This circumference called Rivers State, today, was the epicentre of the Oil Rivers Protectorate that existed from 1885 to 1893, when it became part of the Niger Coast Protectorate. In 1900, the region was merged with the chartered territories of the Royal Niger Company to form the colony of Southern Nigeria. Following that merger, many fears of palpable marginalisation, neglect and oppression were openly expressed by minority crusaders and activists, given their difficult terrain. This led to the signing of several protection treaties between various indigenous communities and the British government, pledging to accord priority to the protection of the interests and development needs of the minorities. But those treaties were never implemented to the letter, due mainly to lack of political will and commitment to do the needful. Thus, those fears of neglect, deprivation and oppression remained unattended to for four decades.
Consequently, between 1941 and 1952, agitation for the creation of Rivers province began with the formation of the Ijaw Rivers People’s League (IRPL). About a decade later in 1953, the Council of Rivers Chiefs (CORC) was floated as a replacement for the league. That same year, another platform, the Calabar Ogoja Rivers (COR) State Movement was born. The CORC was later renamed in 1954 as Rivers Chiefs and Peoples’ Congress (RCPC), and in 1956, the organisation transformed to the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference (RCPC). Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye was one of the pillars of that struggle. Until 1958, hopes of an independent state to drive and actualise their dreams resonated with the people, but lingered consistently in the minds of its purveyors.
However, about 20 years later at the constitutional conference of 1958, the country’s nationhood was affirmed while an agreement was, again, reached on some measures to mitigate the fears of the ethnic minorities in the deltaic region. Thereafter, the British launched a commission led by Sir Henry Willink to look into the misgivings of the autochthons. The Willink Commission initiated the conception of the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), designed to tackle the problems of under-development, but, this agency failed to rise to the expectation of the masses.
After much discontent, some of the people, attempted to take the extralegal route to achieve their goals. Among the agitators were Isaac Adaka Boro, Sam Owonaro and Nottingham Dick, who alongside their supporters proclaimed a “Delta Peoples Republic” in February, 1966. The core of their complaint was that for over six decades, the centripetal forces failed to provide workable sustainable development masterplan to strategically and pragmatically tackle the special needs of the people in the deltaic region. Although the rebellion was immediately crushed by the Federal and the old Eastern Nigeria governments, it did not detract from the fact that the message has been sent of a sustained backlash in future should the central and regional governments remain adamant.
As a means of dousing tension created by the century-long neglect and marginalisation of the people, and the fierce quest for self-determination and resource control woven around the rebellion, the administration of Gen Yakubu Gowon, on May 27, 1967, issued Decree No. 14, announcing the creation of Rivers State. Even after the creation of the state, the complaints about political marginalisation, environmental degradation and economic pauperisation have remained, thereby begging the question: when would the dreams of the founding fathers of the state be realised?
Of course, the story of Rivers State is reminiscent of the complex paradox called Nigeria. Its struggle for identity, justice, equity and self-determination is simply the melting pot of the agitation of the minorities in Nigeria’s South for economic and political freedom. Carved out of the South Eastern Region, exactly 50 years today, Rivers State, also referred to as the ‘Treasure Base of the Nation’, is located in the now South-South Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria. It has a total land mass of approximately 11,077 square kilometres or 4,276.9 square miles, and ranks 26 in size, out of the 36 states of the federation. By 2007, it ranked second in Gross Domestic Products (PPP) only to Lagos at $21.07billion, with a per capita of $3,965. But is this a sign of progress made in realising the dreams of the founding fathers?
Rivers State, with capital in Port Harcourt, is one of the 36 states of Nigeria, and has been allocated 23 local government areas, politically. The state is bounded on the South by the Atlantic Ocean, to the North by Imo, Abia and Anambra, to the East by Akwa Ibom and to the West by Bayelsa and Delta states. It derives its name from the many rivers that border its territory. Rivers State is home to a variety of ethnic clans, including Abua, Andoni, Ekpeye, Engenni, Etche, lbani, lkwerre, Kalabari, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Okrika and Ogoni. Its inland part consists of tropical rainforest while towards the coast features many mangrove swamps typical of the Niger Delta environment.
In terms of economic equation in Nigeria, Rivers State has one of the largest economies in Nigeria, and is the epicentre of the huge hydrocarbon resources in the Niger Delta. Thus, virtually all the international oil and gas companies as well as indigenous ones have their operational bases or administrative offices in the state. The state has two major refineries, a world-class petrochemical facility, two fertiliser plants, two major seaports, two airports, and various industrial estates spread across the state, particularly in the state capital. Other natural resources found within the state include silica, glass and clay sand.
The state is accessible by road, rail, air and sea. Apart from being a railway terminus and having one of the busiest airports in Nigeria, Port Harcourt has the unique natural advantage of hosting the nation’s second largest commercial sea port with another sea port (the Federal Ocean Terminal), designated the Oil and Gas Free Zone (OGFZ) in Onne.
Before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in 1956, agriculture was the primary occupation of the people inhabiting the circumference now called Rivers State. Around 19th century, when the industrial revolution reached its peak in England, the area was referred to as Oil Rivers Protectorate, due mainly to its abundant palm oil and kernel, which basically constituted the main revenue source of the country. Available statistics from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development show that about 40 per cent of the rural inhabitants were committed to farming in 1983. Rivers State is one of the leading states in the production of yam, cassava, cocoyam, maize, rice and beans.
In fact, about 39 per cent (760,000 hectares) of the state’s total land mass, particularly in the upland area, is suitable for cultivation. Major cash crops produced are oil palm products, rubber, coconut, raffia palm and jute. Other crops grown for food include vegetables, melon, pineapples, mango, pepper, banana and plantain. The fishing industry is an important sector in Rivers State, with Oyorokoto, in Andoni, hosting the largest fishing settlement in Africa. There are approximately 270 species of fish existing; with many artisanal fishermen in the riverine areas. The state provides valuable sea-foods such as crabs, oysters, shrimps and sea snails, among others. Vertebrates like birds, mammals and reptiles are also found in large numbers in the state. It also hosts one of the largest wildlife reserves in Andoni, and aquatic lives that today, enrich the state’s biodiversity potential and ecosystem profile.
However, this rosy economic advantage endowed by nature, has not completely translated to a sustained buoyant and robust revenue profile both for the government and the people, 50 years after. This is because of high unemployment rate, poverty and crime, accentuated by the plunder and callousness of the majority ethnic groups whose oppressive actions and surreptitious inactions had undermined the dreams of the founding fathers for peace, sustainable growth and development in the state.
In education front, 50 years after its creation, Rivers State has around 2,805 public primary schools. There are also more than 3,500 private pre-nursery, nursery and primary schools. At the secondary level, there are over 243 public secondary schools, and about 700 private secondary schools. Most of these are located mostly in the LGA headquarters and in Port Harcourt City and its environs. Similarly, there are three Federal Government-owned tertiary institutions in the state, including a university, oil & gas polytechnic, and college of education (technical). There are also six tertiary institutions set up by the state government, including two universities, two polytechnics, and two health sector manpower training schools. Apart from the nine public tertiary institutions, there are well over 15 other private tertiary institutions in the state. But the question that deserves an answer is: has this multiplicity of educational institutions helped in the realisation of the dreams of the founding fathers of the state?
With regard to efforts to address injustice, deprivation and oppression, 50 years after, the state has eight institutional courts: High Court of Justice, Magistrates Courts, the Customary Courts, Customary Court of Appeal, Juvenile Courts, Revenue Courts, Sanitation Courts, Mobile Courts, and Ports-Related Offences Courts. The state has about 26 serving judges in the High Court of Justice, which comprises 10 Judicial Divisions, including Port Harcourt, Ahoada, Degema, Nchia, Bori, Omoku, Isiokpo, Okrika, Okehi, and Oyigbo. In addition, it has numerous magistrates and other senior judicial officers. Experts argue that the state’s judiciary is one of the most independent in the country, and has not failed to dispense justice to those who have cried to it for redress. Even so, the question remains: 50 years after, has this judiciary helped secure justice for the government and people of the state against the predation of the powerful majority in the country?
