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How Children Are Called Witches And Tortured To Death In A’Ibom

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Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

“It is an outrage what they are allowing to take place in the name of Christianity,” said Gary Foxcroft, head of nonprofit Stepping Stones Nigeria.

For their part, the families are often extremely poor, and sometimes even relieved to have one less mouth to feed. Poverty, conflict and poor education lay the foundation for accusations, which are then triggered by the death of a relative, the loss of a job or the denunciation of a pastor on the make, said Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“When communities come under pressure, they look for scapegoats,” he said. “It plays into traditional beliefs that someone is responsible for a negative change … and children are defenseless.”

The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children’s Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Church signs sprout around every twist of the road snaking through the jungle between Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state where Nwanaokwo lay, and Eket, home to many more rejected “witch children.” Churches outnumber schools, clinics and banks put together. Many promise to solve parishioner’s material worries as well as spiritual ones — eight out of ten Nigerians struggle by on less than N300.00 a day.

“Poverty must catch fire,” insists the Born 2 Rule Crusade on one of Uyo’s main streets.

“Where little shots become big shots in a short time,” promises the Winner’s Chapel down the road.

“Pray your way to riches,” advises Christ Embassy  a few blocks away.

It’s hard for churches to carve out a congregation with so much competition. So some pastors establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft.

Nwanaokwo said he knew the pastor who accused him only as Pastor King. Mount Zion Lighthouse  at first confirmed that a Pastor King worked for them, then denied that they knew any such person.

Bishop A.D. Ayokunde, the head of the church said pastors were encouraged to pray about witchcraft, but not to abuse children.

“We pray over that problem (of witchcraft) very powerfully,” he said. “But we can never hurt a child.”

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago.

“I had no idea,” said church elder Carrie King by phone from Tracy, Calif. “I knew people believed in witchcraft over there but we believe in the power of prayer, not physically harming people.”

The Mount Zion Lighthouse — also named by three other families as the accuser of their children — is part of the powerful Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. The Fellowship’s president, Ayo Oritsejafor, said the Fellowship was the fastest-growing religious group in Nigeria, with more than 30 million members.

“We have grown so much in the past few years we cannot keep an eye on everybody,” he explained.

But Foxcroft, the head of Stepping Stones, said if the organisation was able to collect membership fees, it could also police its members better. He had already written to the organisation twice to alert it to the abuse, he said. He suggested the fellowship ask members to sign forms denouncing abuse or hold meetings to educate pastors about the new child rights law in the state of Akwa Ibom, which makes it illegal to denounce children as witches. Similar laws and education were needed in other states, he said.

Sam Itauma of the Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network said it is the most vulnerable children — the orphaned, sick, disabled or poor — who are most often denounced. In Nwanaokwo’s case, his poor father and dead mother made him an easy target.

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition,” said Itauma. “They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

That’s what Margaret Eyekang did when her 8-year-old daughter Abigail was accused by a “prophet” from the Apostolic Church, because the girl liked to sleep outside on hot nights — interpreted as meaning she might be flying off to join a coven. A series of exorcisms cost Eyekang eight months’ wages, or N40,500. The payments bankrupted her.

Neighbours also attacked her daughter.

“They beat her with sticks and asked me why I was bringing them a witch child,” she said. A relative offered Eyekang floor space but Abigail was not welcome and had to sleep in the streets.

Members of two other families said pastors from the Apostolic Church had accused their children of witchcraft, but asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

The Nigeria Apostolic Church refused repeated requests made by phone, e-mail and in person for comment.

At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about the laughing, grubby kids playing hopscotch or reading from a tattered Dick and Jane book by the graffiti-scrawled cinderblock house. But this is where children like Abigail end up after being labeled witches by churches and abandoned or tortured by their families.

There’s a scar above Jane’s shy smile: her mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and repeated exorcisms costing a total of N9,500 didn’t cure her of witchcraft. Mary, 15, is just beginning to think about boys and how they will look at the scar tissue on her face caused when her mother doused her in caustic soda. Twelve-year-old Rachel dreamed of being a banker but instead was chained up by her pastor, starved and beaten with sticks repeatedly; her uncle paid him N9,500 for the exorcism.

Israel’s cousin tried to bury him alive, Nwaekwa’s father drove a nail through her head, and sweet-tempered Jerry — all knees, elbows and toothy grin — was beaten by his pastor, starved, made to eat cement and then set on fire by his father as his pastor’s wife cheered it on.

The children at the home run by Itauma’s organisation have been mutilated as casually as the praying mantises they play with. Home officials asked for the children’s last names not to be used to protect them from retaliation.

The home was founded in 2003 with seven children; it now has 120 to 200 at any given time as children are reconciled with their families and new victims arrive.

Helen Ukpabio is one of the few evangelists publicly linked to the denunciation of child witches. She heads the enormous Liberty Gospel church in Calabar, where Nwanaokwo used to live. Ukpabio makes and distributes popular books and DVDs on witchcraft; in one film, a group of child witches pull out a man’s eyeballs. In another book, she advises that 60 percent of the inability to bear children is caused by witchcraft.

In an interview with the AP, Ukpabio is accompanied by her lawyer, church officials and personal film crew.

