Rivers as Nigeria’s Emerging Best Investment, Tourism Destination

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Simeon Nwakaudu

At the time Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike traversed the 23 local government areas of the state seeking the mandate of the people, he made a solemn pledge. Wike vowed to deploy the human and financial resources of the state to create a New Rivers State where all residents will benefit from good governance, better opportunities and focused leadership. Seventeen months after taking over the reins of leadership in Rivers State, Wike has transformed the state into Nigeria’s development headquarters. The centre of economic rejuvenation targeted at insulating the people of the state from the harsh realities of economic recession.

Wike’s mass development projects across different sectors of the Rivers economy have elevated the state beyond the imagination of even the governor’s most ardent supporters. Everyone expected him to perform well as governor, but he has performed beyond expectations.

The development strides of the Wike administration have been in line with the mission of the New Rivers Vision Development Blueprint, which is, “To actualise the aspirations of the people of Rivers State for a balanced development and an enhanced quality of life for the present and future generations through responsive governance guided by the fear of God.” It has been a harvest of achievements for the people under the leadership of Wike.

The creation of a knowledge-based economy was one of the most fundamental objectives of Wike right from the beginning of his administration. One of the first projects that he commissioned in his first 100 days in office was the Dr Nabo Graham Douglas Faculty of Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. This Law Faculty, the best in West Africa, was completed after 20 years of abandonment. It has state-of-the-art facilities such as electronic and conventional libraries, moot courts, 1200-seater auditorium, modern offices, and classrooms.

The governor also kick-started the construction of the College of Medical Sciences at RSUST and reinstated lecturers unjustly sacked by the immediate past administration in the state.

Today, all the courses at the Ignatius Ajuri University of Education have been accredited following the development of the necessary infrastructure in the school by the state government.

The Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori, has received improved funding, leading to the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure by the school’s management.
In order to create more access to quality tertiary education in the state, Wike, in liaison with the Rivers State House of Assembly, transformed the former Rivers State College of Arts and Science (RIVCAS) to Port Harcourt Polytechnic.

For the secondary education sub-sector, 11 prominent secondary schools, spread across the three senatorial districts, have been earmarked for total rehabilitation, in addition to the introduction of boarding education. At present, Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta, Nyemoni Grammar School, Abonnema, and Birabi Grammar School, Bori, are being rehabilitated as pilot schools. The state government has also approved the rehabilitation of Government Secondary School, Ogu, in Ogo/Bolo Local Government Area.
In addition, the Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools Board and the State Universal Basic Education Board have been constituted by the governor, with both boards taking teaching and learning in Rivers schools to the next level.

The administration has kick-started a comprehensive rehabilitation of health facilities across the state. To this end, the State Executive Council has approved the rehabilitation of 13 hospitals. They are General Hospital, Omoku; General Hospital, Nchia; General Hospital, Abua; General Hospital, Isiokpo; General Hospital, Abonnema; General Hospital, Okirika; General Hospital, Opobo; General Hospital, Bodo; General Hospital, Ngo; General Hospital, Buguma; Psychiatric Hospital; Rumuigbo; General Hospital, Emohua; and General Hospital, Eberi.

Already, the upgrade of the Orthopaedic Department of the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital has been completed by the administration. The administration has improved facilities at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital to serve as a training centre for doctors and a temporary teaching hospital for the College of Medical Sciences of the RSUST.

The administration has also started the process of assisting private hospitals to provide enhanced quality healthcare to the people of the state by inaugurating the Rivers State Private Hospitals Intervention Scheme.
Wike cleared a backlog of four months’ salary arrears owed civil servants in the state, which he inherited from the immediate past administration in the state. He also settled four months of pension arrears owed pensioners, which he inherited.

Workers welfare has been prioritised, with Rivers State being one of the few states that are up to date in terms of monthly payment of salaries. Wike has also embarked on extensive civil service reforms, with his introduction of the civil servants biometric capture, considered innovative across the country.

Right from the campaign period, Wike made women empowerment a critical aspect of his plan to develop Rivers State. It was on this premise that he chose a woman, Dr Ipalibo Harry Banigo, as his running mate.
Since May 29 last year, women have featured prominently in appointments and execution of key projects. The governor appointed women into key ministries as commissioners and permanent secretaries, with several others serving as heads of departments and agencies.

