Only few public men in Nigeria entrusted with the responsibility of government image making exhude implicit confidence in their onerous assignment. One of such men is Pastor Paulinus Nsirim who currently sits atop the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications as Commissioner.
A seasoned journalist, notable astute public relations practitioner and veteran task master, Nsirim dares to be different, actively running a critical government ministry effectively, away from the suffocating tradition of inefficiency and ineffectiveness which had most times been the hallmark of some government ministries.
Making good his solid reputation as a turn-around prime information and issues manager with Midas touch, the debonair former Chief Press Secretary to two former Military Administrators and a former Governor in the state, former Director and ex-Permanent Secretary in the Information and Communications, Ministry, among many others has been breathing life into ideas, shoving complacency for sheer pragmatism since assuming office as Commissioner.
With the see-it-all monumental achievements of the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state, Nsirim, perhaps out of sheer modesty, will still tell anyone who cares to listen that the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign is on course and that there is no magic behind the new face of governance in Rivers State.
In this encounter with the Group News Editor, Victor Tew, the energetic Commissioner insists that Wike has confounded critics and the opposition and has prudently managed the state’s resources to the maximum benefit of Rivers people through massive infrastructural development of the state in the past six years, among others.
Could you please throw more light on your Ministry’s advocacy campaign, #OurStateOur Responsibility, rolled out last week?
In 2019, this ministry came out with this campaign because we observed that Rivers State was being demarketed and under-reported.
The giant strides of Rivers State Governor, Chief (Barrister) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was being played down by detractors of the state. And as part of our public enlightenment programme as a Ministry, we decided to change that narrative by embarking on a tour of federal establishments, para-military organisations, faith-based organisations, the media and all the major stakeholder groups, telling them that since you are doing business here without any encumbrance, you are not supposed to join our detractors to demarket us.
We have made them to understand that we have a shared responsibility to protect. Like what anyone can see in the last six years, Governor Nyesom Wike has changed the face of governance in the state. We have seen infrastructural revolution; we have seen proactive political leadership because we have seen the right leadership, the right infrastructure.
Why is your ministry embarking on this advocacy campaign again?
We also found out that all the major stakeholders who bought into this campaign decided to support us. Infact, the support of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria was overwhelming. They printed over 100 stickers for this campaign. So that is where we were until last week when we now rolled out the second phase of this campaign.
Under this, we have to introduce essay competition. After that, we are going to go into singing competition. When we finish that, we are going to go into skits competition. After that, we are going to round off with film competition.
All these competitions are being organised to get citizens participation in this campaign, to feel the pulse of the people. It would also serve for us as feedback on what has happened in the state.
And we believe that by the time we finish this advocacy campaign, all the propaganda and demarketing of the state would be drastically minimised and people will begin to see the good work that His Excellency is doing.
As a ministry, we are very excited to be part of what His Excellency is doing in this state. If you go to road infrastructure, agriculture, sports development, water resources, even the welfare of the less privileged, you will be marvelled. you will be marvelled. For the first time, a rehabilitation centre has been built where vagrants, lunatics, and all those who are on the streets now have a safe place they can call home. You need to visit that place. You will now realise the fact that this is a people-oriented government.
Where is the Rehabilitation Centre located?
It is located at Iriebe. They have hostels for inmates. They also have an ICT centre and a clinic that is one of the best around. So His Excellency is a man of the people because so many governments have come and gone.
Given the multi-faceted nature of the centre, how is it going to be effectively managed?
Of course, the state government could not have built a place like that without proper management on ground. The centre has an effective management. In fact, there is a skills acquisition centre there too. So the manpower to run the rehabilitation centre is fully on ground even before it was commissioned.
What is the age bracket for the essay competition under the second phase of #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign?
The age bracket is from 16 to 25 years. We want to catch them young. They are the future leaders. They would be the ones to drive the message in the years to come.
How are you constituting the panel of Judges for the competition?
Well, it is a stakeholder thing. All those who have the relevant skills for the prosecution of this programme have been enlisted. They will all participate to give it the professional touch that it deserves.
Critics are saying that all the efforts of your ministry at changing the negative perceptions about the state are mere publicity stunts for the Wike-led administration. How would you react to this?
What is the publicity stunt there? You can see for yourself what the Governor is doing in the state. You will see the massive infrastructural development everywhere.
What about the opposition that has been restless and relentless in its criticism of the government’s developmental efforts?
The opposition needs to be restless. I will bring this to the fore. The same opposition that in 2015 could not pay workers salary for four months and pension arrears for nine months.
The same opposition said they will see where Wike would get money to pay workers’ salaries, not to talk of executing projects. Now how far? They are hiding their faces in shame because Wike remains the Governor to beat in this country. In the next few days from now, we would be going to Abuja to receive the Leadership Newspaper Governor of the Year Award 2020. In fact, this is the second time we would be receiving the award from Leadership Newspaper. We have also gotten award from Blueprint, Halmark and The Sun Newspapers. Wike is also the Silverbed Extraordinary Man of the Year 2020. And these endorsements by reputable newspapers are not a mere fluke. They should come here and see for themselves. I have taken journalists round the state. I have also taken members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors round the 23 Local Government Areas and they were impressed by what they saw on ground. And mind you, Wike’s contemporaries are saying that they do not have money to execute projects because of Covid-19. Look around Nigeria. Is there anything happening anywhere in the country in terms of concrete development? Rivers State is the centrepiece of development in the country. It has become the reliable index of development in Nigeria because of one man’s ingenuity.
