Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has said that the projects left behind by his predecessor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, will be completed, adding abandoned projects are counter-productive.
However, there is an exception. The governor said he would not touch the light rail project initiated by Amaechi. He described it as a white elephant project, which will gulp a lot of money and serve little purpose in the Port-Harcourt metropolis.
“We will not abandon projects. We have set 16 months for each project we have embarked upon. But, there is no room for white elephant projects,” he maintained.
Wike, who was on tour of the project sites with reporters, said his government was motivated to deliver on his campaign promises because funding has not been an obstacle. In the last 18 months, over N100 billion has been spent of various projects without inflating the contract. “There is a divine intervention in Rivers State. Although the federal allocation has reduced, the internally generated revenue (IGR) is increasing,” he explained.
Wike added: “The Nigerian economy is under recession and Rivers’ economy is part of federal economy; companies are folding up, workers are being sacked. That means the income of the state will be coming down as it relates to the internally generated revenue. The money we get from the Federation Account, it is on record that it was last month that we had about N10b; the highest was about N5bn, and we pay pensioners and salaries, about N5.6 monthly. So, if we use that, it means we will not be able to do projects.”
Also, the governor appears to be conscious of the ethnic divide. He said the distribution of the project reflected geo-ethnic spread, adding that no senatorial district is left behind.
Before the December 10 legislative rerun, Rivers State was enveloped in anxiety. During the election, there was mayhem. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are still trading blames over the violence that rocked the polls.
However, Wike said despite efforts to give the state a bad name, he has remained focused, stressing that the implementation of the developmental projects have earned applause from the people.
In Port-Harcourt, the capital city, no fewer than 30 projects are on-going. The Information Commissioner, Dr. Austin George, said many of them would be commissioned before or during the 50th anniversary of the state creation next year.
The projects include the Nkoku Bridge and the Woji Apajo bridge, which are virgin projects. Also, the Elelewa road, which has the components of a drainage and walkways, is nearing completion. The Rumuoparali Road, Choba, which is always water-lodged,is being reconstructed. During the inspection, people, including those who have received compensation for the various demolitions, trooped out to hail the governor. Also, the Tam David West Road, along Old Airport Road, is nearing completing. The governor said when it is completed, it will ease congestion along Ikwere/Rumuokoro Road.
In the state capital, the Port-Harcout Pleasure Park is a beauty to behold. It is on a 15.5 hectres of land. Six months ago, it was a refuse dump site. It was also the hiding place for criminals. The features of the park include jogging paths, 15-bed room hotel, a mini-football pitch and gulf course.
The administration is also about to complete the Federal High Court. It is a N750 million contract. It has six court rooms, six changing rooms for judges and holding cells. The Senior Special Assistant on Project Monitoring, Seril Dumbwite, told reporters that, when completed, the edifice will be handed over to the federal judiciary.
Wike explained that education has been accorded a top priority. That was why the government has re-introduced boarding system in the secondary schools. Three schools have been selected for the arch-type boarding models. One of them is Rumukwota Girls Secondary school, where modern hostel facilities are being provided. Under the pilot scheme, a 950-seater Assembly Hall, blocks of classrooms, a library, a laboratory and hostels are being constructed. The second school is Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori, which was founded in 1957.
Many have also hailed the dualisation of Sakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road. It cuts across three local governments in Ogoniland. The Choochoko Road, Igbo Etche, Etche Local government, links the town to Eleme Junction. It is a 16-kilometre road, which has been hailed by the rural dwellers. An excited villager gave the governor a bottle of wine as a mark of appreciation during the inspection. “This area is the food basket of the state. The road will assist farmers to bring their products to the market,” said Dumbwite.
The new Rumuokworo Market has hundreds stalls and park that can accommodate 40 cars.
The infrastructure battle is not restricted to road construction. “There is an improved funding for the health sector. Grants are even given to private health institutions. E-learning centres are being fortified. More jetties are provided and despite the propaganda against the governor, he has recorded success in security,” said George.
Wike shed light on why the recession has not thwarted his developmental programmes.”We are operating a Jesus economy. I can’t even explain it myself. It is a Jesus economy, Jesus is the one doing it,” said the former Minister of State for Education.
Explaining why the Abolima-Woji Road, with its massive 400-meter bridge, has become imperative, he said it would help decongest the gridlock on the Old Aba Road.
Wike described himself as a prudent administrator. He told reporters that the 16-kilometre Sakpenwon-Bori Road, which is being built for N9bn, was originally awarded by a previous administration for N14 billion, even with lower specifications.
He added: “I can tell you that road was designed by the previous administration at the cost of N14bn – to use laterite, but when we came on board, we said how can laterite cost N14bn, and we said we prefer to use sharp sand because of the terrain. So, you will ask yourself, how can laterite cost more than sharp sand?”
Wike assured that no project initiated by the previous administration will be abandoned for partisan reasons, stressing that government is a continuum. He said that was why his government decided to compete the Woji-Akpajo bridge.
He stressed: “I did not award the job, but it is an important road that whether we like it or not any governor must finish. Some of the projects started by the previous administration that we felt they are key projects, we said we should not abandon them because we did not award them.
“The Ozuogba-Ogbogoro road was awarded at the cost of about N8b. They paid the contractor about N3bn, and they abandoned it. We came we completed it. Former Senate President David Mark came to commission it. There is Abuloma-Woji bridge. We came we completed it. On the way to Etche, there is Igwurita-Umukuruchi road. They could not complete it.
“We came and we completed it. The Woji road towards Aba road, they awarded it to LCC. But they did not mobilise with one naira. So LCC did not go to site. Rather than demolish houses and pay compensations that will not be enough for the people to build another house, we brought the price to about N4bn and completed the road.”
But, why is the governor abandoning the rail project? Why is he also aloof to the 21-model school project? Wike said the rail project was too expensive, pointing out that government cannot afford to spend another N50 billion to complete a project that has little utility.
He also explained that the 21 model school project was a propaganda.
“What is important is not the amount of resources you have; it is about how you can utilise the little you have to make sure that you do not allow contracts to be highly inflated in the sense that contracts that are supposed to be N1bn are put out at N7b.” (The Nation)