The wind of change blowing across Rivers State today is more phenomenal than usual considering the challenges on ground before the inception of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor. The state, before this administration could be referred to as lawless, incapacitated and needing change. Only a few years ago, Rivers State was like a battle ground for criminals with high concentration in the myriad of security challenges being faced in its domiciled region, the Niger Delta; the standard of education was in shambles, schools were dilapidated, health care delivery was way below standard, roads were always being patched rather than properly fixed and bad spots persisted. What was once known and referred to as the Garden city of Nigeria turned out to be entirely different with slums and irregular structures and indiscriminate dumping of refuse defacing the environment.
This, however, has not been the case since Governor Amaechi took the reins of leadership in the state, a governor that has so far proven to be responsible, transparent and accountable to the people even in the face of seeming impossibilities. On assumption of office, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, addressed the issue of militancy and its culmination into criminality in the state with utmost fervour leading to the significant reduction in criminal activities in the state. With the safety of the people in mind, the complete ban on motorcycle operation in the state was enforced. Governor Amaechi has since put the people first in his administration’s policies and projects, fulfilling his mandate to protect lives and property of the citizenry. His proposed demolition of shanties and slums in Port Harcourt Waterfronts and subsequent redevelopment is a vivid example of the Governor’s zeal to perpetually eliminate crime in the state as well as bring lasting development to it. This has, however, not been an easy task due to objections by some aggrieved parties but Governor Amaechi stands unshakable when it comes to dealing with issues of security and development.
Putting necessary infrastructures and policies in place, the Amaechi-Ied government is gradually turning Rivers State into a safe, clean and green abode for its residents. Health care delivery that had once collapsed has again been transformed to ensure the provision of quality health care services to the people in all areas of the state. With the aim of reducing maternal and infant mortality in Rivers State, particularly as some people live in riverine areas where health care delivery was not easily accessible, Governor Amaechi is building 153 Primary Health Care Centres simultaneously across all 23 local government areas of the state. People are now sure of getting medical care whenever, and as fast as they need it because one of those Model Primary Health Centres is in their neighbourhood. The state-owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital has also been given a touch of class through positioning it to be able to handle referral cases from the Primary Health Centres. The government has also completed the building of the state’s Ultra Modern Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital at the Garrison axis of the Port Harcourt-Aba expressway and the 150-bed New Niger Hospital on Emenike Street, Diobu, Port Harcourt. Work has commenced on the 150 million dollar Justice Karibi Whyte Mega Specialist Hospital in Rivers State. The state-of-the-art mega specialist hospital is billed to replace all overseas referral cases and offer quality medical services of world standard to people in Rivers State, Nigeria and other African countries. This would in essence reduce the number of patients referred abroad for treatment, making the way for patients to be flown into the country from other parts of Africa for treatment. The government has already paid $39m out of the proposed $150m for the building of the 1000 bed Mega Hospital. The Mega Hospital project, which was earlier planned to be built on the site of the former Port Harcourt General Hospital is now under construction at a larger site within the New Greater Port Harcourt City which is also under construction. However, the former General Hospital grounds will not be left undeveloped as the proposed Women and Children Hospital Project is now planned to be situated there.
In Education, there has been an overhaul following the state of emergency declared on the education sector in the state. The Amaechi administration handed over some schools back to the missionary, who originally owned them to facilitate proper administration. The governor’s determination to standardise education in Rivers State also culminated into government’s taking over of Primary Schools funding and payment of teachers from the local government councils. 250 new Model Primary Schools are being built across the state and governor Amaechi has planned to complete 750 such schools before the end of his 4-year tenure. In the same vein, 23 new model secondary schools are being built, one for each of the 23 local government areas of the state. An extra one has been added to make 24 model secondary schools being built by the same government. These schools, both primary and secondary, are to include well equipped libraries and internet facilities while the secondary schools will have boarding facilities of 2 per room and 25 students per classroom in line with United Nations standards. Meanwhile, a lot has been done to bring the state university that is, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology to an acceptable standard. A lot of courses that were not accredited before now have been accredited under the Amaechi administration. Efforts are being made to relocate the institution from its present small, congested location in the heart of Port Harcourt to the new Greater Port Harcourt city. The present location provides little or no room for expansion. But the new one under construction is a 150-hectare ultra-modern campus, has the capacity of accommodating about 60,000 or more students. 32 hostels of 8 floors each is being built to accommodate all students.