“Witchcraft is real,” Ukpabio insisted, before denouncing the physical abuse of children. Ukpabio says she performs non-abusive exorcisms for free and was not aware of or responsible for any misinterpretation of her materials.

“I don’t know about that,” she declared.

However, she then acknowledged that she had seen a pastor from the Apostolic Church break a girl’s jaw during an exorcism. Ukpabio said she prayed over her that night and cast out the demon. She did not respond to questions on whether she took the girl to hospital or complained about the injury to church authorities.

After activists publicly identified Liberty Gospel as denouncing “child witches,” armed police arrived at Itauma’s home accompanied by a church lawyer. Three children were injured in the fracas. Itauma asked that other churches identified by children not be named to protect their victims.

“We cannot afford to make enemies of all the churches around here,” he said. “But we know the vast majority of them are involved in the abuse even if their headquarters aren’t aware.”

Just mentioning the name of a church is enough to frighten a group of bubbly children at the home.

“Please stop the pastors who hurt us,” said Jerry quietly, touching the scars on his face. “I believe in God and God knows I am not a witch.”

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Special Report

Eze Ogba @80: A Salute To Greatness

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Critics and admirers fondly refer to him variously and severally as amiable, charismatic, blunt, visionary, an inspirational and committed King, a philosopher King, a philanthropist, an orator and motivator, a man of truth, perception and action, a defender of the oppressed, a versatile and courageous monarch. Indeed, there is no denying the fact that he has lived up to the billings.
This perhaps explains why many have sometimes misunderstood His Eminence, Sir (Dr) Chukumela Nnam Obi II, the Oba (Eze Ogba) of Ogbaland, who turns 80 today. And if we are to believe the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson that “to be great is to be misunderstood,” the Oba truly deserves a golden place in the pantheon of greats.
A consummate monarch imbued with congenital aura that shines like neon light, the Eze Ogba superintends the grassroots consciousness of his kingdom with mercurial audacity and clinical precision, and bestrides Nigeria’s traditional landscape like a magnificent colossus.
A man of capacious intellect with deft navigational capability, Sir Nnam Obi II possesses a conservative charm which accommodates all divergent opinions, even as it is difficult for his critics to dislodge his position on matters of public or political interest.
Nevertheless, the attestation to the greatness of this first class citizen and traditional ruler is underlined impressively by his array of honours and appointments since ascending the ancient Oba (Eze Ogba) throne on December 19, 1970, upon the death in April that year of Oba Wokoma Obi.
He has been an Officer of the Order Of the Niger (OON), Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS), Justice of Peace (JP), Grand Patron, Nigeria Union of Journalists; Knight Grand Commander of the Mystical Order of St Peter; Doctor of Letters (D. Litt), Los Angeles, California; Doctor of Technology, and First Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (1980-84); Doctor of Science (D.Sc) and Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Akure, 1992-2000; Fellow, Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku; Chairman, Rivers State Conference of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, 1972-79; member, International Committee on Chieftaincy and Royalty for FESTAC (Nigeria’s representative), 1974-77; Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, 1994-96; pioneer National President, Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON), 1994-2000; member, National Council on Nigerian Vision (NCNV), 1996-99; member and Elder Statesman, National Political Reform Conference (NPRC), 2004; Chairman, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, 2007-2009 and a lot more.
Since his ascendance to the sacred throne of Eze Ogba over 49 years ago, the light of Sir Nnam Obi II’s wisdom has continued to shine to the admiration of his people and others across the globe. The Ogba people have continued to preserve their loyalty to the sacred monarch as various group pay him solidarity visits in support of his visionary and dynamic leadership and efforts at bringing peace to the kingdom. No doubt, the Eze Ogba belongs to that class of mortals whom the legendary classical playwright, Williams Shakespeare said achieved greatness.
Yet, appraising Oba Nnam Obi II’s resume, evokes an intriguing paradox as his road to greatness was not without bumps and potholes.
Born by remarkable intervention of destiny on November 20, 1940 into the royal family of Umueze-Ogba kindred of Ogba at the foot of the great Opowu shrine of Ahiakwo Nwaozegbe, a sacred temple of worship by the Ogba people, Oba Nnam Obi II had a rather poor and humble background as things were extremely difficult for him.
Infact, the claws of poverty and the drudgery of hard labour were so much that it got to a point where the young Chukumela prayed for death to no avail.
Disappointed that his prayer was not answered, the young ruler-to-be went to his father’s grave and asked: “why did you bring me to the world and ran away.” But these travails, rather than discourage him, toughened and made him have patience, despite being orphaned on both sides and colonized by the insensitive nature of man as exemplified in his brothers who made him a total stranger.
