In a bid to instill transparency and good governance in the system, which is the hallmark of the present administration, the Rivers State government on the 5th of this month inaugurated the ICT department. This all important department is charged with the responsibility of training all civil servants nay Rivers State people to be computer literate free of charge. To this effect The Tide Roundtable, a personality interview programme of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation invited the Special Adviser to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on ICT, Engineer Goodliffe Nmekini to throw more light on his activities. The Special Adviser was put to task on many issues ranging from the target audience, benefits of the training, time span to the fear of loss of job and many more.
Here’s the excerpts. Ride on:
How would you want us to know you?
Well my name is Goodliffe Nmekini, I’m a Rivers man who has always been fascinated against the poor state of ours. I attended primary school here at Oromineke that was called CKS Oromenike, after which I attended Federal Government College then left for the United States, as God will have it, I’m back here to serve my state on the capacity of Special Adviser to the Governor on Information and Communications Technology (ICT). So I am here to give you update on what I have been doing.
Lead us a little deeper into your family background to enable us appreciate how your childhood experiences modeled your life, who knows, we might well be creating a new role models?
Well, I am from a beautiful place called Rundele. Most of you may know it as Ndele which is virtually in Emohua Local Government Area.
I am from modest family who actually went to primary school here in Port Harcourt. So I might be called a Port Harcourt boy because basically I grew up here in PH But I have some role models, my uncle had always been my own role model.
He is a business man, we all tried to be like him He always have this penchant for education and he pushed us as hard as you can imagine.
Most of us believed that we actually grew up from house it was always a joke coming from Federal Government College and going back to the house it was like you were from one military school to the other.
I don’t know what Federal College is now but when I was there between 74 and 79, it was quit an institution that promoted and ensured that people were disciplined. After my graduation from secondary school, I was one of the few people who were very lucky, if you recalled, our state used to have regular scholarship award including some thing also called Governor’s Special Award. And at my time, it was Governor Okilo of blessed memory.
He had given nine people scholarship to study anywhere in the world and I happened to be one of those he gave scholarship to study so I went to the United States, I went to Miami, Florida where I got a bachelors Degree in Industrial and System Engineering and later did Management Information System in the graduate level or Masters Degree level.
I stared working for the state of Florida for eighteen years and then at some point got His Excellency’s nod, he picked me to now come back and join his administration and here I am.
Are you married?
Oh yes, I am married to a very beautiful lady who is also from Rivers State as a matter of fact from my village, whose father was at some point the Auditor General of this state, Chief S.H. Weneka and we have three beautiful kids, two boys and of course the owner of the house my little girl Oroma. So I have two boys and a girl.
I know you are prepared for ICT but we will shake you a little bit before we get to ICT, since you returned from your study abroad have you found time to visit your school in Rundele and Federal Government College Port Harcourt to see how they look like?
I have, unfortunately it was one term I attended in Rundele and I have been there, I have also gone to see my school at CKS Oromineke here in D/Line, so I have actually gone there, but is transformed completely different from what it used to be.
As a matter of fact anybody who is near the school will know that even the modern day College of Education or University of Education cannot be as good as the primary school is today. This was the end of my primary school, there was something called Advanced Teachers Training College, ATTC, I guessed that’s where College of Education eventually got its study I have gone there and I have also actually been to FGC Port Harcourt. For some of you may not realize that the Federal Government College actually started at Rumuola where you have RIVCAS today. That was our campus, it started in 1972 and we were the 1974 set, and to have gone there and as a matter of fact I actually received an award recently from the College, Secondary School, and I hope that FGC will continue to be what it has always being, of course, I was told that there has been some little issues there in terms of quality of education but I do believe that they haven’t strayed away from what it used to be a very good school and I hope it continues to be that way.
Lets move close to ICT, in government circle you are seen to be Super Special Adviser because you are one of the very few who have the privilege of attending the State Executive Council meeting, why so?
Well with all due respect I don’t know about the super Special Adviser, His Excellency still refers to me as SA to him on ICT, everybody else is an SA so His Excellency if you recalled for those of you who have listened to him you will realize that he has a vision and he puts it inform of a statement.
