Rivers’ Development: Promises, Successes And Failures Of 2009 (II)

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The concluding part of this piece first published last Wednesday.

The 13.583km Rumuokwuta/Ozuoba/Choba Road dualisation, awarded to Homan Engineering on December 10, 2007, at a cost of about N8.8billion, with a 24-month delivery timeline has not been completed. In fact, the project is just about 50 per cent ready. Another project that has drawn the err of Rivers people and users of the road is the Eliozu flyover, awarded to Bulletine Nigeria Limited by the previous administration, and revalidated by the Amaechi government on January 8,2008, for a 24-month delivery timeline. The flyover, valued at N1,677,479,772.15, is still at about 90 per cent completion level, despite huge outcry for speedy delivery of the project, especially given the fact that Julius Berger had delivered the largest interchange project in Nigeria within agreed 18-month timeline at Eleme Junction in November, 2009.

The 1.075km Abuja Bypass dualisation project in Mile 3, awarded to Denny Micky Nigeria Limited on March 27, 2008, on a 5-month delivery timeline has also not been completed. The N478,485,132.30 contract has not delivered a commendable statement on the state government, as 16 months after it was due for completion, residents and users of the road are yet to enjoy the benefit of the ambitious government decision to dualise the road. Now, a section of the road has been partially completed while work is still ongoing on the other section. Also facing serious problems is the Ada George/NTA/Prof Tam David-West/East West/Omagwa-Airport Road dualisation, awarded to Gitto Construction Nigeria Limited on May 8, 2008, with a 24-month delivery timeline. The N10.2billion-18.6km road is still battling with the separate N4.4billion flyover aspect of the contract, about five months to project delivery date of the first phase.

It is important to mention two other road projects that give residents worry. These are the 3.2km Slaughter/Oginigba/Rmuobiakani Road and the 5km Eneka/Igbo-Etche Link Road dualisation projects awarded to Reynolds Construction Company Limited on June 12, 2008, and Omima Energy & Technical Services Limited on June 19, 2008, both on 18-month delivery timelines. Both projects were supposed to have been delivered by December, 2009, valued at N6.5billion and N920, 390,373.00, respectively, but were not. Reynolds would still need, at least, another two months to complete work on the remaining aspect of the project, especially the median. The bridge has been completed but the asphalting is hardly smooth at a lot of   points. The project was initially designed to deliver four lanes each side but can only boast of a comfortable two lanes each side. On the other hand, Omima Energy & Technical Services Limited has barely done 50 per cent of the entire contract scope.  

At the Agip/Rumueme/Sani Abacha Roundabout, Rivigo J.V. Nigeria Limited is also holding Rivers people to ransom on a N3, 985,111,892.68 flyover contract, awarded on May 6, 2008, with an 18-month delivery timeline. This project, which has drawn wide outcry from residents and users of the popular Ikwerre Road, is still at about 50 per cent completion level, more than one month after it was due for delivery to government. These and many more constitute some of the failures of the administration in the road sector in 2009.   

In the education sector, Development Update recalls that the government, in 2009, continued work on the 23 model secondary schools and 250 model primary schools in the 23 local government areas of the state. While each of the new secondary schools is expected to accommodate 1,000 students, each of the model primary schools is expected to take in 500 pupils. This number would provide accommodation for 23,000 students and 125,000 pupils in the state, respectively.

The government plans to up the number of new model primary schools of 14 classrooms each in various communities in the 23 local government areas to 750 by 2011. Out of this number, 250 are already ongoing, with about 106 of them completed; giving a shortfall of about 144, while 100 would be built in 2010. Already, sites for the 100 new additions are being cleared or existing structures demolished to give way to the model schools. Given this scenario, it is clear that the government did not meet its targets in delivering the required number of model primary schools in 2009. The same holds for the model secondary schools.

Why? Some argue it was due to delays by contractors to deliver the projects while others attribute the delay to the excruciating due process procedures to get clearance for payments for jobs done. Some even argue that the government ran into some financial squeeze, and therefore, did not have the money to pay for milestones completed.

By the end of 2009, the Rivers State Government said it would spend some N27billion on the model primary schools and N90billion on the model secondary schools. In actual sense, the model primary schools would cost government about N28.999billion, with 43 valued at N117million and 214 valued at N112million, respectively. On the average, however, government has paid out about 65 per cent of all total contract value to the contractors. The completed model primary schools are now waiting for furnishing, supply and installation of all necessary equipment, including computers, desks and chairs, among others.

On the other hand, the model secondary schools would cost the government some N70.610billion, at a flat rate of N3.070billion each. Seven of these schools are being executed under public-private partnership (PPP) framework. Contractors for the remaining 16 have already received between N350million and N1billion mobilization, with milestone payments in place as work on the projects progresses. It also said that work on the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology, with a 60,000-capacity hostel, has gathered momentum as part of the first phase of the Greater Port Harcourt City development strategy.

