As part of the 45 years anniversary celebration of the creation of Rivers State, residents were asked to identify the weak link in the administration of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. In this interview conducted by Thomas Abbey and Chris Oluo, residents aired their views. Excerpts.
I arrived Rivers State in 2010 and my impression when I was coming was that I was coming to a state where the street lights are working and the standard of development is very high, like we have in Lagos, Abuja because this is an oil rich state. But I was surprised when I came I noticed that the Port Harcourt I used to hear about is not exactly how it is being painted. If I may say, it appears this is the first time the people are enjoying real fruits of democracy. When I came, street lights were not working. Ikwerre Road was not passable; I stay in Mile III area. Agip roundabout was a major problem to everybody. If you’re going from Agip to Iwofe to Mgbuoba area, if you are passing through Ada-George Road, you’ll leave your house at about 4.30 a.m.- 5.00am. But now the situation is changing. When I came, you cannot walk freely on Ikwerre road around 7.00 p.m. You’ll be afraid. But now we have street lights powered by generators to avoid the hardship of power failure. I think government is actually working.
“You’ll also consider that Governor Amaechi is one of the governors that quickly approved the N18,000 minimum wage for payment to workers. Many other governors are still grumbling over that, but he approved, and even started to pay.
“In fact, one area he has worked hard is the area of curbing corruption. His pattern of administration is in tandem with the Federal Government, anti-corruption policy. He went ahead to do verification of staff to check ghost workers. And in the award of contracts and management of parastatals, you can see that due process is in place and being employed in all regards.
The area I want him to put more effort is the area of transportation, and rural development. Transportation in the sense that the cost of transportation is a bit high. Higher than what should be obtainable in the state. I know that some “Amaechi” buses ply from Park (Aba Road) to Eleme junction and Oyigbo. But the buses are not enough. On Ikwerre Road, it starts at Mile 3 Park and terminates at Rumuokoro. You’ll agree with me that many workers in Rivers state, some stay in as far as Choba, some at Igwuruta. They don’t have access to enjoy these things unless they pay huge amount on transport fare to Rumuokoro before they can enjoy the facility.
“In the area of security, very recently you heard of the robbery of banks in broad day light. He has to do something. But, he’s trying his best O!. I’ve heard of two robberies that were foiled by the police as the robbers arrived, one at Rukpokwu and the other along Olu-Obasanjo Road, where some robbers were also killed. This is because Rivers State Government encourages the police so much too. I give them kudos for that.
“Above all, there should be decongestion of Port Harcourt, unless that is done; the issues of traffic jam cannot be solved.
“This can be done by the government citing major establishments outside Port Harcourt, to places like Ahoada, Omagwa, Rumuosi, Choba etc. Once that is done, many people who are staying in Port Harcourt now would move because that is the only place they can get work. Of course, once Port Harcourt is decongested the issues of transportation will improve and even crime will be reduced.
“About the Monorail project, I have a fear that the monorail project may not be completed in the tenure of Governor Amaechi. And if that is the case it may suffer the fate of being abandoned by another administration.
“In 2010, when I came, I saw when they started the Monorail project. As I am talking to you now, they are still at UTC doing only pillars. I understand that the monorail will pass through Airforce base going to Aba Road, or even Oyigbo. If for two years, they are still at UTC, how many years will it take them to get to Air Force? I think that the company handling it is not as fast as it should be. Though, I do not know the space of time contained in the agreement between them and the government, but if the Monorail project is something that Amaechi wants to commission, I think he should review the contract and give it to JB, it would be better, because if it is completed it would boost the economy of the state. But my fear is that it may not be completed before 2015.
I want to advise that the government should concentrate on the welfare the people in a pattern that would reflect that actually Rivers State is an oil-rich state. For instance Ondo State government announced N22,000 minimum wage, Imo State governor announced N20,000. I think Rivers, as a major oil rich State should go beyond that.
“The multinational oil companies in the state should not be contented with paying only royalty to the State. No! Corporate social responsibility like adopting schools, adopting institutions should be exhibited by them. With the kind of oil Rivers State has I see no reason why any indigene of the State should pay school fees. Funding education and building infrastructure should be part of corporate responsibility of oil companies. Government should not be contented with the tax coming from the oil companies alone. No. The oil companies should do more viable projects.”
Prince Enyi Princewill
– NNPP Chairman, Rivers State Chapter
“As the Chairman of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), I wish to score the administration of Governor Rotimi Amaechi high in the area of infrastructural development of the state.
“The new primary schools constructed by Governor Amaechi look like secondary school structures in some other states of Nigeria. The construction of many new health centres, roads and the urban renewal effort that has changed Port Harcourt city for better are all commendable.
“However, I score the governor low in terms of carriage of members of opposition political parties along in the scheme of things. “Governor Amaechi, unless the idea is in the making, otherwise his administration has not put the idea of unity government in actual practice because you can’t mention the real opposition party member in the state executive council or even at the local government areas.
“The governor should strengthen his monitoring mechanism so that the projects, the schools and health centres could be evaluated to see how those operating them are performing.
“We have seen these laudable projects but how effective are they in terms of operation. Are the doctors actually coming to work at the health centres? The free education aspect; are some school heads and teachers actually not collecting illegal fees? Governor Amaechi should look beyond his party in appointments because no person is an encyclopedia of knowledge.
