This is part III of The Tide Roundtable encounter with Hon Osima Ginah, Commissioner for Urban Development, Rivers State, first published last Monday. Read on, very refreshing. One of the main problems we have in the physical development of Port Harcourt emanates from the attitude of staff of your ministry. Since you came on board, what have you done about your in-house cleansing? The first thing when I came up, you know I run a law chamber and to run a chamber is very tasking. As the pioneer commissioner, I don’t run alone. I work with the management team. Every week, we have a management meeting. So one of the things I’m happy about is that we run with a governor that is transparent and preaches transparency, we inject the spirit of transparency. But I came to realise that it is not the fault of the civil servants that work in the ministry but the politicians. Like I said, the civil servants now know what to do. This building, you cannot build there because you are not supposed to build there. But influences come from government House, don’t you know that I’m involved? Oh! ‘Oga’, I’m sorry. Let me give you approval. Building approved. That is the way the woman who build in No. 177 Niger Street got her own approval. And so, it was the inability of the politicians to enforce the law. You know it is the executive that enforces the law. Now those who drive the executive are those in the executive council. Now the commissioners are the heads of the ministries. The permanent secretaries as civil servants are the accounting officers. They take care of how much is being paid, how much was approved to be paid. But those who drive the policy are the commissioners because they sit with the governor and the governor sees the vision to his ministry and now moves ahead to say this is what you are supposed to do. In management meeting, they put heads together, this department, move ahead and implement this. Now as you move ahead, implementing it somebody now calls the commissioner: ‘Don’t you know that; that is the property of my in-law. Now if you have a commissioner who probably does not worth his salt and wants to play politics with the job, he says, yes sir, what do you want me to do? And he says it is approval and he says yes sir, it’s done. But now we have a governor who says we must not look at who is our friend or who is not our friend but that we must look at our state as our paramount concern. Our concern now is the state. Because we are part and parcel of the state. So in that way, the mistakes of our civil servants at that time were the faults of the politicians and the commissioners. They are the driving force of the policies in the cabinet. Now those who were directing the civil servants are the ones that toyed with the entire thing. That’s why we have approval flying from here and there. Now when the director finds that the civil servants are being forced to do what ordinarily they are not supposed to do and they don’t want to lose their job, they too will have to take advantage. Now if you see any ministry or any department that there is fraud, you know that the head is corrupt. Once the head is rotten, it moves down to everybody. Look at Rivers State, in my own assessment, corruption is to the barest minimum because the governor is transparent and he preaches this down to the directors to the civil servants below him So in the Ministry of Urban Development, what we do is that let us do what the law says should be done. I monitor them. I go to the field to monitor them. I go to my directors, their offices and monitor what they are doing. Where there are mistakes, I discuss with them and say no, you don’t need to do this because that amounts to a mistake. This area, you were doing this before but you don’t need to do that. Then two, we infuse confidence in them. Please go out and do your work. I’m solidly behind you. The governor is solidly behind me. And the governor says we should do the right thing. We should be fair to all concerned and that we should follow the law. And that’s why you see me I am also in the field. I’m not an armchair commissioner. I move to the field so that I will be able to observe and monitor what they are doing. When the directors know that the commissioner is also in the field, obviously, they will do the right thing. And when they know that they are doing the right thing and the commissioner will not call him and say, “this is my brother’s own, this is my sister’s own; they have that confidence to do the right thing. And when the commissioner also knows that the governor will not call him to say, leave that property, that is my brother’s own. Leave that property, that is my sister’s own. Let me also tell you, even our Development Control exercise, we demolished the governor’s wife’s shop. Now, before now, you cannot touch that. When we started we demolished all the illegal structures in the PDP secretariat. We got to the gate of South-South office of the party, we demolished it. Before this time, such a thing cannot happen. In fact, in the PDP secretariat, the bill board that carries the governor and party chairman’s portraits were not supposed to be there. But we marked it and did all necessary things and I as the person driving the ministry monitored the demolition. Now we thought heavens will fall, then I was prepared. If the power that be says no you can’t do this, we may leave it but the governor said no do the right thing so that people will learn from what we are doing. Don’t forget that we are instilling discipline in our