“WE WILL CONTINUE TO GIVE OUR All TO RIVERS STATE.”
Let me begin by expressing my deepest gratitude to God Almighty and the people of Rivers State for the rare privilege and opportunity to serve you as your Governor for another four years.
2.I wish also recognize and specially thank my dear wife and First Lady, Justice Eberechi and our children, Jordan, Joachim and Jasmine, my parents and my entire family for their wonderful love and support.
3.Let me also acknowledge and thank the State House of Assembly and the State’s Judiciary for the role they played in the last four years to support our administration and move Rivers State forward.
4. When I reflect on the last four years, I can visibly see the hands of both arms of government in the successes our administration recorded and I feel very proud that we did it together because ours was an era of co-operation, mutual-dependence and progress.
5.Thank you Mr. Speaker and other members of the State House of Assembly. Thank you Hon. Chief Judge and other distinguished judges, magistrates and other members of the State Judiciary as I look forward to working with you to advance our State for the next four years.
6.Four years ago, on this day and about this hour, and on this very place, I took the oath of office as the 6th democratically elected Governor of Rivers State.
7.I was humbled by that opportunity, the trust and the overwhelming support you all gave to us throughout the four years we’ve presided over the affairs of our State.
8.In spite of the challenges, it has been a truly fulfilling experience and I remain very grateful for every single day of the last four years we have served.
9.In our inaugural address four years ago, we shared our vision with you and committed ourselves to take our State on a new direction through responsible governance.
10.We promised to take on the challenges that we faced and optimize our resources to advance the potential and prospects of our State.
11.We said we would reverse the years of economic decline, put the improvements to work and deliver a new foundation of hope for our State and our children.
12.We promised not to take your trust for granted but work every single day to advance the vision of our founding fathers for a united, secure, and prosperous State.
13.We pledged to be fair to all parts of the State, inclusive in our agenda and ensure that no constituent is deliberately left out in our efforts to advance our State and improve the wellbeing of our people.
14.We also asked for your prayers, patience and cooperation as we set out to deliver on our promises to fix our broken infrastructure, restore our educational system and advance access to quality healthcare.
15.We have, in the last four years, stayed through to our commitments and responded to the compelling prescriptions of the covenant we entered with our people.
16.Today, we are proud to say that we have, in the last four years, delivered significant milestones on our development agenda and advanced the progress of our State despite the daunting challenges.
17.We gave true meaning and expression to the rule of law, separation of powers and judicial independence in ways never experienced in our history. Today, our judiciary is the envy of other States: independent, strong, well motivated, effective and efficient with the most modern judicial infrastructure
18. We also intervened in the conditions of federal courts and built the most modern courthouses for the Port Harcourt Divisions of the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal, which are now providing effective judicial services to our people.
19.In the next couple of weeks we will commission the first phase of the luxury estate we have built to accommodate our judges for life as part of our commitment to strengthen the independence of our judiciary.
20.We have in the last four years tackled our fiscal challenges, improved on revenue mobilization, eliminated the souring deficit and put our economy on the path to progressive recovery and growth.
21.Today, our economy is widely acclaimed as the fastest growing in the country with internally generated revenues projections and fiscal responsibility attaining record levels.
22.We’ve eased the tax burden on investors; our economy is on upward spiral, creating jobs and attracting new investments from within and outside the State, pushing up property rates and creating new opportunities for existing and budding entrepreneurs.
23.We have rid all our roads of potholes, completed most of the abandoned road projects we inherited and built new ones, including dual carriageways across the State.
24.For the first time in history, the ancient Opobo Kingdom, Ikuru town and other adjoining coastal communities have been linked to the rest of the State by road by our administration.
25.We’ve also provided internal roads to a number of communities as well as regenerated some of our decaying neghbourhoods, including Diobu, Port Harcourt Township, Ogunabali and Amadi Ama.
26.In the last four years, we have made historic investments in education, healthcare, security, and sports development.
27.We have renovated, rebuilt and equipped several primary and secondary schools; upgraded infrastructure in our tertiary institutions to levels never seen before, as well as fulfilled our promise to establish a faculty of medical sciences in the Rivers State University to increase the production of medical personnel for the State and our nation.
28.Within the period, we’ve also funded healthcare delivery at great levels, restored our general hospitals and established the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital to improve the level of healthcare delivery in the State.
29.Work on the five regional referral hospitals have reached advanced stages of completion just as we are set to commission and put the mother and child hospital into use in a few weeks time.