Resilient and determined, and perhaps edged in by his destiny, the young Chukumela, relying on sheer force of will-power and self-support, paved his way through primary and secondary education.
On countless times, he dug sand at Omoku River, fished at the River Niger to make ends meet. Even at a point in his life, he was a newspaper vendor in Kano.
Undeterred by his condition, he excelled in academics at Sancta Maria High School, Omoku where he was a pioneer student. His excellent leadership qualities were identified quite erly as he was at various times labour prefect and senior prefect.
It was for this reason that his school principal then, Rev Fr. G.B. Kilbride wrote in his testimonial that: “Chukumela Obi is a very remarkable boy who is being groomed by the fate of great suffering into a great office.”
However, owing to what the Eze Ogba himself described as barriers of life, he finished secondary education at the age of 26 in 1966. He explains: “Some people were born without certain hurdles. But whether hurdles come early or later in life, I have learnt my lessons. They are all one and the same. The God who occasioned both hurdles did not intend to punish anybody. He intended them for experience. We must learn these experiences. We have come here (this world) to learn.”
Even at that, he does not wish anyone, whether his children or even his detractors, that kind of experience as, according to him, they may not have the patience and ability to cope with it.
Oba cautions that in life nobody should be boastful or be deterred by the situation he finds himself as God is the excellent judge who knows it all, and can deprive man of his needs and wants at a particular time just to observe him.
According to the monarch, provided one does not do things that are wrong in the sight of God, time would come when He would exalt the poor. To him, everyone should strive assiduously to explore situations and even opportunities opened to him in life as an individual with a view to destroying impediments to self-actualization.
It is irrefragable that Oba’s humble beginning epitomizes the parable of perseverance and triumph over the vicissitudes of life. As the Curator of the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rose and Cross (AMORC), Spencer Lewis, once put it: “there is no destiny, no fate, no change, that can circonvent nor hinder, nor control the firm resolve of a determined soul”.
Today, he is unarguably one of the few bright stars in the throbbing firmament of Nigeria’s traditional institution.
Pondering the meaning of life and his place in the cosmos as a mystic and traditionalist, the Eze Ogba has been living in the service of his people, confronting the resultant challenges therein and bringing integrity, straight forwardness, and serene peace into the governance of Ogba Kingdom.
It is perhaps as a measure of the magnitude and influence of Oba’s existential excellence, charming personality, and unique traditional inheritance that successive administrations in Nigeria have always sought his wise counsel, especially at every critical moment of the nation’s life.
Married to four wives with several children, most of whom are holding their own in their various callings, Oba proudly says loud and clear that he is happier than many who are married to one wife. He maintains that such persons have more problems than himself, adding that anybody who visits his palace would not know that he is married to four wives.
Albeit, he abhors autocracy, he is a very strict disciplinarian who takes full charge of his palace at all times with his word as law.
At his usual morning devotions, Oba, a Knight of the Mystical Order of Saint Peter, inculcates in his wives and children, the sense of oneness and truth, and makes everyone realize that his possession is theirs.
As a mystic and philosopher versed in the different characteristics of people, he blends his wives different qualities to have matrimonial bliss, harmony, and cohesive family.
However, Oba Nnam Obi II who says he ought to have married before his years at Sancta Maria High School in 1962 in compliance with his step mother’s advice to do so as the only surviving son of his mother, states that he owes his success to the immeasurable support of his wives and children, and to the understanding cooperation, and unflinching loyalty of his people.
No doubt, Odudu, Anyiama Osa, Ekwueme, as he is fondly called by his ever loving people has, by all parameters, lived a fulfilled life, having exhibited and manifested a wonderful and divinely-inspired progressive pilgrimage of sterling leadership.
These days, owing to age and health, Oba prefers pounded yam, chicken, fishes and non-carbohydrate foods. And to unwind, he watches television, listens to radio and reads newspapers even though he has no dull moments at all, given the number of children he has, and the swarm of visitors to his palace.
And as with all his birthday celebrations, even if low-keyed, his daughters, the Oba hints, do “compose songs and sing like sparrows to my delight,” saying, he does not regret having them, just as the boys.
As we toast to the long life and good health of this great African traditional ruler at 80 today, may those his beautiful daughters never get tired of singing like sparrows to his delight and to the satisfaction of everyone, and to the glory of God.

