Last week, the Rivers State Government announced a release of the sum of N16.6 billion for the upgrade of facilities at one of Nigeria’s foremost state-owned universities, the Rivers State University in Port Harcourt.
The amount was announced to journalists in Port Harcourt by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who said that N9 billion of the amount would serve as take-off grant for the building of new campuses of the institution in Ahoada, Emohua and Etche Local Government Areas.
According to the commissioner, the sum of N3 billion would be spent on each of the campuses for the construction of faculty buildings, students hostels, offices, libraries, auditoriums, lecture halls and also address other needs required for the campuses to maximise their operations.
“This is a landmark development in the history of the institution which has maintained one campus since its establishment in October, 1980.
“With the establishment of the three campuses, the communities where they are sited will be opened up for consequential development and economic activities. It will reduce the rate of unemployment in the state,” Nsirim said.
He also disclosed that the remaining N7.6 billion has been released to enable the university’s College of Medical Sciences establish the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Clinical Sciences and Pathology Building.
In his address to the journalists, the state Commissioner of Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, said that, with the fund release, the College of Medical Sciences could now operate as a full-fledged college with all its required programmes running.
He said it would serve to secure accreditation of more departments and programmes and enhance the capacity of the college, since it already has the requisite personnel.
Also at the media briefing, the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku, said those unrepentant traducers of Governor Nyesom Wike who thought that His Excellency was only making mere political statement when he promised to establish three new campuses for RSU can now see that the man is already walking the talk.
According to Ebeku, with these take-off grants, contractors would soon start the construction work at the approved sites in the three local government areas and there would surely be an expansion of the institution to benefit the entire state.
He said that this would increase access to education because admission spaces would be opened for more prospective students, and those host communities of the new campuses would enjoy increased commercial activities and development in general.
Outside this media parley, one of the earliest personalities to react to the governor’s fund release was his deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo.
She was said to have disclosed, in a statement, that the N16.6 billion fund release for facilities upgrade in RSU clearly indicates that Governor Nyesom Wike is committed to making Rivers State the education hub of Nigeria.
Banigo also expressed delight that the N7.6 billion granted the College of Medical Sciences would not only qualify the teaching hospital for full accreditation but make the state a centre of excellence in the training of health care professionals.
“The college will now be accredited to take a full stream of 150 undergraduate students annually in medical sciences,” she pointed out.
The deputy governor who is also a highly reputed public health doctor said that Wike’s huge investment in health and human capital development was exceptional, and that it behoves all well-meaning Rivers people to continue to support him to succeed in the quest to turn the state around for everyone’s benefit.
Bro Felix Obuah is the sole administrator of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA). He is among the earliest commentators on the significance of this administration’s fund release for an expansion of the RSU campus.
Obuah was reported to have described the N16.6 billion fund approval by Governor Wike as a masterstroke that would open the frontiers of the institution for the educational upliftment of Rivers State.
According to a statement signed by his media aide, Jerry Needam, the erstwhile state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and owner of Go Round Football Club said:
“What the Governor has done is an uncommon feat which we had been yearning for, for a very long time, to no avail. Now that God has given us a leader that has the wisdom, interest and political will to ensure our state and our people join other advanced societies in technological advancement through quality education for our children here at home, we must not let the opportunity slip.
“Our collective wish and prayer should be more wisdom, strength and life for His Excellency for more of what he’s been doing in all sectors of our state economy which have endeared him to many across the globe. I think the best appreciation is to queue into his vision and make best use of the opportunities for the benefit of our people.”
As contained in the statement, Obuah also appealed to Rivers youth to take advantage of the planned facilities and programmes to be put in place at the state university with the approved fund and go for studies like the medical sciences that would address the pressing needs of the state, country and society at large, stressing that the governor has creditably played his own part by laying a solid foundation for them.
Prof. Okey Onuchukwu of the University of Port Harcourt is also among those who have, so far, attempted to explain the potential effects of the latest government largesse to RSU, particularly on Rivers State and its residents.
Speaking as a guest on a current affairs radio programme in Port Harcourt, last weekend, he described the RSU campus decentralisation as a timely intervention to expand the tertiary education sub-sector and improve the rural economy of the state.
The renowned Econometrics lecturer and former director of Uniport Business School who was part of the team that drafted the development blueprint of Governor Wike’s NEW Rivers Vision in 2015 said:
“The Rivers State University is a very critical area Governor Nyesom Wike had in mind earlier before he came into government that look, ‘I am going to intervene in this university by ensuring that the campuses are decentralised and build a world-standard medical college.’ That has been there. Wike didn’t just jump into government; he had a well-prepared blueprint of how he is going to develop the various sectors of the state.”
Equally elated by the decision of the state government to site a campus of RSU in Etche Local Government Area, a traditional ruler in the state, King Samuel Amaechi of Igbo-Etche, was reported to have described the move as another laudable proof of the love Governor Wike has for the people of Etche.
According to the report, the monarch said the step would increase the level of consciousness of Etche people towards university education, boost employment opportunities, create wealth and, above all, attract rapid development to Etche.
Amaechi who commended Wike for his show of love for Etche people noted that, from the inception of this government in 2015 till date, the governor has continued to carry Etche and its people along in the scheme of things.
“Each time Governor Nyesom Wike makes promises to the people of Etche, he shows outright commitment by fulfilling them. We are happy with the impact his administration is making in Etche land.
“Etche campus of the Rivers State University will remain one legacy of Wike’s administration which the present Etche sons and daughters as well as those unborn will ever be grateful to him for.”
The Onye Ishi Agwuru of Igbo-Etche assured that Etche people would support the government to ensure that the new campus was fully developed by maintaining the prevailing peace in the area.
However, there were people who expressed some reservations even while commending the state government for the initiative.
Mrs. Doris Job-Ogbonna is an alumna of RSU and former banker in Port Harcourt. She was quite excited at the decision to upgrade facilities in her Alma Mater, particularly expansion of the campus after many years of such plan being abandoned by successive regimes.
But she was concerned that the three local governments in question had been largely notorious for kidnapping and cult activities over time and wondered what was being done in that regard.
A private-school teacher in Oyigbo, Empire Faribo, was also full of commendation for the state’s decision. He, however, wondered why no riverine local government area was considered in the RSU campus expansion plan.
“I am happy with the government for the decision but, coming from the riverine part of this state, I wonder why no riverine LGA was chosen.
“They often use non-availability of land as ready excuse even when a state like Bayelsa has its expansive Niger Delta University on riverine Wilberforce Island.
“In any case, let’s not forget that former Governor Chibuike Amaechi had wanted to relocate the entire RSU campus to his native Ikwerre LGA. But I think this decentralisation idea makes better sense as it will serve to open up more areas of the state for development,” Faribo concluded.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?
As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met. So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.
By: Calista Ezeaku
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria
In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim, according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan, explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area – career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him, it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency, points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should have courage and confidence in taking risks within organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population – mainly women – economically unviable.
A First Bank customer, Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN – benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
“If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to enhance gender parity.
By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
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