By. Marshall Israel
When Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi became the Governor of Rivers State in 2007 through the historical supreme court judgement, He didn’t waste time to assemble a TEAM of competent and capable hands that will assist him deliver dividends of democracy to Rivers State.
Amaechi did not wait until after seven years in office before talking about STOMACH INFRASTRUCTURE. He implemented Stomach infrastructure without mentioning it because as projects were going on, Rivers people were directly and indirectly being empowered. It was a simultaneous operation. Amaechi doesn’t have a PhD in nepotism as projects and empowerments were spread across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State and not only in Obio-Apkor and Portharcourt City LGAs.
Because Amaechi believed and had confidence in his members of cabinet, he gave them the freedom and opportunity to operate and bring results without unnecessary and undue interference. Commissioners under Amaechi were initiating laudable projects which brought healthy competition amongst them.
Commissioners, Special Advisers and Heads Of State Government Agencies employed and empowered people. The employment of 13,000 teachers was handled by Chairman of Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board and supervised by the Commissioner for Education without any form of interference from Government House. No special list of candidates was sent from Ubima as Governor’s list.
Local Government Chairmen under Amaechi built markets, roads, schools, health centers etc. Some of them awarded local and foreign scholarship to indigenes of the Local Government Area including Skill acquisition centers. They were competing amongst themselves on who will build more projects.
Amaechi’s wife, Dame Judith Amaechi did not lag behind in the empowerment spree. She set up Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI) as a non-governmental organization and inaugurated it on the 16th of October 2008, with the sole purpose of empowering children, youth and women through the adoption of purposeful measures to better their lot and finally move them out of poverty into a new, improved and sustainable economic status.
Avenues for achieving this include promoting basic education, improved healthcare accessibility and understanding of healthcare issues that affect women and children, re-orientation of youths to imbibe right social values, providing opportunities for acquisition of updated and necessary skills to compete in a modern economy and advocating for self-development.
ESI is still functioning till date with offices and centers in different parts of Rivers State. The Center at Iguruta in Ikwere LGA is visible to even the blind.
AMAECHI’S administration completed over 900km equivalent of the road distance between Lagos and Maiduguri and represents 64.2 per cent of the total roads he constructed including bridges and flyovers in Rivers State. Surprisingly, there were no Flagg off and commissioning programs. He believe it was his mandate and responsibility.
In education, on assumption of office, Amaechi assuaged the lingering suffering of Rivers State Primary and Junior Secondary School (UBE) teachers by taking over the payment of their salary from the Local Government. Council across the State.
Before Amaechi became Governor of Rivers State, the salaries of primary school teachers were the sole responsibility of the local government council which made it a nightmare for the teachers to receive their hard earned salary as at when due at the end of every month.
Sadly, the teachers were faced with different forms of maltreatment ranging from delay in salary payment, payment by hand, bribery and corruption, incessant complains and so on.
The innocent teachers cried and prayed for help from the mess for many years.
Prior to 2007, the state’s educational system had broken down, due to years of neglect that left basic infrastructure in the 1,300 primary schools with six classroom each in ruins. School buildings with dilapidated roofs and where children in overcrowded classrooms sat on bare floor to learn was a common sight.
The desire to reverse the situation spurred Amaechi to declare a state of emergency in the sector. First, he decided to fix the infrastructural deficit by constructing 500 out of the 700 planned new modern 14 classroom primary schools, retraining and recruitment of 13,000 teachers.
In addressing issues regarding healthcare delivery, Amaechi’s administration built over 110 health centres located in nearly all the wards in the state. Amaechi also built referral facilities in Port Harcourt – Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital and Dental-Maxillo Facial Hospital. He also employed 200 Medical Doctors and 400 Nurses to man and head the Hospitals and Health centres.
To ensure food security and employment generation, Amaechi’s government collaborated with the founder of the Songhai Initiative to develop an integrated farm, which combines livestock, arable farming, fisheries, snail farming and poultry on 314 hectares of arable land in Bunu-Tai. He also developed modern fish farms in four councils of the state. The farm in Buguma has a capacity for 1000 tonnes per year then.
Amaechi’s Other strides in agriculture include, the acquisition of 2,000 hectares of land in Ogoni for the cultivation, production and export of banana for commercial purposes in partnership with a Mexican firm, San Carlos Nigeria Limited. It is expected that about 6 million boxes of banana will be produced from this farm yearly. Under his watch, an agreement was also reached between the Government of Rivers State and SIAT Nigeria Limited for the rehabilitation and replanting of the once moribund 16,000 hectares Risonpalm Estate. The rehabilitation of 14,972 hectares in mainly Ubima and Elele have been completed. SIAT had also signed agreement with the state for the rehabilitation of the 7,000 hectare Delta Rubber Company Limited.
Concerned that lack of access to electricity has been observed to be a major constraint to economic growth and increased welfare in modern times, Amaechi built two new power stations in Afam, expanded the Omoku and Trans-Amadi power stations. The cumulative capacity of the State’s power plants was above 500 megawatts. He also built about seven transmission stations and distribution injection sub-stations.
In line with Amaechi’s goal to render transparent and accountable stewardship of the resources of the state, in 2008, he enacted a Public Procurement Law as part of the boarder governance reforms and a subset of the public finance management reforms.
By the time Amaechi was sworn into office, Rivers State was on the brink of anarchy, due to the activities of marauding militia groups and criminals disguised as Niger Delta militants. Mindful that it would be challenging to undertake developmental projects under the prevailing climate of fear, which had forced several multinationals and individuals to leave Rivers State, Amaechi vowed to restore law and order.
Backed by the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, Amaechi ordered a major military offensive in December 2007 in some areas that dislodged criminals, cultists and kidnappers and other raids across the state.
Amaechi supported the security agencies in the areas of logistics and equipment as well as training of the Police Anti-Terror squad in Israel to enhance their capacity to provide security for residents.
Amaechi has set a standard that will be difficult to match. One of his major achievements, not even in terms of infrastructure, is in terms of policy he pursued. Amaechi showed the highest level of civility, exposure and advancement with the kind of policy he pursued. He eliminated the discriminatory school fees in Rivers State University of Science and Technology between indigenes and non- indigenes in line with your policy of everybody is an indigene of Rivers State.
On human capacity building, Amaechi sent thousands of Rivers State Youth to Canada, Australia Germany, United Kingdom, USA etc on scholarship to study sophisticated courses and acquire modern Skills and Certifications. He also established Skill Acquisition Centers in the State.
Not only did Amaechi seamlessly adapt to address the emerging challenges from the persistent ones that we face in our society today, but he is always striving to make things better with new approaches and unfaltering determination.
Amaechi exhibited uncommon wisdom, remarkable vision, and exemplary leadership as Governor. He is a role model and an example of selfless leader to this generation, and I am proud to hold him as someone worthy of emulation.
His headstrong approach and passion to achieve what he is set out to do are so remarkable and truly inspirational. He is one of the most steadfast pro-Nigeria leaders who has never flaunted ethnic agitation in position, and ensured the promotion of equity and building understanding to ensure coexistence of our nationhood.
Immediate Past Federal Commissioner,
Public Complaints Commission,
27th, March 2022.