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Anniversary Special

Realising The Rivers Dream: Achievements Of Past Governors



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.

Nelson Chukwudi

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Anniversary Special

The Tide Keeps Flowing At 49



It must have been extremely frustrating for the leaders of the Niger Delta people in the late colonial and early post-Independence periods in Nigeria; particularly those of them who partook in politics outside the canopies of the then three major political parties, namely, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and Action Group (AG).
For the NPC which was dominant in the Northern Region, it was the New Nigerian newspaper that served as a very potent instrument for mass mobilization and presentation of its views. The Eastern and Western Regions had the Nigerian Outlook and The Sketch as their respective equivalents.
Whereas the three main regional governments at that time were run by the above parties chiefly through the instrumentality of their respective newspapers, the Niger Delta people lacked any such viable medium to propagate their agitations as a minority group. This is even as the area paraded some of the best journalists of the time; people like Ernest Ikoli, Anthony Enahoro, Robert Ezekiel-Hart and Wonukuru Obaziorlu.
Their apparent frustration must have taken flight with the splitting of the country into 12 subnational entities, including Rivers State, on May 27, 1967 by Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon.
At the end of the 30-month Nigerian Civil War, and despite Gowon’s declaration of ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’, there still existed some undercurrents that were discomfiting to returnee Rivers people and for which they began to clamour for a voice of their own.
In short, the frenzied bid by a long suppressed but now liberated minority people to assert themselves in the new dispensation generated ill feelings from their erstwhile dominant neighbours who, like the Egyptians in the Bible, appeared very unwilling to let go easily.
A former Chairman of Board of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Mr. Friday Yowika, alluded to this while explaining why the Nigerian Tide newspaper was established.
“Pilloried by its big neighbour that had always regarded Port Harcourt as its satellite, resented by others with vested interests, the state (Rivers) found itself misrepresented in almost all the then national papers. It was no wonder therefore that the government, aware of the need to protect its own image, desirous of putting across its own views and to seek justice and fair play, came to the inevitable conclusion to establish a newspaper.”
The Rivers State Newspaper Corporation Edict No. 11 of 1971 was thus promulgated by the government of Navy Commander Alfred Papa Priye Diete-Spiff as the first Military Governor of Rivers State. The Edict provided for a Board to direct the affairs of the Corporation.
But prior to the constitution of the Board, there were those who served as the think-tank for the planning and execution of events that led to the founding of the newspaper house. Call them the Founding Fathers. They include the then Commissioner for Information, Kenule Saro-Wiwa; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Henry H. Jumbo; Commissioner in the Civil Service, Athanesius Woluchem; and Gabriel Okara, an internationally acclaimed poet and literary icon.
When it was eventually formed, the pioneer Board comprised A.O.Woluchem as Chairman; Valentine James Spiff as Deputy Chairman; Israel Idamiebi-Brown; Ashley Williams; Preye Okosi; Dr. Theo Vincent and the General Manager of the Corporation, Gabriel Okara.
Starting as a weekly newspaper, Nigerian Tide soon grew to become an authoritative source of information to the extent that readers were wont to discard any breaking news until it was authenticated by the next edition of the paper. It was like the Rivers man’s new identity. Indigenes of the state resident in distant places like Lagos, Kaduna and a few other parts of Nigeria craved for it regardless of how late it arrived. Of course, the paper was always early at nearby newsstands and was, at some point, even used to sell copies of other reputable national dailies.
And even though it is owned by the state, the paper was by no means afraid to criticise government actions. This was confirmed by no less a personality than Chief Okogbule Wonodi, the second General Manager of the Corporation, who said, “I do not think that the history of the Nigerian Tide to date, is (that of) an official mouthpiece of the Government. True enough, The Tide has carried and will continue to carry news of government activities but the paper has also carried critical views that represent public reactions to some government policies.
“In other words, The Tide is a newspaper whose function as an independent paper is not in any way curtailed.”
The paper’s maiden edition was launched in Lagos on December1, 1971 by Diete-Spiff himself but commercial copies were officially rolled out for circulation three days later on December 4,1971. Hence, the date of its annual anniversary.
