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Port Harcourt Quakes As UNIPORT Students Protest

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Tuesday was an unusual day in the Port Harcourt metropolis as the voices of students of the university of Port Harcourt rang across the four corners of the city, literally rattling the city. The quietude and serenity that had for sometime pervaded the city were punctured momentarily by the voices of the students who were peacefully protesting alleged molestation by thousands of ex-militants who are camped in the neighbouring community of Aluu for training and rehabilitation.

The ex-militants have been in Aluu since October when the amnesty deadline expired and have been in the rehabilitation centre undergoing training. But matters apparently came to a head last Sunday when some of the ex-militants were alleged to have invaded the Abuja campus of the university molesting and raping students while several of the students scampered for safety.

As if the terror and mayhem which they unleashed on that day was not enough, they were alleged to have also stormed the university the following Monday at about 5pm raping and maiming the students. This state of affairs, according to our investigation, was what triggered off the students’ protest on that Tuesday afternoon. As it were, the students who were armed with all manners of placards drove through the major roads of Port Harcourt from Choba where the university is located and anchored at the Government House Drive along Azikiwe Road to register their protest as well as demand prompt action of the state government to nip in the bud future occurrence of such dastardly acts of lawlessness by the ex-militants.

The students in their usual radical tradition laced with a tinge of youthful exuberance became uncontrollable as they made frantic efforts to gain entrance into the Brick House, the seat of power. On several occasions, security operatives stationed at the gate of the Government House shoved them to forestall any ugly incident but the students stood their ground, raising their voices high and demanding to see the governor who was unavoidably out of the state on official engagements.

The security agents including members of the dreaded Joint Military Task Force took charge of the situation but the students could not be placated as they chanted. “We no go gree o! We no go gree!! “The chants became unending until the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Ogbonna Nwuke, the Acting Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Blessing Wikina and a host of newsmen and cameramen came to the scene to meet them.

Even when the President of the university’s students Union Government, mr. Solomon Amadi was given a microphone to express their grievances, the atmosphere was still rowdy as the voices of the students continued to ring across the horizon. The students comprising youngmen and girls remained unconsolable as they continued to chant solidarity songs, shoving and drifting towards the Government House gate.

The security men were also in their hundreds at the scene to contain the situation and the Deputy Commissioner of Police and other top security brass in the state were sighted at the scene to bring the students under control.

When Mr. Ogbonna Nwuke who represented the governor started addressing the crowd, his voice was barely audible as the students’ protest became more strident, insinuating that they only wanted the governor to address them or in the absence of the governor, the deputy governor or the commissioner for Information.

Unfortunately, the demands of the students could not be met as the governor was said to be attending a meeting in Aso Rock in respect of the Super Eagles qualification for the 2010 world cup. It would be recalled that the governor is the chairman of the task force that qualified the country for the football fiesta in South Africa next year. The deputy governor, on his part, was on the delegation to Kenya for the qualification match between the Super Eagles and the Harambee stars of Kenya which gave the country the world cup ticket last Saturday. The deputy governor had not returned to the state capital that Tuesday afternoon while the Information Commissioner was also away on official assignments.

Mr. Nwuke appealed to the students to give peace a chance as the government was prepared to look into their grievances and take prompt action.

He also recognised the fact that the students through the protest were expressing their fundamental human rights, and urged them to see reason.

Even the presence of the university’s dean of students Affairs at the scene could not pacify the revolting students who shouted: “Dean, Go home, Dean, go home!! Dean, go home !!!” The Dean stormed the Government House Drive shortly after the students’ arrival and pleaded with them not to take laws into their hands. He particularly pleaded with the SUG president to take the students back to the university as they had already made their points.

But journalists and security men pleaded with the students to show understanding and retire to their campuses having laid bare their grievances to the appropriate authorities.

Some of the students who spoke with The Tide On Sunday indicated that they were prepared for any consequences as the actions of the ex-militants had made the university environment unsafe.

Some of the placards carried by the protesting students read in part, “Relocate Ex-militants to Aso Rock or brick House. We say No to Rape of our students. Governor Amaechi, please save us”. The placards in their own way expressed the state of mind of the students who demanded that the rehabilitation camp of the ex-militants should be relocated from Aluu community, a neighbouring community to Choba where the university is located.

No doubt, the students’ protest was a mild drama of sorts as some of the students on sighting reporters and cameramen working for Silver Bird Television ran towards them and apparently conscripted them to capture the unfolding scenes. The shout of “Silver Bird! Silver Bird!! Silver bird!! rented the air.

