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‘Nigeria’s Economic Recovery ’ll Pick Up Pace In 2018’

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Being a text of the 2018 Budget Proposals presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Exerpts.

Protocols
I am here to present 2018 Budget Proposals. Before presenting the Budget, let me thank all of you distinguished and honourable members of the National Assembly, and indeed all Nigerians, for your support and prayers for my full recovery while I was on medical vacation.
I am very pleased to address this Joint Session of the National Assembly, on the revenue and expenditure estimates, and related matters, of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the 2018 fiscal year.
The 2018 Budget will consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2018 – 2020.
Overview Of Economic Developments In 2017
2017, so far, has been a year of uncertainty on many fronts across the world. Whether it is Brexit, the crisis in the Korean Peninsular, or indeed, the political uncertainty in key oil producing nations of the Middle East and South America, we can all agree that these developments have in one way or another impacted Nigeria’s economic fortunes.
By all accounts, 2018 is expected to be a year of better outcomes. The tepid economic recovery is expected to pick up pace and the global political terrain is expected to stabilise. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is anticipating global GDP growth of 3.7 percent in 2018. Emerging markets and developing economies are expected to lead with GDP growth of 4.9 percent, while advanced economies are projected to grow at a slower rate of 2 percent.
Nigeria’s journey out of the recent recession was a revealing one. We heard many opinions from within and outside Nigeria on how best to address our economic woes. We listened carefully and studied these proposals diligently. Our belief has always been that the quickest and easiest solution may not necessarily be the best solution for a nation as diverse as ours. We took our time to create a balanced and equitable response, keeping in mind that only tailored Nigerian solutions can fix Nigeria’s unique problems.
And from the recovery that we are seeing today, it is clear that we made the right decisions. Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, I am now asking you to continue to support our economic policies in order to consolidate and sustain on the success achieved so far. We simply cannot go back.
In the non-oil sector, crop production has been one of the main contributors to non-oil growth, which rose to 0.45 percent in the second quarter of this year. This was primarily driven by our ongoing financial, capacity building and infrastructure development programs.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, working with development partners and the private sector, has embarked on numerous capacity building projects. We have also completed over 33,000 Hectares of Irrigation Projects that have increased water availability in key food producing states. We shall continue to intensify our interventions through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to ensure that this momentum is sustained. We have also made provisions in the 2018 Budget to complete ongoing Irrigation Projects at Ada, in Enugu State; Lower Anambra, in Anambra State; and Gari, in Jigawa State. In 2017, many factories and projects in the food and agricultural sectors were commissioned in Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Anambra, Edo, Jigawa, Rivers, Niger, Ogun and Ebonyi States, to mention a few. This is a clear statement that our economic diversification and inclusive growth ambitions are coming to fruition.
Significant progress has also been made in the Solid Minerals development sector. In Ondo State, for instance, work is ongoing to fully exploit the bitumen resources to meet the 600,000 MTs of asphalt imported per annum for roads and other construction projects. To consolidate on these efforts, we have also established a 30 billion Naira Solid Minerals Development Fund to support other minerals exploration activities across the country.
In the oil and gas sector, the relatively higher crude oil prices supported our economic recovery. Our mutually beneficial engagement with oil producing communities in the Niger Delta contributed immensely to the recovery in oil production experienced in recent months. We would like to thank the leadership and communities in the Niger-Delta for their continued support and to also reiterate our assurances that this Administration will continue to honour our commitments to them. We cannot afford to go back to those dark days of insecurity and vandalism. We all want a country that is safe, stable and secure for our families and communities. This means we must all come together to address any grievances through dialogue and peaceful engagement. Threats, intimidation or violence are never the answer.
We are working hard on the Ogoni Clean-up Project. During the year, we engaged 8 international and local companies proposing different technologies for the mandate. To enable us select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work, we asked each company to conduct Demonstration Clean-up Exercises in the 4 Local Government Areas of Ogoni Land. These Demonstrations were recently concluded and the results are being studied by the Governing Council of the Ogoni Clean-up Project. Although the Project will be funded by the International Oil Companies, we have made provisions in the 2018 Budget for the costs of oversight and governance, to ensure effective implementation.
On the international front, I would like to thank our friends and partners in the Joint OPEC / Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) who graciously granted Nigeria an exemption from the output cuts imposed on OPEC Member Countries in January 2017. This exemption, which was extended in September 2017, significantly helped during our most challenging time. We shall continue our positive engagement with other oil producing nations to ensure that the momentum generated is sustained.
Permit me, Mr Senate President and Right Honourable Speaker, to state that despite the downturn in oil prices and our challenging economic circumstances, this Administration was able to invest an unprecedented sum of over 1.2 trillion Naira in capital projects through the 2016 Budget. This is the highest ever in the history of this country. This is a clear demonstration of our commitment to consolidate on our economic diversification reforms and lay a stronger foundation for future growth and development.
Our Sovereign Wealth Fund, which was established in 2011 with US$1 billion, did not receive additional investment for 4 years when oil prices were as high as US$120 per barrel. However, despite record low oil prices, this Administration was able to invest an additional US$500 million into the Fund. This further demonstrates that in our struggle to have a stable and secure nation today, we have not, and will not, lose sight of the need to lay a solid foundation for the future prosperity of successive generations.
We have asked the Sovereign Wealth Fund to look inward and invest locally. Some of the successes we are seeing today in the agricultural sector are driven by this new investment approach by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). The NSIA also has a very strong pipeline of local investments that will support our inclusive and diversified economic growth plan.
Stability has been restored to the foreign exchange market due to the interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria to improve access to liquidity, discourage currency speculation and increase net foreign exchange inflows. As at the 30th of October, 2017, our external reserves had increased to US$34bn. This stability has supported our efforts to provide the enabling environment and interventions needed to empower Micro, Small and Medium-Sized enterprises, investors, manufacturers and exporters, to sustain and in some cases, grow their operations. Indeed, by the second quarter of 2017, exports significantly outpaced imports, resulting in a trade surplus of 506.5 billion Naira.
Ease of Doing Business Reforms
One of the targets we set for gauging our progress in creating an enabling environment for business was to achieve a positive movement in the World Ease of Doing Business Index. You would recall Nigeria experienced a decade-long decline in this ranking. In 2008, Nigeria was ranked 120th. By 2015, our situation had deteriorated to 169th of the 189 countries surveyed. Our very simple, logical and user-friendly reforms are reversing this trend. A recently released World Bank business ranking report announced that Nigeria had moved 24 places to 145th position in 2017. I am delighted that we have met and even surpassed our target of moving at least 20 paces up this global ranking. The same World Bank report also stated that Nigeria is among the top 10 reforming countries in the world.
To ensure these reforms are institutionalised, Executive Order Number 1 on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment was issued in May 2017. The Order contained measures that ease the process of business registration, approval of permits, granting visas and streamlining port operations. We are committed to continuing and accelerating the Ease of Doing Business reforms, which are critical to attracting new investments, growing the economy and creating jobs for our people.
Improved Tax Administration
Although the economy is diversified with non-oil Sector accounting for over 90 percent of total Nominal GDP, the Government’s revenues are not as diversified yet. Our Tax-to-GDP ratio of about 6% is one of the lowest in the world. This situation is not consistent with our goal of having a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy. Accordingly, we are stepping up efforts to ensure all taxable Nigerians comply with the legal requirement to declare income from all sources and remit taxes due to the appropriate authorities.
Already, we have introduced the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) on the 1st of July, 2017. The Scheme provides non-compliant taxpayers with a nine-month window to regularise their tax status relating to historical periods. In return, overdue interest and penalties will be forgiven. In addition, no investigations or criminal charges will be brought against participating taxpayers. We expect that this Scheme will widen the tax net for both the Federal and State Governments. I am therefore, asking all Nigerians to seize this opportunity and do the right thing. Let us not shy away from our duty to build a better Nigeria.
Optimising Efficiency in Expenditure
In 2016, this administration adopted a policy of allocating at least 30 percent of our annual budget to capital expenditure. This was entrenched in the ERGP to unlock further growth in the economy. This tradition was maintained in the 2017 Budget and has been reflected in the proposal for 2018, in which 30.8 percent of total expenditure has been set aside for the capital vote.
To support these efforts, you would recall that an Efficiency Unit was set up under the Federal Ministry of Finance to reduce wastage, plug leakages and foster greater fiscal transparency. We have intensified the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) across government MDAs to automate personnel records and salaries’ payment process, with the goal of eliminating ghost workers. 461 Federal MDAs have been captured on the system, so far. Our target is to enroll all MDAs. I have directed the military and other security agencies to ensure total compliance without further delay.
Increased Investment in Infrastructure
Mr Senate President, and the Right Honourable Speaker, we shall continue to develop our infrastructure across the country. Although a lot of progress has been made, the huge contractor liabilities we inherited have adversely impacted our infrastructure development timetable. Indeed, contractors were owed trillions of Naira when this Administration came into office. In some areas, we have made payments so projects may be completed; while in others, we are reconciling the liabilities to identify and settle legitimate claims. As a responsible and accountable Administration, we decided that clearing this backlog was an important priority.
For instance, at the outset of this Administration in 2015, the Abuja Metro-Rail Project, which began in 2007 was only 50 percent completed, after 8 years. Today, in just 18 months, we have pushed the project to 98 percent completion. This was achieved as the Nigerian Government was diligently able to meet its counterpart funding obligations for the Chinese loans.
We have also continued work on key strategic Roads. Over 766 kilometres of roads were constructed or rehabilitated across the country in 2017. For instance, work is at various stages of completion on these strategic roads with immense socio-economic benefits:
a.  Rehabilitation of Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa-Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna Road;
b. Dualisation of Oyo-Ogbomosho-Ilorin Road;
c.  Rehabilitation of Gombe-Numan-Yola Road;
d. Dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri Road;
e.   Rehabilitation of Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega Road and Kotangora-Makera Road that transverse Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger States;
f.   Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road;
g. Rehabilitation of Enugu-Onitsha Dual Carriageway Road;
h.  Rehabilitation of Aleshi-Ugep Road and the Iyamoyun-Ugep Section in Cross River State;
i.  Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Expansion of Lagos-Ibadan Dual Carriageway Road;
j.   Construction of Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States; and
k.  Construction Gokanni Bridge along Tegina-Mokwa-Jebba Road in Niger State.
Under the Federal Roads Development Programme, we recently completed a Data Collection Exercise on the 7,000km Federal Road Network which was funded by the World Bank. This information is enabling us to make informed decisions regarding the planning, budgeting and management of the Federal Road Network. Going forward, we will be working based on facts rather than subjectivity.
Furthermore, we have also invested a lot of time and effort in identifying alternative means of funding new projects. For example, the recent 100 billion Naira Sukuk Financing will cater specifically for the development of 25 roads across the country. We also developed different structures that empower private investors to contribute to the development of roads of significant national importance. Already, we are seeing results. For example:
a.    The Bonny-Bodo Road is being jointly funded by the Federal Government and Nigeria LNG Limited. This project was conceived decades ago but it was abandoned. This Administration restarted the project and when completed, it will enable road transportation access for key communities in the Niger- Delta region; and
b.    The Apapa Wharf-Toll Gate Road in Lagos State is also being constructed by private sector investors in exchange for tax credits.
