Rivers State, one of the 12 maiden states created in Nigeria on May 27, 1967 under Decree No. 14 of 1967, marks its Golden Jubilee anniversary today. Much as the announcement by the then Head of State, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, sparked off jubilations across the country, especially among minority tribes, it also seemed to have unsettled certain ethnic blocs within the polity.
Gowon’s state creation exercise came at a time when there was already tension in the land following a bloody revolution and counter revolution that culminated in a successful military coup d’état in July 1966.
Apparently irked by Gowon’s deft political move and refusal to fully implement the Aburi Peace Accord reached in Ghana, Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, then military governor of Eastern Nigeria, had declared the region as the Republic of Biafra on May 30, 1967 in defiance to the federal authorities in Lagos.
While Gowon and Ojukwu bickered over who leads the nation, the people’s apprehension reached fever pitch. There was massive relocation of citizens, particularly those of Eastern Nigerian origin who felt insecure in other parts of the country. A civil war eventually broke out two months later.
Meanwhile, a 26-year old military officer, Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff, had been announced as the governor of Rivers State with Port Harcourt as his seat of power. He essentially oversaw a war economy until the end of hostilities in 1970.
The state’s economy actually began to rebound with the Gowon administration’s initiation of a massive programme for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of war-ravaged parts of the former Eastern and Mid-West Regions. New edifices such as the state Secretariat Complex, Waterlines House, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, College of Science and Technology (now Rivers State University), Liberation Stadium, Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre and some major roads owe their conception to that era.
In addition to foreign construction companies like Nigercat, Monier Construction Company (MCC), Solei Boneh (now RCC) and Gufanti, mention also needs to be made of indigenous contractors whose efforts went into the construction of these legacy projects. They include A.C. Bobmanuel, O.K. Isokariari, Omuna Construction Company (OCC), City Group, Construction & Furniture Company (CFC), Bedkana Block Industries and Akarolo Technical Company. Unfortunately, only two or three of these firms are still standing to this day.
Being mainly farmers and fisher folk, returnee Rivers indigenes, most of whom had literally survived on international humanitarian handouts during their Biafra sojourn, now found their farmlands and fishing grounds yielding bountifully after a long fallow period. For communities that were liberated early in the war and whose people did not venture deep into rebel territories, life quickly returned to normal with the Federal Government and foreign donor supplies always available to augment outputs from the farms, brushes and rivers.
Of course, the erstwhile Eastern provinces of Port Harcourt, Ahoada, Brass, Ogoni and Degema (PABOD) which now constituted Rivers State were known to produce such food crops as cassava, yam, cocoyam, plantain, banana, rice, corn, melon, okro, vegetables and fruits, among others. Prominent cash crops include oil palm, rubber, coconut, timber and raffia palm. In terms of sea food, the state is noted for its fresh and salt water fish varieties, shrimp, oyster, crab, periwinkle, clam, turtle and sea nail. Meat sources include game, livestock and snail.
The Diete-Spiff government also benefitted from the sharing of assets of the defunct Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation (ENDC) between Rivers, East Central and South Eastern States, being the three states created out of the former Eastern Region. It established the Rivers State Development Corporation (RSDC) to manage all the oil palm, rubber and coconut plantations that accrued from this assets splitting. These plantations included Elele Oil Palm Estates, Abara Oil Palm Estate, Odogwa Rubber Estate and Bonny Coconut Estate.
RSDC was later renamed the Agricultural Production and Marketing Corporation (APMC) in 1975 before being split into Risonpalm and Delta Rubber Company in 1977 to manage the oil palm and rubber estates, respectively. The coconut estate in Bonny, having been long abandoned by later regimes, died a natural death. Risonpalm was reactivated by the World Bank in the late 1980s before relapsing into comatose in less than a decade. It is currently under a 35-year lease by a Belgian agricultural firm, SIAT. In fact, Governor Nyesom Wike had during a recent visit to the firm expressed satisfaction with its management and promised to create 10,000 jobs through planting of new nurseries at the Ubima Oil Palm Plantation. He also assured that efforts were being made to reactivate Delta Rubber Company.