Not quite long after its launch, the Nigerian Tide began a twice weekly publication (Wednesday and Saturday). Its pioneer management team was said to include Gabriel Okara, General Manager; G. N. Loolo, Secretary to the Corporation; J. O. Yekwe, Production Manager; J. E. Agbogidi, Assistant Production Manager; and D. O. Jumbo, Advert Manager.
The first set of Editorial Managers was made up of Rowland Amaewhule, Acting Editor; Bieshia Bellgam, News Editor; Anthony Tebekaemi, Features Editor; Maurice Dombo, Production Editor; Tons Fetepigi, Chief Reporter; William Bozimo, Chief Correspondent (Lagos); A. F. Isokariari, Circulation Officer; and Monday Nwikpo, Advert Representative (Lagos).
With almost all the states inheriting or floating their own newspapers, there was a serious shortage of professional journalists across the land. It therefore became the practice then for media organisations to recruit secondary school leavers as cub reporters and sponsor them to journalism training schools such as the Nigerian Institute of Journalists (NIJ) in Lagos and Jos or Daily Times School of Journalism. Some were also sent abroad to study at prestigious training centres on Fleet Street in London.
Staff welfare was robust as operational vehicles were made abundant for both the distribution of the newspaper and conveying workers to and from assignments. Residential quarters were rented for staff at some low-density areas of Port Harcourt, including D-Line. At a time, Nigerian Tide offices were said to be operational in 10 of the original 12 states with radio communication links for daily transmission of reports. The paper was also said to have undertaken the payment of its staff salaries.
Such was the good fortune of the Nigerian Tide in its nascent years. In fact, not even the sudden emergence of colourful private newspaper in Port Harcourt, Garden City Sunray, could affect the former’s print run in the early 1990s.
Then, let us fast-forward to 1995 when things took a turn for the worse, leading to the suspension of the paper’s titles for several months.
It took the efforts of a team headed by the then Information Commissioner, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, to revive the Nigerian Tide stable in 1996 but under a new name, The Tide. The state government had hired Taijo Wonukabe, a professional team of consultants led by Chido Nwakanma to undertake the recruitment of some experienced hands to refloat the paper. Their effort saw to the emergence of a new Editorial Management under Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart as General Manager/Editor-in-Chief; ThankGod Igwe, Editor; Dagogo Clinton, Deputy Editor; Nengi Ilagha, Editor (The Tide On Sunday); Kadilo Toby, News Editor; Celestine Ogolo, Sports Editor; Soye Jamabo, Entertainment Editor; Goodluck Ukwe, Political Editor; Fred Fabor, Copy Editor; Juliet Njiowhor, Women Editor; and Friday Nwinude, Business Editor.
The Tide was able to return to the newsstand but only to discover the disappearance of almost all its state-owned contemporaries.
There is no doubt that The Tide hoped to fare better with the return of democratic rule in 1999. But unfortunately, there has been no tangible relief for the RSNC for so long. Yearly budgetary accommodations have hardly translated into any meaningful fiscal dole-outs. Printing machines bought at the inception of the Corporation in the early 1970s are still in use. What’s more, the newly installed state-of-the-art Goss machine acquired in 2014 was immediately discovered to have been shipped without a very vital component. And this has rendered it non-functional ever since.
The Tide staff had until a few years ago retired without any benefits under the former parastatals pension arrangement before the system was brought into the state’s mainstream civil service pension scheme.
Again, the current facelift being enjoyed by the Corporation was at the insistence of the present state administration after many years of the structure being abandoned to the elements.
Then entered COVID-19 with its lockdowns which drained advert sources and temporarily forced the paper out of the market.
As if this was not a handful already, the second-hand electricity generator donated to the Corporation by a previous administration in the state is now a cause for daily concern as it breaks down every so often, mostly in the middle of production.
Even in the face of all this, the RSNC still hopes that the state government’s recent appointments in the Corporation indicates its determination and poise to throw more positive surprises in the paper’s direction. Until that happens, The Tide will continue to flow, by the special grace of God.
So far, those who have served as General Managers of RSNC include Gabriel Okara, Okogbule Wonodi, Dominic Anucha, Felix Obilor, Lyte Kosu, Anthony Tebekaemi, Edward Akpa, Magnus Bara-Hart, Godfrey Sikoki, Anthony Amakiri, Eriye Iyayi, Bernard Graham-Douglas, and Dan Obinna.
Others are Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart, Amabipi Martins, Augustine Nwikinaka, Celestine Ogolo, Vincent Ake, and now Ernest Chinwo.