30. We are also made significant progress in our plan to train 500 indigenous medical students on full scholarship at the Pamo University of Medical Sciences with 200 students already enrolled and progressing with their studies in the last two years alone.
31.In the last four years, we’ve worked hard to secure and preserve lives and property throughout the State. Although there are still challenges, Rivers State today remains one of the safest States when compared to the ravaging security situation in most parts of our country.
32.Looking back, I have no doubt in my mind that we’ve had an incredible run and delivered great progress for our State and our people in ways that we could only have imagined four years ago.
33.But for us, progress is a journey to the mountaintop of shared security and qualitative improvement in living conditions for all our citizens.
34.Therefore, even with the progress we have made over the years since 1967, it seems today that we have only risen to the foothills of our collective aspirations for our State.
35.Our task is therefore not yet done; neither our mission in governance accomplished, until we fully and comprehensively deliver on the vision of our founding fathers and the promise of statehood by building a State:
▪ that offers equal protection, freedom and opportunity for everyone irrespective of background;
▪ where our people will move up the social, economic and political ladder on the basis of their hard work, character and affinity with the people, not on the basis of their connections or privileged background;
▪ where everyone will have enough for themselves and cater to the needs of their children and families with relative ease;
▪ where quality healthcare will be accessible, affordable and adequate for all citizens, whether poor or rich;
▪ where our children will get quality education with the right skills to advance their careers and achieve their full potential;
▪ where senior citizens will retire with security and enjoy their post-retirement in dignity, peace of mind, good health and happiness;
▪ where development and the benefits of progress are spread to all parts of the State in respective of location; and
▪ the ordinary laws of the land are equally applied to promote good governance, justice and fairness to all;
36.As we reflect on these goals against the background of where we are coming from, where we are and what we are ultimately striving to become, we must admit that there’s still a lot more work to be done to reach the promise land.
37.And so, today we stand at the turning point of history with another opportunity to drive the vision and trajectory of our collective progress for another four years.
38.And because of today’s renewed trust, I stand before this solemn assembly to reaffirm the commitment of our government to continue to deliver on this journey to sustainable progress and prosperity for our State and our people.
39.We will not take this second term as a chance to warm the seat of governance but to continue to take the tough decisions and give our all to the task we have ahead of us every single day of the next four years with courage, commitment and compassion.
40.Together, we have been on the journey of giving true meaning to the collective dreams and aspirations of our people for economic and political emancipation and meaningful development.
41.The next four years are therefore pivotal as we consolidate on the progressive foundations of the last four years to take Rivers State through a greater era of achievements and progress, because making Rivers State the greatest State in Nigeria is a task that must be accomplished.
42.Our economy is great but it should be greater and made more beneficial to all. And so we will continue to grow our economy, expand our tax base, provide a friendly business environment and attract foreign and local investments to create more jobs and empower our people.
43.We will continue on the economic trajectory of fiscal discipline, prudence, prioritization of capital projects over recurrent and giving value for money spent in the delivery of services.
44.We know we are developing, but it’s better and more result-oriented if approached in an organized and strategic form.
45.We will therefore adopt a holistic approach to development by partnering with relevant national and international agencies and expertise to initiate and implement a 25-years Marshall Plan for economic transformation and development to guide and accelerate the future development of our State.
46.We are already doing great to close the existing deficit in infrastructure but the need to deliver more roads, bridges and modern jetties to connect our cities and communities, improve our economy, accelerate our development and improve the general wellbeing of our people. This we will do with greater vigour and commitment.
47.We love our communities and we will continue to prioritize their development for sustainable living with more social amenities, including paved roads, schools, health facilities, water and sanitation, electricity, land reclamation and preservation of their natural resources.
48.For too long, we have relied mostly on a single vanishing revenue source to fund our development. The reality is that we cannot continue in this economic folly lest we remain forever vulnerable to the ripples, uncertainties and miseries of the mono-product based national economy.
49.Apart from oil and gas, Rivers State also has a vast agricultural potential, which has remained largely untapped for decades.
50.For us therefore, it is about time we embraced the green revolution as a strategic measure for achieving economic diversification, job creation and food security for the State and our people, and we are just ready to do that.
51.Our role in this regard will span from granting interest free loans to providing training, land preparation and logistical support to our willing youths to invest in commercial agriculture and allied businesses.