The Niger Delta Basin Development Authority also contributed to food production in the state. Its expansive rice plantations at Peremabiri and Isampou did serve to boost local rice supply in the 1980s. Other laudable state interventions like the School-to-Land programme of Mr. Fidelis Oyakhilome in mid 1980s could not be sustained by subsequent governments. It is on record that corn, okro, vegetables and poultry products were among items procured from its farms at Iriebe, Bori and elsewhere; hence, the popular Okro Market Bus Stop that exists at Iriebe till date. The Songhai Rivers Farms Initiative at Bunu-Tai was also full of promise at inception during the immediate past administration of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi. So also were the Buguma Fish Farm and the Cassava Processing Plant at Afam in Oyigbo LGA. Under the present government, practical agriculture has been reintroduced in schools across the state as a way of ensuring that each has a farm for the practical teaching of the subject while also contributing to the overall food output.
At individual and cooperative levels the challenge has often been the lack of access to agricultural credits. Successive governments had also lost interest in going beyond their FADAMA counterpart contributions and being of any meaningful assistance during major crisis such as the 2012 floods that sacked communities and ravaged farmlands across the nation.
Oil & Gas
Just as agriculture gradually but steadily made a rebound in the post-war economy of the newly created Rivers State, little did people realise that events in the Middle East between Arabs and Israelis would interplay to push crude oil and gas to the summit of Nigeria’s main revenue earners. In fact, with the early liberation of much of Rivers State, oil and gas giants like Shell-BP and Agip which had already established strong footholds in the sector were able to repair whatever damages the war had caused to their facilities and resume exports while hostilities still raged in the Ibo heartland.
As the international price of petroleum soared, principally on account of the ban placed against any oil sale to the United States and Britain by Arab countries for supporting Israel in the Middle East war, Nigeria’s oil output rose to about 1.4 million barrels per day for the first time in 1974. This simply meant that the country and its component states had sufficient petro dollars to spend. And spend they did! Mass importation of foreign manufactures, salary reviews and arrears payments, vehicle allowances to workers, mandarin contract awards, scholarships and overseas staff development trainings became the order; and naturally resulted to the runaway inflation experienced at the time.
The siting of their operational offices in Port Harcourt suggests that these oil firms offered job opportunities to Rivers indigenes, paid their taxes and tenement rates to the government, awarded scholarships to students, provided social amenities to their host communities and boosted commerce in the state. Today, such major oil companies include The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Total Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNL), Mobil Producing Unlimited, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which also operates two refineries at Alesa-Eleme and Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) with its plant in Bonny. It is, however, regrettable that even as Port Harcourt still serves as the hub of oil and gas activities in Nigeria, these firms are reluctant to move their head offices to the oil city, citing the Niger Delta militancy and general insecurity as reasons.
The good news, though, is that the new spate of divestments from marginal oil fields by the multinational oil giants has created a vent for the participation of indigenous firms in the nation’s oil and gas sector. It is now common to hear names like Moni Pulo, Nestoil, Belema Oil and Sahara Energy, among other upstream operators.
Commerce & Industry
As a thriving agricultural raw materials market and considering its position as a natural sea port and railway terminus, Port Harcourt had long before becoming a state capital established itself as an investor’s haven. Known in those days as the Garden City of Nigeria, ostensibly on account of its beautiful urban map and alluring flora, it has also had its share of industrial tenants, the bulk of which were located at the Trans Amadi Layout. They include Michelin, Pabod Breweries, Metalloplastica, Nigeria Engineering Works (NEW), Eastern Wrought Iron, West African Glass Industries (WAGI), Rivers Vegetable Oil Company (RIVOC), Rivbiscuits, Port Harcourt Flour Mills, Flag Aluminium, Crittal Hope, Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals, Indorama Fertiliser Company, NAFCON (now Notore) and Dufil Prima Plc, among others.
Pabod Breweries which almost plunged into murky waters some years ago was recently rescued by South Africa’s SABMiller through a technical partnership that appears to be yielding good dividends to the state, alongside the Indorama Group.
It is equally sad to note that a number of these firms which were once household names in the state have since closed down entirely or relocated out of the country due to poor electricity supply and general infrastructural decay resulting in high operating costs. Other reasons also include insecurity, influx of cheaper imports, incessant labour strikes, multi taxation, touting, foreign exchange difficulties and bureaucratic bottlenecks.
In terms of commerce, the state’s position as host of the second busiest sea port after Lagos can only suggest that it constitutes a major commercial centre in Nigeria. Fifty years ago, only the NPA and Bonny ports existed for the shipment of mainly raw agricultural commodities and crude oil. But today, the state also hosts the Onne port. Governor Nyesom Wike had already revealed that his administration was already taking steps to develop infrastructure for easy access to key business areas like the Onne and NPA Ports in Port Harcourt. Again, proximity to Aba and Onitsha, two of Nigeria’s notable destinations of containerised imports, adds impetus to the state’s commercial status.
