Eight years ago, at the inception of the administration of the just concluded government of Chief Nyesom Wike, the signs were clear that sports was going to be one of the cardinal focus of his tenure. From his inauguration activities to the main business of governance,both in the first and second tenure, sporting programmes were given ample representation.
Thus, the place of sports was clearly visible in the NEW vision of the administration, as it tried to reinvent, restructure,rebrand and thrust the state to the fore and as destination of choice in business, economy, recreation and tourism.
According to one of the Commissioners of Sports, that helped implement Wike’s vision in the sector, Hon. Boma Iyaye, the government of Wike saw and tried to use sports as a veritable tool of engagement and empowerment for the teeming youth of the state and beyond, to have the opportunity and platform for livelihood and better life.
That is why the government spared no expenses in providing world class sports infrastructure, promoting and sponsorship of sports competitions and rewarding hardwork and achievement.
It is on record that one of the first critical steps the government took to announce its intention in the sector was the collapsing of the two state owned football clubs, Sharks and Dolphins into one, Rivers United FC for viability and better performance. Since then, Rivers United have gone from strength to strength, winning domestic title and effectively flying the country’s flag in continental club competitions.
In doing these, the club enjoyed tremendous financial and moral support from the ebullient governor of the state. Today, Rivers United remains one the top clubs in Nigeria, known for consistency and results.
In addition to the exploits of Rivers United, it is to the credit of government that the state became one of the few in Africa to host the entire continent in wrestling and badminton competitions. For about one week, African wrestlers gathered at the refurbished Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex for the Africa Wrestling Championship, AWC during Wike’s first tenure. The venue was to later play host to the creme de la creme of Nigerian badminton players for the National Badminton Championship.
There was also synergy with sports stakeholders, especially, sports journalists, as the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN found a willing partner in the state government, holding most of its activities in the state, via government’s sponsorship of its events. Worthy of mention was the association’s Full Council Meeting of 2015, adjudged to be the best organized in quality and content in the history of the association.
All these commitment and demonstrable interest in sports development earned the Rivers State governor the award of Power of Sports, POS, Africa, the first of its kind in the continent.
Perhaps, the flagship of the administration’s sports project bequeathed to the state and posterity is the Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt, established by the government in consultation with the Real Madrid Football Club, Spain. The academy, conceived and built by Wike did not only try to replicate the structure of its mother institution in Spain, there was deliberate effort to equip the institution with likewise world class facilities that are as good as any in the world. Even would-be handlers, coaches and instructors at the facility were taken to Spain for first-hand training and experience from the mother institution.
Describing the facility, the then Special Adviser, SA to the Governor on Real Madrid Academy, Barr. Christopher Green said that the academy is a world class facility that would produce world class athletes for the state and country. It also demonstrates Governor Wike’s vision to providing a platform that would give Rivers youth and indeed Nigerians at the grassroots the opportunity to explore their talents and be the best they can be.
According to Barr. Green, the academy is uniquely set up to provide sports and academic tutorials side by side, so that those who could not make it through sports could toe the academic path and vice versa.
To former Commissioner for Sports, Hon. Iyaye, the academy remains an indelible footprint and an endowment by Wike to the people of the state, which benefit may not be appreciated fully at the moment but in the near future.
Assessing the strides of the immediate past administration in sports, the President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, Sir Honour Sirawoo noted the governor’s deliberate focus in using sports to redirect the energy of the youth to worthwhile venture. He believes that the administration worked consciously to revive the sector, make it attractive and rewarding to the young people, who ordinarily would have been engaged in societal vices.
“I think that Governor Wike really understood the importance of sports, its power and role in changing the society. Indeed, he understood that sports has gone beyond a recreational thing to becoming a huge economic, political and social tool. He worked hard to employ it to maximum effect,” he stated.
Speaking with Tidesports in an interview, the Head coach of De Kings International FA of Port Harcourt, Okpaleke King commended Bar Nyesom Wike for his developmental strides in the sporting industry in Rivers State.
According to him, since his assumption of office, he has sponsored numerous sporting activities in the state which earned him world-wide recognition.
” For me, Governor Nyesom Wike tried his best in the development of sports in the state but the incoming governor needs to do more because government is a continuous process.
” Look at the Rivers State Real Madrid football academy.
” Look at the level of Rivers United FC today winning the league and even play up to the quarter final of the CAF Confederation Cup.
” For me I commend his efforts and contribution to the sporting industry for the past eight years” King said.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to Chairman of Khana Local Government Council, Hon Nekabari Biagbara said that the imparted positively on the sports landscape of the state
” For me today, the governor has done a lot in sports development which led to the success story of Rivers United FC and the Rivers Angles” Biagbara said.
He stated that through the administration of Governor Wike may have ended, the legacies left behind will continue to endure for the growth of sports in the state.
” Governor Nyesom Wike has done a lot for the development of sports in the state for the youth to realisetheir potential”.
He described Governor Wike as the best when it comes to contribution to sports and development in the country” he said.
The Head coach of New Gunner FC of Gokana, Legbara Gentle urged the incoming governor of Rivers State His Excellency, Siminialayi Fubara to consolidate on the exploits of his predecessor as a way of engaging the youth in the state.
Unfortunately, however, some of the lofty sports establishments put up by the Wike administration did not fully kick off or become fully functional due to one exigency or another.
