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“Poor Funding bane of Niger Delta”

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Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

This is the continuation of The Tie Roundable encounter with Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN), published Friday July 17, 2009. Continued from Page 17

Petroleum act?

I don’t think that it has become an Act yet. It is still going through the process in the National Assembly. The last we reviewed that was April or there about when we went for the session of the business law conference. The Act is proposed as a bill now has made for reaching proposals for the reform of the petroleum industry in Nigeria if these proposals are finally passed, that becomes law and if they are faithfully applied there will be nothing adverse to the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. What is usually the problem is the implementation of prepositions of law and the political will of those who are charged with the implementation of the law to do what is right as stipulated in that law.

Either and above the provisions of that bill, the critical point which needs to be addressed is constitutional divesting of all the minerals in the country in the Federal Government.

That is where the problem mainly arises because all the talk about the greater share in revenue derived from oil and petroleum product.

We are all sitting here and they are prospecting for the crude oil and natural gas. At the end of the day what we get is nothing compared to what we should be getting because the story there was fairness and apathy in the system, there should be no reason why the Niger Delta states should not be getting a higher percentage based on the derivation principle which everybody agree is something to be applied to assuage the sufferings of the people in the Niger Delta or wherever minerals are prospected.

So let us hope that the effort to amend the constitution will address the fundamental problem, and then all other laws will fall in place. Then we must hope that those charged with the implementation of all those laws that lead to petroleum and natural gas will also faithfully implement them, having in their minds the interest of the Niger Delta.

Does that mean the petroleum Act is the major problem in the petroleum industry?

No. No, …… the principles in the constitution that all minerals belong to the Federal Government is a major problem. The Land Use Act is just a law, is not part of the constitution. It was only entrenched in the constitution as a statute which you needed a special majority to amend. The Land Use Act is still an Act in the National Assembly and as you know, the President himself has sent certain proposals for amendment to the National assembly. The Land Use Act vest all the land in the territory of each state in the concern of that state, excluding land vested in the Federal Government so that has to do with land use and land management. The point I was making is that the right and interest of the people of the Niger Delta will best be provided for by radical amendment to the constitution particularly the section of the constitution that says that all minerals are invested in the Federal Government and of course the revenue allocation formula which is in the constitution that now stipulates 13 not less than 13 percent for all mineral producing areas.

Those are the areas we want to quickly attend to.

Let me just follow up in the last question, not too long ago, Governor Amaechi said, if that Bill being discussed is passed, it will impoverish the Niger Delta people

I wouldn’t know why he said so. I would like to be directed to the particular provision in the bill, because you see, what that bill does is to break up the companies that are in the petroleum industry. NNPC would be broken up into several different companies and each will have the relevant faction of the oil industry to deal with so, I’m at a loss to answer that question because I don’t know what particular section or sections the governor was referring to.

Simply because everything didn’t go well. The Electoral Act is currently as was obviously and still need to be reformed I would take you to the panel headed by the former, Chief Justice of Nigeria Uwais panel that looked through our electoral system decided that not only the electoral Act but also the constitution of 1999 as far as sections relating to election were in need of dire reform. You see the way elections are structured now under the old electoral Act, is that much power is given to the Independent Electoral Commission but there is no check on the activities that the commission can engage in to receive what we would ordinarily say are democratic principles.

The situation is such that INEC has turned out to prove to all of us that it was incapable of conducting free elections in this country. INEC does not have financial independence, they ended up depending largely on the wishes of the sitting president of the day to conduct elections and we remember what happened, uptill three months to the elections; they were still talking about funding to produce voters registers and so on and so forth. And for logistic reasons, both helicopters and the vehicles they needed to carry electoral materials to places. So INEC as it was under the current law did not have true independence.

Again the Electoral Act did not provide, elections time table, it was left to the discretion of INEC to wake up one morning and told us that presidential and governorship elections will hold on one particular day. That can not be democracy.

Again INEC as you remember played to the right to either disqualify candidates or refused to accept the nomination of candidates, who were properly nominated, or supposedly properly nominated by their parties and remember the case of Atiku and Obasanjo. That went up to the Supreme Court a week to election, was when that case was decided, so those were the few difficulties that emanated from what was and still is our Electoral Act. I don’t practise much in the field of election petition, but these are the obvious lapses that were in that practice and of course the actual conduct of the elections did not prove to be free and fair INEC apparently was compromised, law enforcement Agencies were compromised and many people ended up not voting, because they didn’t have the opportunity to vote, that was a reality.

