May I use this medium to commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for deregistering 74 political parties, thereby bringing the number of existing political parties to 18.
That was a step in the right direction as many of the deregistered parties only existed on social media and only make noise during elections. Many of them have no ideology and that is why close to elections, they often team up in support of the candidate of one strong political party or the other. Some say they do it for some gains – monetary and otherwise.
If only the downsizing will be done after every general election, until we are left with some strong political parties who are capable of participating actively during elections. That will save the nation cost of printing ballot papers and conducting election generally, as well as save voters the pain and time of going through several names in search of their party logo while casting their votes.
By: Donu Wika, Bodo City.
FG Has Failed To Protect Lives And Property Of Citizens -Wike
Being address presented by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, at Nigeria’s 62nd Independence Day celebration at the Sharks Stadium, Port Harcourt, on October 1, 2022.
It is my pleasure and honour, once again, to join the rest of our people, both at home and in the diaspora, to celebrate the 62nd Independence Day of our beloved country, Nigeria, our own dear native land.
Today, 62 years ago, we achieved flag independence and reclaimed our dignity from the British Colonial masters to stand and live on our own and to chart a new progressive path for the collective good of our people as an independent nation.
Our founding fathers believed strongly in the promise of independence and the boundless potential of our people to build a nation that would be respected for its greatness and contributions to the advancement of the black race in particular and the world at large.
The early years of independence were indeed glorious for our nation and our people.
The founding fathers were clear in their vision and overly patriotic in their mission to build a truly federal, democratic and prosperous nation guided by a truly federal constitution, the rule of law and the timeless values of equity, justice and social solidarity.
Sadly, this great vision was short-lived and the march towards the nation’s advancement was aborted and replaced with a strange, problematic and dysfunctional federal system of governance by the illegal military adventurers.
Although we have been a constitutional democracy since 1999, deliberate constitutional distortions, institutional weaknesses and widespread corruption continue to prevent us from enjoying a robust democratic practice, including free and fair elections, the rule of law and social justice from taking root in our country.
This is not to say that Nigeria has not made any progress as a nation. Certainly, we have achieved some visible developmental strides and economic progress as Africa’s largest economy. The fact that we have remained together despite the recurrent conflicts and crisis of confidence is also worth celebrating as an achievement.
But, after 62 years, Nigeria deserves more than what it has achieved and Nigerians likewise deserve much more than what their leaders have delivered to them with the country’s enormous natural and human resources.
Over the last seven years the economic and social conditions of our country keep deteriorating under the All Progressives Congress-led government, which is totally lost in what further measures to take to free or ameliorate the predicaments they have visited on Nigerians.
Life is sacrosanct, but the present federal government has failed in the most basic duty to the nation to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
Under their watch, infrastructure across all sectors, including roads, education and healthcare has collapsed. Tertiary education has remained comatose for over seven months and with no employment opportunities, the federal government continues to toy with the future of the youths.
Healthcare delivery is a nightmare across the country with ordinary citizens unable to access necessary medical services, including basic diagnostics and medications at affordable rates in public hospitals.
Crime and physical violence are almost out of control across the country; no one and nowhere, including schools, churches and mosques is safe anymore as everyone now lives in fear, agony and lamentations.
And with compulsive corruption, insecurity, low export earnings, protracted forex crisis and an economy so close to bankruptcy the untold suffering and hopeless future among Nigerians will continue if something is not done to improve the quality of political leadership in our country.
However, let’s not forget that before the present deplorable state of affairs, we experienced significant economic growth, relative prosperity, a stable educational system and a relatively better quality of life for our people, under the Peoples Democratic Party.
This showed that Nigeria’s current economic, social and security situation can rapidly be resolved with new leadership that is courageous, decisive, purposeful and able to take the country in a new direction that would curb corruption, stop unsustainable debts, and drive economic growth to create jobs and prosperity for all citizens.
At 62, our country and our people deserve access to sustainable economic opportunities, a friendly business environment, stable and affordable energy, gainful employment, quality and affordable healthcare and education across all levels, an effective public transport system, food security and a better quality of life; not the hardship, sufferings and the hopeless future of the present.
We, therefore, need a new government that cares about the unity of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens; a government that religiously commits to changing the present circumstances of the people and making life more meaningful for everyone.
Interestingly, this is what we have been doing without holding back in the last seven years for our people here in Rivers State.
We have provided road infrastructure in quality and quantity that are unmatched by any previous government since the creation of our State.
No State government, not even the Federal Government, can boast of the simultaneous construction of 12 flyovers and other major roads across the State in three years with Julius Berger Nigeria limited as the contractor; but that is what our government has successfully executed.
The roads and bridges we have built continue to stimulate economic growth and prosperity by providing safe and seamless commuting across the State for businesses, farmers and social endeavours.
We have greatly enhanced the State’s judicial system and improved the living conditions of judicial officers serving in the State, including those serving in the Rivers State jurisdictions of federal courts to enhance the rule of law and social justice in the State.
Additionally, the tremendous support we are giving to the federal security agencies has resulted in curbing crimes and made Rivers State one of the safest States in the country to invest, live and bring up our children.
We have expanded excess to quality education, including tertiary education with the successful establishment of the medical college and the four new campuses for the Rivers State University in Emohua, Ahoada, Etche and Tai Local Government Areas of the State.
