This is the second of a three-part serial on the epoch encounter between The Tide Editorial Board and the Rivers State Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy and Community Affairs.
So are we to say that the ministry has no power to punish any erring local government Chairmen?
The Ministry has powers that are exercised through the Governor. We recommend to the Governor, I cannot as a commissioner suspend the chairman. There are only two ways you can punish a chairman. If not, anything you do to him, is like water on duck fowl, The only two ways are; suspend or remove him, that is one.
The second is to withhold his monthly allocation. These are the only ways. None of these, I can do without the Governor’s approval. When their allocations come from Federation account, the highest they can stay with me is three days. The Governor has given the right. I don’t even need to tell the Governor before releasing them to them. Because, he has delegated me as the Chairman of Joint Allocation Committee. So as soon as the money comes, three days is the highest, so, if we are calculating and distributing, highest is three days, we release their money to them.
On no account can I delay it. So if you can’t delay the money you cannot deduct from it, you can’t punish them except you have approval and that must be on a very strong ground. Since we came, we have not delayed any local government allocation.
Since you can’t delay their funds, don’t you think 18 months is enough period to assess their performances?
Well, let me now come in there. Actually before a meeting of all Government Functionaries where the Governor set up another Committee to join us, to come out with a kind of a review to look at the assessment again, look at whatever is on ground and advise him again.
Before that, we have been doing our work. I was reading one of your papers where they were mentioning some of the things we said when we went to some local governments. Those visits, were visits to confirm some of the technical reports. We have a technical team headed by Mr. Okari. He is the Director Local Government we have other valuers and engineers from Ministry of Work, who normally join them and we send them round.
They have already gone round. We already have our assessment of these chairmen. What I do is that, those that I did not personally go to, I do a kind of impromptu unscheduled visit and I have this target what I want to see, and I quickly go and see them.
Doing this and informing His Excellency what His Excellency did as if to reconfirm what we have said, because he said by October this year, when he would be two, on the saddle, he would come up with a clear statement.
And of course for him to come out with a clear statement, he wants to be double sure. So I don’t think we are late, we have done our work. But what we are doing is kind of reconfirming it. So that even if a local government chairman says, it is political, we can say that, all these people involved cannot be political at the same time.
I’m sure you have looked at the local government law, will you say that you are very satisfied, or would you want amendment?
Well, for one I think the way it is, is ok. let me tell you I don’t want because I am a commissioner today, fight for so much powers to be given to the commissioner, punishing chairmen, because I don’t know who will become the commissioner tomorrow. The system as it is now, though it may look slow, it may look almost or slightly unwieldy, but you see in a society where there are so many possibilities, its always better for the Justice system grind slowly and steadily than to make it so fast as to allow for someone subjective or some one’s whims and caprices to prevail on the system.
What I am saying is that the system whereby like if I want to punish chairmen, I will recommend to His Excellency he will take action and seek the ratification of the Assembly, it may look slow, but I think it is better because if I want to say a chairman is bad, I have to be sure of my facts because, one, I have to convince the Governor, two, he will have to convince the Assembly.
The major problem we have is that the electoral system is so weak, throws up the wrong people in some cases. That is why one of the first things His Excellency did when he came in is to see what he can do to make sure the local government elections are free and fair.
That is what I think is necessary or what is needed. He did very well as all of you can testify, he may not have scored a hundred percent you can testify to the fact since, I started involvement in politics, the last local government elections was the freest, where RSIEC can come out against what is perceived to be the will of the majority party and government will not do anything, will allow them.
At least every person knows that in the last local government election, he tried to give RSIEC a free hand, with what he started, if he can build on it by the next election and makes sure that he gets it totally right, I think that will be the first major hurdle we will cross.
The next thing would be strengthening the electoral system to make sure that the right materials are put in there. The next would be to strengthen the regulatory system, for regulating the local government the monitoring apparatus. We have a lot of organs that regulate and monitor the local governments.
We have the Ministry, the House of Assembly; you have the Auditor General of Local government who is supposed to audit their account. You have the Local Government Service Commission, which is a parastatal which disciplines staff, promotes them and so on.
If these agencies are strengthened, and electoral process is good, I don’t think what we need is too much amendment of law.
The problem, Nigeria has, I always tell people, is not in most cases amendment of law, it is the enforcement of laws.
We have so many laws. But if you look at the law book, there are some laws that when you read, you will be surprised that these laws are there.
But people violate them with reckless abandon and nobody talks to no body. People can walk on the street for instance, if you feel pressed, you just stop somewhere and you help yourself. There are laws, that’s Public Nuisance. But who is punishing that man doing it, nobody.
So our problem is not law, new law, I don’t see that as our problems. Our problem is, enforcing the ones we have.
How do we change the orientation of Nigerians so that people will begin to obey law. How do we change the orientation of the man saddled with responsibility of enforcing these laws so that, he would see it, as a duty and perform it. He doesn’t need somebody to come and beg him to perform it. These are the things we need. For me, for now, I am not proposing a new law for local government. What I am proposing is, strengthening the institutional frame work for election, regulation and monitoring.
You were once, a Local Government chairman, and In those days, local government chairmen used to go to the mother Ministry, show loyalty, in one way or the other. How do they show loyalty these days?
