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
Rivers NUJ 2022: The Storm, The Calm, The Expectations
After several months of tension and uncertainties, journalists in Rivers State peacefully elected on Wednesday a new state executive to run the affairs of their union for the next three years.
The aphorism, ‘All is
well that ends well,’ best describes the outcome of the just concluded election of the Rivers State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), which last Wednesday returned Comrade Stanley Job as the State Chairman and Comrade Ike Wigodo as Secretary for a second term and the election of five other officers under a peaceful and friendly atmosphere to run the affairs of the council for the next three years.
The backslapping and hugs that greeted the declaration of the results were in sharp contrast to what many feared would happen at the election, which had suffered several postponements amidst tension and threats by opposing factions that emerged in the run-up to the election. On one of the days, specifically on August 12, 2021, when the election failed to hold, tables were overturned, bottles broken and blows were exchanged. It took the intervention of security agents at the event to get people out of the election hall and out of Ernest Ikoli Press Centre to bring peace to the premises. For several weeks, journalist lost the use of the press centre as the police cordoned off the place until a rapprochement was reached with the main contending factions of the council.
The August 12 fight had started just as the then national Vice-Chairman, Edward Ogude, got set to conduct the election as part of the triennial congress formalities. A faction of members in the hall called to question the credibility of the list of voters about to be used to conduct the election because the credentials committee, set up to conduct the election did not display the list of voters for claims and objections.
After the August 12 fiasco, a new election date of January 13, 2022 date was finally approved by the National Secretariat. But the election suffered further shift following objections to the list of members to vote at the election. January 18 was finally approved after the issues arising from the voters’ register were resolved.
If bottles were broken and tables thrown at members in the failed August 2021 date, not a few expected that the January 18 rescheduled event would be any peaceful. If anything, people feared the worst. The weather did not help matters. Very early on Tuesday morning, the sky had darkened, very unusual of an early January weather. The day looked unpredictable as people argued whether it was going to rain or whether it was just another display in the sky what they had become used to as the Port Harcourt soot.
But rather than find people with weapons and unusual faces of suspected troublemaker hirelings lurking about, the premises of Ernest Ikoli Press Centre was full of excited and convivial journalists hugging themselves, throwing banters and holding hands. The press centre had never had that kind of happy crowd for many years or even decades. Curiously, people coming into the centre were not frisked by security agents. And if there were security agents around, their presence did not quite manifest.
Colleagues that had not met themselves for a long time seized the advantage of the sort of reunion and treated themselves to throwbacks as they caught up with lost time and shared memories. The large open space in front of Ernest Ikoli could hardly contain the crowd of journalists. Even as people looked for space to fill up, the elements felt the distances between them were not close enough. Without warning, the heavens opened up and the rains sent everyone hoarded into the bush bar and reception of the main building to create closer body contacts.
The election soon got underway as voters were called in to vote according to their chapels. Many chapels had voted and their members had gone home. Things were moving smoothly though slowly until something caught the attention of one eagle-eyed voter. Voters were being given eight ballot papers instead of seven, a situation that could make people vote double. The discovery was enough to get tempers flying. And they fly. The parties took it up and talked it over with the election committee.
If things were going to get out of control, they were settled with the prompt arrival of the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who after consultations, got the process cancelled and called in members still around to inform them of what had happened. If the commissioner expected his explanation to calm the audience, he didn’t quite read them well. There was unease. Who is responsible? After all these postponements, who wants to rubbish the efforts again? Tempers flared and murmurs greeted the Commissioner’s revelation.
“We have to come back tomorrow to vote again,” Nsirim’s voice cut through the bedlam, as he insisted that the voting could no longer stand. “Once there is an error in the process, it calls the credibility of election to question.” He praised journalists for the decorum and understanding they had exhibited despite the discovery but vouched for the neutrality of the election committee and attributed the error to an honest mistake. “How would it be possible to again gather the large number of journalists that joyfully turned out for the election?” One person was heard saying over the din, “There will be apathy.”
“It is a family and for us to make a headway (in this situation), we have to make a sacrifice to come back tomorrow,” the Commissioner appealed. He eventually put the decision like a motion to a voice vote. And those in support of returning the following day to vote had it. After receiving an apology from the NUJ Zonal Secretary, who said all the ballots used for the day would be destroyed before everybody. The gathering was dismissed to resume by 11 am the following day.
If the sky of Tuesday, January 18, 2022 was gloomy, the sky of Wednesday, January 19 came clear. If there was any fear that not many voters would turn out for the election after the rescheduling, the large enthusiastic crowd that reported on Wednesday proved otherwise. The votes were cast and they were counted. At the end of it all, winners emerged and their opponents embraced them. As one veteran journalist, who said he was troubled when he heard about the violence that had marred the August 12 the initial date for the election, said, “I am glad to come around and see that journalists in Rivers State are able to put aside that ugly past and are embracing themselves.”
A number of things had happened while the election stalemate lasted. The council could not send a unified team to the national convention of the NUJ that took place in Umuahia in October last year. However the state was able to produce the National Zonal Vice-President in the person of Opaka Dokubo, a former state chairman of the NUJ in the state.
Credit for the successful election and smooth transition during the almost six months of crisis must be given to the Honourable Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, himself a former Council Chairman and Secretary who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the warring faction together. When it mattered he took a leave from his cabinet duties to troubleshoot when his physical presence mattered.
Credit will also go to the Elders Committee of the NUJ in the state, whose quick reaction and consultations led to the setting up the caretaker committee that took over the running of the council and prevented a vacuum. The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Friday Eboka, also deserves mention for not only providing security to safeguard the Press Centre on the day violence broke out, but also for successfully bringing the various stakeholders of the council to commit to peace.
The caretaker committee headed by Comrade Amaechi Okonkwo also proved a commendable point for successfully steering the affairs of the council safely to shore despite the many mines that were laid in its path. Similar commendation also goes to the President of NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, and other national executives who despite their engagements prior to and following their elections during the crisis period provided support and guidance for the process that led to the successful transition in Rivers State.
It is now expected that the new state working committee will build on the renewed love, unity and camaraderie among journalists in the state and move the union forward. There are many issues regarding the welfare, accreditation, training and empowerment of journalists in the state, which the council must now address itself to. The menace of fake news and new media practitioners, who masquerade as journalists; abuses by members who go cheap before their sources; irregular accreditation of chapels; and living wages for journalists and settlement of benefits to retiring journalists by both public and private employers of journalists. There is also the issue about creating synergies between the NUJ and public institutions, government bodies, organised private sector and corporate organisations in the state; integration and empowerment of veterans and revival of the press centre culture.
Those elected were Comrade Stanley Job (Chairman); Comarade Okechukwu Maru (Vice-Chairman), Comrade Ikechukwu Wigodo (Secretary); Comrade Esther Obialor (Assistant Secretary); Comrade Miebaka Fubara (Financial Secretary); Comrade Doris Tam Morrison (Treasurer) and Comrade Ominini Wokoma (Auditor).
Job, the re-elected chairman promised to improve on the achievements of his first tenure, work for the bettering of the welfare of journalists, and renovate the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre.
By: Emmanuel Obe
Obe is a journalist in Rivers State.
What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?
As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met. So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.
By: Calista Ezeaku
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
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