Rivers: From Demolition To Deduction

by Odimegwu Onwumere

In a town hall meeting with Rivers community in Abuja on the 5th November
2012, Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led Government of Rivers State, so they
said, announced that it has placed order for two helicopters.

It was a good development to note that the helicopters would be used to
assist security operatives in the task of safeguarding oil and, hounding
its criminals out of the thievery business.

While this is good, one aspect of that gathering that was so exceptional
was the governor’s intimation that the state was in its impulses and fancy
with plans to trail a veritable new environmental law. This law which was
said would be sent to the House of Assembly was also said, would absolutely
foster an optimum waste management in the state. The issue of pollution
arising from virtually all facets of business in the state was not left out.

It is better we read those issues raised in Amaechi’s own words: “We are
putting a law in place that will punish all those who pollute our
environment. We have placed orders for two helicopters that will arrive in
December. Those helicopters will fly across the entire state 24 hours. They
carry cameras that can see criminal activities; the police, the State
Security Service (SSS), the army will be monitoring the areas also…. I
want to see a waste treatment plant which we are already building at
Rumuokwurusi. There are two plants; they are building one at Kira in Ogoni
which deals with metal scraps. The Rumuokwurusi plant will deal with solid
wastes, and work is expected to be completed next year.”

It is important that the state takes the issue of environment seriously to
reinstate Rivers State to its inventive plan. This was the plan that most
of us saw in Amaechi when he newly came to power. It could be recalled that
in September 2008, Amaechi, through the state Ministry of Urban
Development, ordered the knocking down of a warehouse belonging to his
wife, Judith. This happened near the Abonnma Wharf, Port Harcourt. The
building was found to have impinged on the right of way. It was classified
as illegal structure, hence bulldozers were sent to do the clean-up job.

In the voice of the then state Commissioner for Urban Development,
Barrister Osima Ginah, he gave reasons for the action thus: “The property
was an illegal building situated where it is not supposed to be. So what
happened to other stores in the neighbourhood also happened to hers.
Government is firm, fair, transparent and serious about her urban renewal
programmes. It is not correct that the exercise is targeted at the
supposedly enemies of the government.”

As a result of that people said that the Amaechi-led administration
deserved a pat on the back, especially for seeking to bring Port Harcourt
to its creative Garden City status. Many people were called to join hands
with Amaechi to redeem the state. Some observed that what Amaechi was doing
was to bring the city back to the original form as planned by the British
many years ago. But instead of continuity in doing much after the much
praise, three years after, the story has changed?

At the moment, it is the news of deduction of Civil Servants salaries;
although Amaechi might have a cogent reason for that. Conversely, this is
evident that things are done half-haphazardly in the state. And in some
intelligence, the residents were not happy. This view was even caught in a
rather factual observation thus: “It’s not a matter of putting a hold to
the illegal deductions; it is a matter of integrity and resentment to
obnoxious law and a governor’s penchant to flout simple agreement with no
regard for the next party.”

That statement was from the Civil Servants, while Amaechi was said to have
given reasons for the action the government had taken amongst which was the
funding of the free education policy. Did you hear that?

Many of us had argued of how Amaechi could fund the “free education” in
Rivers State when he was swaggering of it to the high heavens. These days,
Amaechi and the Civil Servants are at daggers drawn. The later was telling
Amaechi to discontinue with the deduction of their salaries, a statement
which led them planning to stage an industrial action on Friday, November
7, 2012.

There was a belief that the governor had made several promises in the past
without keeping them, especially to the Civil Servants, a case that made
them wanted to show him the war of ego and profession and, that they were
nobody’s stooge. This pressure could be the reason the governor was said to
have made a promise of halting the deductions. Notwithstanding, it was not
yet Uhuru as that promise was temporarily placed, for the Civil Servants to
enjoy the forthcoming season, hence the game would continue in February
2013 in what was termed a better synchronized mode.

But this seemed was not the first the Amaechi-led government was deducting
the poor Civil Servants’ salaries. Investigations revealed that the state
government had once mandated the state Ministry of Finance to do same
shoddy thing of arrears of 8 months from the Civil Servants salary which
was with upshot from August to December 2012 to coat the preceding years –
2010/2011. As a result of this, it was learnt latter that the State Civil
Services with the offices of Internal Revenue, Accountant General of the
State and the Ministry of Finance saw themselves in a freezing
confrontation over who faultily issued the indication that sparked off the
emergency in the state.

These things are not good for our Rivers State, especially among the class
regarded as educated people. When did Rivers State turned to a combat zone?
It was not long that Amaechi called the then militants ‘criminals’ and,
everybody seemed was in support of him than hypothetically the militancy of
words cropped-up. It is not good that each day that passes comes with it
one form of threat or the other from the state government. This November
alone, the Rivers Government has threatened to close down hospitals that
were not adequately staffed and equipped. And the question could be, what
does the government want those under such hospitals’ employ to do? What is
the resourceful alternative given by the government to the would-be
affected hospitals?

As this Amaechi-led government of Rivers State had always posited to be a
developed one in comparison to the governments in Europe, it behooves it to
create loan approaches with which it can assist the less-privileged
hospitals, but regrettably the government was sourcing for fund more than
some of us who are beginners to assist in its long-queue of projects. It is
not better times to hear the threat of sending those hospitals packing from
Dr. Sampson Parker at a press briefing consequently: “Any hospital that is
below the required medical standard will be closed down, whether it is
owned by government or private individuals. Rivers State will no longer
tolerate quackery; there is no way only two doctors can service a secondary
health centre.”

What was expected from the Amaechi-led government was to maintain or
sustain its numerous policies instead of all these gra-gra we can see.
Even at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, where
Parker had swanked that his presence has revived since he assumed office
five years ago as he had claimed that patients received drips on the floor,
it is our informed prayer that he should do undercover investigation and,
he might be surprised with the way the management run the business of the
hospital. Hooey!

However, Amaechi should further put a law that will

punish all those
ministries that were underperforming or that were just titular in the
state. They also pollute our environment. Amaechi should also place orders
that all the roads, say in Oyigbo, should be reconstructed in December. The
presumed law would be monitoring the activities of all the ill-ministries
in the state at least for 12 hours instead of 24 hours. It would also be a
good development if Amaechi would place orders of helicopters that would be
used to investigate the many bad roads the residents have come to endure in
Rivers State in the name of democracy.

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