Also, a scholarship programme where 300 students are being sponsored to study in the United Kingdom and Canada is also being run by the Rivers State Government. 300 Rivers students are currently studying in overseas under the auspices of this scheme and the government under Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has provided £20,000 for each student per year.
Road construction in Rivers State, particularly Port Harcourt had also posed some serious challenges due to the number of houses that had to be demolished to restore the government’s right of way and enhance the construction, reconstruction and expansion of some roads into dual carriageways. Currently, roads in Port Harcourt are narrow single lanes which make traffic situation sometimes very difficult and which in turn justifies the ongoing construction of dual carriage ways on most major roads in the city. All the roads under construction are being done with large underground drainages which are also very important to residents of the state as the rains usually cause flooding in different areas of the city due to the lack of a proper drainage system. Some of the roads include: the Rumuokwuta/Choba Road, Rumuola Road, First Bank/Rumuobiakani/Old Aba Road, Oginigba Slaughter Road. Another very important road project is the Oil Mill/Eleme Junction Flyover and the AGIP /Rumueme/ Abacha road f1yover. Many other feeder roads have undergone rehabilitation courtesy of the Amaechi . administration.
Another major challenge where the Amaechi administration has proven its prowess and determination is the construction of roads in the coastal parts of the state. Governor Amaechi had since his infrastructural regime declared that no port of the state is more important than another and infrastructural facilities will be distributed evenly amongst communities in the upland areas and those in the coastal areas no matter how difficult the geographical terrain is. The vision of connecting all parts of the state by road has brought about government’s doggedness in the building of bridges and rural roads in almost all communities. An important project in this category is the Ogoni-AndoniOpobo Unity road project. This project will link communities in Ogoni, Andoni and Opobo local government areas with a total of 10 bridges. The project, when completed will enormously increase the pace of development in those areas and greatly reduce rural-urban migration. Governor Amaechi is spending about N 19 billion on the Unity road project, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Other major rural road projects are the TransKalabari Highway and the Okirika ring road being built with three bridges amongst others. Internal roads are also being constructed in virtually all local government areas of the state. In some, there is the land reclamation and shore protection project.
In the Power sector, Governor Amaechi has stated that by December, Port Harcourt will have about 280 mega watts of power. Government has announced plans to change all the small transformers and fix distribution lines to ensure that Rivers State enjoys at least 70 per cent of power to be generated from the 280 mega watts supply. Governor Amaechi’s target is that by 2011, the state should deliver 500 mega watts of power which means Port Harcourt and Rivers State will have uninterrupted power supply by 2011. Plans are also on to award a contract for the building of a new power plant at Afam, 180 mega watts with June/July next year as target date of completion to complement what is already on ground in the state. Added together, it becomes 550 mega watts.
Meanwhile, the state government has begun the process of building 391 power projects which will cover about 350 communities spread across Rivers State with the aim of electrifying rural communities that have not been connected to the national power grid. The 391 power projects will include the installation of high tension, low tension, sub-stations, extensions etc in these communities. Also, the Amaechi administration plans to build a 300 megawatts independent power project (IPP) that would provide power for the new Greater Port Harcourt city.
A lot of other projects by the Amaechi administration are currently ongoing in different sectors of the state, all aimed at giving the people an improved standard of living and taking the state to greater heights. The Greater Port Harcourt City is a huge project embarked upon by the Amaechi administration to expand and develop Port Harcourt into a world class modern city as well as check congestion in the Old Port Harcourt city. Work has already commenced in the first phase of the Greater Port Harcourt City.
The Greater Port Harcourt City covers a number of areas from over 8 Local Government Areas in the state. They includes Port Harcourt, Obio/ Akpor, Oyigbo, Okirika, Ogu Bolo, Ikwerre, Etche and Eleme. The Rivers State Government is committed to funding the project with a budget of not less than N 1 OOb per year while open to Public Private Partnerships.
On waste management, Governor Amaechi has revealed his ongoing construction of three waste management plants. Two of these plants are to manage solid waste while one is to manage scrap or mega waste.
Urban renewal has continued with the beautification of Port Harcourt City. Roads, f1yovers, parks are now being adorned with greenery in line with Governor Amaechi’s policy of returning Port Harcourt back to its garden city status. The same goes for social infrastructure and activities. There are uncountable but remarkable changes going on in Rivers state today because the incumbent state chief executive has chosen to be upright, humane and accountable to the state and its people.
Iyofo is Gov Amaechi’s media aide