The Little-known Truth About Commerce & Industry In Rivers State

By Odimegwu Onwumere

It is very bad for an adult to be beating a child and ask him not to cry. The problem affecting commerce and industry was everywhere in the 36 Nigerian states, but most pronounced is in the Rivers State because of the tumultuous atmosphere Rivers State has experienced in the Nigerian state because of the Niger Delta debacle that has lasted since, till date. Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, was once known for its livelier “night life” and numerous businesses encompassing everywhere in the state before the approach of militancy and kidnapping threw in the towel that a lot of investors and would-be investors closed shops. This has left a lot of people lost their jobs and a lot become jobless, without any singular hope of any job opportunity in the state and indeed, in the whole of Niger Delta region. People gape. Alas, the only hope many people had was when to bury any of their wards that might die in the midst of affluence, due to hardship and lack of wherewithal for the sustainability of running a family.

But the emergence of Prince Ogbonna Nwuke as the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, after he was relieved of being the Commissioner of Information in Rivers State, without doubt, the state is fast recovering its lost investors and doomed businesses. Recently, Nwuke said that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in the state will produce a blueprint to serve as guide to investors in the state. This, he divulged in Port Harcourt, when officials of the Bayelsa/Rivers branch of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) visited him.

In his own word, Nwuke said, "Government is planning to make Rivers investor's destination. First, government is tackling the poor power supply problem in partnership with the PHCN. Government is also handling the complaint of multiple taxation through a fiscal responsibility bill as well as the problem of insecurity. All these are intended to provide good working environment for businesses". The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Rivers State was not receiving the mayhem that affected business in Port Harcourt with a glass of wine in the hand. MAN was faced with multiple problems ranging from the first instances the commissioner had given to the last instance. But business, as it concerns Commerce and Industry in Rivers State, may not come to full fruition as the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State is making people to believe if some terms are not fully put into consideration. They are as follows:

According to Edward R. Murrow (American Journalist, 1908-1965), “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.” So, towards ending business mirage in Rivers State there should be in totality sincerity in all facets of public offices as they concern business and employment. Sincerity is a vital tool for enhancement, especially towards achieving development and the enhancement of work and workforce in every clime. A state is not developed when its investments and governance are run on the pages of the newspapers. The lingering underdevelopment and poverty in Rivers State can not be attributable to bad leadership or bad governance. No. Issues that afflict the state for years since creation in 1967 was based on insincerity: from the military dictators to the civilian dictators. It is on record that the Rivers State leaders in the past, like its sister states in Nigeria, enjoyed next-of- kin prosperity which led to bad leadership and governance to the governed. The people had no thanks to the existence of diversified economies because there were less or no revolving or revolutionary approach around agriculture and solid minerals sectors respectively, as it concerned the empowerment of the people. Poverty was very widespread as the generality of Rivers residents then lived and are living a grossly painful life and almost all basic needs were/are not within reach.

Social Services:

A German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in 1749-1832, were it who said, “What is uttered from the heart alone, will win the hearts of others to your own.” This is also based on SINCERITY. The Rivers State Government should be bent on producing other basic manufactured needs that would be affordable from proceeds generated from farm and small scale business, if there is any. And these may be called commerce incomes. Social services such as education and healthcare, which Governor Amaechi is trying to provide, should be made accessible at completion to a great majority of the people in Rivers State irrespective of creed and state of origin, both in the urban and rural areas. And the office holders and the people should be upright, hardworking and trusted by each other. The office holders themselves should be fair-minded in treatment of their followers. There should be leadership of not management and distribution of communal resources but also transparency in the conduct and manner of governance, by example. This is a norm rather than the immunity. The Immunity of office holders was exactly what the Rivers people suffered in the hand of their office holders, not in the opposite direction of corruption and killings in (1999-2007) in Nigeria. The period of 1999-2007 witnessed inglorious years of plentiful time wasting in oil windfalls allocations, embezzlements and looting sprees ever witnessed in the history of governance in Rivers State. Today, the global economic and financial crises are telling on the poor residents who did not initiate the recession in the economic dwindling, but the rich leaders. This is telling on all Rivers economic and social health because of the overdependence and over reliance on looting the public money and being not hardworking for Rivers own financial, economic and social health progress.

Budgetary Revenues:

According to a Publius Cornelius Tacitus, “Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth; when perfect sincerity is expected, perfect freedom must be allowed; nor has anyone who is apt to be angry when he hears the truth any cause to wonder that he does not hear it”. Rivers State, without doubt, is regarded as mechanically a very feeble state. This is occasioned by Nigeria, with a malfunctioning democracy, tainted the fabrics of righteousness with eyeservice, with less mindservice. Rivers State may not be viewed and regarded as a very corrupt state in Nigeria, but it can be viewed as a heavily over dependent state in Nigeria without exportation but on importation of almost all its basic modern domestically and industrially manufactured goods and services. Then, this brings to the fore, what and what do the state government budget for annually? This dependence is exposing Rivers State to all sorts of haziness of terms of external trade and exchange that are unfavourable to it, with a state of near conventional-war in the troubled Niger Delta.

According to Benjamin Disraeli (British Prime Minister and Novelist. 1804-1881), “One of the hardest things in this world is to admit you are wrong. And nothing is more helpful in resolving a situation than its frank admission.” The conclusion here is not the conclusion of the many problems besetting the Rivers State present government and the business development. Apart from the increase in many developmental policies of the Governor Amaechi-led government, there is still the problem of availability, especially in the local government areas of the state which is greatly affecting the PLANNING. Imagine where less or no repaired road exists in the 23 LGAs of Rivers State. The Federal Government to repair the state refinery is very hard to do so that they can function. If the Federal Government can't help the state and the state helping itself, how can the FG hear and work in the light of the call of Nwuke recently when officials of Ports and Terminal Operations of Nigeria (PTOL) visited him. Nwuke urged the federal government to investigate the diversion of vessels conveying goods meant for the Nigerian markets to neighbouring countries. Nwuke reportedly said that as a government, Rivers State is worried that ports facilities in this part (southern part) of the country are underutilized. Rivers State Government is worried that when Lagos Ports are overcrowded, that the authorities decided to divert other vessels to Cotonou. This practice has caused a lot of discomfort to port facilities in Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar and in Warri. The state government thinks those responsible for this line of thinking should have a rethink in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), and a Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: [email protected]