Well let me tell you something. Sometime when people asked me, as a commissioner of Local Government, what is your greatest achievement, and I tell people that you know because ours is a system where you don’t construct building, people don’t see the gigantic structures, that they can touch.
We deal with the final and intangible elements of life. So, I tell people that, what I know in this government, that is the tribute any person should give to the Governor Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi, when it comes to local government is that we have been able to entrench, financial sanity in Local Government system.
When you see local government chairmen go to pay homage to commissioner, or pay homage to Director, it is because as a commissioner, if you placed some hurdles, in the system, those hurdles will warrant him to always come and pay homage to you. But if you remove those hurdles, he does not need to pay homage to you and what we have done and what the Governor has done and the Ministry is implementing it, is that these hurdles are removed completely. There are some chairmen, these 23 Local Government chairmen now, apart from my visits to them, my regular meetings with them, may be they don’t even know my house, I can tell you that, they have not even come to my office; is because there are no hurdles on the way, artificial hurdles. Like the first is, if you can delay their money, I told you, that is some of the most serious things you can do to a chairman. If you can delay his money, he will be coming to beg you, if you can for every reason delay his money, he would come to you. Every time, he wants to be paying homage to you.
But I told you that, His Excellency’s system is that, a local government money, you cannot delay it for more than three days as soon as it comes from Federation Account.
The chairman does not need to call him ah, what is happening to my allocations now”, because as soon as the time comes it will go into his account.
Two, I cannot and I have never deducted one kobo from any Local government allocation.
Before now, when we were chairmen, there are so many reasons for which a commissioner can deduct money from a local Government Account. For instance, I can decide that, so and so seminar on anti corruption is very important that every Local Government, one, one million, I deduct at source because afterall the money is with me. It used to happen.
You can say, councilors in Local government, in Port Harcourt Local Ggovernment can write a petition that their arrears, statutory or benefits have not been paid, to past councillors, you look at it if it is in the law that they are supposed to be paid, all I will need to do is to invite the treasurer, why have you not paid this.
I approve, I deduct at source, it used to happen. When I was chairman, virtually every month, they were deducting money from our allocation at source to either pay past chairmen, past supervisors, past councillors, and so on and so forth.
But since we commenced, the Governor like I told you, one major thing he has done is entrenching sanity.
If you come to my office now there are a lot of past councillors, writing that they have not paid them, but we don’t because it is subject to abuse.
A lot of commissioners and treasurers, infact what we used to agitate then was, that even when they have finished paying them, the people will write another one.
We used to say that a commissioner and the treasurer make their own money from it.
So when you placed those hurdles, the chairman needs to be coming to you to pay homage.
Like I told you, from the word go, our assessment platform involves agencies, other corporate bodies so that even if you are loyal to me, on that day, you cannot be loyal to every body, so the assessment will at least have some level of objectivity so the moment they see that you cannot delay their money, even though I am assessing them, I cannot be too subjective because there are other people who will join me, they don’t need to do this personal loyalty thing and that thing has been removed from the system.
Now, what every Local Government get, I think The Tide is one of the papers that published it. Infact we ensure that the day as we finish from the JAC; because there is no deduction in Local Government Account, infact because, they being calling it statutory deductions, I managed to leave that word deduction. I decided to remove that word, because, what we do, is Statutory Distribution. The only thing we do, is, this is the amount of money, the Local Government is getting out of it this is what goes to traditional rulers. This is what goes to Local Government Service Commission; this is what goes to their pension fund.
We published all. The essence of that publication is, no Local Government chairman can tell his people a different story.
Infact we also directed the chairmen that at intervals, hold stakeholders meeting. The people already know how much you received; tell them what you do with it.
When you are holding the stakeholders meeting, inform us so that I can send a representative at least to know that you have done your stakeholders meeting. The other reason is, Federal Authorities giving the money will also see that the total figure they gave to us, is what we have given to the local government and that is one big credit to His Excellency.
Before now, no government has done it, published this figure, for everybody to see this figure, is very sacred figure, because so many things can be done from it.
Don’t you think Rivers State is ripe for more Local Governments?
If I am to speak the truth we need more local governments, because the local government system brings development close to the people. You know that, as a law abiding state, creation of local government is actually a process which involves states and Federal Government. And of course you know that, in states, where they have been doing it, you know the problems, we’ve been having.
Local Governments are creation of the constitution, we have 774 local governments. Their monies come direct every month, as Federation Account Allocation is advising the state, this is your own money, they also advise Local Governments, ABC this is your own money for a government like ours, that believes in absolute Due Process, you see that he will not want to go into that.
That will mean that, the money meant for 23 local governments, you will touch it by splitting and giving part to new local governments you create. So I think we need it. But His Excellency will rather wait for the legal process to throw up that I cannot tell you exactly how many local governments.
I cannot tell you exactly, we may even need more than 23 if the opportunity is there. I have not done a clear assessment of the need. From my background knowledge of the state and the local government, most of them need new local governments some even need at least two to really bring development very close to the people.