We have renovated existing hospitals, completed abandoned ones, delivered new ones, and are set to deliver the most advanced specialist hospital in entire West Africa for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular diseases here in Port Harcourt, which we believe will help the nation to stem medical tourism and conserve foreign exchange for the country.
We have since started the payment of arrears of gratuities and death benefits to our senior citizens and legal beneficiaries and this will continue until all existing arrears of gratuities and death benefits are fully paid out.
We have also significantly advanced the economic interest of Rivers State through various fiscal and other measures, including securing important legal victories that enabled us to recover several oil wells and gas fields hitherto denied to the State by the Federal Government.
The 13% and other derivation funds from these oilfields have added appreciable resources to the State’s revenue base, which we are deploying to accelerate the development of our State.
We have also not given up in our determination to right the injustice associated with the collection and distribution of value-added taxes generated from the State by the Federal Government just as we again call on the Supreme Court to please, treat this matter with the urgency that it requires.
Finally, it is important for me to acknowledge that this is the last time I have had the privilege of addressing this august ceremony as the Governor of Rivers State.
Let me, therefore, use the opportunity to thank the good people of Rivers State and Nigerians across the country for your prayer and the support you have ceaselessly given to our government from the beginning to date.
We could not have achieved much without your support and we are happy that today, we can all stand up, and together, say with all boldness that Rivers State is the pride of the nation in good governance and delivery of development infrastructure.
We may not have achieved all that we promised, but we have delivered significant milestones on our development programmes for the next government to consolidate and expand.
But before then, be assured that we shall continue to work and deliver development projects to all parts of the State until our last day in office when our mandate would expire.
Finally, as we celebrate our 62nd Independence Day, let us all believe and continue to keep faith that we can together rescue, rebuild, and restore our nation to greatness and create the bright future we want for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
I, therefore, call on all citizens to stand up and participate effectively in the 2023 general elections by voting for the right leaders with the capacity to successfully drive our collective aspirations to build a united, secure and prosperous nation.
We further call on the Independent National Electoral Commission to save our democracy by fulfilling its promise to ensure that the votes of Nigerians count.
Thank you for your kind attention as I wish all Nigerians a Happy 62nd Independence Day.
May God bless our nation, Nigeria.
Abati And His Unwarranted Tirade At Wike
On July 29, 2022, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, on his arrival from Spain had addressed journalists at the Port Harcourt International Airport on recent happenings in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor, observed and regretted that some journalists like Dr. Reuben Abati, had made some uninformed assertions on happenings in the PDP and did not bother to check the facts. His remarks were innocuous. Excerpt of the interaction of Governor Wike is captured thus; “People like Reuben Abati, former Press Secretary to the President, sometimes, when you read or hear what he said, you begin to wonder where are we heading to. No more investigative journalism – people just stay somewhere, concoct stories, all kind of things they want to say.”
That observation was made to reference comments on a recent interview that was conducted by Abati and Tundun Abiola, who co-hosted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Governor Wike pointed to some of those comments on that programme and said, “ See the statements he made. So many lies were told and then you say I should not react to some of those issues? That will not be fair.”
At best, such is the unarguable position of Governor Wike, unapologetically, and we would have left it at that without dignifying Abati, a mystified self-satisfied public commentator with any response about his public outburst on the 1st August,2022 while on Arise Television, Arise News.
Abati, buoyed by self-importance and in his characteristic penchant for bellicosity, recklessly jettisoned journalism ethics which demanded that he comports himself in public or while performing his duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of the profession. Rather, he delighted in maligning Governor Wike.
Any discerning mind will agree that Abati’s outburst and unbridled derogatory commentary on Governor Wike can best be described as irresponsible, scurrilous and infantile. And we do have moral obligation to put things right by setting the records straight. We do so with the same conviction that Governor Wike spoke of, which he made clear at his interaction with journalists and stated that, “I can’t continue to remain silent. Nigerians must know what happened, Nigerians must know who are those that love them. Nigerians must know whether we are serious about leadership of this country.”
It does appear that Abati seemed to be so self involved, and driven by ‘a-should-be-known’ vested interest about the inner happenings in PDP, otherwise, why fume about the resolve of Governor Wike on what he would be unveiling in the coming days? There are often two sides to a story and if Abati is not interested about the other and balancing side to what he believes to have known already, it shall be construed that truth does not matter to him.
Every journalist worth his salt is pushed to secure it, as demanded professionally, to access it and to balance the view points. If Abati is averse to such, then on what truth does he practise his journalism?
The sacredness of facts is embedded in the truth that is adjudged as absolute, eternal and eschatological. It is a conscience path that the media must continue to tread and be guided while playing out their roles, a duty that places on journalists a moral duty to steer clear from imputing their sentiments into information in order not to broaden the harm done by misinformation.
Abati had claimed to have been a journalist since 1985. Such boasting of the sojourn of his professional practice, he thinks, puts him on such pedestal to say Governor does not have the capacity and intellect to teach him journalism. The best of journalism, he knows, was not taught to him in the classroom. He garnered it from daily experiences as he discharges his duties. Events and persons he had met and encountered had impacted more on such knowledge base he prides in. No matter how one despises the teacher, the lessons taught, inculcated by the teacher are often eternal.
