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In June, 2021, Nigeria’s Federal Government announced plans to concession four airports for 20-30 years. The airports include the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Malam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano, and Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt.
Penultimate Wednesday, the government announced the emergence of preferred and reserve bidders for three out of four airport and cargo terminals as approved for concession after the Request for Proposals (RFP) phase of the Nigeria Airports Concession Programme (NACP). Only Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA) did not receive any proposals and as such has not had preferred and reserve bidders attached to it.
There is no doubt that the rejection of the airport by the bidders is connected to its poor infrastructure status, impeding it from properly operating as an international airport. Stakeholders in the aviation industry have been calling for the closure of the airport over safety concerns. Currently, there is lack of critical infrastructure on the runway, which makes landing at the airport very difficult, especially at night.
The number of serious incidents and accidents that had occurred at the airport over the years made it somewhat unsafe for flying. The runway lacks critical facilities, including Instrument Landing System (ILS), which guides aircraft to land, low-level wind shear indicators, which notifies the weather conditions, lack of comprehensive marking of the runway and taxiway. The absence of these facilities hamper safe airline operation.
Disappointingly, these facilities have been in poor state over the years and regrettably contributed to loss of lives and equipment in the past accidents and incidents that had taken place at the airport. There is every need for the rehabilitation of the critical facilities and equipment that will enhance safe air operations to instil confidence in passengers and users of the airfield.
Most of the accidents that happened at the airport were identical and preventable if the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other aviation agencies had performed their duties creditably. It is important to know how often the calibration exercise of flying equipment, especially at the Port Harcourt airport, is effected. Such exercise ought to be carried out every six months.
The stretch of road from the domestic wing to the international wing which goes further into the airport communities has turned into not only an eyesore but a source of threat to passengers and other users. This seems to make a mess of the glittering facilities of the airport. Users have continued to express apprehension over the intimidating darkness that envelops the area at night, with attendant attacks by hoodlums and other criminal elements.
Even though it is designated a federal infrastructure, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, offered to rescue the entire ageing road from the Port Harcourt–Owerri highway to the international airport at Omagwa. Governor Wike also pledged that the state government would make critical interventions at the airport to improve the international acceptance of the facility by building a VIP lounge. That promise was fulfilled recently.
A few years ago, the Port Harcourt airport was listed third worst airport in the world. This poor ranking, which gave the country bad press, can hardly be blamed on foreign media prejudice. Anyone familiar with the airport will easily concur with the dismal rating, especially when compared to the experience at airports in some other parts of the world. Additionally, aggressive corruption is the biggest problem, with airport officials and staff demanding bribes for pretty much everything.
Recall that the Federal Government embarked on an ambitious project of constructing five new international terminals at the nation’s five international airports including Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu during the tenure of the then Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah. The deplorable state of our airports, then, prompted the launch of the Airport Re-modeling and Rehabilitation programme in 2012. The work stopped at 30 per cent stage in Port Harcourt.
The airport is poorly maintained and inefficiently run. The air conditioners at the arrival and departure halls often fail to work. The toilets are sometimes either locked up, without running water or unserviceable. The conveyor belts function intermittently, sometimes leaving passengers waiting for long before they can collect their luggage. With those objective deficiencies, how can anyone honestly bid for this airport?
Our aviation authorities and the Federal Government have to wake up and address these challenges. With a bushy and dirty environment, the Port Harcourt airport gives the nation a bad image, and the earlier the authorities wake up to the sad reality, the better for the country. It is sad that Rivers State always gets unfair treatment from the federal, despite its economic significance to the nation.
The lack of proposals for the Port Harcourt airport is worrisome and therefore unacceptable. The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, must act immediately to remedy this embarrassing situation. Sirika should put the next stage of the programme, which is negotiations and due diligence, on hold and quickly consult the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) on the issue. Efforts must be made by the authorities to upgrade the airport and qualify it for bidding.
2023: Need For Sustained Governance
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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s admonition to the newly sworn-in Commissioners in the state to recommit themselves to the tasks assigned to them to achieve desired results is apt. The governor spoke while addressing 18 new commissioners during their swearing-in ceremony at the Executive Council Chambers of Government House, Port Harcourt, Wednesday, last week.
