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For The Record

Jonathan’s Budget Of Fiscal Consolidation

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Being a text of the 2012 Budget Proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, December 13, 2011.

PROTOCOL

I am delighted to present the 2012 Federal Budget Proposal before this esteemed Joint Session of the National Assembly. This Proposal comes at the end of a long consultative process with key stakeholders and it translates the development plans of government unveiled in the Transformation Agenda into concrete actions.

2. This budget is a stepping-stone to the transformation of our economy and country in our walk to economic freedom. This esteemed Assembly would agree that this path would neither be easy nor uncontested; but with a sharp focus, hard work, determination and making careful choices we will overcome.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS

3. In the past year, the global economic recovery slowed down significantly and downside risks are on the increase as many countries, particularly in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), have faced serious challenges leading to fiscal retrenchment and austerity measures in the face of high and rising levels of sovereign debt.

4. The Euro Zone crisis in particular has time and again thrown financial markets into turmoil as several countries in this economic and monetary union continue to face difficulty in servicing their debts. On the other hand, although many emerging and developing countries, like India and China are experiencing relatively robust growth, downside risks remain as well. In fact, global growth projection has continuously been revised downward and is now 4% for 2012-2013.

5. These developments have implications for our economy as, aside from the impact on the inflow of Foreign Direct Investments, they could also lead to lower demand for our primary export commodity. We are living witnesses to the extent of volatility that can afflict the international oil market with prices plummeting from US$147/barrel in July 2008 to about US$38/barrel four months later. Thus, although the oil price is currently over US$100/barrel, there is no guarantee what it would be in the future.

6.  We cannot subject the well-being of Nigerians to such large fluctuations and must therefore protect ourselves by managing our finances prudently including by adopting a conservative benchmark oil price for our budgets.

7. There are also uncertainties in the area of international food prices which make it imperative that we take steps to safeguard our position through policies that would promote food security. So far, the Nigerian economy has weathered these storms well but efforts need to be reinforced to ensure macroeconomic stability and sustained economic growth.

DEVELOPMENTS IN THE DOMESTIC ENVIRONMENT

8. This year marked another milestone in our democratic experience, with the successful elections and peaceful transition. We now need to build on the mandate that Nigerians have entrusted to us to deliver the dividends of democracy through stronger economic reforms to deliver growth and create jobs. I have created an Economic Management Team (EMT) that I chair, and an Economic Management Implementation Team (EMIT) chaired by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, to help us deliver on this economic agenda.

9. The robust growth recorded in the first half of 2011 underscores the resilience of the Nigerian economy and the prudence of our economic policies. Our growth in the 2010-2011 period has been broad-based.

10. The economy recorded impressive growth of 7.85 percent in 2010 and 7.72 percent as of the second quarter of 2011 compared to 5.2% forecast for sub-Sahara Africa. Medium-term prospects are also bright, with real GDP growth projected to remain strong over the period. Furthermore, we intend to pursue a programme of greater fiscal discipline complemented with appropriate monetary policy in order to help stabilize our declining foreign reserve.

11. The non-oil sector continues to be the main driver of growth with increased crop production, growth in wholesale and retail trade and increased financial sector activities backed by the banking sector reforms. Contributions by the oil sector continue to improve as average daily oil production rose to 2.45 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2011 compared to 2.35 million barrels per day in the corresponding period in 2010.

12. At the same time, food inflation has been on a downward trend from 14.1% in October 2010 to 9.7% in October 2011, but it is still a matter of concern as our objective is to move to low or mid-single digit inflation.

REVIEW OF IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2011 BUDGET SO FAR

13. We are approaching the end of a peculiar fiscal year for our nation. The 2011 Elections, the subsequent inauguration of a new Administration last May and the passage of the 2011 Amendment Budget in May 2011 all affected the implementation of the budget in 2011. Provisional data on the implementation of the 2011 Budget as at October 2011 indicate that revenue performance improved during the year over the situation in 2010.

14. Oil revenue receipts achieved the targeted levels as a result of relatively higher oil prices and production levels than benchmarked while non-oil receipts, though short of the projection for the period, are tending towards the set targets for 2011. As of mid-November, about 67% of the released funds had been utilized and we expect it to reach 70% by the end of December which is fairly good considering the circumstances. You will agree with me that 2010 and 2011 Budgets were relatively expansionary, and we must now inject a dose of caution.

15. With the support of the National Assembly, the Government is determined to pursue a programme of far-reaching fiscal consolidation so as to reduce our deficit and domestic borrowing to more manageable levels.

16. We have introduced measures to actualize this programme in the 2012 fiscal year both in the areas of improved revenue collection, recurrent expenditure reduction and increasing the share of capital expenditure in aggregate spending, in contrast with the trend of recent years.

PRIORITIES OF THE 2012 BUDGET

17. At a time when rating agencies are downgrading countries globally, the Outlook on Nigeria was recently upgraded from negative to stable by Fitch Ratings; this was largely a reflection of two things: a) the new economic programme, including the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework that government has put in place with important reforms and a clear programme of fiscal consolidation; b) the successful political transition following the 2011 elections.

18. In furtherance of its efforts, the government has significantly scaled up the flow of resources to key areas of priority including Security, Infrastructure renewal and development (including power and roads), human capital development and food security to give a more inclusive growth and attention to job creation. Yet, there is much that still needs to be done. The Transformation Agenda spells out the strategic direction of my Administration.

19.       In this respect, being the first budget under this Agenda, the 2012 Budget has been designed with the theme: fiscal consolidation, inclusive growth and job creation.

20.       To achieve the above objectives, we have established four main pillars, namely,

(a) Macroeconomic stability;

(b) Structural reforms;

(c) Governance and institutions; and

(d) Investing in priority sectors.

Macroeconomic Stability

21.       Government is determined to pursue policies that will ensure a stable macroeconomic environment through a strong and prudent fiscal policy, manageable deficits, sustainable debt-GDP ratio of no more than 30%, and single digit inflation, thereby promoting real growth. We believe that these measures would engender a stable and competitive exchange rate and help to reverse the declining trend of our international reserves.

22.       Our domestic debt profile has risen sharply in recent years, currently standing at about 16.4% of GDP. This cannot be allowed to continue and become a new burden on our children. So in addition to looking at the expenditure side of our national balance sheet, we are also paying strong attention to the revenue side.

23.       In this regard, we have initiated steps to increase revenues by blocking leakages from various sources, improve corporate tax collection, and boost internally generated revenue. We also believe that we should be able to earn a lot more revenue from the maritime sector. As part of the on-going port reforms, government will work vigorously to increase our revenue from maritime and related activities.

24.       Starting in 2012 for the medium term, we shall focus on cutting recurrent expenditure to sustainable levels through reducing waste, inefficiency, corruption and duplication in government. Recent reviews of public expenditures provide a basis for taking such measures. In order to make capital spending more effective, government is introducing a new template for analyzing the financial and other factors including the economic rates of return, job creation, and environmental sustainability.

 

25.       Similarly, Government will continue to prioritize its expenditures while focus will be on the completion of viable on-going capital projects. It is our intention to fund and bring the large portfolio of on-going projects to completion in the next few years while also taking on flagship projects already identified in the Transformation Agenda.