Does length of service make one hard to err? So, is it Abati infallible? Can he be wrong? Of course, he can and has been so observed. But does he know it when he is wrong professionally and be humbled enough to accept correction? That is where the cloud keeps thick darkness. His rantings on Monday 1st August 2022 on his Arise TV morning programme show him to have displayed how intolerable he could be when his errors are pointed at, and to him.
It is this bitterness that has manifested because he failed to have realised that decency should be his watch word, particularly, when he is on live television. The privilege to anchor a television programme cannot be a licence to malign a person of the governor’s status.
In his zest to impress some extraneous influences, Abati merely discredited journalism ethics which prohibits him, in any manner, to ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of his political conviction, not even the office of a state governor. Rather than puffing in arrogance and indulging in unwarranted combativeness, Abati, ought to have realised that journalists engaged in television and radio media practice ought to show higher adherence to ethical practices and tolerance.
Indeed, what investigative journalism does is to search out the truth from the subtext of falsehood to achieve the needed correction. It is for this that Governor Wike wondered about the absence of factual substance sieved from investigative journalism efforts in some, if not all of the comments made by Abati. His commentaries there from, arising from that Arise TV interaction, were obviously tilted, showed of him, who is a distant fellow to the inner happenings among politicians within the PDP, as if he were an active participator. It suggested a taking of sides. His comments were short of a well searched out positions.
Abati might want to claim he merely expressed his freedom of speech as enshrined in the country’s Constitution, but he must bear in mind, as a journalist, that he has responsibility to refrain from using stinging and pungent language that cast cloud on a person’s credibility. Freedom of expression does not license a journalist, no matter how highly placed, even inadvertently, to insult the Governor of Rivers State.
Perhaps, one needs to inform Abati to learn to value positions and opinions of other people according to their merits. To this end, it may interest him to know that before joining active politics, Governor Wike, already had two degrees in Political Administration and Law, respectively. Hence, the governor’s intellectual acumen cannot be questioned by him.
Governor Wike was Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007. During this period, he served as Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He was also an African representative in the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
In 2007, he was appointed the Chief of Staff to Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi between 2007 and 2011. And on July 14, 2011, he was appointed Minister of State for Education, and later as Supervising Minister of Education. By this time, Abati was the spokesperson of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Abati, will acknowledge that during Wike’s tenure as the Minister of State for Education, he made a remarkable impact in the sub-sector of basic education.
It is on record that as Minister, he spearheaded a nationwide reform of the nation’s education system. Some of the notable programmes he championed for include: Enabling access to quality education for about nine million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria.
In 2014, he resigned voluntarily to vie for Governorship of Rivers State on the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket, won the general elections in April the following year. On April 3, 2019, he was re-elected as the Governor of Rivers State in the 2019 general elections.
In his stint in office as Governor of Rivers State, Wike has achieved a lot. Every sincere Rivers citizen and residents will attest to the fact that fulfilling promises and delivering quality projects is the mind, body and soul of the Governor Wike’s administration.
The constant, consistent and recurrent narratives of the last over seven years of the Wike’s administration have been an unprecedented delivery of projects, transformation and progress. In recent times, the governor and eminent Nigerians have traversed the length and breadth of the State to commission or flag off various development projects in the education, healthcare, housing, social welfare and sports sectors, among others.
May be, Abati needs to be reminded of his own writing in Premium Times, January 24, 2016, in the article entitled, “Where are the public intellectuals.” In that article, Abati discussed who intellectuals are and would have expected him to be excited when such traits are manifested by well-meaning Nigerians. Abati just refused to accept the richness of intelligence possessed by Governor Wike, who in public life, has impacted enormously on national life, and pushed ideas forth to feed public discourse. In fact, in that article, Abati noted that intellectuals have ideas that they push within and beyond “boundaries, destroyed illusions, questioned orthodoxies and enabled societal progress… intellectuals exerted great influence on public policy, and their input into the governance process could not be ignored.”
So, does Abati fear to learn and relearn some of his professional trappings for saner practice patten, howbeit, also unlearn his egocentric attitude that obfuscate his professional judgment and capacity to tolerate an opposing view without being personal or sorely emotional.
By: Kelvin Ebiri
NEW Rivers Vision And Strategic Infrastructure Revolution
On Friday, May 29, 2015 at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, while delivering his Inaugural Address, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, raised hopes, made promises of a better future;and gave specific commitments, timelines and landmark pledges to a crowd of thousands of Rivers people and residents. He said “Rivers State has been rescued and reclaimed. It is a new day in our history, a new dawn to repair and restore our dear state to the path of sanity. I invite you all to the table of brotherhood for the new beginning. I reiterate my declaration that in the election, there were no losers and winners. Rather, Rivers State was the winner, and so, we are all winners.