Apart from Lagos ports which have remained functional over the years, the fortunes of Rivers and Warri ports have dwindled. For about the first 15 years after the creation of Rivers state, the NPA and Bonny Ports bubbled. News of the arrival of a cargo ship always reverberated as able-bodied young men rushed to the wharfs to earn quick money as ad hoc dockworkers.
Over time, the dominance of international trading chains like UAC (Kingsway Stores), Leventis, CFAO, SCOA, UTC, John Holt and Chanrais has been whittled down by the emergence of local and new foreign rivals. Here in Rivers State, the government-owned Supabod Store was, under Chief Melford Okilo as governor, made to operate branches in almost all the local council area headquarters in the state.
Elsewhere, the traditional markets, particularly the Rumuwoji (Mile One) and Mile Three Markets, had since been rebuilt into ultra-modern structures; while work on Phase 2 of the former is about to commence after a groundbreaking ceremony by Governor Wike. The ultra-modern New Layout Market in old Port Harcourt Township and its neighbouring Creek Road Market remain the main sources of sea food from nearby Okrika fishing settlements.
Wike had recently directed the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPHCDA) to avail the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA) land to build a permanent Trade Fair Complex near the Port Harcourt International Airport. This, according to him, is to make for accessibility and enhance profitability. The state chief executive also made a recent donation of 20 gunboats to the Navy to boost security on the waterways while also promising to tackle touting and multi taxation.
There is no shortage of hotels in Rivers State. Apart from Hotel Presidential which was inherited from the former Eastern Region at inception, other prominent private and public-owned hotels also dot the state’s landscape. Until about 2002, these included big hospitality homes like Olympia Hotel, Port Harcourt Airport Hotel and Hotel Chez Teres,
Before the creation of states in 1967, what existed in most of the provinces that formed Rivers State were narrow roads constructed by the regional administration and the few tarred roads built by the oil companies to access their oil facilities. Unfortunately, a number of these roads and their bridges suffered severe dislocations during the civil war. Having also been heavily mined during the war, some of these roads remained booby traps until the end of the Federal Government’s post-war reconstruction efforts in the early 1970s.
With the routes relatively free of abandoned ordnance, the Diete-Spiff administration rolled out several Tata buses to ply Rivers roads under the Rivers State Transport Corporation (RSTC), precursor to the now commercialised Rivers Transport Company (RTC).
As people recovered from war weariness, they began to deploy private commercial vehicles into the public transport space. With time, even motorcycles became the most ubiquitous and were widely used for criminal pursuits which probably led to their ban in Port Harcourt and neighbouring local government areas in early 2009.
For the riverine communities, the administration deployed some state-of-the-art river craft. Marine Base in Port Harcourt was a beehive of activities since it served as a central boarding point for people travelling to distant places like Bonny, Bille, Nembe and Brass. Sadly, no new acquisition of such boats has been made by any administration after Diete-Spiff. There were even indications that successive regimes hardly maintained or kept stock of these vessels. Only recently, this administration was reported to have retrieved a state-owned marine transport vessel abandoned at a naval yard located on the outskirts of Port Harcourt, promising to refurbish and deploy same in no time.
In fact, the last time any past administration did anything meaningful to uplift marine transportation in the state was probably in 1988 when the then Col. Anthony Ukpo built the Nembe/Bonny/Bille Jetty, now being rebuilt by Barrister Nyesom Wike. The incumbent governor’s desire to revive marine transportation in Rivers State is already palpable having since reconstructed and commissioned the ATC Jetty in Okrika and also directed the Ministry of Transport to engage relevant professionals to identify and rebuild dilapidated jetties across the state.
For the greater part of the last 50 years, air travels from Rivers State had been through the Port Harcourt International Airport at Omagwa. The Port Harcourt Aerodrome (now Air Force Base) which had served as the only such air facility around still retains the patronage of some notable domestic airlines like Aero, Arik Air and Caverton. After a period of being rated among the world’s worst airports, Port Harcourt Airport is currently undergoing rehabilitation in line with the Federal Government’s new aviation sector master plan initiated by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. Besides jet planes, helicopters are also regular sights across the Rivers airspace while mainly undertaking to provide transport and logistical services to the oil and gas companies. Bristow, Aero, Caverton and OAS are some of the leading operators in this subsector.
