Upon assumption of office as Governor of Rivers State, October 26, 2007, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi promised, among others, to wage a relentless battle against corruption in public service, with the assurance that Rivers’ money would be spent on Rivers people by Rivers people.
In apparent demonstration of these, Amaechi not merely considered indigenous contractors for some key projects, he equally made sure that they were adequately mobilised to achieve positive results. In all these efforts, the Governor left no one in doubt as to his preparedness to hold to account, anyone found abusing his office or shirking responsibility of safe guarding public funds, as a means of fulfilling his cardinal objectives in governance.
“Our Mission”, the Governor has repeatedly said, is to serve our people with humility and render transparent and accountable stewardship anchored on integrity and good governance.
To achieve this, government promised to “use our God, given resources to improve the present quality of life of our present and future generations, and empower our people in a peaceful, just and harmonious society under God.
However, appreciating the dictum that “example is better than precept”, the Governor embraced public accountability, by regularly consulting with stakeholders before embarking on important mega projects. In fact, it is on record, that government has rendered public accounts of its more than 2-year stewardship for public scrutiny in line with its promise of pursuing transparency and accountability.
That is why Governor Amaechi’s recent warning, albeit for the umpteenth time, to public servants to avoid corruption and flamboyant lifestyle, should worry keen followers of the administration’s modest successes.
Addressing the 4th monthly inter-Governmental Forum at Government House, Port Harcourt recently, Governor Amaechi vowed to deal decisively with public office holders in the state, found to have misappropriated public fund entrusted to their care.
Visibly enraged by increasing public doubts over his administration’s sincerity and readiness to combat corruption, on account of the lavish lifestyle of some of his aides and political appointees, Governor Amaechi, was compelled to repeat his earlier warning to government functionaries to guide against graft. Although the state government is known to be prosecuting a permanent secretary over alleged corruption charges, it is still a far cry from public expectation, considering the high level of indiscretion the Governor has repeatedly decried.
Sadly, as if the ominous signs of lavish living among some government functionaries are not worrisome enough, some indigenous contractors have also given government reason to believe that its initial resolve to empower Rivers people was a mistake.
At a breakfast meeting with Newsmen in Port Harcourt, not too long ago, Gov Amaechi expressed disappointment with the performance of some contractors engaged by government to handle various projects but who failed to deliver, thus forcing government to review its policy of using “Rivers money for Rivers people”.
Disturbing as those contractors’ poor performance may be, The Tide considers the review of that proactive policy as hasty, considering the fact that the affected few represent merely a minute population of many other industrious and dependable indigenous Rivers contractors who deserve such opportunities.
Instead, The Tide would encourage government to blacklist the affected few alone and not punish all, for the sins of a handful of ingrates. Besides, reneging on valid contractual agreements after receiving mobilisation fees tatamounts to corruption and ought to be dealt with as such, by government.
The Rivers administration should therefore employ all legal means necessary to recover such funds and if possible legally compel such contractors to do their jobs, according to law. We say so because the attitude of a few is not enough reason to deny others an opportunity.
Surely, we sympathise with Governor Amaechi over the concerns expressed, but we still think that if more pro-active measures, like that on the Permanent Secretary were pursued to logical conclusions, there would not be need for the now known, near frequent reminders and warnings against corruption..
We think that exposing such corrupts officers will be a better example than the precept which the many reminders and warnings appear to be.