The Rivers State Government under the pragmatic and visionary leadership of His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has embarked on rapid infrastructural development that has changed the ecstatic of the State through the execution of key signature projects particularly in the area of road infrastructures to accelerate robust economic activities within the urban centres and its environs.
Armed with the landmark achievements of the Nyesom Ezenwo Wike’s administration, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications Pastor Paulinus Nsirim engaged the media to enumerate the gains of the dogged implementation of the well articulated developmental blueprint of the State Government encapsulated in the NEW Rivers Vision of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
Amieyeofori Ibim, Special Assistant on Media to the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State presents excerpts of the media encounter.
Question: Why all this long ceremony about the commissioning of the Okoro-Nu-Odo and Rumuogba Flyovers?
You will call it long ceremony, but you see what is happening in Rivers State is essentially an infrastructural revolution and for people who thought that His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike will not even have money to pay salaries when he took over office as Governor, I think that it is important for them to see that visionary leadership and strategic thinking can turn a State like ours into a model. And so the truth of the matter is, a lot of people want to come to River State now because of the developmental strides that are going on.
So you can’t showcase all this in one day. What you have even seen is not complete because after this week, the next week again we are going to have another round of project commissioning. You recall that in January we did same. The last week in December we did same. You see when you have something to offer, you won’t hide showcasing it.
You know this is a State where the Governor is not one of those that commission 3D projects. You are a journalist in Nigeria. You know there are people who commission 3D projects.
Question: What is 3D Project?
Oh just pictures . . . laughter . . . pictures and images on 3D. Here we show you the projects live for you to see.
Question: Is the NEW Vision blueprint the People’s vision or the idea of one man?
You see, for a man who did not jump into governance, you need to engage stakeholder groups. Before the NEW Vision blueprint was launched. It was actually launched. All the stakeholder groups in this State were consulted and it is a collective vision of Rivers people but there is a visioner in the person of His Excellency Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
So it is not one man. He has a vision of what he wants to do. He engages stakeholder groups, bring your thoughts together, an aggregate of ideas summed up the NEW Vision blueprint and that’s why it is easy to implement. It is easy to implement because the engagement was robust. Visionary leaders use that as a strategy for stakeholder buy-in and that is what His Excellency has been able to demonstrate in governing Rivers State this few years.
Question: Did these Contracts involving billions of naira pass through the required procurement procedure?
There is a Bureau for Public Procurement. For every procurement entity, for instance, Ministry of Works, for them to be able to execute any project, that project first of all has to be approved by the Rivers State Executive Council and it has to go through the procurement process.
The Bureau of Public Procurement has to give a certificate of no objection saying that, for example if there is a quotation of say N10, we have looked at it, from procurement process and guideline, this thing should cost N8. That certificate is a necessity before any contract is executed in Rivers State. People just want to play to the gallery.
With what is happening in Rivers State, they are dazzled so they look for one thing or the other to say. His Excellency is a man who is always stock to protocol. He follows it to the letter and if you check, what he has done so far follows this procurement process.
Question: Was the procedure of advertising these projects for bidding done?
All these processes are followed. You can’t execute any project in Rivers State without following the procurement process, you cannot, you can’t.
Question: Why give the building of flyovers to Julius Berger alone? How does that empower the Rivers People?
That’s not correct, MCC is not Julius Berger, Lubricks Construction is not Julius Berger, O.K. Isokariari is not Julius Berger, they just finished the Abonnema Ring Road. Lubricks, all the roads you saw in Ogoni heartland were executed by them. There is Chrisjoe, an indigenous company, Ausphepz that handled the Bolo Internal Roads and so many others.
The truth of the matter is, for the ones that you see in the city centre are handled by Julius Berger. A good number of projects that are going on throughout the local government areas of Rivers State today are handled by indigenous contractors and of course, you cannot say because a project is being handled by Julius Berger, local people are not empowered.
It will be erroneous to say so because if Julius Berger is on site, at a particular location, they will not import people from outside Rivers State to supply the materials they will need.
Of course, there is a trainee engineer apprentiship scheme agreement that the Rivers State government also signed with them. For every project they are executing, trainee engineers are taken on board to be trained while that project is on-going.
Question: How many people have benefited from that programme?
