As the state celebrates its golden jubilee, Governor Wike outlines his vision for a future that aims to consolidate the gains of the past and make up for lost opportunities
While unveiling the Golden Jubilee logo, Governor Nyesom Wike captured the essence of the Rivers at 50 celebrations, saying: “Over the past 50 years, we have travelled quite a marvellous journey. We have made significant progress, no doubt, but we have also made mistakes and lost valuable opportunities. However, this Golden Jubilee inspires a new direction to build a prosperous state we can all be proud of. This is the spirit of the new vision.”
As a state possessing the second largest economy in the country after Lagos and with plenty of prospects for further expansion, there was a great deal to not only celebrate but also to look forward to, he added.
One of the high points of the Rivers State Golden Jubilee Celebration has been the launch of the 50-year strategic economic and social development plan for the state that aims to consolidate the gains of the different programmes and projects implemented by successive administrations.
Its framework has been approved by the State Executive Council and a committee has been established to drive the process forward with a series of public meetings at which all stakeholders will have the opportunity to make a contribution.
During his speech the governor also talked about the Golden Jubilee Projects his administration was planning. He said: “The state government is set to execute a number of landmark projects throughout the year to commemorate the Golden Jubilee, advance the promise of economic independence and improve access to public services as we set forth on new pathways to create an unimaginable future of peace, unity and prosperity for our state.”
The government has already commissioned a number of projects spread across the three senatorial districts of the state.
A mini-investment summit, titled Corporate Rivers, also forms part of the Rivers at 50 celebrations and will bring together development and economic experts and other stakeholders under the umbrella of the New Rivers Vision Development Blueprint.
Meanwhile, Governor Wike is pressing ahead with the promise he made on his election two years ago of a new beginning for the state. Despite its oil and gas-based economy, the capital Port Harcourt and its environs have never enjoyed a functional public water supply. That is about to change with the conclusion of the preliminary process for the Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project, a joint venture between the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Rivers State government, which will construct a water supply network across the capital and the Obio and Akpor local government areas. Since last year, project management consultants Rambol Environ of Denmark have been laying down the groundwork and training critical technical personnel.
The governor is also aware that the state’s development agencies need to be reinvigorated. They include the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency, Rivers State Micro-finance Agency , Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, the Housing and Property Development Authority, and Rivers State Agricultural Development Programme. It is agreed that they all have to go beyond politics if they are able to cope with the challenges of the next 50 years, extending their frontiers to make way for new investment opportunities offered by international donor and development agencies.
Governor Wike added: “Even as we are all excited by this milestone, we must also not forget that the Golden Jubilee presents both opportunity and challenge; an opportunity to celebrate our proud heritage and the challenge to harness our vast resources to fully realise our potential to be the best in Nigeria and secure enduring progress and wellbeing for our people.”
Vice-President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, reflects that the legacy of the Biafran War should be the quest for the country’s lasting unity
I was 10-years-old when my friend in primary school, Emeka, left school for good one day. He said his parents said they had to go back to East, war was about to start. I never saw Emeka again. My Auntie Bunmi was married to a gentleman from Enugu and I recall the evening when my parents tried to persuade her and her husband not to leave for the East. She did and we never saw her again.
I recall distinctly how in 1967, passing in front of my home on Ikorodu road almost every hour were trucks carrying passengers and furniture in an endless stream heading east. Many Igbos who left various parts of Nigeria, left friends, families and businesses, schools and jobs. Like my friend and aunty some never returned. Many died.
The reasons for this tragic separation of brothers and sisters were deep and profound. So much has been said and written already about the whys and wherefores that analyses will probably never end.
This is why I would rather not spend this few minutes on whether there was or was not sufficient justification for secession and the war that followed. The issue is whether the terrible suffering, massive loss of lives, of hopes and fortunes of so many can ever be justified.
As we reflect on this event today, we must ask ourselves the same question that many who have fought or been victims in civil wars, wars between brothers and sisters ask in moments of reflection: What if we had spent all the resources, time and sacrifice we put into the war, into trying to forge unity? What if we had decided not to seek to avenge a wrong done to us? What if we had chosen to overcome evil with good?
The truth is that the spilling of blood in disputes is hardly ever worth the losses. Of the fallouts of bitter wars is the anger that can so easily be rekindled by those who for good or ill want to resuscitate the fire. Today some are suggesting that we must go back to the ethnic nationalities from which Nigeria was formed.
