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Wednesday, 22 March 2017 09:48

Reflections: Amaechi's quest for a new city (Pt.1)

Written by Priestley Nna
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Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi  Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Credits: File copy

The current state of our Capital City, Port Harcourt is a source of concern for this administration. Incidents of flooding, traffic congestion, impassable roads and lack of portable water show that the current state of infrastructure and social amenities are incapable of sustaining the exploding population of our capital city. My administration intends to take urgent steps to address these issues...

~ Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

One of the major drives of  Amaechi when he assumed office as Governor of Rivers State was to give the State Capital a facelift. This was in line with his promise to Rivers people.

As at  2007, Port Harcourt City was clearly suffering from gross retreat of prudent management and unbearable urban decay occasioned by neglect or lack of adequate attention by previous governments. Amaechi set out clearly with a definite mission to return Port Harcourt to its past glory. He was determined to build and restructure the City, so he embarked on a quest to evolve a new Port Harcourt City against all odds even when previous governments who sought to rebuild the City ran out of the political will to do so, Amaechi took the bold steps and went for it.

Apart from the immediate and more visible need of salvaging  a battered Port Harcourt City, Amaechi sought to give Rivers people a new lease on life. It was his passion to build a secured and livable City that inspired his quest for a new Port Harcourt. Hence, Amaechi took measures geared towards ensuring sanity and orderliness were restored to Port Harcourt.

1. Ban of commercial motor bikes (okada)

Amaechi understood that part of the task of restoring the peaceful ambience and tranquillity that once characterized the City of Port Harcourt, was to restore an orderly environment that would encourage commercial activities. The ban on motor bikes popularly known as Okada was one of the timely measures taken to restore some decency on the roads of Port Harcourt.

After the expiration of a protracted ultimatum, Amaechi moved to officially proscribe the operation of commercial Okada within Port Harcourt and its environs. Private operators where directed to be duly registered with the appropriate government Authorities and acquire helmets and other appropriate protective equipment to ensure protection and minimal damage in the event of an accident.

The ban was key in restoring calm and sanity on the roads as these okadas constituted nuisance, disorder and rowdiness. Okada was also believed to contribute to traffic congestions, aided fatal road accidents and posed serious security threats. It was not in doubt that most criminal activities such as robbery, bag snatching, kidnapping and illegal trailing of people were perpetrated with the aid of the so called okadas. Perhaps because it was a lot easier for the okadas to run off major roads, meander through streets, access bended corners and tiny non-motorable tracks. The ban was said to have reduced criminal activities and road accidents by 40%.

As expected, the ban was greeted with mixed reactions from the public. Majority of the residents of Port Harcourt frowned at the ban as it appeared a more convenient means of transportation especially for  areas where commercial vehicles were not operational. However, over time, the people adjusted to the reality on ground but it was a fair price to pay for security of lives and properties and restoration of order on the roads.

Aptly, Amaechi took some palliative measures by bringing over 100 cabs and buses into the transport system to cushion the effect of the ban on people as they now relied on cabs and buses for their movement.

Amaechi also partnered with Skye Bank Plc to provide subsidised transport services to the teeming population of the State. Members of the public paid the sum of N50 only whenever they boarded any of the Government/Skye Bank provided buses irrespective of where they alighted along the route of the bus. People now paid three times less the amount they would have paid on regular commercial vehicles.

What's more?

Amaechi built over 59 monumental bus stations along the Port Harcourt /Aba Express Road to clearly define bus stops to all commercial vehicle operators so that people now easily identified their bus stops and alighted at the bus stations only.

Apart from the aesthetic touch it provided, these bus stations were well built to shelter and accommodate pedestrians and potential passengers waiting to board commercial vehicles. It also helped reduce uncontrolled and reckless parking along the road by these commercial vehicle operators as each driver was expected to stop only at the designated bus stops.

2. Cab registration

Amaechi saw the need to have an organised and well regulated transport system in the Port Harcourt metropolis. Following this need, he initiated the registration of all commercial vehicles in the state through the State Ministry of Transport. Serial numbers were issued to commercial vehicle owners upon registration. This registration number was expected to be displayed at the top of the vehicle as a means of identification. This measure provided government with the actual number of commercial cabs operating in the city. It also helped security agencies check criminal activities as such as the popular "one chance" as each now had a government identified number that made it easier to trace such vehicles should they be involved in crimes.

Additionally, all commercial vehicles were directed to be painted in the usual blue and white strip colour of commercial vehicles in the state. Cab owners mounted a bold TAXI insignia at the top of there cabs for easy identification by passengers.

By all indications, Amaechi proved to have a very clear picture of what he intended Port Harcourt to look like. Only a purposeful and well organised government could engage in such rebranding ventures.

3. The clean and green initiative

Amaechi's sense of aesthetics and penchant for a healthy, livable and organised environment was further manifested in the launching of the clean and green initiative. The clean and green initiative was launched with the intent to restore the garden city status of Port Harcourt as well as for environmental concerns.

Under the initiative schools and other government agencies were encouraged to plant trees and flowers in their environment not just to reduce the quantum of the poisonous carbon 1and 2 gases in the atmosphere but to also restore the garden ambience of the City. Government also built relaxation parks while flourists were contracted to make beautiful garden of flowers at some strategic areas in the city.

~ Priestley Nna

Culled from the book: AMAECHI - A HERO'S TRAVAILS & TRIUMPHS

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