My dear people of Rivers State
As the clock ticks down and as we look forward to ushering-in the New Year 2022, this is the time to give thanks to the Almighty God for his blessings and the opportunity to look into the future with greater hope and optimism.
On behalf of my wife and the Government, let me thank all Rivers State citizens in particular, and Nigerians in general, for your continued love and support to our administration throughout the year 2021.
Indeed, we cannot thank you enough for the trust, the solidarity, the cooperation and above all, your prayers for the success of our government and the peace and progress of our State.
We also thank the police, the department of state security, the armed forces and the para military services for working round the clock to make and keep our dear State peaceful, safe and secure, not only in this festive season but throughout the outgoing year.
Indeed, there is no denying the fact that crime and criminality have been at very low rates in Rivers State and citizens felt safer and more secure in 2021 than the previous years.
With the cooperation of the security agencies we identified and destroyed most of the shanties that hitherto served as safe havens and hideouts for criminals, who have now been dislodged and dislocated from the State having lost the space and capacity from which they could operate with ease.
To consolidate on the gains of the dislodgement and dislocation exercises, and make the State even safer and more secure, we have decided to demolish all shanties and makeshift structures in identified crime hotspots in Port Harcourt Township and the Illabuchi areas of Diobu from the second week of January 2022.
Those rebuilding the shanties we had demolished at Eleme or attempting to resume illegal trading activities at the closed Oginigba slaughter have one week to vacate or be arrested and charged to court.
Additionally, we have discovered that most vacant plots or uncompleted buildings in the Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRA) and some other parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas have been hijacked and are now inhabited by criminal elements who are daily constituting menace to public safety.
We have therefore decided to end this danger by taking over all such abandoned plots and uncompleted buildings and re-allocate them to citizens who are ready to develop and put them into effective occupancy.
In a similar vein, we have revoked the certificates of occupancy of several undeveloped plots of land in old GRA, Port Harcourt, for breaching the covenants attached thereto, which we would also re-allocate to interested members of the public for immediate development as part of the ongoing efforts to restore the entire old GRA to its pristine state of development, beauty and serenity.
We will also not spare those contributing to the perennial flooding challenge in parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by blocking natural water and drainage channels with illegal landfilling, reclamation of wetlands or the construction of concrete structures.
Consequently, we shall recover and restore all landfilled or reclaimed wetlands and demolish all structures erected on natural water channels spanning from the Eastern bypass areas up to Abana and Eleme streets in Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Only those with genuine government permits and allocation papers will be duly compensated.
Again, it is important to appreciate what we have done to successfully transform our capital city, Port Harcourt, to one of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria with well-paved streets, pedestrian walkways, dual carriage roads and flyovers.
However, the beauty of the city is being defaced by illegal and indiscriminate trading on our streets, under flyovers and other unauthorized open spaces as well as the challenges with the current largely inefficient refuse disposal system.
I wish to therefore remind citizens that the ban on street trading and commuting on motor cycles in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas is still in force.
Consequently, I hereby direct the task force on Illegal street trading to arrest and prosecute all those:
(i) shuttling with their motorcycles and or hawking foreign exchange along Birabi street, Hotel Presidential, GRA junction by Zenith Bank up to Tombia street; and
(ii) trading on, under and around the Rumuola junction and flyover; Rumuogba junction and flyover; as well as Rumuokoro junction and flyover.
Security personnel abetting illegal Street trading by collecting bribes and offering protection to street vendors are advised to desist forthwith or they would equally be made to face the wrath of the law.
Furthermore, we have decided to end the menace of cart-pushers who have become notorious for indiscriminate scavenging and littering of wastes on street corners and the medians of major roads and highways across the State.
These cart pushers and their unknown collaborators are also responsible for the recurring stealing of manhole covers, an act which endangers peoples’ lives and public safety on our roads.
Consequently, the State Government has placed an immediate ban on the activities of cart pushers and directs law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to violate this ban.
In addition, a taskforce would be put in place to enforce this ban while we plead with the courts in the interest of public safety and security to impose the severest of punishment under the law on any convicted manhole vandal.
The indiscriminate and prolonged packing of trailers and other articulated vehicles along our streets is another environmental menace we must tackle to bring sanity to our cities and living environment.
Consequently, I hereby direct the Chairmen of Port Harcourt, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo Local Government Councils to within three weeks from today impound and or remove any trailer, trucks or articulated vehicle that is packed on the streets beyond 48 hours in their respective administrative jurisdictions.
As we all know, achieving effective environmental sanitation in cities and urban centres is a global challenge, and ours is not an exception.
As we all know, achieving effective environmental sanitation in cities and urban centres is a global challenge, and ours is not an exception.
However, we are determined to improve on our refuse disposal system by reviewing, overhauling and strengthening the legal, institutional and economic framework for a more effective delivery of sanitation services to residents.
I urge that you bear with us for a while and things will certainly change for the better in our refuse disposal system.
