By SIMEON NWAKAUDU, who is Special Assistant to Governor Nyesome Wike on Electronic Media, writes about progress made almost 365 days after he was sworn in as governor.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike assumed the reins of governance at a time that the morale of the people was at an all-time low. Despite the N3 trillion that accrued to the state in the course of the immediate past administration, physical and social infrastructure had depreciated beyond imagination, while the people were left to suffer due to lack of government projects and programmes to empower them.
The courts were closed for over two years, the State House of Assembly was hijacked to the precincts of the Government House, while Civil Servants were owed for four months and pensioners owed for eight months. Different shades of athletes were also owed, while the immediate past governor fled the state on self-imposed exile as he pursued his personal political goals.
This was the premise upon which 1, 029,102 Rivers people representing 87.77 percent of the total votes cast on April 11, 2015 resolved that Nyesom Ezenwo Wike should lead the state out of the doldrums of under-development and enthrone the values of a New Rivers State where every indigene and inhabitant will enjoy good governance, accountable leadership and greater opportunities to realise their potentials.
One year into the journey, this has proved to be the most valuable decision made by the Rivers people, as the state has metamorphosed into a huge construction site where values of good and accountable governance have been elevated as the pillars of the Wike-led administration.
All over the country, Nigerians from all walks of life are visiting Rivers State in their numbers to catch a glimpse of the transformational leadership of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. Their interest premised on the fact that the immediate past administration in the state destroyed the very fabric of projects execution and left the state in a developmental comatose.
With proactive planning and strategic implementation of projects and programmes, Governor Wike has turned Rivers State into a destination of choice for all lovers of development.
Little wonder, several professional, sports and religious organisation have in the last few months made Port Harcourt the preferred host city of their conferences and seminars. Between May and October 2015, Rivers State will play host to the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the Biennial delegates conference of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Annual General Conference and the Law Week of the Federal High Court. These conferences will culminatively attract over 100,000 professionals to Rivers State.
In the last one year, Governor Wike has lived up the expectations of the people, emerging as Nigeria’s best governor in terms of projects initiation and execution, staff welfare, empowerment of the less privileged, enhanced security architecture, sports, education and employment generation.
It has been a compelling love story between Governor Wike and his constituents because the governor continues to deliver despite dwindling resources.
One of the most outstanding areas of performance of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in the last one year is the area of developing new road infrastructure in the urban centres of the state for the purpose of jump-starting the collapsed economy he met upon the assumption of office on May 29, 2015.
The governor shortly after he was sworn in flagged off the Operation Zero Potholes programme to address the dilapidated road infrastructure in the state capital and environs. This programme is being handled by two construction giants, Julius Berger and CCECC.
He also kick-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 of the state. They include: Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwerre, Eleme, Etche, Oyigbo and Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas.
A roll call of 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) NKPOGU-NLNG Road/Bridge (Commissioned) Reconstruction of 33 kilometres of Township Roads under Operation Zero Potholes (Handled by Julius Berger and CCECC) Reconstruction of Igwuruta-Chokocho road, Reconstruction of Eleme Junction to Onne Junction of the East-West Road, Reconstruction of the Rumualogu/Alakahiah Road, and Rehabilitation of the Road under Mile 1 Bridge.
Others are: Reconstruction of the Rumuolumini-Iwofe road, Rehabilitation of Obi Wali road, Reconstruction of Elioparanwo road, Reconstruction of Oro-Igwe road.
His commitment to the revival of the Rivers economy led to the governor 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 conjuction with private stakeholders in the area. The governor 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 infrastructural development by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in the last one year is the revival of the Rivers State Road Rehabilitation Agency. This agency duly funded by the Wike administration has been driving the regular maintenance of roads across the state. The successes of this agency can be best appreciated by the fact that the Amaechi administration left all the major roads to degenerate.
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.
The governor has also commenced the revival of all dysfunctional street lights across Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt and Ikwerre Local Government Areas. Several major streets in Port Harcourt and Obio /Akpor Local Government Areas are now powered at night with new generating sets to improve security and beauty at night
To enhance security in the course of the last one year, Governor Wike’s administration donated 66 Security Vans fitted with communication gadgets to Security Agencies.
The governor also liaised with the 23 Local Government Areas to donate another 46 Vans fitted with communication gadgets to Security Agencies. He has enhanced Statutory Financial Support and relevant logistics for Security Agencies thereby strengthening of the State Security Council for responsive performance.
Most importantly, the governor in concert with the Rivers State House of Assembly strengthened the Rivers 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. To encourage security agents to make sacrifices for the people, Governor Wike outlined incentives that is being doled out to those who suffer whilst fighting crime.
