This is the 3rd part of The Tide Round Table Encounter with Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN), first published on Friday July 17, 2009. Continued on Page 17 of last edition. Fantastic! Read on.
What is the difference between the Police of the olden days and today?
My father served in the colonial police the only problem my father ever had in the Police was that of tribalism. Because he was a 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 he went to Police Colleges and was able to perform and on merit. He got deployed to the branch called Special Branch. Special Branch is the branch of the Police that eventually became NSO and 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 walk along the road and you stopped a Police man very knowledgeable.
You are going to Aggrey Road, a policeman will take the pains to tell you where Aggrey road is, in fine language. You know they used to carry batons 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 implicated in armed robbery. Police need to be trained you know, overhaul, thoroughly overhaul. Any and any person cannot be recruited into the police because the police is a civil force for maintenance of law 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 ask 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 no longer the same, they are not trained, they are not properly motivated, they are not properly equipped.
And in those days, every Policeman who signs for rifle will sign for the number of cartridge, what they call 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 envelop now, they will tell you how many people had handled this envelop and they had record, without record, you can’t 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, fingerprinted him and told him they don’t want him any where within three miles of where I was staying in Boston, 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 used to do. They know the criminals, they monitor them on a daily basis. So we need to retrain the police properly equip the police and then properly motivate them.
What is your comment on the current ASUU strike?
Yes, is unfortunate, 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 have read 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 same thing goes down all the way to secondary education, primary education. I don’t know whether government actually recognizes that without education, without proper educational 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 schools 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.
Sorry before we go back to the police, lets go back to Niger Delta, if you are in position to suggest what percentage should come to the Niger Delta, what will you suggest?
50 per cent because there are precedents. We started with 50 percent, shouldn’t be anything less. And people are telling you those who want to play the politics of Nigeria Oh no body is producing the oil, the oil was put there by God. Have they forgotten that in the traditional principles of land ownership, the man who owns the land owns everything under the land. So leave me with my land and if any oil company wants to take oil and gas from my land, 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 wherever you migrated from, everybody ended up somewhere and that place you ended up 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 exploit his own and whatever you can make of it, make of it and take it 100 per cent.
So the principle that exists 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 exists. The principle we should go back to.
Talking about the quality of Education because of incessant strike, has that also affected the products from the law school?
Certainly, is a sorry situation I was telling somebody just two days ago, a lawyer was drafting his statement of defence in a particular case, he said though, that the ancestor, had three female daughters.
That is what a layer wrote. That this man who found the village had three female daughters and male son, so his properties was inherited by his brothers.
So I said a lawyer who has been called to the bar and is at least four years post call.
Do you know that sometimes, lawyers coming out of the law who cannot even draft letters applying for adjournment. That is the reality of the situation; Because the products from the primary school into the secondary school into the University, weak foundations.
All of us remember by the time we left primary schools, I left primary school in 1964. We were the first set that moved from class four to elementary six. By the time you got to class four in primary school, you could write a letter. They used to call it composition in those days. You could write a beautiful essay of two or three paragraphs of three pages telling them your experience during your holidays, but look at today.
Lawyers cannot draft a simple letter applying for adjournment, is not the lawyers fault, obviously if primary education is weak, secondary education is weak at the time he got to the university with weak foundations, he was only barely able to pass and we know what is still happening to the universities. Students will go with gun points and insist that they must give them marks, which they haven’t earned.
Nobody ever heard of it and you know we used to belong to campus society in our days, those campus societies were just for what we called justification.
We were in the Palm Wine Drinkers Club you go and take a palm up to the mountain at Ife and when you finished you go and take your food.
You wouldn’t go and say because you are member of the Supreme Comorado as you called it, you are entitled to so many marks, you hold a knife at the neck of your lecturer.
How dare you enter your lecturers office and we used to have lecturers that you know we called terrorist.
So the educational system has suffered neglect at every level you know, they say primary education is for local government, Secondary for state government, tertiary for federal government. At every level, every government should do something seriously for the glory of education in our land.
There are numerous Anti corruption Agencies, but they have failed to check corruption.
When I was President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), we went on a study tour of the United States of America (USA), to study their law enforcement institutions, the FBI, the CIA, the police, the commissions responsible for appointing judges, the commission responsible for removing Judges. The institutions, we have in Nigeria are weak.
We have not put in place proper laws and proper regulations to check corruption. In that study tour, I came to know that if you were a relation of a government official, you were disqualified from being a contractor to any government agencies.
So if a commissioner or a minister awards a contract to his brother or a company belonging to his brother or sister, you haven’t started to fight corruption. When you have institutions which will regulate the police, these agencies, EFCC, ICPC you also have the Code of Conduct Bureau and the tribunal, we have not properly established.
Some police men formed EFCC with Nuhu Ribadu sooner or later, we now heard about the commission being used by the then President to intimidate his political opponents.
EFCC was now doing the work that police should do. Some EFCC officers were collecting rents, some were settling problems between husbands and wives. We have weak institutions, so if we had strong institutions, EFCC this is your responsibility, this is how you do your job, and they stocked faithfully to the principles for which they were established for, when you have proper regulations, every commissioner you know when you filled those forms for the Code of Conduct, there are certain things you declare and there are certain things you should not disclose.
I was a commissioner, there was a base upon which I awarded contract in my days in government we have what we called Tenders Board and Finance and General Purpose Committee. Those were institutions put in place by the colonial masters to check undue corruption, so those things have all disappeared.
