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Development Update

LG Polls: EFCC, Scare Heightens Tension In Bayelsa

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As the hunt by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), for the runaway Bayelsa State Commissioner for Finance and  Budgeting, Dr. Sylvia Opuala Charles continues top government functionaries in the state have decided to shun their offices.

This is sequel to the rumour going round that the anti-graft agency have listed 160 persons on their wanted list.

Among officers said to be on the run include commissioners, permanent secretaries, head of parastals and director in different government organisation in the state.

Official activities in all the affected ministries and parastatals have grounded as visitors and staff were seen discussing the development in the place of work in low tunes.

Beside the hunting of the officials by EFCC, the proposed council elections coming up this weekend has added to the tense situation in the state.

Although, the state government is trying to down play the whole scenario as handiwork of its opponent, the facts remain that most people are very apprehensive of what the state will be like after Saturday’s election.

Meanwhile, Dr. Chales has denied being on the run but said he would not honour the invitation from EFCC, unless the three officials of the state government now facing trial in Abuja are released in line with gentle man agreement reached between the agency and the state government forthnight ago.

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Development Update

Rumuibekwe/Elelenwo

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The Rivers State Government under the leadership of Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has since October 26, 2007, placed physical infrastructure development as a priority. The reason is not far-fetched. The government had realized that the state lacked basic infrastructures to kick-start an aggressive development strategy. It reckoned that the problems in the state were attributable to the dearth of basic foundations to absorb the shocks associated with the realities of present-day socio-economic development and growth. The governor, therefore, decided to frontally pursue an aggressive policy that integrates all sectors of human development.

For the government, the programmes that would facilitate the speedy development of the state include good road network in both urban and rural areas; primary, secondary and tertiary hospitals; primary, secondary and tertiary education facilities, water and sanitation infrastructures; strategic food security policy; urban renewal programme; and good transport network. But the government, also realized that all the listed pillars of development would not make any meaningful impact if a good road network is not put in place in both rural and urban centres in the state.

Thus, the government began a policy of constructing roads in all the rural communities in the 23 local government areas. Most of the roads are designed with bridges and drainages to check storm waters and subsequent flooding of the state, which experts argue, is way below the sea level. And today, the government has constructed more than 50 internal roads in the local government areas. More road projects are still ongoing in the communities. It has also constructed more than four dual carriageways already while work is ongoing on more than seven in both Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre and Port Harcourt local government areas. About four flyover projects are in the works, with one at Eleme Junction already completed and commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan while the Eliozu flyover project, awarded to Bulletine Construction Company has seemingly been abandoned. Contracts for about five more have been awarded, and work would soon commence on them. In all, contracts have been awarded by the Amaechi administration for about 800 road projects in the state. Some of the internal community roads and dualisation projects have been highlighted in this column previously.

Today, Development Update takes a look at one of the strategic link roads being constructed by the state government in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. This is the Rumuibekwe/Elelenwo Link Road. In fact, contract for the construction of Abua/Okoba Close/Rumuibekwe Estate Road with extension to Elelenwo in Obio/Akpor was awarded to Deansgale International Limited on November 26, 2008. Valued at N1,340,133,621.75, the 1.3kilometre road project was designed to be completed in 24 months.

The vision of the government in awarding the contract to link the two important communities in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by road is to further enhance communication between people from the area. Another vital reason is to ease human and vehicular traffic in and around the communities. Perhaps, it is not out of place to stress that the link road would serve as a very important access route for many vehicles desperate to exit or access the critical Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway or even Woji and Old Aba Road. It is also an important conduit for those striving to access Elelenwo and Akpajo to Eleme or the interchange at the Eleme Junction, en route Aba or Rumuokurusi on the East West Road.

Therefore, the new link road would serve as a critical access route for residents of Port Harcourt and those who do one form of business or the other around the state capital and its environs. The decision to open up the road, hitherto hidden in the mass of buildings sprawling in and around Rumuibekwe Estate and Elelenwo is, indeed, commendable. It shows that the government is not just thinking fast on how best to move the state forward but how positively its programmes can make a difference in the lives of Rivers people and those who live and do business in the state. It is because of the immeasurable benefits of the road to the people of the state and other residents that the government, has been closely monitoring the progress of work on the road to ensure that the contractor meets not just the project specifications but also delivery timeline.              