26.       From 2012, there will also be a robust programme to strengthen our oil reserves base, and increase oil exploration activities in identified inland sedimentary basins, outside the Niger Delta, with the requisite potential for the production of oil and gas, particularly the Chad Basin.

Structural Reforms

27.       My Administration is pressing forward with key structural reforms. We are implementing the privatization of the power sector based on the Power Roadmap which I unveiled last year. We believe that the power sector can benefit from liberalization and privatization by attracting investors in the same manner as the telecommunications sector has done. In the same vein, government will come up with policies to encourage investment in the downstream sector through liberalization so as to create jobs for our people.

28. We have also embarked on reforming our ports and customs and we intend to continue vigorously on this path so as to reduce the cost of doing business for our private sector actors. No longer are we going to be contented for clearance of goods in our ports to take 3-4 weeks with attendant demurrage and costs while it takes 48 hours elsewhere.

29.  In this regard, I have set up a Committee chaired by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance with a mandate to remove the bottlenecks at our ports and another Committee made up of private sector users of the ports to monitor implementation. We also intend to work hard to improve the infrastructure at the ports. Other impediments such as those arising from bureaucratic and costly paperwork will also be removed.

30. With regard to the petroleum sector, the Federal Government is conscious of the need to bring the Petroleum Industry Bill debate to conclusion so as to give investors the comfort and policy certainty that they require. My Administration is determined to bring this matter to closure by engaging with all stakeholders and I therefore call on the National Assembly to work with us in this regard.

Governance and Building Institutions

31. Our reforms can only endure if they are founded on strong systems and institutions that promote transparency and we are taking steps to strengthen ours. As you are aware, we have already resumed the publication of revenues allocated to the three tiers of Government as this will promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.

32. Similarly, the recent passage of the Freedom of Information Act has further strengthened the hands of citizens in monitoring the activities of government and I acknowledge the role of the National Assembly and civil society, in making this a reality. The fight against corruption is a collective responsibility and my Administration will strengthen our anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC to enable them discharge their mandate. Finally, we recognize that we can only succeed in our effort to transform the economy if we have a vibrant civil service and we fully intend to embark on reforming the public service for optimal service delivery.

Investing in priority sectors: Creating Jobs

33. Against the background of the above reforms, this Administration will promote job creation and inclusive growth by investing in critical infrastructure, human capital development and security including more support for the police, defence and counter-terrorism operations. We shall also give priority attention to Information and Communications Technology, Solid Minerals development, Manufacturing, Aviation and Creative industries in order to further develop these sectors that are known to be sources of growth and job creation.

34. Let me now comment on a few sectors. The Agricultural sector is being totally transformed to enable us move from traditional farming to modern agriculture as a business both for our small and large-scale farmers. Our objective is to ensure food security whilst also promoting exports in agriculture value chains where we have a comparative advantage. We intend to process and add value to different crops such as rice, cassava, sorghum, oil palm, cocoa, cotton etc.

35. This approach is central to our transformation strategy. Accordingly, this Administration has adopted enabling measures to support the development of private sector-driven marketing institutions, and push for policies that would promote our agriculture to create jobs.

36. To unleash the potential of this sector, the Federal Ministry of Finance has put in place a mechanism to share risks with the banking sector by guaranteeing 70% of the principal of all loans made for supply of seeds and fertilizer by the private sector this season. In addition, to get the inputs to farmers at an affordable cost, we are subsidizing the interest rate on these loans to bring it down from 15% to 7% per annum. The Minister of Agriculture and the Central Bank are collaborating to extend these services for credit availability for the medium term.

37. We are introducing further fiscal policy measures to support the development of the agricultural sector. In this respect, the duty on machinery and certain specified equipment for the sector will, effective January 31st 2012, attract zero duty. We will further look at supportive fiscal policies for the rice and wheat sectors to stimulate domestic production.

38. Government is also introducing policies to encourage the substitution of high quality cassava flour for wheat flour in bread-baking. Bakeries will have 18 months in which to make the transition, and will enjoy a corporate tax incentive of 12% rebate if they attain 40% blending. With effect from March 31st 2012, importation of cassava flour will be prohibited so as to further support this programme.

39. All equipment for processing of high quality cassava flour and composite flour blending will enjoy a duty free regime as incentive to bakers for composite flour utilization. Consultations with the sector to ensure a smooth transition are on-going.

40. It is common wisdom that the best way we can grow our economy and create jobs for our people is for us to patronize Nigerian-made goods. This is why we are introducing enabling policies to drive this process. In this regard, we are introducing fiscal policy measures that will encourage the purchase and utilization of locally produced commodities.

41. From July 1st 2012, wheat flour will attract a levy of 65% to bring the effective duty to 100%, while wheat grain will attract a 15% levy which will bring the effective duty to 20%.

42. Similarly, there will be a levy of 25% on brown rice to bring it to 30%. In addition, to encourage domestic rice production, a levy of 40% will be placed on imported polished rice leading to an effective duty rate of 50%. Effective December 31st 2012, all rice millers should move towards domestic production and milling of rice, as the levy of 50% will be further raised to 100%. Let me add here that no waivers or concessions will be entertained for rice and wheat importation.

43. We have also commenced implementation of the Power Roadmap which aims to create a robust power sector through the privatization of the generation and distribution of power as well as create an enabling environment for investment. Institutional arrangements have been made for a Bulk Trader company to intermediate between power producers and distributors in a market setting, thereby giving Independent Power Producers (IPPs) the confidence to invest in generation capacity.

44. Government, in collaboration with our development partners has created a credit risk management initiative to provide Partial Risk Guarantees (PRG) to give comfort to gas producers in respect of payment. Similarly, effective January 31st 2012, equipment and machinery in the power sector will attract zero duty.

45. The Government recognizes the provision of affordable housing as a social need and, also, a veritable source of socio-economic development and job creation. Owning one’s own home is a basic aspiration of every human being, and our people are no different.

46.       To this end, based on a new housing policy, Government is working with our development partners to create an effective mortgage finance system in the country and to develop value chains in the building materials segment. This will give the necessary stimulant to the sector to accelerate its development and also help to reduce the cost of construction, thereby energizing the construction industry.

47. It is a well-known fact that government alone cannot solve the infrastructure problem, which is why we have invited the private sector and international investors to partner with us through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements.

48. As estimated in the First National Implementation Plan of the Nigeria Vision 20:2020, we need N32 trillion for the execution of capital projects over a four year-period, of which the private sector is to contribute N13 trillion. In this respect, we are creating the enabling environment to attract private investments by having a clear regulatory framework.

49. Government will, in addition to ongoing critical infrastructure projects, execute new flagship projects with positive multiplier effects across the country through PPP arrangements in the next three years.

50. In our continuing effort to improve on our human development index, we are conscious of the need to avoid the trap of focusing on economic growth as an end in itself, but rather, a means to improved human development through ensuring better health care, education and wealth creation.

51. To this end, my Administration will continue to invest in these sectors to improve on the quality of education for our children especially young graduates from our educational institutions, support Public-Private Partnership arrangements for skills development and improve the quality of our health service delivery.