The magnificent Real Madrid Football Academy readily comes to mind. The academy, due to some additional developments did not effectively take off before the end of the founding administration.
This is where the incoming administration, according to commentators, should come in and ensure that the vision and dream behind the projects did not suffer still-birth.
Apart from the football academy, the new administration should keep the light shining as far as Rivers United FC, Rivers Angels, Royal Hoopers Basketball club and the Sports Council are concerned. Importantly, it is expected that grassroots sports development, particularly, schools sports and association sports would receive priority attention. These would ensure that the base needed for sustainable talent production, discovery and weaning are kept alive and productive.
It is also important that sporting facilities, such as the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, and the myriad of Sports Courts and fields constructed by previous administrations are well maintained and put to use. Facilities at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex, especially, the swimming pool, needs to be reactivated for swimmers and other athletes to have easy access to modern facilities, towards relaunching the state to the pinnacle of sports where the state should naturally possess comparative advantage.The era of allowing sports centres and infrastructure to rot away must be frowned at and discouraged.
For renowned sports administrator, Pastor Walter Inegbenoise, Wike’s administration did well in the sports sector but the incoming administration needs to take a notch more. He believes that sports is a sector with limitless opportunity that can be tapped multi dimensionally.
Pastor Inegbenoise posited that the old days when grassroots sports events and competitions were at the doorstep of average Port Harcourt youngster should be recreated.
It is therefore critical that the private sector should be motivated through tax holidays, exemptions or other special considerations in order for them to play the required roles in sports promotion and development.
For SWAN, Rivers State Chapter, the state boasts the potential to be a leading player in the country’s sports sector. And coming from where the past administration has placed it, what is needed to keep the flag flying is ample commitment, dedication and choosing the right lieutenants to pursue and implement his vision and policies, while sustaining the good will and relationship’s already established and beyond the country.
By: Gabriel Nwanetanya With Reports From Kiadum Edookor
Wike Out, Fubara In: What Legacies? What Expectations?
In the next few hours, there would be a change of baton between the outgoing Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike and his successor, Sir Siminilayi Fubara. The change of guard which is expected to take place at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia would be witnessed by dignitaries and political juggernauts across the State.
Amidst this euphoria of a mission fulfilled by the Wike administration, and a new dawn by the incoming governor, The Tide sampled the opinions of some stakeholders in Rivers State on the scorecard of the outgoing governor and what is expected of the Fubara administration.
Although, like any other government, Wike may not have fared well in all sectors of the economy, his government was adjudged the best in terms of infrastructure in the State since the creation of Rivers State.
The outgoing governor was particularly commended for his infrastructural revolution in the state, describing him as a pace setter in the area of infrastructural development.
A university don and HOD, Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Rivers State University (RSU), Dr. Ekene Woke, fired the first salvo. He said Wike did well in terms of infrastructure.
He said, “Yes, Wike has done very well. In terms of infrastructure, for instance, when others are struggling to build culverts, Wike is building mansions and skyscrapers and flyovers making the Port Harcourt city to be a truly cosmopolitan city which no government in this present republic was able to achieve.
“Even his enemies have attested to that so much that the Presidency has to give him an award on infrastructural development. An opposition government in power at the federal to consider an opposition governor who speaks out regularly to be awarded such an award is no mean feat.
“I think anybody having a contrary view to that is not fair to the governor. It takes courage to speak out. People say courage is the father of all virtues and I think Wike has that courage and that virtue so he should be applauded for that.
“A lot of people carry their intentions in their mind and die with them. People also have conviction but do not have the courage to back it up. Wike is among the few Nigerians who speak even in a dangerous and fearless manner. He’s a man of courage and conviction. I think he should be recommended for a higher office and I hope the God of Providence will do that for him.
“This is not the time for unnecessary criticisms. We should do a relative assessment using our sister and brother states and then you will know that what you have is the best.
“And for Fubara, I think he is the Joshua that took over from Moses. He should prepare his muscle of governance to deliver to Rivers people.
“He said his government is consolidation. Rivers people are waiting for the manifestation of not just agenda but the concrete implementation of this consolidation agenda. And I know that being an accountant, he will make prudent use of the state’s resources to deliver on his mandate and the promises he has made to the rivers people”.
Speaking in the same vein, a Post-Graduate student of Medical Laboratory Science, Rivers State University, Mrs Festa ThankGod Jonathan, scored Wike’s administration high in the area of education especially at the university level.
“In the area of education especially at the university level, I will say Wike has done well. Also in manpower, there has been a lot of employment more especially in the state university including the building of infrastructures like the New Senate Building, Professor’s Quarters and lots of other good buildings in the school. Let’s call a spade a spade, in that area, he did well.
“One person can not do everything. Yes, Wike has done his part. Sir Sim (Siminalayi Fubara) should look at the areas that he (Wike) was unable to touch and touch them, particularly in the area of employment. I mean employment generally. Because, to be sincere, Wike’s employment was biased and one-sided. Sim should look at it generally. He should carry the whole state along and not just one part. Sim should learn from Wike’s mistakes and do better”, she said.
An Anglican Priest, Rev. Chukwudi Evans Theophilus, also gave Wike a pass mark in the area of governance.
He said, “I think the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Barr. Nyesom Wike has done quite a lot. If you ask me in the area of infrastructural development, he has done quite a lot. Look at all the flyovers, over head bridges, he was able to start and complete them within a short while.
