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Challenges Before West, Central African Shippers

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Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Compt. Ekpowie Edike (left) being presented with plaque by the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, during his courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary in Lagos last Friday.

Zonal Coordinator, Zone A, Nigeria Customs Service, Assistant Compt. Ekpowie Edike (left) being presented with plaque by the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, during his courtesy visit to the Executive Secretary in Lagos last Friday.

By most accounts, issues
of poor connectivity and high transport costs of international and sub-regional trades in West and Central Africa are major disincentives to shippers (importers and exporters).
As part of efforts to address this problem, stakeholders recently converged on Abuja for a sub-regional workshop on “Minimising Transport Costs and Improving Connectivity of West and Central African Countries: A Panacea for Economic Development of the Sub-region’’.
The two-day workshop was jointly organised by the Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) and was hosted by the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT).
The focus of the workshop was on “New International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Rule on Container Weighing and its Implications for Nigerian Maritime Trade’’.
In his address, the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, urged West and Central African countries to address the challenges of high transport costs and poor connectivity facing the economies of the sub-regions. He particularly urged the UASC to adopt a holistic transport policy to address the challenges and other issues hindering the competitiveness of the sub-region in international trade.
The minister proposed the establishment of an integrated and sustainable transport system, with emphasis on rail and inland waterways transportation, in order to foster quality connectivity within the system.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello said integration of the West and Central African sub-regions would reduce the cost of transportation and facilitate efforts to diversify the economy.
Bello said that the cost of transportation within Africa was quite high because of poor connectivity, adding that African countries must strive to improve their transport systems.
“If there is no transportation, all these will not be useful. So, we need it as of necessity; we must improve our transportation system.
“It is that transportation system that will yield or materialise our potential; it is that transportation system that will integrate our West and Central Africa regions,’’ he said.
Bello said that NSC and Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) wanted to establish constant shipping services that would internally cut down the cost of transportation. He said that almost in all the regions, imports and exports were ferried by foreign ships to and from sub-regional countries.
“Most countries in the West African sub-region, including Nigeria, do not own fleets and we are at the mercy of foreign shipping companies.
“To improve connectivity and lower the cost of transport, therefore, we need to look very seriously at the area of ship building and vessels’ ownership in order to increase the number of vessels plying our waters, with a view of encouraging international trade,’’ he said.
Bello described the role of NSC in UASC as pivotal because Nigeria, being the largest economy in West and Central Africa, generated about 60 per cent of the trade of the sub-region.
Beyond that, attention was also drawn to the impending implementation of the amended IMO Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention on container weight, which will come into effect on July 1, 2016.
The Secretary-General, Global Shippers Forum of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr Chris Welsh, said that the new IMO rules placed new responsibilities on shippers to verify the actual gross mass of the container.
This, according to Welsh, includes the goods, packing, stowing materials, pallets and tare weight of the container.
Welsh, however, said that the new rules would also apply to export containers.
All the same, the Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers (DSC) Sub-committee of IMO has approved changes to the SOLAS Convention that would require verification of container weights before loaded containers could be placed aboard ships.
The Secretary-General of UASC, Mr Adamou Abdourahamane, said that Africa’s share of global trade was more than nine billion tonnes, less than 10 per cent of the international trade. He underscored the need for connectivity in terms of infrastructure in order to improve sub-regional trade.