Provision of Potable Water has received unprecedented attention under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. He has taken bold steps to ensure that the people of the state have access to clean and safe water.
The administration has launched State 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 2 million people in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government areas after laying 400 kilometres of water-pipes in strategic locations.
Also in the course of his first year in office, Governor Wike launched the potable water scheme was launched in Akuku-Toru, commissioned the design and conceptualization of water laboratories for the three senatorial district 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.
To most Nigerians and the international community, Governor Wike’s most outstanding achievement in the last one year is his restoration of the rule of law and the rebuilding of the Judiciary destroyed by the Amaechi administration. It is on record, the immediate past Governor Rotimi Amaechi deliberately plunged the judiciary into a needless succession crisis that led to the closure of courts for over two years. This singular unfortunate act impacted negatively on the security of the state, the administration of justice and the enthronement of good governance.
Upon being sworn-in as the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took immediate steps to address this unfortunate development. He immediately announced the appointment of the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Daisy Okocha and the Acting President, Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo. About one year down the road, Governor Wike has further stabilised the state judiciary.
Immediate past Chief Judge of the State, Justice Daisy Okocha (rtd), emerged as the first substantive Chief Judge of the State, while Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, incumbent Chief Judge of the State, succeeded her. Today, Justice Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo is also a substantive President Court of Appeal.
Governor Wike took very fundamental steps to revive the state’s judiciary. He is Implementing financial Autonomy for the judiciary and has commenced the construction of an ultra-modern Law Centre for lawyers in the state.
The governor donated six coaster buses for the Five NBA Branches and FIDA. Over the last one year the administration has released over N700 million for Capital projects, while the state government is constructing additional courtrooms for the State High Court and Customary Court of Appeal. The state government is also constricting additional Courtrooms at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt. The governor’s efforts are targeted towards enhancing access to justice for the people of the state.
Just like the judiciary, Governor Wike upon assumption of the reins of governance restored the principle of separation of powers by duly proclaiming the Rivers State House of Assembly at its official premises.
This is remarkable because the House of Assembly under Former Governor, Chibuike Amaechi sat at the dinning hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt from where they rubber stamped all proposals of that anti-people administration.
Under Governor Wike, the Rivers State House of Assembly has been financially autonomous, receiving her allocations on a first line charge basis.
In the course of the governor’s first year in office, housing has also received the required attention. 50 Units Iriebe Housing Estate for Middle Income Earners has been completed and commissiomed. The Wike administration has also commenced the construction of the Phase 2 of Mile One Market under a public private partnership arrangement.
Sports development is one area that Governor Wike used to place Rivers State on the global map. Rivers State hosted a series of international football matches that attracted global citizens to the state.
The State hosted the National Under 23 Team Match against Congo, the Super Eagles Versus Angola Match and the Ivory Coast versus Sierra Leone Nations Cup Qualifier. The State has been playing host to all the CAF Champions League Matches involving Enyimba International Football Club.
In the course of the year under review, Governor Wike merged the defunct Sharks FC and Dolphin FC to create a formidable Rivers United. The governor also cleared the eight months salary arrears owed athletes and managements of the clubs by the immediate past administration.
The less privileged in the state have been accommodated in the governor’s empowerment programme. Over 35,000 artisans, barbers, traders, fishermen, hairdressers and other small scale business owners benefitted from
N2billion Rivers State Micro,Small, and Medium Scale Entreprises Development Fund. This programme has helped to improve the economy of the State.
Education has received unprecedented attention under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. For the first time since the establishment of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology over three decades ago, the university will be having a College of Medical Sciences. The governor laid the foundation stone for the College and proactively released funds for the commencement of construction works. The first set of students in the college will be admitted in the course of the next academic session. The governor has also commenced the completion of the abandoned structures at the Faculty of Management Sciences and Faculty of Environment buildings of RSUST.
The administration completed the Dr Nabo Graham Douglas Faculty of Law building which has facilities such as auditorium, electronic and traditional libraries, classrooms and moot courts. The governor reinstated RSUST lecturers illegally sacked and has released N700 million for the payment of their entitlements.
The Wike administration has also kick-started the rehabilitation of prominent secondary schools in the three senatorial districts of the state for the purpose of reintroducing boarding education with Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta, serving as a pilot.
To ensure that the children of the less privileged write their SSCE without being charged illegal fees by principals, the governor distributed science equipment for practicals to 247 public secondary schools and also transferred financial grants to them to buy relevant perishable consumables for that purpose.
Governor Wike has revived the abandoned agricultural sector since assuming the leadership of the state. In liaison with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Governor Wike has delved into the promotion of commercial agriculture by providing cheap finances for the cultivation of oil palm produce and cassava.