Now, the governor can sit in one place and say to a commissioner award a contract to soso and so, and the commissioner awarding obviously will look at cases and wonder what will be the benefit of those people so the institutions have not been properly established and until they are we are beating about the bush.
EFCC cannot do it and ICPC cannot do it. How many political officeholders have been brought to book for corruption and you and I are living day and night with them in the same village and communities. The man who have difficulties buying car, somebody you saw moving on okada, he becomes a politician and the next thing he is building a mansion of three plots. I told you a story about how a policeman who was a corper bought a motorcycle and he was sent to Orderly Room to explain where he got money to buy a motor cycle. Now what do we do, we give them chieftaincy titles. We invite them as chief launchers, even government ceremonies.
No, the institutions are weak to fight corruptions and until we strengthen those institutions and the institutions include as I said the police, the courts. The courts are also weak, because the courts only deal with what you bring before it. So unless we strengthen these institutions all this talk about fighting corruptions is baldadash.
Are you interested in politics?
You know politics is something which unless you are certain that the playing field is level any sensible person will always be reserved. When politics returned to this country, people didn’t think it was a serious thing, because we have heard several series of banning and unbanning by Babangida and by Abacha. So by the time they said oh; Abubakar came up and all that yes we are really going to hold election, and hand over in May of 1999, not every body was convinced that it was a serious thing. Those who went into it ended up entering a game that the rules will keep changing on duly basis. Those who could spare in politics managed to survive all those occurrences and today they are our political leaders.
I have this strong believe that serious and credible Nigerians will have reservation before they venture into partisan politics.
Look at the recent one we are hearing from Ogun State. We have heard it in Anambra about Okija shrine. How we reached the level now our so called representatives have to go before a shrine, fetish juju shrine to swear oath of allegiance to a governor who was supposedly elected by the people, do they not understand that the power is for the people until we get that into our mentality politics is not for serious people, so, yes I have every right you know I was asked by a newspaper once, are you prepared to serve and I said “Yes I am prepared to serve.” I think it was your colleague, the headline that came out was that Okocha: I’m prepared to serve” All the friends I have in the government suddenly became my enemies – OCJ wants to run for governor he won’t let me know. If I offer myself to the people and the people find my policies and programmes attractive, they will say that this is the man we will vote for.
Nwakaudu: A Good Man Goes Home
Today, (Thursday, August 18, 2020), the body of Late Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, Senior Special Assistant on Electronic Media to the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, will be laid to rest.
There is no doubt that his kinsmen at Umuanya Ogbodikwu, in Umuahia South LGA of Abia State will be full of grief that such an illustrious son was cut down in his prime.
As tears will flow from family, friends, well wishers and professional colleagues, the life and times of a man who bestrode the media like a colossus will be a talking point.
Mr. Nwakaudu, whose sad demise occurred on Sunday, May 17, 2020, at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH) after a brief illness had an amiable personality that was magnified with his toothy smile.
As a thorough bred professional, he covered his beat with the dexterity that stood him out among his peers.
His ink flowed with relentless ease as he churned out Press Releases and Features to propagate the policies and programmes of the Rivers State Government.
He never missed out on any news item that had to do with the State or our Principal. The timeliness with which he communicated was quite enchanting.
The Abia State-born prolific journalist, who has a degree in Mass Communication from the Benue State University, Makurdi, began reporting in a Makurdi-based tabloid called the Pavilion, before joining The Guardian Newspapers as the Benue State Correspondent.
He joined the Media team of the Rivers State Governor, who was then Minister of State for Education and moved to Port Harcourt with the Governor to coordinate the Media team during the 2015 elections and was officially designated as the Senior Special Assistant, Electronic Media to the Governor after the Election victory.
The late Nwakaudu was a committed and dedicated professional who contributed immensely to the implementation of The NEW Rivers Vision.
He was a strong defender of the Rivers State Government, a robust writer and an uncompromising media strategist, who interpreted and presented the visions and initiatives of the administration of Governor Wike, with comprehensive poignancy and unequivocal clarity.
He was the definitive name and voice of the Rivers State Government House Media and his passing at the time it occurred, came when his services were greatly needed not just by the Government of Rivers State but the entire journalism profession.
Simeon Nwakaudu was a good man. He was a loyal family man, a dependable ally to his friends and colleagues and a devout Christian who enjoyed immeasurable love, respect and admiration from everyone all over the country.
He will be sorely missed for his professionalism both to the Rivers State Government and the Journalism Community.
As an individual, I lost not just a friend and colleague but a brother. He showed me so much love and support as we carried out public communication for our State.
We had a close knit relationship that created the right synergy that produced a resilient Media Team.
He was ready to go the extra mile as he made sacrifices that made me see him more as a brother than a colleague.
There was never a time I gave him an assignment no matter how late or shortness of time that he complained.
He was in my assessment a rare breed that I presently feel that part of my professional pillars in the State Media Team is gone.
Nwakaudu’s death is indeed a monumental loss to the Government of Rivers State, family, friends and colleagues.
I will surely miss my “Ogbuagu.” Fare thee well, Simeon, until we meet on the Resurrection morning.
May your gentle soul rest in peace. Amen.
Nsirim is Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
Rivers SEEFOR: The Journey So Far
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.
Coronavirus: FG’s Deadly Double Standard In Rivers
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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