Here is a man who met an empty treasury upon assumption of office in 2015. He was not even given a handover note in 2015. He started from the scratch. Here is a man with a vision, a man who has the backing of God Almighty, a prudent manager of resources.
In a national economy already worsened by the deleterious impact of Covid-19, what is Wike’s magic wand in succeeding where others fail?
Number one, he has God’s mandate to govern this state. We are all witnesses in 2019 when soldiers were brought into the state for elections. In fact, Rivers State was militarised. It has never happened in any part of the country, up to the point that women had to fight soldiers who were snatching ballot boxes at Ogu/Bolo. Despite all these, Wike still won because he is a man of the people. You see, where the people want a man, you cannot fight the choice of the people and the choice of God. This is because he has divine mandate to govern as a result of his love for the people and the state.
Governor Wike is a second-term governor. And what do you find in the second tenure? Looking at our political history in the past 22 years, second term governors hardly do anything for their people. They only begin to pursue personal agenda. But here is a governor who has restated his commitment to serve Rivers people until handover day. And the evidence is there. Go round the 23 Local Government Areas of the state and see for yourselves the massive development. Not too long ago, a colleague called from Lagos asking if there was a road leading to Opobo. I now invited him, offering to personally take him to Opobo. He was confounded.
When the construction of the Opobo road was going on, I took members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to the site where the President expressed surprise at the level of piling going on inside the water, saying that it was like someone burying money. You need to go there and see. You need to have a heart to serve your people to embark on projects like that. That is why we are saying that Rivers State is blessed to have somebody like Governor Wike.
Now back to the competition. You are so passionate about it. How is it going to impact positively on the ordinary citizen?
This is all about citizen participation in the governance of the state. It would also help us feel the pulse of the people. And the age bracket for the essay competition is 16 to 25 years, but the theme song and others are open to everybody as long as you have what it takes to participate and we are going to focus on what the state government has achieved. The central message of #OurStateOurResponsibility is right there on our banner.
What is your message to the people of the state on this second phase of #OurStateOurResponsibility?
I would like to call on the people of the state to participate actively in what we are doing. And of course, part of the incentives for the competitions is the presentation of plaques to winners. These plaques are like memorabilia that would stay for years to come and people will say that for a particular time in your life, you participated in a thing like this. So, it is beyond essay competition and all that. And in this era when people who merit recognition are being pushed to the background, this is an opportunity for people to showcase their talents. We want to showcase industry; we want to showcase excellence. So, it is a pot pouri of so many things in one because by the time we finish it successfully, participants would have been showcased to the world. It is also a way of discovering talents. You would be surprised that winners might get bigger opportunities from philanthropists and organizations. Those who would do the theme songs are likely to be recognized to also produce for other people. Those who would do the skits would also be recognised by individuals and organisations. Same applies to those who will do the short film.
I remember when I was a director in this ministry, we organised a film competition that was shot at the National Film Festival of that year. Since then I have been in touch with the person who shot it and he has been producing films for Nollywood and others. It was that competition that exposed him to the world. So it is a talent hunt, something that is big. That is why we are calling on Rivers people to participate actively. In the next one year something big would surely come out of this advocacy campaign.
3.6m Jobs Created Via $1.1bn Externally Funded Agric Projects, FG Claims
The Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Abubakar, disclosed this while featuring on the Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister said $538million was approved for special agricultural processing zones to support inclusive and sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria.
Abubakar further stated that another project worth $575million is being implemented to improve rural access and agricultural marketing in participating states while strengthening the financing institutional base for effective development, maintenance and management of rural roads network.
He gave the participating states as Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Kebbi, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, and Sokoto.
According to him, government is implementing the Value Chain Development Programme Additional Financing (VCDP-AF) 2020- 2024 to enhance, on a sustainable basis, incomes and food security of poor rural households engaged in the production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava.
He revealed that the project is currently being implemented in nine states, including Niger, Benue, Ogun, Ebonyi, Taraba and Anambra, Nasarawa, Kogi and Enugu, “to scale up the achievement recorded in the original VCDP states.”
On fish production, Abubakar said the demand for fish based on the population of the country was $3.6million metric tons but only $1.2million tons being produced.
He further said that the country is importing some species of fish like mackerel because they are not found in Nigeria waters.
The minister also said that the government recruited about 5,000 Agro Rangers that guide farmers against bandits, adding that they are sent to different parts of the country.
RSG’ll Continue To Provide Best For Rivers People, Wike Assures …Commissions Orochiri-Worukwo Flyover, Aug 8
Wike made the statement while inspecting some ongoing projects in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas of the state, last Wednesday.