Governor Wike observed that because some members of the State Executive Council did not appreciate the enormity of the task given to them, they took to sycophancy while abandoning their duties. “This is the last lap of our administration. We have only seven months to end the tenure of this administration. It is very important for you to understand that you have to double your efforts to make sure that what we have started will be completed.”
This is a timely call as already, many public officeholders at the federal, state, and local government levels have altogether abandoned governance or service delivery and plunged headlong into politicking ahead of the 2023 election cycle. The governor’s clarion call to his new commissioners should trickle down to all strata of government, particularly the federal, while other state governors should follow suit in their respective jurisdictions.
The charge raises several questions concerning governance in the country, especially viewing the many unfinished and abandoned plans and projects. With the onset of the party primaries and later political campaigns, it became apparent that the pace of activities in some ministries, departments, and agencies had slowed, and political officeholders should focus on their immediate responsibilities.
At a time when public confidence in governance in the nation is waning because of the government’s inability to meet its commitments and other reasonable expectations, continued attention is required to the execution of policies and programmes to achieve service delivery goals. Governor Wike specifically emphasised the need for a proper handover to the succeeding administration to be done early and charged the new and old members of his cabinet to ensure the quick conclusion of their reports.
It is unsurprising that despite intense electioneering towards next year’s general election, governance in Rivers has not waned as the governor has been executing and commissioning projects in the state. This is a rare feat that has enhanced the governor’s profile. For this reason, he has continued to receive accolades for his unprecedented achievements in the delivery of impactful projects with candour in the face of glaring challenges.
Rather than quit governance in the short time left, political officeholders including President Muhammadu Buhari can redeem part of their battered image by correcting their misgoverning and the wrongs they have committed against Nigerians and possibly completing several projects as their heritages. This should be devoid of chicanery or false declarations of completion.
Curiously enough, Buhari also recognised the imperatives of sustainable governance regardless of the ongoing campaigns for the 2023 general election. He charged his ministers, permanent secretaries, and heads of government agencies to refrain from abandoning their primary assignments for political campaigns ahead of the 2023 general elections. He accentuated that despite the campaigns, the business of governance must continue to receive the necessary engagement.
But the President should see through his many promises in 2015 and 2019 to improve the fortunes of Nigerians. For example, the administration virtually abandoned the privatisation it promised in its over seven years in office. It can initiate the process before leaving the office. Buhari’s pledge to improve power supply through the Power Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, and to raise power generation to 25,000 megawatts in partnership with Germany’s Siemens AG has remained unfulfilled.
The Federal Government’s report card on the four refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna is scandalous. Since taking office in 2015, it has wasted N1.3 trillion on moribund refineries. But being in oblivion, the country spends billions of dollars importing refined products and trillions of naira to subsidise the price of imported petrol. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) said Buhari has so far spent 6.88 trillion naira on subsidies and is on the way to raising it to 10.97 trillion naira.
Many governors are guilty of practically abandoning their official duties to pursue re-election or Senate seats. They must ensure that the business of government continues to receive the needed attention, notwithstanding that the nation has entered the peak period of electioneering campaigns. Guaranteeing that government business remains on course is crucial at this point because of the implication a properly arranged performance has for the transition to another administration.
Governance suffers when governors and other political office holders in the country abdicate their responsibilities for transition politics. It is irresponsible that some states at the centre of insecurity still find time to shine on the national stage while their people are murdered in droves. Those who play the role of political “kingmakers” participate in endless meetings and negotiations outside their bases.
From 1999 to the present, democratic practice in Nigeria has barely lived up to its commitments, whether in terms of representation, popular participation, people-centred planning, distribution and use of resources, security of life and property, or the preservation of fundamental freedoms and liberties. Politicians despise the people and their concerns. This mindset should change. The people themselves should hold public officials accountable through legitimate civic activism and pressure groups.
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When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike confidently proclaimed that the Rivers State Government would undertake a massive construction of infrastructure, particularly the flyover projects at the Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway in addition to the then three ongoing flyovers at Rumuogba, Okoro-nu-Odo, Rebisi and also expand the Rumuola flyover, professional howlers and opponents went to town with their usual never-ending criticisms.
One of the key commitments Wike made to Rivers people when he assumed office on May 29, 2015, was to embark on a fully comprehensive urban renewal and fulfil the long-held desire of indigenes and residents of the local government areas to be connected to the rest of the state through asphalt roads and solid bridges. Seven years plus into his tenure, the urban renewal programme in the capital city and indeed the interconnectivity across the state are remarkable interventions.