They say that secession is the answer to the charges of marginalisation. They argue that separation from the Nigerian state will ultimately result in successful smaller states. They argue eloquently, I might add, that Nigeria is a colonial contraption that cannot endure.
This is also the sum and substance of the agitation for Biafra. The campaign is often bitter and vitriolic, and has sometimes degenerated into fatal violence. Permit me to differ and to suggest that we’re greater together than apart.
No country is perfect; around the world we have seen and continue to see expressions of intra-national discontent. Indeed, not many Nigerians seem to know that the oft-quoted line about Nigeria being a “mere geographical expression” originally applied to Italy. It was the German statesman Klemens von Metternich who dismissively summed up Italy as a mere geographical expression exactly a century before Nigeria came into being as a country. From Spain to Belgium to the UK and even the US, you will find many today who will venture to make similar arguments about their countries. But they have remained together.
The truth is that many, if not most nations of the world, are made up of different peoples and cultures and beliefs and religions, who find themselves thrown together by circumstance. Nations are indeed made up of many nations. The most successful nations are those who do not fall into the lure of secession, but who through thick and thin forge unity in diversity.
Nigeria is no different; we are, not three, but more like 300 or so ethnic groups within the same geographical space, presented with a great opportunity to combine all our strengths into a nation that is truly more than the sum of its parts.
Let me say that there is a solid body of research that shows that groups that score high on diversity turn out to be more innovative than less diverse ones. There’s also research showing that companies that place a premium on creating diverse workplaces do better financially than those who do not. This applies to countries just as much as it does to companies. The US is a great example, bringing together an impressively diverse cast of people together to consistently accomplish world-conquering economic, military and scientific feats.
It is possible in Nigeria as well. Instead of trying to flee into the lazy comfort of homogeneity every time we’re faced with the frustrations of living together, the more beneficial way for us individually and collectively is actually to apply the effort and the patience to understand one another and to progressively aspire to create one nation bound in freedom, in peace and in unity.
That, in a sense, should be the Nigerian Dream – the enthusiasm to create a country that provides reasons for its citizens to believe in it, a country that does not discriminate or marginalise in any way. We are not there yet, but I believe we have a strong chance to advance in that direction. But that will not happen if we allow our frustrations and grievances to transmute into hatred. It will not happen if we see the media as platforms for the propagation of hateful and divisive rhetoric. No one stands to benefit from a stance like that; we will all emerge as losers.
Clearly our strength is in our diversity, that we are greater together than apart. Imagine for a moment that an enterprising young man from Aba had to apply for a visa to travel to Kano to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, or that a young woman from Abeokuta had to fill immigration forms and await a verdict in order to attend her best friend’s wedding in Umuahia. Nigeria would be a much less colourful, much less interesting space, were that the case. Our frustrations with some who speak a different dialect or belong to a different religion must not drive us to forget many of the same tribe and faith of our adversaries who have shown true affection for us.
Let me make it clear that I fully believe that Nigerians should exercise to the fullest extent the right to discuss or debate the terms of our existence. Debate and disagreement are fundamental aspects of democracy. We recognise and acknowledge that necessity. And this event is along those lines – an opportunity not merely to commemorate the past, but also to dissect and debate it. Let’s ask ourselves tough questions about the path that has led us here, and how we might transform yesterday’s actions into tomorrow’s wisdom.
Indeed our argument is not and will never be that we should ‘forget the past’, or ‘let bygones be bygones’, as some have suggested. Chinua Achebe repeatedly reminded us of the Igbo saying that a man who cannot tell where the rain began to beat him cannot know where he dried his body. If we lose the past, we will inevitably lose the opportunity to make the best of the present and the future.
In an interview years ago, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, explaining why he didn’t think a second Biafran War should happen, said: “We should have learnt from that first one, otherwise the deaths would have been to no avail; it would all have been in vain.”
We should also be careful that we do not focus exclusively on the narratives of division, at the expense of the uplifting and inspiring ones. The same social media that has come under much censure for its propensity to propagate division, has also allowed multitudes of young Nigerians to see more of the sights and sounds of their country than ever before.
And for every young Nigerian who sees the internet as an avenue for spewing ethnic hatred, there is another young Nigerian who is falling in love or doing business across ethnic and cultural lines; a young Nigerian who looks back on his or her NYSC [National Youth Service Corps] year in unfamiliar territory as one of the valued highlights of their lifetime. These stories need to be told as well. They are the stories that remind us that the journey to nationhood is not an event but a process, filled as with life itself with experiences some bitter, some sweet. The most remarkable attribute of that process is that a succeeding generation does not need to bear the prejudices and failures of the past.