“During the campaigns, we visited several communities in all the local government areas. We met with thousands of people, including civil servants, teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, traders, market women, the business community, pensioners and the unemployed. We were shocked by the level of despair, anguish, frustration, pains and worries on the faces of all those we met…
“As you know, every democratic government rests on a tripod. Good governance principles always dictate the supremacy of the rule of law as well as the equality, autonomy and interdependence of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Never is any one arm of government permitted to dominate, castrate or undermine the dignity, powers and relevance of the other arms…Let the freedom bells ring! Let the people shout for joy. Let them leap and sing to God…The vicissitudes of the old ignoble order have come to pass. Only the remnants remain…
“But this we promise. Never again, shall our people and our land be subjected to destruction and waste by those we mistook, perhaps, for builders…Thank God and providence. With the resilience of our people, we have recovered our land for the good of all…As we reiterated at several fora during the campaigns, our blueprint is an agenda of hope. We pledged to offer a New Rivers Vision based on a new thinking. Our goal is to make Rivers State a land of peace and prosperity with boundless opportunities and possibilities – a place where no one is left behind because of his or her station and everyone who works hard can achieve his or her life’s dreams. Please, be assured that we are committed to actualising our vision and mission already in the public domain”.
Over the last seven years, the hopes raised on that compelling stage have been sustained and promises fulfilled. Millions of Rivers people and residents who live and do business in the state, today, attest to this claim. A few testimonials may suffice!
For example, Wike said, “As a government, we humbly request and oblige you to hold us accountable for the following: We shall return power to the people as we conduct our common affairs with the fear of God and ensure that everyone is equal and accountable before the law. Our government will certainly be that of the people, for the people and by the people. Under our watch, the principle of separation of powers shall be operative. Equality and mutual respect for the constitutional status, powers and functions shall prevail among the three arms of government”. While at that podium, he announced the appointments of an Acting Chief Judge and President, Customary Court of Appeal, and swore both into office three days after on June 1. He followed due process of law in doing so! He also ordered the immediate reopening of the courts shut down for almost two years by the previous adimstration due to politically-motivated violence and strikes.
He began upgrade of infrastructure to boost the Judiciary’s efficiency and effectiveness. He built the Magistrate Court complex. He further built befitting quarters on owner-occupier basis for judges of the state origin to address accommodation crisis they usually face after retirement. He gave judges and magistrates Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) as official cars to ease transportation challenges. He built new edifice for the Federal High Court, rebuilt the Court of Appeal complex, and also built quarters for judges and staff of the Federal Judiciary. He further built an imposing structure for Federal Government-owned National Industrial Court. He also relocated the NBA House from the court complex to opposite Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat, and gave lawyers a befitting edifice there. Today, he is building the best campus of the Nigerian Law School, and another structure for the Nigerian Judicial Institute, with student hostels, staff quarters, recreational lounges and sports complexes.
He also inaugurated the eighth session of the state House of Assembly, and vowed to ensure the independence of both arms of government to guarantee checks and balances, a basic hallmark of a thriving democracy. He has built new quarters for the state lawmakers and a befitting residential accommodation for the Speaker.
After assuming office, Wike began delivering on his promises when he said, “Rivers State is a haven for tourism…Consequently, our tourism policy thrust is to provide a clear plan for the development of tourism, especially eco-tourism in Rivers State in partnership with the private sector.” He launched the development of Port Harcourt Pleasure Park. He built the facility, adding restaurant and bar, cinema, event centre, artificial lake, fountain, and many other amusement stuffs for children.
The governor also said,”Now that we have become victorious and have arrived at the home ward end of our beautiful water-side, it is time to work, to erect landmarks of progress and prosperity. Yes, it is time to deconstruct, reconstruct, rehabilitate and restore…our common wealth. Now is the time for us to rebuild: To rebuild our state; to rebuild our educational and health institutions; to rebuild our occupations, and to rebuild our infrastructure. It is time to provide new opportunities to maximally touch the lives of our people. It is time to restore hope.”
In all sectors, the deconstruction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, restoration and rebuilding agenda of the Wike administration has been manifest. He built a new Ecumenical Centre for Christians of all denominations to worship God under one roof. He also completed the last phase of the Rumuwoji (Mile 1) Market, reconstructed burnt Fruit Garden Market, constructed new Rumuokoro Market and Motor Park, and began building a new abattoir at Mgbuoshimini. He built more than 50 housing units for civil servants, and also built jetties to boost marine transport. He procured buses to increase the state’s fleet in road transport. He rebuilt the Produce House on Moscow Road, constructed new secretariats for Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC). He completed the reconstruction, remodelling and equipped the world-class Port Harcourt Cultural Centre. He renovated two state-owned property, and completed the building of decades’ old RivBank building, which is being sold to earn revenue for the state. He recovered and placed for sale the Harold Dappa-Biriye House (former NDDC Headquarters). He also recovered and sold the 17-storey former Nigerian Stock Exchange building.
Wike said, “On healthcare delivery, we are determined to ensure that our people have access to affordable and quality healthcare. To achieve this objective, we will adequately rehabilitate, equip and staff all existing general hospitals and health centres across the state. As a permanent solution to the challenge of inadequate manpower, especially medical doctors, in the health sector, we shall establish and ensure the immediate take-off of a Medical School in the Rivers State University of Science and Technology”.
Today, the governor has strived to revitalise the primary healthcare system; improve the secondary health infrastructure and fortified the tertiary health sub-sector, including the establishment of a medical school in the state’s university to enhance training of health personnel for the state. He has upgraded the School of Health Science and Technology, and is partnering with the private sector to manage secondary health facilities and ensure efficient healthcare delivery in the state.