By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Anniversary Special

‘We’ll Continue To Advance Rivers Interests’



Being The Text Of A State Broadcast By His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, To The People Of Rivers State On Monday, 30th September, 2019.
My dear people of Rivers State On the 9th of September 2019 we kick-started the celebration of the 100 days of our second term in office and for three weeks we carried out the daily inauguration of completed projects as the main thrust of the celebration.
The projects we inaugurated, which ranged from strategic road infrastructure, markets and a football academy to senior civil servants’ quarters and secretariat buildings for Labour and Student Unions, are testaments to our resolve to effectively utilize available resources to advance the socio-economic progress of our State and improve the wellbeing of our people.
It is still early morning in our second tenure and we have demonstrated that, for us, there would be no lull in the administration of our renewed political mandate. Rather, we will increase the tempo of deliverables, fulfil our promises and bequeath a much better State.
We are happy to note that the soundness of our policies and governance have enabled us to grow the State’s economy, deliver so much on infrastructure and improve the general wellbeing of our people under a difficult national economic climate.
We wish to also state that we are sensitive to the agitation of our people for political and economic freedom and we shall continue to respond appropriately to the challenges of development either alone or in conjunction with our partners to advance our abiding interest in building the brightest possible future for our State and for all our people.
It is for this sense of collective purpose that I am delighted to inform you that the Rivers State Government has fully acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) 45% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 situated in Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area and the adjoining Ogoni and other communities of Rivers State.
The background of incidents and processes that culminated into this salutary development are as follows:
Following a major oil spill from SPDC Trans Niger High Pressure Crude Oil Pipeline at Ejama Community, an approximate area of 255 hectares of arable agricultural land, fishing swamps and rivers were devastated.
SPDC admitted that the oil spill came from their pipeline and occurred sometime in 1970. They paid some compensation to the community in the sum of N300,000.00 sometime in 1986 and promised to come and de-pollute the area.
SPDC failed to de-pollute the area which gave rise to a lawsuit in 1991 commenced at the High Court of Rivers State, Nchia Division presided over by Hon Justice P.N.C. Agumagu (now retired). At the end of the trial, the Court found against SPDC and entered judgment in the sum of N1 billion in addition to and order for SPDC to clean up the spill or pay N6 billion in lieu thereof.
SPDC appealed the judgement. During the pendency of the appeal, the jurisdiction of the State High Court was taken away and donated to the Federal High Court by a subsequent judgment of the Supreme Court. The Ejama-Ebubu Community conceded SPDC’s appeal without a formal hearing.
The community commenced a fresh suit in 2001 at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, this time against SPDC and its parent companies – SHELL of Netherlands and SHELL of United Kingdom.
This fresh case commenced in 2001 passed through four different justices of that Court arising from twists and turns associated with opposed litigations, until it was disposed of about 10 years after in June 2010 by Buba J. (the fifth judge to preside over the matter).
SPDC and its parent companies appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal in 2010, which again suffered the twists and turns passing through six different panels comprising three justices each between 2010 and 2017 before it was finally disposed of by the panel of that Court led by Gumel JCA of the Port Harcourt Division. The appeal was dismissed.
SPDC and its parent companies took out a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2017, which appeal was considered and dismissed by that Court in a judgment read by Hon. Justice B. Akaahs, JSC delivering a lead judgment in a unanimous decision.
After losing at the High Court, SPDC gave the successful Ejama-Ebubu Plaintiffs a Bond Guarantee stipulating that First Bank of Nigerian Limited would pay them the value of the Judgment debt and interests thereon in the event that SPDC’s appeal to the Court of Appeal fails at that Court. The original Bank Guarantee is still with the Community.
When SPDC’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal, Shell instructed the Bank to dishonour their guarantee, which did and gave rise to a series of six different litigations in various Courts against First Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria. SPDC’s excuse was that they had lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The enforcement cases had been to Owerri, Abuja, Lagos, etc. in six different lawsuits.
On the 11th of January, 2019, Shell’s appeal was dismissed at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The judgments of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were registered in the United Kingdom for enforcement over there against SPDC parent companies domiciled outside Nigeria’s shores.
(i) The Ejama-Ebubu community commenced enforcement by domiciling the judgment in the State High Court and levying execution on SPDC movables in their Industrial Area in Port Harcourt;