I can’t give you the real statistics of how many people, but they are Rivers people. You see this administration is not a noise making administration. When we started this conversation, I told you about strategic thinking. Wike is a visionary leader. He is a leader leading for tomorrow, and so that apprentiship scheme is embedded in the contract with Julius Berger.
My colleague from the Ministry of Works is not here, he would have given the statistics on how many people have benefited. Of course, you can see the ripple effect of that to the manpower development in Rivers State. That’s not we talking about the unskilled labours, that’s not we talking about the contractors that are involved in the execution.
So both Julius Berger, local contractors, coming together, what has happened in Rivers State within the last five years is amazing, engaging a greater percentage of the people.
Question: How come people don’t know about the trainee engineer aprentiship programme?
No, no, no. It is not true. As the Commissioner for Information and Communications, the day it was introduced, I addressed the press on it. After the State Executive Council approved the novel initiative, I addressed the press, then I told the public that this is what the Rivers State Government is doing, I did.
Question: What is the process of engaging the young people into this scheme?
The Ministry of Works in liaison with the contractor, get the youth and screen them, because you see this days you don’t just base on paper qualification, just give somebody an opening or a slot, so they engage them, assess them, those who fit into the kind of status that they want, they quickly put them in.
This is something that any right thinking government, even private sector do. They have their apprentiship training scheme. Now under an apprentiship training scheme, those who do well during apprentiship, because it is a skill building process, some are usually retained in those organizations others can now export their skill to other companies.
But what it means is that it now fully equips them with the requisite skill to be able to compete, assuming you are not taken by Julius Berger to work as a permanent staff you now have the requisite skill and experience to also compete favourably with those your counterparts who will be aspiring for jobs in other places. Such capacity building wouldn’t have been possible if that opening was not given so these are the things that will happen to the trainees.
Also, it doesn’t mean that if Julius Berger is doing a job that members of the Nigeria Society of Engineers are not involved. You can’t be doing such things without involving local contractors. Everybody, those who are involved in engineering, architecture, estate valuing, those professional groups, they are all integrated into whatever Julius Berger will be doing on site.
That’s the truth of the matter. If you go to where they are working, a greater percentage of the people who are doing the jobs are Rivers people, it just that the name of the company is Julius Berger, they are empowering Rivers people.
Question: Are the contractors following the terms of agreement on the apprentiship scheme with the government?
Yes they are following. If they are not following, His Excellency is one man who is committed to defend the interest of Rivers people, if they are not following this agreement, they won’t be taken into consideration.
Question: What is the government doing concerning Agriculture?
Yes fantastic, by God’s special grace, the next phase of commissioning that will happen in the upcoming week, the Cassava Processing Company will be commissioned, and already we have about 3000 up takers who will be involved in this cassava revolution. You know the truth of the matter in governance is that you cannot take everything at once. But we are looking at this Cassava Processing Company as a model for agricultural development in Rivers State.
You know when you want to start something you can start with a little thing at first, progress, see the challenges, and then you move on to the next one, but this one that is going to happen very soon, you can’t find it anywhere in this country because it is designed in a way that machines go to the farms, harvest the cassava clear them up at the farm and then ship to the factory.
The farmers don’t need to go to harvest, they don’t need to enter the labour of carrying the products to the factory. Now the factory meets them at their farm locations. It is novel, it s novel, so gradually we will be building on this because His Excellency is desirous to also make agriculture the centre piece of this administration. So we are kick-starting with this Cassava Processing Company in the next few weeks.
Question: How will the Cassava Company source for raw materials when the garri that is consumed in Rivers State comes from outside the State?
I will be surprised that somebody who lives in Rivers State will say that the garri consumed in Rivers State is gotten from outside the State. The garri that I eat comes from Ozuoba. And I know that all the Ikwerre speaking areas, all the Etche speaking areas, all the Ogoni speaking areas heavily invest in cassava production. Go to any market in these areas, the garri is not imported from elsewhere, so?
And before a company like the Cassava Processing Company was set up there is what is called feasibility study. And this is what we need to note, feasibility study takes into consideration where you are going to get raw materials for the factory and it is feasibility study that will say okay site this industry here. All of us did elementary economics, location of industry, nearness to source of raw materials.
So what is happening here is that feasibility study has shown clearly there will be raw materials for this factory otherwise go there it is a multibillion naira investment. You can’t just go and site an investment when you can’t get raw materials for it.
