Amaechi, Opposition, Dev Challenges

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When the Supreme Court in Abuja, on October 25, 2007, restored the mandate given to Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its candidate for the April 14, 2007, general elections, and the glorious choice of the party’s flag-bearer by Rivers people at the polls, which heralded his election as governor of Rivers State, millions of Rivers people, residents and Nigerians across the isles, applauded the verdict, as victory for democracy, rule of law, and indeed, the hapless people of the state. To justify this position, the governor quickly swung into action, on assumption of office on October 26, 2007, and initiated a number of sustainable development projects and programmes aimed at impacting positively on the people, who had long been deprived of good governance and the dividends of democracy.

As the Supreme Court ruled in Amaechi’s favour, and blurted Sir Celestine Omehia’s name in the governance template of the state, most of the opposition political parties, rose to the occasion, and indicated their support for the new administration of Chibuike Amaechi. These opposition supporters of the administration saw in Amaechi, God’s divine intervention to salvage the destiny of the state, and reposition the state to retake its pride of place as Nigeria’s Treasure Base and Garden City. They quickly joined to form a Unity Government of Rivers State that brings people from all sheds of political leanings to chart a crystal course for, and give a new meaning to the state.

But while the administration was battling to settle down to the business of honest, selfless and people-oriented governance, some few individuals in the opposition political parties, moved to thwart what God has ordained. They quickly went to the courts to halt the PDP and Governor Amaechi from making progress and deliver the goods to Rivers people. But each step they take, God leads Amaechi to take two steps ahead. Thus, at the lower court, Amaechi dusted them. Now, at the Appeal Court last Wednesday, the so-called Bekinbo Soberekon case was struck out by the learned judges for lack of merit. Aside this Soberekon distraction, the deluge of resistance from those who oppose the administration’s development policies and programmes, the huge impact of long years of militancy and underdevelopment-induced violence, also weighed heavily on the ability of the government to deliver on its promises to the people.

However, even as Amaechi faced these and many more challenges, the administration continued on a roller-coaster ride on the ladder of accomplishments in good governance. In fact, in the past 30 months, Amaechi has achieved unprecedented milestones in his development strides. In the areas of healthcare, education and road infrastructures development and upgrade, the administration has continued to move the state to a new pedestal in development. Let’s take a cursory look at some of these development milestones in the annals of Rivers history. 

In spite of these distractions, within the 30-month period, Governor Amaechi has overcome and fulfilled his promises to the good people of the state on his desire to deliver sustainable development projects that would further add impetus to their lives. One of these was realized when he institutionalized an integrated security strategy for the restoration of peace to the state. By cooperating and working in synergy with the security agencies, the Joint Military Task Force successfully quelled cult-related violence, militancy and criminality that permeated the state, and restored peace to the people. This success has had spiraling positive effects on other sectors of the economy.

The administration also implemented a wide range of programmes to further the interest of the state. One of the areas of interest is the public-private partnership framework aimed at incorporating the private sector as a driving force in the development of the economy. In this area, the government had succeeded in drawing the private sector closer to the people by partnering them in the areas of transport infrastructure development and both land and water transportation, health and education, financial management and fight against corruption, road infrastructure development, culture and tourism promotion, among others.

Now, the government’s drive to ensure adequate electricity supply in the state has resulted in the completion of the 100megawatts Trans Amadi Gas Turbine upgrade at the end of 2009. Work has been completed on the new transmitter to evacuate the power from the Trans Amadi Gas Turbine Station through the Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s main substation at Rumuobiakani.

The government has also concluded plans with Saipem to build 180megawatts-power facility that should come on stream by 2011. The government is already working hard to repair the failed turbines at the Omoku station while awaiting the delivery of 75megawatts electricity to be generated from the Eleme gas turbine station. With all the projects now ongoing, the government plans to deliver some 250megawatts of electricity to Rivers people by the end of 2010, and hopes to double that figure by 2011.

The government also began the process of electrifying more than 500 communities through its rural electrification programme. In fact, the government called for and received tenders, opened the bids, and has gone far into the process for the award of the contracts. Besides, some ongoing rural electrification jobs have continued to be funded while more transmission lines and networks are being constructed to enable the penetration of all communities in the state with electricity supply. 

Even as the court cases persisted, Amaechi continued efforts to reclaim massive land for development purposes, especially in difficult, swampy terrains. More than five land reclamation projects in five communities, including the N1.57billion Egbormung/Oluk-Ama, the N3.58billion Opobo new layout dredging, and the N562million Buguma shore protection, have progressed to advanced stages of completion. The N1.68billion Queenstown reclamation and the N1.72billion canalization of Abonnema Wharf – Eagle Island, were awarded in 2009. In fact, the new land area reclaimed for Opobo people is far larger than the initial land space inhabited by the people. In perspective, about N9.112billion was invested into land reclamation projects in 2009, with most of them at advanced stages of completion.

In the roads sector, the government has delivered some 240kilometre of roads in swaps, and about three bridges. The 240km roads increase the number of roads completed by the administration to 550km. In all, about 33 rural roads were completed in the 23 local government areas, out of about 40 awarded by the government. Two road dualisation projects and one flyover project were completed in Obio/Akpor, bringing the total number of roads completed already to 35.

Between October, 2007 and now, more 170 road contracts were awarded, with between 30 – 50 per cent mobilization paid to the contractors. The 170 road contracts are expected to add some 700km of paved roads, to the existing 1,000km of paved roads in the state, when completed. In addition, there are 30 bridges and four flyover contracts awarded within the same period.