52. Fellow Compatriots, we recognize that we can only achieve the developmental goals in a secure and peaceful environment. Accordingly, safeguarding the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country is at the heart of ongoing reforms in the security sector. As you are aware, we have since commenced strategic programmes to upgrade the skills of officers in the security agencies while modernizing security infrastructure across the country.

THE 2012 BUDGET

53. The 2012 budget is based on a set of assumptions reflecting Government’s determination to maintain prudence in the face of continued uncertainties in the external environment. Accordingly, the budget is based on the following:

Oil production of 2.48 million barrels per day (mbpd) up from 2.3mbpd for 2011;

·Benchmark oil price of US$70/barrel, a cautious revision from the US$75/barrel approved in the 2011 Amended Budget;

· Exchange rate of NGN155/US$;

· Projected GDP growth rate of 7.2%; and

· Projected inflation rate of 9.5%.

2012 Revenue and Expenditure Profile

54. Based on the above assumptions, the Gross federally collectible revenue is projected at N9.406trillion, of which the total revenue available for the Federal Government’s Budget is forecast at N3.644 trillion, representing an increase of 9% over the estimate for 2011. Non-oil revenue is projected to grow significantly in 2012 as recent efforts to reform revenue collecting agencies and the implementation of initiatives to further develop non-oil sectors are expected to yield results.

55. The aggregate expenditure proposed for the 2012 fiscal year is N4.749 trillion, which is a modest increase of 6% over the N4.484 trillion appropriated for 2011. I am pleased to note, however, that the declining share of capital is being reversed so it will account for about 28% of total expenditure in 2012 compared to 26% in 2011. We intend to continue on this path so that by 2015, it will have risen to almost 33%.

56. This underscores the need to intensify our efforts to curtail recurrent expenditure, which we have already embarked upon under the policy of fiscal consolidation as evident from the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework. The share of recurrent expenditure in the 2012 Budget proposal is 72%, down from 74.4% in 2011, and we intend to continue on this downward trend up to 2015.

57. The aggregate expenditure comprises N398 billion for Statutory Transfers, N560 billion for Debt Service underscoring the real need to address the rising domestic debt profile, and N2.472 trillion for Recurrent (Non-Debt) Expenditure. We are conscious of the need to control the cost of governance. Government will streamline agencies with overlapping mandates as a way to realign public expenditure.

58. In this respect, I have received the preliminary Report of the task force which I set up for this purpose and we shall implement relevant recommendations. We are also pursuing the biometric verification of workers and pensioners as part of our effort to control cost.

59. Capital expenditure has an allocation of N1.32 trillion representing a 15% increase over the amount approved in the 2011 Budget. The emphasis is on the completion of critical infrastructure projects.

60. Based on the above, the fiscal deficit is projected at about 2.77% of GDP in the 2012 Budget compared to 2.96% in 2011. This is within the threshold stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and clearly highlights our commitment to fiscal prudence as a way to create more space for the private sector.

61. This will also have a salutary effect on our domestic debt profile, which has risen significantly in recent years. We are determined to rein in domestic borrowing, and through this, ensure that our debt is at a sustainable level.

62. As I mentioned earlier, government has made significant progress in putting the finances of the nation on a sound footing and laying the foundation for rapid and sustainable economic growth.

63. Allocations to some critical sectors of the economy are as follows: Security – N921.91 billion; Power [including Bulk Trader, Nelmco, and Multi-Year Tariff Order (MYTO)] -N161.42 billion; Works – N180.8 billion; Education [excluding Universal Basic Education Commission, Petroleum Technology Development Trust Fund (PTDF)  & Education Trust Fund] – N400.15 billion; Health – N282.77 billion; and Agriculture & Rural Development – N78.98 billion. Others are: Water Resources – N39 billion; Petroleum Resources – N59.66 billion; Aviation – N49.23 billion; Transport – N54.83 billion; Lands & Housing – N26.49 billion; Science & Technology – N30.84 billion; Niger Delta – N59.72 billion; Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) – N45.57 billion and Communications Technology  – N18.31 billion.

Fiscal Policy

64. Fellow compatriots, you will agree that the budget is not an end in itself but rather, an instrument for the promotion of economic growth, wealth creation, poverty reduction and service delivery to the citizenry. Government desires that we should begin to experience a commensurate increase in gainful employment and social well-being of Nigerians with the rate of economic growth.

65. This Budget seeks to act, not only to create jobs, but to also lay a solid foundation for sustainable economic growth which would deliver the dividends of democracy to our people. In this respect as you may recall, I hosted a retreat in October this year with the organized private Sector (OPS) at which a number of issues including fiscal policy were extensively discussed.

66. I wish to reiterate here that the principal objective of my Administration’s fiscal policy in the area of tariffs and trade is to promote industrialization and the growth of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors of the economy and above all to generate employment for Nigerians.

67. As part of the process to realize this objective, we have commenced the review of the 2008-2012 Customs and Excise Tariffs to correct identified anomalies and introduce policies that will help in the promotion of industrialization in the country when the review is concluded. In addition, to ensure a level-playing field for businesses, this Administration, beginning from the 2012 fiscal year, will where necessary, only grant concessions or waivers on a sectoral basis. The focus of any concessions will be on expanding domestic production for local consumption and boosting exports, development of value chains, and boosting employment.

68. The Export Expansion Grant (EEG) scheme has, over the years, contributed significantly in the diversification of the economy through the promotion of non-oil exports. Efforts have therefore reached an advanced stage to review and streamline the Scheme to make it more effective as an instrument for the promotion of non-oil exports. We shall also aggressively pursue economic diplomacy within the framework of ECOWAS to ensure that the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) achieves its objective of promoting intra- ECOWAS trade and that it is not used as a vehicle for dumping goods in the region. In particular, we shall review the application of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) to the oil palm and other sectors.

69. For some time now, especially with the advent of the consolidated salary structure, there has been agitation over the lopsided nature of the Personal Income Tax Act and the fact that the tax free allowances were inadequate. I am pleased to announce that I have signed the Personal Income Tax Amendment Act 2011 into law which amongst others has the benefit of reducing, on the average, taxes paid by low income earners and providing a more equitable tax structure for individuals. This law also provides for Tax Appeal Tribunals to listen to, and address concerns of individual taxpayers as a cost-effective administrative intervention prior to recourse to the courts.

70. Other fiscal changes to be gazetted shortly, include tax waivers on all bonds and related instruments issued by corporate and other tiers of Government, tax rebates as incentive to companies that create jobs, regulations to support taxpayers’ self- assessment, and regulations to support the growing quest of those involved in social and community development to get tax incentives for those donating to their causes.

71. As you may recall, Government initiated a new multifaceted National Job Creation Scheme with the provision of seed funding of N50 billion in the 2011 Budget. Implementation of this programme has commenced in earnest.

72. This Administration believes that it is time to give Nigerian youths an opportunity to enjoy the dignity of a job, the support for innovation, the confidence to be an entrepreneur and, the sheer optimism to be an employer of labour along with the security of an income that can contribute to our economic development. We are conscious of the fact that we have the task of transforming the huge potential of our youths into real, tangible outcomes which all of our people can experience and call their own.