(ii) Those chattels were attached on the ground but not removed;
(iii) SPDC invited the community and offered them N7 billion as against the judgment debt of N194 billion, which the community refused to accept;
(iv) The community approached the court for and order granting them leave to sell SPDC’s immovable property comprised in OML 11 and their kidney Island support base in Port Harcourt.
Upon the advertisement of the said immovable assets for auction, the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Rivers State alerted the Government of the State.
I have given due consideration of the following factors from information made available to me:
(i) That this oil spill impacted the Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State from the activities of SPDC;
(ii) That the impact is still there and un-remedied since 1970 as admitted by SPDC vide letters they wrote seeking to clean the spill in 2006 while the case was at the trial Court;
(iii) That the Rivers State has suffered the worst impact of environmental degradation resulting from oil related operations;
(iv) That the very difficult swamp and mischievous waterlogged terrain of the Rivers State has impeded development as a result of increased construction costs on the near and non-existent infrastructures and attendant rapid decay of the little we have been able to achieve as a result of oil related acid rain and black sooth enveloping the State;
(v) That these phenomenal degradation and impoverishment had continued with the decline of revenue and inflation, lack of employment of well-educated Rivers State youths, idleness and restiveness arising from want;
(vi) That SPDC is said to have paid the sum of USD 2,000,000 (two million United States Dollars) only for the renewal of their operatorship and interest in the said OML 11 to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources;
(vii) That for the past 25 years, the rich oil potentials of OML 11 have remained untapped following the hanging of the world-renown Ogoni poet and environmental activist, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 as well as the unfortunate mob lynching and death of four prominent Ogoni citizens, one of whom was the Secretary of Government of the Rivers State and another, a Commissioner under the tenure of Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo as Governor of Rivers State;
(viii) That it has become unlikely that for peace and security, the people of Ogoni in the Rivers Stat will welcome SPDC on their land forming part of OML 11;
(ix) That a lot of revenue is lost to the Federation Account accruable to the 55% stake of the Federal Government in OML 11 and by extension the rest of the Federating States of Nigeria due to non-production of nearly 250,000 barrels per day of its crude oil potentials equalling one sixth of the country’s total out-put per day;
(x) That the Rivers State Government has continued to loose 13% derivation fund from the said 55% stake of the Federal Government in that field for nearly 30 years now, which revenue would have transformed the State and its peoples for the better;
(xi) That rather than standby and watch other persons or group purchaser SPDC 45% interest in that OML 11 and further exacerbate the poverty of the people of the State, a responsible and responsive State Government should weigh in and bid for the purchase of SPDC interest already set down for auction;
(xii) That the present Government of Rivers State entrusted in my care through the Will of God and those of the peoples of the Rivers State have concluded that it will be in the overall interest of the State, the other Federating States and the Federal Government that we as a Government, should make a bid for the purchase of the said interest of SPDC now placed on auction by extant Order of the Courts of Law.
Therefore, I directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporated to make a bid of USD 150,000,0900.00 supported by a Bank Guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1 billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors while the former is escrowed.
I have further directed the relevant Government agencies to take immediate steps to liaise with any financially capable companies to partner with the Rivers State Government to ensure that the said oil field come on stream within 15 months from today.
In line with our commitment to accelerated development, industrial harmony and security, the Rivers State Government will graciously concede some portion of its 45% per cent equity interest to all the oil producing communities within OML 11 to enhance mutual ownership, participation and sharing in the benefits of these resources.
I have taken these steps with all sense of responsibility believing that addressing the pains and poverty of our peoples with the resultant security and welfare of its people is the main purpose of governance and nothing less.
Without any doubt, this is a profound economic investment with profound and enduring positive implications on peace, security, development and prosperity for the oil-bearing communities of OML 11, the entire Rivers State and our country.
I have attached a Certified True Copy of the Judicial Certificate of Purchase of Land/Immovable property dated 25 September, 2019 issued by the High Court of Rivers State under Order VII Rule 9 of High Court Rivers in reference to Suit No: PCH/1696/2019 between Government of Rivers State of Nigeria vs. Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 5 Ors and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. & 2 Ors.
Thank you and may God continue to bless and prosper Rivers State.

