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Arise, Rivers Elders …Towards Post-Election Unity

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Wike and Amaechi

Wike and Amaechi

Two Igbo adages often  make profound impact on me, anytime they are voiced by the right persons.
The first is, ‘what an elder sees sitting, a child cannot see even while positioned on the tallest tree”. This underscores the magnitude of experience and wisdom that come with age.
The other is, ‘An elderly woman does not sit by and watch the pregnant goat deliver in its tetters. This is because as a mother, the aged woman should appreciate the rigours of childbirth, and  ought to empatise with the she goat, even if it is barely an animal?
Both adages highlight the near clairvoyance of the aged and the duty they owe society in times of challenges. They are expected to speak up when necessary, offer correction when needed and restore hope when society seems utterly hopeless.
Since the process leading to the last general elections, Rivers State has remained a battle field of sorts. Brother pitched against brother. Friend against friend. Community against community, all in the name of partisan politics. To say that true peace has eluded the state is to state the obvious. But the danger is that the gradual polarization of the people is getting to heights that silence cannot address.
This is not the first elections that would be held in the state. Upon return to democracy in 1999, Dr Peter Odili of the People’s Democratic Party was elected governor and there-after Rivers State came together as one indivisible people. Infact, all known oppositions simmered down and Rivers people worked towards the progress of the state.
In the process leading to the choice of Odili’s successor however, there was what became known as ‘K-Leg’, thanks to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Then Speaker Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who won the primaries was denied the party’s ticket resulting in a protracted litigation but he was restored governor by the Supreme Court. With that judgement, then incumbent Celestine Omehia, was unseated.
Even so, there was not much rancour. Rivers State did not experience the kind of violent, division that characterized the process for the choice of a successor to Amaechi. That was the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC). For a minority state, not familiar with opposition politics, Rivers has always partnered with the northern majority in pursuit  of national interest.
So when the APC emerged, with a pre-dominantly Yoruba following and some minority northern parties, many Rivers politicians were naturally skeptical. They had worked with the PDP for about 16 years and found movement to the new party very risky.
But incumbent Governor Amaechi did not think so, and moved to the APC, with a determination to deliver the state to his new party in all elections.
The governor repeatedly threatened to punish the PDP’s presidential candidate then President Goodluck Jonathan with Rivers votes and ensure that his re-election was truncated.
That threat, was inspite of the fact that President Jonathan’s wife is from Rivers, and Jonathan, thus a son-in-Law to the state. Secondly, he Amaechi was elected on the platform of the PDP and could not easily decimate the party which has ruled the state for four tenures of  four years each. Thirdly, there was the factor for an Education Minister who owed it a duty to work against the death of the PDP in the state, the platform that sought to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan. The fourth reason was that the whole of the South -South and South-East were united behind a Jonathan re-election, and Rivers State could not be expected to be different.
These indeed were some of the currents that fuelled the political dispute that laid the foundation for the polarization of the state. The other was Amaechi’s determination to use all the power at his disposal as governor, to ensure that his new party won the state, not minding the expected resistance of the party that had ruled the state since return to democracy, and gave him the platform to emerge as  governor.
So,a confident Amaechi swore, that not only would Jonathan lose Rivers State in the presidential elections but also that Chief Nyesom Wike who had them emerged as flagbearer could never be elected governor.
In the end, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Rivers votes in favour of President Jonathan and Wike returned as Governor of Rivers State.
And because of the amount of bitterness that characterized the process of those elections, former Governor Amaechi allegedly refused to hand-over to his valid successor, in person of Governor Wike. What the new governor had to work with were bits and pieces gathered together from ministries.
No political process has been characterized by so much bitterness.
With that setting, a protracted legal battle was imminent and went through the whole hug. In the end, the Supreme Court re-affirmed Chief Wike’s election, after the Rivers State Governorship Elections Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal had in separate rulings annulled the election.
Unfortunately, however, the Appeal Court also annulled the election of all three senators and nearly all members of the House of Representatives. Of the membership of the state House of Assembly, nearly three quarters were ordered to go for re-run election.
The re-run elections to the National Assembly will hold on Saturday March 19, 2016 as planned by INEC.
Expectedly, Rivers State has come under another intense political heat as former governor Amaechi and other state officials of the PDP exchange hot words.
Prior to this, there had be unsubstantiated allegations by the APC about plans to eliminate its members. But in a radio interview last week Amaechi fell short of threatening to use Federal might to win the elections by all means and at all costs.
The truth is that, in all the threats and counter threats, the battle ground will surely be Rivers. A worse case scenario would be the usual senseless killings and destruction of property.
In such a situation, Rivers would still be the ultimate loser.
Should Rivers elders then sit by and do nothing while politicians destroy the state which they won after years of agitation? Is it that all those who fought for the creation of the state are all gone and left the state for toddlers when the state was created?
Apart from politics, there are structures upon which the state thrives.
There is traditional rulers council, there is an ensemble  of statesmen, there is a forum of  apolitical elite, there is the leadership of the Christians and there are community leaders.
How can all these groups sit by, look the other way and watch our beloved Rivers State become a perpetual political battle ground? For how long will the state bury its young over reasons that do not elevate humanity?
For how long would the ambitions of few men and women, determine the course of events in the state?
Answers to these questions should indeed worry our elders and opinion leaders. They must rise up now, call themselves together, reason and fashion a plan to stop the further militarization of the state in the name of politics. These ought to be peace times, politics  is a game that produces winners and losers and not dead bodies.
Most importantly, politicians ought to see elections as a process of getting the peoples permission to serve and not to grab leadership by force. It should be a solemn walk with genuine demonstration of preparedness to serve and get the peoples sympathy in the process.
It should not be one to be  acquired by force or through intimidation. Accounts of elections in recent past have shown that to rig successfully, a political party must have the people behind it. But an even bigger obligation is the honour of accepting defeat and the grace of celebrating victory.
To forge ahead as a state, politicians must realize that there was Rivers before their political parties, therefore they must play the game according to rules and not covert the state into a battle ground.
My Agony is that many of the elders are directly of indirectly a part of the problem and are prepared to remain deaf and dumb. Methink it takes a few to start something and it will spread afterwards.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

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Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow

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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.

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Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY

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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.

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$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others

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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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