By Tekina Princewill –
With the distractions of the National and State Assembly rerun elections more or less a settled matter, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has demonstrated that he takes seriously the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in Chapter II of the constitution and specifically section 14 (2) (b) which states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” as he embarks on projects completion and inauguration that will not only bring development, but impact on the lives of those who freely gave him their mandate to reposition the state after locust years of his immediate predecessor.
The bounce and enthusiasm which Wike has shown in ensuring that developmental projects are on track is no less infectious as his unalloyed commitment to give the Rivers state people some things to cheer about since he was sworn into office on May 29, 2015.
It is to the governor’s credit that he remains in pole position amongst his colleague governors to be the only one who has intervened and completed two critical federal road projects in their 10 months in office. The NPA-Industry road and the Eleme Junction axis of the East West Road are testimonies to his remarkable effort amidst acute shortfall in allocation from the federation account to the states. The roads are outside the 50 other roads completed by his administration in four urban local government areas of Rivers State.
On Tuesday, January 19, 2016, Wike extended his excellent record of performance by keeping to his campaign promise to the people of Etche and Ikwerre local government areas. It is a relief that when it concerns development, Wike has shun the temptation to shun projects kick-started by his predecessor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, but to complete them. For instance, the governor directed the immediate reconstruction of the Igwurita-Chokocho – Etche federal highway which was neglected by the immediate past governor of the state, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
The Igwurita- Chokocho- Etche federal highway is arguably one of the worst roads in the state. The deplorable nature of this road has crippled business activities along the axis. Flagging off the reconstruction of the 6.6kilometre Igwurita-Chokocho-Etche federal highway to be handled by Setraco Nigeria Limited, Wike said that the road will be funded through the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) account. According to the governor, the contractors will receive N400million monthly to defray the N2.4 billion cost for the construction of the road. Wike directed his Commissioners for Works and Finance to liaise with the contractors to ensure monthly payment of the approved sum to the contractor.
He said, “We believe that politics is about the welfare of the people. This road is critical to the people of Etche and their Igwurita neighbours. It is vital to their economies; hence we have resolved to complete it in a record time of six months.
“I agree that this is a Federal Road, but we cannot sit and allow our people suffer. We will construct this road to the satisfaction of our people. We will pay Setraco N400million monthly through IGR to ensure work goes on regularly till the completion of this project.”
The governor stated that it was unfortunate that Ikwerre local government area produced the immediate past governor for eight years with key Etche indigenes in his government, yet the economies of Etche and Ikwerre local government areas collapsed due to the bad road. He said, “When they were in power, they were receiving over N20 billion monthly, but they refused to do the road. Today, we are receiving only N5 billion monthly, but we have the political will and dedication to reconstruct the road. “This is because we are committed to our social contract with the people of Etche and Igwurita. This marks the end of suffering for Etche people. We are replicating this reality across Rivers State.”
It is on record that the Wike-led administration completed a total of 42 roads within his first one hundred days in office, especially within Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state. Speaking to newsmen on this feat, the governor explained that the essence of governance was to put viable infrastructure in place aimed at strengthening the economy. Recently, Wike stated that several of the ongoing road projects in the state will be completed and commissioned by the first anniversary of his administration on May 29, 2016, saying that the road construction projects will be sustained during the rainy season because of the technology being applied.
In the housing sector, Wike commissioned 50 units of higher low income flats at the Iriebe Housing Estate in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state. The houses, which are the first in the comprehensive housing programme of the Wike-led administration, are to be sold to the people at affordable prices without any profit to government. Speaking at the ceremony, the governor stated that his administration will be beneficial to all people of the state irrespective of their social status. The governor stressed that his housing programme will be targeted at the less privileged to ensure that their standard of living is improved. Also, in the housing sector, the Wike-led administration recently began the expansion of the Federal High Court complex in Port Harcourt, so as to ensure that more residents of the state have access to justice.
