By Bode Akinwumi

The Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has reaffirmed the determination of his government to make rural areas accessible through massive and sustained abridgement of the infrastructural gap between rural communities and urban centres.

Arakunrin Akeredolu reiterated this in Akure at the Stakeholders meeting on the third Rural Access Mobility Project, RAMP 3.

The governor who regretted that the past administration in the state could not take the advantage of RAMP1 and RAMP2 to make life worth living for rural dwellers through the delivery of life transforming projects, however stated that accessing the rural areas was the only realistic means of accelerating development across the state.

“We are convinced that there can be no meaningful development in the polity until the rural environment enjoys a symbiotic relationship devoid of neglect and exploitation,” he said.

Governor Akeredolu explained that jobs would be created as the rural areas were accessed, while his administration would depart from the unproductive practice of rendering youths redundant and confused through the creation of white collar jobs.

The Governor said RAMP 3 was very crucial to his administration’s rural development strategy which was designed to, among others, provide good roads to our rural communities in sustainable ways.

“Others are to support entrepreneurship, improve delivery of basic social services, improve rural infrastructural development, and to ensure sustainability of the environment and natural resources.

He added that RAMP 3 would create an investment friendly and competitive environment, and create employment for the youths.

“To achieve the above, our government will be quick to approve a template for executing appropriate design, rehabilitation/upgrading and maintenance programme.

“This administration will continue to welcome the support of International Agencies such as the World Bank, French Development Agency, African Development Bank and indeed, Federal intervention agencies at ensuring equitable and qualitative rural infrastructure in our State.

“We, in Ondo State, believe that this intervention and support is important to the realization of our Rural Development Objectives across our dear state as it will help in delivery of democratic dividends to our people in rural areas.

Earlier, the National Project Coordinator of the project, Mr Ubandoma Ularamu,

said Ondo state was among those chosen to benefit from the five hundred kilometres of roads project of RAMP initiated by the Federal Government and supported by the World Bank and the French Development Agency.

He said the project, the third phase, keyed into the agricultural production policy of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, aimed at promoting  agricultural produce and increase the average income of of poor rural households who mostly depend on agriculture for sustenance.

”We now have a new RAMP called RAMP 3 that has additional agenda which is rural access and agriculture marketing and we have a target of five hundred kilometres to be constructed with a portfolio of about $60 million dollars under this new project”, he said.

The National Project Coordinator enumerated some of the project ‘s goals to include: Rural access, Agricultural promotion for the diversification of the economy outside the oil sector and contributing to rural poverty reduction through increasing agricultural productivity.

While stressing that the project would soon come on board in the state, Mr Ularamu added that the Federal Government had initiated a consultancy to carry out environmental and social management framework as well as settlement policy framework for banks to process the report for selected states to participate fully.

RAMP, according to him, would essentially be used to promote agricultural productivity for small scale farmers and thus contribute to the country’s Transformation Agenda for the agricultural sector, as well as contribute to the improvement of governance at the state level through its performance based approach stated in the Country Partnership Strategy ,CPS.

In his address of welcome to the stakeholders, the State Co-ordinator of the project,  Engineer Zaccheus Olorunnegan, said the Rural Access and Mobility Project, RAMP, is anchored on the Federal Government Rural Travel and Transport Policy (RTTP), supported with funds from the World Bank and French Development Partnership.

He said the project has the aim of constructing access on prioritized river-crossings across the state and to support institutional reforms in the transport sector leading to transportation efficiency of rural dwellers in the state.

Engineer Olorunnegan stated that the major component of Rural Access and Mobility Project is captured in the Rural Travel and Transport Policy of the Federal Government which includes; Institutional strengthening and capacity building; Rehabilitation and Maintenance of Transport Infrastructure and Rural Mobility improvement.

The State Coordinator added that the components are in consonance with the radical support and intervention in the provision of rural transport infrastructure that will enhance economic performance of rural communities in strategically prioritized areas in the state.

He commended the State Governor for not only approving the participation of the state in the third Rural Access and Mobility Project, but for also approving and supporting the implementation of the programme in the State through the State Project Implementation Unit, SPIU, and making provisions for counterpart fund as the state contribution to the project in the 2017 project.

“By these approvals, the governor has sufficiently demonstrated his commitment to increasing economic activities in the state through initiating and provision of roads that will improve movement of farm produce to the urban areas and processing zones.

“It is in line with the commitment of the present administration that we at the State Project Implementation Unit, SPIU, of the Rural Access and Mobility Project, pledge our complete loyalty, commitment and service for the success of the project”, he assured.

Dignitaries at the occasion include: the Deputy Governor, Hon Agboola Ajayi; Secretary to the State Government, Hon Ifedayo Abegunde; Chief of Staff to the State Governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale; Permanent Secretaries of critical MDAs to the project; Officials from the national office of RAMP 3; Chairmen of Councils in the 18 Local Government Areas; Traditional Rulers across the state; Youths, Students and members of relevant Non Governmental Organizations.