“Most of his electioneering campaign promises that he made to Rivers people, he has fulfilled them.
“In the area of sanitation, keeping Rivers State clean, he has done fantastically well.
“What about the drastic reduction in kidnapping, crime corruption, other negative verses, among others, the governor has done well.
“But outstandingly, Governor Wike has done very very well in the area of infrastructural development.
“My agenda for the government to be led by Sim Fubara is that he should be visionary, result-oriented and he should try to do better than what the just concluding governor has done.
“He should also look at the areas of lapses, so that he could come up with something better, so that at the end of the day, everybody would have seen that he is actually striving towards perfection”.
Another cleric and Executive Secretary, Port Harcourt Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pastor Echendu Ekezie, agrees no less.
According to him, “We have had government and they come and go. I think this outgoing government led by Nyesom Wike has done tremendous work in Rivers State.
“As a pastor, we move round the State. There is no local government we don’t travel to for one programme or the other. And as I move round, I have seen this government touching virtually every local government in the State. He has created an impact through his unprecedented economic developmental projects that you can not compare with past administrations.
“He built roads, linking communities with roads across the state at the Kalabari area, Etche, Omoku, Ahoada, Ogoni, name them. He built ultra-modern hospitals including the Mother And Care Specialist Hospital. Wike tried in projects that will enhance economic growth and development. He did well.
“However, there is a perennial problem. This state among other states in the country has perennial problem, so you don’t expect magic overnight. Only he himself can not solve everything at the same time”.
The clergy, however, has reservations in the area of human capital development under Wike.
“In the area of employment, not much was done. The truth also remains that there has to be diversification. Again, population explosion is at it. Of a truth, the government alone can not employ everybody.
“Nonetheless, even those in the civil service, how much are they being paid? How about the retirees.? No retirement benefits, no pension and all of that”he said.
He urged the incoming administration led by Fubara to do something about empowerment.
“There should be proactive steps to set up factories/industries that will use local raw materials and content in producing products that will benefit the people within the state, Nigeria and even be exported. We have vast land as well as the resources for this.
“There is also the need to create direct employment to the people. I understand there is a garri factory somewhere in Afam. I don’t know how efficient that is. But then, State-owned industries that can provide 5,000, 3,000 etc job opportunities to citizens is what we are hoping for.
“The incoming government also has to pay attention to the welfare of retirees. As a pastor, sometimes I weep for these ones. You put in 35 years in service and you come back home with no benefit, no pension. And then, the next thing you hear of is verification. Meanwhile some of these retirees are dying. Then, who do you pay the benefits to?
“Wike has tried but we still need more connectivity roads. The Bonny project has been on for years now though I hear it’s near completion. I pray that it is done (completed) to ease movement and transportation of goods and services
“I pray the Lord to grant Sim (Fubara) the strength to identify those areas that Wike did not pay so much attention to and then do the needful”, he said.
In his own view, the Amanyanabo of Minama who is also the Chairman of the Asari Toru Council of Traditional Rulers, HRH King Iboroma Talbot P.K. Owunabi 11, said even the blinds can feel the impact of Wike’s administration in infrastructural development.
According to him, “For past eight years, even the blind person would feel the impact of development in Rivers State typically through infrastructural development. The performance even attracted the Federal Government award as the infrastructural governor of Nigeria
“That kind of award has never been done before, so he has set a record in Nigeria in infrastructural development.
The monarch said “Minima people have so much to celebrate because this same infrastructural development was extended also to our community through the first phase of Trans Kalabari Road project which was commissioned in March this year. So, we are also happy about it. It was a dream come true”.
The king said the situation has not only put paid to insecurity especially along the waterways but has also hastened the development of Minama and other communities in the Kalabari Central.
According to him, going to Minama now is more secure as nobody goes through boat or canoe again.
Meanwhile, the Eze Mbam Abali Xii, Eze Risiohia Rebisi, HRH Eze Christopher Wonodi, also scored Wike’s administration high.
He said the people of Rebisi would always remain grateful to Wike for showing great commitment to the development of Rebisi Kingdom.
“We love him and we will continue to remember him for his passion towards the development of Rebisi Kingdom
“The administration of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike is second to none in infrastructural development.
“He has demonstrated that Rivers State deserves the best. We are praying that his successor will toe the same line and even surpass where he stopped”, he said.
In his own assessment, National Coordinator of Professional Forum of Niger Delta, Comrade Owo Udoh, said Wike has done well in all areas of development, especially for providing a conducive environment for both indigenes and non indigenes in the state to live together peacefully.
Also speaking, President, Civil Society Coalition for Good Governance and Accountability, Dr Emmanuel Nkweke, noted that Wike ended the era of abandoned projects in the state.
He said Wike’s administration was not only prudent and accountable to the people, but also did more in the areas of rural development.
He, however, noted that Wike concentrated governance in Port Harcourt city by siting major projects in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas in the State.
Nkweke expressed the hope that the incoming administration would not only surpass its predecessor but would shift development to other parts of the State.
Also, former caretaker chairman of Tai Local Government Area, Engr
Gideon Deemor, said Wike has surpassed his predecessors in infrastructural development In the State, expressing joy that the governor ended well.
A Port Harcourt based technologist, Mr Smiles Obiajunwa, also rated Wike’s administration high, describing the outgoing governor as a perfect contributor to the society.