52.We will also establish regional agricultural development belts in partnership with private firms to advance commercial farming in cash and other crops and invest in the establishment of agro-allied industries and processing plants across these belts.
53.We will complete and privatize the multi-million-naira cassava processing plant at Afam, sell off all State-owned farms and agricultural companies, including the Okomoko Rubber plantation and company, and release all idle State farmlands to private sector investors for commercial cultivation.
54.We will revive the school-to-land programme and leverage on the incentives from the Federal Government and the Central Bank to promote and sustain the development of agriculture across the value chain by our youths so that they can proudly earn their living, be employers of labour and contribute to the development of the State.
55.Our youths are our most valuable human assets and we believe that their destiny shouldn’t be defined by their circumstances or station in life.
56.We cannot therefore, as parents, government or as society, continue to make excuses for the difficulties that are stunting their hopes for a better life.
57.Let me therefore reassure our young ones that we care about you; we feel your despair and frustrations; the poverty and the violence that continue to chew meaning out of your existence.
58.But, we’ve got good news for all our youths this time around as we will dedicate much of the next four years to Youth Development by tackling the challenges that continue to keep you behind.
59.As a starting point, we’ve resolved to give our youths some significant positions in our government and provide viable economic opportunities to spark hopes of a better future in their eyes.
60.Let me also assure you that those who need education will get quality one; those who want life-skills will be trained; those who want to do business will continue to get our interest free loans; and those who have sporting talents will have quality sporting facilities and encouragement from us; and for those interested in making a career out of football, we have provided the Real Madrid Academy to prepare you for life-transforming professional footballing carrier at home and abroad.
61.Most importantly, we will continue to encourage, inspire, mentor and support our youths to believe in their abilities and to realize that they are and can be of much more value to society than the self-destructive traps and frills of the cults, the gangs and the guns.
62.It is for our youths therefore to take on the challenges threatening their future by keying into the socio-economic opportunities we are providing to free yourselves from the shackles of despair to become responsible, passionate and progressive leaders of today and tomorrow and the builders of our State and communities.
63.We all want our children to have the opportunity to attend great schools; be taught by committed and well-motivated teachers and get the training they need to be successful.
64.Although we are doing a lot to reposition the education sector, but we do also admit that our pupils in public schools deserve more than what the educational system presently offers.
65.Also of concern is the curriculum and focus of our universities, which continue to turn out students that are neither equipped with appropriate skills nor imbued with the right disposition, attitude and courage to overcome life’s ever-present and dynamic challenges.
66.Be that as it may, I wish to assure us that we are determined to change this narrative for the better. We will continue to equip our public schools and ensure our children have access to quality learning experience; empower our teachers with modern teaching skills to deliver better outcomes in the classrooms, and advance our universities to equip and prepare our graduates to be competitive and strive for creativity, self-reliance and service.
67.We believe that quality healthcare should be available and affordable to every citizen as of right and this is what we are working hard to achieve with our efforts and commitment to fix the existing shortcomings in the State’s healthcare system.
68.To this end, we hope to fully restore all the general hospitals, complete and equip the five zonal referral hospitals, fully upgrade the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital and provide more healthcare facilities to under-served areas of the State.
69.In addition, we will establish the most advanced diagnostic and curative centre for cancer and heart diseases and roll out a comprehensive health insurance scheme to guarantee universal healthcare coverage so that no one is denied medical attention and treatment for lack of money.
70.Also, our environment is our life and we all bear a duty to protect and manage it in the most responsible and sustainable way for the present and future generations.
71.Therefore, I wish to emphasize that we will no longer tolerate those who continue to degrade and undermine our rights to live in a clean, healthy and safe environment.
72.We are therefore minded to declare a state of emergency on the environment and tackle all forms of degradation, nuisance and irresponsible behavior occasioned by individuals, companies and other agencies, both public and private.
73.We will not fold our arms anymore while oil and gas companies continue to the environmental rights of our people with be reckless and unaccountable to our environment.
74.We will continue to welcome investors and entrepreneurs into the State but not anymore to the detriment and destruction of our environment, survival and livelihood.
75.Therefore, oil and gas companies must secure their facilities and stop the recurrent ejection of hazardous crude and other contaminants into our water bodies through leakages or damaged to pipelines.
76.In the same vein we will no longer tolerate the indiscriminate dumping of household and industrial refuse on unauthorized sites, including open lands, road/street corners, medians and drains.