Local governments like Khana, in terms of landmass, and population, even local governments that people think are small. For instance a local government like Akuku-Toru, is a local government that certainly need another local government, whereas, the population may not be as big as Khana, because of the so much riverine network, therefore some communities are very far away from the headquarters.
For instance for you to go to Kula, from Abonnema, is a day’s journey on speed boat. A lot of chairmen, if a chairman is not a really serious chairman, he can be in office three years he will not go to Kula one day. I know when I was chairman I went to Kula, the people were telling me that did I know that there were local government chairmen, that served out their tenure in Abonnema and they did not come to Kula. It happens so we need a lot but I cannot say with a mathematical accuracy how many.
To be contd.
Innovation, Creativity’ll Take State Media To Productivity,
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has been described as a visionary leader for looking inward in appointing a professional, versatile and experienced journalist, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, as the Commissioner for Information and Communications in the state. Nsirim, who is a former chairman, Rivers State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and current Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), was a two-time Chief Press Secretary to Rivers State Governors, Captain Sam Ewang and Sir Celestine Omehia, respectively; and rose from the ranks in the profession and the state civil service: He began as a Reporter in The Tide, then joined defunct SUNRAY Newspapers, before returning to the Ministry of Information and Communications where he rose from the position of UNICEF Desk Officer to become Director, and later, Permanent Secretary.
As one who has carved a niche for himself in the journalism profession and exceptionally managed information at different levels, Nsirim’s appointment did not come as a surprise because he had been prepared to hit the ground running on day one. Thus, immediately after his swearing-in by Governor Nyesom Wike on Monday, December 30, 2019, the commissioner swiftly approved a work plan aimed at repositioning the state’s information and communications management apparatus for greater efficiency, productivity and profitability.
To kick-start the onerous journey, he swung into action by visiting the state NUJ Press Centre to enlist the leadership of journalism community’s holistic support to enable him succeed. And in appreciating the appointment by the governor and the commissioner’s visit to show solidarity, Chairman of the state Council of NUJ, Stanley Job Stanley, assured Nsirim of members’ total cooperation.
He returned to the ministry where he held a closed door meeting with all directors on January 2, 2020, to chart the way forward. He also met with all information officers, during which he challenged them to be creative in the performance of their duties, cautioning against indiscipline and laxity. In fact, Nsirim particularly charged the information officers to regularly analyse government policies and programmes as there affect their ministries, departments and agencies as well as local government areas with a view to sensitizing, enlightening, informing, and educating the populace to enable them key in and partner with government to achieve set goals of guaranteeing peace, facilitating governance and sustaining development at all levels.
Having began by consolidating on the foundational basis for success, Nsirim also decided that the journey won’t be easy without carrying the state government-owned media houses along. Consequently, he embarked on the media tour with a visit to Rivers State Television (RSTV) January 7, 2020; Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) and Government Printing Press (GPP) on January 9, 2020; and Rivers State Radio Broadcasting Corporation (RSRBC) and Garden City FM Radio on January 10, 2020.
At the RSTV in Elelenwo, Nsirim read the riot act to both management and staff, noting that discipline and creativity must be entrenched to give the station edge in the ever-competitive media space, boost productivity and profitability. While commending the General Manager of RSTV, Dafini Gogo-Abbey, management and staff for their efforts in publicizing government policies and programmes, he reminded them that more still needs to be done, especially in galvanising efforts to rewrite the negative narrative promoted by detractors to demarket the state, scare away investors and tourists and slow down the pace of development in the state.
Nsirim said, “I am convinced as commissioner for information, that we have the right professionals in the various departments of this organization who have the requisite training and experience to deliver on assignments. My job is to make you re-orientate yourselves, wake up every one that is sleeping, and to say to us that we need to roll up our sleeves for more work. We are privileged at this time in the history of Rivers State that we have a governor who is passionate to make Rivers State the destination of choice by rebuilding infrastructure, paying attention to education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, and manpower development, among others.
“And he is putting everything into ensuring that the NEW Rivers Vision Blueprint he enunciated when he took the oath of office in 2015 is implemented to the letter. We have a governor who does not speak from both sides of the mouth. What he says he will do, he has done and will continue to do.
“He has shown Rivers people that his second tenure will be like a first tenure. His Excellency wants Rivers State to be a pride of all of us, and he has demonstrated that with his style of governance. Your role is to use Rivers State Television to key into that development agenda.
“To key into that development agenda, you must be professional, you must be dedicated, you need to do a lot of re-orientation and personal development. If we do that collectively, we will be making a mark. And I am proud to say that when we celebrated 100 days in office of the governor’s second tenure, we were one state in the federation that had projects to be commissioned, and we did that for three weeks. His Excellency was on the road commissioning people-oriented projects. With a man that has that kind of vision, those of us in the media parastatals have a critical role to play. Now that the 2020 Budget has been announced, what are you going to do as a media house to ensure that the people for whom the budget is meant for get what they are supposed to get?”, he asked.
The commissioner said he expects that workers in the state television outfit begin to do sectoral analysis of the budget to help sell the programmes and policies of the administration to the larger population, and tasked them too be proactive.
