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Anniversary Special

Rivers Infrastructure @ 50: A Giant Leap?



In the closing days of the struggle for the creation of Rivers State, the founding fathers must have looked forward to a great future for the State. Why not? After all, the much expected independence from a neocolonial regime of the Eastern Region was at hand. Besides, the young State had a bright prospect.
The weather was generally good, and the lands and rivers sumptuous for good farming and fishing to feed the State population and export market. The people of the young State were, and are still, energetic and hardworking. Of course, 80 percent of the working population were traders, farmers and fishermen and could work in the farms and rivers from sunrise to sunset.
As a bonus, they had oil under their feet which made the story sweeter and their future even rosier. As far back as 1956, there was oil in commercial quantity at Oloibiri in the present day Bayelsa State, followed by the discovery of oil deposit at Afam in 1957 and other ones at Ebubu and Bunu in Ogoniland in 1958. Till date, Rivers State remains the hub of oil industry in the country.
Like a rose fresh from a good night’s sleep, the State was in its pristine, looking regal and vibrant in its new enclave.
Reminiscent of the October 1, 1960 independence day when Nigeria gained freedom from the British colonialists, the creation of Rivers State, along with 11 others, on May 27, 1967, by the General Yakubu Gowon military regime, was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. The people couldn’t hold back their joy and excitement. The Ikwerres, Kalabaris, Nembes, Okrikans, Ogonis, Ibanis, Andonis, Etches and other component units that constituted the new State backslapped one another, clinked glasses, rolled out the drums, broke into songs and quick dances, and bade the imperial government of the Eastern Region au revoir.
Why wouldn’t they celebrate? Rivers State was not created by happenstance. It was a product of years of conscientious struggle. May 27, 1967 was, therefore, a liberation day that provided them a visa and vista to decide their own future. The Rivers people could now sing their own anthem merrily and speak their own dialects heartily without reprimand or fear of Dracula fang. Their own men and women, from among themselves, would now be in charge of their own affairs. What a great accomplishment!
Fifty years have, however, passed since Rivers State was created. Five decades is, no doubt, a milestone in the life of an oil-bearing State. But how has the State fared in the last 50 years? How have the Rivers people harnessed the enormous human and natural potentials to better their lots in the area of physical infrastructure?
Like a pendulum, the assessment oscillates between two polar opposites, yet perches on the dishevelled cliff of the State infrastructure.
To many Rivers indigenes, the State has moved beyond where the Eastern region rulers left it in 1967. They are quick to point to a litany of schools, health centres, roads, overhead bridges, factories and basic amenities that dot every nook and cranny of the State.
They are not being cynical. It will be unfair not to admit that Rivers State, despite individual frustrations over the pace of direction of its development, has made progress in the last 50 years. For instance, at creation, the State had just 647 primary schools, 25 secondary schools, no single tertiary institution, no overhead bridge, and a handful of health centres. Again, besides Port Harcourt which is the State capital, no other part of the State was connected to the national grid.
Today, however, the number of these institutions has soared, while physical infrastructures have leapt by 300 percent. There are now over 3,000 public and private primary and post-primary schools in the State, nine tertiary institutions, tens of health institutions, eight overhead bridges and several roads that spread like spaghetti across the 23 local government areas of the state. The state also plays host to scores of companies including oil multinationals.
What is more, the rural communities which were hitherto in perpetual darkness in 1967, have been connected to the national grid. Never mind if those electric cables mounted on wooden poles in the areas do not supply power to homes.
With gradual development of the state came a complete revolution in tastes and styles. Bicycles were changed to motorcycles, and motorcycles to cars. Except in areas that cannot be accessed by roads, nobody travels by bicycle or motorcycle again, let alone canoe. The number of cars, both passenger and private cars, on the roads has almost outpaced the population. If you are in doubt, count the number of vehicles that ply Port Harcourt roads alone. To make the story sweeter, there is an international airport at Omagwa which serves the middle and upper class of the society. All these were not obtainable in 1967.
