It was not accidental that the Delta State Government under the leadership of Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowahas keyed into the World Bank sponsored Nigeria Erosion And Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) to reduce the vulnerability of erosion in the state. Delta State Government has over the years placed much premium on the issue of mitigation of flood and erosion in erosion/flood prone communities in the state.

This is one cardinal point, His Excellency, the Governor, Senator Dr. IfeanyiOkowa places much priority on, in his five-point agenda, tagged SMART, meaning: Strategic wealth creation initiative and provisions of jobs for all; Meaningful peace building platforms aimed at political/social stability; Agricultural reforms and accelerated industrialization; Relevant education and health policies; and Transformation of the environment through massive urban renewal.

It is in this light that informed the World Bank/Federal Government of Nigeria to establish NEWMAP to support the country’s transformation agenda to achieve greater environmental and economic security. It is also aimed at assisting states and local governments on large-scale erosion/flood projects that could be financially cumbersome for them to execute. This is why the Delta State Government keyed into the project to be among the second league of nineteen (19) states admitted into the NEWMAP family in the country to address the erosion menace and to bring succor to the affected communities in the state through the empowerment of Project Affected Persons (PAP).

Upon resumption of the State Project Management Unit (SPMU-Delta NEWMAP) on May 7, 2016 following the appointments and confirmation of its members by the Delta State Government/World Bank, the SPMU met, visited and assessed different erosion/flood sites across the three senatorial districts in the state. Consequent upon that, a total of nineteen (19) critical erosion/flood sites were identified and assessed in the state.

The identified sites were presented to the Technical Committee comprising of directors from line ministries and chaired by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment to evaluate and prioritize. The prioritized sites were later presented to the Steering Committee comprising of Permanent Secretaries from same line ministries chaired by the Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Environment to consider and approve. A total of twelve (12) out of the nineteen (19) sites were graciously approved by the Steering Committee.

However, the World Bank further limited the prioritized sites to five to start the intervention process for the first phase in Delta State after using its criteria which include: state of gully erosion; size of affected population; risk to human life; risk to physical assets; risk to natural assets; replicability potential of the site; readiness of the state to cover the cost of resettlement (if any); and No ongoing competing intervention in the same sub-watershed to prioritized the five sites.

The prioritized sites include: Midoma/Iwerebor Erosion site, Owanta, Boji-BojiOwa in Ika North East; Obomkpa Erosion site, Obomkpa in Aniocha North; Ukwu-Nzu Erosion site, Ukwu-Nzu, in Aniocha North; Jesse Flood site, Jesse Town, in Ethiope West and Ubulu-Uku Flood site, Ubulu-Uku, in Aniocha South Local Government Areas of the state.

It is these realizations that impelled the World Bank/Federal Government of Nigeria/Federal Project Management Unit (FPMU) Due Diligence Mission to Delta State NEWMAP on 13th -15th, November, 2016, on a three-day working visit for on-the-spot assessment and verification of the five-prioritized erosion/flood sites in the state.

The delegation ably led by the Task Team Leader of NEWMAP from the World Bank, Dr. Amos Abu, had earlier in a closed-door meeting met with the NEWMAP’s Authorizing Environment including the state governor, Senator Dr. IfeanyiOkowa; Commissioner for Environment, Hon. (Barr.) John Nani; Permanent Secretary, Mrs. NkemAjufo; Permanent Secretary, Government House, Mr. Eddy Gbegbaje, members of the State Project Management Unit led by the State Project Coordinator, Mr. Isaac Ufiofio and other stakeholders including NGOs/CSOs before proceeding to the five sites for its evaluation.

On the whole, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment, Hon. John Nani, accompanied by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. NkemAjufo and Delta NEWMAP Project Coordinator, Mr. Isaac Ufiofio and his Team conducted the World Bank officials round the sites. The visitation of the officials to the various erosion/flood communities were greeted with a lot of enthusiasm by the people who have long craved for government intervention for the projects over the years.

Dr. Abu and his team, who earlier paid courtesy visit on the communities’ Royal fathers and followed with briefing at the five erosion/flood sites in the state, said the World Bank has promised to support the Delta State Government to address the menace of soil erosion and other forms of environmental degradation in various parts of the state.

He said the World Bank will give needed support to the Delta State Government with a view of ensuring that issues associated with soil erosion in the affected communities were nip in the bud.

The Task Team Leader disclosed that the World Bank has provided five hundred million US dollars ($500 million) for erosion project in Nigeria, even as he commended the Delta State Government for the release of the five hundred million-naira (N500, 000,000) counterpart fund for Delta State to benefit from the project.

Dr. Abu who spoke alongside the Acting National Project Coordinator, NEWMAP, Ruth Peter Mishellia, said nineteen states of the federation would benefit from the project but currently places focus on fourteen states including, Abia, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Delta, Gombe, Kano, Sokoto, Pleateau, Kogi, Oyo, Cross River, Imo and Edo.

They stated that the visit is predicated on securing due diligence on the job to be done in order to ensure appropriate designs for the projects in line with international best practices, saying that the World Bank is only interested in projects with high financial responsibilities. He further added that the site visited would be evaluated based on the set criteria for final approval.

The officials noted that apart from intervening in rehabilitating in erosion and flood menace, the project also hinged at liberating communities from the shackles of poverty by creating enabling environment through accessibility to more viable economic activities. They said the project has succeeded in some countries around the globe including, Brazil, India, Mexico, China, Kenya, Ethiopia among others. At Midoma/Iwerebor Erosion site in Owanta, Boji-BojiOwa in Ika North East Local Government Area, the World Bank Task Team Leader who was marveled at the level of destruction caused by soil erosion, quickly declared that the site requires emergency response.

The Environment Commissioner, Hon. ( Barr.) John Nani decried the pitiable state of the over 300 erosion/flood sites in the state and assured the officials and Deltans of the state government resolve to do all it can in mitigating the seeming erosion problem in some parts of the states.

The Delta State Coordinator of NEWMAP, Mr. Isaac Ufiofio commended the state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa for the release of the counterpart fund of five hundred million naira (N500,000,000) and the initial startup fund of thirty million naira (N30 million) which was a prerequisite for Delta State to benefit from the project. Mr. Ufiofio said the problem of gully erosion in the state was enormous, expressing optimism that although NEWMAP cannot attend to all erosion sites at once but gradually many would be addressed.

The benefiting communities thanked the World Bank and the Delta State Government for the proposed intervention and promised to do everything within their power to see that the projects succeed.

However, there is no denying the fact that the World Bank intervention was timely given the fact that the state was confronted with financial challenges to execute such projects at this particular time of economic recession in the country. It has assured that the project will be implemented in a very transparent manner and at any point in time; the people would be able to access if they are getting value for their money.

Expectedly, the state government has assured that it will play its responsibility by ensuring peaceful and enabling environment for the would-be contractors that would work in those erosion/flood sites in the state. This is even when the World Bank has assured that it is not going to be business as usual, as the contracts that will be done will not be abandoned halfway and not going to be a contract that will be left unfunded because the resources are available. It also assured that the selection of contractors would be done in line with standard procurement process. This goes to show that the World Bank is here to deliver solution to the problem of soil erosion and flooding in Delta State.

On the other hand, the benefitting communities which the projects are expected to serve should take ownership of the project and cooperate with contractors and members of the SPMU to ensure the successful execution of the projects in the state. This is the only sure way we can achieve greater environmental and economic security in Delta State.

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