Speaking recently after inspecting level of work at the complex, the governor said the project will be delivered in August this year for dispensation of justice, pointing out that with the rerun legislative elections behind, the entire focus of his administration is to deliver on campaign pledges. While commending the contractor handling the Federal High Court annex for the quality of the job, Wike urged the contractor to maintain the tempo to ensure the work is delivered on schedule. He announced that the old Obio Customary Court will be demolished to create space for the construction of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal which will accommodate more Customary Courts.
The governor, who stated that the new headquarters of the Customary Court of Appeal will be duly funded by the Rivers State government, said the present Obio Customary Court premise is constrained by space, hence the need for demolition and construction of a multi-floor building. He urged the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo to apply for the release of funds for the immediate commencement of work. Also, the Wike-led administration is constructing a new Law Centre for the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), located opposite the Port Harcourt City local government council headquarters, in Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Speaking at the ground-breaking celebration, which was attended by the NBA national president, Austin Alegeh, SAN, the governor stated that his administration will continue to promote the rule of law in order to enhance the security of the state. He stated that his administration has taken proactive steps to encourage the bar and bench to promote the rule of law, adding that the Rivers State government resolved to construct new Law Centre for the NBA because of its commitment to enhancing law practice in the state with befitting facilities.
Wike said, “We had to relocate the law center to create room for the construction of more courts in the High Court Complex. We also relocated the law complex for the purpose of providing befitting facilities for lawyers to practice in the state.” The governor, who formally handed over the certificate of occupancy of the premises to the NBA, stated that the project will be completed on schedule by August, adding that N200 million has been released for the commencement of the project which is expected to cost N498 million.
Only last week, Wike laid the foundation for the second phase of the Rumuwoji (Mile One) market in Port Harcourt City local government area of the state, in fulfillment of his pledge to embark on urban renewal schemes that would uplift citizens standard of living. Speaking at the event, the governor said he remains committed to the delivery of quality projects that will enhance the people’s welfare, pointing out that the project was part of his campaign promises to the people of Rumuwoji (Mile One) community. He however, directed the Commissioner for Housing to commence negotiations for the acquisition of two houses close to the market for the necessary expansion to accommodate street traders. In his remarks, the Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Emma Okah, said the Rumuwoji Market which has been razed down several times, will be upgraded with modern amenities, adding that the new market would have 1,356 stores, three clinics, elevators, 72 toilets and underground parking lot.
Just last weekend, Wike announced that the state government will construct a central abattoir for the state capital that will cater for the needs of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas. Speaking after inspecting abattoirs in the two urban local government areas of the state, the governor stated that other abattoirs in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state will be closed down when the central abattoir. He said the abattoir, which will be located along the Elelenwo-Akpajo road is completed, will have modern slaughter facilities and open stalls for small vegetable and other traders.
Wike has continuously said his administration has come to build a new Rivers State, which will not only be of great benefit to the less privileged but add advantage to the economy of the state. Therefore, he will not hesitate to drop any official of the state government that is found wanting. To demonstrate this, the governor on Friday, April 1, ordered the suspension of the Commissioner for Works, Kevin Wachukwu, for negligence of duty and failure to monitor projects effectively. Speaking to the media in Port Harcourt, he explained that Wachukwu failed to deploy site engineers to monitor the execution of the contracts from the standpoint of the state government.
He said, “This is the time to deliver good governance to the people of Rivers State and I will not tolerate negligence of duty. The failure to deploy site engineers to these project three project sites means that the government and people of the state can be short-changed via poor quality delivery.
“The contracts have provision for site engineers and project vehicles. There was no reason why it was not enforced. If I am always at project sites supervising the quality and pace of work, there is no reason why the commissioner should not do the same. This goes to other commissioners. We are in the era of governance and every official must work for the people of the state.” Given the obvious developmental strides of the governor, it is incumbent that all political gladiators in the state to sheath their swords, bury the hatchet, forgo their egoistic political interests and join hands with a man of vision and purpose to move the state forward.
Princewill wrote from Port Harcourt