Politically, since creation 50 years today, Rivers State has had 10 military governors. The first was Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, who administered the state from May 28, 1967 to July, 1975. He was followed by Maj-Gen Zamani Lekwot (July, 1975 to July, 1978; and Navy Commander Suleiman Saidu (July, 1978 to October 1, 1979). After the military coup at midnight, December 31, 1983, Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome was appointed military governor from January, 1984 to 26 August, 1986; followed by Col Anthony Ukpo (26 August, 1986 to July, 1988); Group Captain Ernest Adeleye (July, 1988 to August 30, 1990); Col Godwin Abbe (September 3, 1990 to January, 1992); Col Dauda Komo (December 9, 1993 to August 22, 1996); Col Musa Shehu (August 22, 1996 to August, 1998); and Group Captain Sam Ewang, who administered the state from August, 1998, and handed over to the third civilian governor on May 29, 1999.
Instructively, six civilian governors have governed the state since its creation in 1967. They are the first democratically elected governor, Senator Melford Okilo from October 1, 1979 to December 31, 1983; Chief Rufus Ada-George (January, 1992 to November, 1993); Dr Peter Odili (May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007); Sir Celestine Omehia (May 29, 2007 to October 26, 2007); Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (October 26, 2007 to May 29, 2015); and the incumbent governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike since May 29, 2015. Except Okilo, all other past civilian governors, who by their actions or inaction, helped to realise or mar the dreams of the founding fathers, and thus, contributed positively or negatively in shaping the history around the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the state, are alive today to witness the unfolding events.
Legacies Of Past Governors
The visionary first military governor of old Rivers State, Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff, and his team of able men and women set the pace and pathway for development in the state. An Ijaw from present-day Bayelsa State, carved out of the old Rivers State on October 1, 1996, was actually at 24 years, nine months, and 29 days when he was appointed military governor of the state on May 27, 1967.
He began his mission to realise the dreams of the founding fathers of the state in earnest, with determination and unwavering commitment to transparency and prudent management of scarce resources. But he was guided by his deep taste for excellence, class and finesse. Thus, he built the Rivers State Government secretariat, the tallest and biggest government secretariat in the country apart from the federal secretariat in Abuja. A cluster of about six units of nine storey buildings, including the Podium Block, and the principal secretariat, the Point Block, which is 17-storey high, the secretariat is rated the tallest building in the South-South and South-East of Nigeria. The buildings beat other state government secretariats in the only competing states of Lagos and Kano. The secretariat, located at the heart of the city, is besides the Government House, Central Bank of Nigeria, Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat, state House of Assembly Complex, state and federal High Court complexes, Federal Court of Appeal, Rivers State Police Command Headquarters, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation zonal office complex, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) complex, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) headquarters, among others.
Besides the above, Diette-Spiff also built the Rivers State Sports Complex, which comprises the present day Sharks Stadium and Alfred Diette-Spiff Civic Centre. He built the Olympia Hotel, Presidential Housing Estate, and began building the state high court complex. Diette-Spiff also built the state Psychiatric Hospital at Rumuigbo, general hospitals in all the local government headquarters, and established state-owned companies such as Metaloplastica, West African Glass Industry (WAGI), Pabod Breweries Company Limited (PBCL), Rivers State Vegetable Oil Company (RIVOC), Risonpalm, Superbod Stores and Pabod Finance and Investment Company Limited (PFICL), as well as Eastern Iron Wrought Industries Limited (EIWIL), among others. Almost all the companies closed shop under the Abacha draconian rule and uncertain business environment between 1993 and 1998. In fact, the only surviving ones today – WAGI, PBCL, RIVOC, Risonpalm, Superbod Stores (now PH Mall) – have been privatised.
Diette-Spiff selected the best brains to man the various ministries, departments and agencies of the state government, and made significant milestones in virtually all sectors. He is reputed for awarding foreign scholarships to hundreds of Rivers sons and daughters to study various courses that could help realise the dreams of the founding fathers, and established most of the best educational institutions in the state till date. Among them are the Rivers State College of Science and Technology (renamed Rivers State University of Science and Technology by Okilo), facilitated the establishment of the University of Port Harcourt, Choba, gave identity to the Rivers State School of Nursing and Midwifery, Rivers State College of Education, (renamed Ignatius Ajuru University of Education by Amaechi), teacher training colleges, and Rivers State School of Health Technology, among others, which have impacted positively to the socio-economic and political development of Rivers State.
In addition, Diette-Spiff established the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation (RSBC) AM Station, and initiated the establishment of Rivers State Television. His administration further established New Layout Market in Old Port Harcourt Township, and the Port Harcourt Zoological Park at Okujagu-Ama. He handed over the reins of power in the state to Maj-Gen Zamani Lekwot in July, 1975. But till date, posterity continues to judge Diette-Spiff’s nine-year government fairly as the best that had pursued, with vigour, the realisation of the dreams of the founding fathers of the state.
Having taken over in July, 1975 under the new head of state, Gen Murtala Mohammed, Zamani Lekwot’s government took off from where Diette-Spiff had stopped. His three-year regime saw an attempt to consolidate the gains already made by his predecessor. Thus, he strived to complete some of the critical infrastructure development projects started by Diette-Spiff. Lekwot commenced building the stadium project, initiated by Diette-Spiff, which he also relocated to Elekahia. He further built the imposing Rivers State Liaison Office in Lagos.
With the death of Mohammed, and take over by Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, Navy Commander Suleiman Saidu was appointed military governor of the state in July, 1978. Within the short spell of one year and three months as military governor, Saidu worked hard to make some impact in the state. He initiated some road infrastructure development projects, just as he began tenacious efforts to complete numerous projects he inherited from his predecessor. But history would pen his name in gold as the first military governor to hand over power to the first democratically elected governor after 12 years, four months and five days of the state’s creation, on October 1, 1979.
Chief Melford Obiene Okilo, was that first civilian governor of Rivers State. He governed the state for four years, and three months. He dusted the Diette-Spiff masterplan, laced with a dream to make the state stand out in the comity of states, and began implementing a deliberate policy of massive redevelopment that included canalisation of many creeks in the state. With this policy, massive swamps were reclaimed, including Borokiri, for development purposes, just as several road projects were embarked upon to give deserved facelift to the state. Apart from the more than 350 housing units built across the state to provide accommodation for the teeming population of particularly civil servants, Okilo also engineered and managed the construction of the Kolo Creek Gas Turbine Station in the present Bayelsa State to enhance electricity supply to the people. He also built Rivers State Television, and Radio Rivers FM Station.
Okilo also played a monumental role in developing education infrastructure and enhancing human capacity to drive economic growth and development in the state. To this extent, he converted then College of Science and Technology built by Diette-Spiff to Nigeria’s first science and technology university in Port Harcourt. But he did not end there. He also upgraded the state College of Education to a degree-awarding institution, and built many primary and secondary schools. But Okilo’s landmark momentum was cut short by the Gen Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon coup of midnight December 31, 1983, which returned military rule to Nigeria.
Following the coup, Police Commissioner Fidelis Oyakhilome, who later became assistant inspector-general of police, was appointed to take charge of governance in Rivers State on January 1, 1984. He served until August 28, 1986, becoming the fifth governor of the state. He ruled for two years and seven months. Oyakhilome accelerated the development of the agriculture by realigning the state to its original economic prowess as the agricultural melting pot of Nigeria. To drive this template, he established the School-to-Land Programme in Iriebe, Community Block Farming Programme as well as the Skills Acquisition Programme in the state. He also signed the edict establishing the Rivers State School of Basic Studies, which later was renamed Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, and embarked on other development projects in many sectors of the economy. He coordinated and drove the Mile One Flyover project to a reasonable state of completion.
