Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, has appealed to the international community to save Nigeria’s democracy from imminent collapse by mounting sufficient pressures on the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to uphold the rule of law and guarantee the integrity of the electoral system.
Wike also stated that the current flawed revenue sharing formula in the country has made development difficult in states as the federal government gets 53 percent of national revenue, while 36 states share only 22 percent.
The governor said this at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, yesterday, when he delivered a lecture on the topic: “Defining development for Rivers State and steps to sustainable implementation.”
“There is need for the international community to save the country and its democracy from imminent collapse by putting sufficient pressures on the federal government to uphold the rule of law, guarantee the integrity of the electoral system and do socio-economic justice to all segments of the Nigerian society
“The fact cannot be disputed that states bear greater development burden than the federal government… “Obviously, when 22 percent of national revenue is shared among 36 states, what comes to each state is not more than 0.6 per cent, on the average, per annum, which, by any stretch of imagination, is incapable of funding serious developmental programmes for any state.
The politicisation and active involvement of key national institutions, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission and the police, in the rigging of re-run elections in Rivers state was not only an affront to democracy, such acts constituted serious invitation to chaos, with destructive consequences of unknown dimensions.”
The governor told the international community that despite generating a huge percentage of the nation’s resources, Rivers state has suffered untold neglect and deprivation by the federal government over the years.
He said: “As an integral part of the country, Rivers is entitled to development support from the federal government through the direct provision of projects and programmes in the state.
“This is even more so considering the state’s enormous contributions to the national revenue bowl. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the federal government continues to neglect and marginalise the state, in the provision of development projects.
“For instance, the federal government has not undertaken any new development project in the state for the last two decades. Even the existing ones, such as the Port Harcourt International Airport, the two seaports and the East-West Highway have severely degenerated, without attention for years. These are important economic projects that needed to function maximally to drive the socio-economic development of the state, yet the federal government continues to turn a blind eyes to them with impunity.”
The governor, who lamented the developmental challenges that have bedevilled Rivers state, despite its enormous resources, said although previous administrations have played key roles in developing the state, the immediate past administration in the state stagnated development through unbridled theft of state funds during an era of resource boom.
“Although successive governments tried to move it forward, the eight years of the immediate past government were the most regrettable in the state’s history as there were no tangible achievements to justify the huge resources that accrued to the state during the period of unprecedented oil boom. Instead, so much public money was either siphoned into private pockets or wasted on bogus and unsustainable projects,” he said.
According to him, despite the ugly state that the last administration left the state, his administration had, in the last 29 months, embarked on meaningful development projects and programmes in the areas of infrastructure, human capital development and security of lives and property.
“We picked up this challenge as a matter of urgent priority by launching the ‘Operation Zero Pothole Programme’ on our first day in office, which has successfully repaired and cleared most of our streets and roads of potholes.
“Thereafter, we dedicated an unprecedented 65 percent of the state’s capital expenditure to the provision of infrastructure. As at today, we have committed over N170 billion to construct, upgrade and expand several roads, bridges and jetties and linking up communities and settlements across the entire state. We increased public spending on education from 4.2 percent to about 10 percent on the average and deployed substantial resources for the renovation and equipping of over 180 basic education and secondary schools across the state to improve the quality of education at that level.
“We have also constructed, upgraded and rehabilitated several faculty buildings, lecture halls, workshops, staff offices as well as student hostels in all the tertiary institutions. These interventions have expanded access, improved quality and placed our tertiary institutions on the path to producing the skillful and innovative graduates that we need to drive the development of the state and the nation.
“Within the last two years of our administration, we have renovated 13 general hospitals in 13 local government areas of the state, established a teaching hospital for the state university to train medical personnel as well as restarted work on the construction of three regional health facilities and a mother and child hospital which were started but abandoned by the previous administration.
“We recognise the importance of the private sector in the healthcare delivery system.
Consequently, we have also supported private hospitals in the state with interest-free revolving loans to enable them to improve their facilities and deliver better services to the public.”
Wike said despite the man-made challenges confronting his administration, the state government has proved that “ a committed government can even in a short period impact positively on the state’s sustainable development.”
He declared: “I want to assure you that our resolve is strong, our commitment to Rivers State and our people remain unchanged and unchangeable. We shall continue to do our best within the limits of available resources to deliver on our development priorities to the state on sustainable bases and enhance the wellbeing of our people.”
Chair of the presentation , Sir Richard Gozney KCMG CVO, Lieutenant Governor, Isle of Man; British High Commissioner to Nigeria (2004-07) noted that Rivers State is important to the development of Nigeria and plays a significant role in regional affairs.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Awkright who attended the lecture, urged Wike to continue to work for the improvement of security in the state for the increase in foreign direct investments.
Responding to questions from the diverse audience, Wike regretted that the Ogoni clean up had been politicised by the APC-led Federal Government, pointing out that the administration had no intention of executing the project.
On foreign scholarships, he reiterated that the state government will pay for final year students in critical science courses, while those studying arts courses were advised to return to Nigeria with the Rivers State Government footing their bills.
Prominent Rivers leaders who attended the ceremony include former Rivers State Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia, Senator Osinakachukwu Ideozu, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, Ken Chikere, . Boma Goodhead, Betty Apiafi, Former Minister of Sport, Dr Tammy Danagogo, Former Minister of Transport, Dr Abiye Sekibo, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Commissioner of Information, Emma Okah, former Commissioner of Transport, Chief Glory Emeh, Ambassador Desmond Akawor among others.