 

By: Victor Tew / Vincent Ochonma

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Special Report

60 Years Of Nigeria’s Health Sector: Challenges And Way Forward

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Like every other sector of the Nigerian state, the country’s health sector has evolved from one stage to another, up to the present state.
From the pre-colonial era, when treatment for ailments was based purely on traditional medicine as it relates to different parts of the country, through the emergence of the first modern medical services in Nigeria, then during the various European expeditions in the early, to mid19th century, to the era of organised healthcare services, and finally to the present era of deliberate and planned brain drain in the sector, the development in Nigeria’s heath sector has been one that requires more attention than is given it.
There is no doubt that the profession of medicine has been quite active in terms of changing for the better in accordance with global demands. For instance, the Health care systems have undergone changes, and, except for a few exceptions, the changes are for the better:
The way in which physicians are trained has changed. The management of disease entities has also changed at various points. The change has also cut across disease entities that have been treated and available therapeutic modalities, which have also undergone continual changes.
On attaining independence in 1960, the health sector, like other sectors, inherited the centralised health care services format of the colonial era, which vested the authority to take key decisions in the sector in the hand of the central government.
Then, while medical services developed and expanded with industrialisation, most medical doctors were civil servants, except those working for missionary hospitals, who combined evangelical work with healing.
Among the civil service doctors, one was appointed the Chief Medical Officer, who became the principal executor of health care policies in Nigeria, along with several other junior colleagues comprising senior medical officers and medical officers, who formed the nucleus of the ministry of health in Lagos. The detail of centralised administration of health services then was complex and reflected the complex political transformation of the whole region.
The health care services in Nigeria have been characterised by short-term planning, as is the case with the planning of most aspects of the Nigerian life. The major national development plans are “The First Colonial Development plan from 1945-1955″, “The Second Colonial Development plan from 1956-1962”, and “The First National Development Plan from 1962-1968”.
Others are: “The Second National Development Plan from 1970-1975”, “The Third National Development Plan from 1975-1980″, “The Fourth National Development Plan from “Nigeria’s Five year Strategic Plan from 2004-2008″.
All of these plans formulated goals for nationwide health care services.
The overall national policy for Nationwide Health Care Services was clearly stated in a 1954 Eastern Nigeria government report on “Policy for Medical and Health Services.” This report stated that the aim was to provide national health services for all.
The report emphasised that since urban services were well developed, going by the country’s standards then, the government intended to expand rural services. These rural services would be in the form of rural hospitals of 20-24 beds, supervised by a medical officer, who would also supervise dispensaries, maternal and child welfare clinics and preventive work, such as sanitation workers.
The policy made local governments contribute to the cost of developing and maintaining such rural services, with grants-in-aid from the regional government. This report was extensive and detailed in its description of the services envisaged. This was the policy before and during independence. After independence in 1960, the same basic health care policy was pursued, and still is the case.
By the time the Third National Development Plan was produced in 1975, more than 20 years after the report mentioned above, not much had been done to achieve the goals of the Nationwide Health Care Services policy.
This plan, which was described by General Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of the Military Government, as “A Monument to Progress”, stated: “Development trends in the health sector have not been marked by any spectacular achievement during the past decade”.
As far as development of the health sector was concerned, this development plan appeared to have focused attention on trying to improve the numerical strength of existing facilities rather than evolving a clear health care policy. This, in a nutshell seems to have been the lot of Nigeria’s development in the health sector, and, in fact, all other vital sectors of the economy.
Health care in Nigeria has been prone to so many problems which are attributable to the fact that health services are in great demand following what could be tagged astronomical increase in population but accessibility to health services been very low. The cause of this has been related to factors such as socio-economic, cultural, political as well as poor planning and/or poor implementation of health policies and programmes by the government. There are also problems of availability, accessibility, affordability, sustainability of health services and weak referral system.
In 2000, World Bank noted that “deprivations that lead to ill health are common in developing countries, especially in Nigeria, and the poor in Nigeria are particularly at risk”.
According to Adam Wagstaff, a Research Manager of the Human Development team in the Development Research Group of the World Bank, ”the relationship between poverty and access to health care can be seen as part of a larger circle where poverty leads to ill health and ill health maintains poverty”.
The implication is that to effectively address health care, other relevant sectors that directly or indirectly contribute to poverty, which is a key factor in enhancing provision of health care and accessibility of same has to be addressed.
Unfortunately, policies in these sectors, especially for the negative impacts, are often not based on health criteria because the health sector itself tends to focus its interventions within the health care delivery system, not necessarily in other relevant sectors that constitute the sources of the problem.
For instance, to ensure totally effective health care delivery system, regular power supply is required to power all necessary equipment at all times. In the same vein, to totally prevent mosquito-borne diseases, environmental planning should ensure adequate provision of drainages avoid water stagnation, however little. As a result, the enormous health benefits accruable from interventions outside the health sector are not realized.
The education sector is another key long-established determinant for quality health and health care in any development-oriented society, but which has pitiably been bastardized, knowing that better education allows individuals to be more effective in converting health care and other health-enhancing goods into health.
The challenges facing the health sector in Nigeria, in sixty years of the country’s existence are, to say the least, numerous. But it can be summarised to include inaccessibility of quality health care, poor hygiene, corruption, malnutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water, poor health infrastructure, fake drugs, insufficient financial investment, and lack of sufficient health personnel.
Government’s performance in the health sector has been at best abysmal. Investment in infrastructure has been poor and meagre remuneration for health workers has created a massive brain drain to the US and Europe.
The annual budget of the government for the health sector is 4.17% of the total national budget, which is equivalent to only $5 per person annually.
In more recent Nigeria, the expected lofty goals in the health sector have not been achieved. The capacities of the facilities that emerged from previous efforts have been stretched and infrastructure broken beyond repair. Primary health care services now exist only in name. The common man has virtually reverted to the herbalist and traditional healers for care because of access to quality health care and affordability issues.
The elites have perfected medical tourism to India, Singapore, South Africa and even Ghana. This is in the face of a rapidly changing disease patterns in which infectious diseases have been replaced by behavioural, environmental and poverty-related diseases.
Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector, and this is in the face of many Nigerians not being able to afford private hospitals which are simply too expensive.
Unfortunately, again, the management of the National Health Scheme (NHS) through the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) which should ordinarily help people to secure better quality health care, had been bedeviled by corruption, crushing the opportunity and further making quality medical care inaccessible for people who contributed to the system.
The situation becomes worse when one considers the fact that the problem has nothing to do with lack of medical personnel. Certainly not! This is because about 77 per cent of black doctors in the United States of America are said to be Nigerians, and Nigerians have achieved tremendous feats in American medicine.
A good example is Doctor Oluyinka Olutoye, a Nigerian based in Houston, who made history recently by bringing out a fetus from a mother’s womb to remove a tumor, and then successfully restoring the unborn baby to the womb. In fact, there is rarely any top medical institution in the United States or Europe where you won’t find Nigerians managing at the top level.
The health sector, no doubt, has failed largely due to inept leadership. Despite the huge talents of Nigerians, which are on display in health sectors all over the world, Nigeria’s health system is failing. Donor countries and multilateral organisations are aware of these challenges, but there’s little they can do to improve the situation.
The key solution, therefore, is for Nigeria’s policymakers and health professionals, including Nigerians in Diaspora, to come together and create a long-term blueprint for the sector. The term should not only be ideally realisable in the context of the country’s peculiar socio-cultural and economic reality, but should also include a strategy for success in the next 25-35 years with timelines and key performance indicators.
If this can be judiciously done, Nigeria can truly and easily be moving towards its dream of attaining that “Giant of Africa” status it has so much desired but truly failed to achieve in it in reality.