Between November, 2008, and the end of the first quarter of 2009, the Ministries of Works and Urban Development marked the buildings encroaching on the expanded road for demolition. Landlords who owned properties along the road were directed to demolish them while illegal structures on the right of way of the link road were also marked for demolition.  The issues of compensation were taken up by the government, and those whose properties were affected were listed and paid compensation later last year. And by October, 2009, the state government indicated that about 10 per cent of the project has been executed. But, honestly, the contractor was nowhere near the area as evidence of mobilization to start the real work at the project site.  

However, the contractor mobilized to site in February, 2010, and within a space of three weeks, graded, leveled and piled some stretch of the road from the Okoba Close axis to the Deeper Life Bible Church end. This is a stretch of about .450metres length and 12metres breadth. The shoulders on both sides collapse into new drainages constructed to take storm waters off the road, and empty into the creek separating Rumuibekwe from Elelenwo communities. Development Update notes that in one month, Deansgale completed the asphalting of this stretch of the road.

The asphalting of this stretch of the road, Development Update learnt, was necessitated by the need to allow for free flow of traffic at that end of the road, which attracts heavy vehicular movement on a daily basis. Another reason for the speedy process adopted by the contractor is the fact that the Abua Close/Okoba axis of the road was in a terrible shape and gave residents serious nightmare prior to the award of the contract by government.

Now, with the completion of work within that stretch, Deansgale shifted emphasis towards the creek, an axis that had never been motorable since the creation of the road and the massive development of the area by those who had acquired land for residential purposes. But one thing that has impacted negatively on the project is the need to expand the road to allow for a major construction effort. Consequently, new developers and those who had built their houses were asked to demolish either their fences or even structures that literarily hampered progress on the construction process.

At the same time, the contractor moved over to the Elelenwo end of the road, and began clearing the road. Now, a few hitches have delayed the job from this axis. One is the fact at the time residents began acquiring land and developing their properties, none ever imagined that one day, a major road would be carved out of that area to link Rumuibekwe Estate New Layout. Thus, houses had been built indiscriminately, some close to the less than six-metre road hitherto used as access route for those who live around the area. With the massive development effort going on in the area, a new strategy to create a link road within that circumference has been met with difficult challenges, including the challenge of paying compensation to large number of residents whose houses have had to be demolished to give way for the road construction as well as the time lag in the relocation of those affected. All these are issues in the road infrastructure development process. Of course, Deansgale, and the Rivers State Government are bracing up to these challenges.

In spite of the challenges highlighted above, Deansgale has continued with the process of bringing the vision of the government in awarding the road contract into manifest reality. Indeed, work is now progressing with the demolition, grading and leveling of the road from the Elelenwo axis. The drainage has also been created to take storm waters off the road into the creek nearby.

After about nine inspection visits to the project between February and last week, Development Update notes that attention needs to be given to a few issues relating to the standard delivery of the project to the government. From the Rumuibekwe Estate end, it is important to point out that the stretch from Ahoada Road has yet to be attended to. Even the buildings still appear too close to the road in spite of the fact that certain level of demolition of structures encroaching on the road has been made. The initial asphalting that had been done on the road appears light, and needs to be standardized to ensure that it is not washed away soon by erosion and heavy vehicular movement. The shoulders that are supposed to create convenient thorough fare on the road for users are virtually non-existent, thereby making it difficult for pedestrians to have an easy walk through the road when it becomes functional.

At the Elelenwo axis, Development Update reckons that the issues look more complex. For instance, the drainages on both sides appear light and shallow. Even the width of the road is small, at between 7-8 metres instead of 10-12 metres. In fact, the width of the road at this end does give some concern to development watchers.  A number of houses obstructing access and progress of work are still standing.

Development Update notes that work is yet to begin on the bridge meant to link both communities together. The suspended bridge has already attracted the excitement of residents of both communities, who see the development as worthy of commendation. But issues have also arisen.