So, how come the people, the ordinary citizens are so bewildered about the pace of development in the last five decades? Why do they lament the absence of basic social infrastructure like electricity, potable water and affordable housing and healthcare? Why do they complain about high rate of unemployment in the State?
Perhaps, they think the State’s potentials have not been exploited for the greater good of the greatest number. They think there is no tenable reason why the State which plays host to virtually all oil giants in the country and awash in petro-naira over the past 50 years should complain of bad roads, poor electricity, lack of potable water and functional health and educational institutions. They can’t understand why the quantity and quality of social infrastructure in the State is not commensurable with the resources that had so far accrued to the State in the last 50 years, and why the infrastructural development being witnessed in recent time were not in place before now.
There is no gainsaying the fact that few administrations in the State made frantic efforts to develop the State. Such efforts were, however, frustrated by frequent change of baton, occasioned by long years of military interregnum in the State polity. In other words, frequent policy shifts and official graft have proven to be the State’s Achille’s heel in its path to infrastructural development.
Between May 27, 1967 when the State was carved out of the defunct Eastern Region and now, the ship of the State has been piloted by 17 administrators, more often in rudderless manner. Of this number, only six: late Melford Obene Okilo, Rufus Ada George, Peter Otunanya Odili, Celestine Omehia, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and the incumbent Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike were democratically elected. The rest were military careerists who were mostly answerable to military authorities that appointed them.
However, these leaders did the little they could to transform the State, especially Port Harcourt – the State capital.
With 40 per cent of the population as traders, farmers and fishermen, 20 per cent as wage earners and 40 per cent as dependants, the task of birthing the young State on a solid footing was initially daunting in 1967. But the pioneer administration of a 26-year old naval officer, Lt. Commander Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff squared up to the challenges. The regime laid a formidable foundation for the development of the State, such that it became a reference point for successive administrations.
The Diete-Spiff administration, obviously the longest, lasting eight years and two months (May 1967 – July 1975) left indelible imprints in the area of physical development. Among its enduring legacies is the Rivers State Secretariat Complex, the tallest and biggest government secretariat in the country, second only to the federal secretariat in Abuja. The secretariat complex, located at the heart of Port Harcourt, is a cluster of about six nine-storey building; while the principal secretariat, popularly known as the ‘Point Block’ which currently houses the offices of the Secretary to the State Government, Head of Service and some State ministries, is 17-storey high, the tallest building in the whole of the South South and South East of Nigeria.
Other legacy projects of Diete-Spiff’s administration include the first state sports complex (Sharks Stadium) and the first and only civic centre, both located in the centre of Port Harcourt; the first tertiary institution in the State which is the Rivers State College of Science and Technology, the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publisher of the Nigerian Tide, now The Tide; and the Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, popularly known as Radio Rivers.
Meanwhile, some companies inherited from the Eastern Region government that are now moribund, such as West African Glass Industry, Waterglass Boatyard and Delta Rubber Industry, were well sustained by Diete-Spiff’s government to provide employment for the youth population.
Also under Diete-Spiff, the State had Pabod Supply, Pabod Breweries, Rivers State Transport Corporation, Rivbank Insurance, Risonpalm, Hotel Presidential (now being run in partnership with a Lebanese company), Olympia Hotel (now moribund) and catering rest houses in every local government area of the State. His government also established schools for specially gifted children; built a 30-bed hospital in all the local government headquarters, constructed new school buildings, repaired old ones, built canals in the riverine areas to ease movement in the creeks and connected the towns in the upland through construction of good roads.
Though the breathtaking, arguably unbreakable record of Diete-Spiff’s administration was propelled by the oil boom era of 1970s and concentrated development in Port Harcourt, there is a general consensus that the pioneer administration in the State erected a solid foundation for successive governments to build on.