Independent Monitors from outside the country were present on ground, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) set up an election monitoring committee and the report nationwide was that the elections were not free so that is the reason for the clamour for the amendment of the Electoral Act so that the process can be democratized such that people will be allowed to choose their representatives, look at what happened in Rivers State, candidates were being imposed on particular ward, particular electoral district by so called political godfathers. Our Governor now suffered the same fate. He was duly elected at the party primary held by the PDP only to have his election, you know somebody said that there was a K-leg, I think it was Obasanjo who said that Rivers State had a K-leg. At the end of the day, the court had to intervene to resolve that matter. The Electoral Act stipulated in clear terms, that for you to withdraw the name of candidate that you have elected, you must have cogent and compelling reasons.

So you don’t just say error of choice, there must be cogent and compelling reason, and that was the matter that went to the Supreme Court and the court up held that there were no cogent and compelling reasons for the withdrawal of the name of the candidate who had been nominated.

So the electoral system in Nigeria in my opinion had not been properly articulated. You and I sit in our houses and you hear that somebody has been selected as your representatives. The people had no right in the choice.

There should be free electioneering processes when a man comes out and say he is serving the people and the representative of the people you would be satisfied that it was indeed the people who elected him.

You are Shell legal consultant, what can you say of oil spill?

Let me say this with all sense of responsibility, Shell that I represent, as one of their numerous legal consultants or external counsels, is one of the most responsible oil operating companies. You see the reality of the situation is that anywhere in the world where there is oil production, there is bound to be incidents of oil pollution, leakages here, spills here and there.

And for every genuine cases where there was a spill that I have been involved in, I know as a fact that Shell has made immediate move to one, stop the leakage, two contain the leakage and its spread, and three clean up the mess. The problem always arises on the area of compensation. Of course, any body whose properties had been damaged under the Pipeline Act, who has suffered a serious damage on his property land or water or whatever is entitled to compensation, and that is a right which the person has and our obligation which the oil company involved has to be stressed.

As I said the problem always arises on what is fair and adequate somebody can claim, one billion, if you claim one billion, well the quantity of oil that is spilled is not up to two barrels everybody will know that this claim is obviously exaggerated, and Shell as responsible corporate citizen and indeed all other Oil companies will be interested in enquiring into that matter because if you cannot reach agreement on what is fair and adequate, the laws stipulate that you must go to court and settle that matter and the court will now determine this is fair, this is just, this is adequate compensation and I know that in most cases, the courts have raised those determinations. Shell has gladly paid so much as I am also an indigene of Rivers State, it will interest you to know that I have done two cases against Shell and won against them, before Shell hired my services as far back as 1992, 93 to become their external counsel. So is always a controversial matter.

And you know that this new incident that most time we have used as our bases of defence, sabotage. If there is sabotage on a pipeline, you don’t expect an oil company to pay because that has been unlawful act of an unknown third party, Sometime the third party who caused the breakage of the pipeline is known and some are being prosecuted for damage and destruction to oil pipeline in their vicinities. Yes is a controversial matter, but thank God, we have the court, it is here in court that we know the extent of it, the damage caused and the value which you have claimed, and I know that the courts have been very active in doing those cases and giving judgment to whom judgment is due.

What are the benchmark for compensation?

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) stipulates what you should pay. And like I told you the figures they are using are not really commensurate with reality. They will tell you that a palm tree should be valued at N80 or so. You know a palm tree is something that regenerated and somebody said every part of the palm tree is valuable. The stem, the frond, the fruit the nut you understand.

So first you must look in the direction of DPR. They should stipulate fair and adequate bases for assessing the cost of damage caused to any body who has lost properties as a result of an oil spill. Those rates unfortunately are stipulated by DPR and of course everybody will like to use that as the rate to pay you compensation; but I can tell you speaking from experience some of those claims are not realistic.

How can stem of plantain cost N20. One bunch of plantain is worth more than N20. So those rates were made long ago and there is no effort on the part of the DPR to review the rate which is why the courts are now relying on the values put on those items and properties by evaluation experts, estate surveyors and valuers.

Even they and us say that you must pay market price. Economic price, economic value.

Our problem; that is the problem of Nigeria today is the Niger Delta issue. Federal Government created the NDDC, created the Niger Delta Ministry, and MEND took up arms to press their case, recently Federal government has offered amnesty to militants, but some Nigerians feel that the problem of the Niger Delta is the problem of irresponsibility on the part of Niger Delta leaders, considering the amount of money that has been coming to the areas since 1999, Sir, what do you think government has left undone to solve Niger Delta problem?

Well, is a good point, irresponsibility of our Niger Delta leaders, had led us to this sorry part where we are now; is a good point.