“Besides, handling all projects at a swoop is wrong. They could be phased such that they would follow a sequence instead of carrying along all projects at a time, and causing remarkable hardships to residents.
“But I commended the governor for his efforts in the direction of security of the state. The level of threats and killing has been drastically reduced, he should not relent.
“Although I am a politician I am also an agricultural scientist. So, I want Governor Amaechi to invest more on agric development and pursue vigorously, the revival of the former School to Land farms in the state which have since gone moribund. I say so because I know that agriculture is very crucial in any society and it is one of the highest employers of labour and job creation.”
Leader, Niger Delta Youth Coalition
“We could score Amaechi administration 75 per cent in terms of the way he’s carrying on to transform the state in the area of infrastructure.
“The way he improved school structures is unprecedented, and now he has capped it with a directive that more teachers be recruited.
“He has also improved on the health sector in terms of infrastructure, if compared with what he met on ground. But he should do something about developing agriculture, because that is one way of encouraging and empowering rural people who are engaged in one form of agric practice or the other. While doing that he can also look into mechanised farming.
“Because that will surely create the much touted food security and also improve the economy of the state. We also urge the Governor to ginger other Ministries to live up to expectation, like the Transport Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and the Ministry in charge of Rural Development and the supervision of local government councils.
“The administration has done one year now, they have to buckle-up in the next three years. In the area of the Mono Rail project. To be sincere with you, I think the government made a mistake in that area. They should have concentrated more on the laudable road projects. Governor Amaechi should instead have reinvigorated land rail not rail on air. They’ve not been able to manage the ground rail, not to talk of managing the one in the air that requires electricity to function. In that area, the government might fail because it is doubtful if he’ll complete that project before the end of his administration. The government should quickly reconsider and stop the Mono rail project because, so far it has marred the beauty of that section of the town, from where it is started. Even Britain that has Mono rail is abandoning it because of maintenance. We can’t maintain it here, because of poor electricity. In my view, the government should build up the waterfronts already demolished and allocate the houses to people.
“If they want to demolish another area, they first of all set an example, because if you resettle those displaced from a certain area other people in places marked for demolition will not complain, because you’ve set an example.
What we are hearing now is that they have already sold some of the waterfronts to people to build jetties. We are not against demolition for development purposes, but where you do not resettle those displaced, by taking adequate statistics, and building houses to accommodate them, people must kick against it. But we are happy that demolition has been stopped for now. To prepare the next generation for challenges ahead I want the Rivers State Government to train people in Marine, Structural and Civil Engineering and also in agricultural science to enable them meet future challenges.
Rivers State Chairman, National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Workers (NUPPPOW) and Vice Chairman, South South, NUPPPOW.
“Amaechi is a human being like other governors, he has done his best. You can see the kind of schools he has put in place, school fees, books, uniforms are free. There are some parents who have been relieved of this burden, no matter how little it may appear. He has built many hospitals, employed doctors to help the sick. And if you consider roads, there are some roads he has built of which people should be proud of. I think then in this one year period, he has done well compared to others. And he still has three years to work for Rivers people.
“I can’t say much about Mono Rail because I don’t know the financial involvement. We are all hoping to see what the project is all about. For now, I think it’s still on course. But my advice is that while government is putting structures on ground, welfare of the workers should not be relegated, welfare of Rivers people is very paramount.
“Whatever should be done to let the Rivers man know that he’s from Rivers State, should be done.
“Rivers men and women, not just workers alone should be encouraged in any sphere of empowerment, any avenue for employment or area of contract that will make Rivers people feel a sense of belonging should be encouraged by government.”
“Governor Amaechi’s administration is doing visibly well in terms of new infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, and in the award of scholarships to the Rivers Youth to study abroad. All these are good, but they should not be done at the expense of other social sectors like transportation, housing and development of rural roads. I must say that I feel disappointed that the structures, like general hospitals put in place by other administrations are being neglected. An example is the Isiokpo General Hospital. The place, last time some accident victims were rushed there, they were turned back. The hospital, built in the seventies had doctors, nurses quarters and even mortuary. But today the place has been taken over by grasses. I am sure the story is the same with some other general hospitals across the state. Even the new ones, it is doubtful if proper supervision is being done to ensure they are working, that doctors, nurses and all staff are always on duty.
“In addition, government must look into the poor condition of rural roads that constitute hardship to our rural people. The local governments are not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of their people.”
Mr Claude Wari,
“The government should come to the aid of riverine communities by providing reliable boats for marine transportation. It is disgusting that since the past 12 years no attention has been paid to marine transportation. The government should revive the Rivers Marine Transport Company and empower it to live up to the expectation of the people. For example, since the Bomu-Bonny road project is still on the drawing board, government is expected to provide reliable, safe, and affordable marine boats for transportation of goods and services to Bonny, and other riverine communities.
It should be appreciated that many lives are lost on the water routes to riverine communities but if there are reliable government boats, the incidence would be reduced.
Another area government should tackle is the area of removal of destitute from the streets of the Garden City. From Air Force to Rumuola junction to Presidential Junction some of these destitute are unsightly and should be removed from public glare.”