He said, “Governor Wike has contributed a lot to the society, especially in the Rivers State University. He has done so well in both infrastructure and human capital development.He started and has completed lots of laudable projects not only in RSU, but across the state as well.
“Governor Wike has employed a lot of people in RSU. Before, the few number of staff were not able to meet up with the school demands and tasks, but today, you will find out that a lot of people have been fully employed to work. So, Wike has done very very well and I would rate him 98 percent.
“On the issue of Sim Fubara coming on board as governor, I pray that he will continue from where Governor Wike has stopped.
“Already, he said he was going to consolidate on whatever Governor Wike has done. He also realised that Governor Wike has done well and that is why he said he will consolidate. If Governor Wike has not done well, there will be no consolidation, so, Fubara should do better than Governor Wike did.
“Sim Fubara is a vibrant youth and has all the energy needed, so we expect that he will adopt more better ways to do things so that he can do better than Governor Wike”.
For former PANDEF spokesman and former Adviser to the Rivers State Governor, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, agriculture should be exploited, since Wike failed in that area.
He faulted Wike for not giving attention to manpower development, stressing that what Rivers people need now is sustainable growth through job creation and opportunities.
According to him, infrastructure development is not enough to transform the state.
Chief Sara-Igbe urged the incoming administration to revive the moribund agro allied firms like the fish farms and Songhai farms, which went comatose under Wike.
On his part, veteran journalist and expert in business and entrepreneurship, Ignatius Chukwu urged Fubara to exploit opportunities in the oil and gas and ICT to empower the youths.
Chukwu was of the view that proper focus on business and the economy by the incoming administration will drive investment and development. This, he said, can be achieved by setting up a State Economic think-tank.
The immediate past Commissioner for Information and Communication, Chris Finebone, who served under Wike, would also want the incoming governor to concentrate on areas of shortfalls from the previous administration.
These areas, according to Finebone, include equipping the zonal hospitals and agriculture.
He described such projects as low hanging fruits that can earn him applause and people’s support for the new administration.
He also said the new governor should rehabilitate the State Secretariat complex which he said is in a state of disrepair.
“Once he revamps the secretariat complex, it is easy to get the support of workers, especially civil servants”, he said.
However, for John Kennedy Dede, a student at the Rivers State University (RSU), Governor Wike has really invested much on infrastructure and focused less on human capital development.
“As a student talking from the student perspective, today, what is the hope for Nigerian students if after school there is no job?
“I would want Sim Fubara to focus more on the educational sector and employment generation as there are a lot of unemployed youths who are qualified, have graduated with their certificates, but do not have jobs.
“I really want him to focus on job creation because I wouldn’t want to come out of school without getting my required job to do”, he said.
Speaking in the same vein, Principal, Community Secondary School, Iriebe, Mabel Godson-Wejimegu, commended Wike’s administration for prompt payment of workers’ salaries, but expressed sadness that he, like many other civil servants in the State was denied promotion for eight years.
“One thing I can say about Wike in office is that he tried as par payment of salaries of civil servants. He maintained the monthly payment of salaries, not owing anyone or even delaying in the payment unlike some other states.
“But then, there was no promotion and for these years, it has not been easy with civil servants. Wike did not really carry civil servants along in his administration. Even when he finally called for promotion interview at the last minute, everybody was happy but at the end of the day, the promotion was not effected till he left office”.
“For the incoming governor, one thing he should know is that everybody cannot go into politics. Fubara should look more into the primary and secondary education. He should not forget us, the teachers, principals, children. Attention should be given to us.
“As they said that education is free, let it be free indeed. Otherwise, let there be a stipulated amount for payment to aid us in the running of the school. Whether it is N5,000, N15,000, or N10,000, let it be made clear because it is not really easy with us.
“Another area is that of health. As a civil servant, you go to the hospital and you pay so much money just as the politicians, yet they said it is subsidized. It should be that as a civil servant, you pay less bills in the hospital. In fact, civil servants should really be considered by the incoming government”, the principal said.
A university don and Head, Department Of Communication Studies, RSU, Dr Sarah Chidiebere Joe, preferred not to say much about Wike’s administration. He, however, advised the incoming governor to build on the legacies of his predecessor.
“I am generally not happy with the state of the country and by training as both a journalist and researcher, I always stand with the people. I am, therefore, quite careful how much credit I give to our leaders.
“If the governor (Wike) is comfortable with his achievements, that’s fine. However, I strongly believe that Rivers State and more generally, Nigeria could be a lot better.
“For the incoming governor, I recommend he focuses primarily on education and jobs. We need more well-trained teachers, who will in turn, help produce well-equipped graduates.
“We need to get our young people off the streets and into job spaces. Good policies and better business environment will be helpful”, he said.
In the opinion of Barr. Sunny Igwe, a legal practitioner, there is much to talk about Wike’s eight years in office. He faulted those who criticised Wike for concentrating so much energy on building of flyovers, but at the same time scored the outgoing administration low in the area of primary education, agriculture, healthcare and human capital development.
He said, “like I always tell people, let’s not be complaining that he is doing flyover, flyover, flyover. Let us hold on to the ones he has done because he could have as well decided not to do anything, embezzle all the money and go away and there’s nothing anyone of us can do about it. So, let’s applaud him for the once he has done.
“I think on infrastructure, he has done well. Apart from the flyovers in Port Harcourt city, he has also built the Waterlines House and the likes. Those buildings now look good and have brought beauty to the environment they are situated. What about the Law House at Moscow Road and the Rivers State University Satellite Campuses in Etche, Ahoada and others? These are worthy of commendation.