Some have argued and I agree that most of our leaders, especially our elected leaders have not applied the funds that are coming to the Niger Delta in a judicious manner. Indeed you remember the national Political Reform Conference, the story was that the Northerners, who were asking, Oh; you people should go and ask your governors what they have done with the money, you are getting 13 percent. But that is an argument which any body can write. The reality is that what is being advocated to the Niger Delta states is not commensurate with what is expected. And we want to recall that before we had a region, the principles of derivation was fixed at 50 percent, and with 50 percent, most of the regions were able to develop their infrastructures.

Now the federal government is taking more than the lions share and apaltry 13 percent is coming to oil producing states, that cannot be sufficient to develop infrastructures in this long neglected region.

There can be no argument about the fact that 13 percent will only scratch the surface. They tried with OMPADEC, even the 3 percent under OMPADEC was not getting to OMPADEC. NDDC 13 percent, the states 13 percent, the money was not getting to those states. Now they created the Niger Delta Ministry, something which I thought was misplaced. Still the problem is sufficient funding is not going to the ministry and you are now having two parallel agencies, ministry of the Niger Delta and the NDDC, which one are you looking at. You know my people have a proverb that, goat that belongs to many people usually die of starvation. Because somebody is expecting somebody to feed that goat. So the reality is, Is an argument which I am not prepared to throw my hat into this point whether our leaders have faithfully applied the funds. But the real problem is, sufficient funding is not coming to the Niger Delta. Let us face it, Agriculture is relegated, Agriculture, including arable land agriculture and acquatic agriculture, fishing, farming and all that relegated to the background.

The mainstay of Nigerian economy now is the oil revenue and they will tell you that over 90 percent of the federation account is the oil revenue.

That little that we should get for derivation should be given to us the Niger Delta states. That little should also be increased to a reasonable percentage so that there will be some thing meaningful to this neglected area and it will take more than a super human effort to rebuild, restore the area to also rebuild infrastructures. So that is my answer to the question.

The argument by Ijaw National Congress that more states should be created for the Niger Delta region is that the solution?

Let me say this, and let us be frank, the problem of the Niger Delta is not creation of States. Is money. Whether the money goes to ten states, or to one state, is neither here nor there. Indeed, it makes more sense to me that the money goes to one state and let that State use that money because the lower the percentage the existing state will get. What I am saying is the quantum of fund. Instead of dividing 13 percent to how many states we have now in the Niger Delta; Six states, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. If you are getting 13 percent, you created ten states, the same ten states will be sharing the 13 percent so the quantum going to individual states will be reduced. As for me is better to have the money in bulk.

Sorry Sir, just follow up if you look at Bayelsa State it has eight recognized local Government Councils, Kano has 44, now when these go to the federation allocation committee, they share funds to these local Governments, Kano gets that of 44, Bayelsa gets that of eight, don’t you think is right if another state is created out of Bayelsa and perhaps ten more councils created, Bayesla then will be getting for eighteen that is the question, he is trying to ask?

You know the object that is being shared is a fixed amount it is unfortunate that they have politicized this matter of creation of state and local governments. The Northerners and political leaders of the past thought that was agimmick in which they will use to get more money to their states.

You know, I like to say, let every state generate its own revenue, all this junketing to Abuja to share federation account or federation Allocation Account monies is meaningless. And it is meaningless because everybody is looking at oil revenue as that being shared. If we had each state catering for itself, getting just a subvention, based on acceptable principles, I’m sure the clamour for more states, the clamour for more local governments will die down because we are using it now as a basis, yes there is a valid argument to say, we need more states, we need more local governments, but if we realised that what is being shared is a fixed amount, the more we are, the smaller the share we would get from that fixed amount then we would see that more states, more local governments are only irrelevant.

We should not be tied up with revenue allocation, each state should generate its own revenue and any state that cannot survive on its own should merge with other states. And you will see that the thousand and one state that you have there in this country cannot survive on their own without this money from federation account allocation. Is a political matter and that is the reason why everybody now wants more states and more local governments.

Are you now saying, we don’t need creation of more States?

For overriding progress of this country, creation of more states will not solve our problem, it will not because you see, we started as regions. We have been fragmenting this country to smaller units, smaller units and unless we put a stop to it we would continue to fragment this country.

Most communities in the world are coming together. There is the Europen Union (EU), there is the Organization of American States (OAS), there is SADC in South Africa, we even have the African Union.- (AU).

You make more progress as a large group than as a small entity, because what you get is bigger and how you planned to use that which you get is more focused in your articulation of it. The current states cannot survive, infact, if you look really true, only ten states can survive in this country, without federation allocation.

