My dear people of Rivers state,
It is with tremendous joy and gratitude in our hearts that we welcome you to another year full of innumerable possibilities. As we begin our journey into a year that is evidently our mid term year in this second tenure, we take time to look back at the years behind us and the year ahead, with great anticipation.
We carry the lessons of the past with us and look confidently forward, as we always do, secure in the knowledge that God helping us, we will guarantee the robust survival of our present and future generations.
We are conscious that posterity will not forgive us if we fail to make use of this opportunity thrust on us by Rivers people to make significant progress to our Eldorado.
Leadership lives and dies by its ability to engage, influence and care for the people. Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. This is the type of bond that will survive challenges, and downturns, and this is the reason that we have worked tirelessly to improve the past and give hope for the future. We believe that we can only earn your trust and loyalty if we add value to our lives.
When we took over the mantle of leadership on October 26, 2007, we were fully conscious of the expectations of our people. We promised then not to embark on any project or carry out any activities without consulting with them. Our engagement with various stakeholders, young, old, rich, poor, male, female, professionals, artisan, media and civil society, helped provide the framework for our developmental efforts.
Following all of these consultations and through our own investigations, it was clear that we needed to immediately intervene to save our state from collapse. As you know we inherited a near comatose education sector, our health infrastructure had broken down, power remained a major challenge despite our huge investments in that sector and our road infrastructure was in dire need of urgent intervention. In addition to these, the challenges of militancy and its attendant insecurity had brought our economy to a standstill. Businesses had fled and our once thriving economy was worse than a shadow of its old self.
It was therefore obvious to us that we needed to turn around our socio economic indicators. We therefore made a commitment to “serve our people with humility and render transparent and accountable stewardship anchored on integrity and good governance.”
We make bold to say that we have not relented in this regard. Our development approach this year will balance competing needs against the social and economic challenges that we face. We are going to employ better strategies for governance by laying the foundation for a future that we can be proud of.
We are quite conscious and know that the impact of our decisions today will have real consequences for our people. Small actions taken collectively can add up to real change. So as we review the work we have done, some of the key questions that we shall attempt to answer this year will include:
How can Government ensure that policies reduce disadvantage rather than having a misappropriate impact on sections of our society?
What can Government do to create a conducive environment that will attract investors that will create sustainable development?
How can Government be better organized to deliver on our mission statement?
If we are to respond to the imperatives of reducing unemployment, we need to build a more responsive approach to governance by directing investment into more sustainable activities
Some of these questions have agitated our minds in the past and continue to do so as we round up our stewardship, as a brief review of some of our key sectors will show.
Knowing how vital education is to the success and growth of any nation, our first step was to promptly take over the primary education sector from the local government councils. We had met over 1000 primary schools that were in various states of disrepair. The local councils whose responsibility it is to manage this sector lacked both the human and material resources to effectively deliver on qualitative education to our children. We were certain that no responsible government would allow its future begin on a disadvantaged slate and so we set about our robust primary education reforms that have seen us embark on the construction of 750 primary schools across our state. All of these schools are 14 classroom blocks, ICT enabled and have a sickbay, library and adequate water and sanitation. As at today, contracts for 500 of these schools have been awarded with 264 completed and 100 in use.
Just as we are revamping our primary education infrastructure we are also committing resources to changing the face of our secondary and tertiary education. Already the Ambassador Nne Kurubo Model Secondary School, Eleme will begin session this January. The children have sat for the examinations and the company that won the management contract, Educomp of India, is already shortlisting the students and ensuring that the teaching staff and all other things are in place. Five other secondary schools will open up in the course of this year as we focus on the completion of the 18 others.
Also this year we will begin construction of the new campus of the University of Science and Technology. We are pleased with the strides of the university, as it has moved up in the Nigeria University Commission’s ratings from 76 to 19.
While we urge the management and faculty not to rest on their oars, we encourage them to work hard to get into global reckoning and compete with their peers around the world, as only the best is good enough for our dear state.
This year will see greater focus also in our commitment to vocational education and skills training. We are in discussions with some Germans who will be arriving later this month for us to fine-tune the curricula and programmes for our vocational education. The idea would be to combine the benefits of German vocational training with the demands and approved curriculum of the Nigerian Board of Technical Education, NBTE. We are confident, based on our programme and work plan that training should commence sometime within the second quarter of the year.
In addition to provision of new infrastructure, we plan to renovate some of our old secondary schools to enable our children in these schools enjoy the benefits of our education reforms even before all the infrastructure is in place.
Our scholarship programmes both in the Ministry of Education as well as the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency would continue uninterrupted, as we believe that no investment is too great to give our children qualitative education.
Just as we took over primary education we have also taken over the provision of primary healthcare infrastructure from the local government councils. As at today we have built 120 new primary health care centres and renovated 130 old ones. All 250 primary health care centres are fully functional.
We are also upgrading and increasing the capacity of our auto disable syringe factory to enable us produce at least one billion syringes at once. We have completed the first phase of our malaria eradication project with the Ministry of Health assuring us of a reduction in the malaria burden in the state. While we prepare for a more comprehensive approach to malaria eradication, we remain committed to ensuring a healthy citizenry free from communicable and other diseases. Our immunization programme is on course while our HIV/AIDS programme, the most robust in the country is yielding very positive results as patients continue to experience significant improvement in their quality of life.