system. Driving the state, in our Urban Renewal and Development Strategy. What we are trying to do is for people to see reason why we should do the right thing. Also for people to see that if they are doing something wrong, no one in government can help them. And that is why in GRA Phase 1 and 11 the owners of the property are demolishing their fences by themselves. The Commissioner of Police who ordinarily for one reason or the other should say, Oh! Commissioner, if you don’t allow my own, I will withdraw your security! But you see, the Commissioner of Police was the first person who complied because it is a government that will not look at faces because we are not interested. We are only interested in doing the right thing so Rivers people will know that this is the right time for us to do the right thing ourselves. But did you pay compensation to the Governor’s wife after demolishing her property? No, we did not pay compensation to the Governor’s wife because the shop she developed where we demolished it was an illegal structure. We marked it and later demolished it. We didn’t pay her anything. In the case of interacting with the staff, you must have discovered cases of indiscipline or may be sharp practices. So far, how many people have you fired? I must tell you that in the Ministry of Urban Development, I took about three months to monitor operations, tell them the new policies of the government. They are very responsible people, they keyed into that policy. They know that I am a man who is determined, they have a governor who is determined and all of them made a U-turn. When you repent, your sins will be forgiven. Once you repent, old things are passed away and you become a new person. In Ministry of Urban Development, as soon as I came in, all of them repented. And no single man has ever been caught of any sharp practices. No back slidding. Take for instance, one of my directors who just retired, when I came, there were a lot of rumours of ah! This man spoilt everything anywhere he is going. But I tell you that the man saw the Commissioner who is determined and he is the greatest asset in Ministry of Urban Development. While he was retiring after he served for thirty-five years and following his contributions to the state, I believe that the man is retiring but is not tired and it didn’t take me much time to recommend him to Greater Port Harcourt for him to be absorbed to do his work because for those who have great experience, we don’t need to throw them out. He was taken to Greater Port Harcourt to also continue and serve his fatherland. In the demolition of waterfronts in Port Harcourt, there is this feeling that the owners of these structures were not properly consulted before the demolition exercise. How do you react to that? First of all, I will approach your question in two ways. You see that in the issue of waterfront, even the issue of Development Control of Port Harcourt, the Governor called stakeholders meeting. Rivers State is not Amaechi. Amaechi is the governor of Rivers State and the people of Rivers State gave him the mandate to be there. So he always consults and I also always consult. This is what I want to do and this is how I want to do it. Governor will say okay let us call a stakeholders meeting. Now before we started the demolition, we called a stakeholders meeting and the stakeholders agreed with the idea. Now the issue of waterfront, we consulted. Let me first of all say when the Governor saw the vision, I was with him. Like I said, the governor is the visioner and the members of the Executive Council are the people who help the governor to implement the vision. We key into this vision when he saw the vision, he called me and said he has seen a vision and I asked, His Excellency what is the vision? He said my vision is that we can develop the waterfront to a modern city. He give me the responsibility and I asked, where do we start? And we agreed to start from Njemanze. And I called the people of Njamanze, the landlords, infact it is an organised community and so they came with their leader and we started in August 2008. We finished in August 2009, one year. If we were not consulting, he gave me the assignment in August, I should have finished because I have the security with me. We moved in there and we demolished every where. But we didn’t do that. So we consulted. We called them and they gave the mandate on their own that they need compensation and the stakeholders of Rivers State said yes. Then I advised His Excellency, we will pay them but we are not going to pay them what the law says should be paid but let us purchase the property. We shall pay them what is called Replacement Value instead of Depreciated Value. We have what is called the Replacement Value and we have what is called Depreciated Value. If Government said the depreciated value, we would have recovered over N200 million. But we paid replacement value which is an additional sum to enable the people do other things. But even then we didn’t stop there. The governor called stakeholders meeting. This is what we want to do. If you don’t want us to do it say no but if you want us to do it, say yes. And stakeholders of Rivers State said yes to it. Apart from the stakeholders, when we came on board, we were contending with the issue of militancy and insecurity in Rivers State particularly Port Harcourt which is the one city state that we have. What do we do? We cannot move freely. Six O’clock we have all gone into our houses. In fact some of us were already sleeping