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Anniversary Special

Nigerian Entertainment @59 …So Far, So Good



Kudos and more rewarding years ahead to the good people of Nigeria as  the country marks 59 years of independence and freedom from domination by the British colonial over lords. In the past 59 eventful years the entertainment industry had remained a dependable partner in the nation’s quest for economic rejuvenation, as the industry accounted for over 1.4 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) in 2013 and the figure is fast growing.

Apart from generating income for the country, the entertainment sector also provides employment to the teaming population of Nigerians as well as show cases the cultural heritage of the country and also rebranding of the nation’s image abroad. The unprecedented growth of the industry from obscurity to international limelight is evident in the achievements of stake holders in the various organs of entertainment vis-a-viz, movie, music, comedy, tourism and hospitality.

Movie: From the 1957 ‘Fincho’, 1980 ‘Kadara’, 1992 Living in Bondage, 2012 Keeping Faith to the 2014 October 1, the Nigerian film industry has come a very long way as it had witnessed the good, the bad and the urgly, but has continued to thrive in the face of the daunting challenges.

In 1957 ‘Fincho’ became the first Nigerian film to be shot in clolour following Nigeria’s independence in October 1, 1960. In 1972 the independence Decree of General Yakubu Gowon’s regime made possible the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinemas from their foreign owners to Nigerians, resulting in more Nigerians actively participating in Nigeria’s film growth.

In 1992, the release of the classic movie “Living in Bondage’ Kicked off a new era in the Nigerian film industry. This era produced movies that are still referred to as classics. It produced actors that were and still household names in Nigeria.

In the mid 2000s the home video experienced a major deadline with factors such as piracy and film rental shops playing a major role. In 2004 a new cinema era began with the launch of series of modern cinema houses by silver bird group. The new wave film to be shown at a modern cinema was Kunle Afolayan’s 2006’ Irapada’ which screened at the silver bird galleria.

Ever since then, high and small budget movies like ‘Ije’, surulere’, the Figurinel. The CEO, 90 days, Half of a yellow Sun, The Meeting, October 1 and the Arbitrator have been screened at different cinemas in Nigeria. With the launch of silver bird cinemas, other cinema houses like Ozone, filmhouse and Genesis Deluxe were also launched and are playing important roles in the evolution of the Nigerian film industry.

The Nigerian film industry has become more profitable with movie like the wedding party grossing over 405 million naira in just two months and ‘A Trip to Jamaica “earning a Guinness book of world record spot for its box office success. The industry has also created quality TV series such as ‘Hush’, ‘Sons Of Caliphate’ and ‘The Governor’ among others.

Over the years, the web platform like iroko TV, Ibaka TV and cix TV provide paid for Nigerian films on demand at affordable charges pay TV entertainment platforms like Africa magic have also invested in the Nigerian film industry creating shows and empowering the youths.

The Nigerian film industry has established itself as a major cultural and socio economic force in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry revenue witnessed a 25.5 percent growth. This amounted to $3.8 billion with $605 million of the estimated $764 million rise said to be attributed to internet access, according to a recent report.

Music: The development of modern music and dance had their origin and foundation in the traditions of various communities in Nigeria. Who are known to have their own music and dance forms which they use in entertaining themselves and important quests. Every event attracts its own form of music in the traditional setting.