So you don’t subscribe to calls for confederation?

That is a political matter, you know, we haven’t really practice true federalism in Nigeria and some people are now saying, lets us be confederation, that principles arose during the days building up to the Nigerian Civil War and I was already a secondary school student, 1964 and I knew that , that argument was a political argument. There was nothing wrong with the regions, the way they were structured in the first place yes there was ethnic domination in some parts. We the minorities in the East had difficulties with the majority tribe that was dominating the day but I still believed that regions, particularly those that were properly managed made more progress as regions than we are now making as states.

Go to the west for instance, so we have to evaluate it very critically, is not something one can say, I think that the principle is that, you make more progress when you are a strong entity. The smaller you are the more marginalized you are. The less revenue, you would be getting, the less ability you would have, where is that lead to, because issues of fragmentation will continue to arise.

Q: ??????

Okocha: My father served in the Colonial police the only problem, my father ever had in the Police was that of tribalism. Because, he was minority in the old Eastern Region, Ikwerre man. Whoever heard of Ikwerre people becoming Police Officers but even at that his promotions came as at when due.

He went to Police Colleges in England, out of merit and then the Police was dedicated.

Your character needed to be examined before you enter the Police my father was recommended to join the Police by an old headmaster from Ohafia, through his relation that was in government in the Eastern Region. That was how my father got into the Police.

As a minority, hewent to Police Colleges and was able to perform and on merit. He got deployed to the branch alled special branch.

Special branch is the brach of the Police, that eventually became NSO and became SSS.

Chief Horsfall served under my father, in special branch in the Eastern region, and that time just before the civil war broke out, he was the deputy to MD Yusuf in a special branch. Then a Police man was really a friend, you would walked along the road and you stopped a Police man, very knowledgeable.

You are going to Aggrey road, Policeman will take pains to tell you where Aggrey road is, in fine language. You know they used to carry buatons in those days and alone Policeman standing at the end of the street was enough to drive criminals away, but now Police is for all kinds of people.

I can tell you that the stories we have indicate that some of these check points that you see armed robbers operating, some of them are wearing Police uniforms.

Some Policemen have also been implicate in armed robbery. Police need to be trained you know, overhaul, thoroughly overhaul. Any and any person cannot be recruit into the Police; because the Police is a civil force for maintenance of low and order. When you have criminals in the Police you have difficulties.

You know in those days, if you are a Police constable, and you bought a motorcycle, you need to explain where you got the money to buy a motorcycle constable, everybody knew your salary, but today, you see a constable operating 20 buses, 20 taxis, in the days of Okada, there were Policemen who owned 20 Okadas.

So the Police now is not what it was my father used to tell me stories of how they used to investigate cases. Detectives were trained. Now you go to the Police, they asked you who do you suspect.

How can you suspect, you are sleeping in the night somebody came to steal.

Your properties, and you know there was something the Police had, they had this supernunary Police Officers. They had what they called Police informant.

By the time, you go to an informant, he would know where, armed robbers came from to operate in Elechi street Diobu.

Is o longer the same, they are not trained, they are not properly motivated, they are not properly equipped.

And in those days, every Policeman who signed for Rifle will signed for the number of cartridge what do they cacled it bullet, that will go into that rifle.

They had an Armoury, you had hand writing experts, you have forensic analysts in the Police in those days and you know what they say, just by dusting this envelope now, they will tell you how many people had handle this envelop and they had record, without record, you can’t to police anywhere I had a problem once with a young man in America, and I wrote a letter to Chief of Police in Boston. They picked up the man finger printed him and told him they don’t want him any where within three miles of where I was staying in Bostom, and they were able to monitor that young man, and they succeeded in making sure he was nowhere near me for the three weeks I stayed in Boston that is what the police want to do. They know the criminals, they monitor them on a daily basis. So we need to retrain the police properly equipped the police and then properly motivate them.

Q: What is your comment on the current ASUU strike

Okocha: Yes, is unfortunate progressively, I will says I won’t want to use the word responsible, but I will say government has been unfaithful to its obligation to the educational sector. The time, we went to the university late early 70s, we were satisfied that we entered university in September of 1973 and graduated in June of 1977 four years for a degree programme, we were satisfied that lecturers were being paid their salaries as at when due and their salaries were commensurate with the work they were doing.

Government as we however and heard, had several agreements with ASUU and the university teachers, but government had not been faithful to implement those agreements.