He wants all of us to serve our people with humility and one of the key things that he always like to talk about is transparency. So he wants to serve the people with humility that would bring transparency into the picture but most importantly, the need for them to be anchoring on integrity and good governance, because of this good governance and transparency he now sees ICT as a tool to achieve those things and being that, he is always wanted ICT as a tool to achieve this, he then thinks that it is very very important for an ICT person to be present when decisions are made because ICT cuts across every discipline whether it is Ministry of Works or whether it is Ministry of Water Resources, you name it, is a tool that cuts across entire discipline and one of the things I usually do when I talk about ICT, I was even telling somebody who says well, I studied English, why should I do all these, why should I go for ICT training and looking at them, I said well, you studied English, how do you communicate. Sometimes you will not use the pen and piece of paper to communicate with people, I said well in these days of our age there is no difference between a pen and paper and a computer so, sometimes instead of writing on a piece of paper, you might write on word processing and be able to send whatever you have written to some one else via E-mail.
Just by doing that you are already using a different tool, but it hasn’t changed you from what you studied, just another tool to enhance your profession and for you to move forward with what is happening in the 21st century.
Part of your mandate is supposed to be like what you have said is to help the governor achieve the purposes of transparency and good governance and all that, what exactly is your mandate and how do you intend to achieve this? How long does the training last?
My mandate very simple, in the department has a mission which is, one, to really maximize the use of technology for the state and then come up with a way to sustain the delivery of government services through the common portal, what is happening means that we have to find out the different government processes.
How does Ministry ‘A’ perform? How does it do its job? How does Ministry ‘B’ do its job? And what are the different processes and once we get those processes, how do we streamline those processes so that they become easier to use, we then apply technology on top of that. So our mission and mandate is to coordinate the processes of government, make the processes easier, infact the work of government should be easier by applying technology.
Technology in this case being ICT and ensuring that information flows very easily. How then do we ensure that information flows very easily we need to treat repository of data by way of daily basis and then outlay application on top of that.
You see when we first took over, there was absolutely nothing on ground so we came up with three fold strategies and those were, building of infrastructure, building capacity and then application development.So what we did then was to ensure that there was connectivity within the hub of government which is secretariat.
As of today, every building in the secretariat is connected to what we call net work cooperating centre for what I might call data centre in the ground floor of Point Block that’s where the hub of our technology or the hub of our computing is. Indeed every building there is connected to that building via a satellite object. And we also have redundancy in Radio links. Having done that, having computed that, we even extended that to the House of Assembly, the Deputy Governor’s Office and of course His Excellency’s Government House. Having done that, we now went into each of the buildings actually using, cables and connected every building with wireless access point so that people will now be able to connect and get on the internet and get on to other resources, we have done the first part, the second part which is capacity building, we now come up with what we might call State Of The Art Training Centre. Again at Point Block Ground Floor, where we started training of civil servants I can assure you that we have trained over 1200 employees in the use of the basic ICT and word processing on most of the Microsoft products and so on and so forth.
Is a weeklong training from 9am till 4pm Monday to Friday and basically we get request from ministries these are the people we want to be trained and we go ahead and do that.
Now we have ventured into application development. Before we took over almost every government officials that we have seen their cards or whoever had email had a yahoo email account and as we know for government business, we should never send data or receive data in Public Domain Accounts so we now created a State Owned Email Account.
So Like in my case is G Nmekini of Rivers State Gov. ng. so we are beginning to continue to operate this account so that people will be able to have information in this manner, we are also moving now into access control and management as well as credit and few applications so that people will now start sharing data and ensuring that data shared is also protected and secured.
What class of people benefit from the training?
Absolutely is of no choice to the civil servant His Excellency had always wanted everyone who works for the government to be ICT literate. As a matter of fact, he wants the whole state, but we are actually starting from the civil service level and it is free to every civil servant.
Some people have this fear that as soon as the processes of ICT is completed, there will be loss of jobs and that fear is really high among civil servants. How possible is this. What has been your perception of the civil servants throughout this period of training?
Well let me first start by saying that I’m not in a position to say whether one will loose his job or one will not loose his job, certainly I hope everybody will keep the job.
The essence of ICT is to make their lives easier, when we started the payroll automation, that was also the fear, it was something very very strange. It was quite a good experience, I must tell you, a lot of people were afraid that they were going to loose their job. There were even rumour out there that ICT department would now start creating payroll and paying people therefore, all those whose job it is to pay people will loose out. So I had several meetings with them and what I explained to them was this, your job today is to make payroll, how do you do it. Every month you write for some kind of money and did all your tabulations and then you took the piece of paper to Ministry of Finance. But once we automate the system, you will still be the same person that will take care of the same payroll for your department, the only difference is that instead of doing it on a piece of paper and taking it to Ministry of finance, you will now do it on a computer and then shift a key and whatever you’ve done will still be transmitted to the Ministry of Finance.
