The Bayelsa Government on Thursday began the construction of first phase of the Nembe-Brass road linking the two coastal local government areas.
The project was inaugurated by the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, at Nembe.
The project, which is one of the three senatorial roads in the state, had been on the drawing board of successive administrations in the country from the colonial era in the 1940s.
Bayelsa Gov. Douye Diri’s administration revived the project with the first phase of 21km and 10 bridges awarded to Setraco Nigeria Limited for N54.1billion.
The road, when completed, will open up the Brass Island, which has key national economic assets.
The assets include the Agip Oil export terminal, the ongoing Brass Liquefied Natural Gas and the Brass Fertiliser and Petrochemical projects.
Fashola was represented by Mr Godwin Eke, the Director of Highways South-South, who lauded Gov Diri for commencing the project.
The minister urged the ministry to leverage on the government’s current tax credit scheme with the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to the advantage of the project.
He stressed that road development was another way of delivering prosperity to the people and congratulated the state government on the strides achieved.
Gov Diri, in his remark, said the road had suffered several setbacks but that his administration was determined to end them.
The governor also pledged to end the sufferings of the people of Nembe and Brass in the hands of sea pirates and kidnappers.
He expressed dismay that the steps initiated by his government to benefit from the Federal Government tax relief scheme were unsuccessful.
He explained that the efforts which were channeled through the Nigerian Agip Oil Company and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum, were frustrated by some forces at the centre.
The governor noted that as a government committed to serving the people, it commenced the bidding process for suitable contractors and congratulated Setraco for winning it.
He assured the people of Nembe and Brass of his government’s commitment to the project, regardless of the dwindling economic situation in the country.
“Let me appreciate the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing and the Minister, who did not only reply when we wrote but also showed keen interest in this project.
“We wanted to replicate what was being done in Bonny Island in Rivers State with the tax relief scheme of the present government at the centre.
We thought that part of Agip’s tax remitted to the Federal Government can also be ploughed into construction of the Nembe-Brass road.
Unfortunately, the reply we got from Agip was not encouraging. We, however, resolved that with or without Agip or any other person, this road must commence this year,” Diri said.
Gov Diri recalled that the history of the road dated back to pre-independence era, adding that former President Goodluck Jonathan had awarded the contract for this same road for clearing.
“This road has suffered several setbacks. No wonder you find all the traditional leadership of Nembe present here today.
That tells you the importance the people of Nambe Kingdom attach to this road.
For us as a government, ours is to serve our people. These are the legacy projects that will speak for us and our children.” Diri said.
Diri called on the youth and other stakeholders to take the project as their own and protect it.
He emphasised the economic advantage of the road to the local economy, as well as its attendant benefits to the nation at large.
Earlier, Bayelsa Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr Moses Teibowei, said the road would attract large investment to Brass Island.
He said it had the potential of an economic free trade zone and transforming the area to an economic and tourism hub of the state.
Teibowei explained that the project was divided into three phases with the first commencing from Nembe to Saint Nicolas River.
The second phase would be a 600 metre bridge crossing the river, while the third phase would be from the bridge to Twon-Brass.
Also, the Deputy Managing Director of Setraco Nigeria Limited, Mr Ziad Muonanse, thanked the governor for the confidence reposed in his company for construction of major roads in the state.
He assured that the company would deliver on the project to the highest standards and within the stipulated time.
In a goodwill message, the Amanyanabo of Nembe, King Edmund Daukoru, expressed gratitude to Diri for bringing to fruition a dream that had long been on their minds.
Also, the Amanyanabo of Opu-Nembe, King Josiah Biobelemoye, described Diri as a true reflection of a miracle to the people of Nembe Kingdom through the groundbreaking of the project.
Similarly, the Amanyanabo of Okpoama Kingdom, King Ebitimi Banigo, said after more than 50 years, their dream finally came true through the passion shown by Diri.
He promised that the governor’s gesture would be reciprocated by the people of the area.
The project is estimated to be completed in 24 to 36 months.