“But then, people need to go to primary school before the university and yet, the primary schools are in the form they are? In fact, all the primary schools in the state need to be revamped. And that is one of the challenges for Sim (Fubara).
“As much as Wike tried in infrastructure, in health, he is zero; in agriculture, he is zero; in primary education, he is zero; in human infrastructure, he is zero.
“Take agriculture for instance, our land is fertile. Let’s do something with it. Egg is never sufficient in the world. Chicken is on a high demand with the hotels booking it and all that. Let us do something that will create employment for our young people. Fubara sure has a lot to do”.
However, a Supervisory Councillor for Education in Etche Local Government area of the State, Chief Precious Amadi, differed with those who criticised Wike for neglecting primary and secondary education.
He said Wike has left indelible marks in the area of primary and secondary education with the remodeling of schools across the 23 local government areas of the state, describing the feat as a giant stride.
“Today, many local government areas can show one or three schools built furnished or remodeled and this has repositioned the sector for better performance and service delivery. Our students and pupils are doing great in both internal and external examinations”, he said.
He called on the incoming administration to improve on the legacies of his predecessor and put the education sector in the State on a higher pedestal.
In the area of entertainment, a Rivers State based gospel artiste, Wilberforce Afriyie, said that the Wike administration did very well, especially in music, having appointed a Sole Administrator to oversee the activities of the Rivers State Chapter of the Performance Musician Association Of Nigeria ( PMAN)
“With the appointment of Ibitoru Green, popularly known as Lady IB, things became different and orderly. She brought unity and sanity to the PMAN. She also made connections between musicians and multinationals for sponsorship. She also tried to initiate the idea of musicians having other sources of income and to be well packaged whenever they are invited for performance.
“The government, in a bid to curb the dispute within Rivers State chapter of the PMAN, through the national body, appointed an administrator to spearhead the chapter till proper election is done for a new executive.
A film producer and owner of Blacky New Generation Film House, Miebaka Aggo, however, disagreed. He scored Wike’s administration low in the entertainment industry.
He said, “The outgoing administration didn’t do well in Entertainment, especially, in Rivers State. However, I’m hopeful that the new administration will open more doors for our entertainment industry to grow more”, he said.
Eze Oha Evo III and Eze Gbakagbaka, King Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, also lauded the achievements of Governor Wike, saying his administration was beneficial to all the citizenry.
He urged the incoming administration to build on the already laid foundation.
For a Port Harcourt based lawyer, Gift O. Nyeche, Wike is “the face of Judiciary” in Rivers State given his achievements.
Nyeche noted that the Judiciary has never had it this well until Wike mounted the saddle of governance in 2015.
Citing the Small Claim Court as one of the Wike’s wonders in the Judiciary, he expressed satisfaction over his performance and made case for a higher political position for him in order to enable him explore more.
Geoffrey Wome, a Real Estate Agent, noted that the level of infrastructural development in Rivers State under Wike has put the state ahead of others.
He said that the development, has made Real Estate business in the state to soar.
He, however, appealed to the incoming government to do more in the area of human capital development, promotion of workers, overseas training for Rivers students and revamp of primary and secondary education in the State.
By: Tonye Nria-Dappa, John Bibor, Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Kelvin Nengia, Lady Ogbulu, Amadi Akujobi, Nancy Briggs & King Onunwor
Goodbye Mr Projects, Welcome Sim
Oh! How time flies. May 29, 2015 remains memorable because it was a day that announced the emergence of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, an astute politician, into the administrative theatre of Rivers politics. That day reminiscences the beginning of two distinguishing tenures characterized by unprecedented infrastructural development and urban renewal in Rivers State. At first, Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, was viewed as a neophyte in handling state matters, but those who knew him described him as somebody who had a programme in governance, and has got the focus and a vision for the people. Today, the same man’s score card is read everywhere so people could see for themselves, how well or poor he fared. Although Rivers State may not have had it all rosy these past eight (8) years, yet it has been lucky to have had a governor who would cower to no one when it comes to satisfying the interest of Rivers people. Governor Wike proved himself a strongman, who came in fighting, and dismantling every landmine on the state’s developmental pathway
His inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 revealed the roadmap to kick-start the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Rivers State as he pledged to leave his footprint in the sands of the 23 local government areas of the state with at least one legacy project that must be completed before the expiration of his administration. Like a patriot, as he settled down for work, he addressed issues touching the areas that matter most. He flagged off zero pothole campaign on his first day in office. To the chagrin of the people, Governor Wike hit the ground running from the first day he assumed office in 2015, fixing roads and bridges, re-organising institutions and establishments, opening up clamped down spaces like the judiciary and courageously mending a broken, dysfunctional system. Governor Wike’s leadership strategy took the state a notch further, in terms of the provision of basic infrastructure. Construction and rehabilitation of roads, too numerous to mention in this limited page took greater percentage of his attention.
Payment of arrears of salaries owed workers in the state including monies owed pensioners as well as the bail-out of students of the state in overseas, among others, were areas in which the Governor made tremendous impact within the first 100 days of his first tenure. For the records, Governor Nyesom Wike has impacted every sector of the state, including infrastructure, economy, agriculture, security, health, education, and policy. His unprecedented infrastructural renaissance has indeed set the state on a renewed part of economic boom. His understanding of government as a continuum, made him spend greater portion of his first tenure, tidying up projects his predecessor could not complete, so long as they had direct bearing on the masses, a feat even his critics failed to applaud him. His effort at re-opening law courts which were hitherto locked by his predecessor was a commendable feat that helped to regularize the administration of Justice in the state.