Question: Is there a need for another Flyover at Waterlines?
Well, you stay in Port Harcourt. You people play to the gallery. For example talking about Waterlines, have you experienced gridlock in Waterlines before? It will be worse after GRA has been expanded, that’s what people don’t understand.
Waterlines used to have gridlock before now, now you have four lanes empting into that gridlock, it worsens the problem. So for what has happened at GRA not to affect and impact Waterlines, to jeopardize what has happened at GRA you need that flyover. Because you see, Waterlines is a major hub for commercial vehicles that are plying inter-state. It is just like you have Ojuelegba in Lagos.
So if you don’t create that kind of flyover there, when GRA empties there and all those who are coming from all those motor parks, it will be terrible. You know people sometimes criticize just to make criticism, now the one that will be at Ikoku, I don’t know if you have experienced gridlock there before? So like I say to people, Governor Nyesom Wike is building infrastructure for tomorrow.
Now, note very soon NLNG Train 7 will be on stream, this is the commercial hub of Nigeria, a lot of things will be happening in the city and if you don’t create the infrastructure now, Governor Wike doesn’t want Rivers State to look like Lagos where people will stay in traffic for hours, do you know what it means to waste an hour on traffic?
A visionary leader sees tomorrow. I try to recall, you were in this State Eleme junction use to be a nightmare. People will park their cars there. Some will sleep there, at that junction, but because of that interchange, today, people have forgotten. Now very soon people will forget all the horrors they use to face within the city centre because a man has come to redefine governance.
Question: Are we sure the newly flagged-off Projects will be delivered before the end of the tenure of Wike?
You see I have come to, you see why I am exited working with His Excellency is that, follow through since he came on board, show me one promise he made that he has not kept.
I am the Commissioner for Information, when we flagged off the three flyover projects and it was to be delivered in sixteen months, if you go to my facebook wall people were saying how can this thing be, it’s just like man in the Bible, you know when the prophet said by this time tomorrow food will be all over Samaria and the man said it’s not possible even though God opens everywhere. That’s what people were saying.
But today, but today all of them are complete within schedule. He matches every project with requisite funds.
It is uncommon in politics; it is uncommon in the governance of Nigeria. What people do; we have seen previous administration here leave behind white elephant projects.
This man’s love for Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike’s love for Rivers State. And he keeps repeating it, he said I will not leave any abandoned project for whoever will succeed me.
Question: Some persons have the opinion that the flyovers are not well designed. What is your response to that?
He should be rest assured that His Excellency is a man that keeps to his words. He will get that done.
On how the flyovers are being built, I am not an engineer but the truth is that a lot of people are not speaking from professional perspective. It is just like beer palour gossip. Before those projects were sited engineering design has been put into consideration, so many things were put into consideration. The engineers know what you and I don’t know about.
Question: What do you say about possible return of traders to the Okoro-Nu-Odo flyover?
Recall that a big market was opened at Rumuokoro, a very big market that has motor park and everything as part of that market. But you find a problem, just like the things we see along Creek road, traders leave the markets to go and trade on the road, but these are human beings. Do they need somebody to always flog them for them to go into the market?
So these are the things even the Rivers State Traders Association (RTA) should be able to be engaging its members. RTA is a by umbrella association in Rivers State. So the RTA needs to engage its members to sensitize them to understand that, they need to do the right thing. Not for government to build facilities and then they turn roads into markets.
Question: What is the last thing you like to say to Rivers People?
Thank you very much, like I said during my interview yesterday, Rivers people need to join hands with His Excellency to develop Rivers State. His vision is to make Rivers State investors’ destination of choice and of course that’s why our campaign “Our State Our Responsibility”, we are trying to make everybody who lives and does business in Rivers State to understand that we have a shared prosperity to protect.
Governor Wike is giving us the roadmap. He is giving us the roadmap, on a daily basis to achieve a Rivers State of our dream. Truth of the matter is, a lot of people want our governor on loan to their States. It is the truth of the matter, it’s the truth. A lot of people call me to say if your people can just loan your governor to us for six months because what they see happening under this COVID show me one State that is functioning.
What is the magic wand? Vision, prudent management of resources and that determination to build a Rivers State that all of us will be proud of.