“We are in a new dawn that calls for creativity and innovation”, he stated, assuring that workers’ welfare will be given priority but urged them to show their professionalism by making RSTV the viewers’ preferred choice. “We will not tolerate indiscipline. I had to hold a meeting with the management team before this general meeting, and I have empowered them to act decisively.
“I have empowered the management to utilize disciplinary measures to ensure that those who think that this is a place where you can come and do anything you like; earn salary and go, stops. If you are a member of staff here and you are part of those who are not dedicated to their duties, then you are going to be in trouble because I have told the management to draw up an appraisal system for this organization.
“Because it a public communication outfit does not mean that we won’t make profit. It doesn’t mean that we can’t shine like other television houses. The television house is a platform for creativity. If any staff here is creative, you will be sought after. The media house is a place where you can stir up your potential and distinguish yourself, if you are creative. The times now call for personal development”, he said, adding, “I would like to see more creativity and healthy competition. Television is glamour right from the dressing of news casters to diction. You need to understand that this promotion that His Excellency gave to me is our collective promotion, so we must reciprocate through improved performance. We can’t thank him enough.
“If you understand that this is the first time in our ministry where somebody will rise from the ranks, get to be permanent secretary and now commissioner, then you will realise that there is reason for this appointment: confidence and trust in our ability to excel. And because it is so, we can’t afford to let His Excellency down. We all need to redouble our efforts. So, I am going to demand from RSTV better programming and content. I am going to demand from the news casters to dress with class. I am demanding professional competence from RSTV”.
Noting that he expects to see changes immediately, Nsirim urged them to show commitment and dedication with the little resources that are available to them. “I have found out in my working career that what makes people stand out is when they are able to manage the little they have and show that they have potentials, and then, people will recognize them. We must be proactive as media houses, the platform you have accommodates lots of creativity and hard work. I want to see competition among those in programmes and other core areas, and we will be ready to partner the management of the station to honour those that are creative,” he added.
Earlier, General Manager of RSTV, Defini Gogo-Abbey, welcomed Nsirim to the organization, saying that many in the state-owned media have been asking for a commissioner that they can call their own.
“Most of us have been asking God to give us a commissioner, and that Lord, when you are giving us a commissioner, let him or her be a commissioner that will understand us. Let him be a commissioner that you will send to us. We thank God today that He has sent us a commissioner. He is not just a commissioner; he is a son of God, who, I guess is a commissioner for this time to work with Governor Nyesom Wike, Mr. Project”.
She described Nsirim as a thorough professional and somebody that knows the state-owned media and the peculiar circumstances facing them, just as he she pledged the commitment of the management and staff to continue to promote the activities of the state government with professionalism.
At the RSNC and GPP, Nsirim said that his familiarisation visit to government-owned media houses should not be seen as a ritual but designed to challenge the media houses on the urgent need to reposition themselves for greater productivity and profitability. He charged both management and staff on innovative, creative and productive ideas and strategies to move the organisations to the next level, and particularly noted that with innovative ideas, everyone has the potential to recreate The Tide Newspaper to achieve enviable heights never before imagined.
He reminded the workers that ideas rule the world and not money, and further charged the workers to think out-of-the-box, saying that he does not see any reason why the newspaper should not be on the newsstand on a daily basis, given the quality of manpower available.
“Let me challenge the men and women here that we have the potential to turn things around in The Tide Newspaper as part of ways to let government know that we are keying into the NEW Rivers Vision’s development agenda”, Nsirim emphasised, adding that the Editorial staff, as the rallying point of the flagship newspaper in the Niger Delta region, should lead the way in creating solid editorial content to drive the positive pro-development and investment message of the government and people of the state to the outside world. “I am expecting deeper editorial content on the policies and programmes of the state government,” he stressed.
“At RSTV the other day, somebody asked me when are we going to celebrate improvement of the state media houses? Let me tell us one thing: I am a family person and there are so many state newspapers that have closed down. I hope we are aware? They are no longer operating. If government has kept this place open, and the governor is still paying salaries, we shouldn’t wish it away. That is a major contribution. I know so many of us here don’t have less than five dependants, and this job you have here is helping you to maintain your dependants.
“The issue usually is: we need equipment. I have challenged even the RSTV because I am a family person. I have asked them: what you have now, what are you doing with the little that you have? We shouldn’t be like that man in the Bible that was given one talent. We know the story. That parable teaches a lot of lessons, all of us here can use what we have to make this newspaper the pride of Rivers people.
“I was here when we were printing 12,000 to 16,000 copies daily. In fact, we were running two editions, and circulating all over the country. We had Weekend Tide and Sunday Tide. I worked here to the point I was producing three pages every day. I produce my ‘Political’ page; I produce ‘Weekend Personality’ and also produce ‘Faces and Ideas’ on Sunday in this organization. We can go back to those olden days. It’s possible!” he stated.
Admonishing those in Advert Department to work hard to generate more revenue in 2020 than in 2019, as the viability of the corporation depends greatly on their ability to perform, Nsirim said, “I need to see a radical difference on how it was last year, and now. We can’t afford not to make progress this year in this corporation. We demand from you, beginning from tomorrow, greater productivity and efficiency. We are also going to be demanding profitability from you. If you generated N10.00 last year, I expect that this year, you generate N20.00. There is no excuse for failure. I won’t tell the governor now that because he has not given me money, then I will not work as commissioner. So it is for all of you.