As a matter of fact there is not a single person in my department, may be exception of my Director of finance that even had any idea on how to pay anybody. That’s not my job, my job is to handle ICT processes. And so with several meetings, they began to realize that all we were actually doing was to make their lives a whole lot easier. That no one was interested in anybody’s elses job. That we will not even take their job even if we wanted to because we were not trained in that profession. So every one understood.
Now going back to the second question which is your perception, one of the things I observed was that I have always said even overseas, they always look at Nigerians as being smart. There are no two ways about it, even anybody could say anything they want to say about other things, but our people are always keen and they are always very smart.
Some of these workers have never been given the opportunity to even touch a keyboard, once they started getting trained, the spate of glee or euphoria will go away at the end of the week, just give me the impression that we are now doing the right thing and as we continue, what we said to them is, this is the beginning, this is just the basic training and all we need from you is commitment, this is just the basic training after which, we will move into the intermediate level and advanced level and before you know it, just take kids today, look at the period as just an executive point.
You know, this is what we want, we want them to understand that computers are nothing but toys, so once they start using this thing on a daily basis to do their work even at home, you will be surprised what the state will transform to.
You recently presented laptops to permanent secretaries how many Permanent Secretaries in Rivers State are computer literate?
The very first time we opened the training centre by His Excellency the Deputy Governor of the state, the first batch of people we were training were actually Permanent secretaries. So we trained Permanent Secretaries first.
His Excellency was so excited about seeing the Permanent Secretaries being trained that he said ICT, please look for something for the Permanent Secretaries by way of computers so that once they leave here, they can now have the tools that they need, whether they are at home or they are traveling, and email is sent to them, they should have way of responding, we need to start communicating via electronic format and that was the cause of the distribution of laptops to Permanent Secretaries and I can assure you it has put a smile on their faces.
Now no one has an excuse to say, I didn’t receive my email, what we did was we actually installed all the pertinent software products that we believed they need, before handing over the Laptops to them. It was quite a good experience.
How much did it cost government to provide that?
I wish I have my DFA here. I don’t have the exact figure, but I can assure you that, of course, one of the things we do since we bought them in quantity, normally, you will negotiate and ensure that quantity discount is applied and we were able to get something decent. And ofcourse, the benefit frankly speaking in my opinion outweighs the cost but as a government whose is responsible and also knows that they are custodian of our public or the citizens money, it will ensure that you get the best prices for whatever you are buying.
However we want to talk about the cost for the people to know that what they are getting is better than the cost, they should also know the cost?
I agree with you but the only thing is that, this is why we now have Due Process. I’m sure most of you are aware that, His Excellency had stressed and stressed very hard in ensuring that everything that you do is done through proper channel because of that, the tax payers should be rest assured that even if we in the pocess make a few misstates, there are other channels down there that will catch those mistakes and ensure that they get the best for what they pay.
He has asked for us to know whether the permanent secretaries are the only people to benefit or are there other categories of staff you intend giving this facilities, who are they?
Actually is interesting that you asked because one of the things I always tell people even my people even my own nephews and nieces they will say, ah: I want Laptop and the question is, why laptop in the caliber of Permanent Secretaries, it does make sense for them to have laptops because they can work from anywhere they are.
We have trained Directors of Administration and we have also trained the DFAs. We are about to distribute desktops to their offices.
Now this is from the ICT project, with time, what we have encouraged, is for every ministry to have something in their budget for ICT where they would be able to purchase things, I mean purchase computers for their own staff, because the worst thing that can happen to anybody is to get trained and then not having the tools.
The ICT department, is new, we are just tidying up we decided, well let us take areas.
The Permanent Secretaries to commissioners and permanent secretaries, lets see if we can get them desktops because these are key areas, so we are trying to again give them desktops so that they can do their job. As time goes on, whoever gets trained, we will encourage the ministry to provide them with these tools.
Can it work without electricity or other sources of power supplies, knowing the erratic nature of our power supply in the state?
Well I think every one knows that it is a common problem we have here. This is why like the data centre which is the heart of our computing, we have different ways of power supply.
We will not depend on NEPA. If we did, then we won’t be able to run a 24 hour operation. So we have backed up power we have inverters, we also have power source coming directly from a very stable environment. So actually, I don’t want to go technical, but even on different ministries, we have wireless access points in such a way that they don’t even get power directly from the power source.
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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