Chairman of Rumuibekwe Estate Landlords Association, Emenike Nwokeoji, spoke the feelings of residents, who expressed their concerns at a monthly meeting of the estate recently. One of the issues raised is the fact that the link road would expose residents of Rumuibekwe Estate to a torrent of criminal incidents that have hardly been experienced. The other concern is the need to restrict heavy duty trucks from accessing the road, and causing severe damage to the road and the bridge in no distant time. They also canvassed the construction of speed breakers to check excessive speeding and unnecessary accidents on the new road. The same fear was expressed by some impacted residents of Elelenwo community. Take Chief Alex Kanu, for example. This estate surveyor agrees with the residents of Rumuibekwe Estate that these issues are of concern to many in Elelenwo.   

As for the security risks, they suggest the deployment of police patrol teams to the road, on completion. In fact, some insist on a permanent road block to serve as a deterrent or containment factor to criminal elements who may want to take advantage of the new road to create panic and discomfort to residents of the area. On the issue of heavy duty trucks plying the road, if completed, the residents suggest that in addition to the construction of speed breakers, a permanent cross bar to serve as barrier to such heavy duty trucks should be constructed and erected at the base of the bridge on both sides to prevent lorries, trailers and tankers from using the road.

In all, residents from both communities praised the Rivers State Government for the bold initiative to award the contract to link both communities by road, and said the project would help accelerate the pace of development in the area.

In his response, the Project Manager, Deansgale International Limited, Engr Eric Hatcho, said the company was working round the clock to deliver the project since mobilization to site and payment of certain percentage of the total contract sum by government. Hatcho noted that the initial delay in the progress of work was caused by the reluctance of those whose buildings or fences were affected to remove their structures to facilitate the speedy delivery of the project within deadline. He said that since compensation has been paid to affected residents, the company has strived to fast-track the project delivery process in the interest of the government and people of the state. The project manager assured that the project would be delivered to the government within agreed specifications, and timeframe. But one thing he could not state for sure was what percentage of the work has been completed so far. For Development Update, however, about 30 per cent of the job has been done thus far.              

Now, if Deansgale is to deliver high quality Rumuibekwe-Elelenwo Link Road to the government in the next 17 months, then the Ministry of Works needs to intensify monitoring of the project to ensure compliance with specifications. The ministry’s officials also need to ensure that all road blocks to the timely delivery of the road are cleared, especially approvals of design adjustments, work completion certificates, milestone payments, among others. This way, it would be possible for Deansgale to deliver this all-important link road to the government within the agreed timeline.

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Development Update

Challenges, Hope As Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road Takes New Shape

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When the Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration came on board after the October 25, 2007, Supreme Court verdict, the first thrust of the government was to put policies and programmes in place that would justify the huge financial resources available in such a way that the people feel the direct impact of government in the state. It’s belief was that if Rivers’ money is spent on Rivers people, sustainable development would be achieved in record time. This is, therefore, why the administration decided, on assumption, to focus on quality service delivery, accountability and good governance.

The first sector to attract government’s priority attention was physical infrastructure development owing to the very sorry state of infrastructure in the state at the time. And the principal beneficiary of this upgrade of infrastructures is roads. This is because the government saw poor road network as the cardinal cause of the frustration among the people and the slow pace of development in the state.

The government’s vision in this respect centred on first linking all sections of the state, including the rural communities with all-season motorable and enduring road infrastructure that would drive development of the state. The other aspect of the vision hinged on the desire of the government to reinvent and transform the city of Port Harcourt with the aim of restoring its Garden City status. To achieve this, the government reckoned that it would need to invest significantly in building a world-class city with cutting-edge facilities that leverage on 21st century road governance mechanisms.

It, thus, began the upgrade of some internal roads and massive expansion of many. This has resulted in the unprecedented road construction works going on in all parts of the state capital and beyond. In fact, in all the 23 local government areas of the state, a number of road construction works is progressing steadily. Also in the scheme, are the upgrade and or reconstruction of existing bridges or outright construction of new ones where none existed before! The bridges are designed to complement roads and make them stand the test of time.

