The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has invited foreign and local investors to take advantage of the rapid developmental strides of his administration, to invest in all sectors of the state’s economy, in order to create jobs.
Governor Wike stated that first-time investors in sectors such as tourism and hospitality, housing and property development, as well as agriculture and ICT skills development, would receive attractive tax incentives and easy access to land in the state.
Addressing a group of foreign journalists in Lagos on Wednesday, the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr Austin Tam-George who spoke of the government’s tax plan, also dismissed security concerns about the state, saying that Rivers state is among the safest destinations for investment in the country.
“The narrative that Rivers state is unsafe is an ugly slander against the state by a disgruntled political opposition”, the commissioner said, adding that as the oil and gas hub in the country, Rivers state has offered the highest return on investment in Nigeria since 1958.
Dr Tam-George said that activities marking the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Rivers state in May would showcase the different opportunities for investment in the state.
Present at the media briefing were correspondents from the BBC, AFP, Duetch Welle, VOA, Xinhua, CCTV, the publishers of The Trent, among others.
The Rivers State government has set up a task force to tackle the black soot polluting the atmosphere of Port Harcourt and its environs.
The task force has been mandated to investigate and recommend solutions to the environmental challenge.
The decision was part of the resolutions of the State Executive Council during their meeting on Wednesday at the Government House.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Commissioner of Information, Dr Austin Tam-George, stated that the decision was reached after the Commissioner of Environment, Professor Roseline Konya had presented findings from a preliminary investigation.
The Commissioner of Environment, Professor Roseline Konya; Commissioner of Special Duties, Mr Emeka Onowu and the Commissioner of Information, Dr Austin Tam-George are members of the task force.
The committee will be backed by technical experts and they are expected to liaise with major stakeholders to resolve the environmental challenges in the state.
The Ministry of Environment sent its investigative teams to all parts of the state and immediately suggested that the black soot could be caused by illegal oil refining activities, the burning of car tyres at night in different locations in the state, and other air-polluting activities around the state.
Residents of the state were immediately advised to stop the burning of tyres or any illegal oil mining activities.
Oil companies were also advised to stop gas flaring in order to encourage a healthier and sustainable livelihood in the state.
The chairman of the Nigerian Environmental Society in Rivers State, Adeyemi Adewale, equally led his team to the field to set up particle sampling machines.
It is not known if their findings were part of the report presented to the Rivers State Executive Council.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Dr. Austin Tam-George, believes that the security situation in the state is not as bad as being reported and believed.
While admitting that the state has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times, he argued that incidents of violence are not peculiar to the state as other states across the country have had notable cases of violence.
Dr. Tam-George was the guest of Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday. He said: “There is this mythology that Rivers state is not safe, that is not correct.
“If you look at the pattern of violence that has characterized the political dispensation we are in, you will see that the situation is worse in many places.
“In the whole of the Northeast for instance, as you know, we have over 70,000 people that have been killed over the past seven years with more than six million people displaced.
“In Kaduna we have what looks like a low level of insurgency already underway. The whole of Southern Kaduna is under siege by so-called Fulani herdsmen.
“In Lagos we have seen inter-communal clashes between Hausas and Ibos in Mile-12 area where about 12 people were killed and over 40 cars burnt in just one incident.
“We have had pockets of audacious criminal activities in Ogun state and elsewhere. Se we’ve seen a pattern of insecurity and violence characterizing the kind of political system that we run.
“In Rivers state, we have had episodes of violence; sometimes criminality in some sections of the state and we have taken unprecedented steps (to curb it).”
The Commissioner reeled out a number of steps taken by Governor Wike, particularly the provision of financial and logistical support for the Police, adding that the state has a “very efficient security architecture” and the cases of violence are “not out of control”.
“Are we denying that that there are episodes of security challenges? No, but the situation is totally exaggerated,” he affirmed.
Dr. Tam-George also commented on the controversial audio recording released by Sahara Reporters alleged to be that of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
In the recording, a voice purportedly of Governor Wike is heard in a telephone conversation arranging payment to some persons who are supposedly officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in exchange for their help in rigging the recently concluded legislative elections in the state.
The Commissioner reaffirmed the position of the state government not to be part of the panel set up by the Inspector General of Police to investigate this allegation and the crisis that trailed the rerun legislative election in the state.
