River State Commissioner for information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, in this interview, speaks on the programmes and activities of the state governor, Nyesom Wike, even as he explained why the governor has refused to intervene and fix the worsening Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.
You are new in the ministry of information as commissioner. What would you say you met here, how was the ministry when you got here. I’m asking because a time there was when you want to climb to the ministry and the lifts were not working, no light, people were not able to come to the office . So how was it like when you arrived here?
(Laughs) you should know that I grew from the ranks here. So, I’m not a new comer to the ministry. I’ve been part of this place since 1999.
Well, because before you came there was a commissioner that will always tell you, no light, I’m not in the office, no light we cannot print this, so?
(Cut in) Well, if that happened, it was in the past, you can see that there is light now (laughs).
Let’s talk about what the governor is doing. A lot of road projects are going on in many places but there are also parts of the state that have not felt the impact of the government. For example Oyigbo, the people have always asked ‘what sin did we commit?’
No, that’s not true. Oyigbo people visited the governor a few weeks ago. He has promised to fix the road and also build them a health centre. You know the governor is a people’s governor and is not easy to carry all the projects at the same time. I can assure you that he is a man that keeps his promises. He has promised to fix the road and then you just watch out.
Even the road that takes you to Oyigbo itself, that’s the Aba road. So how come that section of the road, he’s not doing anything?
Well, the federal government said nobody should touch their road. Until you have permission you can’t touch their road. You need to follow the trend, if federal government says don’t work on our road until you get approval, you need to follow so that you don’t put your money in a wrong direction. If you have followed the developmental stride of His Excellency, you will notice that the key road networks in this state are working now. I took somebody through Odili road to Akpajo the other day and he couldn’t believe that he was going to Akpajo without following Woji and Elelenwo. So, If there is one thing this present administration has done very well, it is infrastructure, as it has to do with roads. So, the challenges is Federal Government said don’t touch our road. You will recall that there was a time, from oil mill junction up on to Akpajo, was very bad, was impassable. It was the governor who ensured that that section of the road was given a face- lift before the policy that don’t touch our road.
Okay, so is it the same policy that is affecting the Trans-Kalabari road?
No, Trans- Kalabari is not a federal project, it’s a state project.
So how come the government has not…?
(Cuts in) Kalabari people visited the governor and he has promised that work will soon start. It’s not only on Trans-Kalabari, there is another road in Kalabari that is linking to a major Kalabari community, Telma Eforko road project too outside Trans- Kalabari that the governor has agreed to start in that Kalabari area. So it’s not abandoned.
Let’s talk about the Ikoku four. People have criticized the governor, he has not said one statement about the Ikoku four. Why?
I am not commenting on that.
Wike still has like three years, what are we expecting in the next three years?
Well, if you are a close watcher of his administration, he has said his second term will be like first term; he has a blue print for the development of Rivers State as captured in a new vision. He is not a man that just came on the seat. Before he came to be governor, he had articulated a blue print for this state and I will like to crave your indulgence to share with you, these are the priorities as contained in his new vision and it is for you to judge- open, accountable and inclusive government, security of lives and properties, administration of justice, education, health care delivery, agriculture, road, drainage and transport, housing, energy, job creation, women empowerment, youth development, sports, tourism, environmental project, urban and rural development, social welfare services- these are the things that this administration has enunciated, and if you are a close watcher of this administration, you will see that progressively these things are going on and impacting the lives of people.
From what you have said, provision of amenities is one of them, maybe you did not break them down but let’s look at water, I can’t remember the last time the people of this state had to go to their tap to draw water.
(Cut in) I will not comment on that because I don’t have a proper brief from the water resources ministry.
Do we have that ministry at all?
Yes, there is a ministry of water resources
Okay, so what are they doing?
I don’t have full information on their activities for now.
Amaechi did so many schools, built quite a lot of schools and he was reputed to have invested so much in education, but the accusation is that wike has abandoned those schools?
Abandoned? I don’t understand what you mean by abandoned.
He is not paying attention to them. Education in the state, there are still some places where children sit on the floor and then even the ones Amaechi built they are beginning to wear out?