The N2 billion empowerment programme for the less privileged in the state had several women groups fairly represented, as the governor tried to revive the informal economy of the state.
The Wife of the Rivers State Governor, Justice Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, has on her own played a critical role in the empowerment of women. Only recently, her organisation, RivEthics, sponsored 237 women for the Access Bank Workshop for the training of women entrepreneurs.

For the first time in close to two decades, the urban centres of Rivers State have been renewed to attract visitors and tourists. The Wike administration has revived streetlights across Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre local government areas. This singular act has revived nightlife and improved security in the urban centres.

Additionally, traffic lights hitherto forgotten in Rivers State have been reintroduced by Wike. Aside the aesthetic value, the traffic lights have improved traffic management and reduced accidents.
Wike inherited an extremely dirty city, where refuse contractors abandoned the streets because the immediate past administration failed to meet their contractual obligations. Upon assumption of office, Wike empowered the Rivers State Waste Management Agency to clean up Port Harcourt and its environs. Though, it is still work in progress, a lot has been accomplished.

Within the last 17 months, the Wike administration has taken concrete steps to improve the supply of potable water to the people of the state. Two water projects, the Alesa and Agbonchia Water Booster Stations with over 50 kilometres water reticulation capacity, were completed and commissioned. The governor approved N189 million for the rehabilitation of the Okrika Water Scheme, while N200 million was approved for the funding of the EU/ NDSP Water Scheme for Akuku-Toru and Opobo/Nkoro local government areas.

The government also launched the Urban Water Sector and Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project.
Despite the challenge of economic recession, Wike has ensured that security of lives and property receives priority attention. The Wike has over the last 17 months funded security agencies and their operations in the state to ensure security of lives and property. The administration acquired and distributed over 120 patrol vans for all security agencies, and rehabilitated over 20 armoured personnel carriers and gunboats. It also recently acquired six new armoured personnel carriers to be delivered to the police to enhance security patrol.

To tackle the menace of kidnapping in Rivers State, the governor initiated the amendment of the State Anti-Kidnapping and Anti-Cultism law empowering the state to demolish houses from proceeds of crime and also confiscate resources earned through crime by criminals. This law was passed by the Assembly and assented to by the governor. The implementation of the amended law has made the state safer by dislodging kidnappers and cultists.

In furtherance of the implementation of the amended law, Wike has on different occasions personally led security agencies to demolish the hideouts of kidnappers and cultists in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas.

The administration has also strengthened community relations mechanisms in liaison with traditional rulers to ensure that communities build partnerships with security agencies to fight kidnapping and cultism. This has played a critical role in the reduction of insecurity in the rural and semi-urban communities of the state.
The amnesty programme introduced to try to reorient repentant cultists and kidnappers into honest living is the administration’s master stroke. Its state-wide success is unprecedented, as it has helped in the drastic reduction of kidnapping in the state. Leaders from all walks of life have praised the programme.

It is now common knowledge that Wike is an ardent believer and advocate of the rule of law. When he assumed office as governor, his first assignment was to reopen the courts closed by the past administration and ensure that the people of Rivers State have unhindered access to justice.

The governor, in line with the principle of separation of powers, has facilitated seamless transition in the leadership of the Rivers State judiciary. Today, a non-indigene, Justice Adama Iyayi-Laminkara, is the Chief Judge of Rivers State. She succeeded retired Justice Daisy Okocha, the first female Chief Judge of the state.
Legal experts believe Wike’s best achievement in this sector is the introduction of financial autonomy for the judiciary. In addition, the government has released over N700 million for capital projects. Over 30 key projects have been executed by the judiciary in the state.

The administration has remodelled the Diete Spiff Civic Centre in Port Harcourt, providing recreational facilities for residents and tourists alike. He transformed the facility, which had degenerated into a hideout for criminals, in a world class centre that served as the main venue of the 56th NBA Annual General Conference.

In addition, the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park initiated by Wike as a world class recreational facility that will drive tourism and generate foreign exchange has reached an advanced stage.
Today in Rivers State, there are strategic investments that are playing leading roles in the economy of Nigeria. These investments, despite the economic challenges, are waxing strong.

