Swali community in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa state is by the river bank through which It connects all other riverine areas, but can also be accessed by land. As soon as a first time visitor enters Yenagoa, the name Swali begins to resonate on the lips of everyone around to the extent that one wouldn’t mind taking an adventure to the place in order to cash a glimpse of the popular community.
What makes Swali thick
This ancient community plays host to many state and federal government establishments from which she earns the popularity. For instance, the community hosts the popular Swali Ultra Modern Market built by late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, first civilian governor of the state. It has the largest market in the state and draws traders from far and wide.
The community also hosts the national headquarters of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) with the tallest building in the Niger Delta region at the moment which was virtually commissioned by president Muhammadu Buhari recently.
Moreover, Swali hosts many other key establishments such as the state branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the popular Oxbow Lake resort and event centre, the Bayelsa state Central Business District, the Federal Secretariat for civil servants which is still under construction as well as one television and two private radio stations.
Despite sacrificing their lands in a show of patriotism to their fatherland, Swali community and its people remain in a sorry state, superficially lacking every basic amenities. The condition of this community can only be at par with the proverbial, but paradoxical tale of a man who builds his house atop the river but is permanently thirsty for water. In the Swali community, you would find it difficult to believe that there is no presence. The only social amenity one can point to is a mini-town hall built by a contracting firm, Megastar, in collaboration with NCDMB.
Her generosity notwithstanding, the original Swali community does not have an access road till this moment. Residents have to trek on muddy soil to get to their homes during dry and rainy seasons respectively. In the same vein, the town has no potable water and electricity.
When we visited Swali, the only government owned community health centre which looks obscure was under lock and key. One of the residents simply said, “Those health workers don’t have our time, so, we too don’t have their time”.
Due to absence of access and internal road network which makes it difficult for the police to carry out proper community policing in the area, it is often a safe haven for criminals who take advantage of inaccessibility to terrorise the residents.
Residents beg for attention
Its paramount ruler, HRH Wilcox Seyefa, said the main reason they gave out their lands for government establishments was for the development of the state and Swali in particular. On the newly commissioned NCDMB national headquarters, the paramount ruler said “We thank God that this big project is sited on our land. We thank the initiators. We hope that this would bring development to the Bayelsa and Swali community and provide employment for our youths. We donated those lands so that development would come to us. I am appealing to the state government, the government of Nigeria and companies to open up the road and give employment to our youths most of whom are graduates but have no jobs.“
Also speaking, the Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman, Barr Jimmy-Cliff Agada, lamented the lack of basic social amenities despite the community’s sacrificial release of vast areas of land to the state and federal governments for various establishments. He reiterated the call on NCDMB, the state and federal governments as well as other establishments occupying their land to engage youths of Swali community in meaningful ventures.
In like manner, the General Secretary of the community, Mr Jerry Moses, said, “As the goose that lays the golden egg, we are supposed to be partakers of good things too. You can see that we are surrounded by good things, but you won’t believe that the same Swali you hear about is without a road, without water, without light and we are the ones hosting all these facilities.
So, we are looking forward to those things so that as a community, we can be appreciative of the state government. With our contributions to the state, we are not too happy with the level of development. We have a good internal road network even before the creation of Bayelsa state but none has been developed till day. We want our youths to be employed because that will curb a lot of youth restiveness.”
It could be recalled that the last time the people of Swali had some flickers of hope concerning the construction of their access road was in 2015 when the then governor of Bayelsa state, Hon.Seriake Dickson went to the community to campaign for a second term in office.