Projects inspected included the 11th flyover site at Location Junction along Mgbuoba-NTA Road, the site for the 12th flyover at Rumuokwuta Roundabout, the dualisation of Azikiwe Street-lloabuchi Road, and the sand-filled land in Ogbum-Nu-Abali Town.
Wike explained that the inspection became necessary in order to ascertain the impact the projects would have on the socio-economic life of the residents within the areas.
“One of the reasons why we came is to see the impact of the roads and the flyovers. Of course, when the valuers brought the compensation report, we felt that it was too huge. So, we decided to go and see things for ourselves.
“But when we got there, we understood that a lot of buildings will be impacted, and that requires us to compensate the owners of those houses heavily. But it is worth it in order to give Port Harcourt the facelift required and to transform the landscape of the area.”
Wike said despite the attendant cost implication of undertaking the projects, his administration has paid 80percent for the road dualisation to the contractor, Julius Berger, which is also handling the two new flyovers.
“We have been able to fulfil our part to Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. This place now (Illoabuchi Road), we have paid 80percent for the dualisation of Azikiwe Street/Ilaobuchi Road as at yesterday.
“By Monday, we want to start paying for the compensation to owners of the buildings so that Julius Berger can start demolishing the affected structures.”
The Rivers State governor appealed to the residents in the areas, particularly in Mile 2, Diobu, Port Harcourt to show understanding and endure the inconvenience they would suffer while the work lasted.
Wike expressed delight in the show of excitement by the people who throng out to meet him.
According to the governor, the various projects would create employment for a good number of youths within the areas.
“All we seek from them is the normal support they have been giving. We are happy with what we are doing. All we pray is that the residents of these areas should bear with us.
“It’s a short time of inconvenience, but at the end of the day, it is going to be to the benefit of those who are having economic activities in this area.
“In the next six months, you can imagine what will happen here. I think we made a promise to them, and like I’ve always said, every promise made will be fulfilled.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that the next round of projects’ inauguration would commence on August 8, 2022, and last for two weeks.
“From Monday, the 8th August, the Orochiri-Worukwo flyover (Waterlines Junction) will be commissioned by the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while the Ogbum-Nu-Abali/Eastern Bye-Pass Road will be commissioned on the 9th August by the former Governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamakko”.
Wike enjoined all well-meaning Rivers people to join the government to thank God Almighty for what has been accomplished within the tenure.
He said the capacity of his administration in inaugurating more projects while also embarking on new ones was something that has never been witnessed.
“And I think you can’t hear anything happening in most of the states. But for us, we will end our services to the people on the 29th of May, 2023.
“Like I said, no project will be left abandoned, and that is why we have taken priority to make sure that the finances are there to back up these projects. If we don’t have the money, there is no need of awarding contracts.”
On his part, the Regional Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Juergen Fischer, promised that his company would do all within its powers to deliver the projects according to specifications.
Nigerians Face Hard Times, As Kerosene Hits N800/Litre
A market survey carried out by The Tide’s source revealed that one litre of cooking kerosene, which was sold at N700 last week, now sells for between N800 and N850 in urban parts of Lagos State, while the price has hit as high as N1000 per litre in suburb areas at filling stations.
Comparatively, in Ghana, the price of a litre of cooking kerosene currently sells for GHS 12.044 (N585) per litre.
Unlike petrol, kerosene is a deregulated product, meaning prices are determined by market forces.
“It’s a deregulated market. It is also a function of the dollar to naira rate and the crude price at the international market. Since cooking kerosene is deregulated, prices can go up, it can also come down,” National Operations Controller, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, (IPMAN), Mike Osatuyi told The source.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had in June reported an 88 per cent rise in prices of cooking kerosene and Liquefied Petroleum Gas within in one year.
According to the NBS report on “National Household Kerosene Price Watch,” the price of cooking kerosene went up by 86.94 per cent in one year.
The report also said the average retail price per litre of household kerosene, HHK, paid by consumers in May 2022 increased by 15.21 per cent on a month-on-month basis from N589.82 in April 2022 to N679.54 in May 2022.
The state profile analysis showed that the highest average price per litre in May 2022 was recorded in Enugu with N868.75, followed by Ebonyi with N861.11 and Imo with N801.67. On the other hand, the lowest price was recorded in Bayelsa with N558.06, followed by Yobe with N601.39, and Nasarawa with N603.33.
In addition, the South-East recorded the highest average retail price per litre of household kerosene with N773.09, followed by the South-West with N738.19, and the North-Central with N668.78, while the North-East reported the lowest with N632.06.
On his part, an energy expert, Bala Zakka, while speaking in an exclusive chat with the source, attributed the sharp increase in the price of the products to Nigeria’s continued inability to refine petroleum products for local consumption.
Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers’ Association of Nigeria, (DAPPMAN) Olufemi Adewole, told the source that the reason for the continuous rise in prices of cooking kerosene was the exchange rate.
“Cooking kerosene is deregulated so prices depend on foreign exchange. A dollar is now N700 from N600 just last month, so prices will surely increase,” he said.
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