Rail transportation to which Port Harcourt always served as a very busy terminus became dysfunctional in the 1990s. Save for the shuttle services intermittently provided by the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) around the Lagos-Abeokuta axis, the entire system seemed to have ground to a halt all over the country. Here in Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili, as governor in 2002, successfully arranged rehabilitation of a train engine and some coaches (tagged Rivline) to provide shuttle services between Port Harcourt and Imo Gate, near Oyigbo. Even at the risk of sounding callous, it is extremely disappointing that this laudable arrangement failed to outlive the Odili tenure.
The ongoing railways rehabilitation being undertaken by the present Federal Government is, indeed, a carryover from the immediate past administration. According to the erstwhile Managing Director of NRC, Engr. Adeseyi Sijuwade, completion of the Aba-Port Harcourt rail is aimed at facilitating business transaction between Ariaria International Market in Aba and the popular Oil Mill, Rumuwoji and Mile 3 Markets in Port Harcourt. This, he said, would also help to reduce stress on the Port Harcourt- Aba Expressway.
Housing provision has been a thorny issue since inception of the first administration in the state. This was mainly due to the rural-urban movements that resulted from the oil windfall of the early 1970s already referred to above. In fact, from the abandoned property brouhaha in the immediate post-war period to the media war between Governor Okilo and his Imo State counterpart, Chief Sam Mbakwe, in the early 1980s, the housing problem appears to have defied every solution thrown at it. State efforts have actually not been up to scratch, given the bourgeoning population.
A list of prominent government housing projects in the state would most likely include those at Igbo-Etche, Iriebe, Oromineke, Oroije and Trans Amadi. It may also include the units built at some of the LGA headquarters. Also deserving of mention are the urban renewal projects of the Odili era which saw to the demolition of some near-derelict houses in Port Harcourt and their rebuilding into modern multi-storey apartment buildings.
Chibuike Amaechi’s tenure would surely be credited with initiating the Greater Port Harcourt project aimed at developing a new city away from the already congested old township. Under his watch, laws were enacted to stop extortions from property developers by community youths and other touts who forcibly demanded ‘marching ground’ payments. The process of land registration and certificate of occupancy issuance was greatly enhanced with the introduction of the Geographic Information System (GIS).
Then enter Governor Wike with the construction and commissioning of 50 medium-income housing units at Iriebe as part of activities to mark his first 100 days in office. The ongoing land reclamation project at the Ogbunabali/Nkpogu Creek on Eastern By-pass is reported to be his administration’s brain child aimed at developing a housing estate for Rivers people while also serving to beautify the area. In fact, the governor was said to have promised easy land access and tax incentives to first-time investors in housing and property development, alongside those in agriculture, ICT skills development, tourism and hospitality.
Wike has also recently demonstrated the rare will to evict illegal occupants and repossess abandoned government housing projects after lackluster attempts by previous administrations.
Afam Power Station was already in existence at the time of states creation and commencement of the civil war. Like the Port Harcourt Refinery and Bonny Tank Farm, it also got its share of crossfire damages. But just as in the pre-war period, the existence of this thermal power facility was hardly felt beyond Port Harcourt. Even Oyigbo and Afam communities which host this gigantic power plant got connected to its supply only a few years ago.
Rural electrification was hardly on the cards of the military until 1979 when the first civilian administration headed by Okilo built the Kolo Creek Gas Turbine at Imiringi (now in Bayelsa) to serve communities in that axis of the state. He also tried to ensure the distribution of giant electricity generating sets to various communities across the state. Unfortunately, a number of these generators were reportedly vandalised while awaiting conclusion of the power distribution process in some benefitting communities.
In the entire Rivers State, only Bonny and Omoku could be said to have long enjoyed steady electricity supplies, having been served by the gas turbines operated by Shell and Nigerian Agip in their respective domains.
As is virtually the case elsewhere in Nigeria, the power sector privatisation of 2013 has hardly enhanced the economy of Rivers State. Complaints against the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) which serves the state and three others have ranged from estimated billing, frequent outages, workers’ strikes, frequent price hikes to poor equipment maintenance. Recently, Port Harcourt hoteliers threatened to shun public power consumption on account of overbilling and poor supply.
If the power problem can be resolved in Rivers State and indeed the nation, only heaven knows the extent to which the economy would benefit. This is the general belief, all things being equal.
The Tide Keeps Flowing At 49
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
‘We’ll Continue To Advance Rivers Interests’
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.
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.
Nigerian Entertainment @59 …So Far, So Good
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.
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