Of course, the construction and rehabilitation of roads in various parts of the state, at that time went a long way to reduce the traffic gridlock in Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs. Today, his scorecard of the last eight (8) years has been replete with outstanding achievements, ground breaking events and the initiation of legacy projects, which have not only transformed the landscape of the state impressively but has attracted an avalanche of awards and chieftaincy titles from home and abroad. Governor Nyesom Wike may not have been without fault, but in spite of his shortcomings, he has written his name in gold. It is in this regard that the President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Eze (Sir) Mike Elechi, remarked that “for Wike, these eight years, based on where the state was when he came, he has actually laid the foundation to propel the economy.”
To say that Governor Nyesom Wike has turned Rivers State into a development model is an understatement, the state is simply the development index for Nigeria. Little wonder, a former commissioner of information in the state, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, once said, “the developmental strides of Governor Nyesom Wike in all sectors of the State’s economy are so glaring that nobody can deny the fact that Rivers State, today, is the development index for Nigeria.” Wike’s commitment to the rapid development of Rivers State turned the state into a huge construction site. A status that earned the state respect across the world, as all eyes are turned on Port Harcourt for economic and business activities. His speedy and timely delivery of massive infrastructures was second to none. Suffice it to say that by these achievements, Wike turned around the fortunes of our state. His potentials and pedigree which speak of him as an articulated visionary earned him the sobriquet “ Mr Projects. Upon the strength of his delivery of projects that have transformed Rivers State, his foremost outstanding developmental strides, as early as two years in his first tenure, “Leadership Newspaper named him Governor of the Year 2017.
Like Caesar attested in a report to Amantius, a friend of his in Rome, Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike came, saw and conquered. Nevertheless, as imperfect as every mortal being could be, the outgoing governor in all his achievements, never had a sweet romance with the state civil servants while his reign lasted as civil servants in the state neither tested promotion, nor had the promoted ones their financial benefits implemented. Yes, he may have managed to right his wrong at the twilight of his reign by organising an adhoc promotion exercise, but how far will that go in healing the pains and agony of eighth years? Howbeit, Good bye! our governor.
On the other hand, today is the much awaited May 29, 2023, when power is expected to change hands in the country in general, and in the state in particular. Interestingly, Wike honourably bows out of office to give way to Dr Siminialayi Fubara, aka Sim, for short, to enter.
The expectation of many Rivers people is that Sim’s administration should not only consolidate on the gains of his immediate predecessor, but also bring about a huge turnaround in terms of innovations in the state. In the first place, our new governor must work hard to prove those who doubted his capacity to steer the ship of this great state wrong with good governance. This task is only achievable when right pegs are fixed on fitted holes irrespective of political leanings. Fubara’s inclination towards zero tolerance for corruption in public offices as well as making accountability a watch word, will take our state a step further
As Rivers people look into the future, , there is a palpable desire to be productive, competitive, and self-reliant in the face of global and national uncertainties. Consequently, stakeholders and various interest groups are already advancing their agenda for the next governor. The thoughts of Rivers people, through the voices of interest groups, major stakeholders, and experts in various sectors will be distilled as an agenda for the new governor. However, in this first installment, an economic agenda is articulated for the next occupant of the Brick House in the hope that all the material and human resources bequeathed to the state by God might be harnessed to create enduring wealth and prosperity, particularly given the foundation laid by Governor Wike. It is in this regard that the President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), Eze Mike Elechi, remarked that “the economy of a state or nation has to be tackled by first of all laying down foundation – the infrastructure that will propel the economy”.
Given the commendable effort of the outgoing governor at providing physical infrastructure, what appears more important now is a look at the things that can make the economy grow vis a vis the dynamics of it. Modern-day economic booms would take off from industrialisation, agriculture; etc Electricity stands tall in the hierarchy of the needs of the state. Rivers State can leverage on the bill on electricity generation and power, if assented to, to have abundant power, enough for distribution. According to the President of PHCCIMA, almost all the companies in Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout have either moved or are moribund”. Hence, the onus is now on the new administration to focus on cottage industries by creating special loan schemes whereby the private sector can access equipment finance to increase their capacity in order to boost the economy.
Small businesses sure need assistance equivalent to what is offered by the Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture. This makes a critical look at the Rivers State Micro-Finance Agency (RIMA), for the purpose of restructuring it to meet its mandate imperative. In the same spirit of helping small business holders, reasonable consideration can be given to tax holidays to enable existing businesses grow and to attract new businesses to the state. This no doubt, will improve the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in the state. In addition to this, the impact of community hostilities, and insecurity on the business community in the state has remained a concern to be addressed. Host community interference and disruptions are very low or nonexistent in many parts of Lagos. For example, you will not find individuals visiting companies within the Ikeja environs making demands because they are from Ikeja. You will also not find expatriates using armed policemen or soldiers on every trip because they have kidnapping scare. Why would any one consider sighting business in a State notable for host community disturbances, kidnappings, and other vices, as against settling in Lagos State that is relatively peaceful and business-friendly?”
