That is one of the reasons I have decided to bring the district together, for them to be educated on the local content Act so that from now onward, you know your right, you know your place and you know what belongs to you and what you can achieve from the present environment being created by that Act
Senator Asinobi Ake, Chairman Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and Productivity –representing Rivers West Senatorial District (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Ahoada West, Ahoada East, Abua/Odual, Akuku-Toru Asari-Toru, Degema and Bonny Local Government Areas of Rivers State) has made a strong case for the Nigerian worker, saying emphatically that there is need for upward review of their remunerations and commensurate protection for them. He also spoke on other issues. Excerpt:
Question: Your District is the largest producer of petroleum in the country but it has not been treated so fairly during this eleven years of democracy. What should be done to adequately carry it along?
Answer: Yes, it is true that my district is the largest oil and gas producing district in this country and they have the high rate of oil and gas exploration activities which of course impacted negatively on the environment of the people and our psyche. And is also unfortunate that within this period, no significant impact has been made in the district –and we are pained by it , we are not happy ( and this is expressed ) by the measure of restiveness you have in the district.
We have accepted the past mistakes, even though we are unhappy about them, the duty we have now is to ensure that such mistake does not continue to thrive in the District and we are also very happy for the establishment of Niger Delta ( Affairs) Ministry and of course the Amnesty programme- which of course they know that the cause of the restiveness was as a result of neglect of the people of that area.
And we have ensure that people participate fully in the amnesty programme and to also ensure that (they benefit adequately from their God- given resources. That is one of the reasons I have decided to bring the district together, for them to be educated on the local content Act so that from now onward, you know your right, you know your place and you know what belongs to you and what you can achieve from the present environment being created by that Act so I think we are not going to allow any opportunity to go without being exploited, that what is ours is given to us. We also call on the federal government to take special interest in the District and ensure that if we are given funds out based on production , we should also recognize that certain areas are actually producing it and should be given special attention to cushion the effects of exploration activities within the area. We also call on the Rivers State government to make some special (provision for the area) look at the area critically and see the things they can do to improve the lives and welfare of the people within that very area.
I must also commend the governor for his efforts so far: within the area, we have seen schools, medical/Health centres, roads; but I will urge him to do more in the District to ensure that every area is reached by road especially those that are far remote and they should be provided opportunities to participate in the activities of government at the state and national levels. So far all hands have been seen to be on deck so the pains of yesterday are no longer experienced now and in the future
Question: In the spirit of the recent anniversary of the creation of Rivers State on May 27, Could you reflect on: Rivers State yesterday, today and tomorrow?
Answer: Well at the birth of Rivers state, it was all joy, happiness, expectations- great expectations, a lot of rapid growth at the beginning, somewhere along the line, Rivers state people have passed through will and wave of neglect, especially as it was governed by people who were not indigenes during the military era which distorted completely our original attitude, our original approach to things and completely destroyed Port Harcourt. Because people who ruled the state were from different environment, they never understood our environment well – they were just posted to man the place, they didn’t know their culture, they didn’t know their way of life…….
Now, we are happy that someone who know the place –was born there, grew up there, know the lost glory, know the beautiful time of Port Harcourt –when Port-Harcourt was truly Garden city.-grew up together from that good days to difficult days and now he is in the saddle. All actions he has taken show that he knew what Port Harcourt was and trying seriously to see that very past – orderliness, responsibility, cleanliness and respect for the infrastructure and public properties in the state are restored and people respect the laws of the place. You will see now that there are certain persons who are bent on bending the laws of the state no matter how hard the government tries, the areas, they will ask them not to go and litter, they will be there distorting everything the state government is trying to do.
I think the future of Rivers state in the hand of ( Gov. Rotimi) Amaechi is very bright and I am glad, the other day I drove through certain roads, it was very impressive. Port Harcourt should be seen from what is suppose to be- in name and in deed and we are happy to have somebody who understands the attitude of our people – who truely know what they want Port Harcourt to be. I’m very proud of him and I pray for him, support him and encourage him to go ahead and revive the true state of the Rivers man in Port Harcourt.
Question: You are the chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, Employment and productivity. To what extent have you been able to achieve your set goals, especially of late?
Answer: Well, we have several responsibilities as a committee (1) To ensure that the Ministry of Labour is funded and as well help them to formulate their policies and objectives in respect to labour issues. So far we have worked with them on different issues and so far the issues are beginning to make meaning to people. We have also looked at the labour force in the country and related with them and found out that there is need for improved condition of service
So we see the need to look at the condition of Nigeria’s labour force and I believe that it has to be improved. There have been agitations for wages increase which fortunately the government of both YarAdua and Jonathan… is disposed to listening to. We are very certain that in a short time a definite position will come out of that. And we have also looked at the places and realize that our workers are exposed to a lot of dangers without commensurate security for them and we are working on certain bills – workmen compensation bill’’ which I will talked of separately at different places -and many others.
And the constitution has been amended recently to accommodate Industrial Court –all that to ensure that the labourer are protected, that sufficient avenue are set up for the Nigerian worker to be protected and their condition of service improved. We ve heard interactive sessions; we ve heard public hearing and all these issues were addressed and our experience have been very encouraging and supportive and we are happy that the outcome will be a boost on the labour-related issues in this country
Question: What’s your comment on the Jonathan presidency , 2011 election and do you have ambition for next year?
Answer: First, we thank God that Yar’Adua picked a person of Jonathan’s caliber, a person of integrity, a person of his exposure and education to be his Vice president. If he had made a mistake of taking somebody who would have made non-sense of his absence, then it would have been a jeopardy, it would have been a tragedy for this country but luckily, he chased somebody to be his running mates, somebody who has all it takes to lead this country to a wonderful destination so we are very happy that God worked to use Jonathan to be the vice president, and since natural action has happened, the person takes over from the other.
I believe like he has always said in several fora- that he will make sure that one of the greatest demands of Nigeria people is to have credible election. Election seen to be credible- 70% to 80% of election acceptable to Nigerians. That is his aim. That is what he’s saying he’s going to work to achieve. He has also promise the issue of power and put that under him to really tell us the importance he attached to the problem of power in this Country. And I believe he will chart a very definite course, reliable course to ensure the realization of that dream in a very short time. I think one thing he has been able to succeed in doing is to make us trust him. He has demonstrated that he can be trusted and that is very important in governance.
Once a leader can be trusted, the populace can go to any length to ensure that government programmes and policies are supported and that people participate in government to ensure that development is accelerated. I think, we are happy the way he is carrying on and we believe that same God that decided his fate will carry him on until 2011.
My aspiration – I believe my aspiration is to continue to serve my people. And if my aspiration agrees with their own expectations of me so I believe the power belongs to the people and if Iam Lucky to be given , I; will consider myself privileged and honoured to serve them again. So far we have been working smoothly and I have been relating with my people effectively.
I will always be open to people, my doors are open to people to discuss because politics is a business of the human, its human business and if you cannot talk to people , I imagine (wonder) who you are serving so that’s why my doors are always open to ensure that those I represent have access to me. There is no way one can solve every body’s problem but one should have make an attempt to proffer solution. Since we know that all solutions are mostly brought by God’s intervention but the human factor should always be there to listen to one another and make effort to see and solve those problems so I believe my people are satisfied with my style, they should be able to give me another opportunity to serve in the same capacity.
Justus Awaji, Abuja