But with the secondary school students’ population presently at 139,000, it follows that the government needs to build some 139 or 140 of such schools in the state. However, the government plans to construct, at least, 46 model secondary schools before the end of its tenure in 2011.

Nevertheless, the government has scored a significant point with the completion of, at least, 106 of the model primary schools. This success story paints a huge picture of brighter days ahead for the education sector in the state. But to sustain this success story, and elevate Rivers State to the level of a centre of excellence in education and human capacity development in Nigeria, successive administrations would need to consolidate on the gains already made by this administration in the sector. There is now good justification for the government’s declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector.

In the health sector, Development Update is aware that the government completed more than 50, out of the 150 new health centres, being constructed across the 23 local government areas of the state in 2009. In the same year, the government also employed 150 medical doctors for the health centres to ensure that each facility gets, at least, one doctor to attend to patients. Some of the health centres are already functioning while others are awaiting furnishing and installation of equipment.

It further completed three secondary health facilities, including the New Niger Hospital (now Kelsey Harrison Hospital) on Emenike Street in Diobu, the new Dental and Maxillo Facial Hospital at Garrison, costing about N400million each, and a 500-bed hospital at the present site of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Nkpolu, all in Port Harcourt. The secondary health facilities are now waiting for furnishing and installation of equipment. The government also commenced work on the Adolphus Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital in the Greater Port Harcourt City area, and had cleared the site for the Chief Alfred K. Horsfall Hospital, near the newly completed Dental and Maxillo Facial Hospital.

In fact, the health sector is one area that has given the state government’s development agenda a new fillip. Hitherto, the few health infrastructures could neither provide needed accommodation, nor were facilities and equipment enough to dispense medical treatment to thousands of patients requiring attention. But with the litany of health centres being built across the local government areas, it is obvious that the number of patients flocking around each of the facilities for attention would reduce.  This would give the doctors ample opportunity and time to attend to each patient according to their needs, and speedily address the health needs of the people of the state. If for nothing else, the completion of more than 106 health centres was a giant stride in 2009.  

In the commerce and industry sector, the government completed phase one of the N2.6billion Rumuwoji Market in Mile One. This first phase has 933 shops. It also has water pumps and a fire station, security posts, toilets, parking lots, a clinic, water hydrants and hose reels, as well as offices for the unions, and the facility management team. The market is further constructed with in-built fire-proof roofing system and other state-of-the-art construction components. Now, the completed stalls and shops are waiting to be allocated to those who would put them to viable uses. On completion, the entire market would provide 2,000 shops for small and medium traders and businessmen, and push the windows of business in the state to another level.

Also in 2009, the government started work on the N3.0197billion new Port Harcourt Town Market. The market has modern facilities such as 292 open shops, 736 lock-up shops, water hydrants, two water pumps and a fire station, including 96 hose reels for every block for fire fighting, four banks, a clinic, 32 toilets and 700 parking lots. The market is billed to be delivered to the government this year.

Pabod Breweries and West African Glass Industry Limited on Trans Amadi, Delta Rubber Company in Okomoko, Etche, Risonpalm Limited at Ubima, and a host of other industrial concerns where the government has significant interest also received a boost in 2009. In fact, Pabod Breweries successfully picked up in activities in 2009, while efforts were made to partner other private sector investors in reviving and reinvigorating Risonpalm.

In 2009, the government scored high marks in the area of culture and tourism development and promotion in the state. For instance, it successfully hosted the second Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant, the ION International Film Festival, and one of the best CARNIRIV events in Port Harcourt, as well as participated and won the overall best prize in the 2009 Abuja Carnival.  

The public-private partnership (PPP) template also made some fine statements on the seriousness of the Rivers State Government to involve the private  sector as the driving force of development of the state in 2009. The successful incorporation of the private sector in the designing and funding of the Port Harcourt Ring Road is one of the success stories of 2009. Other areas include the winning of the hearts of some private sector players in funding roads, and model secondary school projects, the Zenith Bank-built information and communication technology centre near the Nigerian Air Force Base in Port Harcourt, now completed, among other people-oriented development projects in the state.

Development Update agrees that 2009 was a difficult year for all sectors of the economy, including governments at all level, and that was why all promises could not be kept. However, we believe that 2010 presents better prospects for improved performance in delivering democracy dividends to the people of the state. But to achieve that requires government’s thoroughness, toughness, decisiveness, and uncompromising approach to governance, transparency and utmost frugality in the expenditure of public resources. The government also needs to show that it can closely monitor and ensure compliance by contractors to projects’ specifications, and delivery timelines. Now, let’s watch and see.      

 

NELSON CHUKWUDI