Upon coming into being on October 26, 2007, the present administration in Rivers State, led by the governor, Rt Hon. Chibuike Romiti Amaechi, wasted no time in unveiling its development agenda, part of which was the Greater Port Harcourt City project.
As the capital of Rivers State and nexus of the nation’s all-important oil and gas industry, Port Harcourt also dons the toga of a thriving commercial and industrial hub in addition to being Nigeria’s Garden City.
It is perhaps for these reasons that the city has continued to witness steady growth in human population which has, in turn, exerted a serious strain on its existing infrastructure.
Information available at the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA), explains five reasons for which the state government is building the New City. These are:
* The fact that Port Harcourt, the treasure base of the nation, is the fastest growing city in the Niger Delta means that there is the need to control its development.
*The need to modernise Port Harcourt and reawaken the once thriving Garden City.
*The need to improve the standard of living of all people in the city by providing better living environments that are properly serviced; and give access to social services and infrastructure.
*The need to create a modern business node that will accelerate economic growth and development supported by appropriate economic policies and good government.
*The need to plan the city in a manner that will attract private sector interest, involvement and investment in infrastructure, housing, retail, offices and other commercial facilities.
One of the earliest demonstrations of Amaechi’s commitment to the Greater Port Harcourt project came with the commissioning of Arcus GIBB, a reputable South African engineering firm, to study the entire landscape surrounding the state capital and produce a master plan for the development of a new Port Harcourt city. And there is no doubt that what the firm produced did impress the governor.
“To this end, government will establish a Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority charged with the responsibility of implementing the master plan. We have set aside N50 billion this year to fund the project. Let me assure you all that at the end of this exercise, we will have a world-class city that will be clean, green, orderly and a delight to live in,” he said while presenting the GPHCDA bill to the State House of Assembly in 2008.
How Far Has The Dream Gone?
The GPHCDA, which law came into effect on April 2, 2009, has the mandate to facilitate the implementation of the Greater Port Harcourt master plan and build the New City.
The Authority functions through a 17-member governing board with Chief Ferdinand Alabraba as chairman while its day-to-day operations fall under the Administrator, Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, a lawyer, former Attorney-General and later, Secretary to the State Government during the administration of Dr Peter Odili.
The New City master plan covers Port Harcourt and parts of seven other local government areas, namely Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Oyigbo, Eleme, Okrika and Ogu/Bolo. It occupies a land area of 190,000 hectares (about 1,900 sq. km) with a projected population of two million.
So far, GPHCDA’s master plan implementation approach has been quite methodical and involves a phased development of the New City beginning with Phase 1 which is divided into A,B,C,D and located in the northern axis of the plan, near the Port Harcourt International Airport.
The Authority has already awarded contracts for the construction of roads, drainages, water scheme, electricity and other necessary infrastructural facilities that will attract individual and corporate developers to the area.
Apart from the Port Harcourt Mega Bus Terminal which is now fully completed and some facilities at the Rivers Sports Village which were completed and used during the 17th National Sports Festival last year, work is currently in progress at the new site of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology; the Rivers Mega Hospital; the Federal Housing Scheme; Joseph Yobo Road; and the PTDF National Centre for Skills Development.
Other projects for which contracts were recently awarded in the New City include: the storm water drainage and reticulation contract; the 33 KVA electricity supply substation contract to Weltek Nigeria Limited; provision of housing and township services by DSC International Company Limited; and the N709.4 million temporary bulk water supply scheme awarded to Paterson Candy International Limited.
As for local and foreign business investors, it is expected that they will endeavour to take advantage of the numerous incentives on offer by the government, in addition to the already existing investor-friendly legal regime in the state.
A five-year tax holiday, free land in the New City, rebate on off-take guarantees, international carbon credits and other special concessions are already up for grabs by investors who meet certain regulatory requirements as spelt out by GPHCDA.
Also, the Rivers State Public Procurement Law of 2008, Public Private Partnership Law of 2009, GPHCDA Law of 2009, Fiscal Responsibility Law of 2010 and the Federal Government’s Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission Act of 2005 are already in existence to ensure due process and transparency in government’s transactions, protection of private investments and procurement of indemnities in case of any government default, among others.
What Programmes Does The Amaechi Administration Hope To Deliver In 4 Years?
From the onset, the Rivers State Government knew that it will be beyond the state to wholly fund the development of a new Port Harcourt City. Nevertheless, the Amaechi administration had proposed an annual expenditure of N100 billion for 50 years alongside private partners (under a PPP arrangement), beginning with the 2009 budget.
Given the international prominence which Port Harcourt already enjoys, particularly on account of oil and gas, coupled with its status as an industrial and commercial centre, there is no doubt as to the City’s impending growth into an investors’ paradise. But first, certain basic amenities have to be on the ground to attract such businessmen into the suburban Greater Port Harcourt brushes.
This probably explains why the state considered floating a N250 billion infrastructure bond to enable it fund such key projects as the new state university, mega hospital and its M1 Road before the end of the present administration.
Again, it could be recalled that the state recently suffered financial denials following the ceding of its 86 oil wells to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State. Although the issue has been resolved and a refund ordered, there is every likelihood that such accruals would have found expression in the New City’s development had the money come at its due time.
What Are The Challenges?
When the government announced its intention to develop a new city, mostly northward, and away from the old Port Harcourt city, the initial public reaction was better seen than imagined.
Many Rivers people, particularly the riverine folk, were angered over the very idea of having to move the state capital further into Ikwerre land and, with it, the nation’s pioneer university of technology. The state administration was particularly accused of promoting an ‘Ikwerre Agenda’—being that the governor is an Ikwerre man.
Truth is that the Greater Port Harcourt Project was initially a hard sell even to Ikwerre landlord communities which feared that there may not be adequate, if any, financial recompense. But with time and having seen the international standard employed in the design and construction of some of the projects, there is now a wider public acceptance of the government’s motives.
There is also a better appreciation of the economic benefits that will soon be enjoyed in the area and later spread to the rest of the state.
Of course, scarcity of funds will always constitute a big challenge for projects of this nature. It is even more so now that recession is prevalent in Europe and America from where most of Africa’s investors and investible funds originate.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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