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly, our Power Sector Reforms still remain a work in progress. Although we have increased generation capacity significantly, we still have challenges with the Transmission and Distribution Networks. That said, I am pleased to announce that since 2015, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) have added 1,950 MVA of 330-132kV transformer capacity at 10 Transmission stations, as well as 2,930 MVA of 132-33kV transformer capacity to 42 substations nationwide. With these additions, the Transmission Network today can handle up to 7,000 Mega Watts (MW).
The key bottleneck now is the Distribution Network where the substations cannot take more than 5,000 MW. This is constraining power delivery to consumers. We are working with the privatized Distribution Companies to see how to overcome this challenge. Nigerians should be rest assured that this Administration is doing all it can to alleviate the embarrassing power situation in this country.
Furthermore, to sustain the continued expansion of generation capacity and enhance evacuation, we approved a Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) to raise 701 billion Naira. This assures the Generation Companies of up to 80% payment on their invoices. This intervention has brought confidence back into the sector and we expect additional investment to flow through, particularly in the gas production sector.
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly, this Administration is committed to the development of Green Alternative Energy Sources. To date, we have signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with 14 solar companies. We also approved:
a.    The completion of the 10 MW Wind Farm in Katsina State, a project that was abandoned since 2012; and
b.    The concession of 6 small hydro-electric power plants with a total capacity of 50 MW.
To enable the successful take-off of these, and future Green Projects, I am pleased to inform this Distinguished Assembly that the Federal Government will be launching the first African Sovereign Green Bond in December 2017. The bond will be used to finance renewable energy projects. We are very excited about this development as it will go a long way in solving many of our energy challenges, especially in the hinterland.
On Rail, we recently received 2 additional locomotives and 10 standard gauge coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line. These will be deployed for the new non-stop express service between the two cities that will only take one hour and fifteen minutes. This new service will complement the existing service currently in place. We plan to commission this by December 2017.
We have also kick-started the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line. This project has been on for over 17 years. We had to take some drastic measures but I am pleased to announce that work is ongoing and we expect to commission this service by September 2018. This service will start with 7 standard gauge coaches.
The situation at the Apapa port complex is a top priority for this Administration. The delays due to congestion and their adverse impact on business operations and costs is a key concern to our Government. As I mentioned earlier, we are partnering with the private sector to fix the road. We shall do the right thing considering. We will not cut corners.
In addition to the road, we have also commenced the extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Line to connect Apapa and Tin Can Port Complexes. This project will significantly ease the congestion at the ports and enhance both export and import operations. This project shall be completed by December 2018. Already, working with the private sector, we have repaired the Apapa Port Narrow Gauge Line which is currently being used to evacuate goods from the port, thereby easing congestion.
As we all know, sometimes doing the right thing takes time and requires sacrifices. I am therefore appealing to all stakeholders to work with us in ensuring we deliver a solution that we will all be proud of.
Certainly, the infrastructure requirement to reposition Nigeria for the future is huge and our resources are limited. Government, therefore, will pursue private partnerships to maximise available capital and developmental impact. In the next fiscal year, we will also establish 7 tertiary health institutions across the country through partnership with our Sovereign Wealth Fund and other private sector investors.
Agricultural Development
The agricultural sector played a crucial role in Nigeria’s exit from recession. Today, it remains the largest employer of labour and holds significant potential to realise our vision of repositioning Nigeria as a food secured nation.
We will consolidate on existing policies and develop new ones to ensure the numerous value chain challenges in the agricultural sector are addressed. As I mentioned earlier, several investors have deployed significant capital in the production and processing of rice, sugar, maize, soya, cassava, yams, tomato, oil palm, rubber and poultry, to mention a few. We are also seeing increased investment in the agro-inputs manufacturing sector such as fertilisers.
We are determined to protect these investments and encourage more. Food Security is an important aspect of this Administration’s National Security agenda. Any person involved in smuggling of food items is a threat to our National Security and will therefore be dealt with accordingly. A Committee chaired by the Vice President is working on this matter. A key part of their work will be the reactivation of the Badagry Agreement signed between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin in 2003. This agreement, which was abandoned by previous Administrations, established a mutually beneficial framework for the two neighbours and allies to partner in tackling smuggling and other cross border crimes. I would like to assure investors in the agricultural value chain that the menace of smuggling will be handled decisively.
To further support investors and State Governments, we will accelerate the establishment of at least 6 Staple Crop Processing Zones, in the first phase. This initiative will develop infrastructure for the production, processing and storage of strategic commodities. The focus is on backward integration for grains, horticulture, livestock, fisheries and sugar; as well as exportable commodities such as cocoa, cassava and oil palms.
Health Sector Developments
During 2017, the country had a number of disease outbreaks such as Meningitis, Yellow Fever, Monkey Pox and Lassa Fever. I would like to commend the Federal and State Ministries of Health for their selfless service and timely responses to contain these outbreaks. I would also like to thank the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund and UNICEF, for their continued support during these trying times. This collaboration was a key factor in the low mortality rates experienced. To further improve our response to such outbreaks, we are working to upgrade our Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System. This will further enhance the efficiency of our diagnostic and clinical management processes.
In this respect, I urge this Distinguished House to expedite the passage of the Bill for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to enable us consolidate on the successes recorded to date.
Implementing the Social Investment Program
I am pleased to inform you that we have recorded tremendous success in the implementation of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme. Specifically,
a.    Over 4.5 million Primary 1 to Primary 3 pupils in public schools are being fed under the School Feeding programme;
b.    Over 200,000 unemployed graduates have been employed under the N-Power Scheme in education, health and agricultural sectors;
c.    Over 250,000 enterprises have benefitted from the sum of 12.5 billion Naira, which has been disbursed to entrepreneurs to expand their businesses; and
d.    Over 110,000 households are currently benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme across the country.
Performance Of The 2017 Budget
The 2017 Budget of Recovery and Growth was based on a benchmark oil price of US$44.5 per barrel, oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day, and a Naira-to-US Dollar Exchange Rate of 305. Based on these assumptions, total revenue of 5.084 trillionNaira was projected to fund aggregate expenditure of 7.441 trillion Naira. A projected fiscal deficit of 2.356 trillion Naira was to be financed mainly by domestic and external borrowing.
On revenue performance, collections were 14 percent below target as of September 2017, mainly due to the shortfall in non-oil revenues.
A key revenue shortfall was from Independent Revenues; only 155.14 billion Naira was remitted by September 2017 as against the projected pro-rated sum of 605.87 billion Naira. This represents a 74 percent shortfall, which is very disappointing.
This recurring issue of under-remittance of operating surpluses by State Owned Entities is absolutely unacceptable. You will all recall that in September 2017, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) announced that they were ready to remit 7.8 billion Naira back to the Government. The shocking discovery was that in the last decades, JAMB only remitted an aggregate of 51 million Naira. This clearly illustrates the abuses that occur in State Owned Entities as well as their potential for increased Independent Revenues, if only people would do the right thing. We all need to play our role to ensure the right thing is done. I would also like to remind Nigerians that the Whistle Blower lines are still open.
Accordingly, I have directed the Economic Management Team (EMT) to review the fiscal profiles of these agencies, to ensure strict compliance with the applicable Executive Orders and Financial Regulations. There may be a need to consider a review of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Executive will be approaching the National Assembly on this issue in due course.
On the expenditure side, a total of 450 billion Naira of the capital vote had been released as at the end of October 2017. With your support for our funding plan, our target is to release up to 50% of the capital vote for MDAs by the year’s end.  We have prioritised payments of our counterpart obligations on our concessionary loans, as well as funding of critical infrastructure and other projects with socio-economic benefits. Furthermore, MDAs have made provisions to carry over to the 2018 Budget, capital projects that are not likely to be fully funded by year-end 2017, to ensure project continuity.
Regrettably, the late passage of the 2017 Budget has significantly constrained budget implementation. As you are aware, the 1999 Constitution authorized necessary Federal Government expenditures prior to the 12th of June, 2017 when the 2017 Appropriation Act was signed into law. This year, we have worked very hard to achieve an earlier submission of the Medium-term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP), and the 2018 Appropriation Bill. Our efforts were to avail the National Assembly with sufficient time to perform its important duty of passing the Appropriation Bill into law, hopefully by the 1st of January, 2018. It is in this spirit that I solicit the cooperation of the Legislature in our efforts to return to a more predictable budget cycle that runs from January to December.
Priorities For The 2018 Budget Of Consolidation
The 2018 Budget Proposals are for a Budget of Consolidation. Our principal objective will be to reinforce and build on our recent accomplishments. Specifically, we will sustain the reflationary policies of our past two budgets. In this regard, the key parameters and assumptions for the 2018 Budget are as set out in the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). These include:
a.    Benchmark oil price benchmark of US$45 per barrel;
b.    Oil production estimate of 2.3 million barrels per day, including condensates;
c.    Exchange rate of N305/US$ for 2018;
d.    Real GDP growth of 3.5 percent; and
e.    Inflation Rate of 12.4 percent.
Federally-Collectible Revenue Estimates
Based on the above fiscal assumptions and parameters, total federally-collectible revenue is estimated at 11.983 trillion Naira in 2018. Thus, the three tiers of Government shall receive about 12 percent more revenues in 2018 than the 2017 estimate. Of the amount, the sum of 6.387 trillion Naira is expected to be realised from oil and gas sources. Total receipts from the non-oil sector are projected at 5.597 trillion Naira.
Federal Government Revenue Estimates
The Federal Government’s estimated total revenue is 6.607 trillion Naira in 2018, which is about 30 percent more than the 2017 target. As we pursue our goal of revenue diversification, non-oil revenues will become a larger share of total revenues. In 2018, we project oil revenues of 2.442 trillion Naira, and non-oil as well as other revenues of 4.165 trillion Naira.
Non-oil and other revenue sources of 4.165 trillion Naira, include several items including: Share of Companies Income Tax (CIT) of 794.7 billion Naira, share of Value Added Tax (VAT) of 207.9 billion Naira, Customs & Excise Receipts of 324.9 billion Naira, FGN Independently Generated Revenues (IGR) of 847.9 billion Naira, FGN’s Share of Tax Amnesty Income of 87.8 billion Naira, and various recoveries of 512.4 billion Naira, 710 billion Naira as proceeds from the restructuring of government’s equity in Joint Ventures and other sundry incomes of 678.4 billion Naira.
Proposed Expenditure for 2018
A total expenditure of 8.612 trillion Naira is proposed for 2018. This is a nominal increase of 16 percent above the 2017 Budget estimate. In keeping with our policy, 30.8 percent (or 2.652 trillion Naira) of aggregate expenditure (inclusive of capital in Statutory Transfers) has been allocated to the capital budget.
We expect our fiscal operations to result in a deficit of 2.005 trillion Naira or 1.77 percent of GDP. This reduction is in line with our plans under the ERGP to progressively reduce deficit and borrowings.
We plan to finance the deficit partly by new borrowings estimated at 1.699 trillion Naira. Fifty percent of this borrowing will be sourced externally, whilst the balance will be sourced domestically. The balance of the deficit of 306 billion Naira is to be financed from proceeds of privatisation of some non-oil assets by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
61.         The proposed 8.612 trillion Naira of 2018 Aggregate Expenditure comprises:
a.    Recurrent Costs of N3.494 trillion;
b.    Debt Service of N2.014 trillion;
c.    Statutory Transfers of about N456 billion;
d.    Sinking Fund of N220 billion (to retire maturing bond to Local Contractors);
e.    Capital Expenditure of N2.428 trillion (excluding the capital component of Statutory Transfers).
Statutory Transfers
62.         456.46 billion Naira was provided in the 2018 Budget for Statutory Transfers. The 5 percent increase over last year’s provision is mainly due to increases in transfer to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which are related directly to the size of oil revenue.

