…Security, infrastructure boost to drive investments
Security and infrastructure drive seem to be the planks upon which the new administration in Rivers State led by Sim Fubara plans to build an investment-driven economy.
This messaging prospect was however muffled by political explosions in the form of impeachment missile from the governor’s trusted master’s camp and counter measures by few combatants that he could lay hands on. Thereafter, the only news from Rivers State were political crisis and violence.
Fubara was busy giving huge credit to ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, for the take off of his administration, not knowing the hour of long knives had arrived.
The hundred days broadcast however reminded the people of the new administration’s plan of action or blueprint highlighted by his blueprint on security, infrastructure, education, healthcare, economic growth, job creation, and many more, aimed at taking the state to greater heights of sustainable progress and human security.
Security, top priority:
For years since 2005, security has taken the centre stage in government policy in the state because no single project can be executed in Rivers State without a battery of security officials around. This seems to have driven cost of project implementation to high heavens.
Gov Fubara revealed this when he said: “As a government, our priority is to secure the lives and property of our people and we have kept faith in this responsibility by working with the security agencies to keep Rivers State relatively peaceful, safe, and secure for lives, businesses, and property.”
The second plank of the investment drive strategy, according to the broadcast, is on infrastructure. He thus situated this with the immediate flag off of the single biggest project, the Port Harcourt Ring Road.
“On 17 July 2023, we flagged off the construction of the single largest infrastructure project by a State Government in this country – the Port Harcourt Ring Road project as part of our comprehensive infrastructure development master plan for the State.
“The 50.15 km dual carriage ring road, when completed in a record three years, will connect and strengthen economic progress and integration in not less than six local government areas and open a vast gateway for new local and foreign direct investments in real estate, agriculture, hospitality, and industrial ventures into the State, transform the communities on and around its alignments, into thriving cities and create jobs and economic opportunities for so many of our citizens.”
The governor said since he took over, the wheels of progress had never stopped turning in Rivers State. “After 100 days, we have funded, completed, and delivered 21 road projects the many we inherited from the previous administration, and added approximately 68 kilometres to the State’s Road network.
“Consequently, the following completed road projects across eight Local Government Areas of the State will be commissioned from tomorrow 7th September 2023 as part of activities to mark our 100 days in office: Oyigbo – Okoloama Road in Oyigbo Local Government Area; Alode – Onne Road in Eleme Local Government Area; Botem-Gbene – nu-Horo Road in Tai Local Government Area; Mgbuodohia internal Roads in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; Ogbo – Ihugbogo in Ahoada East Local Government Area; Odiemudie Road in Ahoada East Local Government Area.”
He mentioned others in Ogba/Egbma/Ndoni Local Government Area; Eneka in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; Ogbakiri in Emohua Local Government Area; and Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area.
This pointed to one fact, priority in road infrastructure. “Having prioritized road construction as part of our strategy to accelerate socio-economic growth and development, we have awarded contracts and concluded plans to flag-off the construction of the following roads spread across five local government areas of the State as part of our 100 days in office activities: Omuakali – Eberi Road in Omuma Local Government Area; Aleto-Ebubu-Eteo Road in Eleme Local Government Area; Igbu-Ehuda internal Roads in Ahoada East Local Government Area; Elelenwo internal Roads in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; Bori City internal Roads in Khana Local Government Area; and Emohua – Ogbakiri Road in Emohua Local Government Area.”
The departed administration had faced heavy criticism for neglect of promotions and pensions. Fubara, a seasoned civil servant, did the opposite. Thus, in 100 days, he could afford to say; “We are up to date in the payment of salaries and pensions to civil servants. We have also continued to gradually clear the backlogs of gratuities to beneficiaries and restore water in the State Secretariat complex.”
He mentioned education and said: “To improve the quality of basic education we have in the last 100 days completed the acquisition of over a million copies of relevant educational resource materials, including basic textbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias, to be distributed to all primary and secondary schools across the State to enrich their libraries and improve the standards of teaching and learning experience in our school system.
“Also, besides paying WAEC and NECO fees for students in all public schools, we have within this timeline, completed the reconstruction and furnishing of six secondary schools with 124 classrooms, modern furniture, science laboratories, ICT, library, administrative block, assembly halls, dormitories and staff quarters spread across six local government areas of the State.”
He named them as Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Borikiri, Port Harcourt Local Government Area; Government Secondary School, Eneka, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; Government Secondary School, Emohua, Emohua Local Government Area; Government Secondary School, Okehi, Etche Local Government Area; Comprehensive Secondary School, Alesa-Eleme, Eleme Local Government Area; and Government Secondary School, Ataba, Andoni Local Government Area.