In all, the tension generated by the protest was doused when Mr. Solomon Amadi personally approached the Honourable Commissioner and demanded that a meeting be scheduled between members of the SUG exco and the governor for another day with a promise that he was going to de-mobilise the students.

The students’ protest once again brought to the fore the fact that all is not well with the Federal government’s post-amnesty programme across the Niger Delta. Several observers of events in the Niger delta believe that the action of the ex-militants was ample proof that the post-amnesty programme is not properly handled by the federal Government.

There are strong indications that the ex-militants are not regularly paid their allowances and that infiltrators also storm the camp and start demanding for such allowances without being fished out.

There are also widely held views that the amnesty and all its financial fallouts did not also take care of genuine activists of the Niger Delta struggle. This is also creating and generating tension across the region.

For sure, one thing the protesting students might have forgotten was that the camping of ex-militants and their rehabilitation was actually a federal government’s affair.

However, several persons are of the view that this is the time to cage the ex-militants to possibly stop them from wreaking more havoc to society by molesting and harassing innocent, law-abiding citizens of the country.

 

Donatus Ebi

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Edo Descendants Light Up PH

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Last Saturday in Port Harcourt was full of colour for Edo people resident in Port Harcourt.
For the second time in two years they gathered to showcase their heritage with lots of dances, singing ,eating and sharing moments together.
Last year January, they had gathered to welcome the new Oba of Benin
The event held at Randolph Hotel in Rumuobiakani witnessed a large turnout of Edo people within the city with children, young men and women adorned in Bini regalia.
President of the Edo Community in Rivers State,Chief Gregory Oriakhi said the event is geared at uniting Edo people all over the state considering the spread of Bini people across many states in the southern part of Nigeria.
Chief Oriakhi said, ” this is the first of its kind we are organising in Rivers State and we are encouraged to continue to hold the cultural day because we have Edo people in Port Harcourt, including the Ikwerre people”.
According to the President of Edo Community in Rivers State, Edo people are spread across 22 kingdoms in Rivers State and beyond, ” Benin descendants need to know ourselves and this is an event to know and bring ourselves together”.
One of the speakers at the event, Chief Ken Oku affirmed Oriakhi claim of many kingdoms in Rivers State having links with Edo lineage.
Chief Oku said, ‘ we are here in Rivers, but we are not visitors. The place you are seated falls under the influence of Benin. Iam from Ekpeye but we are sitting in our own home. It should not surprise you that you are at home and we are 16 kingdoms linked to Benin in Rivers State.
He stated that in Rivers State the Ikwerres, Ekpeye, Odual, Egbema, Ndoni, some parts of Etche and Andoni have ancestral links with Benin.
Explaining further, the Ekpeye chief submitted that as far back as the 18th century Benin had influence stretching to the coastal part of the country, especially the Niger Delta.
As the women and men danced and swinged to the Bini rhythm, the children lighted incense and clapped for their elders who are carried away by the entertainment of the day.
Most of the foods shared were purely local and many of them ate with bare hands from packaged white rice wrapped in leaves garnished with stews and fish.
Prince Oviawe Uwaifo spokesman for the community said the food were carefully selected to reflect the Bini heritage. “The local food is called Iyan vbe owo”. The dish includes boiled yam and plantain served with palm oil gravy and smoked fish.
Prince Uwaifo stressed that, “we want our children to learn and to sustain what makes us different. And that is why this cultural day has come to stay.”

