- We are in Rivers State and not Port Harcourt State.
- Establish Oil Mineral Communities Development Commission now.
“It is either restructuring or breakup” he thundered. The pitch of his voice carried the force of an utterly aggrieved person who has been stretched to his elastic limit and has no more space to endure.
“Members of the National Assembly must reverse themselves immediately on their opposition to restructuring or face the wrath of their constituents” he shouted.
This man must have a lot to say on the burning issue of restructuring, I said to myself and I made up my mind to engage him in a chat after the meeting of Rivers Elders & Leaders Council that held recently in Port Harcourt. I kept watch over him all through the meeting but I was distracted at some point and didn’t see him when he left the meeting hall. I was however determined to talk to this man who exudes so much passion and so I went in search of him.
I finally caught up with Comrade Marshall O. Raleigh-Joe, a development practitioner by profession, a public/professional speaker. He is the Regional Director of a pioneer rural development outfit, the Nigerian Integrated Rural Accelerated Development Organization (NIRADO). A Rivers man from Bakana community in Degema Local Government of the state.
My instinct was right. Comrade Raleigh-Joe had a lot to say on several burning local and national issues. He is extremely upset with what he refers to as the lopsided development trends in Rivers State. He says that successive Rivers State governors have underdeveloped 80% of Rivers State and I asked him how?
This was his reply:
Rivers State Government has been unfair to 80% of Rivers people
Having seen the way, the development of Rivers State has been carried out since 2007, (I want to begin from 2007 because if I start from 1999, it would appear as if I am over reacting). But from 2007 to date, I realized that the Rivers State Government has not been fair to the majority (over 80%) of the people of the state.
When Governor Amaechi came in 2007, I was always invited to meet with the government as a development practitioner on a quarterly basis to discuss the development of the state. In the first meeting we attended, three months into Amaechi’s tenure, the governor told us that he was going to establish five new cities. He said he would make Isaka an international city with a state owned seaport; develop Degema and Bori as new cities. He said he would develop Ahoada and Onne too.
But three months after, Governor Amaechi called us back and introduced the idea of Greater Port Harcourt and that he has jettisoned the former idea of developing five new cities. And what is the territory of Greater Port Harcourt? Isaka is not even included. The towns making up Greater Port Harcourt are mostly Ikwerre territory, he brought in Okrika, Onne, Eleme and Obigbo.
And so having seen the way these people, our brothers who have been ruling this state since 2007 have piloted our affairs, I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the governance is not done in the interest of Rivers people.
Why do I say so? The name of Port Harcourt is used to develop faraway lands at the expense of the Ijaws that created Rivers State – If those responsible for the creation of Rivers State were 10 people, 7 were Ijaws. Port Harcourt is a defined territory established by an Act. For the benefit of those who do not know, the capital of Rivers State starts from the Leventis Bus Stop Area to down town.
90% of the funds for Greater Port Harcourt is channeled into Ikwerre territory. Large sums of money was spend in an attempt to relocate the University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. It was instructive that the government in its attempt to relocate UST, did not call for the original policy establishing the University.
The person who upgraded the then Rivers State College of Science and Technology into a full-fledged university was an Ijaw man, Chief Melford Okilo. The University was designed to have decentralized campuses. The Law Faculty was cited in Degema, the Medical Faculty in Abua and the Faculty of Agriculture at Onne. Nothing of these was mentioned in the new relocation programme.
In fact, before the military coup that sacked Governor Okilo in 1983, men and material have been deployed to construct the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Degema and Abua respectively.
Unfortunately, Ijaw people could not protect these investments. Before Police Commissioner Oyakhilome, the then military governor suspended the Medical Faculty at Abua and the Law Faculty at Degema, the matter was discussed at the State Executive Council meeting and there were sons and daughters of Kalabari and Okrika extraction and Rivers people in his cabinet. These Rivers people did not say ‘no your Excellency, these are legacy projects’ and threaten to resign en masse from his cabinet if he fails to listen to their pleas. They rather accepted the cancellation of the projects and under their noses, materials meant for these faculties were carted away to unknown destinations.