That’s not correct. If you are following the trend of the development in this state, you will notice strategic approach to education here. If you know the former government girls secondary school, Rumuokwuta is now looking like a polytechnic, the same thing with BMGS, Bori, the same thing is happening at Ahoada, same thing is happening at Okrika, same thing is happening at Ogu, and you will also notice that the state university now has a medical school, the BMSH is now a teaching hospital and we have, though Pamo University is privately owned, government is giving scholarship to 100 Rivers students annually there to pursue courses in medicine and nursing. As we are here now, in this state, JAMB is free, WAEC is free and within the last four years, Rivers State has maintained a consistent position between second and fourth position in WAEC result. That shows consistency in policy programme. So when people talk about education and we have the indices to show that there is something radically different from what has happened here in the past.
So how do you reconcile that with the fact that some schools especially in the rural areas the children sit on bare floor to learn?
I don’t think that is actually very true, I don’t think so because through the UBE, a lot of infrastructural development is going on. I don’t have the statistics now but so much is going on in terms of renovation, equipping of basic schools. You know the basic schools are primary up to junior secondary, so much is going on but I will encourage you to take a trip to universal basic education(UBE) board, you will get the statistics of what has happened so far especially in the rural areas.
And then still on education issues, under Amaechi there was the RSSDA. It is dead now.
I won’t like to comment on that because the governor made a policy statement as he came on board concerning that. I won’t like to comment on that.
Okay, let’s talk about this tasks force people
Tasks force on illegal street trading?
Yes, they are becoming a nuisance. What is government doing about it. They beat up people, throw people’s property…?
(Cuts in) What is happening is something that just started, there are going to be some teething problems. Government is working on them, some who have been caught misbehaving have been shown the way out and there is a lot of monitoring that is going on now, we are not where we are supposed to be with the task force, that I can tell you as a Rivers man. But that that taskforce has brought a lot of sanity along our streets and the government is prepared to build on that. A lot of orientation is going on and getting the people to really imbibe the whole essence of the work they are doing. Yea, in every organization you find some bad eggs and those bad eggs are being dealt with.
Have you noticed that night life in Port Harcourt is gradually going down?
Night life, going down in Port Harcourt?
Yes, maybe because of insecurity, cases of kidnapping?
That’s not true, that’s not true. Since the launch of operation sting, crime rate has dropped in Rivers State, that’s if you are staying here.
Operation sting they are stinging people and committing all kinds of havoc?
I’m not competent to comment on that. I am not part of the security architecture but what I can say is that since the launch of operation sting because of the kind of massive investment that was made, crime rate has drastically reduced compared to what it used to be. I have talked with a lot of Port Harcourt residents, and they say to me that this last Christmas, the New year, they couldn’t understand why the state was so calm and peaceful. You live in Port Harcourt, you know the truth, that’s true, even the thing is that a lot of people just want to demarket the state, crime statistics in the country, we are not even number five, check it out. You can see that everything about Rivers State is blown out of proportion.
What does the government think about regional police?
I am not competent to comment on that, how can I comment on that?
But do you believe in state police?
I am not competent to discuss that, I’m not a security man.
Now, tell me what you think Rivers people do not know about Wike and his government?
Well, I don’t think there’s any Rivers man who does not know that governor Wike is detribalised, that governor Wike is a people’s leader, that governor Wike is here to serve Rivers people and he has said it repeatedly that as a patriot, he will continue to defend the interest of Rivers people. That is the governor that we have, a man that God has brought on the scene at this time in history to give Rivers State a new image in terms of leadership and development.
Are we seeing that new image yet?
It’s all over there. That’s why this is a new vision, a new Rivers vision; you can see it all over the place.
Can we talk about power issues in Rivers State, There used to be a Rivers State owned turbine that supplies…..?
(Cuts in) I am not competent to discuss that power issue; you are in Rivers State you know what happened.
But I’m not in government so I don’t.
(Cut in) You know. You are a news man (laughs), you are a news man, there is nothing about power issues that you don’t know.