Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image How Militants Are Killing Rivers Economy Slowly

Davidson Iriekpen, This Day (Nigeria)
Published: Jun 15, 2007

The incessant kidnapping of foreigners, especially oil and allied workers by the Niger Delta youth, experts and government officials say is adversely affecting the economy of the area as companies daily pull out from the zone. This trend worries the new governmrnt in Rivers State Government, which is poised to tackle the menace.

On Tuesday, about 13 foreign oil workers kidnapped by restive militants operating in the Niger Delta creeks were released after the intervention of the Bayelsa State Governor Timipre Sylva and the Nigeri Delta Development Commission (NDDC) managing director, Timi Alaibe. Kidnapping and release of foreigners has become a frequent occurrence in the zone in recent time.

This unwholesome act, many say is now adversly affecting the economy of the area eapecially, Rivers State where many of the oil companies and other allied firms have their offices. Public officers like Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers is worried over the increasing rate of kidnapping of foreigners with its attendant exodus of the foreigners which has started impacting adversly on the economy.

Omehia has expressed concern over the escalating incidents of kidnapping of foreigners in the state and the Niger Delta region in recent time.

Speaking at the first stakeholders’ meeting convened in Port Harcourt recently, Omehia noted with sadness that in the last few weeks, about four kidnap incidents involving more than 16 foreign nationals had occurred in several parts of the state. He said the incident was sending dangerous and wrong signals to the outside world that Rivers State was no longer safe for foreigners. Therefore announced one million naira reward to anyone who could provide accurate information about where hostages kidnapped from any where were being held in Rivers State.

Another dangerous dimension to the whole incident, Omehia said was the planned relocation of Shell Petroleum Development Company’s (SPDC) major businesses from Port Harcourt to Lagos. He observed that if Shell Petroleum Development Company, the major oil company in Nigeria, pull out of the state, other subsidiary companies which have relationship with SPDC would also pullout, saying that the consequences would be worsening unemployment, hunger and poverty among the people of the state.

He said the people of the state has no choice but to assist government with information that would help track down the criminals who are out to destroy the state. He commended the people of Eleme for protesting against the kidnap of the Indians who worked for Indorama Group, saying that their protest has showed that they were not happy with what is happening in the state.

“The truth is that kidnapping has become business and no more a fight for the emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta,” Omehia said, and warned those involved in such unwholesome acts to desist from such criminality or face the full wrath of the law.

This and other tasks are the Herculean responsibilities ahead Omehia. However, one very good thing he has going for him, is the fact that unlike a lot of states, he has a very good foundation laid for him by the former governor, Dr. Peter Odili. “Undoubtedly, the many achievements of the Odili administrations restoration agenda, which was anchored on the attempt on the attainment of sufficiency in power generation and supply among others as necessary prerequisite for development, has placed us in prime position as we commence work. “Consequently, our philosophy of governance as an administration is to consolidate this foundation and work with all stakeholders in the Rivers project to forge a strategic partnership for progress and prosperity, in accordance with the blueprint of our SHIRE Contracts”, Omehia said in his maiden broadcast to the state recently.

Since his inauguration, Omehia may have within one week taken four actions that have marked his take-off. First, was on January 6, 2004 when the Mile One market in the heart of Diobu suffered its third major fire disaster in recent times. Not only did billions of naira worth of goods perish in the inferno, a fire fighter lost his life while a fire truck was consumed by the rampaging inferno. The area became an eyesore. Before the fire incident, the Odili administration had set up a panel which guided government but the state of the market remained a point of worry as traders rushed to build makeshift shanties to continue their businesses. The market remained a big embarrassment to the government of the state for years as the traders were unable to agree on modalities for rebuilding it despite all entreaties for amicable resolution. The traders and the landowners had their own demands and desires while the government and the local council had theirs. Accusations were thrown in the direction of a contractor who had the nod of the local council to build the market but was resisted by the traders.

Omehia arrived there the next day and directed Julius Berger to move into the place and start work. He also ordered the over 5,000 traders to move out by June, to allow construction work to commence. He was applauded for the action, just as he announced that at least 200 stalls would be delivered in his first 100 days in office.

Another place that caught the attaention of the Governor is the Port Harcourt International Airport at Omagwa. This facility, just like any other important federal facility in the South-South and South East geo-political zones, has suffered neglect. The road was not motorable until the Odili administration spent a whopping N4 billion to rebuild it and install a maze of solar powered lights that became an attraction.

Few days after his inauguration, Omehia paid a visit at the airport where he urged the contractors to remobilise and commence work on the site, while imploring the villagers to secure the facility. In doing this, he must be responding to the concerns of the state legislature which had a week earlier, cried out to the Federal Government.

He urged the Federal Government to declare the Port Harcourt International Airport area as a disaster zone, probably not just because of the December 10, 2005 Sosoliso air crash but due to the years of neglect of the only gateway to the South-South and the East. The situation is now compounded by the crisis in the Niger Delta. What perhaps is obvious is that the resort to the Owerri airport is practical torture, and a project in high risk. The Owerri airport closes by because of absence of landing lights at night, and this makes it hard for Port Harcourt bound passengers.

Another message that may sound cheering to the people of Rivers State is the issue of refuse handling. Omehia berated the refuse contractors who seemed to be an impossible lot. The governor observed that more money but less result has been the refuse equation in the state, and threatened to revoke the running contracts if no significant change was noted.

The Iloabuchi-Eagle Island road that has been a has also attracted the attention of the Governor. Before now, resident of this area endured the hardship they had to go through on Agip Road. Omehia has recently announced an immediate plan to construct a road from Iloabuchi to Eagle Island. It will also involve expanding the existing road and installing drainage system.

The governor’s visit to the broken bridge on the federal road at Eleme provoked emotions as he was moved by pity, ordered the contractor to spare no efforts in fixing the failed bridge as the diversion which was not designed and built to carry big trucks and vehicular traffic was also rapidly giving way.

The Chief of Staff to Omehia, Chief Emeh Glory Emeh told THISDAY “this was how his mentor, Odili began in 1999 and secured the passage that made his administration a huge success. Industrial harmony anchored on mutual trust and respect seems to be the tonic for rapid development. To recognise this phenomenon and seek to strengthen it shows the mind that propels this new man on the bloc”.

The governor who was once a commissioner is at home with the problem of the state workers. He told the workers recently that “I have not forgotten, I know what affects you and what every civil servant wants and I have good knowledge of the service because the problems associated with the workers are not new to me”.

“For us to increase your salary or welfare, you must justify such packages” he said. He however made it clear that his administration would not tolerate lateness to duty, and those that did not take their assignment seriously would face hard times because attention would be placed on hard work.

Revealing his bias for education, the governor warned those in the ministry to sit up because, action would be explosive in education.

If the African idiom which says that “a good dancer is known by his first few steps” is anything to go by, then the new governor of Rivers State may have started well. But will the activities of the militants allow him?

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. ( and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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