Col Anthony Ukpo, who retired as brigadier-general, was appointed military governor of the state on August 28, 1986. He ran the affairs of the state until July, 1988. As the sixth governor of the state, Ukpo governed the state for nearly two years. He inaugurated the provisional council of the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori, and established the Rivers State Accelerated Integrated Rural Development Programme. Ukpo also initiated the Ndoki Waterfront Housing Estate, CARNIRIV 88, and laid the foundation stone for the construction of Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori. He also completed the Mile One Flyover project.
After Ukpo was dropped in July, 1988, Group Captain Ernest Adeleye was appointed as the seventh governor of the state. Within the two years and one month he held sway as governor, Adeleye signed the edict establishing the Rivers State Polytechnic, Bori; commissioned the Marine Base Housing Estate, and initiated the Flying Doctors’ Scheme. His administration came to an end on August 30, 1990.
On September 3, 1990, Col Godwin Abbe, who later retired as major-general, became the eight governor of Rivers State. He served for one year and four months, thus leaving office in January, 1992. Abbe’s regime witnessed many milestones in infrastructure development of the state. These landmarks include the magnificent Government House Auditorium, the Green Verge Housing Estate, as well as the Aggrey Road Waterfront Housing Estate. He also initiated the popular Eagle Island Water Scheme, and numerous other infrastructure development projects.
After the Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida junta organised governorship elections across the country, Chief Rufus Ada-George took over as the ninth governor of the state in January, 1992. As the second civilian governor of the state, Ada-George, whose tenure, the June 12 imbroglio and the Gen Sani Abacha coup forced to leave office in December, 1993, served for nearly two years. He is reputed for according priority to road infrastructure and housing development in the state. Thus, he opened up the city of Port Harcourt and the adjoining communities in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area through many link roads, including the now Peter Odili Road, Ada-George Road, the NTA-Mgbuoba-Airport Road, and the Okujagu-Woji-Akpajo Road, Eastern Bypass, among others. However, his brief administration had to abandon the roads at different levels of conception and execution. He also embarked on maintenance of existing roads and built some housing estates in the local government headquarters. But the success of the administration was punctuated by the high security challenges it face owing to numerous communal conflicts and violence across communities in the state.
With Abacha take over arising from consequential unease and tension following the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, and disturbing breakdown of law and order in Ogoniland, triggered by the gruesome murder of five prominent leaders of the area by a mob of youth under the aegis of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) led by environmentalist and playwright, Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa, and National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP), led by Dr Goodluck Diigbo, the military junta deployed no-nonsense Col Dauda Musa Komo on December 9, 1993, to manage a state of emergency, crush the seeming uprising and punish those against Federal Military Government’s position in Rivers State. Komo, the tenth governor of the state, ran Rivers State like a garrison command and occupation force, and left office on August 22, 1996, after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and three other activists by hanging on November 9, 1995.
We’ll Continue To Give Our All To Rivers-Wike
Being a text of the address presented by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, during his second term inauguration on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
Let me begin by expressing my deepest gratitude to God Almighty and the people of Rivers State for the rare privilege and opportunity to serve you as your Governor for another four years.
I wish also recognize and specially thank my dear wife and First Lady, Justice Eberechi and our children, Jordan, Joachim and Jasmine, my parents and my entire family for their wonderful love and support.
Let me also acknowledge and thank the State House of Assembly and the State’s Judiciary for the role they played in the last four years to support our administration and move Rivers State forward.
When I reflect on the last four years, I can visibly see the hands of both arms of government in the successes our administration recorded and I feel very proud that we did it together because ours was an era of co-operation, mutual-dependence and progress.
Thank you Mr. Speaker and other members of the State House of Assembly. Thank you Hon. Chief Judge and other distinguished judges, magistrates and other members of the State Judiciary as I look forward to working with you to advance our State for the next four years.
Four years ago, on this day and about this hour, and on this very place, I took the oath of office as the 6thdemocratically elected Governor of Rivers State.
I was humbled by that opportunity, the trust and the overwhelming support you all gave to us throughout the four years we’ve presided over the affairs of our State.
In spite of the challenges, it has been a truly fulfilling experience and I remain very grateful for every single day of the last four years we have served.
In our inaugural address four years ago, we shared our vision with you and committed ourselves to take our State on a new direction through responsible governance.
We promised to take on the challenges that we faced and optimize our resources to advance the potential and prospects of our State.
We said we would reverse the years of economic decline, put the improvements to work and deliver a new foundation of hope for our State and our children.
We promised not to take your trust for granted but work every single day to advance the vision of our founding fathers for a united, secure, and prosperous State.
We pledged to be fair to all parts of the State, inclusive in our agenda and ensure that no constituent is deliberately left out in our efforts to advance our State and improve the wellbeing of our people.
We also asked for your prayers, patience and cooperation as we set out to deliver on our promises to fix our broken infrastructure, restore our educational system and advance access to quality healthcare.
We have, in the last four years, stayed through to our commitments and responded to the compelling prescriptions of the covenant we entered with our people.
Today, we are proud to say that we have, in the last four years, delivered significant milestones on our development agenda and advanced the progress of our State despite the daunting challenges.
We gave true meaning and expression to the rule of law, separation of powers and judicial independence in ways never experienced in our history. Today, our judiciary is the envy of other States: independent, strong, well motivated, effective and efficient with the most modern judicial infrastructure
We also intervened in the conditions of federal courts and built the most modern courthouses for the Port Harcourt Divisions of the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal, which are now providing effective judicial services to our people.
In the next couple of weeks we will commission the first phase of the luxury estate we have built to accommodate our judges for life as part of our commitment to strengthen the independence of our judiciary.
We have in the last four years tackled our fiscal challenges, improved on revenue mobilization, eliminated the souring deficit and put our economy on the path to progressive recovery and growth.
Today, our economy is widely acclaimed as the fastest growing in the country with internally generated revenues projections and fiscal responsibility attaining record levels.
We’ve eased the tax burden on investors; our economy is on upward spiral, creating jobs and attracting new investments from within and outside the State, pushing up property rates and creating new opportunities for existing and budding entrepreneurs.
We have rid all our roads of potholes, completed most of the abandoned road projects we inherited and built new ones, including dual carriageways across the State.
For the first time in history, the ancient Opobo Kingdom, Ikuru town and other adjoining coastal communities have been linked to the rest of the State by road by our administration.
We’ve also provided internal roads to a number of communities as well as regenerated some of our decaying neghbourhoods, including Diobu, Port Harcourt Township, Ogunabali and Amadi Ama.
In the last four years, we have made historic investments in education, healthcare, security, and sports development.
We have renovated, rebuilt and equipped several primary and secondary schools; upgraded infrastructure in our tertiary institutions to levels never seen before, as well as fulfilled our promise to establish a faculty of medical sciences in the Rivers State University to increase the production of medical personnel for the State and our nation.
Within the period, we’ve also funded healthcare delivery at great levels, restored our general hospitals and established the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital to improve the level of healthcare delivery in the State.
Work on the five regional referral hospitals have reached advanced stages of completion just as we are set to commission and put the mother and child hospital into use in a few weeks time.
We are also made significant progress in our plan to train 500 indigenous medical students on full scholarship at the Pamo University of Medical Sciences with 200 students already enrolled and progressing with their studies in the last two years alone.
In the last four years, we’ve worked hard to secure and preserve lives and property throughout the State. Although there are still challenges, Rivers State today remains one of the safest States when compared to the ravaging security situation in most parts of our country.
