…Reels Out Achievements
As nominations for the prestigious National Network Awards continue ahead of the 18th Anniversary celebration of the newspaper billed for October 28, 2022 in Port Harcourt, the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area (OBALGA), Barrister George Ariolu (who has been overwhelmingly nominated through an online poll, for the Best Local Government Council Chairman Award) on Thursday received the Editorial Board and staff of the newspaper who visited to present his nomination letter for the award at Council headquarters, Rumuodomaya.
Barrister Ariolu who could not hide his elation for the courtesy visit, thanked the team for creating the platform which enabled the populace to express themselves and appreciate what he is doing at the council.
Stressing that he is not used to receiving awards, for obvious reasons, the OBALGA Council boss however stated that for people to have found him worthy of such recognition from a reputable newspaper like National Network, he has no option but to accept.
“In terms of your widespread acceptance and consistency, we can’t say no to this rare privileged offer of award”, he said, adding that “The Jerry Needam and the National Network that I also know is not inclined to flattery, because you always say it as it is”.
Barrister Ariolu said the journey that brought him to the height presently attained was very daunting. He told his story: “We saw our election into this office as a call to service. It is service to the people because power belongs to the people. All of us are aware of the negative narration about Obio Akpor Local Government. Earlier before now, when you talk about Obio Akpor, it’s about thuggry, touting and other negative vices
“We had seen how the political affairs were run in the council, such that instead of the people elected to serve the people, it is rather the people that are serving them. So, we decided to change that narrative.
“We came in here and started from the point of redeeming the already battered image of the council. We fought those hooligans who had tarnished the image of the local government.
“We met a group of people whose business was to be harassing motorists. They would take them to a point and force them to cough out huge sums of money. This people were not sent by the council but were operating within the precincts of the council. Everybody thought the council had a hand in it. I didn’t set up any Task force.
“And so, I led a team and we dislodged two of the criminals and released the vehicles to their owners. We went and told the public that anywhere you find them, tell us.
“From the feelers we get, you can now drive around Obio Akpor Local Government freely than before, because anywhere we see them, we’ll chase them. They know that Obio Akpor is no longer safe haven for them”.
His efforts to change the narrative apparently paid off as he reeled out his achievements within the span of his three-year administration.
His words, “We have our Local Government Identification Certificate to identify those from the LGA. Some officials were collecting N100 to issue it. I asked them who the N100 is paid to and where is the record? We have to stop it. We now pay for the printing. Now the application and collection is free.
“There is also what they called Hawking Permit for people who manage to get three or four thousand Naira to sell handkerchief that is the people you are asking to come and pay Hawking Permit. Imagine a poor widow who sits all day by the road, you are asking her to pay Hawking Permit? It has stopped, and if you hear anybody harassing anyone along that line, please come and report, and the person will pay dearly for it.
“When we came in here, I don’t know how many of you knew the way this place used to look like. If you had seen the look of that ultra modern building we just built, you would weep. The level of dilapidation is what you cannot comprehend. But what you are seeing is what we did within 100 days in office.
“Outside of that, we noticed there was no alternative means of power supply which was affecting the workers output. Before now, by this time, you can’t see any worker in the office. The ones that manage to come will be loitering around because the offices are not conducive for workers to sit and work. And so, within two weeks in office, we procured a brand new 500 KVA generator. Since we came in, we have a near 24 hours power supply.
“We had the problem of office space. You go to some of these offices, like where they called Open Registry; you have up to 20 workers in one tiny space coupled with the fact that virtually all the federal agencies have offices in the council. We are the one housing them, so the little spaces we have, they have collected it. That is why we proceeded to erect this magnificent two storey, 30-room office complex with each having personal toilet facility.
“We also noticed that there was a Legislative building with some structural defects and we sought professional advice and the reconstruction is ongoing.
“There was also what used to be the problem of flooding in the council secretariat. The moment it rains a little, the entire space will be flooded. If you came with your car, you can’t have access unless you remove your shoes. We saw it as an embarrassment and said no, we must tackle it. Again, we sought professional advice and got to the point that we need to create drainage. We have done phase one of the drainage work which stretched from our boundary with the Police down to the canal. If it rains now, water flows out freely.
“We also have the Obio Akpor Farm, about 52 plots of land. The administration of Hon. Timothy Nsirim procured that property for the council and established a Fish Farm. We accessed it and decided to fence it against land grabbers, and as I speak, the property is fully secured by the council.
“We have a jetty that was built at Rumuolumeni, without a Jetty House. The jetty was reinforced and a jetty house is now in its finishing stage and would be put into use any moment from now.
“We have put our attention into the area of human capacity development to create a balance. Some years back when Rivers State University called for employment, Obio Akpor could not meet up with its quota because we lacked that manpower. Initially we had it at the back of our minds to give grants to 30 people to do PhD and 50 to do Masters but when we called for people to come and pick up the forms, the crowd was staggering.
“So we allowed it for 50 PhD and 50 Masters. We decided to make it annually for 3 years. The grant is for both Indigenes and Non-Indigenes because Obio Akpor is metropolitan and you must carry everyone along in what you do. We have done the second batch, remaining the third batch. By the time we complete 3 years, we must have trained 150 PhD holders and 150 Masters Degree holders.
“We have also paid attention to the area of skill acquisition. We have trained a total of 202 persons in the area of vocational training–scaffolding, frontage excavators and crane operators, and a lot of them have started getting jobs.
“We also ventured into the area of maritime education. We have 9 of our wards in Chakins Maritime Academy as Cadet Seafarers. By the time they graduate, they would begin to man big trawlers and big ships on the high sea. It is taking us a lot of money, about M4.2 Naira to train one person and we have nine of them, eight boys and a girl including a non-indigene. They already have international jobs waiting for them. The least person will be paid about $2 thousand per month.
“We have given a total of 11 Transformers to different communities in the LGA within the period under review.
“We have been able to go this far because we believe we are here to serve the people, and serving is adding value to the human person, and that is our focal thrust. And, in all that we have done, we never borrowed money from any bank or finance organization of any sort. We just manage from the little resources available to us.
“So far, so good and that is what informed us to say we have done something to defend any award that is given to us. If we have not done this, in my person and my honour, I would decline to take any award. I think that in all of this, this award will spur us to do more”.
Earlier, the General Manager/Editor-in-Chief of National Network, Chris Konkwo had reminded the OBALGA Chairman that his nomination for the Best Local Government Council Chairman Award was based on criteria which he met to the letter.
“We decided to use this occasion to recognize and appreciate men and women of this country, of this locality, that have contributed meaningfully to humanity. We therefore embarked on opinion survey to sample the views of people who are occupying different positions of interest, including the local government, Governors, some other persons and captains of industry”, he said.
Mr. Konkwo named some of the criteria for which the OBALGA Council Chairman was chosen to include the best in excellent public service, those whose services have been characterized by legendary attributes, promotion of peace and security, skills acquisition and human capital development, philanthropy, exemplary leadership, provision of life giving facilities and scholarship grants, saying that Ariolu, after his assessment, seemed “to have scored excellently and much more than every other person”, adding that these prompted the visit to formally present the nomination letter to the Chairman.
In his vote of thanks at the event, the Vice Chairman of the Editorial Board of National Network, Rev. (Barr) Faraday Iwuchukwu commended Barrister Ariolu for the level of achievement gained within the timeframe of his administration, acknowledging that so much had been gained listening to the Chairman as he reeled out his achievements.
Rev. Iwuchukwu added that the 18th Anniversary celebration would also be heralding a consistent and unbroken presence of the paper for 18 years on the news-stands.