73. In this respect, Government is focused on stimulating entrepreneurial activity and setting a framework for young people with creative tendencies to showcase their business acumen, build capacity and create jobs. In this spirit, and to move beyond the conventional paradigm of job creation, the Government, partnering with the organized private sector and our development partners, took bold steps to initiate the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) programme which I launched in Abuja in October and has since been launched also across the six geopolitical zones.

74. This programme is targeted to, not only create a new generation of innovative real sector entrepreneurs in Nigeria, but, in the medium term, also generate jobs for youths across the country.

75.       I believe that this move will drive the future technological and socio-economic development of our country. YouWin will lead to the creation of about 100,000 jobs through support to our young entrepreneurs.

CONCLUSION

76. Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members of this esteemed Assembly, the Proposal I lay before you this day seeks to sustain sound macroeconomic growth that will translate to achieving socio-economic transformation, and gainful employment for our people. But, we can only progress in this course and turn our possibilities into reality when we diligently adhere to the implementation of well thought-out and articulated developmental policies.

77. The 2012 Budget, as our collaborative effort, has taken the welfare of Nigerians as top priority. In an environment of global uncertainties and domestic challenges, the strong support of the National Assembly is invaluable for us to achieve our set developmental goals.

78. As we collectively resolve to create a brighter and enduring future for all Nigerians – a future of hope and prosperity not lack, fear or hatred, we must prepare to overcome any adversity that may arise. Accordingly, we must all be determined and committed to follow through with the difficult but balanced choices that we make in piloting the affairs of this great nation.

79. Finally, I wish to appreciate the enduring partnership between the Executive and the Legislature in discharging our shared responsibility for nation-building and I note, with thanks, the patriotism, commitment and support that Distinguished and Honourable Members of this esteemed Assembly have consistently demonstrated.

80. Once again, I encourage us to dialogue openly, frankly and in good faith over the challenges that face us as a nation. It is my hope that the National Assembly will consider and pass the 2012 Budget Proposal expeditiously; and I foresee even more productive collaboration to the benefit of all our people.

81. I am indeed grateful for your kind attention.

82. May God bless you all, and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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For The Record

Wike’s Key Signature Projects Have Changed Rivers’ Landscape – Nsirim

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Being Text of a Speech on “Developing Media Infrastructures for Good Governance, the Example of Rivers State Government” by The Honourable Commissioner of Information and Communications, Rivers State, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, As Special Guest of Honour/Keynote Speaker at The Rotary Club of Port Harcourt 2020-2021 Media Day on Monday April 19, 2021 at the Rotary Centre, off Trans-Amadi Industrial Way, Port Harcourt.
Excerpts.
One thing that is not in
doubt in today’s world, especially in the corporate world, is that good public relations image remains essential to achieving great results. Indeed, the fact that a public relations committee had been at the epicenter of the management of not just the activities but also image of Rotary, tells a great deal of story why publicity matters so much to the world’s longest and oldest organized social and humanitarian club.
Rotary and Rotarians may not record much success in their endeavours without publicity. It is to that extent that Rotary and the media must establish and sustain a symbiotic relationship in order to further the goals of Rotary, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of millions of those who need help, support and assistance to keep alive hope of a better life.
It is for this reason that I wish to commend Rotary club for dedicating the month of April in their International Calendar as Magazine/Media Month. I believe it is a month for the celebration of the media for its role in bringing to the fore the good qualities of Rotary club and its activities in order to inspire the world for better living. Rotary believes that the synergy with the media has been and will continue to be of profound importance to its activities. Let me also commend the media whose advocacy and information management roles have been critical to the achievement of the core goals of Rotary in the society.
Since February 23, 1905 when Rotary was formed and its first meeting of like minds in Chicago, Ilinois in the United States of America, “the characteristics of Rotary Club and those who populate it have remained the same everywhere; the features of service, internationality, fellowship, classification of each vocation, development of goodwill and world understanding, the emphasis of high ethical standards, concern for other people, and many more descriptive qualities, which show care and compassion, respect for others, honesty and integrity, as well as patriotism, industry and hard work”.
The 4-way Test Philosophy of Rotary Club, which in 1943 was translated to the acceptance that whatever Rotarians think, say and do they must be guided by the TRUTH at all times, and must be FAIR, and naturally
seen to be so by others. Rotarians must ensure that they, whatever they think, say, or do, help in building GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS across the community, and by extension, the world and that their results are BENEFICIAL to all concerned.
This 4-way Test Philosophy and the roles the media play in upholding a just society, by holding leaders and government accountable at all times, clearly makes it impossible for either the media or Rotary to divorce each other, since both work for the good of the society.
Having said these, let me return to the issue of today.
Media refers to the channels of communication which are utilized for the purposes of dissemination of news, music, movies, education, promotional messages and other data. It includes physical and online
newspapers and magazines, television, radio, billboards, telephone, the internet and fax, that provide news and information to the public.
One thing that is legendary and long-standing is the power of the media in shaping society, setting agenda for public discourse and moulding public opinion. Perhaps, that explains why Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third president of the United States of America and principal author of its declaration of Independence once said, that if he had to choose between “a government without newspaper or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later”.
According to Jefferson, “the press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as rational, moral and social being.” Jefferson’s successor, James Madison (1751-1836) corroborated this view when he said; “to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression”.
Truly, the above statements underscore the importance of the media as it carries out its multifaceted roles of providing information education, and entertaining. Also the media acts as a public forum for the discussion of important issues. While the media also plays the role of entertainment, it acts as a watchdog for government, business and other institutions, mirroring society as it were.
Chapter 2, Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states clearly the role of the
media in governance. It says, “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.This clearly links the media to good governance.
Thus, as required by the constitution, the media which is the watch dog of society should hold public office holders accountable to the people who elected them by monitoring governance closely. Clearly, in the issues of promoting good governance, rule of law, ensuring probity and accountability, wiping out illiteracy and eradicating poverty, the media are the key factors in that strategic link.
The media provides a platform for discussion of all the checks and assessments of the activities of government by bringing public concerns and voices into the open. The media articulates citizens voices and preferences for government to use in policy formulation. They hold government accountable and provide information for the people. Thus, the media are a critical link in the accountability chain between the government and the governed.
With the existence of an unfettered and Independent press, and the spread of modern information and communication technologies, “the media are essential for democratization and guaranteeing good governance through freedom of expression, transparency, accountability, rule of law and providing a pluralist platform for political expression about controversial issues”.
Without good governance, it is difficult to attain nor guarantee social, economic and political progress, because the bedrock or pillar of any modern democracy is good governance.
However, to achieve the humongous roles of the media, there are means through which they can reach the public. This is termed media infrastructure. According to Lisa Parks, a Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Science, Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose research focuses on satellite technologies and global Media, critical studies of media infrastructure, among others, “the word “infrastructure” surfaced in the early twentieth country “as collective term for the surbordinate parts of an undertaking: substructure, foundation,” and first became associated with permanent military installations. Since then, the terms meanings have expanded to encompass power grids and telecommunication networks, subways and freeways, sewer systems and oil pipeline.
While Critical media studies
scholars have investigated “networks” for decades, they have only recently begun to think of “infrastructures” as part of their research field.
“Work on media infrastructure has explored the material conditions in which broadcast, cable, satellite, internet and mobile telephony systems are arranged to distribute audiovisual content to sites around the world. While such systems have historically been referred to as “Telecommunication networks, “the reconceptualization of them as “media infrastructures”, signals a shift toward exploring issues of scale, difference, unevenness, rationality, labour, maintenance and repair, literacy etc.”
According to the World Bank, “Media Infrastructure can be a vital and necessary step in the media development process. “A functioning media
infrastructure is the underpinning for the rest of the media sector.
Media Infrastructure are defined as the “foundational technologies, services, facilities and outlets that are critical to the communication of information, opinion and expression.
Media Infrastructure can be classified under Networks, which includes data and communication networks such as internet or 5G mobile networks. Other aspects of media infrastructure include “Last mile”, which is the infrastructure required to deliver media to the consumers door, such as an internet connection, newspaper delivery or cable TV services.
They also include information, communication and Technology (ICT) platforms, facilities such as data centre, broadcasting centre, newsroom or modern printing press. Others are broadcast media-media that flows from a simple source to a large audience such as television networks, newspapers and radio statement. Social media and streaming media applications are part of the media infrastructure.
All aspects of media infrastructure available in the state are put to use by the Rivers State Government to promote good governance. Media infrastructure available through the Ministry of Information and Communications and its parastatals (the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Newspapers; Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, Operators of Radio Rivers, Rivers State Television (RSTV), Garden City Radio and the Government Printing Press, provide channels of communication for the government to communicate to the people of the state.
Over the years, the Rivers State Government have made huge investments in these MDA’s to underscore the importance attached to them in ensuring good governance, especially in the areas of rule of law, transparency, accountability, effectiveness, consensus Oriented, equity and inclusiveness and responsiveness.
The procurement of a state-of-the art printing machine for The Tide Newspaper, outside Broadcast Van for the Garden City Radio and Radio Rivers, Placement of Rivers State Television on Satellite platforms to enhance global reach, are all aimed at reaching out to the people about government activities and also get the peoples reactions and suggestions. That is not all. Plans have reached advanced stages to completely revamp the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Newspaper to  give the medium a competitive edge in the industry. New computer-to-plate machine, delivery vans, communication equipment and other media infrastructure to enhance its mandate will soon be delivered by the Rivers State Government. In the same vein, the Rivers State Government has set in motion plans for a hitch-free Digital Switch over in the state on July 8, 2021. What that implies is that Rivers State Television would no longer require a transmitter to broadcast to the world. It would translate to an increase in the capacity of the station by improving spectrum efficiency and providing better signal quality.
What this implies in terms of benefit to the government are enormous. Jobs will be created by manufacturers, Surface Mount Technology will be created and chipset industry would be set up, making Nigeria the only of such in West Africa, Central Africa and creating a hub. It would also create local plastics industry jobs that are needed for the gift packs for the Set Top Boxes (STBs), creation of other value added jobs and small businesses.
For the industry, this switch-over would mean massive technology transfer in terms of SMT, chipset design, PCB implementations and opening up ancillary manufacturing opportunities for other electronic devices and equipment.
The Rivers State Government would also benefit immensely from the Digital switch-over as it provides opportunity for enhanced revenue generation. The local government councils can use the STBs to collect TV and radio license fees. It also creates new ways to provide education delivered to the homes through TV and improves social interaction and creativity as communities start to develop applications for the new digital TV platform.
Aside these, the Rivers State Government under the visionary leadership of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has been open to the infrastructure of the independent media in the state to ensure good governance. The Governor believes strongly that good governance can be facilitated by a strong and independent media scape.
For Governor Nyesom Wike, there is nothing to hide, but much to improve. Journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize the administration and he is always ready and handy to let the public through the media see and dissect his administration activities.
Rivers State Government allows the media to contribute to the participation process by the citizenry through assent or dissent or exploring aspects of issues not considered through official channels and in arenas where face-to-face participation is impossible.
As you are aware, the Rivers State Government under the pragmatic and visionary leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike has embarked on rapid infrastructure development that has changed the landscape of the state through the execution of key signature projects particularly in the area of road infrastructure, to accelerate robust economic activities within the urban centres and their environs.

