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.
Wike Blasts NASS Over Ex-Service Chiefs’ Confirmation …Blames Poor Performance Of NDDC On Presidency, NASS
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says Nigerians are disappointed with the National Assembly for confirming sacked service chiefs as ambassadors.
The governor related the disappointment of Nigerians to members of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, when they paid a courtesy visit to him at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Wike wondered why senators, who agreed with Nigerians when they decried the poor performance of the service chiefs, would sit to clear them for another appointment.
“Let me use this opportunity to express the dismay of most Nigerians to the Senate. Convey this to the Senate. We must be courageous in whatever we are doing. Everything must not be party affairs. You (senators) sat and discussed that they should dismiss the service chiefs. You said they’re not performing.
“Now, the same people who were not performing, you have confirmed them as ambassadors. What kind of country are we?
“In anything we do, we must remember that there is tomorrow; our conscience is key. It’s not because I want to be loyalists to a party. No. There are things you cannot reconcile at all,” he said.
Speaking about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Wike said the commission has abandoned its core mandate; leaving those who canvassed for its establishment disillusioned.
“I don’t like talking about NDDC. It is unfortunate that those who fought for it, if they knew that this is how NDDC will be, I don’t think they would have even asked for it.”
He noted that over the years, various National Assembly committees on NDDC hah failed to provide sufficient direction that would make the commission focus on its core mandate of developing the region.
Wike said some politicians have transformed the NDDC into a cash cow for the prosecution of sinister political agenda.
To buttress this, he accused the commission of spending N10billion to unseat him from office, but added that the scheme failed.
The governor urged the committee’s leadership to prevail on the management of the NDDC to embark on legacy infrastructure projects such as flyovers in the impacted states, and not waste resources on doing 50 or 100-metre roads.
“You, as the Senate Committee chairman, and that of the House Committee, you’re from the region too. You are supervising NDDC; so, why not sit down with them to know the legacy projects they want to carry out this year in the Niger Delta states. Tell them these are projects they must make sure they execute first.
“Rather than do that, you allow them do 50 or 100 meters’ road or a close that leads to someone’s house. What’s their business there?”, he asked.
The governor accused the Presidency, the National Assembly and the ruling party of aiding the gross inefficiency of the NDDC.
“The National Assembly is part of the problem of NDDC. The Presidency is part of the problem of NDDC, and the party in power is part of the problem of NDDC, whichever party it is. They don’t allow NDDC to perform. We too, in Niger Delta, are not allowing them to perform. We are enemies to ourselves.”
He noted how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) refused to endorse the amendment of the Electoral Act for fear that they would lose the 2019 General Election when it was the best thing to do for the country.
The governor also expressed displeasure over a senator who overstepped his immunity during plenary to demean a serving governor by calling him a ‘drunk’.
In his speech, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, said they were in Government House, to assure Wike, as the host of NDDC, that the commission would be supervised to perform within its core mandate.
“As a committee, we are aware that you have some reservations with the NDDC based on your state’s previous relationship with them. We have come to assure you that with the people you have seen here, who are patriotic Nigerians, we will make sure that the aspirations and the aims of creating the NDDC would be achieved.
“We will do everything possible within the limits of the Constitution, through our oversight functions, for them to achieve their objectives.”
Nwaoboshi also commended the governor for having done well in providing security in Rivers State with NDDC benefiting from it.
He noted that Wike has become the strongest voice that has continued to speak truth to power at the risk of his political career.
“We say without fear of contradiction that you are the strongest voice in the Niger Delta region. You have always been courageous, even at the risk of your political career, to speak truth to power.”
“You have also advanced the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. That is why anybody visiting Niger Delta will have nothing but to come and see that courageous man that is bestriding the area like a colossus”, Nwaoboshi added.
Traders, Landlords Lose Millions As Fire Razes Another Market, Houses
There was uncontrollable wailing, yesterday, as traders and some residents woke up to the sad news that fire had destroyed the Timber Market at Marine Base in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State.
It was gathered that the fire gutted the popular market in the state around 11:30pm, last Wednesday and continued burning until the early hours of yesterday.
It was gathered that the mysterious fire razed the entire market and some residential buildings within the area.
A source in the area, who gave her name simply as Gift, narrated that activities had closed for the day before the fire engulfed the makeshift market.
Gift noted that they had called the state fire service when the incident started, but quickly added that the service’s response could not turn up because of lack of personnel.
She said, “There was heavy fire last night at Marine Base market. The fire burnt down the market. Traders in the market lost every of their goods.
“The fire started around 11:30pm, when the market had already closed. Nobody died in the incident but traders lost everything they had to the fire.
“When the fire started, we called fire service. They said they would come. After about 30 minutes, we called the line again; a lady picked the call but said they can’t come because their men were not on the ground. They have gone for another duty.