Debt Restructuring
63.         We are closely monitoring our debt service to revenue ratio. We shall address this ratio through our non-oil revenue-generation drive and restructuring of the existing debt portfolio. Presently, domestic debt accounts for about 79 percent of the total debt. Our medium-term strategy is to reduce the proportion of our domestic debt to 60% by the end of 2019 and increase external debt to 40 percent. It is noteworthy that rebalancing our debt portfolio will enhance private sector access to domestic credit.  In addition, annual debt service costs will reduce as external debts are serviced at lower rates and repaid over a longer period than domestic debt.
Recurrent Expenditure
64.         A substantial part of the recurrent cost proposal for 2018 is for the payment of salaries and overheads in key Ministries providing critical public services such as:
a.    N510.87 billion for Interior;
b.    N435.01 billion for Education;
c.    N422.43 billion for Defence; and
d.    N269.34 billion for Health.
The allocation to these Ministries represent significant increases over votes in previous budgets.
Personnel Costs
65.         Personnel costs is projected to rise by 12 percent in 2018. Although we have made substantial savings by registering MDAs on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform, the increase is mainly due to provision for staff promotion arrears, and recruitments by the Military, Police Force and para-military agencies. Furthermore, I have directed agencies are not to embark on any fresh recruitment unless they have obtained all the requisite approvals. Any breach of this directive will be severely sanctioned.
Overhead Costs
66.         Overhead costs is projected to rise by 26 billion Naira in 2018, a modest increase of about 12 percent reflecting inflationary adjustments. MDAs are required to adhere to government regulations regarding cost control.
Capital Expenditure
67.              To consolidate on the momentum of the 2017 Budget’s implementation, many ongoing capital projects have been provided for in the 2018 Budget. This is in line with our commitment to appropriately fund ongoing capital projects to completion. By allocating 30.8 percent of the 2018 Budget to capital expenditure, the Federal Government is also demonstrating its strong commitment to investing in critical infrastructure capable of spurring growth and creating jobs in the Nigerian economy.
68.         Key capital spending allocations in the 2018 Budget include:
a.    Power, Works and Housing: N555.88 billion;
b.    Transportation: N263.10 billion;
c.    Special Intervention Programmes: N150.00 billion;
d.    Defence: N145.00 billion;
e.    Agriculture and Rural Development N118.98 billion;
f.     Water Resources: N95.11 billion;
g.    Industry, Trade and Investment: N82.92 billion;
h.    Interior: N63.26 billion;
i.     Education N61.73 billion;
j.     Universal Basic Education Commission: N109.06 billion;
k.    Health: N71.11 billion;
l.     Federal Capital Territory: N40.30 billion;
m.  Zonal Intervention Projects N100.00 billion;
n.    North East Intervention Fund N45.00 billion;
o.    Niger Delta Ministry: N53.89 billion; and
p.    Niger Delta Development Commission: N71.20 billion.
69.         As I had previously indicated, we aim to consolidate on our achievements in 2017. We shall meet our counterpart funding obligations. We shall complete all ongoing projects. And we shall carry forward all strategic projects that were budgeted for but which we were unable to kick start due to liquidity challenges, late passage of the budget, prolonged contractual negotiations, and other matters.
70.         Specifically, I would like to bring your attention to the following key projects and programmes that we are determined to implement in 2018:
a.    N9.8 billion for the Mambilla hydro power project, including N8.5 billion as counterpart funding;
b.    N12 billion counterpart funding for earmarked transmission lines and substations;
c.    N35.41 billion for the National Housing Programme;
d.    N10.00 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge; and
e.    About  N300 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of the strategic roads mentioned earlier.
Consolidating on the Social Intervention Programme
71.         This Administration remains committed to pursuing a gender-sensitive, pro-poor and inclusive growth. We are keenly interested in catering for the most vulnerable. Accordingly, we have retained the 500 billion Naira allocation to the Social Intervention Programme. Under the programme, 100 billion Naira has been set aside for the Social Housing Programme.
72.         Government will also continue to implement the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme, as well as the National Home-Grown School Feeding programme in 2018. These initiatives are already creating jobs and economic opportunity for local farmers and cooks, providing funding to artisans, traders and youths, as well as supporting small businesses with business education and mentoring.

Regional Spending Priorities for Peace, Security and Development
73.         To maintain peace and security in the Niger Delta for economic and social activities to thrive, the provision of 65 billion Naira for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been retained in the 2018 Budget. In addition, the capital provision for the Ministry of Niger Delta has been increased to 53.89 billion Naira from the 34.20 billion Naira provided in 2017. This is to further support the development in the region. We will complete all critical projects, including the East-West Road, which has a provision of about 17.32 billion Naira in 2018.
74.         Across the nation, and particularly in the North East region, our commitment to the security of life and property remains absolute. We will ensure that our gallant men and women in arms are properly equipped and well-motivated. The result of our efforts is evident in the gradual return to normalcy in the North East. It is in this spirit that I recently assented to the North-East Development Commission Bill that was passed by this Distinguished House. We expect that this development will consolidate on our ongoing efforts to combat insurgency, reintegrate Internally Displaced Persons and rebuild communities in the North East Region, which have been adversely affected by the insurgency.
75.         Similar attention is being given to efforts to reduce violent crime across the country. The Nigerian Army was recently deployed to combat the growing scourges of cattle rustling and banditry that have plagued our communities in Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara States. We will also continue to arrest the incidence of Armed Robbery, Kidnapping and other Violent Crimes across our nation.
76.         We have also increased our focus on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material that is being propagated on social media. Whilst we uphold the Constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the liberties of other citizens or threatens to undermine our National Security, we will take firm and decisive action.
77.         In this regard, I reiterate my call for Nigerians to exercise restraint, tolerance and mutual respect in airing any grievances and frustrations. Whilst the ongoing national discourse on various political issues is healthy and welcome, we must not forget the lessons of our past. I trust that the vast majority of our people would rather tread the path of peace and prosperity, as we continue to uphold and cherish our Unity in Diversity.