Why should that be so. And we are talking of universities. The some thing goes down all the way to secondary education, primary education. I don’t know whether government actually recognizes that without education without proper education foundation this country is in jeopardy. Who will take over tomorrow from those of us who have gone through these processes. Most people are now sending their children to school in places like Ghana, Togo, because our educational system cannot guarantee a proper education for our children. Is unfortunate, and I think that government would wake up to its responsibilities.

The educational sector must be given immediate attention. All agreements signed with university teacher must be implemented and without any delay.

Q: Sorry before we go back to the police, let go back to Niger Delta, if you are in position to suggest what percentage should come to the Niger Delta, what will you suggest?

Okocha: 50 per cent because they are precedents. We started with 50 percentage should be anything less. And people are telling you those who want to play the politic of Nigeria Oh nobody is producing the oil, the oil was put there by God. Have they for gotten that in the traditional principles of land ownership, the man who owns the land owns everything under the land. So we leave me with my land and if any oil company wants to take oil from my land or gas, let that company negotiate with me.

In that case I will have 100 per cent. Isn’t it. The argument cannot be sustained that any body should tell us, that God put the oil there yes, but we came and live here where we migrated from, everybody ended up somewhere and that place you ended up to is your own land. For Nigeria to claim Oh: that the oil is there, God put it, so did he put gold and other minerals in other lands. Let everybody exploits his own and what ever you can make of it, make of it and take it 100 per cent.

So the principle that exist, and the principle is fair is that Nigeria as a federation started with 50 per cent derivation as in the 1960, and the 1963 constitutions. That is the principle that already exist. The principle we should go back to.

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

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Rivers SEEFOR: The Journey So Far