Abdourahamane said that the infrastructure included roads, railways, ports and airports which offered a lot of socio-economic advantages by connecting enterprises to regional and international markets.
He stressed that the non-availability of these facilities would delay transactions, while increasing transportation costs.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Managing Director of Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Mr Bashir Wali, said that transport and logistics costs were high within the West and Central Africa.
Wali, nonetheless, commended NSC for hosting the workshop, pledging NEXIM’s sustained commitment to its strategic objective of facilitating trade by strengthening regional maritime services and international cooperation.
NEXIM has requested for the designation of the Kirikiri Terminal in Lagos as the regional port for the Sealink Project (shipping line) of the West and Central African sub-regions.
The Technical Adviser to NEXIM’s Managing Director, Mr Hope Yongo, who made the disclosure at the Abuja workshop, said that the status of the terminal would be upgraded for container weight verification, in line with the SOLAS Convention. He said that the regional Sealink Project was aimed at putting in place moderate transport costs for shippers in the West and Central African sub-regions.
He, however, solicited cargo support from all member countries and encouragement of private and maritime organisations to boost the regional project and investment in it.
He said that transport and logistics costs in the two sub-regions were one of the highest in the world.
Besides, Yongo observed the absence of dedicated, safe and modern fleet to encourage and facilitate Atlantic Short-Sea Trade in the West and Central African sub-regions.
“There is inadequate infrastructure among member states and non-tariff measures are barriers to increased intra-regional trade,’’ he said.
Yongo noted that ECOWAS trade in the past 10 years grew from 4.7 million tonnes to 13.2 million tonnes without a comparative increase in transport infrastructure.
He also said that there had been low level of African container traffic; describing it as less than one per cent of the total world container traffic of over 400 million containers.
The ECOWAS Commission has endorsed and financially supported the Sealink Project via road shows. The project has similarly received technical assistance from the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA)
Moreover, the project has received technical and financial support from Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) as well as Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome & Principe. It also got the technical and financial backing of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa, Africa Development Bank (AfDB), up to the tune of 302,000 U.S. dollars.
The Secretary-General, Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), Mr Michael Luguje,however, argued that reducing customs duties and having an effective single window platform would aid efforts to reduce port costs to the barest minimum.
He, nonetheless, underscored the need to have a port community system which would serve as a framework for stakeholders to dialogue on how to improve the quality of services and reduce the costs of doing business.
Luguje said that the total port costs on a particular cargo, including customs duties and taxes, accounted for over 70 per cent of the value of the cargo.
After exhaustive deliberations, the workshop participants noted the non-declaration of container weight had led to several marine accidents because of overweight containers and poor stowage.
The participants urged member countries to strengthen their fiscal policy measures in order to avoid dumping.
According to the communiqué, there is need to check the activities of concessionaires in the sub-regions by the regulatory authorities so as to ensure fair charges that are commensurate with service delivery.
“Members of the sub-regions should deliberate and form a joint taskforce that will go against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Countries in the sub-regions should adopt an effective cargo transit regime that can harmonise the movement of containers within the sub-regions.
“Member countries should step up efforts toward training, retraining and sensitisation of stakeholders on best practices,’’ the participants said.
Member countries were, however, advised to sensitise and mobilise investors to avail themselves of credit financing and other facilities put in place for indigenous companies that want to venture into regional trade.
Cole is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

