Alleged plot to scrap Govt House Annex in Warri stirs outrage
The quick passage of a bill by the newly constituted State House of Assembly establishing the Delta State Capital Territory Agency Development (DSCTA), few weeks ago, created the suspicion that the governor is poised to execute the plan, as many believed that the said DSCTA Bill was meant to undermine the status of the existing Government House Annex and Warri – the commercial nerve centre of the state.
Even though Governor Okowa recently dismissed the rumour, saying the edifice “will continue to function as it had always been under previous administrations,” and that the “functions of DSCTDA, amongst other, are to formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the State Capital Territory,” suspicion and rumours are still mounting daily in the oil city.
According to the National Coordinator of the Niger Delta Peace Coalition (NDPC), Zik Gbemre, the governor is yet to effectively clear the air since some stakeholders in the state, especially from Okowa’s senatorial district, are still of the mindset and calling for the scrapping of the Government House Annex Office in Warri.
Gbemre said the repeated call by an elder statesman from Anioma local council and chieftain of the PDP in the state, Senator Francis Nwajei, for the scrapping of the structure on the ground that “the constitution of the country never made provisions for two Capital Territories in a State.” was worrying.
He said: “We wonder why an elder statesman like Senator Nwajei would come out to make such statements and standpoint that is capable of heating up the polity. Let us remind Senator Nwajei and those who care to know, that a Government House Annex in a city like Warri does not automatically connote that Warri is now also a State Capital like Asaba. As the word ‘Annex’ implies, the said Government House Annex in Warri is just an ‘extension’ of the Delta State Government House in Asaba – which is the actual State Capital as recognised by law. It does not mean that Delta State now has two state capitals – this line of thought and argument does not hold any water and is not only laughable but also unjustifiable.
“More importantly, the said Government House Annex in Warri is not new, is has been in existence since the creation of the state, and Warri has always been a city with government’s presence. During the Bendel State (Benin-Delta) Province, the Asaba areas (of now Delta North), excluding Kwale, was formerly under the Benin Province. And even back then, whenever government officials (both from the centre and the region) were visiting Benin – Bendel State, they usually visited Warri also. In other words, Warri has always had ‘government presence’ before now. In fact, the naval base location that we have today in Warri, used to be a rallying point of gathering for government officials back in those days. So when Delta State was created, it was easy to have an official place for the state government’s presence in Warri, Gbemre stated.”
He continued: “We do not expect Deltans from the riverine areas for instance, to travel all the way to Asaba, the state capital to meet government officials for any issue that needs to be addressed. It will also not be wise for Deltans to be expected to travel to Asaba just to deliver hand-to-hand official letters that need the governor’s attention. The Government House Annex makes all of this very convenient to be handled by the state government without any stress.”
Gbemre added that the importance of leaving the said Government House Annex in Warri, for the benefit of the both the government and the people of the state, cannot be overemphasised, arguing that the facility should not pose any threat to those who are today asking for it to be scrapped.