Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has charged the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee not to delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which has suffered serious setbacks on the floor of the National Assembly.
Governor Amaechi who gave the charge last Monday when the committee led by its Chairman, Hon. Ishaka Bawa visited him at Government House, Port Harcourt lamented that six years after the bill was sent to the National Assembly, it had not been passed into law.
Represented by his Deputy, Engr Tele Ikuru, Governor Amaechi noted that “anyone who hears about the PIB and the fact that it has been on the table of the National Assembly or between the Federal Government and the National Assembly for well over six years now from the time it commenced will be thoroughly worried.
I say worried because 80 per cent of our total revenue comes from the oil sector,” pointing out that “as far as we are concerned, the oil sector where our revenue comes from should also be where our major jobs should come from”.
The governor further observed, “we as a people are not players in the oil industry, something must be thoroughly wrong,” the governor, who is also Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), stated that “a bill of this nature should not stay more than one or two months wherever it finds itself,” asserting that due to the importance of the bill, it should be given accelerated attention.
“It is so important, it goes to the heart of this country, it goes to the heart of the economy of this country and for a bill that is at the heart of the economy of this country, for a bill that we all depend on to be wobbling over and over, it simply means that perhaps we have missed our direction as a people,” he observed.
He, therefore, urged the committee members to expedite action considering the importance of the bill, lamenting that the “country has been producing crude oil for almost sixty years but still imports petrol to run its vehicle, imports kerosene to light its stove, imports diesel to run its factories. It is amazing that the people whose backyard where these things are taken every day still live in absolute penury and nobody is worried,” encouraging them to “expedite action on the bill and allow your name to be written eventually in gold as it concerns the economy of this country”.
Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, who is also the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ishaka Bawa, told the Governor that they were in the State to give the people the opportunity to make critical inputs into the process of passing the PIB into law, noting that “instead of having discussions on the PIB only on the floor of the House, we decided to bring it to the open and offer Nigerians the opportunity to make inputs into the process,” assuring that “the decision of Nigerians will prevail at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Chairman, House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Mr Ishaka Bawa, has called for public participation in law making.
Bawa, who made the call at the opening of the zonal public hearing on the proposed PIB organised by the committee last Monday in Port Harcourt, said public input is crucial to legislative actions.
The chairman said the House resolved to simultaneously organise public hearings in the six geo-political zones of the country to provide an opportunity for Nigerians to express their opinions on the bill.
Bawa said the bill, when passed into law, would address the various irregularities in the oil and gas industry.
“Corruption, indiscipline, strange criminalities such as bunkering and vandalism have assumed unacceptable proportions in the industry,” he said.
The lawmaker said the public hearing would provide an opportunity for stakeholders, civil society groups and host communities to offer advice and make constructive inputs to provisions of the bill.
Member, Rivers State Economic Council, Prof. Fubara Dagogo, who read the address of the state government, flayed the Federal Government’s policies of the Petroleum Trust Fund.
According to him, the fund had yet to give adequate attention to the host communities who suffer the impact of oil exploration by the oil companies.
Dagogo decried the high cost of petroleum products in rural and host communities.
“As soon as you leave Port Harcourt city to our localities, you get petroleum products three times the price in Port Harcourt and this is unhealthy for our rural dwellers,” he added.
He advised the Federal Government to ensure that pipelines were connected to the rural areas to stabilise the cost of petroleum products in the country.
Dagogo also said that to stop gas flaring in the country, penalties on gas flaring should be made 10 times higher than what it is now.
He said the step, if taken, would encourage oil companies to work out modalities for a better alternative to gas flaring.
Dagogo also urged the Federal Government to include science and technology in its transformation agenda, saying that no country could develop by relaying 100 per cent on imported products.
Public Relations Officer of the Bonny Kingdom Study Group, Mr Alfred Alison, said that in as much as the host communities were expected to suffer some hazards of development, they should not be neglected.
“Oil and gas activities have impacted much on the communities, if you flare gas in Bonny and pay fines to the federation account, how then does host communities benefit from the penalties.
“You cannot flare gas and pay fines into the federation account and those from the Niger Delta region begin to share whatever that is there with those who are not suffering from the activities of oil exploration.”
Alison called on the government to respect and involve host communities in determining who should benefit from the penalties on gas flaring.
In another development, Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has sworn-in a new seven member Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council with a charge to them to conduct the affairs of the council with prudence and dilligence..
Amaechi gave the charge through the Secretary to State Government, Mr. George Feyii who swore-in the caretaker committee members in Government House, shortly after they were screened by the State House of Assembly yesterday in Port Harcourt.
Governor Amaechi called on members of the committee to exhibit high sense of dilligence in carrying out their assigned responsibilities, and urged them to display behaviour worthy of public trust by ensuring that council resources are utilised judiciously.
“We justify the confidence reposed in you by giving you this appointment to show diligence and manage the resources of the local government with every sense of responsibility,” he said.
“You do not have the freedom to conduct yourselves in a way that will not be befitting of the responsibility that has been placed on you. And we have confidence that you will do that, and the best way you can do that is to conduct yourselves positively. I congratulate you all in your new appointment as caretaker committee of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council,’’ he further remarked.
Meanwhile, the newly sworn-in Caretaker Committee Chairman of Obio/Akpor LGA, Dike David Chikordi has dissolved all standing committees of the council, expressing assurance that new committees would be constituted in no distant time.
Chikordi assured the people of Obio/Akpor that he would continue to promote the vision of Governor Amaechi to ensure dividends of democracy in the LGA, and promised to inject new blood in the effective management of the council to achieve desired results.
Members the Caretaker Committee are Dike David Chikordi as Chairman, Yellow Ernest Ogbonda as Vice-Chairman, Ihunwo Ovunda, Wogu Chima, Ejims Chinkweru, Stanley Ehoro and Friday Owhor Kinikanwo as members.
Earlier, the Rivers State House of Assembly had screened Mr Chikodi Dike, Ernest Ogbondah, Chimkweru Ejims, Ovunda Ihunwo, Stanley Ehoro, Owhor Kinika and Chima Worgu as members of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council Caretaker Committee.
It would be recalled that the inauguration of the caretaker committee followed a resolution of the state Assembly that suspended the elected chairman, Prince Timothy Nsirim and his councilors last Monday.
Meanwhile, the second session of the 21st Synod of the Diocese of Niger Delta Anglican Communion will kick off tomorrow at the St Michael’s Anglican Church, Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area.
The theme of this year’s Synod, “Go and Make Disciples,” is expected to be declared open by the state governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi, and would last four days.
A statement by the Diocesan Communicator, Sir Olu Fubara said the Bishop of the Diocese of Niger Delta, Rt Rev Ralph Ebirien was expected, among other activities lined up to present the presidential address and Bishop’s charge and preside over the launching of the synod report.
The Synod will be rounded off on Sunday with a thanksgiving service at the St Michael’s Anglican Church , Buguma, and a sermon by the Bishop of Ohaji-Egbema Diocese, Rt Rev Chidi Okparajiaku.
The Synod is a forum where the Diocese review its activities in the past, present and future.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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