“Those in Advert or you call it Business Development; you must generate money this year. The first assessment for all the media houses is happening this first quarter, between now and March. I must see a radical difference between how it was last year and now.
“We must demonstrate to the present administration that we are keying into its development agenda. What is happening here in Rivers State within the past four and half years is like a revolution. You will recall that in early 2015, he was told ‘we will see where he will get money to pay salaries. We all were owed salaries for three months then. When he came in as governor, he cleared those arrears, has been consistently paying our salaries, and has turned Rivers State to a construction site”, Nsirim noted.
The commissioner urged all management and staff of both RSNC and GPP to reciprocate government’s kind gesture in ensuring regular payment of salaries so as to make him leave shining legacies at the end of his tenure. Towards achieving the NEW Vision of the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Nsirim also charged the workers to justify the governor’s confidence in them by redoubling their efforts for improved productivity. The commissioner noted that the governor’s decision to appoint a professional journalist that has grown through the ranks in the ministry as commissioner amounts to a vote of confidence in journalists in the state, which needs to be justified.
“The governor has made a strong statement by looking within our rank and file, and deciding that we have the potential to produce a commissioner (for information). What that means is that we must justify that confidence. In justifying that confidence, we have to change our mind-set towards our work in order to be more productive”, he stressed.
While noting that this is the first time such appointment has been made in the history of the ministry, Nsirim harped on the hackneyed common mind-set of staff who feel that working for a government-owned media means doing anything they like, saying that he believes that The Tide has the quality of men and women needed to recreate the newspaper and make it the envy of the world. “Everyone has the potential to recreate this organisation. The idea that this is a government parastatal, so, people can come to work any time they like has to stop. It is time for productivity. It’s only someone that doesn’t want to make progress that will keep doing something the same way repeatedly, and expect better result”, he said.
Nsirim, therefore, directed heads of all departments to draw up a template for appraisal of staff’s performance, saying that such templates should take cognisance of each department’s peculiar circumstances and functions. “If you are in Advert, your template will be different from those in Administration and Editorial”, he said, and tasked the various departments to complement each other while exhibiting the highest competitive character.
Noting some key challenges experienced by staff, such as obsolete equipment and depleting manpower, the commissioner charged staff to do their best with what is available to justify being given attention. “We are going to work collectively to show the world that this is a government-owned newspaper house where we can excel, be productive, and make profit. His Excellency is desirous to make Rivers State the destination of choice in this country, and he is not paying lip service to it. He is rather building the right environment, providing the appropriate infrastructure to promote health care, education, agriculture, and improving human capital development. I’m challenging both management and staff to think outside the box, be creative and innovative. Let’s demonstrate to the world that we have men and women in these organisations that have the potentials to turn things around. We are demanding from you greater productivity and efficiency”, the commissioner added.
“My tenure must make a difference. That is why I have come to challenge everybody now that we need to roll up our sleeves to work. It is when you work well that you become my friends. The general manager is my personal friend and my boss, and I am demanding a lot from him. So, he is going to push the heat to you. When he pushes the heat to you, don’t think that he hates you, we want results. The truth of the matter is: if we throw away the cap and that mentality that ‘this is a public corporation’, and make up our minds to work, we will succeed, because there is a spiritual import about synergy.
“There are so many people, let me say 20% of the population of this place just come to earn salary. There is nothing that is happening here that I don’t know. Of course, you know I should know. I can even call names department-by-department because here is my family. So, my appeal to everyone is that it is not going to be as it used to be. The Tide newspaper must be repositioned. We won’t stop at three editions per week anymore because we shouldn’t be publishing stale news. So, whatever it will take you to reorganize and bring everybody on the same page to make sure that we have more editions of The Tide, do it. The work is starting tomorrow, not next week, not next month.
“I don’t want to hear anything about challenges. I don’t want to lose the fire power to succeed. We are in a hurry to develop the state. The governor is in a hurry to develop the state. So, let’s keep aside the challenges confronting the corporation. I have talked with management heart-to-heart, and you will see things happening here from tomorrow because it is possible”, Nsirim said.
In his remarks on behalf of staff of Editorial Department, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), The Tide Chapel, Comrade Amadi Akujobi, thanked the commissioner for the visit, describing it as home-coming to celebrate his appointment with his colleagues and family members, as according to him, the commissioner began his journalism career from The Tide.
Akujobi harped on the need for more training and retraining of journalists to sharpen their skills and competences on emerging trends in the profession, saying that as a dynamic profession, it was vital for Reporters and Editors to undertake regular retraining to enable them compete favourably in the technology-driven media industry.
Also speaking on behalf of the RSNC Chapter of National Union of Printing, Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW), the National Vice President of the union, Comrade Godwin Williamson, noted the various welfare initiatives of the new management designed to motivate workers for improved productivity, but solicited for more government attention to address the poor conditions of working tools in both organisations.
Williamson, who is also the state chairman of NUPPPPROW, explained that although both media outfits have quality and competent staff to take the agenda of government to the next level, but regretted that the lack of modern equipment and technology has undermined their productivity and obliterated profitability in a highly competitive media space.