CONCLUSION
78.              Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, you will recall that in my 2017 Budget Speech, I promised a new era for Nigeria and an end to the old ways of overdependence on oil revenues. The statistics and initiatives I mentioned clearly show that this new era has come and the old Nigeria is surely disappearing. We must, therefore, all work together to protect and sustain this CHANGE to create a new Nigeria:
a.      A Nigeria that feeds itself;
b.      A Nigeria that optimally utilizes its resources;
c.       A Nigeria with a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy.
79.         Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, this speech would be incomplete without commending the immense, patriotic and collaborative support of the National Assembly in the effort to move our great nation forward. I wish to assure you of the strong commitment of the Executive branch to deepen the relationship with the Legislature.
80.         Nigeria is currently emerging from a very difficult economic period. If we all cooperate, and support one another, we can consolidate on our exit from the recession and firmly position Nigeria for economic prosperity. All the projects presented within this Budget have been carefully selected and subjected to extensive consultations and stakeholder engagements. As a Government, we are determined to bring succour to our people, improve their lives, and deliver on our promises to them. 2018 is a crucial year as we strive to ensure that we consolidate our successes and institutionalize the policies and practices that drove this turnaround.
81.         I appeal to you to swiftly consider and pass the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
82.         It is therefore with great pleasure and a deep sense of responsibility, that I lay before this Distinguished Joint Session of the National Assembly, the 2018 Budget Proposals of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
83.         I thank you most sincerely for your attention.
84.         May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Dissecting Benefits, Opportunities, Challenges Of PH Ring Road

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This is the concluding part of this article first published on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

It is a huge signature infrastructure development initiative, driven by the Fubara-led administration, to stimulate and contribute to economic growth of the State in general, and to the impacted communities in particular. The assurances it brings, in part, are these: to enable a sustained social integration, which is a given, facilitating the acceptance process that would ease interaction among the people across the LGAs for social support, friendship, and foster intimacy. This single but far stretching road will also create a transportation connectivity that will ultimately ease mobility. This will enable people to have the ability to travel to work or business places, if such place of employment or business was in distant communities across the six LGAs that the road connects. In fact, the road promises to make the categorisation of Rivers State in the Ease of Doing Business Ranking very easy.
This is not a project stuck in the city. It is a major transportation artery that all motorists, and indeed, road users are gearing up to enjoy the reduced travel time benefit it will offer. Access to essential services like healthcare and education, including leisure will be made easier from the catchment communities into the city and in reverse. When there is good connectivity through roads, people more likely travel farther and explore new opportunities. This definitely leads to a better quality of life, and life expectancy.
Since the day of flag-off and with actual construction work commenced, the progress achieved has been heart-warming. The start point of the road is at the UTC Junction axis, off the AbonnemaWhaff Road. A transformational construction work is ongoing, meaning a redefinition of the entire landscape, including adjourning Abonnema Wharf area. From there, the road runs along and branches off into Njamanze Street, and with a quadrant curve, it turns to connect Rumuji and Sabagiriya streets. From there, it links Illoabuchi Street, and onward to Opobo Street. All of these are in Mile One and Two Diobu axis in Port Harcourt. It drives on to Eagle Island, then turns rightwards towards the back fence of Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), from where the river-crossing bridge of 350 meters takes off, rising, crossing over the creek and descending to link Mgbuodohia community.
Again, the road runs from Mgbuodohia unto Aker Road. At St. John’s Catholic Church axis of the IAUE/Rumuepirikom Road, the first flyover is mounted. The second flyover is at the Ozuoba Junction axis of NTA/Mgbuoba/Choba road. The third flyover begins from the Rumuosi axis of the East-West Road and descends unto Rumuekeni community. The fourth flyover is at Rukpokwu and crosses over Port Harcourt Airport-Owerre Road unto Eneka, with a roundabout and trumpet arms on the Rumuokurusi-Igwuruta Road. The fifth flyover is elliptical in nature and rises from the Igbo-Etche community axis over the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway unto Iriebe Community at Elelenwo. The sixth flyover is at Alesa-Eleme, and runs across the East-West Road unto Abam-Ama in Okrika.
Specifically, the ring road criss-crosses many communities in six LGAs, including Port Harcourt City, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Eleme and Okrika. Rivers State has 23 LGAs, and the road traverses six of 23 LGAs, representing approximately 24.38percent. In terms of population projection, Rivers State had 7,476,800 people as at 2022, occupying 9,669km² area, with 773.3/km² density, and has annual population change of 2.3% from 2006 to 2022. This also means that in terms of population growth, these six LGAs have seen significant rise in population, rising from 1,852,256 recorded in 2006 census to a projected 2,664,000 in 2022, out of a total state-wide population of 5,198,716 in 2006, and 7,476,800 in 2022. A further look shows that Port Harcourt City had 774,600 population in 2022 against 538,558 in 2006; Obio/Akpor had 665,000 in 2022 against 462,350 in 2006; and Eleme had 273,500 in 2022 against 190,194 in 2006. Also, Etche had a population of 249,939 in 2006 against 359,500 in 2022; Okrika had 222,285 in 2006 against 319,700 in 2022; and Ikwerre had 188,930 in 2006 against 271,700 in 2022. Even as conservative as these population figures show, the numbers exhibit signs of explosion in concentration owing to inflow of economic activities and concerns, thereby justifying the urgency for a good network of roads linking all six LGAs to facilitate interactions between their peoples, investments therein as well as goods and services.
Therefore, the ring road serves as to connect other roads, creating a perfect linkage between communities that will surely advance rural connectivity while offering multiplier gains that could reflect in growth in local employment, livelihood enhancements and other enablers of sustainable development. When such local employment opportunities are identified and accessible, a much-needed safety net would have been created to reduce financial distress that weigh so heavily on the people.
Of course, adequate compensation has also been paid to owners of property on the right of way and affected by the construction. Estate valuers had done proper evaluation and assessment of each property so affected. Payment is still ongoing, but is being done after all the certifications have been verified. No one is short-changed, and it is only when payment has been done that affected property are pulled down and the site cleared.
Expectedly, those negatively affected by the construction work are wont to complain, particularly of low value of compensation payment. It is human to so do. But the truth is: No amount of compensation by government can offset the cost of building new structures either for residential, industrial or corporate business purposes. That is one of the sacrifices people make for new infrastructure development projects to take place, especially in populated areas. Another inconvenience is traffic diversion and disruptions, occasioning stress and manhours lost in travel time, especially when it comes to road construction projects. Again, such pains and sufferings are natural in heavily populated areas, and remain the price we pay for development to take place.
In Rivers State, the people have made similar sacrifices in the past for government development projects to come on stream. Whether it is under the military junta from 1967 to 1979, 1984 to 1991, or 1993 to 1999; or under the civilian administrations from 1979 to 1983, 1992 to 1993, or 1999 to date; history is replete with moments of human sufferings triggered by the execution of road infrastructure development projects, including flyovers, interchanges and bridges. In recent memory, the Dr Peter Odili, Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike governments are characterised by many such undertaking resulting in demolition of structures along project rights of way and or diversion of traffic thereof. Residents, landlords, business owners and motorists impacted by the Ikwerre Road expansion from Education Bus Stop in Port Harcourt City to Airport Junction in Ikwerre LGA by former Governor Peter Odili can remember vividly what they went through. Or is it the impacts of the dualization of Peter Odili Road, Rumuobiakani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road, Artillery-Rumuomasi Old Aba Road, Woji-Okporo-Rumuodara Road, Rumuomasi-Elekahia-Waja Junction Road, Nkpogu-Amadi-Ama/Nkpogu-NLNG Roads, Rumuokurusi-Elimgbu-Eneka-Igwuruta Road, Rumuola Road, Rumuokwuta-Mgbuoba-Ozuoba-Choba Road, Eliozu flyover, AGIP Junction flyover, and Eleme Junction Interchange, among others by the Chibuike Amaechi administration? Or the sufferings that the construction of Oro-Abali, Rebisi, Rumuogba, Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuokwuta, Rumuepirikom, GRA Junction, Oroworukwo, and Rumuola flyovers, among others, unleashed on the people during the Nyesom Wike years? All are signposts of the impact, whether negative or positive, that the execution of infrastructure development projects in populated areas bring.
Now, to the specifics of the ongoing construction work: The project sites have been cleared, piers, including the vertical support structures of the flyover bridges have been cast and mounted. At some sections that have been so cleared, top soils have been removed to allow for unbound mixture of coarse, fine crushed stones, together with crushed sand have been laid in most areas. These will enable the road to achieve the desired load-bearing capacity and prevent the underlying subgrade from being deformed while absorbing traffic loads. And across many sections of the road, massive construction activities are ongoing at high intensity. Of course, the ring road comes with walkways, and street lighting too.
Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, visited two sections of the construction site and was conducted round by the Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter. The Governor took a ride on a section of the stretch of the road, pulling off from the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Road axis, through the Jesuit Memorial School in Elikpokwuodu Community unto Rukpokwu on the Port Harcourt Airport-Owerre Road intersection. From there, he moved on through Rumuodomaya – Rumuokoro to Rumuosi and Ozuoba communities before terminating the inspection tour at the UTC Junction.
At the end of the inspection tour, the Governor expressed satisfaction with the progress of work achieved thus far. He said: “I think that we are good, considering the understanding that we had with Julius Berger Nigeria PLC. We signed off that in 36 months, this project will be done and delivered. And with what I have seen, they are meeting up that target. I think that we have a few issues: the price rate of things at that time we signed the contract and what subsists presently is not the same due to high inflation and the exchange rate spike.
“But whatever it is, I have assured the contractor that we are going to provide the necessary support to make sure that we deliver. You know this project is very important to us. It is one of the first things that I signed off when I came in as the Governor of this State. It is a signature project for me, whichever way anybody wants to look at it. We signed on for it. We are paying dearly for it, and it is one of the objectives of this administration to make sure that we deliver it to our people”, he noted.
In his remarks, Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter, gave explanation of the milestone achieved by the company. He said: “I think we went along various alignments of the road. We could see several spots where we are working: Is it on the U-channels? Is it on the road construction? Or even on the two flyovers? Over the East-West Road, we had started with laying of the first beams on one of the flyovers. On the other flyover, we will soon finish drilling; we are using two drilling rigs to complete the piling. We are moving to the second flyover already.
“So, you can see, the first flyover we started on January 15, 2024. Two months later, we are already laying the beams. So, we are on track. We are on schedule as we promised His Excellency. I am really satisfied with the work, with my team. Of course, I am satisfied with His Excellency for his support. I am excited that we had the opportunity today to inspect the road together, and to discuss also the challenges; for example, compensation and relocation. He has assured me that everything will be done as soon as possible so that we can also meet our timeline. I am really happy and satisfied with the work here”, he said.
Indeed, his assurance is testament that Governor Fubara means well for Rivers State, and that his administration is working tirelessly to deliver quality good governance to the people. This road, among others, is a genuine proof of that commitment! Increasingly, Rivers people will not be burdened with limited access to road infrastructure that they had suffered when this road is finally delivered. This is particularly as it relates to urban-rural connectivity because such limited access to road had inhibited easier mobility of people, and undoubtedly delayed their access to the benefits of development. So, the disproportionate disadvantages that people likely suffer will be over soon. I dare say that the Port Harcourt Ring Road will improve rural infrastructure. Governor Fubara makes me see it so because he knows it as much as that, which is why he has designed it in a manner that it is seen as a crucial pathway to alleviating poverty.
Also, to be noted is that this road adds to the long-sought after solution to resolving the traffic congestions experienced in parts of Diobu axis of Port Harcourt, particularly on Ikwerre Road. Such traffic jams, over and again, had caused unnecessary pollution, and arguably, raises environmental concerns, and other levels of disruption on economic development.
A well-constructed road, as we are seeing of the ring road, assures that travel time will be reduced for motorists, and indeed, all road users getting out of the city centre. Another is the fact that there will be increase in the speed limits that motorists will apply, while also providing smoother driving experience. There will be overall transportation efficiency within the benefitting communities. What else can be a good respite for motorists other than knowing that the derivable benefits extend to enjoying reduced fuel consumption rate, lower vehicle maintenance costs, and increased productivity level for businesses.
The truism about this is remarkable: When a city is beautiful in outlay, it is 80percent a reflection of the good roads that have been provided, well developed and maintained. Without a doubt, the city of Port Harcourt is growing and expanding. So should the road infrastructure, essentially so that it does not only accommodate the increasing population density and the associated urbanization but diffuse same to border communities in none urban LGAs so as to decongest the metropolis. By all means, Governor Fubara is using this road to contribute to the socio-economic and cultural development of rural communities in particular and the state in general.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