 

By:  Sogbeba Dokubo

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Special Report

‘Wike Has Transformed Rivers Through Projects’

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On April 11, 2015, the good people of Rivers State trooped out in their numbers to declare their preference for the creation of a New Rivers State. They voted overwhelmingly for Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (CON, GSSRS) to lead the state into prosperity.
That decision by 1,029,102 (One Million and Twenty Nine Thousand, One Hundred and Two) Rivers people representing 87.77 per cent of the total valid votes cast established the process of rebirth, revival and reconstruction of Rivers State. That decision laid the foundation for the unprecedented development being witnessed across the length and breadth of Rivers State.
Over the first 31 months of his first term, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has transformed the state through the unprecedented roll out of people oriented projects.
Economic recession has crippled development in most states of the Federation . Majority of states cannot pay salaries , let alone, embark on the developmental projects.
The case of Rivers State has been different . Like Governor Wike has told anyone who cares to listen, Rivers State is operating a divine economy built on sound economic principles and the overriding interest of the people .
Governor Wike has over the first 31 months of his first term embarked on the massive construction , reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, schools, hospitals, reclamation of lands, agricultural development and provision of other critical infrastructure across the three senatorial districts of the state .
Revival of the State economy and basic governance structure
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike ( CON, GSSRS) inherited a battered economy. At the twilight of the immediate past APC administration in the state, all the economic fundamentals were in a terrible shape, while businesses had collapsed. The basic governance structure in the state was in shambles with the state bureaucracy at a vegetative state.
Through careful implementation of reform policies, Governor Wike has over the last two years revived and repositioned the Rivers economy. After two years of good governance, Rivers economy is one of the most vibrant in the country, supporting corporate, medium-sized and small businesses across the state.
Business entrepreneurs who relocated from the state at the twilight of the immediate past APC administration are returning to the state. One of the major indicators of revived economy is the sustained growth of the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR).
While other states suffer from economic recession, Governor Wike posits that Rivers State is enjoying an era of boom because it operates a Jesus economy. The foundations of the state’s economic growth are from God, hence it cannot be affected by political and economic developments in the country.
The governor revived the State Assembly which was sitting at the dinning of the Government House under the last APC administration in the state. Since he proclaimed the Assembly, they have been passing laws for the good governance of the state. Two budgets have been passed, while the State Assembly enjoys independence and financial autonomy.
Regular payment of salaries and pensions
Immediate past Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi painted a gloomy picture of the finances of the state on May 27, 2015, when he declared: “Nyesom Wike is coming, let us see where he will get the money to pay salaries.” At this point two days to the end of that failed administration, the state civil servants were owed four months salaries and pensioners owed for six months.
With the state governance system and bureaucracy revived, Governor Wike has taken deliberate steps to ensure that civil servants and pensioners in the state receive their monthly salaries and entitlements.
Governor Wike initiated and implemented a scientific biometric exercise which paved the way for accurate data on workers and pensioners on the state’s payroll.
Rivers State is one of the very few states that is up-to-date in the payment of salaries and pensions. This has served as a motivation to civil servants to contribute their quota to the development of a New Rivers State.
The regular payment of salaries and pensions has helped in making the Rivers economy functional as the flow of liquidity is constant all through the period under review.
Projects Galore Governor Wike did not emerge Mr Projects by happenstance. His emergence is a product of vision and careful planning, targeted at repositioning Rivers State.
The 2017 budget was crafted to lift and flood the state with developmental projects.
Out of the N470billion budgeted for 2017, the total projected capital expenditure is N329 billion (three hundred and twenty-nine billion naira) only, which represents 70% of the capital estimate of the budget. This gives a capital to recurrent expenditure ratio of 70:30. This is unprecedented. The multiplier effect of this pro-people decision is being felt across the state.
Road infrastructure
Thirty one months ago when Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took over the reins of leadership, the economy of Rivers State was at its lowest level. The road infrastructure had completely collapsed, leading to economic stagnation.
Right on the day of his inauguration at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike launched “Operation Zero Potholes Programme”. Since May 29, 2015, the Wike administration has constructed, reconstructed and rehabilitated over 200 roads.