under the bed because if we sleep on top of the bed, the flying bullets will come and kill us. Insecurity was there. We then had to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by retired Justice Kayode Eso. Now the Justice moved into action and the result of it was that apart from other recommendations that they have made, if we want to reduce crime and insecurity in the state, then you must demolish the waterfront and develop it. The reason is that the waterfront has been hideout for criminals. Because of the nature of it, it is not easy for security to move in to control and reinforce law and order in that area. They have their own government. Infact if I’m living in the water front and I commit any crime, maybe I take your daughter or wife, you can’t come and report me to the police but it is the government of the militants and the criminals that will settle the matter with guns pointing at you. Now if you dare go and report me to the security, then, you can’t come inside. For instance in Njemanze where the militants have their camp, you are a witness of the frequent shootout. From the security report and from what all of us see, the waterfronts are the hideout of these criminals and when they kidnap people they move them into these waterfronts. And once they enter the water fronts, you cannot reach out to them. Now some few months before we paid compensation and demolished Njemanze, one medical doctor was kidnapped in Mile I Diobu and was taken to Njemanze waterfront. And it took the security about three good hours shootout with the criminals before they released the man. But thank God today no one can take anybody there because there is no hiding place. It is just an open space. So if a militant is coming, from far, you will see him. So, first it has solved the issue of insecurity. But it is also said to have ethnic colouration? No. Definitely it is also good for the system because in a democracy, we have what is called freedom of expression. So people should be allowed to say what they feel is their right. Now it is left for us to tell you, no that is not what should be done. In law we say “obujus, ibu remeduim”. It means that you who have a cause has a remedy. When we first started it and we said we want to demolish the water front, the Okrika people came up and said “no, you can’t. You want to destroy our ancestral home”? And you and I know what an ancestral home is. An ancestral home is where, like I said I am a commissioner, I come from Angulama community and Angulama is my ancestral home. At my backyard you have my mother’s grave, you have my father’s grave. You have my elder sister’s grave and you have my aunt’s grave. Because we have nowhere to go, we bury our people there, we live there. That’s my home. Now, I’m here in Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt is a commercial place any day any time I go home. Now they said it is their ancestral place. They met with me. We met several times and they demanded to meet with His Excellency and so His Excellency gave them opportunity and they met. And in their presentation, they came up with a 1913 agreement and said in 1913, the Ikwerre people and the Okrika people ceded parts of this land to government, the Crown Council which means that all the land becomes that of the government. That was before the 1978 Land Use Decree. Already, the land as you have it in Port Harcourt becomes Crown land. Now, you and I also know that when you build your house, in your backyard is the waterfront which is supposed to be a serene place for you. But over time, because of government’s inability to control development, illegal structures started coming up. At that time, they called it Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL). The civil servants, at the period they worked, if the head is corrupt, the tail will also be corrupt and so, they also found a way of giving out Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL). Now if TOL is given to you, you know that in a period of 21 days, the owner can come to say your stay at that place is expired. When they give it to you, you are not expected to build any permanent structure. What is permanent structure? A block structure. What they were building is half block and they now use batcher to finish up. A lot of people were living in batchers. Over time, people in government take it as an avenue for them to grab land and so they started giving TOL to themselves, their brothers and sisters and they started building up these places. That’s how these places were built up. We have said that where the people can claim as their own; that it is their ancestral home, the government will relocate them. But we never found it. Take for instance, Njemanze water front, who owns it? Now one of those who claimed he had no place to go, said afterall he is from the same place with the commissioner. It means that he has a home. Then the other man said he came from Calabar. Calabar is Cross River State, then he has a home. So, you see that we never found one person that is an aborigine in that place. Where we find an aborigine, then we find an alternative place for the person, but for now we have not found an aborigine. And we also give opportunity to the people. Do you want to be resettled? The answer is no even from the places we have not reached. Take for instance Abonnema Wharf they come to us to say please leave, we need payment of compensation, don’t resettle us. They say they need money, they can resettle themselves after all we have homes. Some of us