 

Aisha Cole

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Wike, Expanding Infrastructure For The Future

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When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced that the State Government would embark on the construction of a fourth flyover to be sited at GRA Junction, Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway in addition to the three ongoing flyovers at Rumuogba, Okoro-nu-Odo, Rebisi and also expand the Rumuola flyover, the wailers and naysayers went to town with their usual perennial criticisms.
Ranging from the now overflogged line that the Governor was using Rivers money to develop only Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas at the expense of other areas, to not creating jobs for the youths, some even made snide and sarcastic allusions to the N78.9 billion refund. No doubt, the critics have had a field day in the court of public opinion.
But the pragmatic Governor has taken all in his calm, unperturbed style and continued with stoic commitment and unwavering resolve, to deliver on his promise to Rivers people.
He had already fixed his compass on the future of Rivers State and with Port Harcourt and the capital territory as the  epicenter of any planning.
The need to reconfigure infrastructural facilities to accommodate futuristic calculations, was both urgent and expedient, especially against the backdrop of making the State an Investors’ Haven.
Modern urbanization has made flyovers an inevitable infrastructural development component because they are built over man-made structures such as roads and intersections, to prevent congestion and provide a more convenient way to navigate through the traffic. They are also built to provide safe and convenient passage for the pedestrians, help to streamline the traffic control system by reducing traffic gridlock and minimise the risk of off-road crashes, amongst other advantages.
One of the key pledges Governor Wike made to Rivers people when he assumed office in 2015, was to embark on comprehensive urban renewal as well as actualize the age-long yearnings of the indigenes and residents of the local government areas to be able to connect and access the rest of the State by tarred roads and durable bridges.
Five years into his tenure, the urban renewal programme in the capital city and indeed the interconnectivity across the length and breadth of the State is progressing amazingly.
The capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor is undergoing massive construction as restoration works, including underground drains, sidewalks, green areas and street lights on most of the roads in the  Old and new Government Reservation Areas are all at very advanced stages of completion. This is in addition to the three flyovers that are progressing simultaneously and expected to beat the deadline of February 2021.
The construction of the 4th flyover bridge across GRA junction and accompanying dualization of Ezimgbu road and the dualization of Tombia Extension, GRA to link Ikwerre  will all be delivered on schedule.
And for those who accuse Governor Wike of only developing the capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, complimentary construction work including the dualization of Kira – Sapkenwa – Bori – Kono, straddling three Local Government Areas in Ogoni heartland, has almost been completed and the Construction of Oyigbo (Mbano camp) to Iriebe, linking Oyigbo and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of the State, has already been completed and would have been commissioned if not for the outbreak of COVID-19.
Also completed virtually, are Alesa- Agbonchia – Oyigbo road linking Eleme and Oyigbo Local Government Areas of the State; and the Rumuakunde and Isioudu communities’ roads in Emohua Local Government Areas of the State.
Similarly, the second phase of Isiokpo community internal roads in Ikwerre Local Government Areas has been completed and the construction works on the 16.85 kilometers Rumuji – Ibaa – Isiokpo road in Emohua and Ikwerre Local Government Areas have passed the 90 percent completion level, while the dualization of the 23 kilometers Omoku – Egbema road in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area has progressed beyond 50 per cent.
In Etche Local Government Area, the 21.3 kilometers Odufor/Akpoku/Umuoye road has since crossed 70 percent construction level, while the Aker-base road in Obio/Akpor Local Government, the Ula Ehuda-Odioku-Anwunugboko-Ubeta-Ihuechi-Odiereke road; the Odiokwu internal road network in Ahoada West Area as well as the Abonnema ring road in Akuku Toru Local Government Area, and the Umuma road in Omuma Local Government Area, and the Sime – Eteo – Nonwa road connecting Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas, are all virtually ready for commissioning once the Coronavirus threat is successfully mitigated to allow for such activities.
By a combination of unshakable commitment and a visionary drive to ensure the delivery of excellent and legacy infrastructural projects, the Governor Wike administration has vigourosly pursued the accomplishment of its  promise to complete the long-abandoned roads to the coastal communities of Opobo and Andoni in Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas of the State and the Ogoni – Andoni – Opobo (Unity) road. In fact, citizens of Opobo Ancient Kingdom drove home for the first time in centuries only last year.
The infrastructural development of Rivers State is inclusively holistic and contrary to the notions and misleading opinions of critics, who have not traversed the state to actually see and confirm for themselves, the transformational and aesthetic metamorphosis which is not just taking place all over the state, but opening up and interconnecting the entire state into one cohesive entity.
Lagos State has often served as a reference index in developmental analysis, but many will agree that, despite the impressive strides it has achieved, there is still the excruciating hardship and suffering of endless and frustrating traffic gridlock, because of the absence of well structured roads and bridges network, thus leading to uncontrollable  congestion on the few alternative outlets out of the city.
This is exactly what the Rivers State Government, already conscious of the traffic build-up that overwhelms critical points of the city even now, is taking concrete and proactive measures to address and resolve in future, with the construction of the flyovers.
In addition to easing the traffic tension, the projects are also mainstreaming youth empowerment and skill acquisition for indigenous engineers, apart from generating employment and empowering local contractors.
For instance, 20 indigenous engineers would be trained by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC during the contract period as part of government’s policy on youth empowerment and skill acquisition and that is just the initial projection. The prospects had been more expansive and comprehensively favourable, if not for the Coronavirus outbreak that has drastically impeded robust operations and activities.
There is definitely no doubt that Governor  Wike is building for the future. The capital city and territory is expanding rapidly and population explosion with its  attendant challenges in a burgeoning commercial hub, which almost every part of the State is gradually transforming into with the brilliant economic module of strategically concessioning major government-owned assets to willing and capable private investors, is a critical futuristic component that must be addressed today.
Governor Nyesom  Wike is a promise keeper and he has kept his promises, worked hard and achieved so much more with far less resources, provided first-class socio-economic infrastructure and kept the State and businesses safe and secure, despite the unexpected outbreak of Covid-19 and the contrived attempts to frustrate and create diversionary situations, both by internal and external forces. Indeed, the administration has remained firm and focused on this progressive trajectory with a pledge to recommit to work harder and deliver greater development to Rivers people.
Like Governor Wike himself said in his first year, second term address to Rivers people on May 29, 2020: “We know it is not going to be easy given the very poor state of the national economy and the spinoff effects on ours. But, tough times like this call for unity of thought, unity of purpose and unity of actions; believing in ourselves and in our ability to overcome all the challenges that confront us as a State and as a people”.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