77.We equally expect all residents to regularly clean their contiguous surroundings and drains; clear the grasses and plant trees in deserving places to beautify and preserve their immediate environment.
78.We remind landlords in particular of their legal responsibility to clean all adjourning open spaces verging their property as we will not hesitate to strengthen and enforce our sanitation laws against any property owner who fails to keep his or her premises and surroundings clean, safe and secure.
79.On our part, we will collaborate with the private sector and through shared cost ensure the healthy and efficient evacuation and disposal of household and industrial wastes in accordance with world best practice to keep Rivers State clean, safe and healthy.
80.Enough of the lawlessness and indiscipline on our roads by traders, motorists and developers.
81.We therefore restate the ban on all forms of street trading and arbitrary creation of illegal motor parks and taxi ranks across the State.
82.I hereby direct all street traders to find accommodation at the existing markets, including the new mile one and fruit garden markets, which we have just completed to conduct their trades and keep off our streets or get subjected to the might of the State Government and the full wrath of our laws.
83.In the same vein, I hereby order the immediate closure, arrest and prosecution of any person, company or agency that continues to operate illegal motor parks, taxi ranks and loading points along street corners, road shoulders and other unauthorized spaces in the interest of public safety, public order and public security.
84.In addition, we will sanitize the transport sector and ensure that all commercial taxi and bus operators are duly registered with the State’s Ministry of Transport to safeguard the comfort, safety and security of commuters.
85.We recognize the correlation between adequate security and the well being of our people. We all therefore deserve to be safe and secure in our homes, offices, business places, along our roads and in our neighbourhoods and inn our communities.
86.Regrettably, the Federal Government politicized the provision of security in Rivers State and exposed us to preventable security challenges, setbacks and injuries in the last four years.
87.While they readily funded special security operations against intense banditry in some parts of the country, they refused our requests for similar interventions and operations when we wanted and even offered to bear the cost to stem increasing kidnapping and cult-related violence across the State.
88.What’s more, they have refused to accord adequate security attention to Rivers State in spite of the unprecedented support they receive from us in terms of provision of operational vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, gunboats, communication gazettes, fuel and overheads to the security agencies.
89.Nevertheless, we thank the security agencies, especially the State Commands of the Police, the Department of State Security, the Nigerian Air force and the Nigerian Navy for the partnership and willingness to give their best to keep us safe and secure in spite of the seaming indifference and lack of tangible material support and encouragement from the Federal Government.
90.Even now and going forward, we can only pray to them to depoliticize the provision of security in Rivers State because we are also Nigerians as other States and the preservation of our lives and property should equally matter to the Federal Government.
91.However, we wish to assure our people that we will continue to prioritize the provision of security and do our possible best within our constitutional powers and resources to safeguard lives and property across our State
92.Accordingly, we will make Rivers State too hot for criminals and bandits and deal ruthlessly with any person, gang or group, including traditional rulers and landlords who directly or indirectly participate, aid, abet, provide safe havens or allow criminal activities in homes, premises and territories under their control.
93.We will also partner with the judiciary to ensure swift dispensation of criminal justice as well as work with stakeholders to operationalize the Neighbourhood Security Watch Scheme to support the security agencies so that we can all live and enjoy the State, raise our children and do our businesses in peace and security.
94.Ladies and gentlemen, 52 years ago, our founding fathers dreamt about Rivers State and its greatness; a State brimming in prosperity; at peace with itself and its neighbours; a State everyone would be proud off for its underlying achievements and values.
95.We’ve spent the last four years working on this vision with demonstrable capacity and commitment to make Rivers State as great as it could become and for everyone to share in its successes.
96.We believe that no success is more fulfilling and worth sustaining than keeping faith with the hopes and aspirations of the people who freely gave us their trust to govern in their behalf and change their material conditions for the better.
97.For us, Rivers State was created for a purpose and the confidence in its future is what continues to motivate us. And having renewed our mandate therefore, we cannot but concede to your yearnings that we deliver greater progress for the State in the next four years.
98.We’ve heard you loud and clear. All that we can say at this point is to assure you that we are fully ready and determined to deliver four more years of meaningful progress and hope for our State and our people.
99.But, we must also not forget that it won’t be as easy. As a State, we are not immune to the inherent challenges bedeviling our dysfunctional federal system: the ravaging insecurity everywhere; declining revenues, low economic growth, double-digit inflation rate, high cost of living, lack of basic infrastructure and public services, high unemployment, as well as inequality of wealth, income and opportunities.