He renovated more than 17 existing primary healthcare centres and built three new primary healthcare centres at Bille, Mgbuosimini and Ogbakiri communities. He strengthened secondary healthcare sub-sector with the reconstruction of 12 existing but abandoned general hospitals. These include Abua General Hospital in Abua/Odual; Nchia General Hospital in Eleme; Isiokpo General Hospital in Ikwerre; Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Rumuigbo in Obio/Akpor; Abonnema General Hospital in Akuku-Toru; Bodo General Hospital in Gokana; Opobo General Hospital in Opobo/Nkoro; Ngo General Hospital in Andoni; Emohua General Hospital in Emohua; Buguma General Hospital in Asari-Toru; Eberi General Hospital in Omuma; and Okrika General Hospital in Okrika.
Wike embarked on completion of four zonal hospitals inherited from the previous administration while initiating the construction of additional zonal hospital at Omoku. He also completed the zonal hospitals in Bori and Degema. Besides, he completed the Mother and Child Hospital in Port Harcourt; constructed 22 row. 3-bedroom Doctors’ Residential Quarters at Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital; introduced N500million interest-free Private Hospitals Support Loan Fund.
In the tertiary healthcare sub-sector, Wike embarked on the upgrade of Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital to Teaching Hospital for the Rivers State University. To make it functional and compete favourably with others across the country, he procured and installed new equipment and facilities for the hospital. The hospital is now training medical personnel for the state, in addition to the novel financial support given to PAMO University of Medical Science to train Rivers youths in medical and related fields. Wike’s exceptional performance in the health sector is also evidenced by improved quality of healthcare in the state and deliberate approval of counterpart funds for other health-improvement and related policies and programmes by donor agencies, international support organisations and the Federal Government, designed to touch the lives of Rivers people. Today, the Maxilo-Facial and Dental Hospital at Garrison, and the Kelsey Harrison Specialist Hospital at Rumuwoji, Mile 1 are undergoing complete renovation and upgrade.
Wike also said, “As your governor, I will ensure that we build the infrastructure, including first-class all season roads, bridges, canals, jetties and other mass transit infrastructure that the state needs to drive socio-economic development. Specifically, we intend, subject to available funds, prioritise the completion of all on-going road projects; construct the Trans-Kalabari costal road network, dualise the Ahoada-Omoku road; Saakpenwa-Bori road; and Oyigbo-Afam road, among others. We shall also tackle the challenges of urban renewal, road congestion and traffic gridlock in PortHarcourt City, Obio/Akpor and other major population centres in Rivers State”.
To address these commitments, Wike completed almost all road projects started by the previous government. He constructed no fewer than 150 roads, some inherited from his predecessor while many were initiated by his government. All road projects inherited from predecessor have been completed and commissioned. Some started by Wike have been commissioned while some are still ongoing. By investing about 70percent of the State Capital Expenditure on road development, Wike has connected the entire state by completing all major roads inherited from past administrations with a view to improve the road network in urban/residential neighbourhoods and expand existing ones in the highly urbanised Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Aresas.
Cont’d from p.11
Indeed, Wike constructed many internal roads in communities across the 23 LGAs. These include Abonnema Town, Amadi-Ama, Elele-Alimini, Isiokpo, Elele, Ubima, Omoku, Okochiri, Ozuboko, Atali, Eneka, Odiokwu, Omagwa, Bori, Okrika, Eleme, Emohua, Ahoada, and a litany of urban neighbourhood roads designed to give facelift to Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. The neighbourhood roads include those in Ogbu-nu-Abali, Diobu, Port Harcourt Township and Borokiri, Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRAs), Trans Amadi Industrial Layout and adjoining communities, Rumuepirikom, Woji, and Abuloma. Others are Eliogbolo, Rukpakurusi, Eliohani, Oroigwe, Elimgbu, Elekahia, Rumuodara, Rumuomasi, Rumukalagbor, Rumuodaolu, Rumugholu, Ogbogoro, Ozuoba, Rumuosi, Alakahia, Mgbodo-Aluu, Oyigbo, Igwuruta, and Rukpokwu, among others.
Wike also dualised a number of roads in the state, some inherited from previous governments while some were initiated by his government. Such roads include the Saakpenwa-Bori Road which connects Tai, Gokana, Khana, Opobo-Nkoro and Andoni LGAs to the heart of the state capital (mentioned in his inaugural speech); and the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road started by the Odili administration. He has since completed both roads, and is working on the second phase of the Saakpenwa-Bori road, which takes the road to Kono. He has also completed the Woji-Elelenwo-Akpajo Dual Carriageway, connecting Port Harcourt from Peter Odili Road to Obio/Akpor and Eleme LGAs with two major bridges, an under-pass and a flyover. It was awarded by the previous administration in 2009 but abandoned in 2012. The road is an alternative route to Trans-Amadi-Slaughter Road. Besides that, Wike further completed the all-important Garrison-Trans-Amadi-Slaughter-Woji-Elelenwo Road, also awarded in 2009 by the previous administration but abandoned in 2013. Fitted with 16 telecommunication ducts on two sides of the dual-carriageway, the road has six bridges and seven exquisitely designed roundabouts with delicately placed walkways and gardens.
