeting. We know that the cost will be prohibitive and beyond the state government.
“We call on the federal government that while we use our meagre resources to start something, we want them to also collaborate with us in stopping the sea encroachment in Odioama and other communities. Bayelsa State has given so much to Nigeria and so, let the federal government also reciprocate.
“While we use our meagre resources to construct shoreline protection, I like to call on the federal government to be part of the story in checking the perennial environmental problems of erosion and flooding ravaging our communities.
“Whatever we are doing here will be like a drop in the ocean. But together with the federal government, there is so much we can achieve.”
Responding to the community’s requests, Diri directed the Commissioner for Water Resources to undertake water project in the community as well as directing his Lands and Housing counterpart to take over the building of a pavilion.
On the request for a 500 KVA electricity generator, he said solar lights would be provided instead just as he also approved the construction of a National Youth Service Corps members lodge.
The governor further approved the immediate renovation of the community’s primary health centre, clearing of 200 hectares of land and purchase of fishing nets.
In his address, chairman of the Odioama council of chiefs, Chief Marlin Omiemunafa, expressed delight over the visit of the governor, saying it had given the community hope.
Chief Omiemunafa said the people were facing an existential threat occasioned by the sea encroachment as about 200 metres of the community had been eroded by the surge.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Esau Andrew, appreciated the governor, assuring him of their total support for his re-election bid.
Others on the governor’s entourage were a former member of the House of Representatives, Henry Ofongo, state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Solomon Agwana, the Acting Chief of Statf, Government House, Dr. Peter Akpe and the governor’s Principal Secretary, Irorodamie Komonibo.
Others were the commissioners in charge of Works and Infrastructure, Environment, Information, Mineral Resources and Special Duties (Bayelsa East)