The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is adamant about his newfound pastime of spending his capital votes – building new flyovers and expanding older ones.
“It has never happened in the history of this country,” Wike bragged to members of the state executive committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP that visited him at Government House during the week. “Within one year, a state government will construct five flyovers projects at the same time.”
Wike had come under criticism for expending so much money building new flyovers when government retirees were not getting their monthly pension, civil servants were not being promoted to new salary grade levels and those promoted before he came into office were not getting the arrears of their new salary levels.
Since October 2019, the Rivers State government has committed the sum of N40 billion to the construction of five flyovers, the latest being the expansion of the flyover at Rumuola Junction on the Port Harcourt – Aba expressway.
His critics have also disapproved of the way he has restricted infrastructure development to Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, the two local government areas that make up the state capital.
Ogbonna Nwuke, the spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, is even more worried that Wike usually awarded the contracts before getting approvals from the House of Assembly, which is vested with the power to approve such projects.
“We express our opposition to the use of a whooping sum of N18 billion on the construction of a flyover and road expansion project in Port Harcourt.
“That kind of money can be used judiciously in developing cottage industries and creating jobs, which would engage our youths and strengthen the economy. Roads leading to most of our Local Government Areas have completely packed up. They require to be fixed in order to end the misery of the people.
“We have persistently maintained that some of the projects being executed by the Rivers State Government have not been properly backed by the power of appropriation. In order words, that some of the policies and programmes on which scarce funds belonging to taxpayers have been spent by Governor Nyesom Wike and his administration, were never part of the budget.
The governor was also criticized last year when he gave marching orders to German construction giants, Julius Berger PLC to construct three flyovers in Port Harcourt for N21 billion.
“Julius Berger or John Thomas or what do they call you? This is a project of my life. The three flyovers in Port Harcourt must be completed at the stated dates. I don’t want to hear that it is raining, so we cannot work. Now look outside, it is raining now and I am paying you in the rain o! N21 billion is not small money,” he had told representatives of the construction company at Government House.
While awarding the contract for the second set of flyovers at Elimgbu Link Raod/ GRA junction, the governor said he would not be deterred by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“So many people ask us where we get money for the projects during this COVID-19 pandemic. I tell them if God is with you, you will not have any problem. God has given us the opportunity at this point in time and he will not abandon us.
“We will be executing projects and also continue to fight to make sure our people are safe. We will provide basic infrastructure for our people and also improve the economy of our State. We cannot give excuses but we will continue to do our best,” he stated.
Two of the bridges are due to be completed in December, while a third will be handed over to the government in February next year. The GRA flyover and the Rumuola expansion are due to be ready in 12 months.
In the meantime, motorists and commuters have to endure the serious traffic created by work on the flyover bridges.