In addition, he completed the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Dual Carriageway, linking Obio/Akpor with Ikwerre LGA and the critical International Airport as an alternative route. It was designed by Governor Rufus Ada-George, awardedand began but abandoned by the previous government. He also completed the Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road and Chokocho-Igbo-Etche-Rumuokurushi Road, both linking many agrarian communities. He completed Igwuruta-Eneka-Rumuokurusi dual carriageway, started but abandoned by the previous administration. Wike further completed the Federal Government-owned Igwurura-Chokocho Road, also linking many agrarian communities and abandoned for 20 years. He completed Iwofe-Rumuolumeni dual carriageway, awarded by the previous administration but also abandoned due to poor funding. He completed the reconstruction and dualisation of Creek Road, which was awarded by the previous administration but abandoned due to funding constraints.
Wike initiated and completed the Airport-Ipo-Omademe-Ozuoha Road in Ikwerre LGA that links many agrarian communities as well as two Nkpogu bridges abandoned by the previous administration in 2014. He completed the critical Eagle Island Road/bridge, which links Port Harcourt to Obio/Akpor, and takes traffic off the major Ikwerre Road but abandoned by the previous government, andcompleted the dualisation of Elelenwo Road. He commenced the construction of the phase one of Trans-Kalabari Road while construction work is ongoing on both Ahoada-Omoku and Oyigbo-Afam dualisation projects (all mentioned in his inaugural address).
When Wike made the first inaugural speech in 2015, there were only nine flyovers built over a space of about four decades. These include those at Isaac Boro Park, Kaduna Street, Rumuola, Air Force, Eliozu, Obiri-Ikwerre, Sani Abacha/Agip, Oil Mill/Eleme Junction, and Woji/Akpajo link road. Of all, the two single-lane flyovers at Kaduna Street and Rumuola Junctions were the worst engineering designs in recent memory. The flyovers created more traffic challenges for residents than there solved. Even so, successive governments since the military junta vacated governance in 1999 had proposed to construct flyovers, especially at Garrison, Artillery, and Rumuokoro, but none fulfilled their promises to the people.
But today, Wike has constructed the Garrison, Artillery and Rumuokoro flyovers and named them: Rebisi, Rumuogba, and Okoro-Nu-Odo flyovers. He also reconstructed and expanded the Rumuola and Kaduna Street Junction flyovers, and renamed them: Oro-Abali and Rumuola flyovers. He, therefore, wiped away the pains of four decades of pandering. In addition, he built a sixth flyover at GRA Junction on Port Harcourt-Aba road; and dualised Ezimgbu and Tombia Extension roads. The 7th flyover named Nkpolu-Oroworukwo; the 8th flyover christened Orochiri-Wurukwo bridge at Waterlines Junction;the ninth flyover at Rumuepirikom by Ada-George-Rumuolumeni roads’ intersection;and the 10th flyover named Elimgbu-Rumuokurusi flyover are at different stages of completion. Now, Wike is working on the commencement of construction on Location-Ada-George-Mgbuoba as well as Rumuokwuta flyovers, which would bring the number to 12. These would bring to the capital city a sustained aura of beauty, elegance, gigantic masterpieces, harmony, symmetry, order, inspiration and peace. Why? Flyover bridges help streamline traffic control system by helping reduce congestion, curb exorbitant vehicle operating costs and unquantifiable travel times. Less horizontal curvature reduces risk of off-road crashes. Besides, flyovers also help reduce the negative impact of stress, traumatic disorders; cardiovascular and neuro-psychotic challenges created by disorderly motorists and road users, as well as bad roads.
Wike also pledged to tap the benefits of the business sector. He said, “We appreciate that these are difficult times. But we are confident about the brightness of our future which begins today. The enormous natural and human resources, including oil and gas deposits, vast arable land, rich biodiversity and water resources, two sea ports, an international airport, two refineries, a petrochemical plant, a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) company, a fertiliser company, numerous oil and gas companies and activities, a dynamic population and vibrant labour force, remain solid development sign posts on which to hinge our march of progress. Our collective quest for a prosperous future depends on making Rivers State economically strong and self-reliant. To realise this basic objective, we shall develop and implement an economic development blueprint that leverages on our strengths to make Rivers State the industrial hub of Nigeria in oil and gas, agriculture, maritime and tourism businesses.”
In his quest to fulfil this pledge, Wike encouraged and secured the relocation of headquarters of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) from Lagos to Port Harcourt. The Rivers State Government acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) 45pecent stakes in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 in Eleme for Rivers people. NLNG Train 7 is up and running and promises greater opportunities for Rivers people. The government is maintaining its interest in INDORAMA Petrochemical and Fertiliser Company Limited, and working to boost its participation in the oil and gas sector through encouragement of more companies to invest in the state.
He also said, “Additionally, we shall promote investment in partnership with private investors for the utilisation of our large reserves of kaolin, silica-sand for the ceramic industry; explore opportunities in wood processing and energise participation in large scale commercial farming, agro-allied business ventures and the promotion of a green economy”. In this regard, Wike revitalised the DATCO Integrated Cassava Processing Factory in Afam, and has promoted agriculture and farming in many ways.