Looking back, I have no doubt in my mind that we’ve had an incredible run and delivered great progress for our State and our people in ways that we could only have imagined four years ago.
But for us, progress is a journey to the mountaintop of shared security and qualitative improvement in living conditions for all our citizens.
Therefore, even with the progress we have made over the years since 1967, it seems today that we have only risen to the foothills of our collective aspirations for our State.
Our task is therefore not yet done; neither our mission in governance accomplished, until we fully and comprehensively deliver on the vision of our founding fathers and the promise of statehood by building a State:
that offers equal protection, freedom and opportunity for everyone irrespective of background;
where our people will move up the social, economic and political ladder on the basis of their hard work, character and affinity with the people, not on the basis of their connections or privileged background;
where everyone will have enough for themselves and cater to the needs of their children and families with relative ease;
where quality healthcare will be accessible, affordable and adequate for all citizens, whether poor or rich;
where our children will get quality education with the right skills to advance their careers and achieve their full potential;
where senior citizens will retire with security and enjoy their post-retirement in dignity, peace of mind, good health and happiness;
where development and the benefits of progress are spread to all parts of the State in respective of location; and
the ordinary laws of the land are equally applied to promote good governance, justice and fairness to all;
As we reflect on these goals against the background of where we are coming from, where we are and what we are ultimately striving to become, we must admit that there’s still a lot more work to be done to reach the promise land.
And so, today we stand at the turning point of history with another opportunity to drive the vision and trajectory of our collective progress for another four years.
And because of today’s renewed trust, I stand before this solemn assembly to reaffirm the commitment of our government to continue to deliver on this journey to sustainable progress and prosperity for our State and our people.
We will not take this second term as a chance to warm the seat of governance but to continue to take the tough decisions and give our all to the task we have ahead of us every single day of the next four years with courage, commitment and compassion.
Together, we have been on the journey of giving true meaning to the collective dreams and aspirations of our people for economic and political emancipation and meaningful development.
The next four years are therefore pivotal as we consolidate on the progressive foundations of the last four years to take Rivers State through a greater era of achievements and progress, because making Rivers State the greatest State in Nigeria is a task that must be accomplished.
Our economy is great but it should be greater and made more beneficial to all. And so we will continue to grow our economy, expand our tax base, provide a friendly business environment and attract foreign and local investments to create more jobs and empower our people.
We will continue on the economic trajectory of fiscal discipline, prudence, prioritization of capital projects over recurrent and giving value for money spent in the delivery of services.
We know we are developing, but it’s better and more result-oriented if approached in an organized and strategic form.
We will therefore adopt a holistic approach to development by partnering with relevant national and international agencies and expertise to initiate and implement a 25-years Marshall Plan for economic transformation and development to guide and accelerate the future development of our State.
We are already doing great to close the existing deficit in infrastructure but the need to deliver more roads, bridges and modern jetties to connect our cities and communities, improve our economy, accelerate our development and improve the general wellbeing of our people. This we will do with greater vigour and commitment.
We love our communities and we will continue to prioritize their development for sustainable living with more social amenities, including paved roads, schools, health facilities, water and sanitation, electricity, land reclamation and preservation of their natural resources.
For too long, we have relied mostly on a single vanishing revenue source to fund our development. The reality is that we cannot continue in this economic folly lest we remain forever vulnerable to the ripples, uncertainties and miseries of the mono-product based national economy.
Apart from oil and gas, Rivers State also has a vast agricultural potential, which has remained largely untapped for decades.
For us therefore, it is about time we embraced the green revolution as a strategic measure for achieving economic diversification, job creation and food security for the State and our people, and we are just ready to do that.
Our role in this regard will span from granting interest free loans to providing training, land preparation and logistical support to our willing youths to invest in commercial agriculture and allied businesses.
We will also establish regional agricultural development belts in partnership with private firms to advance commercial farming in cash and other crops and invest in the establishment of agro-allied industries and processing plants across these belts.
We will complete and privatize the multi-million-naira cassava processing plant at Afam, sell off all State-owned farms and agricultural companies, including the Okomoko Rubber plantation and company, and release all idle State farmlands to private sector investors for commercial cultivation.
We will revive the school-to-land programme and leverage on the incentives from the Federal Government and the Central Bank to promote and sustain the development of agriculture across the value chain by our youths so that they can proudly earn their living, be employers of labour and contribute to the development of the State.
Our youths are our most valuable human assets and we believe that their destiny shouldn’t be defined by their circumstances or station in life.
We cannot therefore, as parents, government or as society, continue to make excuses for the difficulties that are stunting their hopes for a better life.
Let me therefore reassure our young ones that we care about you; we feel your despair and frustrations; the poverty and the violence that continue to chew meaning out of your existence.
But, we’ve got good news for all our youths this time around as we will dedicate much of the next four years to Youth Development by tackling the challenges that continue to keep you behind.
As a starting point, we’ve resolved to give our youths some significant positions in our government and provide viable economic opportunities to spark hopes of a better future in their eyes.
Let me also assure you that those who need education will get quality one; those who want life-skills will be trained; those who want to do business will continue to get our interest free loans; and those who have sporting talents will have quality sporting facilities and encouragement from us; and for those interested in making a career out of football, we have provided the Real Madrid Academy to prepare you for life-transforming professional footballing career at home and abroad.
Most importantly, we will continue to encourage, inspire, mentor and support our youths to believe in their abilities and to realize that they are and can be of much more value to society than the self-destructive traps and frills of the cults, the gangs and the guns.
It is for our youths therefore to take on the challenges threatening their future by keying into the socio-economic opportunities we are providing to free yourselves from the shackles of despair to become responsible, passionate and progressive leaders of today and tomorrow and the builders of our State and communities.
We all want our children to have the opportunity to attend great schools; be taught by committed and well-motivated teachers and get the training they need to be successful.
Although we are doing a lot to reposition the education sector, but we do also admit that our pupils in public schools deserve more than what the educational system presently offers.
Also of concern is the curriculum and focus of our universities, which continue to turn out students that are neither equipped with appropriate skills nor imbued with the right disposition, attitude and courage to overcome life’s ever-present and dynamic challenges.
Be that as it may, I wish to assure us that we are determined to change this narrative for the better. We will continue to equip our public schools and ensure our children have access to quality learning experience; empower our teachers with modern teaching skills to deliver better outcomes in the classrooms, and advance our universities to equip and prepare our graduates to be competitive and strive for creativity, self-reliance and service.
We believe that quality healthcare should be available and affordable to every citizen as of right and this is what we are working hard to achieve with our efforts and commitment to fix the existing shortcomings in the State’s healthcare system.
To this end, we hope to fully restore all the general hospitals, complete and equip the five zonal referral hospitals, fully upgrade the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and provide more healthcare facilities to under-served areas of the State.
In addition, we will establish the most advanced diagnostic and curative centre for cancer and heart diseases and roll out a comprehensive health insurance scheme to guarantee universal healthcare coverage so that no one is denied medical attention and treatment for lack of money.
Also, our environment is our life and we all bear a duty to protect and manage it in the most responsible and sustainable way for the present and future generations.
Therefore, I wish to emphasize that we will no longer tolerate those who continue to degrade and undermine our rights to live in a clean, healthy and safe environment.
We are therefore minded to declare a state of emergency on the environment and tackle all forms of degradation, nuisance and irresponsible behavior occasioned by individuals, companies and other agencies, both public and private.
We will not fold our arms anymore while oil and gas companies continue to the environmental rights of our people with be reckless and unaccountable to our environment.
We will continue to welcome investors and entrepreneurs into the State but not anymore to the detriment and destruction of our environment, survival and livelihood.
Therefore, oil and gas companies must secure their facilities and stop the recurrent ejection of hazardous crude and other contaminants into our water bodies through leakages or damaged to pipelines.