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The need for youth employment and access to socio-economic services formed the bases for the formation of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project, to consolidate the gains from the amnesty programme of the Federal Government and ensure that youths do not fall back to social vices.
The Project which is financed with credit from the World Bank, grant from European Union and counterpart fund from the State Government, commenced implementation on July 31, 2013. The objective is to enhance opportunities for employment and access to socio-economic services whilst improving the Public Financial Management Systems in the four Niger Delta participating States of Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
SEEFOR has two main components: Component A: Youth employment and access to socio-economic services and Component B: Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms.
Since implementation commenced in Rivers State, the project has traversed the nooks and crannies of the state and transformed lives of several youths, women and communities at large.
Reviewing the activities of the multifaceted project across its sub-components: Public Works, Technical, Vocational and Agricultural Training (TVAT), Community Driven Development-Economic and Community Driven Development-Social as well as its Public Financial Management Component, beneficiaries bared their minds on the activities of the Project.
Under the Public Works Sub-Component, which entails executing small road maintenance and waste management projects, the State Project Coordinator, Mr Kelcious Amos said it has surpassed its target of executing 224 projects and engaging 10,845 beneficiaries to executing 497 projects and engaging 21,770 beneficiaries.
Some beneficiaries and resident of communities visited expressed their gratitude: At Okwutake Community in Degema LGA where Utie-Iwula Road was maintained; a resident, Mrs Elizabeth Brown said “the road was very bad that people could not even use it during rainy season, people could not go through the road to the Waterside, but after SEEFOR’s intervention, the road is now very assessable.”
At Apostolic Church Road, in Eleme one of the beneficiaries, Miss Christy Ogbaji said the project has given her engineering knowledge that she can apply anywhere.
At Lawson’s Compound/Health Centre Road where a mini bridge was constructed to replace a worn-out wooden bridge that was there, the community members thanked the project for the bridge that has eased transportation of sick people and pregnant women in and out of the Health Centre. They also said the bridge is connecting them to nearby communities and called for more projects in the community.
Speaking on the TVAT sub-component, the State Project Coordinator said the project had a target of training 5,436 youths but 6,134 youths have benefited from this sub-component and some have received starter packs. He explained further that SEEFOR has intervened in four technical schools that include Government Technical College (GTC) Ahoada, Ele-Ogu, Port Harcourt and Tombia. Others are Government Craft Development Centre, Port Harcourt, School-to Land Authority, Rumudomaya, Women Development Centre Taabaa, Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori and Capt. Elechi Amadi Polytechnics, Rumuola.
He explained further that under Ken Saro-Wiwa and Elechi Amadi Polytechnics youths were trained in the following short-term skills; air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance, carpentry/wood work, computer and phone repair/maintenance, electrical installation, block laying, concreting and iron mongery, automobile technology, electronics installation/maintenance, plumbing/tiling, and welding and fabrication.
SEEFOR in collaborated with some non-state actors also trained youths in Fashion Designing, welding and fabrication, Carpentry/wood work, livestock farming, catering and hotel management.
In addition to the above, the project engaged volunteer teachers to augment the effort of the State government in technical schools.
The Community Driven Development (CDD) sub-component has provided both economic and social succour to rural dwellers. A review of the Community Driven Development-Social (CDD-S) that was designed to provide access to social infrastructure in rural communities based on needs assessment and project selection, reveal that the project has intervened in 448 communities and implemented 94 micro projects across 17 LGAs
Assessing the impact of the project in communities showed a visibly elated people who applauded SEEFOR for infrastructural development through micro project provided for them.
At Ewika in Eleme where a Civic Centre and Borehole was constructed, the traditional ruler, Chief Jacob Mpka said the project was the first of its kind in the history of the Community. He explained that since the inception of the community they have being without potable water, that the construction of borehole by SEEFOR Project was a big relief to the entire Egbere Ewika Community and its environs. The Chief further said the Civic Centre is now a source of social gathering for the people.
Similarly, in Igwuruta where 240 km walk way was constructed; Hon Ken Amaewhule who spoke on behalf of the community thanked SEEFOR for the road, that has boosted both their individual and commercial activities.
At Kalaibiama Community in Bonny LGA, members of the community thanked the project for the electrification of the community which had hitherto being in darkness.
The CDD-E sub-component is created to provide grant for the implementation of agricultural micro project in rural communities thereby increasing their income base. SEEFOR Project is collaborating with FADAMA III to implement this sub-component. So far, 712 cooperatives have benefitted from this sub-component across 49 communities.
Members of some communities who spoke on behalf of their communities were unanimous in their accolade for the project.
At Somiari-Ama, Tere-Ama Community in Port Harcourt LGA where a poultry and lives stock cluster farm was implemented as well as public convenience;
Mrs Dorathy Somiari thanked the project for given the community opportunity to raise their income base as some youths in the community where employed to work on the farm in addition to the proceeds from the farm which is sold periodically. A representative of the community Mr Emmanuel Somiari said by siting the public convenience there, several causalities have been averted, noting that before SEEFOR’s intervention, aged people usually fall down while trying to climb the wooden bridge to toilet.
At Umuagwu in Omuma LGA where market stalls, public convenience and water micro projects were sited, members of the community thanked SEEFOR/FADAMA, adding that it has improved their businesses, social and individual lives as people now have markets stalls to sell their goods without fear of rain and sun, while the search for portable water has been eliminated.
Speaking on behalf of Ido SEEFOR/FADAMA Community Association in Asari-Toru, Mr Sagbe Endure thanked the project for the Cluster farm sited in the community and the borehole water project that has replaced the well water that was the only source of drinking water in the community.
The State Project Coordinator, speaking on Component B of the project said; the Public Financial Management Component is designed to deepen the on-going financial management reform effort of the State Government to ensure judicious utilization of public fund. It is also to improve and modernise the PFM systems, practices, processes and institutions with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in managing public resources to achieve value for money.
Enumerating on the achievements of the component, Mr Amos listed the following:
• Draft Bills for the PFM Legislation and Audit has been passed by the RSHoA and await executive assent.
• Fiscal strategy paper and budget manual developed
• Socio-Economic survey of the State completed
• 10 year State Development Plan (2017 – 2027) completed
• Procured ICT Equipment to the Min. of Budget & Economic Planning
• IPSAS based Chart of Account developed
• Production of IPSAS based Annual budget since 2015
• Procedure Manual for financial reporting developed
• IPSAS cash based financial Report produced since 2017
• Capacity building within and outside the country across all sub-component of the PFM Reform
• SIFMIS infrastructure all in place
• Training of 300 SIFMIS End-Users in basic ICT skills completed
• Standard bidding document developed for BoPP
• Public Asset register developed for BoPP
• Development of document management system completed
• Establishment of procurement Data Base for BoPP completed
• Rivers State BoPP website upgrade completed
Giving an over view of the assessment of the performance of SEEFOR Project in the State, the National Project Coordinator, Dr Greg Onu said “Rivers SEEFOR has surpassed its targets in most indicators, some by 200%, some by 250%”. He applauded Rivers Project Team for the success recorded and ensuring that the project objective is achieved.
The National Project Coordination Team was in the State on a Media Tour of some project sites to access the success of the project in preparation for the project closure in September 2020.