“People have lost goods worth millions of Naira. Some of the shop owners came in around 12:30am, and met their shops razed, while some came and saved few of their goods.”
Another victim, who was seen wailing over the loss of his merchandise, said, “Last night around 11:35pm, the fire started, and the fire is still raging this morning as you can see. There were series of calls put across to fire fighters, but none responded up to this moment (morning).
“The fire actually affected areas where we are selling planks for buildings. Even shops where they sell caskets were also affected by the fire.”
One of the victims, who simply gave his name as Onyema, said that he became hypertensive patient as a result of incessant fire outbreaks at the Timber Market.
Onyema noted that when he got calls from some of his colleagues about the fire, he refused to rush down due to his health condition.
Another victim, Chidi Ogbomma, who sells building materials said, “I was at home around 11:30pm to 12midnight when I was called that there was fire at the market.
“I don’t know where to start from,” Ogbomma lamented as his machines, industrial woods and finished products were completely consumed in the fire.
The Chairman, Marine Base Timber Market, Isaac Amaewhule, said he was called at about midnight that the market was on fire, but could not race down because he stays far away.
“When I came, the security told me that the fire started from the coffin (casket) side. They said they were very surprised to see such huge fire. They said they didn’t know what caused it.
“I am using this opportunity to call on the state government to help us because we are all Nigerians. Even people selling pure water, food, and so on, come here to sell and sustain themselves and their families,” Amaewhule pleaded.
Some of the traders lamented that they had suffered several fire disasters in the past, estimating the latest loss to over N300million.
They regretted that anytime fire outbreaks occur, they lose virtually all their property as rescue operations have always been difficult.
They appealed to the Rivers State Government to come to their aid in terms of financial assistance and construction of a befitting market for them to forestall future recurrence.
The cause of the fire outbreak could not be ascertained by the time of this report.
However, it was learnt that the fire started from the casket section of the market, even as those affected said no fire-fighters came to put out the inferno.
When The Tide visited the scene of the inferno about 7:30am, yesterday, it was observed that the fire was still raging in some parts of the wood section.
The incident occurred barely five days after a similar fire outbreak on February 20, razed property worth over N10million at the popular Mile 3 Market in the state capital.
The cause of the section of the Mile 3 Market fire incident, which mostly destroyed several shops, including cold rooms on the Bishop Okoye Line, is yet to be determined.
The second fire incident also occurred along Chief Odum Street in the Ogbumnabali area of Port Harcourt; where over 20 shanties were destroyed rendering hundreds of residents homeless.
PIB’ll Change Economic Fortunes Of Nigeria, Lawan Affirms
The Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, assured Nigerians that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is before the National Assembly would change the fortune of the country by the time it becomes law.
“The PIB is going to be a piece of legislation that in our estimation will change the economic fortune of Nigeria and of course improve the earnings by our businesses who are here and we want to attract many more investments into the oil and gas industry in Nigeria,” Lawan said.
The Senate President spoke in his office while playing host to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing.
Lawan said the Ninth Assembly would ensure the passage of the PIB as promised even though, he pointed out, that the bill had “suffered from a demonic influence” by refusing passage since 2008 when it was first introduced to the Sixth Assembly.
“We are so confident that we will be able to pass this bill by April. We want it signed into law by May and we want every stakeholder to be a winner,” Lawan said.
The Senate President was also upbeat about the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill now being processed by the Assembly.
“I want to assure Nigerians that we have a target and we think it’s a realistic target. It’s doable and we have the determination and capacity to affect the amendment (to Electoral Act) before we go on summer break in June/July and our committee has done so much work,” Lawan said.
On the security situation in the country, Lawan said the government was doing everything possible to change the tide.
The Senate President referred to his recent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in which “our discussion centred on ensuring that the two arms of government work closely to ensure that we win this war as quickly as possible.
“I’m of the view that because the raining season will be here in the next two, three months, we need to secure the whole environment because for the peasant Nigerian, what is crucial to him is to be alive and go to his farm.
“If the environment is not secured, farmers will not be able to go to farms and that will be a big challenge to us because it is not going to be easy for us to provide food for all the Nigerian peasant farmers.
“So, we are working together with the Executive arm of government and we are going to achieve a remarkable result.”
The Senate President also spoke on farmers/herders clashes and cautioned on religious or ethnic profiling.
“I believe in every society or community, we have criminals…In every ethnic group, you have good people, you have bad people. Therefore, as leaders, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to fall into the temptation of ethnic profiling because it doesn’t help the fight against criminality and we need every hand on deck, North, South, Christians Muslims, to fight criminality wherever it is in Nigeria,” Lawan said.
Earlier, the British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing commended President Buhari over the appointment of the new service chiefs, and urged the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the PIB and Electoral Amendment Bill.
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