We are in Rivers State and not Port Harcourt State
But I Comrade O Raleigh-Joe, a development practitioner who thinks, lives and eats development, having been tutored all over the world, am saying that the Rivers State Government should be made to know that it is administering 23 LGAs and not just Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs. That the manner it has been going about development is unacceptable.
For example, let us look at some of the roads Governor Amaechi dualized outside Port Harcourt: Rumuokwuta-Choba-East-West Road; Eastern By-Pass, Amadi-Ama, Oginigba Road, Abuja By-Pass, Mile 3; Rumuola/Rumuokwuta Road; Airport-Isiokpo/Omerelu highway; Ada-George Road; First Bank Rumumasi Road; Slaughter/Trans Amadi/Rumuobiakani Road and many more. These are not to mention brides and flyovers and the road network in D-line, Elekahia, Ada-George area etc.
We are not saying that it was wrong for Governor Amaechi to have transformed the landscape of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor in a manner never before witnessed in the annals of Rivers State history, what we are saying is that we are not in Port Harcourt State, we are in Rivers State.
The government used the name Port Harcourt to develop Ikwerre land because the only road that was dualized in the original Port Harcourt Area was the stretch from UTC down to King Amachree Road (former Club Road). The entire old Port Harcourt area is made to look like a dead end because government had refused to integrate the coastal communities with the rest of the state.
Governor Nyesom Wike came in and continued where Amaechi stopped. Both men can quarrel on everything but never will they disagree on Greater Port Harcourt. Though on a far lesser degree, Wike is dualizing Rumukrushi Road, the Elelewon-Akpajo road and he is constructing every footpath in Obio/Akpo, Dioubu and Ogbunabali.
The only road Wike did in old Port Harcourt was from the road linking Aggrey Road to Harold Wilson down to Government Comprehensive Secondary School area. When Wike brought in Julius Berger, we applauded him. Julius Berger started the road construction from Aggrey road axis towards Creek Road. (Mind you, Creek Road was dualized by a non-indigenous governor, Col. Musa Komo). Julius Berger continued and stopped the dualization around the New Layout Market. We had expected Wike to take the dualization through Churchill Road into the Borikiri New Road as they do in Ikwerre territories. We thought that Julius Berger would also dualize the one-way connecting Aggrey Road to Creek Road but that did not happen. It was only recently we pleaded with the Chairman of the Road Maintenance Agency, who is a Port Harcourt old boy to patch the connecting road.
We were expecting that Julius Berger having gone into the Borikiri axis would do as it is done in other territory but the project stopped. In January or there about Governor Wike flagged off the construction of Tourist Beach Road by Julius Berger and that after that Capt. Amangala Road will follow. It was a fanfare. In fact, we were expecting that all other roads in that location shall be reconstructed as it is done in Obio/Akpor. To my dismay, we are now in August, Julius Berger has not tarred the Tourist Beach Road. As I speak, since January, Julius Berger has closed access to parts of Ndoki Road and nothing is done.
Governor Amaechi promised us in 2011 that Bakana people will drive to Bakana by road before December, 2014. The question is: Was it done? Amaechi called the people of Bakana in October, 2013 and told us that because of the faceoff he was having with President Jonathan, NIMASA has written to the state government, requesting that the height of the bridge should be doubled. So having considered the cost, he has decided to reroute the road.
The original route was to pass through Eagle Island and cross over straight to Odurogu into Bakana and for that reason and even without consulting Bakana people, the state government re-designed the road project to pass fromm Rumuolumeni to Ikukiri to Tombia and to Bakana. But our people told Governor Amaechi to construct the road even if it will cost a trillion naira because Bakana has so many oil wells and many communities would pass through that road. But the government dragged its feet until it left office.
Even when Chief Hon. Engineer Levi Braide suggested that the road be constructed and stopped opposite Odurogu and from Odurogu to Bakana and a pontoon service be introduced as is done in other places, Amaechi did not implement it.
Governor Wike came in and for more than two years now, no contract has been awarded. So who is fooling who? This is why we say that there is an Ikwerre Agenda. These governors know that if a road is linked to Bakana and indeed any Rivers Ijaw community, there would be private jetties, tank farms around the territories, there would be estates and the entire area would blossom. So, they don’t want to give us roads so that our sons and daughters will keep going to Ikwerre villages to build mansions.