In the same vein we will no longer tolerate the indiscriminate dumping of household and industrial refuse on unauthorized sites, including open lands, road/street corners, medians and drains.
We equally expect all residents to regularly clean their contiguous surroundings and drains; clear the grasses and plant trees in deserving places to beautify and preserve their immediate environment.
We remind landlords in particular of their legal responsibility to clean all adjourning open spaces verging their property as we will not hesitate to strengthen and enforce our sanitation laws against any property owner who fails to keep his or her premises and surroundings clean, safe and secure.
On our part, we will collaborate with the private sector and through shared cost ensure the healthy and efficient evacuation and disposal of household and industrial wastes in accordance with world best practice to keep Rivers State clean, safe and healthy.
Enough of the lawlessness and indiscipline on our roads by traders, motorists and developers.
We therefore restate the ban on all forms of street trading and arbitrary creation of illegal motor parks and taxi ranks across the State.
I hereby direct all street traders to find accommodation at the existing markets, including the new mile one and fruit garden markets, which we have just completed to conduct their trades and keep off our streets or get subjected to the might of the State Government and the full wrath of our laws.
In the same vein, I hereby order the immediate closure, arrest and prosecution of any person, company or agency that continues to operate illegal motor parks, taxi ranks and loading points along street corners, road shoulders and other unauthorized spaces in the interest of public safety, public order and public security.
In addition, we will sanitise the transport sector and ensure that all commercial taxi and bus operators are duly registered with the State’s Ministry of Transport to safeguard the comfort, safety and security of commuters.
To be continued next edition.
85. We recognize the correlation between adequate security and the well being of our people. We all therefore deserve to be safe and secure in our homes, offices, business places, along our roads and in our neighbourhoods and inn our communities.
86. Regrettably, the Federal Government politicized the provision of security in Rivers State and exposed us to preventable security challenges, setbacks and injuries in the last four years.
87. While they readily funded special security operations against intense banditry in some parts of the country, they refused our requests for similar interventions and operations when we wanted and even offered to bear the cost to stem increasing kidnapping and cult-related violence across the State.
88. What’s more, they have refused to accord adequate security attention to Rivers State in spite of the unprecedented support they receive from us in terms of provision of operational vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, gunboats, communication gazettes, fuel and overheads to the security agencies.
89. Nevertheless, we thank the security agencies, especially the State Commands of the Police, the Department of State Security, the Nigerian Air force and the Nigerian Navy for the partnership and willingness to give their best to keep us safe and secure in spite of the seaming indifference and lack of tangible material support and encouragement from the Federal Government.
90. Even now and going forward, we can only pray to them to depoliticize the provision of security in Rivers State because we are also Nigerians as other States and the preservation of our lives and property should equally matter to the Federal Government.
91. However, we wish to assure our people that we will continue to prioritize the provision of security and do our possible best within our constitutional powers and resources to safeguard lives and property across our State.
92. Accordingly, we will make Rivers State too hot for criminals and bandits and deal ruthlessly with any person, gang or group, including traditional rulers and landlords who directly or indirectly participate, aid, abet, provide safe havens or allow criminal activities in homes, premises and territories under their control.
93. We will also partner with the judiciary to ensure swift dispensation of criminal justice as well as work with stakeholders to operationalize the Neighbourhood Security Watch Scheme to support the security agencies so that we can all live and enjoy the State, raise our children and do our businesses in peace and security.
94. Ladies and gentlemen, 52 years ago, our founding fathers dreamt about Rivers State and its greatness; a State brimming in prosperity; at peace with itself and its neighbours; a State everyone would be proud off for its underlying achievements and values.
95. We’ve spent the last four years working on this vision with demonstrable capacity and commitment to make Rivers State as great as it could become and for everyone to share in its successes.
96. We believe that no success is more fulfilling and worth sustaining than keeping faith with the hopes and aspirations of the people who freely gave us their trust to govern in their behalf and change their material conditions for the better.
97. For us, Rivers State was created for a purpose and the confidence in its future is what continues to motivate us. And having renewed our mandate therefore, we cannot but concede to your yearnings that we deliver greater progress for the State in the next four years.
98. We’ve heard you loud and clear. All that we can say at this point is to assure you that we are fully ready and determined to deliver four more years of meaningful progress and hope for our State and our people.
99. But, we must also not forget that it won’t be as easy. As a State, we are not immune to the inherent challenges bedeviling our dysfunctional federal system: the ravaging insecurity everywhere; declining revenues, low economic growth, double-digit inflation rate, high cost of living, lack of basic infrastructure and public services, high unemployment, as well as inequality of wealth, income and opportunities.
100. This being so, it cannot be gainsaid that our progress is to extent dependent on how quickly the Federal government resolves these challenges and improves the national economy.
101. But whatever the challenges may be, we remain undaunted to solving the only problem that continues to confront us as a people: the Rivers problem.
101. I had often said that Rivers State is ours to build and no one can be interested in its progress more than us. No one can care more about the future of our youths or the education and health of our children, and our security than us.
102. Therefore, wherever we are; whatever office we hold and whatever action we take, we must make Rivers State the center, the measure, the reason and the motivation.
103. For us, everyone counts and we must not allow ourselves to be divided between upland and riverine considerations but strive for common grounds, solidarity and work together towards achieving our common goals and aspirations.
104. Our refrain at this time, and especially in the face of the social and economic uncertainties in our nation, should be: ask what you can do for Rivers State instead of what Rivers State can do for you.
105. The future of our State depends on us. It is up to us to renew, re-energize, and advance the Rivers dream, to fight for what belongs to us, and to defend our right to exist in freedom, security and peace in our own nation.
106. And if we do cooperate, think and act among ourselves with tenacity and unity of strength, purpose and commitment, then there is no mountain we cannot level; no river we cannot cross, and no goal we set for ourselves that we cannot achieve.
107. We are not in opposition to the Federal Government and we seek their partnership to move Rivers State and Nigeria forward.
108. But we are not a conquered people and we will never surrender our freedoms to any body or entity, whether internal or external.
109. We will therefore not accept to be subjugated to a headmaster and pupil power relationship; neither will we abandon the collective interest of Rivers State for the sake of political expediency.
110. We are for the rule of law, democracy and mutual respect as autonomous State entities and co-building blocks of the Nigerian federation.
111. And so, for us, in all things it is Rivers State first; Rivers State is the measure; Rivers State before others. This is the essence of the political mandate and burden that we will bear for the next four years and we will not disappoint you.
112. We will continue to stand up for Rivers State and defend her interest, no matter the challenges or what comes at us.
113. We do not claim to have the solutions to all the problems that we face as a State and as a people. But we will never surrender our core values and standards and our commitment to do to what is right, necessary and appropriate for our State.
114. We believe that working together, as one, remains the better and stronger path to accelerate and ensure enduring progress for our State.
115. And so we promise open doors and open minds as we get down to work with all stakeholders, including the legislature, the judiciary, leaders of the State, traditional rulers, local government chairmen, social interest groups and the opposition to deliver on our mandate and move us forward.
116. We all need each other because everyone counts. We need ideas and contributions from everyone, irrespective of ethnic, party or religious affiliations and together, we can consolidate, target new heights and build the Rivers State that we all want to see now and in the future.
117. We may be from different social, economic or political background, but the bottom-line is that we are all Rivers people with common aspirations and challenges and when we reflect on our shared values and responsibility to the State and our people, we will discover that we all stand to win by repudiating the politics of division, hatred and self-interest that constitute a drag on our collective progress.
118. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot let this glorious moment to end without thanking all those who made this historic day possible in our lifetime.
119. Again, let me thank the good people of Rivers State, especially the voters, for your trust and for your support as we discharge our responsibilities for the next four years.