Also speaking, the General Manager of RSNC, Mr. Vincent Ake, re-echoed the charge given by the commissioner, and called on staff to be ready for more work. “The commissioner has come, and he has charged us to worker harder. He has said we should roll up our sleeves, and do the much we can to ensure that the newspaper is sustained. And everybody should be ready to work because there is no food for a lazy man.
“Everybody should be innovative in whichever area you are. I am open to innovation. All we need is let the ideas come in, and we will implement them,” Ake stated, and assured staff that the management would organise training and retraining programmes to sharpen their skills and competences for greater productivity.
He explained that the welfare initiatives of the present dispensation were part of a deliberate policy to motivate staff to put in their best to fast-track the capacity and ability of the corporation to break even and step into an era of profitability. Ake, therefore, thanked the commissioner for coming, just as he reminded him that The Tide was his home, and he should be free to visit anytime.
Mischief Remains Inferior To Strategy, Performance And Acceptance
Since the immediate past failed Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi imposed his political godson on his fractured party for the 2015 governorship election, Dakuku Peterside has been oscillating round the political firmament , spewing mischief in order to remain relevant.
If he is not engaged in ethnic name dropping, he is bragging about his party’s control of the levers of State violence to abduct the political structure of Rivers State. There was a time when Dakuku Peterside and his Oga were struggling to outdo each other in the circulation of mischievous falsehood on different Radio Stations around Port Harcourt.
For the moribund Rivers APC and her members, the only ticket to gaining the approval of the immediate past Rivers State Governor is to formulate and sustain mischief against Governor Wike. For Amaechi to choose you, you must generate a mind-boggling mischief.
They have never defended the interest of Rivers State anywhere. They have just one objective. To insult Governor Wike and sponsor endless mischief.
If you are chosen, then you must continue to generate lies and mischief with the name of Governor Wike. As such, APC leaders continue to run in circles, never focusing on the issue of development.
Dakuku Peterside has forgotten so soon the favour done to him by Governor Wike. As Commissioner of Works, Peterside denied his maternal home access to road. After spending eight years in Government, the Amaechi Administration left the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo-Nkoro Unity Road unattended to. They focused on needless propaganda and the use of Rivers resources to fund APC National Campaigns. Governor Wike has linked Opobo Kingdom to the rest of Rivers State.
Despite dealing horribly with his maternal home, Dakuku Peterside followed Amaechi to Bori for a political function where he resorted to lies. This was an APC function. Dakuku Peterside told the APC faithful that Governor Wike has done nothing for the area. The few supporters at the poorly attended rally erupted in anger. They were about to disrupt the rally when Amaechi intervened, snatched the microphone from Dakuku Peterside and confessed before the rally that Governor Wike’s dualisation of the Sakpenwa-Bori Road was an excellent contribution to the economic development of the State.
Dakuku Peterside is at his game again. He has started the sponsorship of mischief through the APC Social Media Outlets. In some instances, he engages some misguided ethnic officials.
Imagine Dakuku Peterside acquiring a video and doctoring same to create room for the promotion of a campaign of calumny against Governor Wike. They take advantage of the fact that most Nigerians will not engage in simple content analysis.
In the video that Dakuku Peterside obtained and circulated, Governor Wike was basically responding to issues raised by the Chairman of Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers and Amanyanabo of Opobo, King Douglas Dandeson Jaja. One of the issues centred on the Recognition of Traditional Rulers and the attempts by some unrecognised Traditional Rulers to usurp the functions of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers.
Governor Wike took out time to explain the actions that his Administration will take to ensure that the infractions by unrecognised Traditional Rulers are resolved. This function was handed over to the Attorney General of Rivers State. Of course, nobody expects a mischief maker to highlight these area.
At this time, Dakuku Peterside and other APC Factional groups had started sponsoring falsehood that Governor Wike was promoting an anti-Ijaw agenda. Governor Wike took out time to debunk this lie.
He said: “I will continue to protect the assets of Rivers State. My goal is to protect the interest of Rivers State and her people.
“We are defending Rivers ownership of Soku Oil Wells. Soku Oil Wells are situated in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. I am saying no, we will not allow a neighbouring state take over what belongs to our people.
“We don’t have any anti-Ijaw Agenda. If there is anyone with anti-Ijaw agenda, it is those coming from outside to claim Soku Oil Wells that belong to Rivers State. You want to take what belongs to our state and you want us to fold our hands.
“Rivers State is one. Nobody can divide this state. As Governor, I will not agree for any outsider to take what belongs to Rivers State. I will protect what belongs to our state.”
Generally, it was a frank meeting. A meeting that focused on the overall development of Rivers State.
Since 2015, Governor Wike has made the engagement with Traditional Rulers a key part of his administration. His immediate past predecessor never accorded the Traditional Institution this type of respect. Every quarter, Governor Wike attends the meeting of the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers. There is no GOVERNOR in Nigeria that engages with his State’s Traditional Rulers like Governor Wike. No , not one. Let the APC sponsored mercenaries bring out and show any other Governor that has met with a recognised Traditional Rulers Council in his state on three separate occasions. For Governor Wike, it is every Quarter.