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For The Record

Wike’s Key Signature Projects Have Changed Rivers’ Landscape – Nsirim

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Being Text of a Speech on “Developing Media Infrastructures for Good Governance, the Example of Rivers State Government” by The Honourable Commissioner of Information and Communications, Rivers State, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, As Special Guest of Honour/Keynote Speaker at The Rotary Club of Port Harcourt 2020-2021 Media Day on Monday April 19, 2021 at the Rotary Centre, off Trans-Amadi Industrial Way, Port Harcourt.
Excerpts.
One thing that is not in
doubt in today’s world, especially in the corporate world, is that good public relations image remains essential to achieving great results. Indeed, the fact that a public relations committee had been at the epicenter of the management of not just the activities but also image of Rotary, tells a great deal of story why publicity matters so much to the world’s longest and oldest organized social and humanitarian club.
Rotary and Rotarians may not record much success in their endeavours without publicity. It is to that extent that Rotary and the media must establish and sustain a symbiotic relationship in order to further the goals of Rotary, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of millions of those who need help, support and assistance to keep alive hope of a better life.
It is for this reason that I wish to commend Rotary club for dedicating the month of April in their International Calendar as Magazine/Media Month. I believe it is a month for the celebration of the media for its role in bringing to the fore the good qualities of Rotary club and its activities in order to inspire the world for better living. Rotary believes that the synergy with the media has been and will continue to be of profound importance to its activities. Let me also commend the media whose advocacy and information management roles have been critical to the achievement of the core goals of Rotary in the society.
Since February 23, 1905 when Rotary was formed and its first meeting of like minds in Chicago, Ilinois in the United States of America, “the characteristics of Rotary Club and those who populate it have remained the same everywhere; the features of service, internationality, fellowship, classification of each vocation, development of goodwill and world understanding, the emphasis of high ethical standards, concern for other people, and many more descriptive qualities, which show care and compassion, respect for others, honesty and integrity, as well as patriotism, industry and hard work”.
The 4-way Test Philosophy of Rotary Club, which in 1943 was translated to the acceptance that whatever Rotarians think, say and do they must be guided by the TRUTH at all times, and must be FAIR, and naturally
seen to be so by others. Rotarians must ensure that they, whatever they think, say, or do, help in building GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS across the community, and by extension, the world and that their results are BENEFICIAL to all concerned.
This 4-way Test Philosophy and the roles the media play in upholding a just society, by holding leaders and government accountable at all times, clearly makes it impossible for either the media or Rotary to divorce each other, since both work for the good of the society.
Having said these, let me return to the issue of today.
Media refers to the channels of communication which are utilized for the purposes of dissemination of news, music, movies, education, promotional messages and other data. It includes physical and online
newspapers and magazines, television, radio, billboards, telephone, the internet and fax, that provide news and information to the public.
One thing that is legendary and long-standing is the power of the media in shaping society, setting agenda for public discourse and moulding public opinion. Perhaps, that explains why Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third president of the United States of America and principal author of its declaration of Independence once said, that if he had to choose between “a government without newspaper or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later”.
According to Jefferson, “the press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as rational, moral and social being.” Jefferson’s successor, James Madison (1751-1836) corroborated this view when he said; “to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression”.
Truly, the above statements underscore the importance of the media as it carries out its multifaceted roles of providing information education, and entertaining. Also the media acts as a public forum for the discussion of important issues. While the media also plays the role of entertainment, it acts as a watchdog for government, business and other institutions, mirroring society as it were.
Chapter 2, Section 22 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states clearly the role of the
media in governance. It says, “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”.This clearly links the media to good governance.
Thus, as required by the constitution, the media which is the watch dog of society should hold public office holders accountable to the people who elected them by monitoring governance closely. Clearly, in the issues of promoting good governance, rule of law, ensuring probity and accountability, wiping out illiteracy and eradicating poverty, the media are the key factors in that strategic link.
The media provides a platform for discussion of all the checks and assessments of the activities of government by bringing public concerns and voices into the open. The media articulates citizens voices and preferences for government to use in policy formulation. They hold government accountable and provide information for the people. Thus, the media are a critical link in the accountability chain between the government and the governed.
With the existence of an unfettered and Independent press, and the spread of modern information and communication technologies, “the media are essential for democratization and guaranteeing good governance through freedom of expression, transparency, accountability, rule of law and providing a pluralist platform for political expression about controversial issues”.
Without good governance, it is difficult to attain nor guarantee social, economic and political progress, because the bedrock or pillar of any modern democracy is good governance.
However, to achieve the humongous roles of the media, there are means through which they can reach the public. This is termed media infrastructure. According to Lisa Parks, a Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Science, Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose research focuses on satellite technologies and global Media, critical studies of media infrastructure, among others, ??9Cthe word “infrastructure” surfaced in the early twentieth country “as collective term for the surbordinate parts of an undertaking: substructure, foundation,” and first became associated with permanent military installations. Since then, the terms meanings have expanded to encompass power grids and telecommunication networks, subways and freeways, sewer systems and oil pipeline.
While Critical media studies
scholars have investigated “networks” for decades, they have only recently begun to think of “infrastructures” as part of their research field.
“Work on media infrastructure has explored the material conditions in which broadcast, cable, satellite, internet and mobile telephony systems are arranged to distribute audiovisual content to sites around the world. While such systems have historically been referred to as “Telecommunication networks, “the reconceptualization of them as “media infrastructures”, signals a shift toward exploring issues of scale, difference, unevenness, rationality, labour, maintenance and repair, literacy etc.”
According to the World Bank, “Media Infrastructure can be a vital and necessary step in the media development process. “A functioning media
infrastructure is the underpinning for the rest of the media sector.
Media Infrastructure are defined as the “foundational technologies, services, facilities and outlets that are critical to the communication of information, opinion and expression.
Media Infrastructure can be classified under Networks, which includes data and communication networks such as internet or 5G mobile networks. Other aspects of media infrastructure include “Last mile”, which is the infrastructure required to deliver media to the consumers door, such as an internet connection, newspaper delivery or cable TV services.
They also include information, communication and Technology (ICT) platforms, facilities such as data centre, broadcasting centre, newsroom or modern printing press. Others are broadcast media-media that flows from a simple source to a large audience such as television networks, newspapers and radio statement. Social media and streaming media applications are part of the media infrastructure.
All aspects of media infrastructure available in the state are put to use by the Rivers State Government to promote good governance. Media infrastructure available through the Ministry of Information and Communications and its parastatals (the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Newspapers; Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, Operators of Radio Rivers, Rivers State Television (RSTV), Garden City Radio and the Government Printing Press, provide channels of communication for the government to communicate to the people of the state.
Over the years, the Rivers State Government have made huge investments in these MDA’s to underscore the importance attached to them in ensuring good governance, especially in the areas of rule of law, transparency, accountability, effectiveness, consensus Oriented, equity and inclusiveness and responsiveness.
The procurement of a state-of-the art printing machine for The Tide Newspaper, outside Broadcast Van for the Garden City Radio and Radio Rivers, Placement of Rivers State Television on Satellite platforms to enhance global reach, are all aimed at reaching out to the people about government activities and also get the peoples reactions and suggestions. That is not all. Plans have reached advanced stages to completely revamp the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Newspaper to  give the medium a competitive edge in the industry. New computer-to-plate machine, delivery vans, communication equipment and other media infrastructure to enhance its mandate will soon be delivered by the Rivers State Government. In the same vein, the Rivers State Government has set in motion plans for a hitch-free Digital Switch over in the state on July 8, 2021. What that implies is that Rivers State Television would no longer require a transmitter to broadcast to the world. It would translate to an increase in the capacity of the station by improving spectrum efficiency and providing better signal quality.
What this implies in terms of benefit to the government are enormous. Jobs will be created by manufacturers, Surface Mount Technology will be created and chipset industry would be set up, making Nigeria the only of such in West Africa, Central Africa and creating a hub. It would also create local plastics industry jobs that are needed for the gift packs for the Set Top Boxes (STBs), creation of other value added jobs and small businesses.
For the industry, this switch-over would mean massive technology transfer in terms of SMT, chipset design, PCB implementations and opening up ancillary manufacturing opportunities for other electronic devices and equipment.
The Rivers State Government would also benefit immensely from the Digital switch-over as it provides opportunity for enhanced revenue generation. The local government councils can use the STBs to collect TV and radio license fees. It also creates new ways to provide education delivered to the homes through TV and improves social interaction and creativity as communities start to develop applications for the new digital TV platform.
Aside these, the Rivers State Government under the visionary leadership of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has been open to the infrastructure of the independent media in the state to ensure good governance. The Governor believes strongly that good governance can be facilitated by a strong and independent media scape.
For Governor Nyesom Wike, there is nothing to hide, but much to improve. Journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize the administration and he is always ready and handy to let the public through the media see and dissect his administration activities.
Rivers State Government allows the media to contribute to the participation process by the citizenry through assent or dissent or exploring aspects of issues not considered through official channels and in arenas where face-to-face participation is impossible.
As you are aware, the Rivers State Government under the pragmatic and visionary leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike has embarked on rapid infrastructure development that has changed the landscape of the state through the execution of key signature projects particularly in the area of road infrastructure, to accelerate robust economic activities within the urban centres and their environs.