Since he took up office, Governor Wike has been widely celebrated for his infrastructural revolution, which has seen him impacting all facets of development. With giant strides in road construction and rehabilitation, the building of unprecedented 12 flyovers in the state, healthcare infrastructure; education, sports, and agriculture, among others, Wike is fondly called ‘Mr Projects’ by many Nigerians. And he has vowed not to rest on his oars until his last day in office.
In recognition of the governor’s outstanding performances that have set a useful benchmark, the Presidency recently nominated him for the Distinguished Award in Infrastructure Delivery at the forthcoming Nigeria Excellence in Public Service Award slated for October 21, 2022, in Abuja. The proposed award is a direct confirmation of the tremendous leadership of the governor. The hard-working Rivers’ governor, who is no stranger to the receipt of awards and accolades from far and near, recommitted himself to the service of the state in the following words:
“The only way we can show gratitude to the people for the confidence reposed in us by the people is to continue to serve them with all our hearts and might. I will continue to commission projects until the last day. We can’t stop. We were elected to serve the people. We will continue to offer quality services to our people. Even our worst critics will agree that we have delivered excellently on our campaign promises. By God’s grace we will finish strong and our incoming governor, Siminlalayi Fubara, will continue in our legacy of quality service to our people.”
We commend President Muhammadu Buhari for readily recognising Wike’s unprecedented contributions to the development of Rivers State through the provision of quality infrastructure. Buhari has demonstrated uncommon political maturity for inclining towards the Rivers State Chief Executive for the award among other governors in the country, despite coming from an opposition party. This speaks volumes about the visionary leadership the governor has delivered for his people.
The Tide congratulates Governor Wike on making Rivers State proud! During his administration, Port Harcourt has been transformed into one of the fastest growing cities in Nigeria. Hence,  we must go on to support him and his good work that continues to provide democratic dividends until his last day in office. Wike has brought Rivers State from the depths of murkiness to the great spotlight in national affairs. The governor’s nomination for the award will eternally remain a piece of cheering news to all Rivers’ sons and daughters.
Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, had nicknamed Wike, ‘Mr Projects’ at the Government House, Port Harcourt, after inspecting the various projects executed by the governor. His visit was part of the Federal Government’s measure to interact with leaders of the oil-rich region aimed at finding a lasting solution to the crisis in the area. During the state dinner organised in his honour by the state government, Osinbajo said he was impressed by the various project sites he visited.
Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, renamed his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, ‘Mr Quality Projects’. Makinde had cause to rebaptise him during the inauguration of the Emuoha campus of the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt. Makinde was Wike’s guest of honour, with both being allies, especially in their Peoples Democratic Party battles. He said Wike had been so productive that he deserved to move from being called ‘Mr Projects’ to ‘Mr Quality Projects’. Such is the impeccable character of the governor.
The true masters in any endeavour do not care for the limelight. They merely accomplish their task and move on. This is just as true in the Rivers State of today. The mysteries of Governor Nyesom Wike’s last four years in office are being unravelled one after the other, and his people are not holding back their acclaims. The present-day set of Nigerian governors is past understanding. Each has been rechristened with a sobriquet that fits his accomplishments. But Wike has one of the best of these titles, and for an exceptionally good reason.
Analysts have concluded that Wike is on the list of the top five governors in Nigeria and likely the first three in the history of Rivers State governors. No other Rivers governor has paid as much attention to grassroots development as he has. No other has managed to balance the nearly boundless resources of the state with the truly boundless demands of the people, culminating in a crescendo of satisfactory sighs.
Projects executed by the governor in these last four years perfectly encompass all aspects of the Rivers’ economy: development of basic and social infrastructure, education, tourism, transport, agriculture, you name it. What’s more, he has unclasped the weight of unfinished projects from the neck of Rivers people, and the projects that have changed positions from abandoned to finished are there for all to see.
Wike is a man known for his dedication to the fulfilment of his promises. He has worked very hard and achieved so much with far fewer resources. He has provided first-class socio-economic infrastructure and kept the state and businesses safe and secure, despite the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 and the attempts to frustrate and create diversionary situations. Indeed, the administration has remained firm and focused on this progressive trajectory. We can only hope that his successor will add better momentum to the development of the state.
