They came in their numbers. They came representing themselves and the state Executive Council of former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. They came united. They came to explain their actions and inactions. They came to tell their own story of their alleged recklessness and impropriety while in power as individuals and as a group.
They were the powerful men and women that called the shots under the last administration in Rivers State. Not all of them were indicted and required to refund various sums of money or be prosecuted according to the White Paper released by the state government on the Justice George Omereji–led Judicial Commission of Inquiry that investigated the sale of some state assets. But they came together because injury to one is injury to all and what affects all, affects one in the same degree sometimes.
Indeed, they made a lot of collective decisions, even though individuals were assigned to execute them. They came knowing that in the principle of collective responsibility, condemnation and commendation are also to be shared. They came knowing that how the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s administration is perceived cannot be different from how each of them will be seen as well.
When they came, they did not come like people who were being hounded or harassed. They came boldly. They came with the full compliment of their security details.
The turn-out was impressive and there could not be a better representation of the former members of the Rivers State Executive Council under Amaechi. A roll call of former commissioners who were present to brief the press at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt on Saturday, October 10, 2015 buttresses the point.
Leading the group was the former Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs Ibim Semenitari. Others were Sir Victor Giadom (Works), Sir Augustine Nwokocha (Power), Mr George Tolofari (Transport), Dr Chamberlain Peterside (Finance), Mr Mbombo Igwe (Sports), Mr Gogo Charles Levi (Budget and Economic Planning), Mr Emmanuel Chinda (Agriculture), Mr Joe Poroma (Social Welfare and Rehabilitation), Dr Ipalibo Hary (Employment Generation), Mrs Joeba West (Women Affairs) and Mr Ezemonye Ezekiel- Amadi (Lands).
The rest were Mr Samuel Eyiba (Local Governemnt Affairs), Mr Charles Okaye (Chieftaincy and Community Affairs), Mr Nabbs Imegi (Culture and Tourism), and Mr Dickson Omunakwe (Special Duties). Among them also was Mr Goodlife Nmekini, former Special Adviser to the governor on ICT
“This press briefing has become imperative following the recent spate of attacks on the former governor and allegations of corruption against the regime”, Mrs. Semenitari said, adding that the briefing was mainly intended to set the records straight in keeping with the tradition of maintaining a “transparent and accountable stewardship”.
Reading from a prepared script off her ipad computer, she restated the position of the group with regard to the Justice George Omereji judicial commission of inquiry as earlier espoused by Bar. Wogu Boms, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice to the effect that they believe that the commission was not only illegal but that both the governor, Chief Nyesom Wike and the chairman were biased and had predetermined the indictment of both the former governor and some otherS invited to give evidence at the sitting of the commission.
However, the former spokeswoman of the past administration said the former commissioners considered it worthwhile to “reiterate our position previously espoused on the matters raised by the commission” even though the same explanations were all contained in the handover notes they had submitted to the Secretary to the State Government and to the Permanent Secretaries of their various ministries, departments and agencies before finally leaving office.
Beginning with the monorail project down to the state reserve fund, she made spirited and detailed explanation of not only the financial transactions but also the conceptions, approvals and expected benefits of the projects and transactions to Rivers people.
According to the former commissioner, the decision to construct the Rivers monorail project was adopted by the Rivers State Executive Council during the first tenure of the Rotimi Amaechi government when the current governor, Nyesom Wike was Chief of Staff to the governor. She also alleged that the former Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru headed an Executive Council Committee that recommended the sole sponsorship of the project by the Rivers State Government when TSI Property nd Investment Holdings Limited pulled out of the project because of her inability to contribute her own 80% equity contribution in 2008.
She said “the first phase of the project (2.6km stretch) could be said to have been technically completed” at the time their government left office and wondered why the state government would still be requesting the sum of N33bn from the handlers of the project on the Agricultural Credit Scheme. She explained that while a total of N4bn was earmarked, about N3.1bn was disbursed to 380 mother cooperatives leaving a balance of about N900million, adding that proceeds from the sale of the power assets of the Rivers State Government amounting to N33bn was captured in the 2014 Budget as one of the sources of revenue.