Governor Nyesom Wike did not jump into governance. He is a visioner who believes in listening and giving to the people what they want. He engaged stakeholder groups before the NEW vision blueprint was launched. All the stakeholder groups in the state were consulted and what you have is a collective vision of Rivers people, but there is a visioner in the person of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. The engagement of stakeholders was robust. Visionary leaders use that as a strategy for stake-holders buy-in.
Using the various media infrastructure in which a wide range of debates take place and variety of viewpoints represented, the Rivers State Government led by His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has continued to deliver projects that impact positively for the betterment of Rivers State and her people.
Between late last year and the whole of the first quarter of 2021, Rivers State was on the global map as eminent citizens of Nigeria joined Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to commission projects in eleven (11) Local Government Area of the State. This unprecedented development coming at a time when most leaders were hiding under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to cover their ineptitude will surely remain legendary.
Many social commentators across the country have opined with convictions, that the only person who can realistically beat this impressive record is Governor Nyesom Wike himself, especially when the next phase of projects commissioning would commence, which will unveil some of the most amazing and marvelous legacy infrastructural projects ever seen in River State.
Of course, the delivery of quality projects to the people is not new to Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Everyone who has followed the trajectory of his administration objectively, will agree that he hit the ground running from the first day he assumed office in 2015, fixing roads and bridges, reorganizing institutions and establishments, opening up clamped down spaces and courageously mending a broken, dysfunctional and deliberately abandoned state.
Project commissioning has become synonymous with the Governor Wike administration in the last five years and even against the backdrop of the noisome buzzing of a jobless, fragmented and confused opposition in the state. One important fact which even his critics will admit and even concede to is that the construction of infrastructural projects like road, bridges, jetties is not a one day job. Quality projects require careful planning, expert handling and many months of hard work to ensure that projects are delivered to specification to serve the people for a long time.
This is what the Rivers State Government under Governor Wike has achieved with class, panache, tremendous success and a lot of goodwill and appreciation from Rivers people who will be the beneficiaries of these projects.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good governance is not rocket science. It is achievable if you have the right mental attitude, the residual capacity, the perspicacity and sagacity of a leader who has a vision. This is what Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has brought to governance in Rivers State.
I will like to end with this quote by Former Governor of Anambra State and 2019 PDP Vice Presidential candidates, Dr. Peter Obi, while commissioning one of the numerous projects undertaken by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, “Accountability in government is the most critical yardstick to determine good governance and to build the trust of the people. For recruitment into governance, competence, capacity and visible performance like we are seeing here today should be embraced”.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has made good governance look like a piece of cake using all the media infrastructure at his disposal. But to some, good governance remains a fleeting illusion pursued, but never attained.