 

 

Paulinus Nsirim

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Governor Wike Is Expanding Infrastructure For The Future

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When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike announced that the State Government would embark on the construction of a fourth flyover to be sited at GRA Junction, Port Harcourt/Aba Expressway in addition to the three ongoing flyovers at Rumuogba, Okoro-nu-Odo, Rebisi and also expand the Rumuola flyover, the wailers and naysayers went to town with their usual perrenial criticisms.
Ranging from the now overflogged line that the Governor was using Rivers money to develop only Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas at the expense of other areas, to not creating jobs for the youths, some even made snide and sarcastic allusions to the N78.9 billion refund. No doubt, the critics have had a field day in the court of public opinion.
But the pragmatic Governor has taken all in his calm, unperturbed style and continued with stoic commitment and unwavering resolve, to deliver on his promise to Rivers people.
 He had already fixed his compass on the future of Rivers State and with Port Harcourt and the capital territory as the  epicenter of any planning.
The need to reconfigure infrastructural facilities to accommodate futuristic calculations, was both urgent and expedient, especially against the backdrop of making the State an Investors’ Haven.
Modern urbanization has made Flyovers an inevitable infrastructural development component because they are built over man made structures such as roads and intersections, to prevent congestion and provide a more convenient way to navigate through the traffic. They are also built to provide safe and convenient passage for the pedestrians, help to streamline the traffic control system by reducing traffic gridlock and minimise the risk of off-road crashes, amongst other advantages.
One of the key pledges Governor Wike made to Rivers people when he assumed office in 2015, was to embark on comprehensive urban renewal as well as actualize the age-long yearnings of the indigenes and residents of the local government areas to be able to connect and access the rest of the State by tarred roads and durable bridges.
Five years into his tenure, the urban renewal programme in the capital city and indeed the

interconnectivity across the length and breadth of the State is progressing amazingly.
The capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor is undergoing massive construction as restoration works, including underground drains, sidewalks, green areas and street lights on most of the roads in the  Old and new Government Reservation Areas are all at very advanced stages of completion. This is in addition to the three flyovers that are progressing simultaneously and expected to beat the deadline of February 2021.
The construction of the 4th flyover bridge across GRA junction and accompanying dualization of Ezimgbu road and the dualization of Tombia Extension, GRA to link Ikwerre  will all be delivered on schedule.
And for those who accuse Governor Wike of only developing the capital territory of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, complimentary construction work including the dualization of Kira – Sapkenwa – Bori – Kono, straddling three Local Government Areas in Ogoni heartland, has almost been completed and the Construction of Oyigbo (Mbano camp) to Iriebe, linking Oyigbo and Obio/Akpor Local

Government Areas of the State, has already been completed and would have been commissioned if not for the outbreak of COVID-19.
Also completed virtually, are Alesa- Agbonchia – Oyigbo road linking Eleme and Oyigbo Local Government Areas of the State; and the Rumuakunde and Isioudu communities’ roads in Emohua Local Government Areas of the State.
Similarly, the second phase of Isiokpo community internal roads in Ikwerre Local Government Areas has been completed and the construction works on the 16.85 kilometers Rumuji – Ibaa – Isiokpo road in Emohua and Ikwerre Local Government Areas have passed the 90 percent completion level, while the dualization of the 23 kilometers Omoku – Egbema road in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area has progressed beyond 50 per cent.
In Etche Local Government Area, the 21.3 kilometers Odufor/Akpoku/Umuoye road has since crossed 70 percent construction level, while the Aker-base road in Obio/Akpor Local Government, the Ula Ehuda-Odioku-Anwunugboko-Ubeta-Ihuechi-Odiereke road;