On health, he said his administration has started improving access to quality healthcare delivery in the State. “In the last 100 days, we have given a marching order to the Primary Healthcare Management Board to step up efforts to revamp and ensure effective access to primary healthcare services in all our communities.
“In response, the Board has renovated not less than 10 primary healthcare centres across the three senatorial districts of the State located at Elekahia, Rumuodomaya, Okehi, Oyigbo, Gokana, Opobo, Ahoada, Mina-ama, Okwuzi, and Okochiri communities.
“On our part, we have completed the reconstruction, upgrading, and equipping of two secondary healthcare hospitals: the Kelsey Harrison Memorial Hospital and the Dental, Maxillofacial, ENT, and Ophthalmology Hospital, to further strengthen the State’s capacity for the provision of affordable and quality healthcare services to all residents.
“These important hospitals with a combined 150-bed spaces and state-of-the-art equipment are due to reopen their doors to provide quality healthcare services to the public soon after they are inaugurated in a few days.”
Still on health, he said the Dental, Maxillofacial (ENT) and Ophthalmology hospital has been designated as an annex of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and used for medical research and the training of medical students at Rivers State University.
Fubara said under special projects, his team has delivered the 10,000-seating capacity convocation arena for the University of Port Harcourt.
“This is one-of-a-kind physical edifice that will provide academic and social services to the University community and the public, which aligns with our commitment to support all federal institutions in the State as much as we can to enable them to deliver effective and efficient services to our people, who are the primary beneficiaries of their services.
“It is for this reason that we recently acquired and donated a firefighting truck for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria to enhance and restore to operations of international flights at the Port Harcourt International Airport.”
Over the period, he went on, the administration took steps to advance the well-being of the people in the face of the economic hardship caused the sudden withdrawal of fuel subsidies, unemployment, and rising inflation.
He mentioned palliatives, though many citizens claim they did not see when it passed their way. Fubara however assured the people of the intention of his administration to sustain these and other mitigating measures, including the distribution of food to the vulnerable populace for a considerable time.
“I also wish to inform residents that we have since set up an intergovernmental flood management committee with the responsibility to respond proactively to the looming flooding that may affect the inhabitants of the lowlands and flood plains of our State as predicted by the National Emergency Management Agency.
“With the launching of the flood mitigation road map, I can assure all residents that we are on red alert to respond to any imminent flood challenge in the State and provide safety and relief to those who will be affected.”
He appealed to corporate bodies, well-meaning individuals, and non-governmental organizations to be ready to materially support the Committee to succeed in this critical assignment to rescue our vulnerable people.
N4Bn for SME fund:
One major area of impact seemed to be the plan to boost entrepreneurship, something the populace had hungered for years. “To stimulate economic growth, enhance job creation, and reduce poverty we have concluded plans to create a N4Bn Enterprise Fund in partnership with the Bank of Industry to facilitate the development of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the State.
“With this Fund, owners and intending MSME entrepreneurs will have ready access to credit to fund or start their enterprises at single-digit interest rates with a maximum of a five-year repayment period.
“In addition, we are also making efforts to establish the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund to help create an enterprise culture and stimulate sustainable interest in entrepreneurial activities among our youths to advance self-employment and job creation.”
The governor revealed plans to establish the State’s Investment Promotion Agency to advance local and foreign investments and the industrialization of the State.
The appointment of a substantive CEO of the state’s micro finance agency (RIMA), may be evidence that the governor was determined to boost SMEs through multiple access to funding.
Link between security and investment:
To prove this link, the governor said: “For us, as we move to the next 100 days and beyond, there is nothing more compelling to our government than to continue to focus on protecting our people, growing our economy to provide a high standard of living, investing in human capital development to uplift the youths, and building our infrastructure to attract investments and create jobs.
“As we can see, we have already accomplished a lot in our first 100 days and we are determined to achieve much more in the weeks, months, and years ahead.”
The governor thanked various categories of the people of the state who he felt helped him to succeed this far, and would help him in the days ahead. In doing this, he devoted huge space to the members of the Rivers State House of Assembly led by Martins Amaewhule, only for them lawmakers to respond with an impeachment notice the following week.
The impeachment attempt led to fracas and deaths. The governor was shot at and canisters of both water and smoke were thrown at him by a section of the law enforcement agencies.
The crisis has continued underground after the papering that took place between Abuja and Port Harcourt. As it is now, it is not clear if the crisis is over or on ceasefire. The parliament is still in limbo, and both Speakers still hold on to their maces.