come from Ikwerre, some of us come from Buguma and some of us come from Angulama. My brother there, one Digibo built about seven houses. That’s a lot of money. He has gone to build house. What about Ogbunabali you have not gone there? I promise that in this October I will be in Ogbunabali. I have already started doing studies on Ogbunabali. We will move into Ogbunabali. The Abuloma people, even though we have not reached there, the Council of Chiefs has written to the ministry to say “please come to Abuloma. We need urban renewal in that place. Come and demolish illegal structures.” The people are calling us because they have seen that what the government is doing is the right thing to do. I hope they are not targeting the demolition team? No they are not targeting, they said come to Abuloma, use your law and demolish illegal structure. Now Bundu people have called us to say please come to our place. The Rumuolumeni called us to say please leave Abonnema Wharf people and Njemanzes, if they don’t want, come to our place. While we were waiting, the Elechi people called us and said “no, you can even demolish before you pay us” because we are tired of criminal activities in that area.” And I tell you, even before I started the demolition in Njemanze, it was not without challenges. Because like I said, they are about three camps. Very heavy camps and they are the ones that are ready to fight. Over time they say from this axis, shootout but now you can go because we have moved them. When we first started, we had some challenges and we planned again and moved in and you know what we did? The boys seeing that they cannot fight us joined to work for us and we paid. Those who don’t have guns said no ‘oga’ we don’t want to fight we are hungry. So can we work and we said you can work if you want to. They worked with us and instead of taking us two weeks, we demolished Njemanze for five days. For all the structures we demolished there, we paid everybody. To be contd.
Those Demarketing Rivers Should Stop Spreading Falsehood -Sophia
Only recently, the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications orgainsed an essay competition for students in the State as part of the second phase of the advocacy campaign of #Our StateOurResponsibility, aimed at changing the negative narrative about the State.
The first prize winner of the competition, Miss Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem, now the Ambassador of the programme and the face of the Information and Communications Ministry for three months, is truly passionate about advancing the frontiers of the campaign.
In this encounter with our General Manager, Ernest Chinwo and Group News Editor, Victor Tew, she dwells extensively on the imperatives of potraying the state in its true positive status, given the giant strides of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and many more.
Could you please, tell us about yourself?
I am Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem from Ngo in Andoni Local Government Area. I am 18 years old. I am a public health student. I reside in Port Harcourt.
I school at Port Harcourt Joint Professional Training and Support International Institute.
I am the Ambassador of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications. I am patriotic and ready to achieve more success.
I will like to further my education in order to become a Medical Doctor.
How do you intend to go about that in terms of resources and all that?
It is by being studious. By going out there to read and gain information, do my research and also being focused. The determination in me will keep me focused
Why did you participate in the essay competition orgainsed by the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications on the advocacy programme tagged. #OurStateOur Responsibility?.
I did it because I love the vision of #OurState OurResponsibility. I deemed it fit to participate to promote our State as an individual and also as a youth.
What really spurred you into partaking in the essay competition? Is it because of the pecuniary benefit attached to it or an altruistic concern to change the narrative of the State?
Firstly, I never saw the competition as a challenge. I just wanted to write the truth. I wanted to make known what I felt was what we as individuals, as the State should do.
I wanted to spread the love. It is not just about your personal benefit or your personal need. It should go around, it is collective.
What was the major attraction to you?
I don’t want to use the word major because I saw just the Ambassadorial duty. First to be the Ambassador of the ministry before I ever read down to see that there was a cash prize attached to it. I wasn’t concerned about the cash prize, I was concerned about being an Ambassador. I wanted to represent that and that was the goal.
When you submitted your essay and was shortlisted, how did you feel?
I felt overwhelmed, this is where the trust comes in. They should know who we are personally and believe in us, that it is actually from within. I had to go there, to do what I had to do because it was not something that was forged, it is the passion in letting people know. So I felt appreciated by that means.
OurStateOur Responsibility. How do you see it?
It is a vision. It is telling us that we have roles, obligations, duties to perform in the state. When we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it includes everyone. We are the State, we are the government and that responsibility is what we have to render to the state.