Every new generation can take a different and more ennobling route than its predecessors. But the greatest responsibility today lies on the leadership of our country.
The promise of our constitution which we have sworn to uphold is that we would ensure a secure, and safe environment for our people to live, and work in peace, that we would provide just and fair institutions of justice. That we would not permit or encourage discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, beliefs or other parochial considerations. That we would build a nation where no one is oppressed and none is left behind.
These are the standards to which we must hold our leadership. We must not permit our leaders the easy but dangerous rhetoric of blaming our social and economic conditions on our coming together. It is their duty to give us a vision a pathway to make our unity in diversity even more perfect.q
This is an edited version of the keynote address given by Yemi Osinbajo at the Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja in May on behalf of the Ford foundation and the Open Society initiative West Africa under the heading, ‘Memory and Nation Building - Biafra: 50 years after’
Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals plant in Port Harcourt is a privatisation success story and boon to the economy
By 2005, the Eleme Petrochemicals plant in Port Harcourt owned by the state oil giant, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was almost acquiring the toga of a white elephant. The near moribund state of the plant was a disservice to its capability. Built by a consortium of some of the world’s best contractors from Japan, Italy and France, at enormous foreign exchange cost, the complex includes an olefins plant using technology licensed by MW Kellog of America, a polyethylene plant from Nova Chemicals of Canada and a polypropylene plant licensed by Basell of Italy. Sitting on 400 acres of land, it also has a captive power plant, utilities, effluent treatment plant storage tanks, bagging area and warehouses. The Nigerian government had intended to achieve self sufficiency in petrochemicals to provide the raw materials for sundry industries. However, poor facilities maintenance and political interference which led to indefensible management changes literally brought the plant to its knees.
The Olusegun Obasanjo government decided the only way to stop the petrochemicals complex from going the way of the four refineries owned by NNPC was to privatise the plant. After a competitive bidding process, Indorama, an Indonesian chemicals conglomerate, emerged the core investor with a 65 per cent stake (the Nigerian government still owns 15 per cent, the Rivers State government, 10 per cent, the host community of Eleme, 7.5 per cent and the workers, 2.5 per cent.) Indorama took over the company by May 2006.
Fast forward eleven years later and the company, now renamed Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited (IEPL) is an uncommon success story of Nigeria’s privatization exercise. It is also one of the industrial icons in Rivers State, the hub of Nigeria’s oil economy.
Immediately it took over the company, Indorama carried out a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) and restarted the plant five months later. Within the first five years, it invested $575 million to get the plant to operate at 100 per cent capacity producing ethylene, polyethylene and polypropylene. The company also added a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plant to produce the raw materials needed by the plastic bottling companies.
Indorama went beyond what it met on ground to launch an ambitious expansion programme. Its success story had spread like wild fire in the African harmattan so it had no difficulty in getting stakeholders, from the Nigerian government to international lending agencies, to buy into its vision to make Nigeria the petrochemicals and fertilizer hub of Africa by the year 2020. To achieve this, Indorama would invest $4.2 billion in the complex by that date.
The core of the expansion programme was the building of the largest single urea plant in the world with a capacity for 1. 5 million metric tonnes of fertilizer a year. The project also includes a jetty at nearby Onne port and an 83 kilometre gas pipeline to supply the feedstock. Work started in 2013 and was completed within 36 months. The project cost of $1.5 billion was financed through equity and loans in a 1:2 ratio. It is a testimonial to the success of the company that those who lined up to finance the plant included the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Africa Export Import Bank (AFREXIM), the Bank of India and two Nigerian banks (Standard Chartered and Stanbic IBTC). Carsten Mueller, senior manager at IFC said the lender was wooed by Indorama’s pedigree in massive largescale manufacturing and its commitment to Nigeria’s development.
The completion of the plant has made Nigeria self sufficient in fertilizer production. Apart from supplying the granular urea directly to farmers nationwide, the company also supplies urea to 11 blending plants that produce NPK fertilizer. More than 90 trucks (made carrying 600 bags each) transport the urea daily to different parts of the country.
