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Anniversary Special

The Broadcast …TIME TO CONSOLIDATE:

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My dear people of Rivers State,

 

In our maiden address to you exactly two years ago when, by the special grace of God, we assumed office as Governor of our State, we made a solemn pledge to partner with you in the task of improving the quality of our lives, and to empower the people in a peaceful, just and harmonious society. Following that pledge, we drew up a Blue-print of Action on how to achieve these goals.

We are keenly aware that a midterm report which in essence, is what we present to you today, cannot be conclusive. Nonetheless, today’s anniversary affords us an opportunity to reflect on the journey so far and to simultaneously make our projections into the next two years of our tenure.

But first, we would like to thank all of you, the good people of our state, for your support and understanding so far. Without God and you, the modest successes we have recorded would not have been possible. Therefore, as we reflect on the past and make projections into the future, let me reiterate that this administration remains unwaveringly committed to the covenant that the limited resources of our state shall continue to be managed wisely for the good of all the people of the state. Our belief that the prime purpose of government is the common good of the people remains unshakable. It is this resolve that has informed our policy of transparency, due process, popular participation and best practices in governance.

As I attempt, presently, to render an account of our two-year stewardship in governance, it would be manifest that some modest progress has been made. Yet, we still face great challenges. There is a lot more work to be done; which is why I ask with humility for an even greater support from you in consolidating our collective efforts to build a new and more prosperous Rivers State.

1. The Security Situation

As you all recall, when we took over two years ago, our state was literally under siege. The threat to security of lives and property was palpable. As a result of this dismal situation, the economic well-being of the state suffered severely.

But today, I am happy to report that the situation has improved tremendously, thanks to the combined efforts of the state’s security agencies, the Federal Government’s Joint Military Task Force (JTF) and of course, the federal government’s pronounced Amnesty for ‘militants’, which ended on Sunday the 4th day of October, 2009.

Social life has gradually returned to Port Harcourt. We were overwhelmed with joy when I visited the Silverbird Cinema which is a Public-Private Partnership initiative and saw our people with their families having fun without fear of molestation by hoodlums who had hitherto overrun the city.

From the outset, we, as a State, embraced the Amnesty Programme. Working closely with the Rivers State Social Rehabilitation Committee, headed by Chief Albert Horsfall, we provided logistical and practical support towards the realization of the programme. And as you are probably aware, in the month of September, we received the first batch of ‘militant’ trainees of the State Social Development Institute at Okehi, who had successfully completed their reintegration programme. Arrangements have been made for another set of 300 (Three Hundred) trainees to commence their training programmes at the institute.

Now that many of our youths have taken advantage of the Amnesty programme and embraced peace and reconciliation, we are hopeful that our worst days are over in the state. It remains, of course, for us to now confront the challenges of resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration of all who had strayed from the fold.

In this regard, we would like to place on record our gratitude to President Umaru Yar’Adua and Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck for their unwavering commitment to the Amnesty programme. We believe however, that the programme should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a means towards addressing once and for all, the seemingly intractable problems of the Niger Delta region.

Whilst expressing gratitude to the President and Vice President for the much they have done, may I most respectfully, call on the federal government to conclude this process by implementing all its post amnesty proposals agreed with the south-south Governors. On our part, we affirm that, we will match that effort in the task of transforming Rivers State into a peaceful, economic haven of our collective dream.

2. Infrastructure

A major challenge of this government has been the dual task of building a network of roads and other transport infrastructure that would rapidly drive economic growth and activity, while at the same time making all our communities accessible by quality roads and bridges. To the glory of God, in two years, we have made tremendous progress in this sector. The very many roads and bridges already constructed or being constructed are there for all to see but permit me to mention but a few here.

We have in the past two years expended over a hundred billion Naira annually on roads. We have also completed 24 (Twenty Four) major roads in the same period, while a variety of some 162 road projects are under construction and in different stages of completion. These projects under construction include 506 kilometres of roads, 10 major bridges, 4 fly-overs/interchanges, 5 land reclamation/shore protection projects (in Andoni, Opobo, Buguma, Abalama, Olombie/Owukiri Island), 70 per cent  of Rural roads in all the 23 Local Government Areas and the construction of Infrastructural works at the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology.

But by far, some of the most ambitious of these projects are the Port Harcourt Ring Road, the Port Harcourt Drainage Master Plan, Strategic Road Dualisation Projects and the Trans-Amadi-Artillery – Ada George diversionary roads.

Implicit in these expensive programes is a policy objective that allows us to train a crop of young engineers from our state, to compile, evaluate and monitor capital projects under the Ministry of Works. This policy thrust has also ensured that the state’s Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency is strengthened to make, through direct labour, quick interventions in the rehabilitation and maintenance of all existing roads in the state.

