An atmosphere of uncertainty engulfed the Rivers State House of Assembly yesterday as 24 lawmakers loyal to the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi were barred from entering the Assembly complex.
The pro-Amaechi legislators had converged at the Assembly complex preparatory to the commencement of plenary sequel to the Abuja Federal High Court ruling which declared as illegal the order of the National Assembly to take over the functions of the State Assembly.
The meeting was to be the first plenary in the House since the complex was sealed off last July following a fracas in the Assembly.
The Tide learnt that trouble started when the legislators resolved to carry out their business outside the complex, an action which caused the Police that stormed the complex to fire live ammunition and teargas canisters to disperse them.
In the ensuing melee in which many passers-by scampered for safety, several persons were said to have suffered injuries and some others taken to yet-to-be identified hospitals for medical attention.
It was gathered that the five anti-governor Amaechi lawmakers in the House had allegedly hatched a plot to impeach the governor yesterday if those loyal to him (Amaechi) did not go to the Assembly complex.
The source revealed that the five legislators were to be led into the complex by the Police to enable them declare the seats of the pro-Amaechi lawmakers vacant for defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But the pro-Amaechi lawmakers, the source further hinted, acting on a tip off, called for immediate sitting to foil the impeachment plot.
Reacting to the incident, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Leyii Kwanee said the lawmakers were on their way to putting things in order preparatory to the commencement of plenary as soon as possible, following Wednesday’s court ruling that the National Assembly had no right to take over the functions of the State Assembly.
Kwanee, who spoke to newsmen earlier before the dispersal at Mocow Road, said the legislators were barred from entering the Assembly, noting that “since there was no court ruling stopping members of the House from sitting, the Police had no right to stop us from carrying out our constitutional duties”.
He condemned the continued closure of the assembly in spite of a court ruling to re-open it.
He said as lawmakers, “we were voted to represent our people and we are ready to defend the mandate given to us by our constituencies”.
“We want to assure you that there is no going back; we are resolute and we are committed to this cause.
“If need be, we are ready to sacrifice our lives for this cause; we are committed to defend the democracy of Rivers people,” he said.
According to one of the lawmakers, Hon. Augustine Ngo, the legislators were at the Assembly to take inventory of properties and equipment destroyed in the wake of the infamous July 9 fracas on the floor of the House.
The lawmaker who represents Abua/Odual Constituency, said they had to leave after the Police fired teargas at them, even after much plea to let them have access to the Assembly, knowing that they had written a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, informing him of their mission and seeking adequate security.
“We were over 20 members of the Assembly. We had to leave because we do not want direct confrontation with the Nigeria Police. We wanted to see what has happened to the House complex because after the July fracas nobody has been to the House, but the Police won’t let that be”.
In her reaction, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Ibim Semenitari, confirmed the invasion of the Assembly by policemen, decrying the level of “impunity ravaging the country.”
She said, “It is an indication of the impunity ravaging the country and a clear indication that the PDP, under the present leadership, has lost all forms of democratic conduct.
“They can’t even pretend to wear a mien of civility. Rather, they are practising jackboot governance and repression worse than we have ever seen under the military.” State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, could not be reached for comments.
The Commander of the Port Harcourt Area Command, Mr Aliyu Garba, told Newsmen that the command had not received an order from the court to re-open the assembly complex.
Garba said the police did not allow anybody into the complex because there was no order for the police to do so.
He said the role of the police was to avert the breakdown of law and order in the society.
Reacting to the comment made by Hon. Evans Bipi, that “he will resume duty as Speaker of the House”, Kwanee said, democracy has given all persons freedom of Speech, including irrelevant and unconstructed speeches from people like Hon. Bipi. He called on the public to disregard Bipi’s comments, saying that the legal structures of the state House of Assembly have not changed.
Hon. Kwanee said Rt. Hon. Otelemba Amaechree remains the Speaker of the House, while he (Kwanee) remains the deputy Speaker along with other House Officers who are still in charge of their various functions.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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