“Once the funds were received into RSVG account, they were used alongside others from other revenue sources to finance various government projects and activities”, she said.
Explaining the situation with the 1000-bed (Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte) mega specialist hospital contract, Mrs. Semenitari said the sum of N4.6bn was released while work done by Clinotech (including material at site) amounted to N3.9bn. She debunked insinuations of unlawful enrichment and criminal conspiracy to convert public funds to private use against the former governor as far as this project is concerned.
In the same vein, she insisted that the N53bn in the Rivers State Reserved Fund did not disappear and that the account did not at any point in time harbour up to N96bn.
Aided by the former Commissioner for Finance, the chief information officer of the Amaechi administration said only the sum of N54bn was withdrawn in two tranches from that account.
“The fund had a Net Asset Value of over One Billion, Two Hundred Million (N1,200,000,000.00) only at the end of the administration in May 2015”, she said.
According to Mr. Emmanuel Chinda, former Commissioner for Agriculture, the Justice George Omereji Judicial Commission of Inquiry was nothing but a witch-hunt panel. “It is politics”, he said, adding that Governor Nyesom WIke was still engaged in political campaign to discredit political opponents in order to gain political relevance and acceptance.
But one thing is central to their defence of Amaechi’s government of which they were part of. It was to clear Amaechi’s name and prepare ground for his clearance and confirmation by the Senate as a minister, especially in view of the allegations of huge financial impropriety leveled against the former governor and some of his commissioners by the judicial commission of inquiry headed by Justice Omereji and the White Paper already released by the Rivers State Government is yet to begin.
Addressing the press penultimate Friday on the White Paper, Emma Okah, Commissioner for Housing, Rivers State, disclosed the intention of the government to prosecute former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Brigadier General Anthony Ukpo (rtd), a former Military Administrator of the state, and several other former officials of the state for allegedly misappropriating a total sum of N97 billion of public funds.
“The commission finds as a fact that the sale of 70 per cent equity from the First Independent Power Limited in Omoku Gas Turbine, Trans-Amadi Gas Turbine, Afam Phase I Gas Turbine and Eleme Gas Turbine, has been very difficult to justify. They have therefore recommended the review of sale of the power assets and the government of Rivers State has accepted that recommendation,” Mr Okah said.
He futher disclosed that “The commission recommends that the former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, along with his former Commissioners for Finance and Power, Dr Chamberlain Peterside and Augustine Nwokocha, respectively, should be held to account for their roles in the sale of the power generation assets of First Independent Power Limited and the disbursement of the proceeds there from.” He added that “Government accepts that recommendation and directs the office of the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, to promptly set in motion the appropriate machinery for the recovery of the proceeds of the sale of the gas turbines from the former governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and every other persons implicated in the commission’s report.”
Okah further stated that the Rivers State Government intends to recover the sum of N3 billion agricultural loan which was disbursed to agric cooperatives as grants under the supervision of Mr Emma Chinda, former Commissioner for Agriculture.
To Mrs Ibim Semenitari, former Governor Chibuike Amaechi “is a shining star and we are proud of him.”
But all the members representing the people of Rivers State in the National Asembly think otherwise. A Port Harcourt-based Integrity Group has also not relented in telling everyone that cares to listen, including the EFCC, the Senate and every other anti-corruption agency, the alleged mountain of financial sins of the former state chief executive. On the heels of all of them is the indictment by the Government White Paper on the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that was released on Friday, October 11, 2015 amongst others.
As Amaechi takes his turn before the Senate tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20, 2015 for screening as a ministerial nominee, he will be appearing clearly as the most challenged, most vehemently opposed and the most controversial nominee whether he succeeds or not.