Well, there was a statement credited to you in your essay. You did say that you remembered a piece by Erekosima.What did you think about that piece?
The piece by Boma Erekosima is a motivation. It is what inspired me to write, to participate in the essay writing. It actually spelt out my essay. That piece was a summary of what I wrote.
Can you recount it?
Love Rivers State or leave her alone, don’t pull us down, see what you can do for us, engage yourself in meaningful activities, no room for gossip and do something meaningful.
How does it relate to us, the youths of today, our politicians, those who are trying to pull the State down and those who don’t have the interest of the State?
When we say we should love the State, it means that we should love ourselves, everything about the State, we shouldn’t be into propaganda, we shouldn’t spread rumours, flasehood. We should appreciate the fact that our State is improving. We should see the progress, we shouldn’t just vandalise those things that have been provided for us. We should use them as resources. We shouldn’t be idle because an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
We should grab opportunities, work with them and make them a success.
We find our youth involved in anti-social activities. So, what is your message to youths of Rivers State?
There is no benefit in doing things that are irrelevant. We should put our vision where it will benefit everyone, it should not just be personal. Don’t do things that are illegal. Grab opportunities that will promote the nation, that way, we all can grow.
How do you think the youths can be detached from being used as political thugs and all that?
If they are given proper knowledge about the consequences of the things they indulge in, I feel that it will bring them to the consciousness that they are better off than being thugs. Proper orientation of being good in the society to be leaders of tomorrow. That way, they will see the bright side of it and focus on good visions in promoting theState.
If you are asked to draw up a sensitisation programme for youths, how would you go about it?
I will start with an orientation or a sensitisation programme because it does not just start like that. You make them understand, you bring them to their notice and do a follow up. When you tell somebody about something, as you let them be, you are not really convinced that you are passing the message to them. You have to follow them up, bring up situations and platforms that will ensure that they are actually rooted in being successful.
As the face of the state Ministry of Information and Communications programme: #Our State Our Responsibility, what would you like to do?
As an Ambassador, I am an advocate of something, an advocate of the vision, #OurState Our Responsibility. I am here to start a programme to enlighten the youths about the good opportunities that abound in the State and to make our leaders know that we are not lazy and we have talents and if only we are given the platform to showcase them, we will do better.
It is something that we as youths have to bring out the best in us.
OurStateOur Responsibility, how do you see it?
It is a vision. #OurStateOur Responsibility is a vision that is telling us that we have roles, obligations and duties to perform in the State and when we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it is not just one person, it is everybody in the State.
Some politicians in a bid to score some cheap political points have been known to brand the State as unsafe for people to live in, unsafe for investments and all that, do you share in that view?
No, I don’t, because we are in this State. We go out and come in to our houses. We should be security conscious. For investors, people who go about their business activities, I feel that the trust should be there.
There should be a benefit of the doubt and as far as Rivers State is concerned, we are the people who will showcase the business. We should be exemplary.
So there is no room for falsehood or any kind of conviction that we are not safe. We are safe.
So what is your advice to those demarketing the State?
I will say that they should stop spreading falsehood. There is no gain in spreading lies. At least, they should come and see for themselves. And those investors also for you to invest in a place, you should have a background check on whoever you are going to invest with or who your investors are for you to know better. Not just by word of mouth but seeing it.
How do you see the Wike administration
He has really done well. The Rivers State of yesterday can not be compared to what we have now. Port Harcourt is beautiful and safe. Port Harcourt is filled with so many businesses, so many organisations are doing well, so there is prosperity.
What about human capital development, are you impressed?
I am, because it is improving. it is not like how it was before. we are doing well.
Rivers State is blessed.
As an Ambassador of the Ministry, what is your advice to the youths, politicians and leaders?
To the youths, I will say success is not determined by age grade or age limit, we need to grab opportunities. we do not have to wait for us to be told what we have to do. We recognise who we are. Because we are the leaders of tomorrow and it starts now.
We shouldn’t wait till that level where they throw accusations at us that we are not doing anything. We need to show that we are ready for the future.
To the politicians, I feel that education is the key; knowledge is power, they should actually support the youth and everyone in Rivers State and they shouldn’t do things that make youths to regret.