Yet it was in Degema that Sir Luis Harcourt, as an administrator of Nigeria in1914, stayed and acquired the land that is known as Port Harcourt. It was in Degema that her Majesty’s flag was raised and has a jetty called the independence jetty. It was in Degema that the first custom hulk was established in1874. Today, Degema that was once a choice area where the colonial masters, under the administration of her majesty stayed to rule this country before Calabar became the headquarter of Nigeria is a shadow of itself.
When Rivers State was created, Bakana was to be in Port Harcourt LGA, it was the Bakana people that opted to be with their (Kalabari) Brothers. If not Bakana was the nearest town to Port Harcourt. It is just a five minutes ride from Abonnema Wharf.
Establishment of Oil Mineral Communities Development Commission
I therefore demand that the Rivers State Government should establish an Oil Mineral Communities Development Commission as is practiced in Delta State and some other oil producing states in the country.
It is an irony that Rivers people that advocated for the establishment of an organization to address the development of oil producing states which led to the creation of OMPADEC and later transformed to NDDC, does not have a state agency to address its own oil producing communities.
Rivers State Government without further delay should establish the Oil Mineral Communities Development Commission. All past governors refused to establish this Commission that we have been clamouring for since 1999. On that note I am requesting the Rivers Elders & Leaders Council to engage the state government and the Rivers State House of Assembly in this direction.
Where the Rivers State Government and the House of Assembly see no reason in creating that Commission, we shall have no option than to go to court and institute a legal action stopping the Federal Government from releasing money from the 13% derivation account to Rivers State. This is because the 13% derivation fund is the exclusive reserve of the oil producing communities and not every community in the state produce oil. There are oil bearing communities and the Act establishing the 13% derivation fund provides that the money be used to develop the oil bearing communities.
I have observed that the state government has never given account of the 13% derivation money and is not using this money as prescribed by the law setting up the fund. The state government should therefore immediately give account of how much Rivers State has received from the federation account on 13% derivation from May 2015 to date. We must compel the state government to embark on even development of the state.
Gov. Wike should publish the state budgets
Having seen the manner the Rivers State Government has carried out development activities in the state, I am compelled to make the following remarks: That the state government since Wike took over has not published its budget and as a development practitioner, for eight years that Amaechi ruled, my office was always furnished with a copy of the state budget because my volunteers partner with the government, we monitor the projects and give independent reports.
But since Governor Wike came in, we hear that the House of Assembly receives and passes the budgets within hours and the governor keeps the budgets to his chest, which is contrary to the mode of operation of governance.
So, I am saying that without further delay, Governor Wike should publish his budgets since May 2015, because when he took over, he submitted a supplementary budget to the Assembly for approval. So since he came into office, he has forwarded and received approval for three or more budgets.
So we are saying that the government should publish our budgets, we want to see them. You cannot say that the House of Assembly has passed budgets worth billions of Naira whereas the people do not have access to the documents to know if the contracts and projects executed were in the budgets. If we don’t see the budgets, how do we know that the projects are in the budgets.
Rivers people should rise and stop this monster
The way things are, Governor Wike is the contractor, he appoints commissioners and in his dissolved cabinet, I realized that the commissioners were mere robots. Wike is the real Commissioner, he awards the contracts and he releases the funds. This is not acceptable.
Rivers people should rise and stop this monster who rules as if he is a military governor, we are in a democracy for shouting out load. I am a Bakana indigene, an a honourable man. I contested for the House of Assembly in 1983, I don’t know where Wike was then, may be in primary school but I know that Amaechi was in secondary school.
If in 1983 I contested to be in the House of assembly, I played politics with Okilo, I cannot fold my hands and see people squander our commonwealth with impunity and I keep quiet. I am therefore charging Rivers people to rise up and stop this monster called Wike.
Wike should publish our budget. We want to know how he is spending our money. We are in a democracy, we have the right, the Freedom of Information act gives us the right to know how we are being governed and where we are not satisfied to seek redress. If Wike refuses to hid this advice, we will stop him. I rest my case#