the Odiokwu internal road network in Ahoada West Area as well as the Abonnema ring road in Akuku Toru Local Government Area, and the Umuma road in Omuma Local Government Area, and the Sime – Eteo – Nonwa road connecting Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas, are all virtually ready for commissioning once the Coronavirus threat is successfully mitigated to allow for such activities.
By a combination of unshakable commitment and a visionary drive to ensure the delivery of excellent and legacy infrastructural projects, the Governor Wike administration has vigourosly pursued the accomplishment of its  promise to complete the long-abandoned roads to the coastal communities of Opobo and Andoni in Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni Local Government Areas of the State and the Ogoni – Andoni – Opobo (Unity) road. In fact, citizens of Opobo Ancient Kingdom drove home for the first time in centuries only last year.
The infrastructural development of Rivers State is inclusively holistic and contrary to the notions and misleading opinions of critics, who have not traversed the state to actually see and confirm for themselves, the

transformational and aesthetic metamorphosis which is not just taking place all over the state, but opening up and interconnecting the entire state into one cohesive entity.
Lagos State has often served as a reference index in developmental analysis, but many will agree that, despite the impressive strides it has achieved, there is still the excruciating hardship and suffering of endless and frustrating traffick gridlock, because of the absence of well structured roads and bridges network, thus leading to uncontrollable  congestion on the few alternative outlets out of the city.
This is exactly what the Rivers State Government, already conscious of the traffic build-up that overwhelms critical points of the city even now, is taking concrete and proactive measures to address and resolve in future, with the construction of the flyovers.
In addition to easing the traffic tension, the projects are also mainstreaming youth empowerment and skill acquisition for indigenous engineers, apart from generating employment and empowering local contractors.
For instance, 20 indigenous engineers would be trained by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC during the contract period as part of government’s policy on youth empowerment and skill acquisition and that is just the initial projection. The prospects had been more expansive and comprehensively favourable, if not for the Coronavirus outbreak that has drastically impeded robust operations and activities.
There is definitely no doubt that Governor  Wike is building for the future. The capital city and territory is expanding rapidly and population explosion with its  attendant challenges in a burgeoning commercial hub, which almost every part of the State is gradually transforming into with the brilliant economic module of strategically concessioning major government owned assets to willing and capable private investors, is a critical futuristic component that must be addressed today.
Governor Nyesom  Wike is a promise keeper and he has kept his promises, worked hard and achieved so much more with far less resources, provided first-class socio-economic infrastructure and kept the State and businesses safe and secure, despite the

unexpected outbreak of Covid-19 and the contrived attempts to frustrate and create diversionary situations, both by internal and external forces. Indeed, the administration has remained firm and focused on this progressive trajectory with a pledge to recommit to work harder and deliver greater development to Rivers people.
Like Governor Wike himself said in his first year, second term address to Rivers people on May 29, 2020: “We know it is not going to be easy given the very poor state of the national economy and the spinoff effects on ours. But, tough times like this call for unity of thought, unity of purpose and unity of actions; believing in ourselves and in our ability to overcome all the challenges that confront us as a State and as a people”.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.
By Paulinus Nsirim.
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The Wike That I Know

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Several comments, interpretations, narratives and theories have greeted the recent letter written by Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State to President Muhammadu Buhari, expressing the sincere appreciation of the Rivers State Government and people to Mr. President, for approving the sum of N78.9 billion to the state, as refund of monies expended by the State on federal  projects in the state.

Most of these responses have either been mischievous, absurd, totally misleading and some even trying to conjure and configure fabulist narratives, celebrating the mystique and magical influence of the power of money on the human psyche.

But the most remarkable of these is the one written by Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, titled: WIKE VINDICATES BUHARISTS.

To be sure, Femi Adesina’s opinion on any topic immediately attracts considerable attention and commands tremendous weight, not just for the fact that he has been a seasoned journalist  over the years, but indeed in recognition of his status as the Special Adviser to Mr. President Buhari on Media and Publicity; which makes him one of the recognized spokespersons of our President, whose views unequivocally represents the opinion of the Presidency in all matters.

 

It is therefore, in due cognizance of this latter responsibility and authority of his  portfolio, that one must appreciate and commend Femi Adesina for his  endorsement of Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to thank President Buhari for approving the refund of N78.9 billion to Rivers State, and also the quite remarkable request for the President to oblige Rivers State with a State visit.

