Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
- As state’s investment climate blurs more
The unending political spat between incumbent Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, and his immediate predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi, which had eminently pounded the state’s $23 billion GDP economy was up again at the weekend. This time, both Ikwerre-born brothers used the burial of Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, a former Supreme Court justice, to unleash venoms at each other. In all of their six-year on political supremacy quarrel, the state’s polity got exceptionally heated up, the oil-dependent economy lacerated and the state’s investment climate further blurred.
A recent survey done by an economist said the state witnessed N322 billion in lost investments. Today, most of the oil-related projects were taken to other cities. Additionally, Governor Wike cancelled sale of four state own gas-fired electricity plants valued at over $302 million (N47.50 billion at the then exchange rate of N157.29 to $1. Till date all four plants have yet to be re-privatized. He also dissolved the RSSDA agriculture-based projects worth several millions of naira.
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At Degema, Karibi-Whyte’s hometown, Wike came down heavily against Amaechi, saying the former governor was more interested in “awarding political projects to boost his personal ego than delivering services to Rivers people.” He said, a project like “the Justice Karibi Whyte Hospital was a scam because it gulped $39.9 million (N6.275 billion) on paper, as there is nothing to show at the proposed site.”
According to Governor Wike, “the sum of N65 billion was spent on the 1.2 kilometres Monorail project, which was conceived as a white elephant project. Most of such political projects existed either on the pages of newspapers or were used to settle political allies.” The governor alleged that Amaechi and his political allies, after siphoning huge sums of money from the state, left behind uncompleted projects.
“Amaechi does not have the moral ground to talk about development in (Rivers) State, when he wasted so much financial resources on non-existing projects. Go round the state, you will never see anything that looks like Justice Karibi-Whyte Hospital. It is a scam that never existed.
“Again, tell me what is the traffic along Azikwe Road, that a 1.2 kilometres Monorail Project will be awarded for over N65 billion. When I came into office, I was told that it will cost about N30 billion to complete that project. If I have such money, I will build more infrastructure across the state,” Wike alleged.
According to the governor, Amaechi’s Economic Advisory Council led by Nimi Briggs, a professor and former vice chancellor of University of Port Harcourt, published a document, the records of which covered the activities of his (Amechi) administration from 2007 to 2014.
“On education, the council recorded that 485 primary schools were proposed for construction. Some existing old schools were demolished when they required rehabilitation. Work actually started on 478 schools, but only 116 schools were completed across the state. Amaechi also awarded 15 Modern Secondary Schools for 15 Local Government Areas at over N4 billion each. Only the Ambassador Nne Krukrubo School in Eleme Local Government was completed and functional before he left office,” the governor said. He said there are foremost schools that had produced prominent Nigerians in the state that should have been rehabilitated, but were abandoned by the former governor to embark on the abandoned projects.
He accused his predecessor from Ubima, Ikwerre local council of being “a self-seeking leader who paraded himself as one that knows it all. But he said, he unlike Amaechi, refused to kill the dreams and projects of other people, but rather voted money to complete road projects his predecessor initiated.
Meanwhile, last May, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a federal government refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State being money spent by Amaechi administration on federal projects using the state’s resources.
Wike has severally claimed that under his watch, Rivers has improved on the security benchmark.