They should support that which is good, education , security and also when it comes to bringing up talents. I feel that there should be more investments.
To our leaders. they should keep up the good work, because we look up to them.
They should be exemplary, they should be disciplined.
There is this misconception that the youths of our State are only interested in what they can do for money to come immediately and are not conscious to the extent of working hard, believing that their efforts will yield dividend tomorrow. So they prefer what they can get now What is your reaction to that?
I feel that it is a practice. It is not our culture because we have to be hard working. we have to be professional, we have to know what we have to do to attain such position, is not by having it immediately, because that is theft, corruption and greed.
We have to work diligently to get what we want. So it is wrong for anybody to have any amount of money that is not from a genuine source.
I feel that all we need to do is to put our hands on deck to work for that which is right at all times.
One thing we have noticed in our State, especially the state capital is indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Are we saying that it is not part of our responsibility to keep our State clean?
It is our responsibility to keep our environment clean and safe because when our environment is dirty, it affects our health. so we should actually work at our health, our wellbeing and also we have agencies which are controlling that. If the agencies are working, it is our responsibility to support them in making the place clean, because we all are humans and it will be inhuman for some one to be working for the cleaniness of our environment then, we all make the place dirty.
It’s not right. So our responsibility is taking it up to ourselves as humans to make our environment clean.
You were Commissioner for Information for 30minutes, how do you feel about that?
It was amazing, it was a rare opportunity, and I feel that for anyone to sit there as a commissioner, then, there is a whole lot to do, it is not just by saying it but it is by showing it. Our Honourable Commissioner, I know is showing it because having sat there, I saw so many opportunities on that seat and this has actually motivated me to do more to sit there one day.
Having sat there for at least 30minutes or so, will you go into politics?
Yes. For you to be a citizen, involving in politics is just what to get you to that level, it is not a bad thing.
What extent has your participation in this essay competition motivated you?
It actually gives me an opportunity to meet people, to see things, to have views, to hear about what the world is saying. So, I feel that encouragement is not by saying or being an Ambassador, it is being here in the State and doing more for the State. So, I feel motivated to bring that picture and few presentations of what the vision is, that is what I feel.
As an Ambassador for some weeks now, what has been your kind of schedule? Have you met some new persons, some new opportunities so far?
It has been excellent, but not easy, because this time around in my life, I try to schedule things and share some of my times there is time management and there is this hospitality you have to show to everyone because they want to know more about you. You give them the chance to express themselves, and that has actually made me to realise and have the knowledge about everything and because they throw questions you are not familiar with. That gives me the room to read more, that gives me the room for human resources management, to understand people, to actually know more about people, to understand their mood and where they are headed to, and to understand their different perspectives and to know what they indulge in.
Where do you see Rivers State tomorrow and in the future? .
We are already in the future because we are getting to the top; I see an extraordinary State; I see a beautiful State; I see a State that is without or should I say with less corruption, that is with more of development. That is where I see Rivers State.
Wike Has Made Rivers People Proud – Eke
His Majesty King (Dr) Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, Eze Gbakagbaka, Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom in Obio/Akpor Local government Area of Rivers State, is a First Class Traditional Ruler.
Trained as a Biological Scientist at Illinois State University, Bloomington Normal, United States of America, he holds a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from Wycliffe University & ATS, California.
Suave, ebullient, accessible, humble, down-to-earth and cerebral, Eke is also the Secretary General of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDMON) and the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Chapter of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM).
In this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi and cameraman, Egberi A. Sampson, Eke poignantly bares his mind on sundry issues affecting the State and the nation. He particularly eulogises the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for the giant development strides of his administration within the past six years and comes to the inevitable conclusion that he has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, having performed beyond the expectation of Rivers people.
His Majesty, by virtue of all that you have seen in the State in the past six years, what are your comments on the achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike?