The immediate past APC Administration in Rivers State destroyed the entire Traditional Institution. Traditional Institution was weakened beyond measure and their Secretariat was left desolate. It took the intervention of Governor Wike for this story to change.
Governor Wike constructed an ultra-modern Secretariat for the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers. Whilst the construction lasted, the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers met inside the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt. Under Amaechi, it was only his faction of the State Assembly that enjoyed this privilege.
It is embarrassing that Dakuku Peterside, a major player in the Amaechi faction finds expression only in mischief. After losing the 2015 General Election, Dakuku Peterside begged the Former APC National Chairman, Dr John Oyegun to assist him prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari for REHABILITATION. He was appointed Director General of NIMASA. According to his political godfather, Amaechi, NIMASA’s funds are in dollars. After 4 years at NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside believes that the only thing Rivers State deserves is occasional PRESS STATEMENTS to insult Governor Wike. Not even his maternal home has received any benefits from Dakuku Peterside.
He is not alone in this failure to perform. The Minister of Transportation has attracted nothing to Rivers State, aside the repeated attempts to rig elections in Rivers State. Nothing positive has been attracted to Rivers State by this team. They were in control of NDDC for four years and even the APC Federal Government is so disheartened that an audit has been ordered.
For several years, they have been involved in deliberate falsehood and manipulation of information, to no end. Every mischievous plot ends in failure. This route will not shake the support base of Governor Wike.
Dakuku Peterside and his faction of Rivers APC over the years engaged social and traditional media agents to concoct misleading stories about Rivers State and de-market the State. Yet, Rivers people continue to stand with the best performing Governor of Nigeria.
Dakuku Peterside, his political godfather and their co-travellers must understand that propaganda, mischief and falsehood have their limit. When faced with performance and pro-people leadership, these anti-development elements fade out.
Governor Wike is firmly rooted with the people. He interacts with them daily and effectively uses Rivers mandate for the development of Rivers State. They love him because of his high performance level and defence of Rivers interest.
Political gossip and falsehood only gains traction for a while. After that, the reality of rejection remains. Unless Dakuku Peterside cultivates the virtue of performance and service to Rivers people, he will continue to grope in political darkness. There is no political leverage in political mischief, other than sadistic momentary pleasure.
Wakaudu is Special Adviser to the Governor on Electronic Media
Amnesty International’s Misguided Message
Personally, I think the press statement issued by Amnesty International on the security situation in Rivers State is misguided in many respects. The nature of the press release made it difficult to determine what was the objective of the authors.
I must declare here that like every other state in Nigeria, Rivers State has its own security challenges. The state has had its share of security infractions in different communities. As such, nobody would say that Rivers State is crime-free.
But in relation to neighbouring states and other highly populated states of the Federation, Rivers State is relatively peaceful. But there is room for improvement in this regard and Governor Wike is working at it, everyday.
One wonders how Amnesty International Nigeria arrived at the multiple casualty figures and generalisations, without verifying any allegations or setting out keys for the testing of her conclusions by independent observers.
For me, other than the name Amnesty International Nigeria on the letterhead, the entire press release looked like the can of lies usually dished out by a former Publicity Secretary of a defunct political party and the daily politically-induced broadcasts of a Port Harcourt-Based Radio Station.
That statement is rich in hearsay, but short in facts and credible efforts to verify information.
Most painfully, the press release on Rivers State by Amnesty International Nigeria lacked the fundamentals of courage. It is weak in its inability to tell truth to power at the centre.
Beyond the ‘to and fro’ of the wild allegations and numerous hearsay conclusions, is the core quotation which summed up the target of the press release.
”The authorities have failed to bring those responsible for these horrific crimes to justice and have allowed a climate of impunity to fuel further violence. We call on the Nigerian authorities to take more robust action to stop these attacks by investigating every clash and bringing perpetrators to justice.” said Osai Ojigho, Director Amnesty International Nigeria in that Press Release.
I wondered why an international organisation like Amnesty International Nigeria failed to apportion blame to the exact defaulter. The vague mention of “authorities “ to my mind is academic and needless.
Is there anyone in Nigeria that does not know that security operations are strictly under the purview of the Federal Government. The Federal Government owns and controls all security agencies. All deployments of security personnel are coordinated by the Federal Government. There is no state government involvement in this affair.
The case of Rivers State is worse. It is an opposition state that is on the Shopping List of the powers that be. It is surprising that the drafters of the Amnesty International Press Release never got anyone to gossip to them on this open secret.
Issues of security infractions in the state have been fueled in many instances by the actions and inaction of federal security agencies coordinated by known politicians which Amnesty International failed to mention. Several indicted security officials have worked to compromise the security architecture of the State because of political targets set for them by powers known to Amnesty International Nigeria.
Of all states that had General Elections, it was only in Rivers State that security agencies invaded several Collation Centres alongside armed gangs in desperate attempts to rig the 2019 elections. One would have expected the gossips that spoke with Amnesty International to give them details of those that planned and executed this coup against Rivers State and her people. Is Amnesty International saying such carefully planned coup wouldn’t involve thousands of Powers-that-be-backed thugs?