In addition to the bridges, are ring pipe surface and underground drains interspersed with man-holes incorporated in the design of most of the roads. This is a clear departure from the past when roads were constructed without drainages, thus, making it difficult for storm or flood water to find its way out of the road after the rains. This, of course, has been the major cause of flooding in the state capital, and the government decided to correct this anomaly with the new state-of-the-art designs.

One of the roads in the state capital that benefited from this policy is the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road. This was initially a two-lane road, one lane each side with a tiny drainage running from Rumuomasi to Stadium Road Junction. Another stretch starts from Government Secondary School, Elekahia, Junction and empties into Nwaja Creek on the right, with about six miniature offshoots at intervals. At the other side, a tiny drainage from Rumuomasi to some metres before Nwaja Creek ran through the left.

The road is designed to take traffic off Trans Amadi Road from Garrison, Rainbow axis and Nkpogu. It is also expected to take traffic off the Elekahia Estate from Trans Amadi Industrial Layout through the Nigerian Engineering Works Road opposite Ordinance Road and another traffic flow from Rivoc and Pabod Breweries ends of Trans Amadi Industrial Layout. Besides, the road is also expected to take traffic off Shell Third (Back) Gate, Stadium Road, and Rumukalagbor Link Road to the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. But, in the main, the road will push traffic faster through the newly dualised First Bank-Rumuomasi-Rumuobiokani-Rumuogba-Artillery Road to the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway. Or, the new Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road will directly take vehicular traffic to Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway through Rumuomasi Market Junction.  

Today, the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road is being upgraded with a world-class dualisation scheme. The new road design is accompanied with a bridge at Nwaja Creek that will enable motorists access Trans Amadi Road from Elekahia with ease. In fact, the new road is expected to run across the railway line some 15 metres high. The 3.7-kilometre dualisation project, consists of four lanes, with each showcasing two wide lanes.

It also has carefully laid underground ring pipe drainage system to take storm or flood water out of the road through Nwaja Creek or Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway to Mini-Okoro. There is also a connection to the Old Aba Road drainage network, about now being completed as part of the dualisation of the road from First Bank through Rumuomasi to Rumuobiokani, Rumuogba to Second Artillery by Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.

This road project, being executed by the same company which undertook the construction of the Rumuobiokani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road dualisation, Reynolds Construction Company Nigeria Limited (RCC), is costing the government about N6.5billion. Government signed the contract for this road dualisation with RCC on June 17, 2008. It has a project delivery timeline of 12 months, and work began on the road about October last year.

After more than ten inspection visits since October last year, Development Update can now state that the project is progressing steadily. In fact, the pace of work at the site, no doubt, gives an impression that the construction company is steaming to meet delivery target, to avoid a recast of the story of the Rumuobiokani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road, where the goal post was shifted, at least, three times, before the project was delivered early last month.

For now, Development Update can state that about 80 per cent of the ring pipe underground drainage work has been completed with more work going on at the Rumuomasi to Market Junction by Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway axis. At the Nwaja Creek end, sand filling of the area between the railway line and Trans Amadi Road by Nkpogu Junction stretch to the Nwaja Junction is still ongoing. However, serious work is yet to begin on the new Nwaja bridge that will take vehicular traffic off the road to Trans Amadi Road.

But from the Stadium circumference on the Elekahia Estate fringe to some metres before Nwaja Creek, RCC is intensifying the leveling of the road with sharp sand, gravel, water, and other components, preparatory for asphalting. This is a stretch of about 2.2 kilometres. Meanwhile, Development Update notes that RCC has yet to commence the setting and fixing of the median. It is also instructive to observe that the provisions for the fitting and or fixing of interlocking tiles on both sides of the pedestrian walkways have not been made. But in all, the pace of work is encouraging.

However, a lot of challenges abound. One is the critical issue of demolition of and compensation for structures removed on both sides of the road to make way for the dualisation. Of course, the demolition was extensive. At some points, more than 100 metres of already existing structures for residential and or business accommodation were demolished. In fact, unspecified number of structures, including private residences and business outfits were affected.