The administration started with the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads in Port Harcourt; Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre and Eleme Local Government Areas. Majority of these roads were completed and commissioned at the end of the governor’s first year. Roads in Diobu, Borikiri, Port Harcourt Township and Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Governor Wike’s development of road infrastructure is tied to the rapid social and economic development of the state. The first class road infrastructure, drainage systems and bridges being constructed, reconstructed and rehabilitated across the state by international and indigenous contractors have enhanced economic recovery in the state.
The road infrastructure is linking communities, thus enabling farmers and businessmen to link up with markets in Urban Centres.
At the last count, the Wike administration has constructed or is constructing over 200 roads, spanning over 500 kilometres in a statewide unprecedented intervention in the road sector.
Some of the key road projects include:
1.Rehabilitation/ Maintenance of some roads and drains, tagged “Operation Zero Potholes” in Port Harcourt metropolis (additional Works) (Ahoada Road, Force Avenue, Churchill and Creek Road, Evo and Woji Road, Tombia Extension, Ohiamini Road, Ogbunabali Road, Sokoto Road, Eleme Flyover, Kolokuma Road) – completed and commissioned
2. Rehabilitation of Industry Road – Completed
3. Construction Of Internal Roads and Drains In G.S.S Rumuokwuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area – Completed
4. Rehabilitation of marine base junction and Moscow road roundabout and laying of kerb stone and concreting of the island- Completed
5. Port Harcourt Government House – work in progress
6. Reconstruction of High Street, Rehabilitation of Prof. Okujagu Street and Danjuma Drive off Peter Odili Road in Trans Amadi Industrial Area-
7.Construction of Sani Abacha Road-
8. Captain Amangala Street, Bishop Fabara Street, Tourist Beach Road, Elliot Henry Street, Bishop Johnson Street, Bonny Street, Adaka Boro Street, Creek Road Extension, Extension of Ada Expressways by Rumuola Bridge and Dualization of Birabi Road by Presidential Hotel Roads
9.Desilting and Cleaning of Subsurface Drains and Manholes from Education to Emenike Junction, Okija Road to Nta-Wogba Creek, Mile 3 Diobu Section of Ikwerre Road and Big Culvert Under Aba Road and Desilting of Covered Drains and Deflooding of Bank Road, Gokana, Forces Avenue Thru Moscow Road Junction, Old GRA Port Harcourt-
10. Construction of Eagle Island – lioabuchi By-Pass, Port Harcourt. – completed and commissioned
11. Construction of Chief Benson Street Chief Benson Close, Omunakwe Str. And the Surrounding Streets Ortiarunma and Omarunma Close. – Contractor is on site.
12. Reconstruction of Roads in D/Line, PHC. – completed and commissioned
13. Dualization of Azikiwe Road (UTC) Junction – Lagos .Bus Stop. – completed and commissioned
Name of project – lga obalga
14. Reconstruction of Diobu Roads (Nnokam Road, Chief Amadi Street, Elechi Street, Odioma Street, Ekwe Street, Wokoma Lane, Azikiwe Street, Ojoto Street, Adelabu Street, Abel Jumbo Street, Ikwerre Rd By Education Bus Stop By The Flyover To Abonnema Wharf Road, Abakaliki Street, Anokwuru Street, Nkoro (Nsuka) Street, Nnewi Street, Okolabiri Street, Osina Street, Azikwe Lane, Ataba Street, Wokoma Street, Enwume Ave, Ejekwu St., Nnokam Street, Bishop Okoye Street, Wobo Street, Elechi Beach Road, Lumumba Street and Joinkrama St.) – comple ted and commissioned
15. Rehabilitation of Agip Gate to Eagle – Island- lloabuchi link Road Junction and Wike Road in Obio /Akpo L.G.A – Completed
16. Rehabilitation of Abuja Bypass, Mile III Diobu, Port Harcourt – Completed
17. Rehabilitation of Rumuola By Boricamp Junction To Rumuola Flyover, Rumuola Overhead Bridge By Rumuadolu Road To Presidential Hotel, Eliozu East-West Road By The Overhead Bridge – Completed
18.Rehabilitation of SARS (Nelson Mandela) Road, Rukpakwolushi-Eligbolo Road and Agip Road – Completed
19.Rehabilitation of Okocha Mgbuodohia Roads, Rumuolumeni As a Replacement For East/West – Ogbakiri-Degema-Abonnema Road – Completed
20.Construuction of Eneka-Rumuapu-Rukpokwu and Miniorlu – Mgbuakara – Eliaparawo RoadsConstruction of Owabie Road, Canaan Avenue and Ozurunha Street, Off Orazi, all in Rumuowabie Community in Rumuopirikom Town- Eneka- Rumuapu Completed
21.Reconstruction of Rumuagholu-Airport Road “A” L=2550m Spur to Nkpolu East/West Road “B” L = 1170m and Spur to International Market Road “C” L= 1675m- Completed
22. Rehabilitation of Rumukalagbor Road (the link road between Elekahia and Aba Road), Rumuibekwe Road and Eliohani Road- Completed
23.Rehabilitation of Mid-King Perekule Road to Woji Road, Port Harcourt- Completed
24.Reconstruction of Eliozu-Rumunduru-Oroigwe- Elimgbu Road/Bridge in Obio/Apkor LGA- Completed
25.Rehabilitation of Oyigbo Express to Imo River Aba Express Road- work in progress
26.Rehabilitation of Aba Road (Artillery Phase 1 – Phase 2 With CBN Junction, Rivers State Secretariat Complex Access Roads- Completed
27. Reconstruction of Woji Road From Old Aba Road to Woji Road/Bridge. – Completed
53. Construction of Akpajo-Woji Road/Bridge. – Completed
54.Reconstruction of Elioparanwo Road. – Completed
55.Dualisation of Epirikom – Rumuoiumeni Road, (additional works of canals) – Completed
56. Dualisation of Nkpogu Road (from Trans Amadi Road – Micheletti Junction – NLNG Roundabout) Including a Bridge, Reconstruction of Micheletti Junction – Amadi Ama Road and Mammy Market (Nlerum) Road. – Completed
