Housing is an important infrastructural requirement in a rapidly growing economy and society like Rivers State. This is perhaps why Governor Nyesom Wike makes housing one of the topmost priorities of his administration. The governor, however, chooses to provide this service to the people through an entirely different approach.
The administration has a unique policy thrust of not just embarking on major housing projects with public funds, but also to drive housing scheme through mouth-watering incentives to the growing private sector in the state. The challenge still remains, and there is room for massive housing development in the state. The private sector is yet to hit the ground running with the opportunity the partnership avails to such investors in the housing sector.
Despite the lack of a vibrant private sector participation in this sector, the Wike led administration is not totally neglecting the housing sector, as quite a few outstanding achievements have been recorded in this sector in the last two years plus.
The first 100 days of this administration saw the Iriebe low cost housing estate being initiated and completed. The estate, which is located at Iriebe satellite town, consists of 50 units of two bedroom apartments for the medium and low income earners in the state and its environs. These houses have since been put up for sale though the State Ministry of Housing to interested buyers including civil servants and members of the public. It is especially designed to alleviate the housing situation of civil servants. The project is in phases as more houses will be built.
The administration does not take care of the State civil servants and indigenes alone, but also caters for the need of federal workers posted to Rivers State. One of such federal agencies that enjoy the state government’s intervention projects is the Department of State Services (DSS). Fifty units of one bedroom and self-contained apartments have so far been completed and handed over to the DSS operating in the State. It is known as the Port Harcourt Garden Estate.
Also enjoying the kind gesture of this administration is the Nigerian Airforce, for whom the administration funded the construction of staff quarters in Port Harcourt. This project was designed to alleviate accommodation inconveniences experienced by members of this arm of the forces and to give them a sense of belonging in the state, and also strengthen the working relationship between the state and the Airforce. Work on this project site is progressing rapidly and would soon be completed. The project contains twenty four units of two bedroom flats.
Besides building new structures, the Governor Wike administration is also embarking on massive renovation and reconstruction of dilapidated buildings and civil servants quarters and offices. One of such renovation is currently on-going at the Doctors quarters of Braithwaite Memorial Hospital. The buildings are at the roofing stage right now. When completed, they would accommodate quite a large number of doctors and other medical personnel. This is a three storey, three building structure.
Also under renovation is the official residence of the Secretary to the State Government, while that of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice has been completed and put to use. Ditto for the official residence of the Commissioner for Works. And then, there is the official residence of the Head of Service which was totally brought down and rebuilt. Work at this site is currently at an advanced stage.
Meanwhile, the former multi-storey produce House, strategically located between the state secretariat and screne roads like the Moscow and William Jumbo and the court complex is also under renovation. The structure, before now, was quite an embarrassing site to behold.
The present administration has done wonders with the renovation of the produce House as the transformation is unbelievable, and quite a sight to behold; so also is the renovation of the former Waterlines Building which has also been positively transformed, thus added some form of aesthetics to the two locations.
Two buildings at the Port Harcourt Park, which had trees growing on them and colours all washed out, and not a good sight to behold, went under the hammer of renovation and came out brand new and far better than it previously was.
If this pattern of renovating and rebuilding dilapidated buildings along Aba Road continues, then we will have a befitting major highway we can boast and be proud of.
The foundation laying ceremony of the Judges quarters was laid last year by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who, in the course of inspecting other laudable projects, christened Governor Wike “Mr Projects”.
The accommodation, designed to befit learned judges, is currently under construction at Elelenwo street in new GRA. The governor recently paid a visit to the site and was obviously satisfied with the level of work on the project so far.
The Rivers State Government House is not left out of the quest to give the State befitting structures.
Two new buildings have been completed in the Government House. The buildings housing the banquet hall, the governor’s office and his official residence as well as the new presidential lodge, had been neglected before now. They were not just renovated, but have been furnished and effectively put to good use. So also, the old Government House known as the Brick House also went under the surgical blade of renovation, restoration and expansion. This was pragmatically carried out, while still retaining its original brick features and structures. It was expanded to accommodate a non-denominational Christian worship chapel. Not only is the building renovated, but the surrounding area is beautifully and artistically landscaped with trees, exotic flowers, lush grasses, water fountains and molded art works.
The renovation work extends to other government guest houses such as the one within the Government House premises, government guest house at Ernest Ikoli Street and the old presidential lodge, just to mention a few. The official residence of the Chief of Staff to the state government has also been renovated and is wearing a new look.
There is also construction of offices for ministries and extra ministerial departments such as the construction of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority office. The agency, since its creation in 2008, was operating from a rented apartment, but that is a thing of the past now
The primary health care unit can also boast of a befitting accommodation. The once shabby and dilapidated waterlines building has been renovated to house them. The Seefor office that was hitherto accommodated in a rented apartment is now relocated to Odi Street in Old GRA. This is obviously not a rented accommodation.
Since these renovations are going to be taken in phases, there is no doubt that the State would continue to wear new and better looks. This policy thrust of the Wike led administration to develop the state and bring it to the level where it will be at par with other well developed states if not even higher, should be entrenched and sustained by successive governments.