With two of our secondary health care facilities, completed and handed over to private sector managers, we believe that this year will prove to be a year in which our people will enjoy not just free but also qualitative healthcare in our world class hospitals. Our intention is to begin the construction of both our Mother and Child hospital and the Alex Hart Specialist Hospital within the course of the year. This year we also plan to begin construction of at least three general hospitals, one in each senatorial zone as we strive to bring good healthcare closer to our people. We are confident that we will achieve these as well as the completion of the construction and furnishing of the remaining 40 primary healthcare facilities before the end of our tenure.
We had promised to deliver on 24-hour power supply by the end of 2012. Unfortunately we couldn’t meet this deadline, as we still need the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN to hook us up and grant us the requisite permission to distribute. Although we have completed 26 power injection sub stations to help us move the 560 mw of power currently generated by our four power stations and import from the national grid, we have only been able to achieve 50 percent success in this regard. We believe that with our support for the Four Power Consortium who is the winner of the sale of the Port Harcourt Distribution Company, we should be able to gradually deliver on this promise to our people. We are certain that with the massive investments government has made in the power sector we are close to meeting our promise to our people.
Our aggressive development is yielding massive gains as over 250 Roads and 34 bridges; all totaling over 4000 kilometres are currently at various stages of completion. The Unity Road project, which cuts across three Local Government Areas, will enjoy additional funding this year as we target a completion date of 2014.
All the Roads in D/Line and Port Harcourt Township have been awarded for reconstruction with underground drains, walkways and streetlights. Many of these roads have already been completed and the rest will be completed before the rains begin.
Port Harcourt Township Market has been completed and waiting to be commissioned, while a Consultant has also been commissioned to design the New Creek Road Market to facilitate the award of the contract.
The Shore Protection Projects at Abalama in Asari-Toru, Obama and Owukiri in Okrika; Egbemo in Andoni; Queens Town in Opobo and Ndoni in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni are still under construction, and we expect that many of these should be completed within the year.
Also to be completed this year is the General Owoye Azazi (formerly Nkpogu) Road dualization. In addition, we expect that the Airport-Isiokpo-Omerelu Road as well as the Chief G.U. Ake Road will all be completed within this first quarter.
A new road project, the Trans-Kalabari Road, has been awarded to Lubrik Construction Company and we expect the contractor to move to site this month.
Our focus on agriculture has had the twin purpose of ensuring food security and creating employment for our people. In 2013, we shall begin to reap the enormous benefits of our investments in this sector. Our demonstration project, the Songhai Farm has done significantly well and we are receiving interesting proposals from various groups who want to partner with us on this project. We believe that we should be able to conclude the due diligence and sell down some of our shares in this project to enable it remain sustainable. Government is not a business corporation and would be best served if it focuses on policy and other social sector issues, while leaving the management of businesses to the private sector.
This year would see significant progress in our new agro industrial villages, complete with schools, housing and other amenities. The first one in Etche would seat on 3000 hectres of land with possibility of scaling up to 5000 hectres.
Our banana project is on course with some over 300 persons already employed. This project will be in full bloom in 2013. We also expect to complete our fish farms in Andoni, Opobo, and Ubima before the year ends. The fish farm in Buguma is already 80 per cent completed and we should begin production within the fist quarter of the year as fish stocking is already currently going on.
Life has returned to Risonplam with the estate fully renovated and the mill and refinery about to be installed. Already about 3000 people have been employed on the farm with possibilities of more employments as things get underway within the year. Both the Delta Rubber Company straddling across Etche and Ikwerre local government areas and the rice farm at Emohua will also come on stream in 2013, while we will develop a modern abattoir in partnership with the private sector.
As always, our concern is to create sustainable jobs and ensure that we can feed our people.
This administration will continue to make investments in the area of security especially to ensure a rapid response mechanism that can save lives and property. On this score, Port Harcourt enjoyed perhaps, the safest Christmas season ever in recent times, amongst other cities in Nigeria. The numerous events, programmes, trade fairs, festivals, etcetera that took place in the state are evidence that Port Harcourt is one of the safest cities in Nigeria. It is therefore an investor’s destination.
ENTREPRENUERSHIP AND SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISE
We would like to appeal to our people to embrace the spirit of investment and self-employment, which is the best form of employment. Our people should explore opportunities in agriculture and SME through entrepreneurship. Fortunately we have already provided in our 2013 budget for a N5 billion state Equity/Enterprise fund. This fund, which we hope will come to fruition before the end of the first quarter of 2013, will ensure improved access to credit by medium scale entrepreneurs and those graduating from the micro levels.
We believe that we must govern for the future. Our plan in 2013 is to ensure that we adequately cater for the needs of all our sectors. Government will therefore pay attention and fund other sectors such as water, urban development, and Culture and tourism as well as employment generation. We believe that development must be well rounded for our people to gain maximum benefits.
Given the scale and nature of the gap between where we are and where we need to be, patriotism and selfless service must be imbibed by all segments of the society. And so as we begin a new year, we do so with confidence. This year like every one will bring obstacles and opportunities. Each challenge brings us together and each accomplishment makes us stronger. Our nation and our people are mighty and our optimism boundless. The world looks to us as an example and we will never hesitate to step up to that responsibility. We can indeed achieve anything that we put our minds to as we work together to lift our nation to even greater heights. I am certain that this year will only bring us greater joy and prosperity. So, as this New Year begins, let us congratulate each other and wish each other love, happiness and God’s abundant blessings. As we hope for guidance and grace, our prayer is that all our dreams will come true.
I wish you God’s abiding grace. ####
My dear people of Rivers state,