Acordingly, there are expectations that the next governor of Rivers State would put the Onne Port and the Port Harcourt Port into use so that raw materials can come directly to Port Harcourt, as against what is currently obtainable. Where “a truckload of raw materials coming from Lagos to Port Harcourt cost almost N1 million. That money can be saved if we are using our ports. It is also hoped that the next governor will create additional industrial parks with a good road network, energy, and water to boost manufacturing in the state. This if done, would lure investors to move in and develop their lots. The next governor should, as a matter of necessity, seriously consider accelerating the process of obtaining Certificate of Occupancy (CoO) so that property owners in the state can use their properties as collateral to boost their capital.
Therefore, security and energy must be treated as major components of EoDB. Guaranteed that security seemed improved in the day time for now, there is the need to make day and night secure, just as Port Harcourt used to be in the past; and also make sure there is steady energy. When these two things are there, “people can do their business both day and night, bringing Port Harcourt to its former glory.”Mr. Okuku stated. According to him, Lagos State has no oil, but it’s just a business-friendly environment. For us here, we have the seaports, we have the rail, we have the major roads, and we have the airport. So, these principal routes of entry, and exit make Port Harcourt the second best place to invest outside Lagos.
The economic agenda for the next governor is very clear: fight multiple taxes; improve Ease of Doing Business; build new industrial parks; open up the seaports. Others are to help local government areas develop industrial hubs based on their unique comparative advantage; support small businesses with equipment loans to boost capacity and productivity; create an opportunity desk to hunt for jobs, scholarships, and grants for the indigenes of the state; and reorient Rivers People to be more investor- friendliness.
By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi with report from Raphael Pepple
Eight Years Of Business Dev In Rivers
Since May 29, 2015, when the Rivers State Government under His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, assumed office, so much has transpired in all sectors of the state’s economy. In this piece, the Business Editor, Soibi Max-Alalibo, with contributions from Senior Correspondents, Lilian Peters, Corlins Amadi, Tonye Nria-Dappa, King Onunwor, and Chinedu Wosu, x-rays how the Business sector of the economy of Rivers State has faired since 2015, with a view to charting a way forward for the newly sworn-in Governor, Sir Siminialayi Joseph Fubara.
All around the world,
governments are faced with various responsibilities, topmost of which is maintaining peace and security of the lives and property of its citizenry. This is mostly because they constitute the pivot to all other forms of development in a modern economy.
To attain necessary peace and security of lives and of their populace, therefore, responsible governments go the extra mile to make it a reality, knowing that it goes a long way in giving them a sense of responsibility as a government in the comity of governments.
Though the extent to which this is perceived is dependent on the given society and other factors such as the impact of government policies on the people and its effect on the economy, it is safe to state that genuine peace and security are sine qua non to effective development in any society.
It is from this context that the Rivers State experience in the last eight years can best be viewed in order to be on a better stead to appreciate the journey thus far.
When Wike, the third Governor of Rivers State in this 4th Republic, came into office, optimism was in short supply as far as the business environment was concerned. Nobody could envisage what will happen next.
The business community was expectant but not overly confident of what was in stock. This was mostly so because many sectors where experiencing setbacks: the judiciary, Civil Service with back log of unpaid salaries; health sector, education, and, in fact, all other sectors was at best in comatose.
For the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which constitute a major source of income for a greater part of the business community, the next profit was as uncertain as what tomorrow holds, because criminality was rife and no one can fathom who the next victim would be.
The strong arm of any business community, which is road infrastructure was in shambles: there were gridlocks in almost all major streets, such as Ikwerre Road, which was the abode of most SMEs, no thanks to the poor state of the roads, and lack of connecting roads.
Director of Co-operatives, Rivers State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Elizabeth Chidi-Wike, has this to say about the situation of the business community when Wike came into office:
“Rivers State was in economic jeopardy. No investor was happy because there was total insecurity, the courts being shut down, meaning that all cases that needed judicial intervention had to grind to a halt.
“The thousands of lawyers that make a living in the Rivers State judiciary had to shut down their offices. Some joined their wives in other businesses, while others simply relocated.
“The number of executive ‘kabu-kabu’ taxis increased. The crowd that milled around the Rivers State High Court area for numerous services such as restaurants, typing of affidavits, and other notary services disappeared. That sector of the economy crashed and stopped.
“Business owners were faced with impassable roads, near total absence of power supply, water, social services, security, etc. Industries were fleeing and unemployment reached its peak. The economy (in Rivers State) simply stopped functioning”.
This was the situation on ground that confronted Governor Wike, who went into work with his team, warning them never to give him excuse for non performance.
After one year in office, Bruno Emenike wrote an article in This Day Newspaper, titled, “Saving the Rivers Economy: The Wike Matrix”, published June 6th, 2016.
“One year down the lane, Port Harcourt has found its bounce, the traffic snarls have ebbed, access to justice and arbitration is available, while the infrastructural space is broadened.
“Speaking on how far his administration has weather the storm, Wike said: ‘We have stabilised the economy of Rivers State since we took over the reins of leadership in the state. We achieved the stabilisation of the economy by injecting N151 billion as salaries and payment of contractors’.
The Governor never relented in his efforts, but continued having a target and goal of building a new Rivers State that would be investors’ haven.
In order to make do with what was at his disposal, he looked onwards, instituted peace and security by mobilising security agencies, and also improved on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), by creating the enabling environment for SMEs to thrive, which tremendously increased the State’s IGR.