The Nigerian music industry is proud to storm the world stage by identifying its relevance and essence. The music fact of entertainment has waxed relatively strong, expanding year after year, turning in billions of naira  to the economy. There is no gainsaying the fact that music is part of our everyday life and more or less an integral part of visual and audio media productions including sound tracks in both local and foreign movies.

With an apparently inexhaustible stream talents and capacity to innovate, the Nigerian music industry is one that can neither be hindered by economic depression nor lack of relevance.

The industry has the necessary resources to rule the airwaves of not only Nigeria, but also the length and breath of Africa and the world at large. It is note worthy that the number of stakeholders in Nigerian music business is ever increasing, they include the musicians, producers, promoters, manager distributors and marketers.

In the past six years, the growing number of new production studios and artistes springing up has paved way for a more vibrant and self sustaining industry. A lot of Nigerian artistes are already enjoying corporate sponsorship for their unique talents and achievements some have recorded land mark album sales sometimes running into hundreds of thousand copies.

Others have won prestigious awards in international contests and events hence attracting more and more investments from very many sources. The investments have no doubt aided production of world class quality music as a result of innovations in sounds, rhythms and recording techniques.

Nigerian musicians have developed a vast spectrum of music genres blending hip hop, rap, rhythm and blues reggae gospel etc with traditional Nigerian beats and instruments. Some of the popular names include 2face idibia, P-Square, Davido, Timaya, Tiwa savage, Wiziki, D’banj, Don Jazzy, M.I., Bracket and Olamide others are KCee, Asa, Skales Mc Galaxy, Yemi Alade, patoranking, Tekno, Phyno, Flavour etc

A good number of them have also made name in gospel music such as Chris Morgan, Frank Edward, Panam Percy Paul, Yinka Ayefele and Sinach among others.

STAND UP COMMEDY: Stand up comedians have come to compete in Nigeria’s entertainment landscape, they distill humour and jokes inspired by everyday life experience of Nigerians to a wide variety of audience through direct stage shows or recorded VCD/DVD in English or Nigerian pidgin.

Among the most popular of these highly talented comedians are ‘1 go dye’, Bovi, Seyi Law Lepacious Bose, Funny Bone, Klint d’ drunk, Basket mouth, Helen Panel, Chi Girl etc.

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY:- Some of the diverse cultural features of the country are the manifestations of the socio cultural differences of the over 250 ethnic groups that have inhabited the land for ages. Some of the cultural events with tourism potentials which have attracted several international recognitions and revenue to the country, some of these tourists events include the Grand Dubar festival, the famous Arugungu fishing festival (Ondo State), Olojo festival (Ile Ife), the Oshun festival (Oshogbo), Atilogu dances and the new yam festivals from the east as well as the Abuja, calabar and Rivers State carnivals among others.

The natural tourist sites include Sukur landscape (Adamawa State) Zuma Rock (Niger State), Olumo Rock (Abeokuta), Kuru falls in Jos, Shere hills (Jos), Abokin Waterfalls, Gurara waterfalls, Erin Ijesha water falls, Mambulla plateau (Taraba State).

Idanre and Oka hills Ondo State, others are Obudu cattle ranch, Oguta Lake Imo State, Ikogosi Springs Ekiti State, Lekki Beach Lagos, Mayegum Beach Lagos and the whispering Palm resort Lagos as well as other tourists destinations across the country.

In hospitality Nigeria parades world class hotels and other outlets located in different parts of the country which ranges from first, second and third classes according to international standard and specification. The sector is regulated by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

Hotels serve as avenue for revemae generation to the economy and support for the entertainment industry by providing opportunity and platform for music and movie stars to do stage performance and lodging. Some of the top hotels in the country are transcop hotel Abuja, Eko hotel and seraton hotels lagos, Ham dala hotel, hotel presidential, Enugu and Rivers States, premiere hotel Ibadan etc.

The Nigerian entertainment clan over the past 59 years has evolved and still gaining more grounds in the global entertainment anclave, we can beat our chest and say ‘so far so good’ as the beat goes on.


Jacob Obinna

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