Manish Mundra, the managing director of Indorama Nigeria says the plant has enabled the company meet the needs of farmers all across the country. During a recent visit to the company, the minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and minister of state, Heineken Lokpobri, said Indorama was helping the government reach its goal of greater food security in the country.
As much as 70 per cent of the plant’s output is exported to countries in Europe, Asia, US and other African countries. As Amit Lohia, Group Managing Director of Indorama predicted in 2013, the fertilizer plant has made ‘Africa stand out in the agricultural landscape’.
Indorama has recorded many milestones in its vision of building Africa's largest petrochemicals and fertiliser hub. Currently, it operates at 100 per cent capacity, thereby fully meeting the needs of the country's plastics and fertiliser industries. Various Nigerian government agencies like the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and the Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC) have lauded Indorama's transformation of the plant. Before Indorama's arrival, Nigeria's plastics industry had been hit by both the lack of raw materials domestically and the cost of having to import them. Companies had to keep inventory of up to six months to sustain continuous production. The company’s operations have seen to the revival of the sector and a growth of more than 300 per cent in the past 10 years.
‘Since 2006, IEPL has been supplying highly needed petrochemicals – polyethylene, polypropylene and PET (also called polymer resins), of different grades and variants to over 450 Nigerian companies’, says Mundra. ‘These companies use Indorama resins to manufacture items such as water tanks; automobile dashboards, bumpers and fenders; helmets, waste disposal bins, carpets, artificial hairs, containers for healthcare products, bottles for water and beverages, plastic chairs and tables, sacks, shopping bags, industrial pipes, bread wrappers and other packaging products used in the beverage, bottling, pharmaceuticals, paints, textiles and allied industries.’
RMRDC agrees. The agency says Indorama is the live wire of 450 companies in plastics, pharmaceutials, foam, bottling, breverages, paints and breweries. As a patriotic duty, the company meets local demands for its petrochemical products before consideration of export orders despite the financial rewards of the latter.
Indorama's presence has had a multiplier effect on the economy, not least the number of jobs it has created. Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals and its sister companies employ more than 3,000 Nigerians, while around 4,700 more work in the value chain in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and the capital Abuja. It has also had a positive impact on its six host communities in Rivers State, comprising Akpajo Njuru/Akpakpan, Okerewa, Aleto, Agbonchia and Elelenwo. When it comes to its corporate social responsibility commitments, the company has an impressive track record. According to Kendrick Oluka, Indorama's community relations and development chief, since 2012 it has awarded more than N14bn to the six communities, as well executing a number of projects, including the construction of 12 classrooms, a library, laboratory and sick-bay at the Community Secondary School in Aleto. It has also awarded scholarships to poor students from the six communities and beyond. Meanwhile, it has renovated Eleme General Hospital, donated medical equipment worth more than N80m, installed 33KVA power sub-station at Akpajo as part of its rural electrification programme, and built a police station at Elelenwo. When Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State, assumed office in 2015, one of his priority attentions was how to fix the dilapidated Eleme-Onne Federal Highway which was a commercial route to the country's Onne Sea Port, Indorama Petrochemicals and NNPC’s refinery. Indorama provided N530m in counterpart funds to fix the road. Also, in November 2016, as part of its contribution to the training of armed forces personnel, the company made a donation of solid high quality table seats to the Nigeria Navy Basic Training School, Onne.
While on a tour of Indorama facilities in November 2016, Ben Murray Bruce, the chair of the Senate Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation, said: ‘We have gone round to see most of the privatised enterprises and Indorama is the success story, especially in providing base raw materials for Nigerian industries and fertilisers for Nigerian farmers, as well as paying huge tax revenue of over N1bn to the government in the last 10 years.’ The company has also paid dividend shares to both the federal and Rivers State governments, who own 15 and 10 percent shares, respectively.
Wike holds up Indorama as a model enterprise in Rivers State. During a visit to the plant, he called on other investors to emulate Indorama by investing in the state. “Rivers State is safe for investors’, he added. In recognition of Indorama’s contribution to the Rivers State economy, Mundra was conferred with the Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS) to mark its golden jubilee celebrations.
BPE says Indorama achievements at Eleme include attracting the highest foreign direct investment in the downstream non oil and gas sector, conversion of dead assets through world class technical support and the commitment to build the largest petrochemical hub in Africa. Vincent Akpotaire, the immediate past director general of the agency says the take over of Eleme Petrochemicals by Indorama is one of the success stories of the government’s privatisation programme. Almost everyone agrees.