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Coronavirus: FG’s Deadly Double Standard In Rivers

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The politicisation of the fight against the spread of Coronavirus has brought to the fore the deadly application of exclusive list by officials of the Federal Government when it comes to issues that relate to Rivers State and the safety of its people.
This morning (April 12, 2020) as I perused through the newspapers, one report published by Punch Newspaper caught my attention. This report exposed the deadly double standards against Rivers State and her people. It also exposes the underlying deliberate plot to undermine the health security system of the state.
The report: “Chinese doctors’ flight:  How three airline crew members ‘disappeared’ from Lagos quarantine centre” highlighted how the Federal Government is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to quarantine pilots and crew members of Air Peace who flew in  Chinese doctors into the country. These pilots and crew members will be isolated from the rest of the Lagos community for 14 days to ascertain their Coronavirus status.
Please click this link to read the full report: https://punchng.com/chinese-doctors-flight-how-three-airline-crew-members-disappeared-from-lagos-quarantine-centre/
From the report, the Lagos State Government has quarantined 17 personnel of Air Peace who went on that national assignment on behalf of the Federal Government, operators of the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST. Amongst these 17 personnel are pilots and flight attendants.
Reading through the report, it is clear that the quarantine procedure is mandatory, especially when such crew members have entered a Coronavirus impacted territory. In the case of Nigeria, Lagos State is a Coronavirus-impacted territory.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, declared that community transmission of Coronavirus is in full swing in the state. With this public declaration, it is necessary that precautionary measures be taken as long as the persons are coming from that location.
Please read this report for the confirmation of community transmission of Coronavirus in Lagos: https://businessday.ng/exclusives/article/rising-community-transmission-of-covid-19-strengthens-case-for-social-distancing/
Recall that the Federal Government has quarantined the Chinese doctors that are in the country to carry out medical outreach on behalf of the Federal Government.
This brings me to the main point that I have set out to make. The Federal Government that has emphasised EXCLUSIVE LIST every step of the way in relation to interactions with pilots and AVIATION, has willingly allowed the LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT to quarantine 17 Air Peace pilots and crew to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
In fact, three crew members that escaped from quarantine were located by the joint team of the Federal and Lagos State Governments to apprehend them for the overall safety of Lagos State.
Air Peace did not raise alarm. The Federal Government did not raise alarm to warn the Lagos State Government that it has touched the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST.
The quarantine of the 17 Air Peace personnel who were on National Service was never programmed to be an issue during the daily press conferences at Abuja. Therefore, the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the chief advocate of EXCLUSIVE LIST had no reason to insult the Lagos State Governor the way he insulted Governor Wike for defending the people of Rivers State and the health security system of the state.
If you read through the report of Punch on the issue, it was programmed to present Lagos State Government as caring for her people. Several Pro-APC Media will replicate this report. Pro-Lagos Editorials will be written about the proactive isolation of these Air Peace personnel on National Service.
I will also throw up another point highlighted in the Pro-APC Report on the quarantine of the Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. There is a standing order of the Federal Ministry of Health that persons flying from Coronavirus-impacted territories be quarantined to check the virus.
Let me quote a paragraph from the said Sunday Punch report of April 12, 2020 that underlines the preferential treatment accorded Lagos State and the unfortunate politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus by the agencies of the Federal Government, operators of the EXCLUSIVE LIST.
“The 17 pilots and flight attendants later on Wednesday proceeded to Lagos to be quarantined by the Lagos State Government in line with an agreement the Ministry of Health reached with the carrier’s management. The Chinese medical personnel were quarantined in Abuja,” Sunday Punch wrote.
The above paragraph indicates that each time a flight leaves and returns, necessary precautionary measures must be taken to check the spread of Coronavirus and the general transmission of the virus. In Lagos State and Abuja, the Federal Government is ever ready to observe the established health protocols to check the spread of Coronavirus.
But when it comes to Rivers State, the operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST are willing to risk the lives of over six million Rivers people and Nigerians just to drill barrels of oil. They are willing to insult the Rivers State Governor everyday on National Television and Mainstream Media for insisting on the implementation of an agreement for the observation of basic health protocols to protect the lives of Nigerians, wherever they may be.
This is what the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said about the observation of the health protocols on flights.
He said, “They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country. Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”
To think that two leading national newspapers allowed themselves to be used to lampoon the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, for insisting on the operation of the health protocols underscores the rot in the country. The hatred for the truth is nauseating, embarrassing and unfortunate.
If 17 personnel of a leading airline who flew 14 hours nonstop to China to ferry essential health equipment to tackle Coronavirus for the overall safety of Nigeria could be quarantined for 14 days in line with established health protocols, why would anyone justify the reckless flights into Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopters, who consistently refused to observe health protocols?
If the Federal authorities allowed the Lagos State Health Authorities to freely operate at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, where they apprehend pilots on essential services and quarantine them for the safety of Lagos people, why embolden CAVERTON HELICOPTERS to disregard health protocols when they fly into Rivers State?
The entire world is singing from one hymn page to ensure the safety of everyone. But in Nigeria, the situation is different. The Federal Government has instituted measures that frustrate the fight against Coronavirus in major opposition states. Aside encouraging private businesses to compromise the health security system of Rivers State at this critical time, there is no federal support for Governor Wike to carry out this herculean task.
With the 17 Air Peace personnel on compulsory quarantine, nobody has heard of threats from the Airline Operators of Nigeria threatening fire and brimstone. But they issued deadlines on Rivers State Government because they were primed to do so, even though they know of the health protocols operational at this time.
It is sad that the Federal Government will engage in this needless game of double standards. Introducing politics into the fight against the spread of Coronavirus is counterproductive.  It makes the entire country vulnerable and weakens the health defence mechanism of all the 36 states.
The objective of the fight against Coronavirus is to stop the virus from decimating the Nigerian population. In this fight, all established health protocols must be respected whether in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or Enugu. Undermining health protocols in Port Harcourt because Rivers State is on another political path, is dangerous and would undermine the national struggle.
This double standard is deadly. It is unnecessary and it is unfortunate. Nobody should fuel the spread of the virus in one part of the country because of the irregular application of EXCLUSIVE LIST.  God has exposed this aspect with the quarantine of Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. All Nigerians should begin to reason along the safety of the population and not the falsehood of operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST.
It is in our national interest for the Federal Government to discard the politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus and enthrone national respect for the operation of the established health protocols agreed by all tiers of government. What is EXCLUSIVE LIST in the face of national ill-health?
I conclude with Governor Wike’s advice to the Federal Government on the dangers of politicising the fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of Coronavirus has been politicized by the Federal Government. Every state is important in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. Therefore, no state should be singled out for special treatment. The Federal Government should prevail or its agencies that connive with Aero Contractors and Caverton Helicopters to fly in workers on essential services to the state to ensure that the health status of these individuals as it relates to COVID-19 is ascertained.”
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media