 

 

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Dissecting Benefits, Opportunities, Challenges Of PH Ring Road

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It is massive. It is gigantic.
It is expensive. It is first of its kind. It is a legacy signature impression. It is the single largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by any sub-national government in Nigeria. It is the Port Harcourt Ring Road!
The Port Harcourt Ring Road project is a clear evidence of Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara’s resilience, foresight and exhibition of political will to take tough decisions. The project shows a convincing strength of courage. Moving what was once a concept on the drawing board for decades into the sphere of reality, does not depict weakness but strong commitment and determination to dare, and do extraordinary things.
Lest we forget, this ring road project for Port Harcourt was first contemplated decades ago. The initial proposals were made in the 1970s during the military era. When the administration of Chief Rufus Ada-George superintended the State between January 1992 and November 1993, the idea was birthed again. At the time, Port Harcourt City was not as expansive as it is now, and some of the areas were forested and uninhabited.
With the Ada-George’s concept, the ring road was to run from then Slaughter at Oginigba in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area through Okujagu to Abuloma, Amadi-Ama, and connect Eastern Bypass to Amadi Flats, Old GRA to Aba Road by Abali Park, all in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area. He also thought of linking Borokiri to Okrika by road and bridges. Another section was to begin from Njemanze, connect Nanka to Illoabuchi, link Eagle Island also in Port Harcourt City to Rumueme. But that link was not finalised. However, he okayed the Rumueme-Rumuepirikom-Mgbuoba link road connecting Ozuoba through the popular Rumuokwuta-Ozuoba-Choba Road. It was to via off at Ozuoba to East-West Road in Obio/Akpor. It also was to connect Port Harcourt-Owerri Road by Airport Junction in Ikwerre Local Government. Here again, the administration could not take the project off the drawing board.
The administration of Dr Peter Odili, between 1999 and 2007, understood the importance of the ring road to the economic rejuvenation, and revived the project to attract investments to the State. It actually executed the first stretch of the road from Slaughter through Okujagu to Abuloma, and then, linked Amadi-Ama to Eastern Bypass and Amadi Flats. It completed that section of the road on a single lane ticket. It further connected Mgbuoba to East-West Road by now Obiri-Ikwerre. The project was not 100 percent completed.
During the Chibuike Amaechi’s eight years in the saddle between 2007 and 2015, the administration dualised the Peter Odili Road, reckoning with its potential benefits in opening up the city of Port Harcourt to accelerated development. It also embarked on the construction of the Ada-George Road, and dualised it, linking it to Rumuokwuta-Mgbuoba-Ozuoba-Choba road. He completed it. He also completed the Mgbuoba-East-West link road by Obiri-Ikwerre. Amaechi constructed an interchange on East-West Road by Obiri-Ikwerre, and began the dualisation of Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Road, which he named after Prof Tam David-West. He did not complete the road before the expiration of his tenure.
In addition to that, Amaechi initiated the extension of the ring road by connecting Prof Tam David-West Road in Greater Port Harcourt City Area through Igwuruta, with a flyover across Port Harcourt-Owerre Road by Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) office in Ikwerre Local Government Area. That new design was to take the road from Ikwerre Local Government through Eneka in Obio/Akpor, to Etche Local Government; again, connecting Iriebe in Obio/Akpor, across Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway, and link Agbonchia, Ebubu, Ogale to Onne in Eleme Local Government Area. The project was also commenced but abandoned by the administration.
On arrival in office in 2015 as Governor, Nyesom Wike took up Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Road, and completed it. He did that because he bought into the idea tapping into the obvious benefits of the ring road to the sustainable development of the State. The current ring road project was first suggested in 2019, but gained approval from the Rivers State Executive Council in 2020. Wike reasoned that redesigning the route will better serve the overall interest of the State. He contracted Julius Berger Nigeria Plc to do the design. What the contractor put out was inconclusive before Wike left office on May 29, 2023. Little wonder he did not factor the project into the 2023 budget.
But the paradigm shift in concept made the new project unique in many ways. The route traverses six local government areas – Port Harcourt City, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Eleme and Okrika – and connects Port Harcourt in a circular form. It covers 50.15km dual carriageway, with varied widths of between 7.6m and 29.2m where there are service lanes. It also has six flyovers, and one major river crossing bridge. In addition, it has not less than 19 roundabouts. But despite the importance attached to it by Wike, he did not make any budgetary allocation to the project in the 2023 Appropriation Act.
Indeed, it took the administration of Sir Siminalayi Fubara to take the project off the drawing board, and ensure that the N195billion project was actually flagged-off on Monday, July 17, 2023. How did it happen? Governor Fubara awarded the contract for the project to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in July, 2023, barely 50 days into the new administration, with a target completion date of 36 months, which draws into 2025.
The Governor did that because he understood the importance of the project. For this reason, he sent a supplementary budget of N200billion to the Rivers State House of Assembly because funding of the project was not provided for in the budget he inherited. On the day he assented to the supplementary budget in Government House, Governor Fubara stated: “Let me on behalf of the Executive arm of government commend you for your prompt response to the supplementary budget. We are a product of Consolidation and Continuity. We will implement every good idea by the previous administration geared towards improving the lives of Rivers people.”
On the day of flag-off of the project at UTC Junction in Port Harcourt, Governor Fubara said, “When all these places are opened up, people, including real estate investors, will start moving in, and businesses will open up the areas because people have started acquiring land there”. He also said that the road will not only facilitate travels, decongest traffic in the city centre, but will further boost interactions, social and cultural exchanges between communities and populations in the various LGAs along the 50.15km route.
Honestly, successive governments from 1970s to 2023, had seen the importance and overarching benefits of the ring road to the socio-economic growth and development of the State. This is why any discerning minds would reckon with the serious attention past governors and administrators placed on bringing to fruition the life of the Port Harcourt Ring Road as a key to fast tracking the overall development of the State. Therefore, dismissing the project as “not of any significant economic benefit to the State”, shows how short-sighted purveyors of this negative narrative definitely are. Even more laughable is the assumption that “the project is not fundamentally different from the 12 flyovers built by the immediate past administration of Nyesom Wike”.
Let’s take a tour of the benefits a little bit. The project signals a pivotal milestone for Rivers State. It has the potential to enhance the quality of life for residents and stimulate substantial economic growth in the region. It stands as a valuable asset for the State, facilitating smoother transportation and communication between its various LGAs. By addressing traffic congestion, enhancing transportation linkages, generating employment opportunities, and stimulating economic growth, this signature infrastructure project will undoubtedly leave a lasting positive impact on the State for generations to come.
The road will decongest traffic in Port Harcourt, providing an effective bypass route for inner city traffic, alleviating congestion and significantly improving traffic flow within the city. No doubt, this will reduce travel times and improve air quality, making the city more livable for residents.
It will improve transportation link between different parts of the state, by facilitating seamless logistics connectivity for different areas, promoting greater mobility for both people and goods. It will also boost economic activities, make investment decisions easy, and help reduce poverty in the land. Another plank of its benefits is the fact that the road will create a substantial number of direct and indirect employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth and uplift thousands of livelihoods. The local communities will boom and unemployment will reduce. The economic benefits include the fact that it is a major investment that gives hope to thousands of people; just as it will open up new areas for development and influx of new businesses, increasing ease of doing business and accelerating investors’ confidence in the state.
Now, let’s dig a little bit into the details of the project. The ring road, understandably, is an essential component required to achieve sustained socio-economic development. In fact, roads make movements easier, of a person, goods or services, from one point to another. This road will be doing just more than that because it is not just a path secluded within the city, it is of a diverse nature, conveying traffic more out of the city centre, to six LGAs on a seamless drive. To be able to navigate one’s way easily in and out of the metropolis on such road cannot be dismissed as a waste of scarce resources. Obviously not! On the contrary, the decision-making process for the project must have been guided by sound wisdom, political will and foresight.
This road, like well-planned routes, make urban areas rampantly inhabited, which is why they flourish. The ring road, sprouting out from the city centre, offers any travellers a chance to criss-cross several communities on one smooth drive while not pulling off; and can return to the city in a circular drive. It is a far stretching, wide enough road. With a length that is 50.15km, out of which 45km is dual carriageway, the road has six distinct flyovers, measuring 4.8km, and one river-crossing bridge of 350m. There are four lanes on each side. Altogether, there are 19 roundabouts and rotary intersections.

