When, in his Assets Declaration before the Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB) President Muhammadu Buhari listed among his assets a plot of land in Port Harcourt, which location he did not know, many Nigerians concluded that it must be a parting gift from former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who had since jumped ship from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress, after nearly eight years in office.
That gesture also affirmed the very close relationship Buhari both, as an APC candidate and President shared with former Governor Amaechi. Infact, it was that closeness that must have informed the latter’s choice as Director General (DG) of the APC Presidential campaign, and now Transports Minister.
In his capacity as governor, Amaechi made some pronouncements which could go as vows. They include: over my dead body will Nyesom Wike become Governor of Rivers State? Another was, ‘Rivers people must punish the PDP and its presidential candidate Dr Goodluck Jonathan with our votes”. The third’ I can never hand-over to a man like Nyesom Wike if he mistakenly becomes Governor of Rivers State. But that would never happen”.
In the first instance, Wike became governor. In the second, Jonathan and the PDP won the presidential vote in Rivers and all National Assembly seats, and the third, Amaechi refused to handover to Chief Wike as Governor. Most of what the new government started work with were bits and pieces gathered together from Permanent Secretaries.
President Buhari was presumed to have known all these. So when, during his inaugurals, the new president assured that he belonged to nobody and belonged to all, many Nigerians particularly Rivers people believed that he would not turn a blind eye to the disturbing examples of impunity Amaechi demonstrated before, during and after 2015 general elections The most worrisome, being Amaechi’s refusal to hand-over to a duly elected governor, declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Many had expected a reprimand from the President and Commander-in-Chief, if for nothing else, to prove that he meant it when he said he would belong to none and belong to all. But none came. And all through the post-election litigations, members of Ameachi’s party publicly referred to Wike, a serving governor as “care-taker governor”, certain that the courts world unseat him.
During the period, the major plank of the APC’s protest against the electoral victory of the PDP in Rivers State was insecurity. According to the APC, Rivers had become a killing field that was unsuitable for any saner and civilised activity. Of course, the APC-led Federal Government swallowed that view point. So did the Judiciary.
Accordingly, the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal was relocated to Abuja, where, happenings in Rivers State would be debated.
The Rivers State government pursued its disapproval from the Tribunal all through to the Supreme Court to no avail, as every court upheld the position of the APC, the Appeal Court had powers to decide on the issue.
Strangely, the Rivers APC considered each of those denials by various courts as a victory of sorts and celebrated same in one church or the other, with lavish reception thereafter, in the same Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital that was considered insecure.
In the end, the Supreme Court upheld the election of Governor Wike as declared by the INEC, in the first instance, but the Appeal Court on its part ordered rerun into National and State Assembly Seats. With that decision, Port Harcourt and indeed the entire state suddenly became unsafe again, and so required the military to ensure order, according to the APC. What it rejected in Osun and Ekiti States as opposition party.
To ensure that end, there was a roundly exaggerated picture of insecurity in the state to justify the deployment of soldiers to an ordinarily civilian democratic exercise. And if there was any doubt that the APC intended to use the soldiers for electoral duties, it was doused when Amaechi, the Transport Minister in separate radio and TV interviews threatened to match Wike’s government, man to armed man. He promised to flood the state with more soldiers that had ever been recorded in an election in any state.
As would be expected, the Buhari-led Federal Government obliged Amaechi’s request and flooded the state with armed soldiers whose roles in the rerun elections were most conflicting.
In Khana and Gokana, there were reports that the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Kenneth Kobani and Commissioner for Environment, Roseline Konya were assaulted and the former detained over-night on the instructions of the soldiers.
But the most bizzarre of the events of the rerun was the drama at the Mile One Police Station in Port Harcourt where, a run-away electoral officer had reappeared with sensitive materials. Television viewers on Satellite Cable TV AIT at first wondered what the Chief of Army Staff was doing at the Police Station with a retinue of soldiers as guards?
It was much later, it became clear that the man viewers saw being followed by armed soldiers was not a Senior Military Officer, but the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, while, beside him stood the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike without any armed escorts.
According to electoral guidelines, everyone was expected to limit his or her movement to his or her electoral area. Amaechi, should have voted in Ubima. While those in his team, like the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs Ibim Semenitari should be voting in Okrika while the APC candidate in the Governorship elections Dr Dakuku Peterside ought to be in Opobo.
Was the presence of the three in Port Harcourt, accompanied by armed soldiers not in defiance of electoral law? Should soldiers be used for such disobedience of the law as demonstrated by Amaechi’s trip to the Police Station aired on TV? Did that not amount to impunity of the highest order?
Again, Rivers people expected the impartial President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to condemn the unconstitutional use of soldiers, as clearly shown on cable news network during the Rivers rerun.
That is why many where shocked to hear President Buhari, apparently buying into the post-election campaign of the Rivers APC to declare that the state is the most insecure in the country. As commander-in-Chief, Buhari receives briefs from all sectors of the security community. That pronouncement could not have been a product of such briefing.
For, were it to be so, companies operating in the state would have fled. Instead, the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state has risen to N10 billion monthly from five. Night life in Port Harcourt still booms. No attacks on schools, hospitals or any public institution. Infact, private and public institutions are operating in peace.
What Buhari, might not have considered is: “Is APC in Rivers really on ground? Can an Amaechi-led APC win elections as they want Nigerians to believe? Is it possible for a party to rig elections today, where it is not relatively popular?
If it were so easy, former President Jonathan would have won Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, Borno, Kastina, Adamawa, Niger and Kebbi. But Buhari won those areas because the people were ready to defend their votes.
Why do people now want Buhari to believe that soldiers can win elections for a party not properly rooted in the peoples? Whatever popularity the APC would have enjoyed among Rivers people, it lost through the non-payment of civil servants three months salary arrears by former Governor Amaechi in preference for politics and Governor Wike’s commendable start in government. After his 100 days record, whatever campaign the APC launched, simply ended-up uniting Rivers people.
Rivers Information and Communications Commissioner, Dr Austin Tam-George captured the scenario aptly, when he said every campaign or action by the APC unites Rivers people against, APC leader and former governor, Rotimi Amaechi.
My Agony is that the campaigns that tend to paint Rivers State as the most insecure in the country are intended to secure a state of emergency, so APC can get through the back door, what the people, INEC and the country’s Apex Court rightfully ruled in their disfavour.
Methinks Buhari and the leadership of the APC ought to read in-between the lines that Rivers cannot be turned into an APC state over night, as its members would want outsiders to believe.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
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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