Indorama Fertiliser Plant and the Notore Fertiliser Plant are the largest in this part of the world. They are playing critical roles in the revival of the country’s agricultural sector, which is the highest employer of labour in Nigeria. These two facilities service about 40 million farming households across the country. They have continued to grow because of the favourable investment climate provided by the Wike administration. The governor has personally interfaced with the managements of the two companies to strengthen areas of partnership and build their operational security through enhanced community relations and participation.

The governor’s regular personal interventions have ensured that all high profile business concerns in the state are shielded from host community conflicts that disrupt production. Whenever a situation arises, he steps in personally to resolve the friction so that economic activities will continue to flourish. That is the selling point of Rivers State under Wike, which makes it easy for investors to commit their resources in the state.

The GreenGas LNG Facility being constructed by Grenville Oil and Gas Limited in Rumuji community of Emohua Local Government Area of the state is a new N140 billion project that will add value to the economy of the country.
These foreign investors have followed the footsteps of Indorama Fertiliser Plant and Notore Fertiliser Plant to help in the process of rebuilding the nation’s battered economy

In the area of sports, one of the first achievements of Wike was the payment of eight months outstanding salary arrears owed players and managers of the defunct Sharks and Dolphin Football clubs. The government subsequently merged the two clubs to form Rivers United Football Club of Port Harcourt. At the end of the 2015/2016 NPFL Season, Rivers United clinched a CAF Champions League ticket.

The Rivers State Government has started the process for the construction of the Garden City Sports Centre at the Amiesimaka Sports Complex. It hosted the 2016 Olympic Games Football Qualifying Match between Nigeria and Congo as well as funded the upgrade of the Main Bowl of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium. Sports development has been used as a veritable source of youth empowerment as the government is funding the participation of the state in all national and international sporting events.

In the last 17 months, Wike has transformed the road infrastructure of the state from a state of total disrepair to the nation’s outstanding point of reference. Right from the very beginning, the governor invited two construction giants, Julius Berger and CCECC, to join other equally reputable construction companies to embark on a comprehensive rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads in the state. Today, roads in the urban centres of the state serve as economic boosters as they enhance the free flow of traffic, which has positive impact on the economy. With improved road infrastructure, more businesses are gravitating towards Rivers State because of the ease of movement of goods and services.

The governor’s operation zero potholes programme, which was launched on May 29, 2015, is a huge success. It is a promise delivered to the good people of Rivers State and an unfolding creation of a modern city with state-of-the-art road infrastructure.

At the last count, former Senate President David Mark, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio, PDP National Caretaker Committee Chairman Ahmed Makarfi, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, and former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido have commissioned iconic road projects in Rivers State since the inception of the Wike administration.

The Rivers Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Agency, transformed by Wike, has in the last 15 months made more roads motorable in the urban centres than at any other time in the history of the state. The agency has delivered more than 130 roads. Previously dilapidated roads in Port Harcourt City, Oyigbo, Eleme, Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre local government areas have been rehabilitated.

One of the governor’s key achievements in his first 100 days in office was the construction of the Medium Income Housing Estate at Iriebe. The state government is reclaiming land around Nkpogu and Ogbum-na-Abali communities for the development of residential accommodation.

As a state with several riverine communities, Wike has taken concrete steps to develop marine transport in the state. The state government has reconstructed and commissioned the ATC Jetty in Okrika. The ATC Jetty has modern facilities, such as arrival and departure halls, with several safety and security facilities. The governor has also commenced the reconstruction of the Bonny Jetty at Nembe Waterside.

As a result of the massive infrastructural development and improvement of security in Rivers State, the state has become a centre of national and international events. Over the last few months, the following national and international events have held in the state: Nigerian Guild of Editors Annual General meeting , 56th NBA Annual General Conference , PDP National Convention, West African Architecture Fair, and Rotary International Regional meeting, among others.

The Wike government has started the process of generating 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths through agricultural projects. He said the jobs will be generated via the expansion of Resonpalm Limited, Ubima. The administration is partnering with Siat Limited to plant new nurseries at the Oil Palm Plantation in Ubima in the extensive expansion scheme. Also, the administration has introduced school farm projects to encourage children to be involved in farming.

Wike has, no doubt, transformed Rivers State into Nigeria’s best investment and tourism destination.
––Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media, writes from Port Harcourt.