120. Let me recognize and thank the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince UcheSecondus, the Rivers State Chairman, Felix Obuah, and all other leaders of our party at both national and State levels for your continued support and encouragement.
121. I wish to also recognize and give special thanks to our leaders, especially our former Governors, Dr. Peter Odili, and Sir Celestine Omehia, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, Chief Sergeant Awuse, Prince Emma Anyanwu, Rt. Hon Austin Opara, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Mr. Frank Owhor, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Senator Lee Maeba, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, OCJ Okocha, SAN, as well as all my former Commissioners, Special Advisers, Special Assistants and Security Aides for your support and services to the State over the last four years. I look forward to working with you to advance our State for the next four years.
122. Last but not the least are the members of the clergy, our hard working women and energetic youths for your prayers, devotion and commitment to our collective struggles to defend the rights of our people to freely choose their leaders.
123. Finally, I stand here today with a humble spirit, conscious of the enormous responsibility that you have again entrusted in us and confident in our potential and with God on our side, we will surely discharge our mandate to the benefit of all and leave our dear Rivers State better off than when we started four years ago.
124. Thank you. God bless you all. And may God bless our dear Rivers State.
Wike’s Legacies In Four Years
Chief Nyesom Wike, from Rumuepirikom in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Rivers State is the sixth civilian governor of Rivers State. With grassroots experience in politics, he was two-term Local government area chairman from 1999-2001 and 2003-2006, and chief of staff to Government House, 2007-2011. Wike was appointed minister of state for education on July 14, 2011, and later acting minister of education until April 11, 2015 when he was elected governor of the state.
Wike’s footprints cut across all sectors. In the road infrastructure sector, he constructed no fewer than 150 roads, some inherited from the previous administration while many were initiated by his government. Some have been completed and commissioned, some awaiting commissioning while some are still ongoing. By investing about 70 percent of the State Capital Expenditure on road development, Wike has connected the entire state by completing all major roads inherited from past administrations with a view to improving the road network in urban/residential neighbourhoods and expand existing ones in the highly urbanised Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
Specifically, between 2015 and now, Wike has constructed many internal roads in communities across the 23 local government areas. These include Abonnema Town, Amadi-Ama, Elele Alimini Phases 1 and 2, with Phase 1 completed, Isiokpo Phases 1 and 2, with Phase 1 completed, Omoku, Okochiri, Ozuboko, Atali, Eneka, Odiokwu (ongoing) and a litany of urban neighbourhood roads designed to give facelift to Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. The neighbourhood roads include those in Ogbu-Nu-Abali, Diobu, Port Harcourt Township and Borokiri, Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRAs), Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and adjoining communities, Rumuapirikom, Woji, and Abuloma. Others are Eliogbolo, Rukpakurusi, Eliohani, Oroigwe, Elimgbu, Elekahia, Rumuodara, Rumuomasi, Rumuakalagbor, Rumuodaolu, Rumugholu, Ogbogoro, Ozuoba, Rumuosi, Alakahia, Mgbodo-Aluu, Obigbo, and Rukpokwu, among others.
Wike also dualised a number of roads in the state, some inherited from previous governments while some were initiated by this government. Such roads include the Saakpenwa-Bori Road which connects Tai, Gokana, Khana, Opobo-Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas to the heart of the state capital the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road started by the Odili administration. As at last count, Opobo and Ikuru people can now travel by road to their communities, a journey hitherto done by boat in difficult terrains while the lap to Ngo, headquarters of Andoni LGA is nearing completion. He has also completed the Woji-Elelenwo Dual Carriageway, connecting Port Harcourt to Obio/Akpor and Eleme Local Government Areas with two major bridges measuring 750 metres, an under-pass and a flyover. It was awarded by the previous administration in 2009 but abandoned more than halfway in 2012 due mainly to funding constraints. The road is an alternative route to Trans-Amadi-Slaughter Road. Besides that, Wike further completed the all-important 8.4kilometre Garrison-Trans-Amadi-Slaughter-Woji-Elelenwo Road also awarded in 2009 by the previous administration but abandoned midway in 2013 due to poor funding. Fitted with 16 telecommunication ducts on two sides of the dual-carriageway, the road has six bridges and seven exquisitely designed roundabouts with delicately placed walkways and gardens.
In addition, he completed the 12.2kilometre Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Dual Carriageway, linking Obio/Akpor with Ikwerre Local Government Area and the critical International Airport as an alternative route began but abandoned by the previous government. He also completed the 16 kilometre Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road and Chokocho-Igbo-Etche-Rumuokurushi Road, both linking many agrarian communities. He completed Igwuruta-Eneka-Rumuokwurusi dual carriageway, started but abandoned by the previous administration. Wike further completed the Federal Government-owned Igwurura-Chokocho Road, also linking many agrarian communities and abandoned for 20 years, within seven months in 2016. The Projects’ Master also completed the 1.672kilometre Abuloma-Woji dual carriageway, with a bridge measuring 207.5metres long and 20 meters width with a total of 63 beams awarded by the previous administration and abandoned due to poor funding. He completed Iwofe-Rumuolumeni dual carriageway, awarded by the previous administration but also abandoned due to poor funding. He completed the reconstruction and dualisation of Creek Road, which was awarded by the previous administration but abandoned due to funding constraints.
Mr Projects also initiated and completed the 22.3kilometre Airport-Ipo-Omademe-Ozuoha Road in Ikwerre Local Government Area that links many agrarian communities as well as two Nkpogu bridges abandoned by the previous administration in 2014. He completed the critical Eagle Island Road/bridge, which links Port Harcourt to Obio/Akpor, and takes traffic off the major Ikwerre Road but abandoned by the previous government. He awarded the dualisation of Elelenwo Road, also abandoned by the previous administration, which is now nearing completion.
Wike has in the last four years kept his promise to Rivers people on road infrastructure, with high level of connectivity, which has boosted Rivers economy. And he is not done yet!
In education sector, Wike inherited the foundation laid by the previous administration but embarked on the revival of descript infrastructure with a view to expanding access to quality education. To achieve set goal, he increased budgetary allocation to the sector, strengthened implementation of Universal Basic Education (UBE), rehabilitated and equipped schools and improved infrastructure in tertiary schools.
The result of this is the reconstruction of 175 primary schools, including classroom blocks, landscaping and provision of water, toilet facilities and power generators. As part of its components, Wike supplied furniture and equipment to over 100 primary and junior secondary schools; supplied sports and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment to a record number of primary and junior secondary schools; provided training to basic education teachers across the state; and completed the construction of the headquarters building of the state Universal Basic Education Board. Aside upgrading 11 junior secondary schools to senior secondary schools, Wike cleared all salaries owed to teachers and security contractors in the state’s secondary schools, and ensured regular payment of salaries to secondary school teachers, pensioners and other staff. He also subsidised registration fees for Rivers State students undertaking the West African School Certificate Examination (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) examinations and sustained provision of science equipment, chemicals, materials and consumables to all secondary schools for WASSCE and NECO examinations.
Wike further reconstructed 13 secondary schools, out of which six have been completed, furnished and equipped with teachers’ science and arts laboratories, sports and recreational facilities; dedicated water supply and power generator for regular electricity; perimeter fencing and gate for improved security; new hostel blocks and assembly halls. These schools include, Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori; Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema; Government Secondary School, Ogu; Government Secondary School, Onne; Bonny National Grammar School, Bonny; Community Secondary School, Bille (still ongoing); Government Secondary School, Okarki (still ongoing); Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada (still ongoing); Government Secondary School, Abua (still ongoing); Community Secondary School, Ubima (still ongoing); Model Primary School, Mgbuosimini, Rumueme; and Model Primary School, Abara-Etche.
