By Henry Umahi
In this interview, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, explains who his principal really is.
There are allegations of lopsidedness in favour of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas in the execution of projects by the Wike administration. What is your take?
That is very myopic and those who say such things are not really on ground. They don’t know what is happening in the State. I will give you a few examples of what is happening in other local government areas of the State. There is the dualisation of Kira- Sakpenwa-Bori- Kono Road. The Oyigbo axis to Iriebe linking Oyigbo to Obio/Akpor has been completed; that of the Bori-Sakpenwa is 92% complete, the Alesa-Agbo-Nchia- Oyigbo road linking the two Local Governments of Eleme and Oyigbo; the Rumuolunde – Isiodun Community roads; the 2nd phase of Isiokpo community internal roads; there is a construction of 16.85km Rumuoji-Ibaa- Isiokpo road in Emohua Local Government Area that has reached 90%; there is the dualisation of 23km Omoku-Egbema road in Ogba-Egbema- Ndoni LGA. There is a 21.3km Odufor- Akpogu-Umuoyi Road in Etche LGA; Aker Base road is ongoing in Obio/Akpor; there is Ula-Ahinda-Odiogu- Aminigboko-Ubeta-Ubie-Ijie-Ochieroha Road; there is also the Odioku internal road in Ahoada West LGA; there is the Abonnema Ring Road in Akuku-Toru LGA; and there is the Omuma Road going on in Omuma; there is a Sime – Eteo-Nonwa road connecting Tai and Eleme LGAs; now there is the Unity Road.
Commendable as the construction of five flyovers in the city of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs, critics still pick holes in the urban renewal efforts of the state government with regard to prioritising of projects. How would you react to this?
You will remember that his Excellency, before he came on board, published his New Vision blueprint. He has a blueprint for governance. It is the blueprint he is pursuing as a governor. You will recall when Diette-Spiff was building Point
Block in those days and people were asking what he was doing with that kind of building but today the story has changed. Let me state this, Port Harcourt is the capital of the hydro- carbon industry and because of the inflow of investment that is coming in here, there is no kind of infrastructure that you put here that will be too much. LNG train-7 will soon come on stream. All the major oil companies, the IOCS, are likely to relocate to Rivers State because of government’s desire that they should relocate here. The kind of vehicular traffic, the kind of traffic that will be seen, in the months and years to come, in this state will be such that if we don’t prepare now, the city will be in trouble. That is why I tell people with pride, that Governor Wike is building infrastructure for tomorrow.
A man with vision does not wait. If previous administrations had built these ones, he won’t be building them. But all of us will look back with nostalgia in the years to come to say that this man built all these. I will like to take your mind to several years ago. Before the Eleme junction interchange was built by Governor Celestine Omehia, people used to park their vehicles there, at Eleme junction, or even sleep in their vehicles, because of gridlock, but a lot of people have forgotten.
Before this administration came on board, if you are going to Eleme, travelling to Akwa Ibom or Cross River, you will need to pass either through the East-West road, pass through Elelenwo, and then begin to go to Eleme. But this New vision administration had made it so possible that from Peter Odili road you will just link up Woji and you are at Akpajo. People used to sleep at Woji Bridge. And a new road is coming that will go through Woji through to Eleme and come out at Refinery.
A visionary leader sees tomorrow. If the people that planned Lagos State had this kind of dream, Lagos will not be in the kind of mess that it is. That is what this governor doesn’t want to happen here because the major activities of government is within this axis. A lot of people will come in here to do business. The earlier you strategise and have the right infrastructure that will promote free flow of traffics, the better it will be for the State.
Wike means so many things to so many people. You are his close aide. How do you define him?
Well, I am quite pleased to be associated with him because he is a visionary leader, very compassionate and humane. Most people who are not close to him will not understand that he is a very compassionate person. He is a man whose heart flows with the milk of human kindness. Beyond that, Governor Wike is a strategic planner. He is forthright. He doesn’t speak from both sides of his mouth. If he tells you anything, his yes is yes, his no is no. if he tells you anything, take it to the bank. In Nigeria, it is very rare to find such politician. A lot of politicians prevaricate; what they tell you in the morning is not what they will tell you in the night.
I’m quite proud to be associated with such a leader. One thing that he keeps saying that gives me a lot of joy is that, “I will not leave behind any debt. I will not start any project I cannot complete”, that is not common in our clime, and for such a man, everyday he dreams for the good of Rivers State. He has always said “I will do all within my power to defend the interest of Rivers State”.
He has demonstrated it in several ways that people can see. We are quite lucky in the state to have that kind of leader this time.
Do you think the Wike-led government is succeeding in realising the conceived vision of the administration?
You can see Rivers State has been turned into a construction site. Let me tell you, I don’t know what your experiences have been. People from other states are saying that we should loan them Wike, even for six months. Have you not been hearing it? What is it that is making them say so? Because they see what is going on. Let me tell you, when a man has a vision, he is prudent, he’s patriotic he loves his people, what he can do will be enormous That’s why we see that even under this COVID-19, a lot of state Governors are crying, they don’t have money for this, they don’t have money for that, but Rivers State is busy on all fronts. Just a few days ago, the government signed a contract to rehabilitate water supply that will run 496km that will produce thousands of cubic litres of water. As people who live in Port Harcourt, when last did your tap open? But this is the kind of governor we have. Every day he wakes up thinking of new things. That is why you see the gale of decamping taking place Key actors in APC are joining the PDP fold, why? They have seen visionary leadership. Apart from the fact that Wike extended the olive branch during his second term inauguration, the truth of the matter is that you cannot see what is good and not identify with it.