Talking about arrest and prosecution of criminal offenders, it is clear that the Amnesty international’s Press Statement failed to call a spade by its name. Plainly put, the security agencies controlled by the Federal Government have this responsibility. You may remind me of the office of the Attorney General of Rivers State, but we know that nothing can happen unless Police, the Army or any other security agencies arrest these offenders.
Amnesty International must be in possession of the video clip on the invasion of the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad for the purpose of rigging election. Federal SARS and the Nigerian Army carried out deadly operations that generated pockets of security infractions.
EFFORTS OF GOVERNOR WIKE TO PROMOTE SECURITY ACROSS RIVERS STATE
The question would be what has the Rivers State Government done to promote the security of lives and property across the state, despite the fact that the Federal Government controls the mechanics of practical security operations.
Everyone knows that the Federal Security Agencies are having challenges in terms of numerical strength to cover all the corners of the country. In Rivers State, Governor Wike initiated the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to liaise with the security agencies to curb crimes, arrest criminals and keep communities safe. This agency was backed by law. The State Government engaged the services of senior retired military and police officers to establish it.
However, when it got to the training stage, the Nigerian Army acting on the instructions of the federal power stopped the progress. This all-important effort was truncated.
For the existing Federal Security Agencies, the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Wike has always invested in their operations and provided the required logistics to improve their capacity. Over 400 security vans, gunboats, armoured personnel vehicles have been supplied to these security agencies. In addition, the State Government directly funds their operations.
Only recently, the Administration launched the Operation Sting Security Outfit to tackle crime and criminality across the state. The security agencies received assorted crime fighting equipment for the outfit.
In several instances, Governor Wike has personally taken direct initiatives to address specific security concerns in different parts of Rivers State. Shortly after he commenced his second term, Governor Wike led the entire State Security Council to assess the security infractions occasioned by cult-related violence in Ogoni communities.
He mobilised the deployment of more security personnel to troubled Ogoni communities with a view to restoring peace. These extended deployments of soldiers, police, DSS and Civil Defence operatives have yielded positive results.
Today, Governor Wike has restored the lost glory of Omoku town. Amnesty International Nigeria has forgotten that it took the direct funding of collaborative security operations in this LGA for the notorious Don Wanny and his gang leaders to be uprooted.
Rivers State Government launched the State Amnesty Programme which reduced the cases of cult-related violence in many communities. Repented cultists were rehabilitated and empowered to become useful citizens.
But cult leaders who rejected the Amnesty were declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council. In a State Broadcast, Governor Wike declared 34 Cult Leaders from 12 Local Government Areas wanted. The State Government placed a N680million bounty on them. The results were outstanding.
In a move to tackle cultism and kidnapping, Governor Wike gave his assent to the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) (Amendment) Law No.6 of 2018 and the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) (Amendment) No.2 Law No.7 of 2018. These laws have helped enhance security across the state.
Additionally, under the leadership of Governor Wike, one of the cardinal responsibilities of the Local Government Areas is the promotion of security across all communities. Council Chairmen have been encouraged to support security formations with logistics and finance to curb insecurity and bring criminals to justice. Similarly, many local government councils are working with local vigilantes to enhance security.
ONE OF THE MOST PEACEFUL STATES OF THE FEDERATION
There is no wisdom in trying to propagate the unfortunate stereotype of general insecurity in Rivers State. Politically induced persons have tried this technique to discredit the state and it failed woefully. The reason is simple. Despite the few security challenges and setbacks, Rivers State remains one of the most peaceful states in the country.
There is no need mentioning states, but Nigerians know the areas where unbridled insecurity holds sway.
In Rivers, many of the security challenges have been addressed and further steps are in place to consolidate on the gains of a new security architecture.
PLAYING THE OSTRICH
It is quite convenient to dance around hearsay statements and end up trying to blame the victim. Is there any group and person in Nigeria that is unaware of the desperate attempts by the powers in control of the security agencies to undermine security in Rivers State. Many groups, including Amnesty International Nigeria have shied away from calling out the elements behind this ungodly plot.
There is peace and security in Rivers State because of the comprehensive investments and strategies adopted by Governor Wike. If Governor Wike was weak and uninterested, the entire security architecture of Rivers State would have collapsed as planned by these architects of doom, for them to declare a state of emergency and hijack the state.
I call on the Amnesty International Nigeria to be more courageous and write comprehensive reports that would blame those that have conspired to undermine security in Rivers State. I call on Amnesty International Nigeria to investigate and tell the public why other states have key security interventions and investments from the Federal Government and Rivers State has none. I call on Amnesty international Nigeria to investigate and tell the public the critical investments and actions of the Wike Administration to sustain security in Rivers State. I call on Amnesty International Nigeria to be courageous to name security officials posted and directed to undermine the security of Rivers State.
Rivers State is peaceful. The security architecture is being strengthened by the day. There may be infractions from time to time, but the dynamic security infrastructure in place will continue to address issues as they arise.
There is no gain in attempting to enjoy media spotlight through spurious reports. The State Government will continue to do the needful to protect lives and property. In this regard, it deserves support and encouragement, not politically motivated watery reports.
Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.
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