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For The Record

Wike, Giving Roadmap For Rivers Of Our Dreams – Nsirim

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The Rivers State Government under the pragmatic and visionary leadership of  Governor Nyesom  Wike has embarked on rapid infrastructural development that has changed the landscape of the State through the execution of key signature projects particularly in the area of road infrastructures to accelerate robust economic activities within the urban centres and their environs.
Armed with the landmark achievements of the Nyesom Wike’s administration, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim engaged the media to enumerate the gains of the dogged implementation of the well articulated developmental blueprint of the State Government encapsulated in the NEW Rivers Vision of Governor Nyesom  Wike.
Below are the excerpts of the media encounter.
Why all this long ceremony about the commissioning of the Okoro-Nu-Odo and Rumuogba Flyovers?
You will call it long ceremony, but you see what is happening in Rivers State is essentially an infrastructural revolution and for people who thought that His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike will not even have money to pay salaries when he took over office as Governor, I think that it is important for them to see that visionary leadership and strategic thinking can turn a State like ours into a model. And so the truth of the matter is, a lot of people want to come to Rivers State now because of the developmental strides that are going on.
So you can’t showcase all this in one day. What you have even seen is not complete because after this week, the next week again we are going to have another round of project commissioning. You recall that in January we did same. The last week in December we did same. You see when you have something to offer, you won’t hide you showcase it.
You know this is a State where the Governor is not one of those that commission 3D projects. You are a journalist in Nigeria. You know there are people who commission 3D projects.
What is 3D Project?
Oh just pictures . . .  laughter . . . pictures and images on 3D. Here we show you the projects live for you to see.
Is the NEW Vision blueprint the people’s vision or the idea of one man?
You see, for a man who did not jump into governance, you need to engage stakeholder groups. Before the NEW Vision blueprint was launched, it was actually launched. All the stakeholder groups in this State were consulted and it is a collective vision of Rivers people but there is a visioner in the person of His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. So it is not one man. He has a vision of what he wants to do. He engages stakeholder groups, bring your thoughts together, an aggregate of ideas summed up in the NEW Vision blueprint and that’s why it is easy to implement. It is easy to implement because the engagement was robust. Visionary leaders use that as a strategy for stakeholder buy-in and that is what His Excellency has been able to demonstrate in governing Rivers State these few years.
Did these contracts involving billions of naira pass through the required procurement procedure?
There is a Bureau for Public Procurement. For every procurement entity, for instance, Ministry of Works, for them to be able to execute any project, that project first of all has to be approved by the Rivers State Executive Council and it has to go through the procurement process. The Bureau of Public Procurement has to give a certificate of no objection saying that, for example, if there is a quotation of say N10, we have looked at it, from procurement process and guideline, this thing should cost N8. That certificate is a necessity before any contract is executed in Rivers State. People just want to play to the gallery. With what is happening in Rivers State, they are dazzled so they look for one thing or the other to say. His Excellency is a man who is always stuck to protocol. He follows it to the letter and if you check, what he has done so far follows this procurement process.
Was the procedure of advertising these projects for bidding done?
All these processes are followed. You can’t execute any project in Rivers State without following the procurement process, you cannot, you can’t.
Why give the building of flyovers to Julius Berger alone? How does that empower the Rivers People?
That’s not correct, MCC is not Julius Berger, Lubricks Construction is not Julius Berger, O.K. Isokariari is not Julius Berger, they just finished the Abonnema Ring Road. Lubricks, all the roads you saw in Ogoni heartland were executed by them. There is Chrisjoe, an indigenous company, Ausphepz that handled the Bolo Internal Roads and so many others. The truth of the matter is, for the ones that you see in the city centre are handled by Julius Berger. A good number of projects that are going on throughout the local government areas of Rivers State today are handled by indigenous contractors and of course, you cannot say because a project is being handled by Julius Berger, local people are not empowered. It will be erroneous to say so because if Julius Berger is on site, at a particular location, they will not import people from outside Rivers State to supply the materials they will need. Of course, there is a trainee engineer apprentiship scheme agreement that the Rivers State government also signed with them.
For every project they are executing, trainee engineers are taken on board to be trained while that project is on-going.
How many people have benefited from that programme?
I can’t give you the real statistics of how many people, but they are Rivers people. You see, this administration is not a noise-making administration. When we started this conversation, I told you about strategic thinking. Wike is a visionary leader.  He is a leader leading for tomorrow, and so that apprenticeship scheme is embedded in the contract with Julius Berger. My colleague from the Ministry of Works is not here, he would have given the statistics on how many people have benefited. Of course, you can see the ripple effect of that to the manpower development in Rivers State. That’s not we talking about the unskilled labours, that’s not talking about the contractors that are involved in the execution.
So both Julius Berger, local contractors, coming together, what has happened in Rivers State within the last five years is amazing, engaging a greater percentage of the people.
How come people don’t know about the trainee engineer apprenticeship programme?
No, no, no. It is not true. As the Commissioner for Information and Communications, the day it was introduced, I addressed the press on it. After the State Executive Council approved the novel initiative, I addressed the press, then, I told the public that this is what the Rivers State Government is doing, I did.
What is the process of engaging the young people into this scheme?
The Ministry of Works in liaison with the contractor, gets the youths and screen them, because you see, these days, you don’t just base on paper qualification, just give somebody an opening or a slot, so they engage them, assess them, those who fit into the kind of          status that they want, they quickly put them in.
This is something that any right thinking government, even private sector does. They have their apprenticeship training scheme. Now under an apprentiship training scheme, those who do well during apprenticeship, because it is a skill building process, some are usually retained in those organisations, others can now export their skill to other companies. But what it means is that it now fully equips them with the requisite skill to be able to compete, assuming you are not taken by Julius Berger to work as a permanent staff, you now have the requisite skill and experience to also compete favourably with those your counterparts who will be aspiring for jobs in other places. Such capacity building wouldn’t have been possible if that opening was not given, so these are the things that will happen to the          trainees.