100.This being so, it cannot be gainsaid that our progress is to extent dependent on how quickly the Federal government resolves these challenges and improves the national economy.
101.But whatever the challenges may be, we remain undaunted to solving the only problem that continues to confront us as a people: the Rivers problem.
101.I had often said that Rivers State is ours to build and no one can be interested in its progress more than us. No one can care more about the future of our youths or the education and health of our children, and our security than us.
102.Therefore, wherever we are; whatever office we hold and whatever action we take, we must make Rivers State the center, the measure, the reason and the motivation.
103.For us, everyone counts and we must not allow ourselves to be divided between upland and riverine considerations but strive for common grounds, solidarity and work together towards achieving our common goals and aspirations.
104.Our refrain at this time, and especially in the face of the social and economic uncertainties in our nation, should be: ask what you can do for Rivers State instead of what Rivers State can do for you.
105.The future of our State depends on us. It is up to us to renew, re-energize, and advance the Rivers dream, to fight for what belongs to us, and to defend our right to exist in freedom, security and peace in our own nation.
106. And if we do cooperate, think and act among ourselves with tenacity and unity of strength, purpose and commitment, then there is no mountain we cannot level; no river we cannot cross, and no goal we set for ourselves that we cannot achieve.
107.We are not in opposition to the Federal Government and we seek their partnership to move Rivers State and Nigeria forward.
108. But we are not a conquered people and we will never surrender our freedoms to any body or entity, whether internal or external.
109. We will therefore not accept to be subjugated to a headmaster and pupil power relationship; neither will we abandon the collective interest of Rivers State for the sake of political expediency.
110.We are for the rule of law, democracy and mutual respect as autonomous State entities and co-building blocks of the Nigerian federation.
111.And so, for us, in all things it is Rivers State first; Rivers State is the measure; Rivers State before others. This is the essence of the political mandate and burden that we will bear for the next four years and we will not disappoint you.
112.We will continue to stand up for Rivers State and defend her interest, no matter the challenges or what comes at us.
113. We do not claim to have the solutions to all the problems that we face as a State and as a people. But we will never surrender our core values and standards and our commitment to do to what is right, necessary and appropriate for our State.
114.We believe that working together, as one, remains the better and stronger path to accelerate and ensure enduring progress for our State.
115.And so we promise open doors and open minds as we get down to work with all stakeholders, including the legislature, the judiciary, leaders of the State, traditional rulers, local government chairmen, social interest groups and the opposition to deliver on our mandate and move us forward.
116.We all need each other because everyone counts. We need ideas and contributions from everyone, irrespective of ethnic, party or religious affiliations and together, we can consolidate, target new heights and build the Rivers State that we all want to see now and in the future.
117.We may be from different social, economic or political background, but the bottom-line is that we are all Rivers people with common aspirations and challenges and when we reflect on our shared values and responsibility to the State and our people, we will discover that we all stand to win by repudiating the politics of division, hatred and self-interest that constitute a drag on our collective progress.
118.Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot let this glorious moment to end without thanking all those who made this historic day possible in our lifetime.
119.Again, let me thank the good people of Rivers State, especially the voters, for your trust and for your support as we discharge our responsibilities for the next four years.
120. Let me recognize and thank the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus, the Rivers State Chairman, Felix Obuah, and all other leaders of our party at both national and State levels for your continued support and encouragement.
121.I wish to also recognize and give special thanks to our leaders, especially our former Governors, Dr. Peter Odili, and Sir Celestine Omehia, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, Chief Sergeant Awuse, Prince Emma Anyanwu, Rt. Hon Austin Opara, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Mr. Frank Owhor, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Senator Lee Maeba, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, Chief Azubuike Nmerukini, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, OCJ Okocha, SAN, as well as all my former Commissioners, Special Advisers, Special Assistants and Security Aides for your support and services to the State over the last four years. I look forward to working with you to advance our State for the next four years.
122.Last but not the least are the members of the clergy, our hard working women and energetic youths for your prayers, devotion and commitment to our collective struggles to defend the rights of our people to freely choose their leaders.
123.Finally, I stand here today with a humble spirit, conscious of the enormous responsibility that you have again entrusted in us and confident in our potential and with God on our side, we will surely discharge our mandate to the benefit of all and leave our dear Rivers State better off than when we started four years ago.
124.Thank you. God bless you all. And may God bless our dear Rivers State.