 

 

It is a huge signature infrastructure development initiative, driven by the Fubara-led administration, to stimulate and contribute to economic growth of the State in general, and to the impacted communities in particular. The assurances it brings, in part, are these: to enable a sustained social integration, which is a given, facilitating the acceptance process that would ease interaction among the people across the LGAs for social support, friendship, and foster intimacy. This single but far stretching road will also create a transportation connectivity that will ultimately ease mobility. This will enable people to have the ability to travel to work or business places, if such place of employment or business was in distant communities across the six LGAs that the road connects. In fact, the road promises to make the categorisation of Rivers State in the Ease of Doing Business Ranking very easy.
This is not a project stuck in the city. It is a major transportation artery that all motorists, and indeed, road users are gearing up to enjoy the reduced travel time benefit it will offer. Access to essential services like

healthcare and education, including leisure will be made easier from the catchment communities into the city and in reverse. When there is good connectivity through roads, people more likely travel farther and explore new opportunities. This definitely leads to a better quality of life, and life expectancy.
Since the day of flag-off and with actual construction work commenced, the progress achieved has been heart-warming. The start point of the road is at the UTC Junction axis, off the Abonnema Whaff Road. A transformational construction work is ongoing, meaning a redefinition of the entire landscape, including adjourning Abonnema Wharf area. From there, the road runs along and branches off into Njamanze Street, and with a quadrant curve, it turns to connect Rumuji and Sabagiriya streets. From there, it links Illoabuchi Street, and onward to Opobo Street. All of these are in Mile One and Two Diobu axis in Port Harcourt. It drives on to Eagle Island, then turns rightwards towards the back fence of Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), from where the river-crossing bridge of 350 meters takes off, rising, crossing over the creek and descending to link Mgbuodohia community.
Again, the road runs from Mgbuodohia unto Aker Road. At St. John’s Catholic Church axis of the IAUE/Rumuepirikom Road, the first flyover is mounted. The second flyover is at the Ozuoba Junction axis of NTA/Mgbuoba/Choba road. The third flyover begins from the Rumuosi axis of the East-West Road and descends unto Rumuekeni community. The fourth flyover is at Rukpokwu and crosses over Port Harcourt Airport-Owerre Road unto Eneka, with a roundabout and trumpet arms on the Rumuokurusi-Igwuruta Road. The fifth flyover is elliptical in nature and rises from the Igbo-Etche community axis over the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway unto Iriebe Community at Elelenwo. The sixth flyover is at Alesa-Eleme, and runs across the East-West Road unto Abam-Ama in Okrika.
Specifically, the ring road criss-crosses many communities in six LGAs, including Port Harcourt City, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Etche, Eleme and Okrika. Rivers State has 23 LGAs, and the road traverses six of 23 LGAs, representing approximately 24.38percent. In terms of population projection, Rivers State had 7,476,800 people as at 2022, occupying 9,669km² area, with 773.3/km² density, and has annual population change of 2.3% from 2006 to 2022. This also means that in terms of population growth, these six LGAs have seen significant rise in population, rising from 1,852,256 recorded in 2006 census to a projected 2,664,000 in 2022, out of a total state-wide population of 5,198,716 in 2006, and 7,476,800 in 2022. A further look shows that Port Harcourt City had 774,600 population in 2022 against 538,558 in 2006; Obio/Akpor had 665,000 in 2022 against 462,350 in 2006; and Eleme had 273,500 in 2022 against 190,194 in 2006. Also, Etche had a population of 249,939 in 2006 against 359,500 in 2022; Okrika had 222,285 in 2006 against 319,700 in 2022; and Ikwerre had 188,930 in 2006 against 271,700 in 2022. Even as conservative as these population figures show, the numbers exhibit signs of explosion in concentration owing to inflow of economic activities and concerns, thereby justifying the urgency for a good network of roads linking all six LGAs to facilitate interactions between their peoples, investments therein as well as goods and services.
Therefore, the ring road serves as to connect other roads, creating a perfect linkage between communities that will surely advance rural connectivity while offering multiplier gains that could reflect in growth in local employment, livelihood enhancements and other enablers of sustainable development. When such local employment opportunities are identified and accessible, a much-needed safety net would have been created to reduce financial distress that weigh so heavily on the people.
Of course, adequate compensation has also been paid to owners of property on the right of way and affected by the construction. Estate valuers had done proper evaluation and assessment of each property so affected. Payment is still ongoing, but is being done after all the certifications have been verified. No one is short-changed, and it is only when payment has been done that affected property are pulled down and the site cleared.
Expectedly, those negatively affected by the construction work are wont to complain, particularly of low value of compensation payment. It is human to so do. But the truth is: No amount of compensation by government can offset the cost of building new structures either for residential, industrial or corporate business purposes. That is one of the sacrifices people make for new infrastructure development projects to take place, especially in populated areas. Another inconvenience is traffic diversion and disruptions, occasioning stress and manhours lost in travel time, especially when it comes to road construction projects. Again, such pains and sufferings are natural in heavily populated areas, and remain the price we pay for development to take place.
In Rivers State, the people have made similar sacrifices in the past for government development projects to come on stream. Whether it is under the military junta from 1967 to 1979, 1984 to 1991, or 1993 to 1999; or under the civilian administrations from 1979 to 1983, 1992 to 1993, or 1999 to date; history is replete with moments of human sufferings triggered by the execution of road infrastructure development projects, including flyovers, interchanges and bridges. In recent memory, the Dr Peter Odili, Chibuike Amaechi and Nyesom Wike governments are characterised by many such undertaking resulting in demolition of structures along project rights of way and or diversion of traffic thereof. Residents, landlords, business owners and motorists impacted by the Ikwerre Road expansion from Education Bus Stop in Port Harcourt City to Airport Junction in Ikwerre LGA by former Governor Peter Odili can remember vividly what they went through. Or is it the impacts of the dualization of Peter Odili Road, Rumuobiakani-Oginigba-Slaughter Road, Artillery-Rumuomasi Old Aba Road, Woji-Okporo-Rumuodara Road, Rumuomasi-Elekahia-Waja Junction Road, Nkpogu-Amadi-Ama/Nkpogu-NLNG Roads, Rumuokurusi-Elimgbu-Eneka-Igwuruta Road, Rumuola Road, Rumuokwuta-Mgbuoba-Ozuoba-Choba Road, Eliozu flyover, AGIP Junction flyover, and Eleme Junction Interchange, among others by the Chibuike Amaechi administration? Or the sufferings that the construction of Oro-Abali, Rebisi, Rumuogba, Okoro-Nu-Odo, Rumuokwuta, Rumuepirikom, GRA Junction, Oroworukwo, and Rumuola flyovers, among others, unleashed on the people during the Nyesom Wike years? All are signposts of the impact, whether negative or positive, that the execution of infrastructure development projects in populated areas bring.
Now, to the specifics of the ongoing construction work: The project sites have been cleared, piers, including the vertical support structures of the flyover bridges have been cast and mounted. At some sections that have been so cleared, top soils have been removed to allow for unbound mixture of coarse, fine crushed stones, together with crushed sand have been laid in most areas. These will enable the road to achieve the desired load-bearing capacity and prevent the underlying subgrade from being deformed while absorbing traffic loads. And across many sections of the road, massive construction activities are ongoing at high intensity. Of course, the ring road comes with walkways, and street lighting too.
Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, visited two sections of the construction site and was conducted round by the Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter. The Governor took a ride on a section of the stretch of the road, pulling off from the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Road axis, through the Jesuit Memorial School in Elikpokwuodu Community unto Rukpokwu on the Port Harcourt Airport-Owerre Road intersection. From there, he moved on through Rumuodomaya – Rumuokoro to Rumuosi and Ozuoba communities before terminating the inspection tour at the UTC Junction.
At the end of the inspection tour, the Governor expressed satisfaction with the progress of work achieved thus far. He said: “I think that we are good, considering the understanding that we had with Julius Berger Nigeria PLC. We signed off that in 36 months, this project will be done and delivered. And with what I have seen, they are meeting up that target. I think that we have a few issues: the price rate of things at that time we signed the contract and what subsists presently is not the same due to high inflation and the exchange rate spike.
“But whatever it is, I have assured the contractor that we are going to provide the necessary support to make sure that we deliver. You know this project is very important to us. It is one of the first things that I signed off when I came in as the Governor of this State. It is a signature project for me, whichever way anybody wants to look at it. We signed on for it. We are paying dearly for it, and it is one of the objectives of this administration to make sure that we deliver it to our people”, he noted.
In his remarks, Managing Director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dr. Lars Richter, gave explanation of the milestone achieved by the company. He said: “I think we went along various alignments of the road. We could see several spots where we are working: Is it on the U-channels? Is it on the road construction? Or even on the two flyovers? Over the East-West Road, we had started with laying of the first beams on one of the flyovers. On the other flyover, we will soon finish drilling; we are using two drilling rigs to complete the piling. We are moving to the second flyover already.
“So, you can see, the first flyover we started on January 15, 2024. Two months later, we are already laying the beams. So, we are on track. We are on schedule as we promised His Excellency. I am really satisfied with the work, with my team. Of course, I am satisfied with His Excellency for his support. I am excited that we had the opportunity today to inspect the road together, and to discuss also the challenges; for example, compensation and relocation. He has assured me that everything will be done as soon as possible so that we can also meet our timeline. I am really happy and satisfied with the work here”, he said.
Indeed, his assurance is testament that Governor Fubara means well for Rivers State, and that his administration is working tirelessly to deliver quality good governance to the people. This road, among others, is a genuine proof of that commitment! Increasingly, Rivers people will not be burdened with limited access to road infrastructure that they had suffered when this road is finally delivered. This is particularly as it relates to urban-rural connectivity because such limited access to road had inhibited easier mobility of people, and undoubtedly delayed their access to the benefits of development. So, the disproportionate disadvantages that people likely suffer will be over soon. I dare say that the Port Harcourt Ring Road will improve rural infrastructure. Governor Fubara makes me see it so because he knows it as much as that, which is why he has designed it in a manner that it is seen as a crucial pathway to alleviating poverty.
Also, to be noted is that this road adds to the long-sought after solution to resolving the traffic congestions experienced in parts of Diobu axis of Port Harcourt, particularly on Ikwerre Road. Such traffic jams, over and again, had caused unnecessary pollution, and arguably, raises environmental concerns, and other levels of disruption on economic development.
A well-constructed road, as we are seeing of the ring road, assures that travel time will be reduced for motorists, and indeed, all road users getting out of the city centre. Another is the fact that there will be increase in the speed limits that motorists will apply, while also providing smoother driving experience. There will be overall transportation efficiency within the benefitting communities. What else can be a good respite for motorists other than knowing that the derivable benefits extend to enjoying reduced fuel consumption rate, lower vehicle maintenance costs, and increased productivity level for businesses.
The truism about this is remarkable: When a city is beautiful in outlay, it is 80percent a reflection of the good roads that have been provided, well developed and maintained. Without a doubt, the city of Port Harcourt is growing and expanding. So should the road infrastructure, essentially so that it does not only accommodate the increasing population density and the associated urbanization but diffuse same to border communities in none urban LGAs so as to decongest the metropolis. By all means, Governor Fubara is using this road to contribute to the socio-economic and cultural development of rural communities in particular and the state in general.