Shell Donates Subsea Training Facilities To UNIPORT
The Nigeria deep-water arm of global energy giant, Shell, has donated multimillion naira laboratory equipment and software packages to the Offshore Technology Institute of the University of Port Harcourt as part of the company’s Nigerian content human capital development programme delivered in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the facilities to the university, last Thursday, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), Mrs. Elohor Aiboni, said, “The donations are aimed at strengthening advanced practical teaching and research in subsea engineering to give the students the required skills and competences for entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry”.
The facilities, valued at over $700,000, are in alignment with the Human Capacity Development Guideline of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Aiboni, represented by SNEPCo’s Social Investment Manager, Dr. Gloria Udoh, expressed optimism that with the level of investment by NNPC and SNEPCo in deep-water training via the establishment centres of excellence and donation of cutting-edge information and communication technology centres, among others, Nigerian oil and gas industry would surpass its local content aspiration earlier than projected.
“This investment anchored on the maintenance of subsea infrastructure on Nigeria’s pioneer deep offshore field, Bonga, is expected to develop and upskill the cognitive and technical abilities of students who pass through the Offshore Technology Institute for the ultimate benefit of our industry and of our country,” Aiboni added.
With the new laboratory and software packages, according to Aiboni, the Offshore Technology Institute is positioned to deliver effective training in engineering design; construction and installation of offshore and subsea structures; computer simulations; civil and construction tests; 3D printing/engravement capability; Measurement/Metering Technology and Robotics; Alternative Energy Technologies; and Data Acquisition Learning System.
In his remarks, Vice Chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Onwunari Georgewill, commended NNPC and SNEPCo with its co-venture partners for their goodwill to the university and particularly to OTI, and canvassed more areas of collaboration between the university and its industry partners.
Georgewell said, “This project’s completion is timely because it latches on to the university’s leadership philosophy, which focuses on advancing education through an integrated learning environment to produce industry-ready university graduates and workforce.
“The current administration of the university places a lot of emphasis on university and industry collaboration and partnership. This donation will therefore enhance the achievement of the postgraduate degree-awarding Offshore Technological Institute in the practical context.”
Also speaking, Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr. Simbi Wabote, described the human capital initiatives of SNEPCo as commendable.
Wabote added, “I commend your remarkable and consistent collaboration and partnership with the NCDMB towards the development of in-country capacities and capabilities.”
Represented by NCDMB General Manager, Corporate Service and Logistics, Mr Halilu Abdulmalik, Wabote said, “Your Nigerian content initiatives are consistent with the objectives and aspirations of NCDMB’s 10-year strategic roadmap, and we hope that necessary adjustments will be made to the curriculum to ensure optimal utilization by students in the university community.”
Obasanjo, Osinbajo, Wike, Others Bag CAN Awards
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and Mummy Esther Ajayi, were among prominent Nigerians who received awards at the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sapphire awards in Abuja, last weekend.
Others, including Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, and Chief Arthur Eze, also received awards at the event; while the kidnapped Dapchi school, Leah Sharibu, won in the Young Christian Achiever award category.
Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and Goodluck Jonathan, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, and some Christian governors, serving and past National Assembly members bagged awards.
The awards were part of activities for CAN’s 45th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration Dinner and Award Night.
Earlier in his welcome address, CAN National President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, had said that the gathering was to celebrate 45 years of the church in Nigeria.
He said that Governance Category awards were for Christians in politics who had shown excellent and remarkable services.
“These include past presidents, serving governors and senators in our assessment that deserve such award.
“An award ceremony is applause of vision, personal discipline and determination; it is an event like this that makes people feel that their works are valued.
“The award is a catalyst that is expected to reinforce the awardees to serve humanity more and more,’’ he said.
The CAN president said it was heart breaking that majority of those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps were Christians who were displaced by religious fanatics, bandits and gunmen in their territories.
He solicited the awardees’ financial support in fulfilling some of CAN’s obligations to fellow Christians and bringing to fruition the association’s projects.
Obasanjo, who was represented by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was the special guest of honour at the awards.