As an initial step towards achieving this objective, we have placed an immediate ban on the disposal of refuse on the streets or open spaces in both the old and new GRAs of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
Every household in both old and new GRAS must therefore procure and keep approved refuse disposal bins in the front of their houses to facilitate the door-to-door collection of the wastes they generate by designated contractors.
We will not hesitate to revoke the certificate of occupancy of any house in these areas without a refuse disposal bin or whose occupants are caught disposing refuse on the streets or open spaces.
We have also banned the posting of advert materials of any kind, including posters, fliers, pictures, artworks, placards or inscriptions on or under our flyovers, bridges, concrete walls and the safety barricades along the roads.
We will establish environmental marshals to enforce compliance with our sanitation laws, including this ban, by arresting and prosecuting both the person who places the advert and the person and institution on whose behalf it is placed.
Fellow citizens, we also have reason to be concerned about the operations and socially harmful activities of nightclubs within residential areas of our State.
Apart from the noise and traffic nuisances suffered by innocent residents, no responsible government should continue to tolerate the open display and solicitation of sexual services, drug abuse and public intoxication that takes place along the streets and public areas abutting some of these nightclubs, lounges and bars by the youths, some, as young as under 14 years.
Consequently, the State Government has placed an immediate ban on all nightclub activities, including night-time trading and street prostitution along Abacha road and surrounding streets to stop the harmful effect of these depraved activities on the moral development of our children and society at large.
Let me also reiterate that we are as overly concerned as the public over the black soot environmental disaster that has continued to envelope Port Harcourt and upsetting residents for quite some time.
As a State Government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated.
We have equally appealed without success to our people engaging in this illegal business to consider its negative effects on our economy, environment, public safety and public health and disengage from it.
We will continue to engage and plead with the Federal Government to intervene and save our people from this serious environmental and health emergency.
However, since the federal security agencies have largely refused to stop the illegal crude oil refining activities in the State, we have no option than to take necessary measures to tackle this particular and direct challenge to our collective health and survival by ourselves.
Consequently, I have directed the Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council to go after all the illegal crude oil refining sites along Creek road and adjourning areas of the city and shut them down with immediate effect.
Furthermore, all Local Government Chairmen are directed to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities and report to my office for further action.
Once again, we express our sympathies to the victims of the recent fire incidences in the State, especially those who lost loved ones and valuable property.
As a government we will continue to do our best to strengthen the State Fire Service to effectively intervene to mitigate the damage during fire incidents.
However, members of the public also have the responsibility to do the right thing to prevent or avoid some of these fire incidents from happening and those who deliberately bury fuel and gas tanks in residential areas are certainly not doing the right thing, and should therefore relocate their precarious businesses to more convenient and less risky places.
We wish to also express our concern over the poor compliance with the existing Covid-19 protocols by citizens and the effect on the transmission of the disease in the State.
Believe it or not, Covid-19 is a reality that has already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and disrupted economic activities across the world.
Here in Rivers State the transmission of the virus continues to surge daily and we all need to act together to stop the diseases from further ravaging our State.
We therefore appeal to all residents to make themselves available for testing and vaccination whether it is for your first, second or booster jab in addition to observing the existing preventive protocols, including social distancing and wearing of face masks to reduce the level of transmission.
Let me also remind all government recognized traditional rulers that they are, at all times, subject to the authority and directives of the State Government and not to other allegiances, culture or otherwise.
Therefore, the consistent absence of some first class traditional rulers, especially the Amayanabo of Okrika, the Amayanabo of Ogu, the Amayanabo of Kalabari and the Gbenemene Nyo-Khana from participating in State functions is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
Should they therefore continue to absent themselves from State functions or in the regular meetings and activities of the State Traditional Rulers Council, we would have no option than to direct their immediate replacement.
Finally, as the New Year 2022 inevitably beckons, we wish to assure you that we will continue to do our best to meet the aspirations of our citizens for a more peaceful, safe and secure society throughout the Year 2022.
We will continue to pursue our objectives for a stronger and more sustainable economy centred on fiscal discipline, revenue growth, job creation, and improved standard of living for all residents.
We will continue to accelerate our development with the sustainable delivery of quality roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other socio-economic infrastructure and complete all ongoing development projects across the State.
I wish to, once again, thank our leaders, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, party chieftains, our women, our youths and the press for the warmth and support we have received throughout 2021.
We wish to specially thank our religious leaders for their prayers for peace and progress as well as for their continuous support to our Government in the primary task of building the Rivers State of our collective dream.
We remain grateful to God for the unprecedented peace, security and transformational strides the State is enjoying under our administration.
But we must also be vigilant because our enemies, especially, members of the opposition, are not happy with the prevailing peace, security and the unprecedented achievements we have recorded; and are therefore determined to cause crisis and disturb our peace and joy if they have the opportunity.
Let us therefore prayerfully continue to place our dear State and everyone in the safe and protective Hands of God Almighty through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wish each and every one a happy and prosperous New Year!
May God continue to bless our dear Rivers State.
A STATEWIDE BROADCAST BY HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR NYESOM WIKE TO MARK THE 2022 NEW YEAR