In the tertiary sub-sector, Wike changed the name from Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) to Rivers State University (RSU) and embarked on improving the infrastructure at the institution. He also improved funding to the university which led to the accreditation of all programmes earlier denied accreditation, and has given approval for the recruitment of new staff at the institution. In addition, Mr Projects delivered new Faculty of Law Building, Faculty of Management Sciences Building, Faculty of Science and Technical Education Building, College of Medical Sciences Building, and such facilities in other tertiary institutions. He further released N200million funding interventions each for Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt; Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori; and Ignatius Ajuru University, Rumuolumeni. Wike is now upgrading facilities at Rivers State School of Nursing and Midwifery while scholarship programme with the PAMO University of Medical Sciences to train 100 students of Rivers State origin for the next five years is on course.
Within the period under review, the governor has revived education at all levels, setting it on the path of growth. It has formed the foundation of the empowerment of Rivers people with the required resources to make profound progress and excel.
Since May 29, 2015, Wike has strived to revitalise the primary healthcare system; improve the secondary health infrastructure and fortified the tertiary health sub-sector, including the establishment of a medical school in the state’s university to enhance training of health personnel for the state. He has upgraded the Schools of Health Science and Technology and that of Nursing and Midwifery, and is partnering with the private sector to manage secondary health facilities and ensure efficient healthcare delivery in the state.
To give zest to government’s policy objective, Wike renovated 17 existing primary healthcare centres and built three new primary healthcare centres at Bille, Mgbuosimini and Ogbakiri communities. He strengthened secondary healthcare sub-sector with the reconstruction of 12 existing but completely abandoned general hospitals. These include Abua General Hospital in Abua/Odual; Nchia General Hospital in Eleme; Isiokpo General Hospital in Ikwerre; Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor; Abonnema General Hospital in Akuku-Toru; Bodo General Hospital in Gokana; Opobo General Hospital in Opobo/Nkoro; Ngo General Hospital in Andoni; Emohua General Hospital in Emohua; Buguma General Hospital in Asari-Toru; Eberi General Hospital in Omuma; and Okrika General Hospital in Okrika.
To further bring his dream alive, Wike embarked on completion of four zonal hospitals inherited from the previous administration while initiating the construction of additional zonal hospital at Omoku. Work is still ongoing on all. Besides, he completed the Mother and Child Hospital in Port Harcourt; constructed 22 nos. of 3-bedromm Doctors’ Residential Quarters at Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital; introduced N500million interest-free Private Hospitals Support Loan Fund; while also working to complete the zonal hospitals in Bori and Degema.
In the tertiary healthcare sub-sector, Wike embarked on the upgrade of Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital to Teaching Hospital for the Rivers State University. To make it functional and compete favourably with others across the country, he procured and installed new equipment and facilities worth $6 million in the hospital. Wike’s exceptional performance in the health sector is also evidenced by improved quality of healthcare in the state and deliberate approval of counterpart funds for other health-improvement and related policies and programmes by donor agencies, international support organisations and the Federal Government, designed to touch the lives of Rivers people.
On assumption of office four years ago, Wike reopened the state House of Assembly, shut down by the previous administration following protracted Executive-Legislature distrust and crisis. In fact, the crisis, in 2013, led to botched attempts to impeach some principal officers of the Assembly, and serious free-for-all on the floor of the House, leading to breakdown of law and order in the arm of government that actually makes the law for the smooth conduct of affairs in a decent society. Consequently, over the last four years, Wike has provided the enabling environment for the legislators to perform their constitutional duties without any interference, thereby ensuring uninterrupted Executive-Legislature relationship. This has also enabled the legislators to pass record number of bills for the effective conduct of government affairs and good governance.
Similarly, Wike, on May 29, 2015, reopened the gates of the Judiciary shut by the previous administration for almost two years, to staff, litigants and Rivers people with one need or the other in the courts. The action, apart from creating floodgates of avenues for congesting police cells and prisons, and saturating the state with criminals, it also denied the innocent access to justice, and therefore, made the dispensation of justice cumbersome and overwhelming to judiciary officers, especially magistrates and judges from 2015 through 2017.
As a lawyer who knows the grave implications of shutting the people out of justice, Wike worked assiduously hard to create congenial atmosphere for Judiciary officers and staff to dispense justice to all who need it. Besides, he ensured that the Judiciary was truly independent, and also made sure that adequate funding was provided to its leadership to perform optimally. His appointment of top Judiciary officers has followed due process, anchored on seniority and merit, thereby fostering harmony and peace in that arm of government. And for the last four years, the governor has practically supported and or hosted lawyers, judges and magistrates’ quarterly or annual activities in the state, and across the country, just as he has hosted or supported some other professional groups and international organisations as part of efforts to tell the world that the state is safe and secure to host investors, tourists and others who may wish to explore the potentials of the natural endowments of the state. One of such groups the government has hosted back-to-back is the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), which has facilitated many media-organised awards to the governor since 2016.
In addition, the governor embarked on religious implementation of policies to guarantee upgrade of infrastructure to boost the Judiciary’s efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, he completed work on the Magistrate Court complex commenced but abandoned by the previous administration. He also relocated the NBA House from the court complex to opposite Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat, and gave lawyers a befitting edifice there. Wike rebuilt Federal Government-owned Federal High Court complex to give judges and litigants 21st Century architecture and work environment. He further built an imposing structure for Federal Government-owned National Industrial Court on Bank Road, remodelled and rehabilitated Federal Government-owned Court of Appeal on Moscow Road. The governor is now putting finishing touches to a cluster of modern quarters for judges in the state.
Since the primary purpose of government is the protection of the lives and property of citizens, Wike, in appreciation of that fact, has for the last four years invested heavily in efforts to fortify the security architecture of the state and support security agencies, including military and para-military institutions to perform their assigned, legitimate roles, seamlessly. In this light, the governor has procured no fewer than 150 patrol vans, communication gadgets, protective vests, among others, for the federal security agencies to guarantee law and order, peace and security in the state.
In addition, he set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency in 2018 to complement the efforts of the police, and prepare the state for the implementation of impending policy on state police while boosting community policing. But the governor’s desire to address the security lapses in some parts of the state through the agency has met with stiff resistance from the police and military high commands, even though other states, such as Lagos, Borno, Plateau, Anambra, Nasarawa, among others, have theirs up and running without any qualms.
On tourism, Wike built the Pleasure Park to provide relief to Rivers people and residents, who have for years yearned for tourist attractions and recreational centres to rekindle bonds of friendship, love, and build confidence and promote peace amongst the people, while easing stress arising from hostile policies that unleash economic hardship, and emotional traumas driven by poor environmental and unwanted physical attacks. His road projects have also factored the need to accommodate environmentally-friendly aesthetics and beautifications for tourists and residents.
In four years, Wike invested in a number of projects in other sectors. He built more than 50 housing units for civil servants in the first phase. He also built many other projects, such as jetties to boost marine transport. He procured buses to increase the state’s fleet in road transport. He rebuilt the Produce House on Moscow Road, and is working hard to complete construction of new secretariat for Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). He rebuilt Rumuokoro Market and Park, and is intensifying efforts to complete construction of Mile 1 Market (Phase 2) in Diobu and Fruit Garden Market in D/Line, all in Port Harcourt. The governor completed the reconstruction, remodelling and equipped to world standard the Rex Lawson Cultural Centre, awarded by the previous government but also abandoned midway.
Wike also invested in empowerment of traders, small businesses and young entrepreneurs, as well as civil servants. For instance, he released the sum of N2billion as grant to over 20,000 small business owners to invest and grow their businesses in 2016. This year, he released N200million monthly revolving interest-free loan for youths to start their small businesses. He also gave N500million grants to empower 10,000 women across the state to invest in their small businesses. And just recently, he released N100million revolving interest-free loan for civil servants to take care of their immediate needs. These efforts are meant to bridge social gaps that undermine peace and trigger violence in families and communities.
