By Uzodinma Anochima
Without doubt, infrastructure is key to the socio-economic development of a state such as Rivers considered as one of the strategic zones in the country. Even in the days of the old Eastern Region, its capital, Port Harcourt, was perceived to be the political and industrial capital of the region and measures were put in place to make it the ‘Garden City’ it was. In spite of the devastation caused by the unfortunate civil war of 1967 – 1970, it did not lose that status. When the Murtala Mohammed/ Obasanjo regime came into office, Port Harcourt was one of the three cities declared as Federal territories. The other two are Lagos and Abuja.
But this declaration was only on paper as no resources commensurate with its status were deployed to make it the real federal territory it was designed to be. Successive administrations military and civilian, did very little to place the state, literally floating on the nation’s economic mainstay- oil, on an appropriate pedestal.
All that is beginning to change with the coming into office of the present administration led by Governor Nyesom Wike who, from inception, approached with missionary zeal, his decision to reverse the downward trend that had made the state the under achiever it was. Going by its name, the state is almost lying below sea level so also is Lagos its contemporary. But on the basis of infrastructural development, there is nothing to compare between the two.
Wike has made a point to go back to the basics which is filling the potholes on existing roads in the state that had made movement always a hellish gridlock in parts of the state. Through his Operation Zero Potholes programme, the governor is uplifting the dilapidated road infrastructure in the state capital and its environs. He also started the completion of several roads abandoned by the immediate past administration. The governor’s urban renewal efforts have led to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of over 120 kilometres of roads in seven local government areas. They include Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Eleme, Etche, Oyigbo, and Akuku-Toru local government areas.
Residents of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas are appreciative of Wike’s urban roads renewal programme in the last one year. Today, the roads in Diobu are wearing a new look with the economy properly refocused to generate the much needed employment and other developmental attractions.
Some of the prominent roads are Abonnema/Obonnema Link Road/Bridge (commissioned), Eagle Island/Iloabuchi Road/Bridge (commissioned), Abuluoma-Woji Link Road/Bridge (commissioned), Oyigbo Market Road (commissioned), and Nkpogu-NLNG Road/Bridge (commissioned). Others are reconstruction of 33 kilometres of township roads, reconstruction of Igwuruta-Chokocho road, Eleme Junction to Onne Junction of the East-West Road, Rumualogu/Alakahiah Road. Yet others are reconstruction of the Rumuolumini-Iwofe road, Elioparanwo road, Oro-Igwe road as well as the rehabilitation of the road under Mile 1 Bridge and Obi Wali Road.
It is said that governing Nigeria and Nigerians is as simple as giving them the basic minimum the need to get on with their lives. That may well be the case with the residents of the major urban centres that have already started to celebrate Wike’s road renewal scheme as those in Diobu and Borikiri, two densely populated suburb are. Roads in those areas were completely abandoned by previous administrations but today, it is a different song.
In line with his cosmopolitan disposition, the governor is not concentrating his policy direction in the area of provision of infrastructure in any given area as the flagging off of the dualisation of the Saakpenwa-Bori road in line with his campaign promise to the people of Ogoni indicates. In this regard, he is also initiating the reconstruction of the federal government -owned Eleme Junction to Onne Junction of the East-West Road to boost movement to the Onne Seaport. This project was funded in conjunction with private stakeholders in the area. Wike also initiated the reconstruction of the federal government-owned NPA-Industry road to the Port Harcourt port to improve the economy of the area.
One of the highpoints of the road development scheme by Wike in the last one year is the revival of the Rivers State Road Rehabilitation Agency. He gave a boost to the technical, financial and equipment capacity of the agency to enable it engage in regular maintenance of roads across the state. Some of the roads rehabilitated by the agency include Bodo Road, Woji Road, Evo Crescent, Birabi by Presidential Hotels Andrew Uchendu Crescent, and Abacha Link Road. These laudable road projects, especially those in the city centres, are complemented with the provision of street lights. For instance, the governor has commenced the revival of all dysfunctional street lights across Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas.
Water, it is said, is life itself. There can be no good health without potable water to go with it. It is in appreciation of this fact that the administration of Governor Wike has given the provision of potable water an unprecedented attention. He took a bold step when he launched the state’s urban water sector reform, the Port Harcourt Water Supply Scheme, and the Sanitation Project. This project will create women entrepreneurs, youth employment as well as provide safe drinking water for the inhabitants of the state. Under the new Urban Sector Water Reforms, the state government will be supplying water to two million people in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas after laying 400 kilometres of water-pipes in strategic locations.
Significantly, Wike has also launched the potable water scheme in Akuku-Toru, commissioned the design and conceptualisation of water laboratories for the three senatorial districts, and is rehabilitating 10 old water schemes across the state. The administration has enhanced the expansion of water reticulation in Eleme and Okrika local government areas, with the construction of eight new water schemes already being executed for the people of the state.
Housing, which occupies a prominent pride of place in the life of the people, has also received the required attention. The 50 units Iriebe Housing Estate for Middle Income Earners has been completed and commissioned just as the administration has commenced the construction of the Phase 2 of Mile One Market under a public private partnership arrangement. The Wike administration has in line with the New Vision Development Blueprint embarked on aggressive physical planning by designing a low density residential layout near Golf Estate at Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout wherein 150 plots have been mapped out. This new residential layout, billed for development, will further beautify the city.
In the transport sector, the modernisation of marine transport in the state is ongoing. The governor has commenced the process of reviving jetties across the state. Work has already started at the jetty in Okrika, while the Bille Jetty and Bonny (Nembe-Waterside) are being redesigned for work to commence.
To stop illegal structures in the urban centres of the state, the Wike administration merged the offices for the approval of building plans into a one-stop-shop location at the State Secretariat. For an administration that has been in office for just one year, these, indeed, are commendable strides.
- Anochima wrote in from Port Harcourt