The Need For Osimah Gina In Port Harcourt

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Since 5th June 2009 Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, the ebullient Governor of Rivers State dissolved his cabinet which affected even his close aides who hadn't the premonition of the plan, a lot of traducers of the then Commissioner for Urban Development, Barrister Osimah Gina have been throwing parties owing to the fact that Gina was stoical to seeing that the urban renewal initiative in Port Harcourt was a success.

Osimah Gina, without doubt, could be ranked the best of commissioners that has ever served under the dynamic leadership of Governor Amaechi. His counterpart in the Information Ministry of the state, Prince Ogbonna Nwuke was also a dude to his duty.

Port Harcourt, which Garden City was its sobriquet, lost its glory to the hands of men who liked building illegal structures on the government's Master Plan before Gina came. But for the intervention of the Ministry of Urban Development-led by Gina, a hunk of the government's lands have been reclaimed. For example, the Commissioner once said that a vast area of land belonging to the state government has been recovered between Okija and Olu-Obasanjo Road and in many places.

Perhaps, it was the reclamation of government lands by Osimah Gina that the Rivers State Government once said it would soon conclude an agreement with Transcorp Hilton Corporation Nigeria for the construction of a Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Port Harcourt. The state government opined this through the then Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Prince Ogbonna Nwuke, that the project was expected to commence in January 2009. In his explicit, Nwuke explained that already, Transcorp Hilton has raised an initial sum of $500 million for the project and $1 million as guarantee should it fail to appear on site within one month. And it was at the site of the Rivers State Transport Corporation, (RTC), Waterlines junction by Olu Obasanjo Road, Port Harcourt, that the 60-storey hotel would be located.

Gina has written his name on gold in Rivers State through his resilience to better the Garden City by the urban renewal initiative. Records had it that virtually all the affected structures in Port Harcourt were compensated, but there were denials by landlords to their tenants that the State Government under Rt. (Hon) Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi has not given them any compensation.

The landlords therefore refused to compensate the tenants upon receiving several millions of naira from the State Government. Some of the tenants had paid these landlords for several years house rent but just spent less than two months before the exercise began. The landlords could not show any sign of pity to the tenants instead, but they wanted the Ministry of Urban Development to show them mercy by not removing their illegal houses? Upon that many of the landlords were recalcitrant to re-erecting structures on the same areas. Osimah Gina was not collecting 'bribe' but reports said that some people were going to some of these landlords to collect some money in the name of saving their houses from the current demolition exercise. On taking note of this, reportedly Gina immediately advised landlords to be aware of those who come to demand illegal monies from them in the name of his ministry and promised that there was no going back in the exercise. Rivers people may call Barrister Osimah Gina a mighty man in battle.

The importance of Barrister Osimah Gina in the Rivers State's urban renewal initiative can't contain here if given the space to elaborate, but what all Nigerians must know and understand is that he meant well for Rivers State. It is only those who were building on the government's lands that did n ot mean well.

The speculations that Gina is among the eight Commissioners in the recently dissolved Rivers State Executive Council who are on their way back as they were screened on Monday 8th June by the State House of Assembly is a welcomed development. These illegal builders might come back on the Rivers State Government lands if Gina is not recalled.

Written by Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. 08032552855. [email protected]