57.Dualisation of East/West-Elelenwo-Woji- Slaughter- Trans Amadi-Garrison Roas. – Completed
58.Construction of Ozuoba-Ogbogoro-Rumuolumeni Road. – Completed
59.Reconstruction of Oyigbo Market Road to Kom-Kom in Oyigbo LGA. – Completed
Name of project – LGA Eleme
60. Repair of some section of East/West Road from Eleme Junction-Onne Junction. Contract Sum
Name of project – LGA OBALGA/Eleme
61.Dualization of Oil Mill-Elelenwo-Akpajo Road- work in progress
Name of project – LGA Ikwerre/Etche
62. Reconstruction of Igwuruta-Chokocho Road terminating at the Bridge – Completed and commissioned
Name of project – LGA Etche
63. Construction of Eleme Junction-lgbo Etche-Chokocho Road
64. Reconstruction of Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road in Etche LGA
65. Construction of Ulakwo ll-Afara-Nihi Etche Road in Etche LGA
Name of project – LGA Emohua and Ikwerre
66.Construction of Rumuji-lbaa-Obele-lsiokpo Road In Emohua and Ikwerre LGAS –
67. Reconstruction of Airport-lpo-Omademe-Ozuaha Roads in Ikwerre Local Government Area –
Name of project – LGA Emohua
68. Construction of Elele Alimini Internal Roads Phase I –
69. Construction of Elele Alimini Internal Roads Phase II-
Name of project – LGA Tai, Khana/Gokana
70.Dualization of Saakpenwa-Bori Road –
71. Construction of Internal Roads of Birabi Memoral Grammar School (BMGS) Bori
Name of project – LGA Degema, Asari Toru and Akuku Toru
72.Dredging, Sandfilling and Reclamation of Bakana, Abalama and Abonnema in Degema, Asari Toru and Akuku Toru LGAS –
Name of project – LGA AKULGA
73.Construction of Abonnema Ring Road Phase 2- work in progress
Name of project – LGA Gokana
74. Completion of Kpopie-Bodo City Road
Name of project – LGA Akuku Toru
75.Construction of Internal Roads and drainage in Nyemoni Grammar School in Abonnema, Akuku Toru LGA
Name of project – LGA Abua/Odua
76. Construction of Abua-Degema-Emoh-lyak-lghom- Elok and Emoh-Egbolom Access Road in Abua/Odual Local Government Area
Name of project – LGA ONELGA
77. Reconstruction of Akabuka-Omoku Road –
78. Completion of Unity Road & Bridges (Khana/Andoni and Opobo Local Government Areas)
79.Rehabilitation of Omoku Internal Roads in ONELGA –
Name of project – LGA Okrika
80. Reconstruction of Ekerekana-Okochiri Link Road in Okrika Local Government and the construction of Okochiri Internal roads in Okochiri Community
Name of project – LGA Oyigbo
81.Reconstruction of Old Aba Road By Mbano Camp Junction
Name of project – LGA AKULGA
82. Construction of Abonnema New Bridge and Approach/Asphalt Overlay of Abonnema Internal Roads in AKULGA. – completed and commissioned
Name of project – LGA Ogu/Bolo
83. Reclamation/Sand filling of Olombie/Owukiri Island, Ogu Community . work in progress
Name of project – LGA Ahoada East
84. Reconstruction of Edeoha-lkata-Ochigba Road In Ahoada East LGA
Some of the roads completed or under construction are key to the rapid development of the benefitting communities.
The dualisation of the Sakpenwa-Bori Road that cuts across Tai, Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas and links neighbouring Andoni and Opobo Local Government Areas, remains the greatest post independence gift to the Ogoni People.
The road is also a key facilitator of economic activities. Even the milestone completion already attained has improved the fortune of the people.
The Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road is one of the most important roads since the creation of Rivers State, 50 years ago. This road links the prominent riverine communities of Andoni and Opobo Nkoro Local Government Areas to the rest of Rivers State, through Khana Local Government Area.
It is a road with economic and social significance to the riverine populations. The people of Andoni and Opobo Nkoro have shown their deep appreciation to Governor Wike for translating the vision of this road to reality.
The Woji-Akpajo Bridge recently completed by the Wike administration is a story of the commitment of Governor Wike to completing key projects abandoned by the immediate past APC administration in the state, but which are relevant to the development of Rivers people. Earlier in the life of the administration, the governor completed the Abuluoma -Woji Road and Bridge, also abandoned by that administration.
The recently completed Woji-Akpajo Bridge links Obio/Akpor Local Government Area to Eleme Local Government Area and helps to solve traffic congestion on Aba Road.
The Reconstruction of Edeoha-lkata-Ochigba Road In Ahoada East Local Government Area is a major economic intervention to help the farming communities in this axis. This is another abandoned road, which Governor Wike is reconstructing in line with his pledge to the Ahoada East people.
The Reconstruction of Obiri Ikwerre – Airport Road is a major alternate route to the Port Harcourt International Airport. This road nearing completion was flagged off for reconstruction during the first year anniversary of the Wike administration. Today, it has reduced travel time to the airport.
The Etche Roads are worthy of special mention. First it was the Igwuruta-Chokocho road, which was delivered as a major link between the food basket of the state and the markets of Port Harcourt.
That completed, Governor Wike flagged off and intensified the construction of other roads linking Etche communities and the rest of Rivers State.
They include: Construction of Eleme Junction-lgbo Etche-Chokocho Road, Reconstruction of Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road in Etche LGA and Construction of Ulakwo ll-Afara-Nihi Etche Road in Etche LGA.
Etche people have never had it so good.