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COVID-19 Is Not A Joke -Buhari

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Fellow Nigerians In my address on Sunday, 29th March, 2020, I asked the
residents of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory to stay at home for an initial period of fourteen days starting from Monday, 30th March 2020.
Many State Governments also introduced similar restrictions.
As your democratically elected leaders, we made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities.
However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country. They were necessary to save lives.
Our objective was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.
The level of compliance to the COVID-19 guidelines issued has been generally good across the country. I wish to thank you all most sincerely for the great sacrifice you are making for each other at this critical time.
I will take this opportunity to recognise the massive support from our traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) during this pandemic.
I also acknowledge the support and contributions received from public spirited individuals, the business community and our international partners and friends.
I must also thank the media houses, celebrities and other public figures for the great work they are doing in sensitizing our citizens on hygienic practices, social distancing and issues associated with social gatherings.
As a result of the overwhelming support and cooperation received, we were able to achieve a lot during these 14 days of initial lockdown.
We implemented comprehensive public health measures that intensified our case identification, testing, isolation and contact tracing capabilities.
To date, we have identified 92% of all identified contacts while doubling the number of
testing laboratories in the country and raising our testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
We also trained over 7,000 Healthcare workers on infection prevention and control while deploying NCDC teams to 19 states of the federation.
Lagos and Abuja today have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres.
Many State Governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders.
Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks. Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide.
Our hope and prayers are that we do not have to use all these centres. But we will be ready for all eventualities.
At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.
As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
Most of our efforts will continue to focus in these two locations.
Majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.
By closing our airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, we have reduced the impact of external factors on our country. However, the increase in the number of States with positive cases is alarming.
The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.
At this point, I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home.
In addition, I have signed the Quarantine Order in this regard and additional regulations to provide clarity in respect of the control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic which will be released soon.
The public health response to COVID-19 is built on our ability to detect, test and admit cases as well as trace all their contacts. While I note some appreciable progress, we can achieve a lot more.
Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
Our approach to the virus remains in 2 steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.
This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain.
This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable. 43. We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.
I will therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms. I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others.
No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.
For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.
In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.
The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.
Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.
The response of our State Governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.
In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.
I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.
As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.
I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.
Finally, I want to thank the members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for all their hard work so far. Indeed, the patriotism shown in your work is exemplary and highly commendable.
Fellow Nigerians, I have no doubt that by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic and emerge stronger in the end.
I thank you all for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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