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Kpofire In City Centre

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As the onslaught against illegal refineries, “Kpofire ” across Rivers State state intensifies Obio/Akpor Local Government Area seems to be uncovering more sites than others.
Even before the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike announced a price tag for each local government area that records the highest success in their domain during a meeting with the council chairmen in Government House on Wednesday, Obio/Akpor chairman, Barrister George Ariolu had been on the news for the past one week
Within the local government area about five ” kpofire” sites or artisanal refining dumps have been uncovered. Two at Iriebe two at Ogbogoro and another at Rumuosi.
The most shocking one was the one discovered in the heart of new Government Reserved Area(GRA) bordering Eligbam and Rumueme communities.
The premises which has since been sealed by the council authorities after it was discovered sits close to residential area and has been under guise for many months before reports reached the authorities.
A resident of the area who pleaded anonymity told The Tide ,” we only see trucks come in and leave daily and we thought that it was a construction site or a company warehouse.”
Recently however, Barrister Ariolu’s breakthrough had pitched him against officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSDC) at their dumpsite at Ogbogoro.
Officials of the security agency had resisted the chairman and his team when he came to confirm whether their dumpsite was used by illegal refinery operators as cover up.
The chairman had on reaching the dump site alerted newsmen of the alleged deals and cover ups the “Kpofire ” operators use the security operatives for their illegal business.
But the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rivers State Command has debunked the claims of the council chairman.
In a statement it released after video of the chairman’s visit were displayed on social media, the agency said the site located at NSCDC Jetty, Ogbogoro community in Obio-Akpor local government area, was not a bunkery site.
Briefing newsmen at the NSCDC Jetty Ogbogoro, the State Commandant, Aliyu Bature, said that the place in question is their Marine exhibit yard where arrested suspected oil thieves and illegal petroleum products are paraded.
The Assistant Commandant of the corps, Michael Oguntuase, who spoke on behalf of the State Commandant, said the exhibits in the dump site were arrested by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to them, while some of the arrests were also made by the NSCDC Anti-Vandal Team pending forfeiture.
“This place is our marine exhibits yard and not an illegal dump. The entire press team in the state can attest to the fact that this place is our exhibit Jetty.
The commandant general was here in December 2021, and he is aware that this place is our exhibits yard. Those saying this place is a bunkery site are not current, because if they were, they should have known before now that we bring pressmen to this yard to parade suspect and illegal products.”
Reacting also on the rumoured conspiracy plan by some hoodlums to destroy the NSCDC exhibit dump yard, the Commandant emphasized that such plans will be strongly resisted, in order to secure the exhibits.
“We want the public to be rest assured that these exhibits are secured, any form of conspiracy to damage these exhibits will be met with stiff resistance.
“The Commandant General has deployed personnel to ensure the place is secured, Ogbogoro jetty is a no go area for anybody, because destroying this place means destroying the exhibits to prove that these products were all stolen. We had it on good authority that hoodlums were planning to attack this place in order to destroy the exhibits and we will not allow that.”
He, however, urged the public to report any NSCDC officer involved in the business of oil theft as the Corps will not hesitate to show such person the way out.
“If any of our personnel is caught, please report the person to us and we will discipline the person accordingly.
The NSCDC leadership does not in anyway condone acts of indiscipline.
“We are charged to protect critical national assets and if any of our personnel is involved we will not take it lightly. That is why those who were in charge of the anti vandal unit have been disbanded. And the committee set up to investigate them is ongoing.”

By: Stories by Kevin Nengia

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Rivers, A Global Investment Hub

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Nothing could be more elusive and desirous as the special skills and talent of a wand and a midas touch. Dr Freeman O’ Freeman is one the few possessive of this rare gift. He has a penchant for the reorganization of ailing industries, organizations and institutions. The foremost technocrat and consultant was recently spotted by the Port Harcourt Metro at a public function in the Garden city. When his attention was sought for an interview he willingly obliged an the session was a deep insight into his experience especially his years of consultancy services with the Rivers state Government in the  early 1990s. During these period he recalled that 14 parastalals and government agencies including the three state owned media Houses were under his consultancy services for full reorganisation process. “We made the State Electricity Board to be the highest revenue earner after the Ministry of finance, we also made the staffs of Water Board, Super Board, and Rivers Marine to earn their salary after the reorganization processes, some of the moribond companies can still be revived.”  He said Rivers state was deeply blessed with potentials to host the business world through flourishing business activities, nothing that most black Americans business moguls were looking for opportunities of investing their wealth and knowledge. Dr Freeman who is also and author and religious counsellor emphasized the need for proper restructuring of the Nigerian state to address the needs and imperatives of justice in the country. He canvassed for the creation of a state owned insurance company to secure the wealth and investments of  Rivers state. “ Rivers state is global investment hub, their is need to decongest Lagos by tapping into the enormous investment potentials in Rivers state, it’s quite unfortunate that investments of Rivers state government are easing out without full privileges to the state government, despite hosting two federal terminals economic activities in the state is still low. I want the Rivers state government to reap the benefit of insurance before Governor Wike leaves office, it will count for him as one his greatest legacies for Rivers people. Commenting on the prevalence of ethno religious crisis in the country, he pointed out the very custodians of religious faith were the propellers of the evolving Crisis. “it’s very unfortunate that people don’t practice what they preach, the much resources in the hands of the ministers should be redirected for the interest of the followers, the early missionaries gave education virtually free. Ministers should allow their members to have leveraging access to their schools, this will reduced the loads of poor parents and help in producing an informed and better society”. With a deep sense of concern, he urged the federal government to address the growing spate of insecurity in country, particularly the “ incautious activities of herders.

 

By: Taneh Beemene

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