“We will not be part of this, it’s just childish…We have no confidence in that panel and we will not participate in it.
“The Governor was not elected to get involved in this kind of nonsense. Our own focus is to deliver service to our people. So we will not be distracted by this kind of antics by the APC and their media supporters.”
Port Harcourt residents have expressed worry over the emergence of black soot across the city in recent days and the interview also was an opportunity for the Commissioner to address the matter and allay residents’ fears.
He explained that there are a range of factors that experts have suspected as causes of the black soot.
“The hypothesis is that they probably have A-level refining activities around the state. There is also the likelihood of the black soot originating from gas flares by major oil companies and the burning of tyres in some areas as well.
“What they have decided to do is that, rather than pin it down to one cause, why don’t we do test that we determine the actual origin of the black soot.
“The findings are still being awaited,” he said.
Mr Tam-George reiterated an appeal he made in his earlier statement that residents should stop the burning of tyres and major oil companies should “look at ways of using alternative strategies rather than flaring gas”.
He emphasized that the rest of the world is focusing on healthy and sustainable livelihood and the Rivers state government is working with several relevant agencies to ensure that it aligns with the vision to make the state an healthy environment.
Government and residents of Rivers State have expressed worries, as scientists try to unravel the true cause of black soot within Port Harcourt, the capital city and other parts of the state.
Residents had recently started noticing black deposits on their rooftops and their cars. Their concern became deepened when the real cause or origin of the soot was unknown.
Channels Television in company of some environmentalists and other scientists set out to carry out a scientific inspection of the black particles.
Adeyemi Adewale is the chairman of the Nigerian Environmental Society in Rivers State. As early as 5:30 a.m., he led his team to the field to set up particle sampling machines. According to him, the sampling exercise is better done early in the morning.
He said: “This sampling exercise can only be carried out either with a hand sampler and metric meter. The sampling paper traps the particles from the air sucked in by the Air metric particulate sampler. It is best to start early in the morning in order to ensure that other activities like car fumes and human interference will not choke up the atmosphere”.
Mr Adewale further said that the “particles gathered between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. are usually better samples for scientific examination”.
Meanwhile, as late as 9:00 a.m. a dense fog could be seen in the atmosphere and Mr Sam Emejuru, a resident of Port Harcourt and the National Secretary of National Environmental Society told Channels Television that he had been noticing the particles for two months now.
He says when he wakes up in the morning he notices black dusty like substance on his car and surfaces in his house.
“What is happening is that there is a product of combustion which is an incomplete burning process that emits carbon. There are many industries that process hydro-carbon materials. Activities of illegal refineries is also a possible cause,” he said.
A statement by the state government said the appearance of the black soot was a source of grave concern to it.
The Ministry of environment has sent separate investigative teams to all parts of the State and is already working on the strong hypothesis that the black soot might be caused by artisanal oil refining activities, the burning of car tyres at night in different locations in the state, and other air-polluting activities around the state.
The statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said samples of the black soot had been sent to sophisticated laboratories in order to determine its actual origin.
Residents of the State have been advised to stop the burning of tyres or any illegal oil mining activities.
Oil companies have also been advised to stop gas flaring in order to encourage a healthier and sustainable livelihood in the state.
The Police have confirmed the kidnap of the mother of the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications by unknown gunmen.
Mrs Patience Tam-George, who is the mother of Governor Nyesom Wike’s aide, Dr. Austin Tam-George, was kidnapped at about 8.55pm on Saturday on her way from church at Giogioma in Okrika Local Government Area of the state.
In his appeal, Dr. Tam-George said: “I am appealing to her abductors to release my mother unhurt to the family. My mother is a harmless woman.
“My mother, Patience, is 85 years old (and) my mother cannot hurt anyone. She had gone to church as she has done for years to pray and worship God.”
A family source also disclosed that the abductors had made contact with the family, but refused to reveal if the kidnappers have asked for a ransom.
“The kidnappers have contacted the family of our aged mother but we have no further information on what was discussed. We also do not have any information on whether they have demanded for a ransom or not,” he said.
The Police Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Police Command, DSP Ahmad Mohammad, confirmed that the command had received information about the kidnap of a woman in Okrika.
He, however, said that the information given to the Police did not suggest that the victim was the mother of the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications.
The Police Public Relations Officer gave the assurance that efforts were in top gear to rescue the victim.