By Simeon Nwakaudu
Many are wont to forget the horrible condition that Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike inherited Rivers State from his predecessor. With the stability and great governance taking place, they quickly disregard the extent of work that has been done over the last four years.
There is nobody that is more eminently qualified to summarise the sorry state of Rivers State as at May 29, 2015 than the Former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi himself. He spoke to his supporters before he unceremoniously left office.
At the Obi Wali Cultural Centre on May 27, 2015, Amaechi declared: "I'm not joking, we have no money anywhere. In Rivers State, no money. I think Nyesom Wike is coming, we are waiting. He will look for money for salary; there is none. But when he pays out salary, we will whether they can build the schools, the roads, even to get a loan. "
Truly, the Former Rivers State Governor wasn't joking. He left four months of salary arrears and three months of unpaid pensions.
But contrary to his prediction of doom, Governor Wike revived Rivers State. He paid the arrears, re-established the development process and set the economy on the path of growth.
It is no wonder that under Governor Wike, Rivers State continues to get the accolades despite the attempts by the powers that to derail the state.
The 2019 fiscal sustainability index ranking of a civic technology organisation, BudgIT is out. Rivers State is ranked number two on the list. In other words, the economy of Rivers State is vibrant, working and the state can sustain itself.
For instance, the June 2018 Monthly Salaries were paid without the release of Federal Allocation. At the time, states and the Federal Ministry of Finance had disagreements over figures, leading to the delay.
After paying, Governor Wike said that his administration was able to pay the salaries of civil servants in June 2018 despite the absence of any release from the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee as a result of its careful financial engineering.
“Our business is to pay workers' salaries, do projects and develop the state. We reasoned; do we because FAAC has not been released, fail to pay workers' salaries?
“We had to do some financial engineering to accommodate workers' salaries, while projects are still going on. We came to serve and there are no excuses,” he said.
According to BudgIT's Research Lead, Orji Uche: “The BudgIT data, which takes into consideration the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Value Added Tax (VAT) and 13 per cent oil derivation going to oil-producing states, found that Lagos is the only state that is able to spend about half of its IGR on recurrent expenditure at 0.48 per cent. Rivers and Akwa Ibom are 0.73 per cent and 0.91 per cent, respectively.
“The implication of looking into this index is to understand that without broad Federal allocation, how many states can sustain themselves; by sustaining themselves we mean looking into their recurrent expenditure – being able to meet operating obligations, pay salaries etc. This way, anything coming from the Federal allocations will be going into investments – human capital, key sectors etc.
“Only Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom can do this."
The economic growth and stability in Rivers State is a product of sound financial engineering. Under the leadership of Governor Wike, fiscal responsibility and prudence have been elevated. The outcome is the economic development in the state.
Through sustained infrastructural development, economic empowerment programmes, sound administrative framework, elimination of multiple taxation and improvement of security, Rivers State is on the right track. It is now the envy of all states.
The economic revolution that has taken place in Rivers State is no fluke. It is the outcome of the right policies and an implementation framework designed to ensure growth, empowerment of the people and security of investments.
The 'Rivers First' drive of Governor Wike has awakened the consciousness of the people, engineering the inflow of investments and projects by privileged Rivers Indigenes. For the Governor, all efforts have been targeted at the growth of the state, with the collective interest of the people as the centrepiece of his actions.
The economic stability of Rivers State has led to major foreign and local investments like Grenville LNG, Next Shopping Mall, Turkish Airlines Flights, new Alcon Nigeria Limited Low Voltage Panels Assembly Plant, Expansion at Indorama, Train 7 of NLNG and many more.
Flagging off the construction of Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed captured the core of Governor Wike's Development Agenda.
He said: "I find it very auspicious because of the recognition to be with the people's governor, a working governor and somebody who has raised the bar in governance. It is very satisfying. All the projects and programmes of Governor Wike are touching the communities. He has deepened community relations.
"He has the courage more than all of us as governors to say it the way it should be done. Whatever is being done is not for Governor Wike. It is to leave legacies. He has created the required cash flow and is deploying resources as it should be. The second thing that I am borrowing from Wike is stake holding. You can see His Excellency, the Former Governor and other leaders. They are always with him."
The economy of Rivers State can only get stronger. Governor Wike is introducing mega projects that will ensure that the system is energised to empower the people. According to Governor Wike, he works as if he is doing his first term. This is an assurance that the next four years will witness massive economic growth.