DSP Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State who died last October, was a powerful politician caught up in the intrigues of the Nigerian political theatre. Moffat Ekoriko pens his portrait
TWO INCIDENTS best epitomise the personality of Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria, who is being laid to rest this month. In 2003, he faced a gruelling fight for the gubernatorial ticket of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). So intense was the fight that he was the last sitting PDP governor to be handed a ticket by the party. His opponent was Ndutimi Alaibe, a young professional banker. To contest alongside him, Alaibe had to resign from his post as the executive director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Alaibe did not get the ticket and needed to go back to his post. There was a snag: He could only do this if the governor of his home state (Alamieyeseigha) recommended him to the president. Alamieyeseigha asked that the letter be prepared. Before appending his signature, he called his closest political aides. Every man in the room, still smarting from a near loss to the young ambitious Alaibe, advised him not to sign the recommendation. Alamieyeseigha, with his characteristic sage mien, asked: “Who would we send there that would serve the interest of this state like him? This is not about me, it is about the Ijaw nation. I am signing it.” With that, he appended his long flowing signature to the document. Alaibe not only returned to NDDC, he later became the managing director of the intervention agency.
In 2005, Alamieyeseigha was arrested in London on his way back from surgery in the Germany. The case against him was charged to court and he could not return to work in Nigeria. Because he did not expect to be away, he did not send a letter to the state House of Assembly to make his deputy, a certain Goodluck Jonathan, the acting governor pending his return.
The House of Assembly could pass a resolution to that effect but there was a snag.
Some members of his camp were not too sure of the loyalty of the deputy. They suspected (rightly or wrongly) that he was undermining their resolute support for the governor. They came up with a smart idea: to impeach the deputy governor so the speaker could take over as acting governor and hold forte till Alamieyeseigha returns. They called him in London to intimate him of the plans. Alamieyeseigha said, no. In his words, “It would deepen the political crisis in the state. Bayelsa is bigger than me.” The Assembly had no option but to appoint Jonathan the acting governor. Jonathan went on to become the governor of Bayelsa State, the vice president ofNigeria and for more than five years, the president ofNigeria, the first person from the minority groups in Nigeria to hold such a position.
These incidents paint the picture of a man who saw his mission in life as that of service to his people. The personal interests of Alamieyeseigha did not matter. What counted was the interest of the Ijaw nation and by extension, the people of the Niger Delta. This is not surprising given his early experience. He was a teenager when Isaac Adaka Boro, the Ijaw freedom fighter, joined the Nigerian Army to fight against the Biafran secessionists. His closeness to him influenced his passion and willingness to die for his people’s freedom.
His foray into politics was defined and driven by that passion. Immediately he won the governorship, he set about creating a political construct of a pan-Ijaw nation.
At the time Alamieyeseigha took over as the first civilian governor of Bayelsa State in 1999, he met a state high on expectation but short on development. There was only one road, a single lane 20km stretch linking Yenagoa, the state capital, to Rivers State. It had no hospital, hotel or water supply service.
Alamieyeseigha went to work and by the time he finished his first term in 2003, there was a dual carriageway, main roads, government offices, a modem water transport system and state-owned enterprises.
Alamieyesiegha was not done. He contested for a second term. A grateful population did not hesitate in returning him to office for he was more than a politician.
In politics, he demonstrated enormous courage. He was never afraid to speak his mind or stand up for the rights of his people. He was one of the known apostles of resource control (the political fight for more economic rights for the oil-producing Niger Delta).
His fight for more rights for the oil producing Niger Delta, earned him the wrath of the powers that be in Abuja. That wrath saw him removed from office in an orchestrated plot where he was arrested in London on charges of corruption despite his diplomatic immunity. On return to Nigeria, he was later forced out of office through an induced impeachment. He was to spend three years in detention before pleading guilty to charges of corruption. The then government of Musa Yar’Adua released him from detention as part of the deal for him to plead guilty.
Despite his travails, Alamieyeseigha, a former high-flying member of the Nigerian Air Force, bore no ill will against his foes. When he was released from prison, he risked his life to tour the then violent creeks of the Niger Delta to convince the militants to lay down their arms and accept the amnesty offered by the Federal Government. As a result of his services to his fatherland, he was granted state pardon in 2013.
Diepreye Solomon Peter (DSP) Alamieyeseigha was born November 16, 1952 in Amassoma. He was the former governor of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. He died on October 10, 2015