While lawmakers at the grassroots across Nigeria are alleged of making millions of naira from the execution of constituency projects annually, a councillor who hails from Otuokpoti Community, representing Ogbia Ward 2 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has invested her car allowance in the construction of a bridge that is helping the people of her community to have easy access to a health centre and police station across a creek.
The councillor, Hon. Tynar Miracle Onem, who was elected into the position in 2019 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) told Nigerian Tribune that she conceived the bridge project since she was a child because she saw how crossing the creek on a daily basis to go to farms posed a great challenge for her parents and other community members, especially the elderly.
She further explained that when a health centre was later built across the creek, she witnessed how her community members contributed money to construct a narrow wooden bridge, popularly known as monkey bridge, as a temporary measure to help the people cross the creek to have access to healthcare services.
Tyna, now in her late 20s, further said that when she became a councillor and got N2 million for constituency project, she met with the chiefs of her community, informing them of her plans to construct the bridge but that some discouraged her, saying that the money would not be enough to complete the project and they were right. In fact, some persons even suggested that she should install solar street lights, while others said she should refurbish the police station.
“It got to a point that I got confused but the reality to me then was that without the bridge, vehicles could not have access to the only police station and health centre in my community. Another issue was that the wooden bridge was the only bridge connecting our farmers to their farms. In fact, the elderly almost always fall off the bridge while going to the farm or health centre. In many cases they got injured in the process.”
Explaining further, she said that she did not allow the comments of discouragement from people deter her from embarking on the bride project which she conceived from childhood because “as a grassroots politician, I know the challenges my people are facing. Growing up as a child, I have been crossing that creek before a narrow wooden bridge, known as monkey bridge, was constructed across it.
“So when I became a councillor, I said to myself that this is the opportunity for me to change this situation.”
Just as those that discouraged her from embarking on the project warned her, she exhausted the N2 million, after achieving just 35 per cent of the project. Left with no other choice, she added N2.6 million the governor of the state, Senator Douye Diri, gave councillors to buy official cars, into the project. “What would the car be to me without a bridge for my people?” she asked.
She said “after commencing the project, it got to a point where I had the fear that I wouldn’t be able to finish the project because the money available to me was not enough to complete it. But because of the zeal I had for the project, I added the money that was given to me to buy an official car to the project.
“The governor gave us N2 million for ward project and N2. 6 million to buy car and run our office, yet I spent all the money on the project and it was not enough. At a point some persons started laughing at me that I started what I could not finish.
“To shock you, I bought one 16mm rod for N6,200 and a bag of cement at N4,000. We are not talking of sand and gravel. Before we started that project, we had to stop the creek from flowing at the point we earmarked for the bridge so we could build the pillars.
“After blocking the creek, I hired a pumping machine to constantly take out water from the project site and each day I spent N30,000 on that machine. To cut the story short, somebody graciously posted the picture of the bridge when it was about 70 per cent completed.
“I must confess at that point I had exhausted the money I had for the project and was thinking of what to do about it when the Governor of the State, Senator Douye Diri, invited me to government house and gave me extra money to finish the project.
“I must say that my people are eternally grateful to the governor for what he did. I say so because that bridge connects my community, Otuokpoti to Otuogori, Onuebum, Otuoke, Metal and Imiringi. You can imagine what that means to trade and our social life.”
Also speaking, a farmer and native of Otuokpoti, Mrs. Elizabeth Egbei said the bridge has put an end to many of her sufferings, while recalling how she had fallen off the wooden bridge and sustained severe injuries on her way to the farm.
While expressing her gratitude to the councillor whom she fondly called her daughter, she said that “the bridge makes me feel happy because some of us, especially the elderly, often fell from that bridge each time we were going to the farm or the health center.
“There was a day I fell, got injured badly and even lost my sack of cassava in the creek while crossing the monkey bridge. The other time a woman that was taking her child to the health centre, fell into the creek with her sick baby.
“Just imagine how painful that could be for any mother. I am glad that she built the bridge. I pray that God gives her more opportunities to build more projects that would change the lives of our people.”
Another native of the community, an unemployed graduate, Mr. Meniden Wongo said the construction of the bridge would enable the police that are on the other side of the creek to respond swiftly to distress calls from community members since vehicles can now cross the creek.
“I am happy that the bridge has been constructed. This would help the police to respond to distress calls from the community. As you can see, the police station is just right across the creek and before the bridge was built, the police would take over an hour if they wanted to come into the community because they would to journey very far to reach us from the other side of town.
“Even to cross the monkey bridge was even a challenge, so you can imagine how it affected the operation of security agents. I want to thank the governor for this project and wish to appeal to him to give her more opportunities to help us construct the road that runs through our community. Because that is the only road linking the Otuoke expressway to the bridge that connects our health centre, police station and neighbouring communities,” he said.
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