Obasanjo said that the award was significant in that it would encourage other citizens to serve humanity, adding “I will continue to do the best I can to uphold the principles of justice, love, equity, mutual respect, industry and the fear of God which epitomise the church of Christ until there’s no breath left in me.”
While showing appreciation to CAN on behalf of all the award recipients, VP Osinbajo said Nigerians needed to be more tolerant of other people’s views.
The vice president dedicated the award to those who, daily in different locations, distant and near, propagated the message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, sometimes in difficult and life-threatening situations.
He said that the awardees were not necessarily the most deserving of Christians to be given any recognition but by the special grace of God which placed them in the high capacity they served.
He said, “As we have seen in the past few years, there’s a growing ethnic and religious chauvinism, and almost intemperate, vehement and violent dismissal of the views of people of other persuasions and faith without adequate consideration.
“At the same time, there is also the rise of cultural and identity politics. The answer to hate and intolerance and conflicts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must believe enough in it, to live it out as our article of faith.
“The gospel commands consideration of the views of others, treating them we would wish to be treated. Our words must be of grace, seasoned with salt.
“We must remain constant and relentless advocates of freedom of worship, respect for human rights, fairness, justice, rule of law because they are fundamental to peace and security. We cannot talk of peace and security without fairness and justice, and compliance with the rule of law.
“We are in the advantageous position that our contribution will be more easily noticed.
“So, this award is dedicated to the men who, daily in different locations, distant and near propagate this message of the love and reconciliation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in sometimes even difficult and life-threatening situations.
“And to many who have suffered deprivations, the families of those who have lost their lives by reason of their belief.
“And we are deeply grateful to the Almighty God for the opportunity and enablement to serve in the positions to which we have been referred.
“I bring, also, the very warm felicitations of the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria on the 45th anniversary of the birth of this foremost association of Nigerian Christians.
“CAN was formed to, among other objectives, nurture the unity of the church in Nigeria and to work with the leaders of other faith and persuasions to build bridges and forge understanding, peace and unity among the various people and faith in our nation.
“CAN has not only been continually faithful to its founding vision, it has become a veritable force for peace, for unity and for social justice.
“Pursuant to the gospel, CAN has consistently spoken up on behalf of the least of those in our society,’’ he said.
He said that the current and past leaderships of CAN had acted in full realiasation and recognition of their roles as pivotal stakeholders alongside the government and private sector in nation building.
Earlier, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who noted the dire financial condition of the umbrella Christian organisation in the country, advised clerics to tone down their criticism of those in authority.
He said, “I just want to caution some Christian pastors concerning the way we use our pulpit and the kind of fire of insults and abuses that comes from there. When you abuse those who will give you money where will you get the money.
“The Bible says to pray for those in authority. You need to draw your leaders close. When you draw us closer and tell us what your problems are, it will energise us to help. Money will flow more than you need.”
Also, Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, who sheltered no fewer than 200 Christians in Barkin Ladi, Plateau, during an attack, was presented with the Special Recognition award.
The late Obadiah Mailafia, former CBN Deputy Governor, was given a post-humous award of Spokesperson for Oppressed alongside Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto and Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana.
Awards were also given to best candidates in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Senior School Certificate Examination.
Highlight of the event was the cutting of the anniversary cake.
Bandits Free 10 More Kaduna Baptist Students, Keep 11
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), yesterday, confirmed that 10 more students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna State have been released.
The Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) and its Chairman in Kaduna State, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said this in a short WhatsApp message to newsmen.
He said, “Ten more students of Baptist High School were released this afternoon. We have 11 now with bandits.
“We are thanking all Nigerians for their prayers and support.
“We are trusting God that the rest will be released very soon. All have been reunited with their parents.”
Earlier, 10 students of Bethel Baptist School in Kaduna were released on Saturday, September 18, after spending 74 days captivity of terrorists, with 22 others still being held.
Hayab had said, “10 students were released this (Saturday) evening and have reunited with their parents. We are now hoping for the remaining 21 who are still with the bandits.”
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