The administration in February 2016 launched the school farm project to attract youths to farming for the purpose of food security and empowerment. More than 2000 youth farmers have been registered for empowerment into agricultural sector in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state while plans have been concluded for the administration to extend credit to farmers and fisher folks.
The administration also reintroduced Input Distribution to boost Food Production in the state. The Wike administration is currently rehabilitating the fish farms in Ubima, Buguma and Andoni, while it contained the spread of avian influenza in Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas in November, 2015.
The Transport sector has witnessed the process of the modernisation of the marine transport in the state. The ongoing rehabilitation of Bille Jetty and Bonny (Nembe-Waterside) and the rehabilitation of Okrika are on course.
Also, Database of Buses/Taxis in the state capital has been developed while new Motor-Parks have been established in Port Harcourt.
The Representative of the World Health Organisation, WHO, in Nigeria, Dr Rui Gama Vas brought to the fore the outstanding achievements of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike in the health sector during his visit to the governor on April 27, 2016. He declared that the robust response of the state government through its personnel and facilities stopped the spread of the deadly Lassa Fever in the state.
This proactive successful handling of the Lassa Fever Outbreak was a fallout of the funding and support the State Ministry of Health received from Governor Wike.
The Wike administration has started preliminary works towards the rehabilitation of Zonal hospitals in the state. The administration is also working on the rehabilitation and revival of primary health centres.
Also in the health sector, the Wike administration established relevant partnerships with International Organisations for the treatment of infectious diseases especially the consolidation of the gains of routine immunisation.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is loved by the civil servants in the state because he has prioritised their welfare despite the dwindling resources to the state.
Governor Wike cleared the four months salary arrears he inherited from the immediate past administration and also settled the eight pension arrears inherited.
The state civil service has been reformed with Ministries, Departments and Agencies receiving monthly overheads denied them by the immediate past administration.
During the campaigns, Governor Wike promised to restore Port Harcourt City to its famous status as the Garden City of Nigeria. One year into his first term in office, the governor has implemented programmes and projects aimed at actualizing these goals.
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 . This new residential layout billed for development will further beautify the city.
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. This has also increased revenue for the state.
Extensive Development Control and enforcement have been carried out by the administration to recover right of ways in densely populated areas of Port Harcourt, especially Diobu. The administration has closed illegal parks and markets with efforts geared at making the state capital neat and appealing.
To ensure that the people support the urban renewal programme of the administration, a public enlightenment campaign, “Operation Garden City Restoration 2016” was launched for Port Harcourt and neighbouring communities.
Women have assumed a central role in the building of a new Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. In this era of rapid development, women have been duly elevated to state-builders. The State Judiciary has been stabilised since June , 2015 by women. First, it was Justice Daisy Okocha (rtd ) as Acting Chief Judge alongside Justice Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo as Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal. Justice Okocha later became substantive Chief Judge before she retired. She was seamlessly succeeded by Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra who is now a substantive Chief Judge of the State. Justice Christy Gabriel-Nwankwo has also been sworn-in as the first substantive President Customary Court of Appeal. Aside the judiciary, women are playing key roles in the State Executive Council as Commissioners, Special Advisers, Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Parastatals and Government Agencies.
Though, the governor’s wife, Justice Suzzette Eberechi Nyesom-Wike has been working as a High Court Judge, she has continued to play her role as a mother of the state, providing succour to the less privileged in the state.
The last one year has set the tone for the revival of Rivers State. The creation of a new Rivers State, where all inhabitants of the state will be proud of has started in earnest . No section of the state has been left behind as Governor Wike is involved in pro-people governance steeped in consultations and respect for the contributions of all stakeholders.
As a result of the governor’s performance, the Rivers people have rewarded him with undiluted loyalty. They trooped out on March 19, 2016 during the rerun elections to declare their appreciation to a man who has kept his vow that a new Rivers State is the right of the people . Their support has created an enabling environment for Governor Wike to recreate the landscape of the state and make it the envy of other states.
In his first year in office, Governor Wike has ultimately defined performance in governance with his focused leadership, compassionate interventions in the welfare of the less privileged , stoic defence of the Rivers mandate, prudent application of resources and strategic implementation of projects and programmes that have uplifted the state.
It goes without saying that Governor Wike’s second year in office would be extra-ordinary. This is because the governor will not be confronted with a year long electoral litigation and majority of the rerun elections have been settled by the good people of Rivers State. The governor will focus all his attention on development programmes and projects. If Governor Wike emerged Nigeria’s best governor in the first one year of this dispensation despite the distraction a from the failed opposition and lack of financial resources due to economic downturn, you can only imagine what he will achieve going forward. As the people say: Rivers State is NEW.