3. Education

Because of the importance that this administration attaches to education, one of the first things we did upon taking office two years ago, was to declare a state of emergency in the education sector and to take over the responsibility of our primary schools entirely, including, the payment of teachers’ salaries. We have also taken over the payment of salaries of Junior Secondary Schools which was hitherto paid by Local Government Councils. We also promised, in the face of the tremendous infrastructural decay in the sector, to build 250 primary schools and 24 new secondary schools. Whilst striving to fulfill this promise, we have renovated several existing school structures. We are also instituting programmes to tackle the moral decay in our schools with a view to restoring sanity in our educational system.

We are happy to report that we have completed the first phase of these primary schools, and that the first 100 of them, will be available for use by the people of the State before the end of the year. Also, work is at different stages at the sites of the model secondary schools in the state. The idea is to have, hopefully, by the end of next year one model secondary school in each local government area of the state. When completed, each model secondary school will have a standard laboratory, two workshops, one theatre/auditorium, a library, an administrative block, a dining hall, dormitories to hold two students per room at one thousand (1,000) students per school, a sports field and a Demonstration Farm. Boarding will be compulsory.

It is also gratifying to note that we shall soon commence the distribution of free textbooks to all our secondary and primary schools. Furthermore, to ensure that these schools are fully equipped, we have commenced the provision of adequate furniture and facilities for them.

We should add that a key component of this radical attempt to restore sanity to our schools is the Teachers Training and Evaluation Programme which we have embarked upon, in partnership with the British Council. At the end of the programme, our teachers will be evaluated and certified by Cambridge University in England. To date, 3,000 teachers have been so retrained and certified.

We have continued to provide scholarships to deserving students of the state to pursue studies both at home and abroad. As at today, more than 1000 indigenes of the state are pursuing higher degree programmes in foreign universities.

4. Healthcare Delivery

In the health sector, our major objective is to adopt a broad, efficient and effective programme that is anchored on primary care in a manner that guarantees improved health delivery to all our people.

As we told you last year, we commenced the construction of a total of 150 Primary Health Centres to replace the existing dilapidated ones. So far, 53 of these centres are ready to be commissioned. By the end of the year, 100 health centres would have been completed and made fully functional. The construction of a one thousand bed specialist hospital named after Justice Karibi-Whyte was awarded to Clinotech Group of Canada at the sum of $150 million and construction work has since commenced.

It is pertinent to add that we have completed a number of other major facilities in the health sector, among them, the Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital Complex in Diobu, the new Dental Hospital on Aba Road, the Medical Centre at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and the new Mortuary at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital.

Let me emphasize that as in many other areas of our life as a state, the challenge of ensuring the availability of competent manpower remains a daunting one. Although we have recruited 200 medical doctors and 200 other medical personnel to help run existing health facilities and the ones under construction, we would, as a government, continue to encourage our indigenes to take up the challenge and embrace education as well as the enhancement of capacity at individual, family and community levels.

5. Water Resources

The provision of sufficient portable water and adequate sanitation for all our people, on an affordable and sustainable basis, remains a major challenge. Indeed, we are mindful of the danger of failing to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development target of ensuring that every person living in Rivers State has access to good, portable water by 2015.

Our effort in the years under review was, in the short-term, to provide adequate and sustainable water supply to all parts of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas. For instance, we expended considerable funds in upgrading obsolete water pumps and distribution pipes and providing power for a number of pumping stations. In the course of this endeavour, the purchase of diesel, lubricants and repairs of burst-pipes in the Port Harcourt metropolis alone came to over N226 million, while the purchase of new standby Caterpillar Generators for some of the pumping stations came to over N158 million.

In the end, these measures, expensive as they may seem, are mere palliatives. The real answer to our water problem in Rivers State is, in my view, a more comprehensive, long-term strategy, which invariably entails the adoption of a regional water supply system .The details and engineering designs of both Port Harcourt and the General Water Scheme for the State are being completed. Work will commence as soon as contractors are selected.

6. Power Generation

Our government is committed to ensuring that the state meets its energy needs, through a sustainable framework that will support the state’s economic growth and the needs of all its citizens. It gladdens our hearts to let you know that we have made considerable progress in the generation and distribution of power in our state. All things being equal, we should, by the end of November add another 100 megawatts of power to the grid, bringing our total megawatts generated in Rivers State to 280.

It is also heart warming to be able to report that in the years under review we extended electricity supply to several new rural communities. These include the electrification of 21 communities in Khana local government area, the electrification of six communities in Akwa and Ulakwo II, the electrification of Odiabidi and Okponwo, the construction of a major Injection sub-station in Borikiri and the construction of a 33Kv High Tension Line from Ahoada to Ogonokom, Abua as well as electrification of communities in and around Abua central. We should also add that the maintenance of the Gas Turbine Power stations and the adequate supply of gas to the Turbine stations have remained top priorities for us.