Some people insinuate that civil servants are not enjoying from this administration due to some gaps and differences. Sir, how best do you thing this gap can be bridged?
There is no gap. I like reminding people that before Governor wike came on board, civil servants were owed three months salary arrears and five months pension arrears. He came and cleared the arrears.
As we speak, he has never owed civil servants salaries. Recently, the revolving loan for civil servants was started. You know it is a revolving loan. As they get enough money, the next batch of beneficiaries will be given their loans. He has built civil servants quarters at Lagos street, one in GRA; he has built NLC secretariat; he has built TUC secretariat.
Governor Wike is committed to workers welfare and that’s why over these five years he has refused to owe the workers. I am a civil servant and my wife is a civil servant too. So when we were owed for three months by the previous administration, it was hell.
When you want to talk about the welfare of civil servants, go round the country and find out what is going on. How many States are up-to-date in payment of salaries? Go and check. For this administration, civil servants welfare is on the front burner, despite the fact that both Federal allocation and internally generated revenue have dwindled compared to what it used to be five years back.
What are your final words for Rivers people vis-a-vis repositioning of the state?
The man in the saddle of governance in the state has put the state in the trajectory of development and progress. And what I can say to Rivers people is for them to support the visionary leader in the State. That is where the slogan of “Our State Our Responsibility” comes in. Everyone living and doing business in Rivers State should not fail to understand that we have a shared prosperity and must ensure we support His Excellency in building that Rivers State of his dream. We should shun those who are promoting the false narrative about Rivers State. This is a welcoming state. We are rich in culture. We have the right infrastructure, and we have the right leadership now.
So, we all must work collectively to reposition this state as a destination of choice, it will be to our advantage if we do. Let’s not join armchair critics and those who don’t mean well for our state to run down the State. The State is in a position to occupy its pride of place if we join hands together.
Food for the people
The Ministry of Agriculture has ensured the completion of Rivers State Cassava Processing Plant with the capacity to process 45,000mt of Cassava tubers into 12,500mt of high quality cassava flour; the award of contract for the construction of standard Veterinary Clinic and Diagnostic Laboratory to meet animal health care delivery and improve public health; the award of contract for the construction of modern abattoir at Rumueme waterside, Rumueme, to create jobs, provide high quality meat and meat by-products; the concessioning of farms like the Songhai Farm under private-public partnership to create jobs and provide food for the populace.
In the years to come, Rivers State will be gainfully engaged in robust farming in all the LGAs. Rivers state with a population of over five million people inhabited by various multi-national and multi-ethic groups with various agricultural and commercial activities has about 70% of its daily food consumption imported from other states. In order to mitigate this gross inadequacy in the supply-demand chain, WIKE immediately declared the Rivers State Agriculture intervention plan which is intended to drive agriculture as an effective tool for small and medium scale enterprises, build agri-preneurs, create jobs and produce food for the teaming public.
The governor directed the Ministry of Agriculture to immediately develop a robust agricultural plan/initiative for the state.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Fred Barivure Kpakol, and his team effected the following:
(a) Developed a robust road map and comprehensive farmers registration exercise;
(b) Launched the Homestead Farm Initiative, sensitizing families on the urgent need to set up family farms around their homes/compounds;
(c) Organize/galvanize small, medium and commercial scale farmers to embark on massive production on key crops and livestock;
(d) Ensure the completion of state-of-the-art Cassava processing plant at Oyigbo, Oyigbo LGA with the capacity to process 45,000mt of raw cassava tubers into 12,500mt of high quality cassava flour, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa;
(e) Ensure the complete takeover of the erstwhile moribund Risonpalm Estate by SIAT NIG. LTD. with over 25,000 ha of palm plantation to process oil palm fruits into high quality palm oil for local and international consumption;
(f) The Executive Governor through the Ministry of Agriculture directed the award of contract for the construction of a well-equipped modern Veterinary Hospital and Diagnostic Laboratory at Oginigba, Trans-Amadi, Port Harcourt to handle emerging and re-emerging zoonotic and trans-boundary animal diseases;
(g) The Executive Governor also directed through the Ministry of Agriculture the award of contract for the construction of a Modern Abattoir and Meat Processing Plant at Rumueme Waterside Mile 4, Rumueme Obio/Akpor LGA, to curb the proliferation of sub-standard slaughter houses;
(h) Concessioning of farms like the Songhai Farm under private-public partnership to create jobs and provide food for the populace.
The followings are the projects in view:
(i) 10,000 ha mechanized and commercial rice project (Rivrice) at Rumuewhor in Emohua LGA;
(ii) The state or the art Bio-farms Management system, Pasture Development/Silage Production, Animal/Dairy Production, etc, through a collaboration between the Rivers State Government and a Nigeria-Canadian Agro-Industrial Project (Fieldberg Farms Project) sited at Bangha Community in Khana LGA;
(iii) A collaboration between the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture and input/seed suppliers like INDORAMA, IITA, etc, to produce:
(a) Crop-specific fertilizers for our small holder farmers
(b) Improved seedlings like the FARO-44 rice seedlings and the TME 419 Cassava variety
In the next two years, the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture is expecting that the challenges listed above will be mitigated through the intervention of His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, donor agencies and monetary provisions through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and that the public will be gainfully engaged in robust farming in all the LGAs.