Chidi-Wike summed up that first year in office thus: “Between then and now, the Governor has been repairing roads, completing abandoned ones and connecting new ones for easy movement of entrepreneurs, goods and services throughout the State”.
Governor Wike later set up the Rivers State Ease of Doing Business Council (EODBC), which, in the words of Chairman of Council and Deputy Governor of the State, Dr. Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, was to focus “on deepening the reforms already started across the MDAs to drive productivity, create jobs and restore investor confidence and increase foreign direct investment in the state “.
She explained further that “the Council is saddled with the responsibility to evolve implementable strategies for businesses to thrive in the state.
“Your Excellency’s policies in the harmonisation of taxes, infrastructural development, social sectors of health, education, security and the issuance of Certificates of Occupancy, are pointers towards advancing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in the State”.
All the efforts by the Governor to improve business in the State were summarised in “Business Day” Newspaper of September. 28, 2021 by Hope Moses Ashike, with the title: “Rivers leads top 5 states in 2021 fiscal performance ranking”.
Ashike said, “Rivers State has again topped the overall 2021 Fiscal Performance Ranking in BudgIT’s annual state of states report titled Fiscal Options for Building Back Better. Other states include Ebonyi, Lagos, Anambra and Kebbi.
“The ranking indicates that the fiscal fundamentals of Rivers State, compared to others in the country, are more prudently managed.
“In the overall ranking, two states – Ebonyi and Kebbi – made it as new entrants to the top 5 category. This was driven largely by growth in both states’ IGR as recorded by the NBS.
“Ebonyi State grew its IGR by 82.3 percent from N7.5bn in 2019 to N13.6bn in 2020, while Kebbi State grew its revenue by 87.02 percent from N7.4bn in 2019 to N13.8bn in 2020.
“Meanwhile, Ogun (now 19th) and Kano (now 22nd), dropped out of the top 5 category due to a sharp decline in their IGR in 2020”.
Wike’s ingenuity in improving the IGR of the State, which was enhanced by his instituting an harmonised tax regime, which ensured that only the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) was mandated to collect tax in the State, enhanced all the infrastructural development that cuts across all sectors of the economy of the State, with twelve Flyovers, among others, to show for it.
In the aviation sector, Wike’s impact was felt first with the completion and commissioning of the Airport/Obiri Ikwerre Road, which did not only increase access time to the airport, but has become the daily delight for airport users.
According to the Chairman of Airlines Operators Committee (AOC) at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Mr Francis Ofangba, the completion and commissioning of the ObiriIkwerre airport Road during his first tenure as governor, has been a great achievement of the governor that has positively impacted on business activities at the airport. Ofangba, who is also the Port Harcourt Station Manager of Dana airline, noted that access to the Port Harcourt Airport between Rumuokoro and Igwuruta, which used to witness loss of man hour due to gridlock as a result of by bad road, and the fact that it was the only road to access the Airport, is now easy.
“It took an average of three hours to go through Rumuokoro/Eliozu roundabout to the airport on daily basis, and that has caused so much missing of flights by passengers, especially in the morning hours.
“The story drastically changed when the Obiri Ikwerre airport came up for use, and now, you see that people hardly miss their flights due to traffic”, he noted.
Another area Ofangba said Wike made impact was the redesigning of the government VIP/Protocol Lounge at the airport, which, he said, is a world-class edifice, compared to what the place used to be.
He said the lounge, together with reconstruction of car park, has added to the aesthetics of the airport, making it look like a true international environment, in addition to few jobs it has created.
Wike also reconstructed the Nigerian Airforce mini-base, which he built seperately for the personnel of the Airforce, to enhance security and their operations at the airport.
Commending the Governor for these achievements at the airport, the Chairman of League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) at the airport, David Ejiowhor said such achievements were remarkable, noting that the quality of such projects can hardly be found in any other airport in Nigeria.
The first of achievements recorded in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) in the period under review was the adoption of ICT to ensure proper data and resource management.
The aim was to ensure better productivity, outstanding service delivery, and easy retrieval of data when the need arises, unlike when things were done manually.
To achieve this, the State Government began the Automation trip of the state in April 2018.
The journey, which was anchored by the State ICT Department, launched what is now known as the Rivers State Public Service Information Management System (RivPuSMiS).
This is an online platform that manages the records of both employees and retirees in the state, which resolved the issue of ‘ghost names’ in the Civil Service and has also provided solutions to regular/accurate data of pensioners and others.
The victory of RivPuSMiS birthed more ICT Departments in Ministries and Agencies, such as the Ministries of Health, Education, Judiciary and others.
The directive of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, in no little measure, gave rise to the nearly full digitalisation of the State, believed to be among leading ICT states in the country.
RivPuSMiS has also aided the State Government to have strong footing to execute ideal human resources planning in its service for improved productivity and service delivery to the people.
It further helped the state to have harmonised and central Public Service database for administration and management.
For the citizens of the state, it made the accessment of Staff records easy, unlike the manual era when Staff spent ‘decades’ looking for their files and records.
Wike also contributed to Security through ICT in November 2022, when his administration built, equipped, and donated an Intelligence and Surveillance Centre to the State Police Command as a contribution to boosting efforts of the security agencies in crime fighting in the State.
According to the Governor, the Centre has the latest technology and would help in improving crime fighting capability of police officers and make the State safer.
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