Irked by the inherent danger posed by the deplorable state of the ever busy Aleto/Akpajo Bridge, along the East-West, in Rivers State, the senator representing rivers South-East Senatorial zone, Senator Barinada Mpigi, Monday, led members of the Rivers State caucus in the National Assembly on a peaceful protest at the bridge to draw Federal Government attention to the situation.
The lawmakers, who carried placards bearing different inscriptions during the protest include, member representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency, Hon Dumnamene Dekor, member representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency, Hon Kingsley Chinda and member representing Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Federal Constituency, Hon Awaji Nombek Abiante.
Also on the protest were, member representing Port Harcourt Federal Constituency II, Hon Chinyere Igwe, member representing Okrika Ogu/Bolo Federal Constituency, Hon Gogo Bright and member representing Eleme in the state House of Assembly, Hon Igwe Afforji.
The lawmakers called on the Federal Government to carry out urgent rehabilitation work on the facility to save lives and the economy of the people of the area and the state.
The lawmakers, who marched on the bridge, displayed banners with several inscriptions during an assessment of the bridge, and described the bridge as a death trap, wondering if the state was still a part of the country.
Some of the inscriptions on the banners reads, ‘SOS, Eleme Bridge Collapse Imminent’, ‘Akpajo-Eleme Bridge leads to the backbone of Nigeria’s economy’, ‘Eleme Bridge, a threat to our lives’, ‘Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) where is our East-West Road?’ and ‘Rivers is part of Nigeria’, among others.
Addressing journalist at the scene of the protest, leader of the delegation and the Senator representing the Rivers South East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Barry Mpigi said that the Federal Government must immediately swing into action and carry out major rehabilitation of the bridge.
“We are here to draw attention of the federal government to the deplorable condition of this road and the bridge. You know that almost everything that Nigeria benefits from is within us here: two refineries, a petrochemical industry and of course, the oil and gas free zone.
“We’ve seen and you are also seeing what is happening here. It shows that we’ve been abandoned. The people of Rivers State have been abandoned. This is a federal government road and not a Rivers State government road.
“You see that the bridge is shaking and there is the tendency that any moment from now, the total life of people from this area will be cut off from this country.
“One question we must ask: Are we really part of this country or not part of Nigeria? Are we enjoying our tax payers’ money or we are not? The truth is that we have been abandoned and neglected.
“So the essence why we are here this morning is to stage a protest and tell Nigerians that we have been totally cut off from all we are supposed to gain from this country.
“Contract for this road had been awarded to RCC as we are aware. Just to execute. Just to release the fund meant for this road is like we have been abandoned. It’s not about increasing funding or not because there has been existing budget and allocation for this road for a long time.
“We want the job to begin immediately. Once that has been done, we as members of the National Assembly can come back and talk about appropriation because the contract has been awarded and work started but now at a halt.
“The value of the contract to our knowledge was over N2 billion within the Ogoni-Akwa Ibom axis up to the Eleme Junction, the value for now is not known”.
On his part, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, recalled with bitterness, that a motion on the floor of the House regarding the poor condition of infrastructures in Rivers State was not being honoured.
Chinda said, “Like our distinguished Senator has told us, those of us in the National Assembly have severally protested over the treatment of our people particularly concerning this bridge. We know that this place is the spine of this country. If the country is serious with oil and gas, then the importance of this bridge cannot be over emphasized.
“All the refineries, petrochemicals company, fertilizer company, they are all behind us here including Onne Sea Port and Naval Training School. To access these places, you need to go through this road.
“But because this is Rivers State, as usual there is graveside silence to issues that pertain to Rivers State. That is why, having brought motion on the floor of the National Assembly, members have supported that the Executive Arm should quickly ensure that this bridge is taken care of to forestall incidence that might occur that would lead to loss of lives of Nigerians. The Executive Arm is not sensitive to the resolution of the National Assembly.
“That is why we are now taking it to the court of public opinion. We are here to tell the people that we have been calling on the Executive Arm to take steps and we pray and hope, though they have been consistently insensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians. We pray and hope that this will sensitize them into action.
“We also want to assure all of us Nigerians that this is the beginning of the actions from members of the National Assembly from Rivers State. If the Executive Arm does nothing, we’ll take further steps but we’ll ensure that we continue to speak for our people like our distinguished Senator has said.
“I cannot give a time frame to the Federal Government because my leader is here. But the assurance is that we’ll take further steps if nothing is done after this discussion.
“Take note that Rivers people are not the main beneficiaries of this road. Nigerians State is the main beneficiary. What percentage do we get from the oil that we process here? How much percentage do we get from the Ports Authority that is here? We are not the main beneficiary, but rather suffer for all these.
“What we are saying is that the lives of our people are at risk. It’s not just the project. We are interested in what will happen if this bridge collapses and people are on it. Even now that we are on this bridge, anything could happen.
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COVID-19: Ignore Facemask, Risk Arrest, Prosecution, RSG Tells Residents
The Rivers State Government has expressed worries over the high level of non-compliance of health protocols with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that henceforth any resident caught without wearing facemask will be arrested and prosecuted.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim handed down the warning while speaking on a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt on Saturday and monitored by the Tide.
Nsirim who is Chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee on Enlightenment for Covid-19 recalled the unhappiness of Governor Nyesom Wike during last Wednesday’s State broadcast with the attitude of many residents who flaunt extant directives on the wearing of facemask and other health protocols.
“The Governor in that broadcast also expressed concern that a lot of people in the State are not obeying the protocols. Social distancing, wearing of facemask and he spoke specifically in what is happening in some churches. Government will introduce policies, the onus is on the populace to obey those policies.
“Not just obeying it, the Covid-19 pandemic that we are talking about has defied medical solution for now. So to flatten the curve, everyone living and doing business in Rivers State has to take responsibility.
“If I take responsibility and everyone around me takes responsibility to observe the relevant protocol, we are sure to flatten the curve. But if people live righteously and just do as if nothing is happening because there are places where people are just living in denial.
“Some people still believe that there is nothing like Coronavirus. Two weeks ago, my committee rounded off street to street campaign in all the 23 local government areas of the State. They still met people who are in this denial. That is the challenge.
“The Governor is desirous that Rivers State remains safe. That is why he is initiating policies to ensure that strategically the state is somehow isolated from the national spread,” the Commissioner said.
Nsirim further said, “If you go around the State, since the executive order on facemask was introduced. You will notice that less than
30 per cent of the populace are really obeying that executive order. What we are seeing in the State is that people just put the mask around their chin.
“You go to some churches we see people open their mouth and things will be spewing out in the enclosed environment on the chin. The Governor is saying that to give this wearing of facemask the kind of weight that it deserves to save our people, a special taskforce be put in place.
“That is the only sure way because a lot of people are still living in denial. He said the governor’s broadcast is very clear, arrest and prosecute. Henceforth we will arrest and prosecute people not wearing facemask in public places,” he stated.
The Rivers State Government spokesman said arrangements have been concluded to monitor churches that fail to observe the guidelines of not more than 70 persons per church service, wearing of facemask, provision of water for hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, while weddings and burial ceremonies should not exceed 50 persons.
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