But were Diete-Spiff’s legacies built upon by successive administrations? May be. May be not.
The succeeding regimes, so to say, performed according to their abilities. But in concrete terms, the military interregnum in the State nay country, lasting over 19 years after Diete-Spiff’s, bequeathed red indicators to the State. Thus, development in the intervening years was nothing much to cheer about.
Following the concentration of development in Port Harcourt by previous administrations, the desire for higher education, employment opportunities, modern social amenities and generally better living condition which were non-existent in the rural communities encouraged mass exodus to the State capital. This threw up fresh socio-economic challenges and put pressure on the existing infrastructure in Port Harcourt.
This situation, peradventure, informed the decentralization policy of the first Chief Executive Governor of the State, Late Chief Melford Obene Okilo, whose tenure, between October 1979 and December 1983, witnessed gradual transformation of rural areas through the “stepping down” of governance to zonal enclaves.
Okilo is believed to have focused on rural development.  He made good efforts to extend the one-city syndrome of Rivers State. It is difficult, however, to say if he was successful in spite of the number of infrastructural facilities he and other governors after him sited in the rural areas, because to date, Rivers State is still a one-city state.
Nevertheless, Okilo’s administration built schools in rural communities, upgraded the Rivers State College of Science and Technology built by Diete-Spiff’s government and converted it into a degree awarding university known as Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now the Rivers State University; initiated rural housing scheme in the State, built industrial estates in Port Harcourt and also undertook programmes to reclaim land, control erosion and construct roads and canals. His regime is also credited with the building of Port Harcourt International Airport Hotel at Omagwa (now moribund).
Meanwhile, the regime started rural electrification in the State. One of such power projects is an independent power plant – the Kolo Creek Gas Turbine at Imiringi in Ogbia Local Government Area, now in Bayelsa State.
The Rufus Ada George administration which was the second democratically elected government in the State between January 1992 and November 1993, was short-lived, and therefore, couldn’t do much in terms of infrastructural development before the military regime of late General Sani Abacha came to power through a coup de’tat in November 1993 and dissolved the Third Republic. His regime, nonetheless, conceived the over N4 billion Okrika Ring Road which was completed and named after the former governor by the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi administration.
The regime of Dr Peter Otunaya Odili which kick-started the current democratic dispensation in the State in 1999 made some appreciable efforts in the area of physical infrastructure. Although Odili’s eight-year administration was flamboyant and tended to favour more human development, it left some valuable imprints in the area of infrastructure.
The achievements cut across housing, education, health service delivery, road construction and empowerment programme. But the high point of the administration was in the area of power supply. Besides creating the State Ministry of Power, the Odili government built a 150 megawatt Omoku Gas Turbine and another 36 megawatt gas plant at Trans-Amadi to generate electricity to the state. This is in addition to the rehabilitation of Afam Power Station and the Eleme Gas Turbine built but abandoned by OMPADEC. The regime also introduced traffic lights on major roads in Port Harcourt.
His administration built the present State House of Assembly and a befitting Government House complex in addition to the already existing old edifice at the Brick House; completed the State Ministry of Justice started during the Diete-Spiff era; reconstructed and modernised the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH), completed the Igbo-Etche Housing project started by Sam Ewang’s government, and saturated the State with modern housing units at Eleme, Bori, Emohua, Elele, Isiokpo, Ahoada and Port Harcourt.
The dredging of the Nta-Wogba Creek was another legacy project of the Odili administration, while the regime also initiated and completed several road projects and two flyovers in the State. Among them are Oginigba-Woji-Elelenwo Road, Choba-Aluu Road, Omoku Road, Rumuola Flyover and an overpass at Air-Force, along G.U. Ake Road.
The Celestine Omehia administration which took over from Odili’s was the shortest in the history of Rivers State. The regime lasted barely five months before it was shoved aside by the Supreme Court ruling that pronounced Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as the authentic occupant of the Brick House.