How Rivers People Assess Gov Wike’s First Term
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike will be inaugurated for a second term in office today, May 29, 2019, a date now referred to as Nigeria’s day of transition. The Federal Government has set aside June 12 every year as the country’s new Democracy Day.
As the Governor takes a fresh oath of office for another four year tenure, our correspondent, Dennis Naku who sourced the views of residents on how they assessed the governor’s first term and what they will like to see the governor do in the next four years and other issues, reports that all the respondents are unanimous that the state number one citizen deserves applause.
Elder Benneth Bekwela Amadi, opinion leader, Elekahia Community
The Governor did well in this first term because of the numerous projects and his style of leadership and I think he deserves commendation. We are only praying that he should do more in this second tenure.
Yes, I will say he did very well in infrastructure. But there is need for him to do more because a lot of things still need to be done. For example, he should not only focus on the city. He should extend the development to the rural area because that is where majority of our people live.
Human capital development
I score him 50 per cent in this area because many of the youths are still jobless. The lack of jobs is what is making many of them to go into crime. Somehow, I think if the youths are empowered or engaged meaningfully, they will not have time for all these crimes, violence and some of the security challenges like killings, kidnapping and other vices will not be there. This is my personal opinion.
Well, one thing I know is that Governor Wike is a man of integrity and principle. Whatever he says he will do, he does it. That shows he has the people at heart and I believe he will do more in this area this second tenure. But by and large, he did well in infrastructure. If the roads are good and there is electricity, these are things that create jobs and make life easy. They usher in development and people will have many things to do and survive with their families. Though there is still a lot to be done, he should prove to people that this second term will be better than the first. In all, I commend him for what he has been doing.
Advice to the governor on security and agriculture
If the Governor says he will tackle security that means he is not happy with the challenges the state is facing in that area. You see security, the safety of lives and property is the most important thing. No meaningful development can take place in such a situation and not much can be achieved without security. I know he has been supporting security agencies in the state. On their part, if the various security agencies like the Police, Army and others cooperate with him, he will be able to fight all these crime to a standstill as the chief security officer of the state and people can sleep with their two eyes closed.
Charity Wokoma, graduate/business woman
Well, I can say he tried his best in the area of infrastructure. He constructed a lot of roads and rehabilitated some. I also know that he has renovated a number of public schools and hospitals. But when it comes to roads in particular, I give him (the Govern or) a thumbs up.
In all the roads that he did, the one that is dear to my heart as a business person is the Trans-Amadi Road. You know there are more than 50 companies in that area, so for him to give that road a priority, I am really happy because it is close to my business area and also close to where I stay. I know what it takes to do business on a bad road and stuffs like that. So, I am happy.
Human capital development
I think the Governor has also done well in this area. He tried because I have a younger brother who told me that he once got a grant from the state government led by Governor Nyesom Wike.
So for a business person, I know for you to get a grant that you are not paying back, no matter how little it is, it will go a long way. And there is something I heard about civil servants getting interest free loans from the government. I think it is commendable. With that, most of them can use the money to do something concrete. So, he (the Governor) did well. Has he done enough? Definitely not! Can he do better? Sure, he can and I believe he will.
Like I said, he still needs to do more to stimulate the economy so that people can be happy. I am looking at the specifics of human capital development, I am not one of those people that subscribe to dashing money to people, just create an enabling environment for business to thrive. For instance, the woman working in the salon, the young boy in the barbing salon, the tailor and so many of us that are self-employed or trying to start our own businesses; all we need is light (electricity) to be a little more comfortable in our line of business.
The major thing I want to see this government do is social economic development which boils down to human capital development which you (The Tide) also mentioned earlier. As a person, I do not believe in free money, dashing people money for no reason. Just endeavor to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and you will see that this social vices we are talking about will drastically reduce because nobody will want to be used for anything negative if he/she is busy, employed or positively engaged. I for instance, nobody will call me out for anything when I know that it might affect my business or make me close shop. I will not involve myself in anything like that. As a youth myself, I know that if these youths that are into crime are engaged, though it is not an excuse for them to misbehave. But if the right environment is in place for businesses, you know Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) and encourage young entrepreneurs like us to do businesses successfully, these social vices would not be there.
How do you empower a youth? Is it by giving him amnesty? Is it by just training him in one aspect of business or one skills acquisition and leave him like that? That is part of the reason some of them have gone back to the creeks because those were not the major things. The real issues were not addressed. If the right thing is done and the right environment is created, many of these young people that got the amnesty training for instance, if given some grants may go into businesses.
Then, where are those youths that are going to be tools in the hands of the politicians? So, I believe the Governor is doing well and like Oliver Twist, we want him to do more. So providing an enabling environment is very important.
Advice to governor on security and agriculture
If I may talk about Agriculture, do you know that almost 90 per cent of the food consumed here come from neighbouring states and sometimes outside the country? You will be marvelled that the things like fish and crayfish are now brought from Cotonou and Cameroon even pepper and fresh tomatoes. So, if the government puts her money more in Agriculture and create that enabling environment to thrive, the state will be okay.
Even if she (the state) cannot produce 50 per cent of what she consumes, she can at least produce 40 per cent and if we are able to do that, you can imagine how many persons that will be employed. I tell people that these social vices are traceable to unemployment. For instance, I am from Buguma in Asari-Toru LGA. Growing up, I know there is a place we go to buy fish (fish pond), Rivers State has a fish pond, these days, fishermen cannot kill fish anymore because of oil pollution and the illicit act of bunkering.
The whole place is so messed up that it is very difficult to go fishing. If the government can look into areas like fish farming, like what I know while growing up in Asari-Toru, the Buguma fish farm, if he can do something like that if not in the 23 LGAs, at least, 15 or 20 and the State can produce half of what she can eat and even sell to the neighbouring states, you can imagine how many youths will be employed.
So yes, agriculture is key to growing the economy as well. We can start somewhere. Let us give importance to agriculture because almost all the human needs are in agriculture. So if the state can invest more in agriculture, it will be fine.
Like the Bible says, love your neighbour as you love yourself. When you love your neighbour, you will neither hurt nor kill your neighbour. If the state government can invest more in youth development, there will be less of these vices in the state. Some of these youths have been a willing tool in the hands of politicians because they are idle. You can imagine someone wasting a life (killing a person) that he cannot create for just receiving N5000 or N10, 000. It is sad. As a business person, I know what we face when there is no light and you are running a generator set throughout the day. If I can save that money and employ more persons, my business will increase. It is the same scenario for many others that are into business.
So, these young entrepreneurs should be given some attention like I heard the governor did in giving some grants to encourage them. So we know that government cannot employ everybody so more youths should be encouraged to go into business and farming.
Last words: Look at the politicians, where their kids are and advise yourself.
Josephine Aka-Ara Amadi, Nurse
For me, the governor tried in building roads, schools and markets. I am happy that he won the election for him to do more. You know the man (Governor Wike) is talk and do.
I am very happy that he built New Mile One Market, new fruit and vegetable market, so people are happy with him. When that fruit market is completed, the traders there will have a more comfortable place to do their business. They will no longer stay on the road. The Mile One Market is almost completed and it is a very big and fine structure and more traders and business people will be accommodated.
The markets will help people for them to do their businesses and help themselves and their families.
But let him continue to do more because some governors when they enter for a second term, they will stop working. So let him continue the good things he has been doing and do more roads and God will bless him.
Yes, it is very important because all these killings and violence are not good at all. People are afraid of going out at night these days. So, let him try and stop the violence and cult activities so that the state can return to what it used to be.
He is doing well because I know he is not owing workers’ salaries at all. But let him continue to look into their welfare and promotion so that people can be happy.
He should also try and create employment because many of our youths are jobless and that is why some of them are going into crime when they are idle. He should empower the people.
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