Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has attributed the dwindling fortunes of the internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state to the rising insecurity in the State.
He said the insecurity came at a time when desperate politicians resorted to power play at the National level ahead of the 2015 elections and the recent influx of political thugs and miscreants that were chased out of the state when he assumed office in 2007.
Amaechi who disclosed this Tuesday when officers and students of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Plateau State paid him a courtesy visit in Port Harcourt, explained that the prevalent insecurity in the state, hampered companies to operate outside Port Harcourt, which negatively affected the state internally generated revenue that would have hit ten billion naira monthly.
According to him, “if not for the insecurity in the state, and if all companies that were here before had remained to operate their business, we would have generated up to N10billion.
“Like you know, most of the companies ran to Lagos and some of them came to Port Harcourt, and later also ran back. Things were improving before now with the Army, Police and the State Security Service (SSS), which enabled us to arrest the insecurity in the state.
“But, recently, because of the power play at the National level ahead of the 2015 election, the security of the state had degenerated badly, that one is wondering whether we should not differentiate between politics of election and politics of leadership. Because, it is also important for you to know the economic interest of the people, and our private interest too”, Amaechi said.
Continuing, he said, “So now, people are being kidnapped like in recent times, some of my colleagues in Government, like a lawyer I met this morning, he was kidnapped and kept for eight (8) days, but he was just released on Friday.
“You are also aware of the Bishop that was kidnapped, but, these issues were not there after I assumed office in 2007. But, because of the election, the Abuja front, has released all the people we chased away out of Port Harcourt back into the state again.
“Now you have young men carrying arms like soldiers to picture what is used to be in 2006 and 2007, because at that time, soldiers were being killed. When we came to power, we took over the situation…
“Even at that, we don’t expect those whose duty it is to protect us and serve the people to be the same people who will bring them back to create INSECURITY. This has also impacted on our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) outside the oil theft and has emboldened those doing oil theft”, Amaechi stated.
Governor Amaechi also described the reckless disregard for the protection of lives and property in the state by men of the police force as a serious lacuna as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
“You are aware of the running battle between the Rivers State Government and the Police. We used to have a strong relationship with all security agents, including our Security Council meetings every month. Now, we don’t have any of the meetings at all. Because, they say, they are taking instructions from Abuja.
“But, you have a state in Nigeria that is helpless in terms of security whose citizens are not protected just because of the 2015 elections. If they tell you that is not true, I will certainly give you names of those who have been kidnapped.”
“But, I can recall that, when I took over office in 2007, if there is a case of kidnap, within a short time of say two days, we have rescued that person because, we have security equipments that can locate you and get you out, and the Military and the Police were ready to co-operate.
“It may interest you to also know that if I call the commissioner of police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, he will say, Governor apply, it is ridiculous. When some high ranking police officers come here and they hear it, they get very angry. But, before they get out of here, they will be ordered to come back to Abuja…”he said.
Governor Amaechi also told the officers and students of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College how his administration worked out feasible modalities that suddenly increased the state Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N2.5 billion to N6 billion monthly shortly after he assumed office in 2007 without introducing new taxes.
He said: “The other thing we did was to work on our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) when we came in 2007. It was N2.5 billion, but now it is N6 billion monthly. It is not enough, we need to drive it up to N8 billion.
“So, we can pay our monthly recurrent expenditure. We did not introduce new taxes, all we did was to block the avenues that people used to steal our money. So, there was no sharing of the state venue into private pockets. We reduced corruption, and that is why we are able to save more money for our people”, Amaechi explained.
He said that with the development in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) his administration have been able to work towards improving the living standard of Rivers people and also engage in the diversification of the state economy.
“When we took over power in 2007, we came to the conclusion that oil is not in the hands of the Rivers people, so, we need to run a different economy that we can give back to our people.
“We decided to diversify the economy to what we called the education economy. We felt we should reform the Education Sector, and we felt, we needed to do an overhaul of the Primary Education System.
“At this time, Primary Education by law or the Constitution is the responsibility of the local government councils. We realized that we could not have made any progress in education if we don’t have the basics,
“I so, we went into partnership with the local government councils, who were willing to handover the primary education system to the Rivers State Government. We took over the salaries of teachers which was up to N2 billion per month.
“For the local government councils, they save N2 billion to pay the teachers monthly. We decided also to build new schools and demolished old ones. Teachers were poorly trained and we got the British council involved to train our teachers.
“We have so far completed about 300 of the Model Primary Schools. 100 are under construction, while about 200 are near completion, but our target is 750, but we have financial problems now.
“The Federal Government said, it is oil theft, but whether it is oil theft or not, the effect has affected our oil revenue, and it has depreciated so badly, sometimes, our IGR aides us to do social projects, you will be opportune to see those social projects if they take you round”, Amaechi stated.
On Power, Amaechi said, the Afam Power Station generates about 545 Megawatts of power, and that his administration is currently constructing one more to make it 715 megawatts of power.
On Health, Governor Amaechi stated that his administration has built over 140 Primary Health Centres that would address the health needs of Rivers people.
On his part, the Team Leader of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Plateau State, Brigadier-General Gboloham Oyefesobi said, students of the college were in the state to have first hand information on the socio-economic projects, including other security challenges in order to find or produce workable solutions, as it would expose the students to the reality happening in Rivers State.