However, Omehia’s government will be remembered for initiating few legacy projects such as the Eleme Roundabout Flyover, the Eliozu Flyover and Rumuwoji (Mile One) Market, all of whom were redesigned and completed by Amaechi’s government. His administration also started the abandoned Rivmall at Aba Road.
Like many other administrations before it, the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi government that succeeded Omehia’s started with massive investments on roads, education, health care, housing and development of Greater Port Harcourt City. The regime, however, at its twilight, caved in to political extremity at the expense of State’s infrastructure.
Nevertheless, Amaechi has the construction of 350 model primary schools with at least 10 in each local government, 24 model boarding secondary schools across the 23 local government area of the State, 160 modern primary health centres, with at least five in each local government area, Dental Hospital at Garrison and a 100-bed Harrison Kelsy Specialist Hospital at Diobu, as some of the enduring legacies of his administration.
Others include an ultra-modern Port Harcourt Mall at Azikwe Road, near the Government House; Obi Wali International Conference Centre at G.U. Ake Road, a 25,000 capacity Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium at Igwuruta, Songhai Integrated Farm at Bunu in Tai Local Government Area, the N1.5bn modern fish farm in Buguma, a network of roads across the State, including two flyovers, one at Agip Junction, Mile Four and the other at Obiri Ikwerre Interchange along East West Road, and low cost housing units at Iriebe and Rainbow Town in Trans Amadi which is still under construction.
Amaechi’s government also undertook land reclamation in Ogu Bolo, constructed the Bolo Bridge to link the area with the rest of the State by land; completed the N3.9 billion Okrika Ring Road which was awarded by Odili’s administration at the initial cost of N900 million, and initiated the Andoni/Opobo Unity Road and ring roads at the Kalabari-Okrika axis which are under construction by the Governor Nyesom Wike government. The regime also upgraded the Rivers State College of Education to a university.
Arguably, the most ambitious project of Amaechi’s government is the development of the Greater Port Harcourt City. The Greater Port Harcourt City Development Programme (GPCDP) as the project is being called, and which the Wike administration is fine-tuning, is designed to decongest the old Port Harcourt Township, expand social infrastructure and provide employment and investment opportunity for the people of the State. Already, the city has been designed to accommodate some structural development projects such as the new site of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, now Rivers State University; Justice Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital and Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium which was completed by Amaechi’s government.
While the Greater Port Harcourt City is perceived to be the most ambitious project of Amaechi’s government, the abandoned monorail project, estimated to gulp N60 billion, appears to be grandiose. In truth, the vision to ease off transportation problem in Port Harcourt by the Amaechi administration was not lacking, but the will to execute the vision was in short supply.
As a Rivers State elder statesman and Niger Delta activist, Mr Sokari Soberekon rightly observed in an interview with The Tide, unless the multi-million naira monorail project is taken over by the Federal Government, the over N30 billion sunk into the project by Amaechi’s government might be a waste and the project itself a pipe dream.
Government, supposedly, is a continuum. Sadly, policy inconsistencies have, over the years, put a cog in the wheel of progress and development of the State. This fact was not lost on the present administration led by Chief Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike. The regime thus took upon itself the responsibility of completing all uncompleted but viable projects inherited from its predecessor, notwithstanding the political differences between the duo.
Within two years of his administration, Governor Wike has turned Rivers State into a huge construction site. Besides the operation zero pothole programme which has seen to the delivery of more than 130 roads in Obio/Akpor, Eleme, Oyigbo and Port Harcourt local government areas, Wike’s government has completed over 150 road projects across the State, with several others on various stages of completion. The major ones among them are N13 billion Abuloma – Woji Link Road, Ilaobuchi – Eagle Island Link Road, Abonnema-Obonoma Link Road with a bridge, Igwuruta-Etche Road, Obiri-Ikwerre Road, the recently commissioned NLNG – Nkpogu Road, East-West Airport (Prof. Tam David West) Boulevard, Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road, Trans Amadi Industrial Layout Road, the 16 kilometre Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road that straddles three local government areas in Ogoniland, and three federal roads  that are critical  to economic development of the State, namely the NPA Industrial Road, Eleme-Onne Junction of the East-West Road and the 6.6 kilometre Igwuruta-Chokocho-Okehi highway, among several others.