On May 29, 2015, Wike said, “This administration envisages a state that should be the knowledge-base of the nation. To this end, we will give serious attention to the provision of quality education to all at all levels by improving budgetary allocation to the education sector. We shall also effectively implement the Universal Basic Education Scheme and demand total devotion and accountability from our teachers through effective monitoring and supervision. The era of throwing money at public education without the desired results is over. We intend to reintroduce a functional boarding system in public secondary schools and increase funding for research and innovation in our tertiary institutions. We will also fund a competitive local and foreign scholarship scheme for brilliant students of Rivers origin to enhance manpower development in critical areas of local and national needs”.
To achieve this, Wike embarked on the revival of the education sector. This has expanded access to quality education. In doing this, the administration increased budgetary allocation to the education sector, strengthened the implementation of Universal Basic Education, rehabilitated and equipped schools and improved infrastructure in tertiary institutions.
In the basic education sub-sector, the administration reconstructed over 175 primary schools, including classroom blocks, landscaping and the provision of water, toilet facilities and power generators; supplied furniture and equipment to over 100 primary and junior secondary schools; supplied sports and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment to a record number of primary and junior secondary schools; provided training to basic education teachers across the state; and completed the construction of the headquarters building of the State Universal Basic Education Board.
In the senior secondary education sub-sector, the Wike administration upgraded more than 11 junior and senior secondary schools; cleared all salaries owed teachers and security contractors in the state’s secondary schools; and ensured the regular payment of salaries to secondary school teachers, pensioners and other staff.
The administration also subsidised the registration fees for Rivers State students undertaking the West African School Certificate Examination (WAEC) and the National Examination Council Examination (NECO) and sustained provision of science equipment, chemicals, materials and consumables to all secondary schools in the state for WASSCE and NECO examinations. He also embarked on the reconstruction of over 13 secondary schools, furnished and equipped them. The reconstruction involved classrooms and teachers’ science and arts laboratories, sports and recreational facilities; dedicated water sources and power generator for regular electricity; perimeter fencing and gate for improved security; new hostel blocks and assembly halls.
The schools include: Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta; Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori; Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema; Government Secondary School, Ogu; Government Secondary School, Onne; Bonny National Grammar School, Bonny; Community Secondary School, Bille; Government Secondary School, Okarki; Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada; Government Secondary School, Abua; Community Secondary School, Ubima; Model Primary School, Mgbuosimini, Rumueme; and construction of Model Primary School, Abara-Etche.
In the tertiary education sub-sector, Wike started improving the infrastructure at the Rivers State University. The administration improved the funding of the university which led to the accreditation of all programmes earlier denied accreditation. He gave approval for the recruitment of new staff at the Rivers State University. He also delivered key infrastructure projects at the institution, including Faculty of Law Building; Faculty of Management Sciences Building; Faculty of Science and Technical Education Building; and College of Medical Sciences Building. He also established and built three more campuses of the institution at Ahoada, Emohua, and Etche.
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Other tertiary institutions have received key funding interventions. These include Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rumuola; Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori; and Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni. These efforts have led to improved infrastructure in the schools, with sustained funding from the state government.The Rivers State Government is upgrading Rivers State School of Nursing and Midwifery while a scholarship programme with the PAMO University of Medical Sciences to train 100 students of Rivers State origin each year for the next five years is on course.
Within the period under review, the Rivers State governor revived education at all levels, setting it on the path of growth. It has formed the foundation of the empowerment of Rivers people with the required resources to make profound progress.
Wike also said, “Besides, our new vision acknowledges the importance of sports and recreation to the socio-economic mobility of youths both within and outside the country. The global economy today has sports, recreation and tourism as the key pillars of development. For instance, football, basketball, boxing, athletics, generate huge revenue and resources for active participants. These activities are youth-based and they would attract the attention of our government to systematically promote them.”
To fulfil this commitment, the governor collapsed the wobbling Dolphin and Sharks football clubs into Rivers United, and funded the club to win laurels at the national and continental levels. He has hosted many international football competitions at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Stadium to promote interest in football, boost tourism and revenue for the state, and has supported the Super Eagles to travel for international competitions and win trophies. Wike has also supported other national sports associations and teams to enable them excel. He remodelled and rehabilitated Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Sports Complex and Sharks Stadium. He initiated andcompleted construction of the Real Madrid Football Academy near the Yakubu Gowon Stadium at Elekahia to boost youth involvement in sports and enhance employment generation.
Wike also said, “On environmental protection, our mission is to create a responsible management strategy for the sustainable benefit of the present and succeeding generations. For us, environmental protection is a task that must be pursued with greater intensity, direction and clarity of vision because the environment is our common heritage and the foundation of our existence. In consequence, we will ensure that all relevant legislations and policies on the environment are enforced as well as ensure efficient and sustainable management of wastes through the collaborative efforts of stakeholders.We will further enter into strategic partnership with the Federal Government, oil companies and communities to clean-up polluted communities and adversely impacted sites as well as ensure the protection of vulnerable shorelines through land reclamation and embankment…”
Under Wike’s watch, the Federal Government ticked-off the clean-up and remediation of polluted sites in Ogoniland in line with the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report recommendations through the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). The governing structures have been set up, the funding template instituted, and an environmental university is already approved by the Senate for Ogoni. SPDC has also withdrawn its operation from the area, and its facilities decommissioned. Clean water projects are ongoing. The soot pandemic has been addressed with deliberate effort to fight illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refineries in the state as strategic weapon to restore polluted environment due to crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. Identifies operators of illegal refineries are being neutralised, arrested and prosecuted, including some of those declared wanted by the governor. Three new modular refineries are in the works for the state, which will create jobs and wealth for the people.