In Kalabari land, Governor Wike first completed the Abonnema/Obonoma Link Road and Bridge. Thereafter, he is constructing the Abonnema Ring Road which serves as an alternate route out of the ancient town.
The Wike administration is also constructing the internal roads of Nyemoni Grammar School in Abonnema.
It is necessary to highlight two other critical roads that are helping to reinvigorate the economy of Rivers State. The Construction of Abua-Degema-Emoh-lyak-lghom- Elok and Emoh-Egbolom Access Road in Abua/Odual Local Government Area and the reconstruction of Akabuka-Omoku Road.
In Rivers State, all the three senatorial districts have been impacted positively in terms of road infrastructure. Governor Wike people-oriented style of governance entails that all segments of the state are carried along. So far, he has religiously kept his promise.
December 2017 Road Flag Off Programmes
As the 2017 Christmas approached , Governor Wike flagged off the construction of key road projects. He flagged off the reconstruction of Ahoada-Odienereyi-Ihugbogo-Odieke Road in Ahoada East Local Government Area. The Governor also flagged off the dualization of the Omoku-Egbema Road and the construction/rehabilitation of Isiokpo Internal Roads and Drains in Ikwerre Local Government Area.
Healthcare Delivery
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has worked towards creating a comprehensive healthcare that caters for the needs of Rivers people. The administration has invested in the improvement of health facilities and services across the state, while taking care of the welfare of professionals in the sector.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was in Rivers State to lay the foundation for the construction of an ultra-modern doctors quarters at the Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital. This project is progressing satisfactorily.
Training of Health Professionals
The administration established a College of Medical Sciences at the Rivers State University and also started the setting up of the State Teaching Hospital with the signing of the bill to actualize it.
Support for Private Medical Practitioners
In order to guarantee that more residents of Rivers State have access to quality healthcare, the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike flagged off a private hospitals loan scheme (PHLS).
The first batch of the scheme witnessed 37 hospitals in the state having access to N500 million to upgrade their facilities and improve their services to the people . Seven of the beneficiaries are non-indigenes, while 30 are from Rivers State.
Flagging off the PHLS at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Governor Wike urged the private medical practitioners to apply the loans judiciously.
The state government would pay the interest on the loans on behalf of the beneficiaries, while the beneficiaries will pay the principal sum. This novel scheme has improved access to quality healthcare in Rivers State.
Unprecedented Rehabilitation of Secondary Healthcare Facilities
Prior to the advent of the Wike administration, secondary healthcare had collapsed across the state. These General Hospitals suffered criminal neglected during the leadership of the immediate past APC administration in the state. Therefore, Rivers people in rural communities were denied access to quality healthcare.
In line with the vision of the Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to create access to quality healthcare for the people of Rivers State , the Wike Administration commenced the total rehabilitation of 13 General Hospitals .
The following are the hospitals being rehabilitated : General Hospital Omoku, General Hospital Nchia , General Hospital , Abua , General Hospital Isiokpo, General Hospital Abonnema, General Hospital Okirika , General Hospital Opobo , General Hospital Bodo, General Hospital Ngo, General Hospital Buguma, Psychiatric Hospital , Rumuigbo , General Hospital Emohua and General Hospital Eberi.
Rivers people from all walks of life have declared their support for the Governor’s commitment to rebuild the health infrastructure in the state. These hospitals have never witnessed any form of rehabilitation since they were constructed in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Governor Wike declared that his administration will transform the secondary healthcare sector of the state as a means of improving the living standard of the people.
The governor said that the state government resolved to revive the secondary healthcare facilities because they were abandoned for over two decades.
Their upgrade would open a new chapter in healthcare delivery in the state . Quality healthcare would be close to the ordinary people of Rivers State at their doorsteps .
Recruitment of Medical Personnel/Improvement of Facilities at Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital
Aside the development of physical infrastructure in health facilities across the state, the Wike administration has recruited qualified medical professionals to help the state government strengthen access to quality healthcare.
Also, facilities at the Braithwaite Specialist Memorial Hospital (BSMH) have been improved by the administration. Governor Wike has released $4million for the purchase and installation of modern equipment at the BSMH.
The administration will implement a phased distribution of vehicles to doctors on the payroll of the state government in the course of the year.

Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

To be contd.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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