Meanwhile, there are some legacy projects the Wike government has delivered that place it far ahead of its predecessors, aside Diette-Spiff’s. These include the multi-million naira relaxation centre – the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park at Rumuola, Ecumenical Centre beside Sylverbird Cinema at Abonnema Wharf Road, the N498 million ultra-modern NBA Law Centre located opposite Port Harcourt City Council, Law Faculty building for the Rivers State University, a Federal High Court and over 50 housing units of two and three bedroom flats at the Iriebe Housing Estate.
Meanwhile, the Wike-led government, in a bid to develop a world class education system in the State, upgraded Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokuta and Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori which are among the pilot schools selected for the re-introduction of boarding school system in the State.
The approval rating of Governor Wike in the last two years has continued to soar up, given the pace of developmental projects he has executed and which earns him ‘Mr Projects’ from a no less personality than the Acting  President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the State, Bro Felix Obuah, declared that apart from the pioneer administration of Diete-Spiff, no regime has bequeathed as much legacy projects to the State as Wike’s government.
Bro Obuah, while speaking with some members of The Tide Editorial Board on Wednesday, at his Eagle Island home, assured that by the time the present administration in the State winds up, Governor Wike would have turned Rivers State into a Dubai.
There is no doubt that the journey by Rivers State in the last 50 years has been eventful, especially given the level of infrastructural development in the State. Although  the State may have made mistakes and lost opportunities in the last 50 years, as Governor Wike rightly noted, while unveiling the Golden  Jubilee logo for the celebration of the State’s 50th anniversary in January, this year, it has also made significant progress that calls for celebration.
Governor Wike captured the reasons for the celebration this way: “Before its (Rivers State) creation, our people, including our brothers from Bayelsa State, existed as second class citizens in their country. They were oppressed, exploited, dehumanized and denied even the most basic opportunities of life.
“Every Rivers person was, therefore, relieved when General Yakubu Gowon (the then Head of State), on May 27, 1967, dismantled the regional geopolitical fortresses of majority domination and pronounced the creation of Rivers State. It unchained and restored our rights to preside over our affairs and pursue our developmental aspirations with a united Nigeria.
“Over the past 50 years, we have travelled quite a marvelous journey. We have made some significant progress no doubt, but we have also made mistakes and lost valuable opportunities.
“It is in this spirit that we have initiated the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of our creation and existence as a State to express our joy and thank God for boundless blessings upon us as a people. We want our people to use this occasion of our Golden Jubilee to unite and together reflect on the tortuous and eventful journey into the future with hope and determination”.
Indeed, with the human and natural deposits in the State, over 90 industrial concerns including virtually all oil multinationals, banks, two seaports, an international airport at Omagwa, an ultra-modern shopping complex (Port Harcourt Mall) at Azikwe Road, one federal university, two State-owned universities, one federal polytechnic at Bonny, two State-owned polytechnics, a Federal Technical College of Education at Omoku, two schools of health technology, two of the largest fertilizer production plants in the country, two petroleum refineries, a functional Rivers State Transport Corporation, an industrial layout at Trans-Amadi and a network of good roads and waterways, it is certain the future of Rivers State is assured.
What is needed, however, is good leadership to exploit and harness these resources for the benefit of Rivers people and generations yet unborn. Luckily, the present leadership led by Governor Wike appears to be too eager to pursue that path.

Boye Salau

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Anniversary Special

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

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Anniversary Special

‘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.
(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.
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



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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