On May 29, 2015, Wike stressed, “Fundamentally, during the campaigns, we also promised to secure our state. No government is worth any value if it cannot guarantee the security of lives and property. I assure you that never for a moment will our administration be a captive of politics, when it comes to public security. We have the political will to fight, defeat crimes and criminality in Rivers State. There will be effective coordination, collaboration and synergy with the Federal Government, the law enforcement agencies and our community leaders in the prosecution of the war against cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery. We urge our people to fully co-operate with us in this direction”.
To achieve this, Wike has invested heavily in efforts to fortify the security architecture of the state and support security agencies, including military and para-military institutions to perform their assigned, legitimate roles, seamlessly. He procured no fewer than 250 patrol vans, communication gadgets, protective vests, more than 40 gun and patrol boats, among others, for the federal security agencies to guarantee law and order, peace and security in the state. The police are better equipped now, and crime rate is at its lowest ebb. More infrastructures have been built for them, including in partnership with NDDC.
In addition, he set up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency in 2018 to complement the efforts of the police, and prepare the state for the implementation of impending policy on state police while boosting community policing. But his desire to address the security lapses in some parts of the state through the agency has met with stiff resistance from the police and military high commands. Despite this, the government has continued to maintain law and order, and secure lives and property of residents.
Wike also said, “At this point, let me also assure our people that our government, and indeed Rivers State, will not be on a war path with the Federal Government. We will cooperate and meaningfully engage the Federal Government to develop the PortHarcourt International Airport to accommodate additional international routes and flight frequencies. We also commit to working with the Federal Government to complete the Bodo-Bonny and other federal roads, as well as ensure the optimal utilisation of the seaports in PortHarcourt and Onne for greater commercial and economic progress. We assure you that Rivers State will not only continue to serve as the Treasure Base of the Nation, but we will also ensure her beautiful people, will be equal partakers of the resources of the land”.
This pledge has resulted in the commissioning of the departure wing of the domestic terminal of the Port Harcourt Airport and completion of the arrival wing of the airport. It also led to the completion of the departure and arrival wings of the international terminal of the airport at Omagwa. All are operational today, with reasonable international and local routes and flight frequencies. Similarly, the seaports at Onne and Port Harcourt are now busy with cargo freights, boosting economic activities in the state. The Oyigbo-Eleme Junction section of the eight-lane Port Harcourt-Aba Road has been completed while work is ongoing on the Bodo-Bonny road. NDDC has completed and relocated to its corporate headquarters in Port Harcourt, 20 years after the interventionist agency’s establishment.
Wike further sought the partnership of Rivers people and residents of the state to succeed when he said, “We told you when we were seeking your mandate, that our promises are our bond. Once again, our promise to you is that, we shall work tirelessly to actualise these goals, objectives and targets. But as human beings, we are not perfect and cannot lay claim to having all the answers to the problems and challenges confronting us as a state and as a people. This is why we shall need your wisdom, prayers and support in diverse ways because working together, we can do and achieve much more. We shall also call on you to make necessary sacrifices so that collectively, we can make Rivers State the place that we can all be proud of with confidence in the great possibilities ahead”.
As a lawyer, Wike knows that one of the ways to douse tension, heal the wounds and bring people together is by guaranteeing justice, equity, inclusion and fair-play for all stakeholders in the Rivers Project. For this reason, he has worked with all stakeholders to promote peace and security, justice and equity, inclusion and progress of all people living and doing business in the state. Even the opposition politicians have benefitted from this policy.
For instance, the governor offered Olive Branch in 2019 to opposition leaders to join the government as a precursor to restore security and secure peace in communities. Leveraging this window, Wike withdrew the murder charges against former factional chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Hon Ojukaye Flag-Amachree. Just last week, Ojukaye emerged first runner-up in the governorship primary of opposition APC in the state. Wike also withdrew attempted murder/criminal charges against former majority leader of Rivers State House of Assembly, and director-general of the botched Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation for the 2019 governorship election, Dr Chidi Lloyd, who has since returned to the PDP, and is today, chairman, Emohua Local Government Council. More opposition politicians have also returned to the PDP and are equal participants in the political theatre, thanks to Wike’s politics of accommodation.
By taking the lead towards showing genuine interest in reconciliation, peace and unity, Wike has exhibited exemplary qualities that if appreciated by the opposition, may address the difficult questions which successive administrations before now, had failed to provide answers to in the last seven years. Therefore, the NEW Rivers Vision project has delivered love, peace and unity in the state.Of course, Wike’s unity, peace and reconciliation policy will move the state forward in the race to increase jobs creation, economic boom and infrastructure development. This will translate to the realisation of the win-win policy for all Rivers people and residents, which Wike promised on May 29, 2015. Rivers State remains the winner!
By: Nelson Chukwudi
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