Nelson Chukwudi is the Chief Press Secretary to the Rivers State Governor, and writes from Government House, Port Harcourt.

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Reminisces On Tributes To Mrs Adeline Ndalu Jaja

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Live not as though there
were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours,” so said the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, who had spent valuable time in meditation, and from deep moments of reflections.
The counsel was in recognition of death, nonetheless, as a marker of the ephemeral nature of life. A necessary end, that would come when it may, and never cared at what age of a person it strikes. So, at 87 years, death struck and Mama, late Mrs Adeline Ndalu Jaja (Nee Ohochukwu) yielded and was taken to glory.
Late Mrs Adeline Ndalu Jaja (Nee Ohochukwu) was mother-in-law to the Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara. Mama was a loving mother to her first daughter, Lady Valerie, the wife to the governor.
Mama’s death weighed heavily. The feeling was painful. The memories traumatic. Death, always left pain of loss that ran deep, discomforting and grave. When it happened, it affected, not only the surviving kin, the children, church, but the entire community because it would be a serious loss to it’s identity and continuity.
It was on Saturday, March 16, 2024, that the earthly remains of Mama Adeline Ndalu Jaja (Nee Ohochukwu) returned to mother-earth in a blaze of glory. She was buried in Opobo Town, the capital of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The events that led to the interment were wrapped up as a festival of sort. This was despite the fact that, originally, the plan was to have solemn sessions, such that offer an atmosphere to encourage deep reflection, remembrance and to celebrate the life of Mama.
Regardless, all outlined intentions were achieved. It was festival cum solemn assemblage. Many people were attracted to attend, across spheres, professions and vocations. Tributes were in rich supply, paid.
First, it was the Service of Songs at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Mile One, Diobu, in the heart of Port Harcourt City on March 13. Then, the Funeral Service held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Opobo Town on Saturday, 16th March. The outing and Thanksgiving Service was on Sunday, March 17, at the same church venue.
All those who attended bode farewell to Mama. They left with unforgotten experiences of what they encountered, which was how well Mama lived, as conveyed in the tributes that were paid.
The witty, energetic, and optimistic personality of the Matriarch were sumptuously acknowledged. She taught many persons the lessons of how to embrace and celebrate life. Mama was generous with what she had, defended the weak because she was outspoken and brave. She was never shy to stand in the gap, looked out for the less privileged, promoted the common good as a disciplinarian, and with visionary leadership, shaped many lives positively.
Born on May 17th, 1936 at Nkarahia, Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area, Mama was an enterprising business owner and remained a devout Christian until her death. As an unrelenting activist, she uplifted humanity, worked to promote timeless virtues that make life valuable. She was the third daughter of four children born to late Elder Maxwell Wahusie Ohochukwu of Isiokpo in Rivers State and Margaret Uwakwe from Umunjam, Mbieri in Mbaitolu Local Government Area of Imo State.
Mama attended the St. Peter’s Primary School in Isiokpo where she got her First School Leaving Certificate, and eventually graduated from standard six. She got employed into the Nigerian Police Force in 1962 and eventually retired in 1997.
Late Mrs Adeline Ndalu Jaja found love in late Senibo Ebenezer Gberepikima Jaja (Senior), and eventually married him. She was blessed with five children, and the wife of the Rivers State Governor was her first daughter. Her worldview was shaped by the values of hard work, respect for others, integrity and perseverance. She died on December 17, 2023.
Reminisces of the tributes to Mama are compelling and memorable. Governor Siminalayi Fubara recalled how close he was with Mama when he spoke at the Service of Songs: “Mama was a great woman. She made me marry her daughter because of what she saw in me. When Mama believed in you, she would go all out for it. I feel so sad that all the mothers in my life; my mother and my mother-in-law, that would have enjoyed their support to me, have all passed.”
While speaking at the Funeral Service, Governor Fubara harped on the need for people to learn lessons from the life that Mama lived. He said: “We are all here this afternoon to say bye-bye to Mama. But I want you to go home with something. And by the grace of God, I don’t think there will be any counter to the point I will make.
“How do we live our lives? Can we live in such a way, that when we are no more, our names can open doors for our children? That is what I want you to go home with.
“Mama has lived her life, and it has opened a lot of doors for her biological children. Even those people that are close to Mama, when you mention that you know so and so person, doors will open.
“So, I want everybody here, to go back and reflect on it. You must live life, so that when you are no more, and our children who are left behind when you are gone, when they mention our names, let that name open doors for them. I feel that is the greatest virtue parents should leave for their children.” Serious food for thought!
But one of the most touching is this from Governor Fubara: “Mama was not just my mother-in-law; she was more than that. From the very day I became a member of their family by marrying her daughter, she took and related with me as her son. A strong woman of faith, my family and I enjoyed immense love, support, and prayers from her presence in our lives. She was always there for us throughout her lifetime.
“Though we mourn her departure, I cannot but be proud of Mama’s remarkable lifetime of service to the nation, God and humanity and her legacy of positive impacts and accomplishments.
“As a police woman, she was respected for her honesty, discipline, and fairness. As an entrepreneur, she was focused, hardworking, and resourceful. As a devout Christian, she loved and served God in diverse ways, and contributed to the development of the church in her community, Opobo. She was also an exceptional woman, a responsible mother and grandmother, a disciplinarian, yet compassionate, generous, and always there to lend a helping hand to everyone who came her way.
“I will forever cherish the great moments she shared with my family and me, and be ever thankful to God for the fact that Mama will continue to live because of her positive impacts and glorious legacies.”
Another tribute inspiring introspection from Wife of the Governor, Lady Valerie Fubara reads: “Indeed, my mother was an inspiring soul, who was always there for all, even when they come with their challenges of any kind. Her home was widely open to all, as her hospitality made people around her feel important.
“Mummy was the most loving, humble, compassionate, understanding, family-oriented woman, and one of the most beautiful souls one could ever ‘encounter’. If there is reincarnation, I will choose you a million times. Your life was indeed a blessing, your memory a treasure!”
That event was also attended by the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri. He paid his tributes too, saying: “I know how I felt losing a father at 88 years, and so, no matter how old your parents are, whether it’s 100 years, it can be painful. But we would have wished that she would have died thereafter, particularly against the background that her daughter today is the Number One Lady of Rivers State, but we can only wish it, but God decides when anyone of us would go. So, I urge you to take heart, as her legacies and memories will continue to be a guiding light for you and the family.”
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Prof Ngozi Odu said, “During her lifetime, Mama was known as an amazing woman who positively touched the lives of many with her kindness, grace and the love she shared with those around her.
“She was a police officer who was loved and erected because of her integrity, diligence and commitment in the discharge of her duties which will forever be remembered by all those who knew her.”
The Head of Rivers State Civil Service, Dr George Nwaeke, wrote: “Mrs Jaja’s remarkable legacy, as reflected in her age of 87 years, reminds us of a life well-lived, imbued with wisdom, love and lasting contributions to her community. We can only imagine the depth of your loss but hope you find solace in the memories you shared with her and the knowledge that she touched many lives in meaningful ways.”
