Once again, the Fiscal Sustainability Index for 2018 published by BudgIT under the sponsorship of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is out. As expected, Rivers State topped the list. Recall that the state was on top even in 2017.
Therefore, for two years running, an internationally sponsored research has recognised the outstanding economic policies of the Wike administration which have engendered growth in several areas of the state’s economy.
This is heartening because Governor Wike inherited an economy that was immeasurably damaged by the “sell to a business partner” deadly economic policy of the failed immediate past administration of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Though Amaechi got over N3trillion as revenue from different sources in his eight years of disastrous rule, he left huge debts, unpaid salaries, damaged infrastructure, decayed security architecture and disillusioned people.
Even Amaechi was scared when he looked at the horrible state of affairs he was to leave for Governor Wike. Two days to his exit in 2015, he lamented in the full glare of the world that Governor Wike would not be able to pay salaries, let alone execute projects. According to Amaechi, the state was in a precarious financial situation.
Amaechi told his audience on May 27, 2015: “I’m not joking, we have no money anywhere. In Rivers State, no money. I think Nyesom Wike is coming, we are waiting. He will look for money for salary; there is none. “
With the above background, it is easy to understand where Rivers State is coming from after the locust years of Amaechi. Through hardwork and visionary leadership, Governor Wike has turned Rivers State into an economic haven, a standard location for business and economic growth.
One of Governor Wike’s campaign promises in 2014 was to eliminate multiple taxation and create the right environment for investors to ply their trade.
The Principal Lead, BudgIT, Gabriel Okeowo at the 2018 report launch, said “One major highlight of this report is the Fiscal Sustainability Index, which saw a state like Rivers maintaining its top position due to its robust revenue profile and manageable recurrent expenditure obligation”.
This research involved the 36 states of the federation. It was an independent assessment of the great work taking place in the nation’s headquarters of sustained development.
For over six months in 2017, Governor Wike personally led the process to reinvent and streamline the revenue generation process of the state. To this end, he personally met with banks, hoteliers, private school operators, council administrators, private hospital owners, organised private sector and manufacturers on the new tax regime that eliminated multiple taxation.
He displayed rare political will, sacking local council administrators who wanted to sabotage the process. The Rivers State Internal Revenue Service was reinvigorated with a new management empowered to drive Governor Wike’s vision.
Having obtained the buy-in of all businesses in the state, Governor Wike in 2018 consolidated the processes for entrenching the ease of doing business in the state.
In a bid to enhance the ease of doing business and eliminate multiple taxation , Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike launched the Rivers State Tax Management (RIVTAMIS).
The Governor also launched the issuance of the Rivers State Tax Identification Number (RIVTIN) and received the First RIVTIN Card from the Executive Chairman of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service, Mr Adoage Norteh.
Speaking at the Flag off of RIVTAMIS and RIVTIN, Governor Wike said that the innovations are part of his administration’s commitment to entrenching platforms for the ease of doing business.
He said that the new tax reform packages will identify all formal and informal businesses in the state, noting that the details will help the State Government plan for development.
According to the governor, with the digital platforms, tax payments can be made from anywhere.
Chairman of Rivers State Internal Revenue Service, Mr Adoage Norteh said the Tax place has been sanitised to check multiple taxation.
It is true that there are still challenges, but a great deal of milestones have been achieved. The taxation environment has been gradually sanitised and more professional work is taking place.
To create the right business environment, Governor Wike has continued to invest in critical infrastructure. The highest under the current dispensation. In all 23 Local Government Areas, there are infrastructural projects taking place to encourage production and industry.
Roads, hospitals, schools, rural electrification, rural water supply, land reclamation, jetties, tourism facilities, agricultural and housing projects are springing across the state to enhance economic growth and stability.
One of the clear indications of the outstanding fiscal responsibility of Rivers State played out in June 2018, when FAAC crisis led to the failure of the Federal Government to release the monthly allocation. Rivers State Government paid her civil servants salaries and retirees pensions.
The economic positives in Rivers State have defeated the planted obstacles by the failed APC Federal Government. The state continues to wax stronger because of the focused leadership that has refused to be distracted.
The recognitions of the splendid economic programmes for Governor Wike have come from across the globe. Each group, picking the aspect that its research authenticates.
On October 30, 2017, Governor Wike received the “Global Human Settlements Outstanding Contribution Award” organised by the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Awards (SCAHSA) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York . The award is supported by the United Nations Environment. He was recently honoured with the Power of Sports (POS Africa) Award by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Africa during its 81st Congress in Brussels, Belgium.
Governor Wike is Silverbird Man of the Year, 2017, Sun Newspaper Governor of the Year, 2017, New Telegraph Man of the Year, 2017, Leadership Newspaper Governor of the Year 2017, Businessday Newspaper Governor of the Year 2018 and Independent Newspaper Political Icon of the Year, 2017.
Earlier, he emerged as Sun Newspaper Governor of the Year, 2016, Independent Newspaper Man of the Year 2016, Authority Newspaper Man of the Year, 2016 and Rivers State Christian Association of Nigeria Apostle of Peace.
All the above mentioned organisations cannot be wrong. They have all seen first hand that Governor Wike has done what the failed APC Federal Government has been unable to do at the federal level.
This was acknowledged by Senator Godswill Akpabio after joining Governor Wike to inspect landmark projects in Rivers State.
Akpabio said: “Governor Wike has done more work and projects in the last two years than the Federal Government. That is my considered opinion. Performance is not necessarily an issue of the availability of resources”.
Then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo acknowledged the quantum of economic growth and infrastructural development in Rivers State and named Governor Wike, Mr Projects.
Commissioning the 22kilometre Ipo-Airport-Omademe Road, Former President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed that Governor Wike deserves the title of Mr Projects.
From all indications, Governor Wike will not slow down till 2023. Afterall, he is the nation’s workaholic governor, who is passionate about the development of Rivers State.
The governor will continue to improve on the indicators that led to the consecutive awards as the best Fiscally Responsible State of the Federation.
The employment opportunities are rolling out. The administration is employing 14000 teachers and 7000 civil servants. The empowerment programmes for women, traders and young entrepreneurs have been consolidated to ensure the economy continues to work for the people.
This is New Rivers at work and will be consolidated till 2023. That is the verdict of Rivers people. The winning team stays .
Nwakaudu is a Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media