As it concerns us and the Governor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is God-sent, a purposeful Governor, a vision-full Governor and a man that knows why he is Governor, why he did come to contest and contested as Governor. And this man, meticulously, seriously, honestly, has continued, day by day, month by month, to roll out projects that are impactful to the society, to Rivers people. Roads infrastructure, schools, hospitals, human capacity, I mean continuously. This man has turned the Garden City into a city of flyovers. And that is very meaningful. We very much appreciate such a person. And unfortunately, he can’t go for a third term. We wish he goes for a third term. He is going to give so much to the Rivers people.
He has made us so proud. He has distinguished himself among the Governors and governments in Nigeria. All the things he has done, other governments and even the Federal Government should learn from him.
A case in point is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our Governor took proactive actions in time and that is why Rivers State did not suffer much from the pandemic and they had to learn from him. He has impacted on the people commercially, economically and otherwise. Even our Christian lives have improved because he gave this State to God and declared it a Christian State. He built an Ecumenical Centre and God literally has come down to work with His people and has begun to give us a sense of direction, a sense of belonging. We appreciate so much from the man, who has unlike others, really worked even in the second term, working like it was the first term. And we are grateful to God for all his achievements. He is a true Ikwerre son. We appreciate him. We pray that he would find more to do even after he has left this stage of governance. We couldn’t have had it any other way.
Would you then say that Governor Wike has performed beyond expectation?
Very true. This Governor has done beyond expectation. Looking at precedents, looking at people before him, what he has done even per month, it is unequalled anytime, anywhere in the history of Rivers State. This Governor has done so much.
In spite of all that you have seen he has done, is it not surprising that there are still pockets of opposition in the State?
Well, it is unfortunate but we must have opposition. We must have people that agree and people that don’t agree. It is normal. We just want to encourage them to criticise constructively. They should engage in constructive criticisms. They should criticise him constructively. Not just opening your mouth for opening sake. This time around, it will be very difficult. You know, he has been accused of 3D projects. It is no longer 3D now, because you can come there and see it for yourself. You will see the flyovers. Who does three flyovers at the same time? Nobody. And he has told us that he has more, seven more to deliver to Rivers people and put us on the world map of very very improved humane settlements. We appreciate that.
You said it is unfortunate that the Governor won’t run for a third term, but there are people out there calling on him to run for the Presidency come 2023. What is your take on this?
At his point, I am not a politician. For him to run for a federal office, it is entirely his prerogative, it is at his discretion. It is left for him to decide. He has to watch the politicial terrain and decide what he wants. But one thing is sure. Anywhere this Governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike finds himself, he would deliver on his promises, he would deliver on the NEED Assessment of the people. This man is in tune with development. He is in tune with the people. And I am not afraid. If tomorrow, he runs for the Presidency, it is Nigerians that will gain because he is going to work tirelessly. I don’t know where he gets his energy; he is going to work tirelessly and fearlessly and deliver on the things that matter to the people.
As a royal father, which areas would you like to advise the Governor?
Well, first and foremost, he has to watch his back. He is a Governor that works by self-conviction. And so he cannot be deterred by anybody, by superiors’ stories, very bad advice; he is unaffected by those kinds of things because he is a man of conviction. When he decides on a project, he delivers, because he is in tune with the people. He is a grassroots politician; he feels the pulse of the people. And I am sure he knows what Nigerians want too and if he finds himself in that national stage, I have no doubt in my mind that he will win and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
We have been having some security challenges in the country and even in the State in recent times to the extent that Governor Wike had to impose curfew in the State. How would you react to this?
Well, the Governor has done well in the area of security. This Governor has done more than any government, to give state of the art equipments to security operatives in the State, both water and land. He has done so much and continues to do. So, the rest is left for these professionals to deliver. The Governor is not a policeman or a soldier. He has built a Guest House for the Army, giving them vehicles, and the police, you know it, giving them so much including other security organisations. The government has done so much for the security people and they are supposed to complement the huge expenditure of government on them.
The idea of having a curfew is also part of his own actions to mitigate these security lapses that are creating fears among our people. So, he is helping them. It is good for them. It is good for them to complement what he is doing, in terms of speaking to the people by his now and then broadcasts. It is to encourage them to know exactly what government is up to. It is for them to know what is happening. In this way, they are able to work with him, and stay distance and time with the Governor and not begin to feel that he is not doing enough. He is talking to them constantly. The security operatives should complement this government’s efforts and prove it right in its activities to secure lives and property. I support the government of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. I support him wholeheartedly and he has done well. I score him high and give him excellent mark.