Also, it doesn’t mean that if Julius Berger is doing a job,  members of the Nigeria Society of Engineers are not involved. You can’t be doing such things without involving local contractors. Everybody, those involved in engineering, architecture, estate valuing, these professional groups, they are all integrated into whatever Julius Berger will be doing on site. That’s the truth of the matter. If you go to where they are working, a greater percentage of the people who are doing the jobs are Rivers people, it is just that the name of the company is Julius Berger, they are empowering       Rivers people.
Are the contractors following the terms of agreement on the apprenticeship scheme with the government?
Yes, they are following. If they are not following, His Excellency is one man who is committed to defend the interest of Rivers people, if they are not following this agreement, they won’t be taken into consideration.
What is the government doing concerning Agriculture?
Yes, fantastic, by God’s special grace, the next phase of commissioning that will happen in the upcoming week, the Cassava Processing Company will be commissioned, and already we have about 3000 up takers who will be involved in this cassava revolution.  You know, the truth of the matter in governance is that you cannot take everything at once. But we are looking at this Cassava Processing Company as a model for agricultural development in Rivers State. You know, when you want to start something, you can start with a little thing at first, progress, see the challenges, and then you move on to the next one, but this one that is going to happen very soon, you can’t find it anywhere in this country because it is designed in a way that machines go to the farms, harvest the cassava, clear them up at the farm and then, ship to the factory. The farmers don’t need to go to harvest, they don’t need to enter the labour of carrying the products to the factory. Now, the factory meets them at their farm locations. It is novel,  so gradually we will be building on this because His Excellency is desirous to also make agriculture the centre piece of this administration. So we are kick-starting with this Cassava Processing Company in the next few weeks.
How will the cassava company source for raw materials when the garri that is consumed in Rivers State comes from outside the State?
I will be surprised that somebody who lives in Rivers State will say that the garri consumed in Rivers State is gotten from outside the State. The garri that I eat comes from Ozuoba. And I know that all the Ikwerre -speaking areas, all the Etche- speaking areas, all the Ogoni- speaking areas heavily invest in cassava production. Go to any market in these areas, the garri is not imported from elsewhere.   And before a company like the Cassava Processing Company was set up, there is what is called feasibility study. And this is what we need to note, feasibility study takes into consideration where you are going to get raw materials for the factory and it is feasibility study that will say okay site this industry here. All of us did elementary Economics, location of industry, nearness to source of raw materials. So what is happening here is that feasibility study has shown clearly there will be raw materials for this factory, otherwise, go there, it is a multibillion naira investment. You can’t just go and site an investment when you can’t get raw materials for it.
Is there a need for another Flyover at Waterlines?
Well, you stay in Port Harcourt. You people play to the gallery. For example, talking about Waterlines, have you experienced gridlock in Waterlines before? It will be worse after GRA has been expanded, that’s what people don’t understand.
Waterlines used to have gridlock before now, now you have four lanes emptying into that gridlock, it worsens the problem. So, for what has happened at GRA not to affect and impact Waterlines, to jeopardise what has happened at GRA, you need that flyover. Because you see, Waterlines is a major hub for commercial vehicles that are plying inter-state. It is just like you have Ojuelegba in Lagos. So if you don’t create that kind of flyover there, when GRA empties there and all those who are coming from all those motor parks, it will be terrible. You know people sometimes criticise just to make criticism, now, the one that will be at Ikoku, I don’t know if you have experienced gridlock there before? So like I say to people, Governor Nyesom Wike is building infrastructure for tomorrow.
Now, note very soon, NLNG Train 7 will be on stream, this is the commercial hub of Nigeria, a lot of things will be happening in the city and if you don’t create the infrastructure now, Governor Wike doesn’t want Rivers State to look like Lagos where people will stay in traffic for hours, do you know what it means to waste an hour in traffic? A visionary leader sees tomorrow. I try to recall, you were in this State, Eleme Junction used to be a nightmare. People will park their cars there. Some will sleep there, at that junction, but because of that interchange, today, people have forgotten. Now very soon, people will forget all the horrors they used to face within the city centre because a man has come to redefine governance.
Are we sure the newly flagged-off projects will be delivered before the end of the tenure of Wike?
You see,  why I am excited working with His Excellency is that, he  follows his promises through, since he came on board, show me one promise he made that he has not kept.
I am the Commissioner for Information, when we flagged off the three flyover projects and it was to be delivered in 16 months, if you go to my facebook wall, people were saying how can this thing be, it’s just like a man in the Bible, you know when the Prophet said by this time tomorrow, food will be all over Samaria and the man said it’s not possible even though God opens everywhere. That’s what people were saying.
But today, all of them are completed within schedule. He matches every project with requisite funds.
It is uncommon in politics; it is uncommon in the governance of Nigeria. What people do; we have seen previous administration here leave behind white      elephant projects.
This man’s love for Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike loves for Rivers State. And he keeps repeating it, he said I will not leave any abandoned project for whoever will succeed me.
Some persons have the opinion that the flyovers are not well designed. What is your response to that?
 On how the flyovers are            being built, I am not an engineer but the truth is that a lot of people are not speaking from professional perspective. It is just like beer palour gossip. Before those projects were sited, engineering design had been taken into consideration, so many things were put into consideration.
The engineers know what you and I don’t know. What do you say about possible return of traders to the Okoro-Nu-Odo flyover?
Recall that a big market was opened at Rumuokoro, a very big market that has motor park and everything as part of that market. But you find that it’s a problem, just like you see along Creek road, traders leave the markets to trade on the road, but these are human beings; do they need somebody to always flog them for them to go into the market? These are the things even the Rivers State Traders Association (RTA) should be able to engage its members in. RTA needs to engage its members to sensitize them to understand that, they need to do the right thing. It is not good enough for government to build facilities and then they turn roads into markets.
What is the last thing you like to say to Rivers People?
Thank you very much, like I said during my interview yesterday, Rivers people need to join hands with His Excellency to develop Rivers State. His vision is to make Rivers State investors’ destination of choice and of course that’s why with our campaign “Our State Our Responsibility”, we are trying to make everybody who lives and does business in Rivers State understand that we have a shared prosperity to protect.
Governor Wike is giving us the roadmap. He is giving us the roadmap, on a daily basis to achieve a Rivers State of our dream. Truth of the matter is, a lot of people want our governor on loan to their States. It is the truth of the matter, it’s the truth.. A lot of people call me to say if your people can just loan your governor to us for six months because what they see happening under this COVID show me one State that is functioning. What is the magic wand? Vision, prudent management of resources and that determination to build a Rivers State that all of us will be proud of.
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