Statistics show that in the 23 local government areas of the state, the administration completed the 5.35km Bori Polytechnic/Zaakpom road, the 4km Babbe-Eeeken-Kaa road, the 8.8km Omunwa/Elele road, the 1.6km Rivoc road in Trans Amadi, the 19.8km Elele internal road network as well as the 4km Elele Army Barracks internal road in 2009. The state government also completed the 2.5km Wikabari Street, another 2.5km TTC road as well as the 1.03km Court road, all in Bori; the 545m Ibe Street in Elekahia, the 1.874km Nkarahia/Alimini/Isiokpo road, the 4.2km Rumuoparaeli road, and the 6.5km East-West-Sogho-Okwale road.

Others include the 7.2km Mogho-Bomu-Kporo waterside road, the 1.24km Oga-Imo Street,the 3km Ogbunabali internal roads, the 1.7km Eligbolo road, the 2km Elelenwo School Road, and the 6.5km Oro Ekpo/Odoli/Owabie road and Chinda Street. The rest are the 8.7km roads in Woji cutting across 11 streets, including Rumuibekwe-Elijiji-Ilom-Eze Gbakagbaka, Okechukwu, Ihunwo, Abel and Ogbatai. The other road projects completed by the state government in 2009 are the 10.96km Elele-Obele road, the 750m Tombia Street extension rehabilitation, the 3km Ada George-Obi Wali-East West road bypass, and the 5.9km Rukpokwu – Tam David-West – Aluu road.

The government also completed the 1.2km IBB road, the 5km Ubima internal roads, 2.5km COHISA – East West bypass road, the 3.2km FGTC – Immigration road, the 1.7km Civil Defence – Abuja bypass road, the 5km Rumuaghalu – Tam David-West bypass, the 14km Eberi – Umuechere road and the Kings International School road. Two bridges: the Ebukuma Bridge 3 in Andoni and the Nkoro Bridge 5 in Opbo/Nkoro were also completed in 2009. Indeed, 30 bridges have been awarded, some of which have been completed while others are at various stages of completion. 

Two of the most expensive road projects are the 42km Omagwa-Elele-Omerelu dualisation at a cost of N21.5billion and the 13km Prof Tam David-West – Ada George roads dualisation, stretching from Mile Three through NTA, with a flyover across East West Road to Omagwa-Airport road, at a cost of N14.5billion. The first phase of this project, from NTA – Omagwa Aiport Road, has 26km of drains and manhole at intervals and a 400m long bridge at Obiri Ikwerre by East West Road. The flyover alone cost N4.5billion while the 13km road costs N10billion.

While most of the road dualisation projects are within Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas, some 70 per cent of all 700km road contracts are located in the rural communities. There are about 10 road dualisation projects going on at the same time in the state, and four flyover projects, the largest already completed at Eleme Junction, and another, at Eliozu Junction.

Apart from the major road construction works embarked upon, the government also invested more than N4billion into the rehabilitation and maintenance of existing roads within Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas, in a programme tagged: “Operation Zero Pot-Holes”. The programme, managed by the Rivers State Road Maintenance Agency (RSRMA), was supervised by the state Ministry of Works.

Conservatively, all the road and land reclamation projects awarded between October, 2007, and now, are valued at more than N214,367,330,462.20. However, there were also some road projects, initiated by the previous administration but had to be funded by this administration. These projects are worth some N70billion. Even at the government grappled with the court cases, it also strived to settle outstanding debts amounting to N100billion for some of the ongoing road projects. The government has allocated some N70billion to the works sector in the 2010 budget. In all, the administration has virtually turned the state to a huge construction site in the drive to enhance the development momentum of the state.

In the education sector, the government has continued work on the 23 model secondary schools and 250 model primary schools in the 23 local government areas of the state. The government plans to up the number of new model primary schools of 14-classroom each in various communities in the 23 local government areas to 750 by 2011. Out of the 250, about 120 have been completed. while the 100 addition this year have already commenced.

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. Most of the completed model primary schools have been furnished, some are awaiting furnishing, supply and installation of all necessary equipment, including computers, desks and chairs, among others, while others are at various stages of completion.

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. Work has gone advanced stages on most. However, the government plans to construct, at least, 46 model secondary schools before the end of its tenure in 2011. 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.

In the health sector, the government has completed more than 70, out of the 150 new health centres, being constructed across the 23 local government areas of the state. 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 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 bracing 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. The litany of health centres being built across the local government areas, means that the number of patients flocking around each of the facilities for attention would now 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 120 health centres is a giant stride.  

In the commerce and industry sector, the government has 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.

The government further 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.

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 first 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 as the driving force of development of the state. 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 the administration. Other areas include the winning of the hearts of some private sector players in funding roads, model secondary schools, 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.

Now, with issue of court cases taking the back-stage, the government would be more vigorous and focused in addressing the many challenges of governing the state. It is hoped that all Rivers people would face reality, and rally round the administration to succeed. This is because 2010 and the years ahead present better prospects for improved performance in delivering democracy dividends to the people of the state.

Amaechi now needs more thoughtfulness, thoroughness, toughness, decisiveness, and uncompromising approach to governance, transparency and utmost frugality in the expenditure of public resources to succeed. The government also needs to show that it can closely monitor and ensure compliance by contractors to projects’ specifications, and delivery timelines. Now, the coast is cleared. The distractions are gone like a smoke screen, and sustainable development can take increasing shape in Rivers State.       

 

Nelson Chukwudi