7. Revenue Generation

One of our biggest challenges has been the problem of revenue generation. Our major constraint has been how to effectively generate all accruable revenue due to the state in a manner that is transparent and that ensures accountability. To this end, we entered into a formal agreement with Skye Bank Plc as a Lead Collection and Monitoring Bank to spearhead this drive. In addition, we strengthened the Internal Revenue Service by restructuring and decentralising Revenue Accounts generated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies. And earlier in the year, we introduced Automated Vehicle Registration to further minimise corruption, touting and fake vehicle registration.

We are delighted to report that these measures have started to yield results. For instance, our monthly collection in 2008 rose from N2.3 billion to N3.5 billion. And in 10 months, we have recorded a 40 per cent increase in revenue collection already.

8. Greater Port Harcourt New City

When we addressed you a year ago, we made a solemn promise that together, we would transform Port Harcourt to its old glory and beyond. Towards this end, we have embarked on a bold mission to build a new Greater Port Harcourt City, a world class city that would be internationally recognized for excellence and a preferred destination for investors and tourists.

The new city will not only serve to decongest the older Port Harcourt area as we know it, it will, through the implementation and enforcement of policies and regulations, ensure the provision of first rate infrastructure and the delivery of quality services to enhance the standard of living and well-being of our people.

Obviously, this is a long-term project. But we have taken the first measured steps by creating the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA), the body that will regulate the development, planning, improvement and maintenance of the new city. We have also prepared a comprehensive Master Plan which would serve as a road-map towards realizing this dream. When the bulk of the ongoing Engineering and Infrastructure Designs and drawings are completed, construction work should commence in earnest before the end of the year. We have appropriated the sum of N50 billion in the current budget for the Authority’s take-off.

It is our hope that our people, especially those who are domiciled in the areas designated for the new city, will continue to cooperate with the Authority as it engages them in property buy-backs, through adequate compensation for the areas needed for the new city.

9. Water-Front Development and Urban Renewal

You are aware as you did approve in the various stakeholders’ consultative fora that we should demolish the waterfronts to minimize or eradicate crime.

The administration is going ahead with your recommendations. The waterfronts are a haven for crime. Lives are being lost daily. We can only redevelop to better the lives and properties. We would continue with our policy of buying back the properties at the waterfronts at commercial and current price to enable our people provide an alternative accommodation and be proud owners of their own decent and habitable accommodation and environment.

10. Conclusion

My fellow citizens of Rivers State, we cannot conclude this address without renewing the pledge, which we made when we assumed office two years ago, namely, that we shall continue to consult widely with you before embarking on key programmes that affect the lives of the people. Our policies will always be people-oriented and value-driven. To this end, we shall intensify our consultative meetings with all stakeholders in the Rivers State project. Your interest will guide our programmes always.

We want to assure you that, we are painfully aware that our spirited effort to correct many years of urban misplanning and disregard for planning regulations has inevitably brought hardship for some of our people. This is why we have directed that proper and adequate compensation be paid in appropriate cases to affected persons in our urban renewal drive. Our policy of property buy-back at market value will continue until we can transform our entire state into veritable pockets of urban centres that will meet the aspirations of all our forebearers and generations to come.

In a presidential system as ours, the executive is but one of the three arms of Government. An efficient model of democratic governance must be one in which there is a high degree of cohesion and interplay between the three arms. Let me acknowledge therefore, that the modest milestones of this administration in the past two years would not have been possible if we had a cantankerous legislature or an indolent or compromised judiciary.

The State House of Assembly has worked tirelessly in the cause of the current Legislative year to provide requisite legislative framework to support our government’s Policy initiatives. We must specially commend the House and its leadership on the prompt passage of the Rivers State University of Education Law 2009 which has enabled us to convert the old College of Education to a University of Education principally for tertiary training of much needed teaching personnel in the State. Government is working presently on the establishment of Teacher’s Training Colleges which will serve as feeders for the University of Education.

The Rivers State Judiciary has been truly independent. The dividends of this are manifest in the prompt and equitable dispensation of Justice by the various tiers of courts in the State. The judiciary is currently building the new Ultra Modern High Court within the State Judiciary Complex. Government has actively supported and will continue to support the judiciary whilst being mindful of the need to preserve its fiscal and judicial independence.

We are also not unmindful that politically, Rivers State has remained relatively calm. The positive attitude of opposition groups has allowed us to devote our time to the real job at hand … that of engaging in the governance of our state. Government thanks them for their constructive contributions and their commitment to our shared belief that, together, we can build a new Rivers State of our dream.

Once again, the Government thanks you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers, which we do not take for granted. The assurance that we can always count on your support is the catalyst that propels us to strive harder for a better Rivers State for us all. But as we have had cause to say in the past: there is more work to be done; the time to do it, is now. And we must do it together.

I thank you all and God bless you.

God bless Rivers State.

October 25, 2009

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Anniversary Special

The Tide Keeps Flowing At 49

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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’

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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.
BACKGROUND FACTS
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.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT IN NIGERIA
(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.
RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO BUY
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

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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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