But some people are still complaining about the curfew, what do you have to tell them, both the residents of the State and Rivers people?
The curfew we should obey. The residents and people of Rivers State should obey the curfew. It is even in the Bible, that we should obey the laws of government. And so, if it is this one regulation that government has brought, we should obey. It is not for peace-loving rivers people but this is to catch the criminals. We too should complement government’s efforts by obeying the rules and regulations. Like when we had the lockdowns, don’t we see that we are enjoying health now? At that time too, people criticised the government and the Governor, but today, they have swallowed their words. They are enjoying health now. If the Governor had left Coronavirus to fester, then, it would have been terrible for our people. But today, we are walking around, the markets are open, and everywhere else, people are able to live their lives.
His Majesty, some Nigerians are today calling for the restructuring of the country and some too are calling for secession, from the foregoing, what do you think is the fate of Nigeria and what do we really need?
Obviously, to sustain the various geo-political zones of Nigeria, we do need restructuring within one Nigeria. And people that are resisting this, obviously, in time, will bow to the yearnings of the people. If you go back to the time when we had regions, we had relative peace. We are not saying we should go back to that but those kinds of things we were enjoying regionally, should begin to be apportioned within the States. Like for us in the South-South or the core Niger Delta, it is very important that we enjoy the proceeds of the God-given minerals that we have. We cannot have these minerals and people who are somewhere else, even beyond the shores of this country, are enjoying them. We can’t have that. No responsible government can do that. What God has given Nigeria is for Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the ongoing Constitution Review vis-à-vis the need for the traditional institution to be given roles in the Constitution?
The Constitution Review is welcome even if we are hearing that they are spending so much. Unwarranted expenditure is not good but the Constitution Review is good. And as it concerns the traditional institution, we need to spell out the functions of traditional rulers. With what we are doing, now, that I say it is illegal, as per it is not captured in the Constitution. But when it is captured in the Constitution, then, it serves as a support for us to do what we are supposed to be doing; and that is to complement government in the area of governance. So, that is very important. We should be captured in the Constitution. Traditional rulers are very important in nation building. They are very important in creating national identity. We are doing it now. There is this unofficial regulation, as it were, for Northern traditional rulers to come and visit their counterparts in the South and vice versa, both in the East and the West; that kind of friendship is ongoing. But it needs to be captured in the constitution. If it is captured in the constitution, it will be sustained and it will be done as a matter of duty.
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We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforce the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We, therefore, strongly urge the President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also, we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a university should be implemented.
Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank President for ensuring that the first phase of the coastal railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos.
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland waterways and riverine infrastructure.
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing ports in the Niger Delta, including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep sea-going vessels and expedite work on the dredging of the Calabar Port. The Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review is done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility for the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result, the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta remain unconnected to the National Grid.
We, therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where the Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to signal their interest in sustained economic development in the region by:
i. Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
ii. Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
iii. Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
iv. Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region, in particular, the Gas City, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu, in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
v. Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
vi. Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
vii. We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
vii. Resolve the various issues leading to the non-operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land will continue until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Interventionist Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, even though it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need, therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent blueprint for the development and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We, therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be re-echoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
What message would you want to pass to the Federal Government for being insensitive to these issues five years after?
It is regrettable to say that the 16-point agenda has not been attended to thereby bringing about high rate of insecurity in the region.
For emphasis, after having several interface with these boys, they saw the reasons for dialogue than allowing the region go in flames as a result this brought about ceasefire in the region making everyone to be enjoying the relative peace being enjoyed today.
I want the Federal Government to know that when these boys see that there is blatant refusal in addressing their issues by the Federal Government, they are capable of making the region go into flames, adding that he appealed to the Federal Government, and other critical stakeholders responsible for the implementation of this 16-point agenda to be sincere to themselves and do the needful, adding that what the people in the Niger Delta region want is that all must be fair, just and equitable in what they do, so as to engendered peace and security to the Niger Delta region.
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