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On 23 October 2022, the United States (U.S.) Embassy in Nigeria released an advisory to alert U.S. nationals in the country of possible terrorist attacks in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), particularly at government buildings, places of worship and schools, among other ultrasensitive targets.
The authorities of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) High Commission in Nigeria corroborated the threat alert. Following this warning, the U.K. High Commission in Abuja, a traditional beehive of activities for those seeking travel visas, has been left completely desolate while Australia, Ireland, and Canada reduced services and would only attend to critical needs.
Another warning reportedly came from the Irish government through its mission. It said: “Government buildings, shopping malls, hotels, bars, large gatherings, international organisations, transportation facilities, schools, markets, places of worship, and law enforcement institutions, among other things, could be targets”. As a result of these terror alerts, there is an unusual feeling of dread and apprehension among some FCT residents.
Terrorism is one of the world’s greatest security challenges. Predicting it is a vital part of the effort to counter it. Terrorist violence has worsened in Nigeria recently. The latest Global Terrorist Index ranks Nigeria as the sixth most terrorised country in the world. Abuja has been targeted for terrorist attacks severally, including the tragic 2011 Police Headquarters and United Nations Building incidents.
However, in a swift response to these terror alerts, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Nigeria would not be stampeded by whatever any government decided to tell its people living in Abuja and parts of the country. He said the government had in the last few months taken a firm handle on security, urging citizens not to incite panic.
This is an unfortunate outburst. The Nigerian government is obviously downplaying the latest threat. Although it has called for calm, claiming to be doing something about the alarm. Perhaps the administration did so because it thought it needed to assert itself politically. No country likes to let a foreign entity define its national security situation. Even then, the government should take the terror alerts seriously, and adopt effective measures to protect citizens.
Even with assurances by the federal authorities, Nigerians are deeply sceptical about the capacity of the security agencies to protect them. For the U.S. to authorise the departure of some of its citizens indicates that the foreboding must be very gloomy. It is generally believed that since Abuja is the seat of power, it should be the most secured place in the country. That may be a drunken farce. The Kuje jailbreak shattered that myth and the faith of most residents.
The terror warnings are strategic intelligence that must be carefully processed and acted on to avert mortal danger. In intelligence science and practice, even a rumour matters. So, whether the basis of the terror alert is real or not, and regardless of the legitimacy or otherwise of its sources, the ultimate concern of the Nigerian government should be to put pragmatic measures in place to prevent any threat from occurring.
Unimaginably, despite the astronomic increase in our security budget and procurement of equipment to aid the intelligence network, it took the U.S. to expose plans by terrorists to attack our nation’s capital. This is an indictment of Nigeria’s security and the government. President Muhammadu Buhari must place a major premium on strengthening our intelligence-gathering capacity to end terrorists’ activities in the country.
Intelligence-gathering must not be seen as solely a task for law enforcement agencies. It is an undertaking that must involve every citizen and each community. The primary advantage that the government should have over insurgents is in intelligence collection; the ability to expertly assemble the pieces of various puzzles to be able to progressively contain and limit terrorism.
Also, the Federal Government should tighten security around critical infrastructure, and soft targets like schools and public places. These assets are so vital that the incapacity or destruction of any may have a debilitating impact on security, economy, health, safety, education, food and agriculture, environment, transportation, etc. Infrastructure is very crucial to the continued existence of any nation.
It is not just Abuja that the Federal Government has to protect. Every state in the federation should be shielded from terrorists. Armed insurgents could strike with little or no warning and target any state outside the Federal Capital Territory. Analysts have warned that insecurity could worsen as political parties campaign in the states for next year’s general election.
Given the nation’s insecure outlook, the states and the Federal Government should instil confidence in Nigerians in their ability to protect them. To this end, the country’s armed forces must provide the needed strategy to safeguard every Nigerian. To achieve this, emphasis must be put on the significance of the synergy between the military and other security agencies.
Fleeing inmates of Kuje Medium Security Correctional Centre remain a threat to national security. The security agencies have to act swiftly to rearrest them. Their recapture has gone beyond the correctional service. It is now left with the gallant members of the armed forces, other security agencies and intelligence operatives to comb the country thoroughly in search of them.
There is a real fear of danger across the land, notwithstanding the improvised arrangements citizens make to protect themselves. All the police and the government offer the public are lame excuses. And, viewed from Section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution, which says: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” the pervasive security breaches expose Nigeria as a failing state.
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