Her son, Dr Ebenezer Gberepikima Jaja (Jnr) said, “If this, however, is the last time I get to say goodbye to mother, I will do it with the knowledge and understanding that I consider myself to have been gloriously blessed to be your son.
“You touched not only my life, but the lives of many others by your selfless and countless acts of kindness. Mama, you always gave and never expected any favours in return – not even when you needed it. You were a no-nonsense disciplinarian who made me stay within certain parameters, which I had to obey to be on the up and up. You always ensured I stayed focused and on course in everything I did. Your discipline was based on love, God’s fear and ultimate care. You were also generous, almost to a fault.
“You were a fulfilled and accomplished woman. The evidence is obvious and manifest in us, your children, who you raised uprightly, successfully, and worthily… Sorrow is not enough to wash away your wonderful memories. You were simply the best; just knowing that you are the apple of God’s eyes is enough for us. I love you but God loves you more!”
Her second daughter, Engineer Vanessa Donald Banigo also reflected on the life Mama lived, saying, “Though as a fact that death is inevitable, regardless of the age, I would have wished my beloved Mummy could live forever… Your departure has somewhat placed me empty, as I could recall living with me, you became my guardian angel, and a source of strength… With you, I never had any reason to say I am broke, because you were always there to lend or give me instead.
“You taught me how to be bold and strong in the storm of any challenges, because you were a woman of wisdom. You taught me that prayer is the only source of greatness. Words alone cannot express how I feel right now. I truly miss you Mummy! You have fought a good fight, may you be crowned with the crown of glory in the heavenly kingdom”.
The St. Andrew’s Anglican Church of the Niger Delta Diocese said, “With each step, she illuminated the path of righteousness, her unwavering faith, a beacon in the times of darkness. Though trials and triumphs she held fast to her beliefs, in every word spoken, in every gesture relief.
“Her kindness knew no bounds, her compassion, profound, in serving others; true joy she found with a heart full of love, she touched lives near and far, leaving behind a legacy that outshines every star.
“Paying dues with diligence, fulfilling each vows, her commitment to serve an example unsurpassed. Though she is departed from our earthly sight, her presence lingers, a guiding light. For in the hearts of those she touched, she will forever remain.
“A faithful woman now free from earthly pains. As she joins the church triumphant, let us rejoice and sing, and not mourn, for she has found eternal peace on angels’ wings.”
Bishop of the Diocese of Evo, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Province of Niger Delta, The Right Reverend Innocent Ordu, said, “We thank God for giving Mama a long and fruitful life during which she touched the lives of many positively by her honesty, sincerity, integrity, devotion and selfless service to her family and the community.
“Your Excellency, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, this death of your dear mother-in-law must have come to you as a rude shock, particularly at these challenging times when her presence and admonitions would have been a great source of support and encouragement to you. We urge you, however, to be of good comfort, knowing that she us now resting in the arms of the Lord after her labours here on earth.
“Our dear Lady Valerie, what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that determines the significance of the life we lead. Your mother is an expression of thus fact. More so, a mother’s love, they say, is eternal. We, thus, encourage you to hold on to that infinite love of your mother and let it be your guiding light.”
The Chief Medical Director of Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Chizindu Alikor said: “Auntie Ploice was a remarkable soul who embodied strength, warmth, kindness and commitment to family and community. She was a beacon of wisdom, a custodian of history, and a source of inspiration.
“Her presence lit up every room, and her giggling was a melody that brought joy to all fortunate enough to share in her company. She approached life with resilience, and a unique blend of grace and determination that left an indelible mark on everyone around her. Her role as a mentor and guide extended far beyond familial bonds; she was a source of support for all who sought her wisdom. Her compassionate nature and genuine interest in the wellbeing of others made her a pillar of strength in times of joy and sorrow alike.”
Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu said, “Your mother’s unwavering dedication and professionalism as a police officer leave an indelible mark on the history of the Rivers State Police Command… Throughout her distinguished career, she served with distinction in various capacities and State Commands, including Edo, Abia, and Rivers states… While we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, we draw strength from the profound impact she made during her lifetime. Her commitment to service and the invaluable legacy she leaves behind will continue to inspire generations to come.”
Chairman, Nigerian Legion, Rivers State Command, ACG Rev Canon Charles Hart said, “We mourn with you and celebrate the extraordinary life of a remarkable mother, who was, indeed, a mother to all. She was a shining example of motherhood, kindness in her services to the people of Opobo Clan.
“Whilst her death has left a gaping void among the ranks of mothers, I encourage you, however, to take solace in the fact that she lived a fulfilled life and left behind an enduring legacy.”
The Accountant-General of Rivers State, Uche Ideozu said, “The demise of your dear mother at this time is not only a great loss in your beloved family members and close relatives, but also one that affects the good people of Rivers State at large. Because we cannot question God for choosing to call her home at this particular time, we can only but take solace in the fact that He permitted her to leave her footsteps in the sands of time.”
Also, the Forum of Permanent Secretaries in Rivers State said, “Sir, the passage of Mama came as a great shock not only to the Permanent Secretaries in the State Civil Service but to the entire people of Rivers State. We have truly lost a virtuous mother and a great daughter of the State who served her fatherland as a police officer and contributed immensely to the peace, security and development of Rivers State and Nigeria in general.
“We are, indeed, saddened by her sudden departure at this time that her motherly love, care and wisdom is much needed to move Rivers State forward. However, as mortals, we cannot question our Maker, the Almighty God.
“We kindly urge Your Excellency and your entire family to be consoled by the fact that Mama was a great mother who lived a life worthy of emulation, created positive impact while she was alive and was loved by all. She would be greatly missed.”
Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Chairman, Dr Enyiada Clifford Cookey-Gam said, “Your mother was a peaceful and disciplined police officer, who served the nation meritorious in her days of service. She was a quintessential mother, and a good Christian. Indeed, her death is an irreplaceable loss to you and your family. However, may the impeccable lifestyle she lived, and the loving memories of your mother console you at this time of grief.”
The Queen Osunju Jaja House said, “We are indeed, short of words but we are consoled that she lived a good and peaceful life before her sudden demise. She was indeed a kind woman who extended her kindness and love to all those who interacted with her in her sojourn on earth. Her pleasantries, firm mien, hard work, discipline, industry, and good official conduct in public service bear testimony to the great personality of Late Mrs Adeline Ndalu Ebenezer Jaja. We are indeed proud of her that is why we call her ‘Mama Police’”.
Rev Dr. Peter Finebone and Evangelist Ibiene Peter Finebone emphasised that: “As a retired police officer of the Nigerian Police Force, Mama was a peace-maker and a disciplinarian, which she inculcated to her children. She was a woman of many feathers and of distinct characteristics.”
These are only but a few of the flurry of tributes paid in honour of late Mrs Adeline Ndalu Jaja, at activities celebrating her final interment in Opobo Town. These tributes would remain stark reminders of the legacies she left behind. Like they say, these are memories that would remain indelible in history for centuries to come. Goodbye Mama!
Chukwudi is the Chief Press Secretary to the Rivers State Governor, and writes from Port Harcourt.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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