Although, compensation has been paid, but it has been met with deafening complaints from beneficiaries, both personal or private residences and business owners alike. They told Development Update yesterday that the amount paid them by government was inadequate. They alluded to the fact that the paltry sum of between N300,000 and N500,000 for shops and private residences as against between N800,000 and N900,000 paid to other communities, especially Oginigba and Rumuobiokani did not reflect the  actual cost of properties around the area.

Perhaps, the hardest hit are business operators, who have been told not to reconstruct their demolished structures until work is completed on the road. For them, business is almost at stand still, some can not even display their wares while others who have managed to find a space, are still leaking the wounds inflicted on them by the demolition exercise. Some don’t even border to come to their former shops, as there is nothing left to shelter them or their goods. Life, for some, is acutely agonizing and the bitter pill is hard to swallow. But all the same, this is the price of development. 

Generally however, the residents and business operators along the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road are pleased with the dualisation project. They commended government for the foresight in awarding the contract, and also praised the choice of Reynolds Construction Company as contractor for the execution of the project.

Mr Godspower Ibuchi Owhor, vice chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Rumuomasi Unit, who spoke the mind of motorists plying the road, is one of the stakeholders of the road. He told Development Update yesterday that members of the union were happy with the road project and the pace at which it is going. Owhor said the road would reduce accidents, improve traffic flow and create enabling environment for businesses to thrive. For motorists, he said, the expansion of the road would enhance the ability of members to increase their returns to vehicle owners.

For the Paramount Ruler of Rumuomasi and Elelenwo, Eze A.B.C. Adele, the government has done significantly well. The Nyenwe Eli Orsuiji 111, commended government for awarding to road project to RCC, saying that he was happy that a competent contractor such as RCC was handling the road. He advised government to award similar road projects to competent companies to undertake, in order to deliver quality jobs to government and the people of the state. Eze Adele also stated that the new road, when completed, would improve businesses in the area, and lauded government for leaving a shining legacy for the state and its people.

Another stakeholder, a senior public official in Elekahia, told Development Update last Monday that the road project was one of the best things that has happened to the people of both Elekahia and Rumuomasi. The public figure, who pleaded anonymity, noted that the dualised road would ease vehicular traffic and eliminate congestion on the roads around the area. He said, motorists and commuters would, on completion, access Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway with ease. The stakeholder also stated that the road would help facilitate security agencies’ drive to curb criminal activities because it will reduce response time to distress calls.

He also advised government to help security operatives in the area by constructing speed breakers at intervals to check vehicles that may take advantage of the dualisation to apply excessive speed while plying the road. The concerned stakeholder stressed that this precautionary measure was necessary because the area was mainly a rural community, with high population density, saying that the construction of such expanded road around the area could trigger other consequences, including accidents.    

Development Update thinks that the road, when completed would provide the needed impetus to drive development in the area, and serve the purpose for which it was embarked upon in the first place. And from the general consensus, it is clear that majority of the residents and business operators around the area are for now, pleased with the government and contractor handling the project. Their hope for the future, as major contributors to the state’s economy has no doubt been elevated by the government’s decision to dualise the Elekahia-Rumuomasi Road. At least, this has given them hope that government reckons with them and appreciates their contribution to the development of the state.

But for Development Update, a lot needs to be done in order to meet the target timeline for project delivery to the government and people of the state. This observation has become necessary because, six months after the commencement of work, a critical aspect of the project has yet to be done. This is the bridge at Nwaja Creek, for which work is yet to begin.

Granted that the contractor is striving to optimize available time within the dry season to complete the main road work, including asphalting, so as to allow vehicles easy use of the road, it is important that RCC realizes that it has less than six months away to deliver the project. This is also imperative because it took the company about one full year to mobilize to site after signing the contract for the job. Having taken that time before mobilizing to site, every thing that needed to be done to deliver the road within agreed timeframe should have been put into consideration. RCC, therefore, needs to know that there are no excuses for failing to deliver this road at the end of September, this year. It has every thing working for it!

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Development Update

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

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