Of course, Femi Adesina’s admiration of Governor Nyesom Wike and his bold Thank You letter are embedded copiously in his article, though couched in the unerring profiling of the Rivers Governor in some lyrical passages and in some truculent, pro-Buhari obsessiveness in others.

The  point needs to be made unambiguously, that the Rivers State Government, by way of emphasizing what Governor Wike rightly stated in the letter, appreciates the magnanimity of President Buhari,with profound gratitude and deep sincerity.

It was Aesop, the legendary Greek fabulist and writer of fables, who said that “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”  There is certainly no doubt that one man who stands tall and proud, courageous and fearless with great nobility in today’s political space, is definitely Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

For instance, what Femi Adesina describes as “crying wolf” and “pontificating” is nothing more than  the ability to say and do things which other people are too frightened or lily livered to say or do; what we refer to in Nigeria as “dying in silence. ”

What Mr. Adesina surely knows is that one virtue that Governor Wike possesses is courage.  He has never hesitated to call anybody out including the President, his own party members and even multi-nationals operating in Rivers State, whenever the need arises and Adesina himself, has already agreed, by confessing to responding to some of these wolf cries in his write up, that these calls were necessary at the time they were made.

If Governor Wike’s courage to speak up when others are silent and cowering in fear, leads to the approval of the refund of the N78.9 billion which the Federal Government owes Rivers State, then the expression of gratitude that recognizes and appreciates such appropriate magnanimity is the highest form of nobility.

Like Mr. Femi Adesina rightly pointed out in his essay, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Buhari, approved the REFUND of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads, for which Rivers State got  N78.9 billion. But that is not even half the story.

For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, it will be germane at this juncture to tell the true story of the refund and set the records straight, as presented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once and for all.

Giving a background to the reimbursement, Lai Mohammed had explained that the decision was sequel to a huge bill sent to the federal government by the entire 36 states of the federation in 2016, seeking a refund of funds they expended on the repair of some federal roads in their respective states.

He said: “You will recall that in 2016, 36 states of the federation sent a very huge bill to the federal government, asking for compensation for money that they have expended on federal roads. This prompted Mr. President to set up a committee to go and verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed, these projects were actually constructed. Were they completed in line with the federal government standards?

“At the end of that exercise by an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Works and Housing which also had ministers of education, transportation (and immediate past Governor of Rivers State,  Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi), minister of finance, minister of state for works, Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and permanent secretary, cabinet office as members, the committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that, yes, indeed, the projects were completed and they were federal government roads.

“But the claims of five other states – Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun – failed on the grounds that they did not do proper documentation and the committee felt they needed proper documentation. So, the committee went back with new terms of reference to ensure that the claims of the five states were in order. That is why the BPP is on the committee.

“So, at the end of the exercise, the committee now reported that the five states – Cross River with 20 roads and one bridge will get a refund of N18,394,737,608.85; Ondo with six roads to get a refund of N7,822,147,577.08, and Osun with two roads and one bridge to get a refund of N2,468,938,876.78.

“Others are Bayelsa with five roads and one bridge to get a refund of N38,040,564,783.40 and Rivers with three roads and three flyover bridges is to get a refund of N78,953,067,518.29.”

From the above therefore, three important points stand out for particular interest and reference, viz:
1. The money is neither a generous loan gift or a desperate bailout package as people like Femi Adesina are shaping the narrative to sound, but a REFUND of monies already spent by  Rivers State on Federal projects.

 

2. Rivers State was initially denied the refund until proper documentation was provided; a situation which many Rivers watchers will recall, prompted the Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to visit Rivers State in March this year.

3. Rivers State  got the approval for the amount of refund simply because Rivers State did the most comprehensive, qualitative and enduring projects.

For record purposes, let us state clearly that President Buhari has the authority to visit any state he wants to in Nigeria, whether he is Invited or not. He is the father of the nation and Rivers State enjoys a candid, honest and robust relationship with the present Federal Government, especially the presidency.

On August 19, 2017, Governor Wike was among the dignitaries that welcomed President Buhari after 103 days in London where he received medical treatment for an undisclosed illness.

While naysayers were busy misinterpreting the gesture, Governor Wike explained that no sane person would not be happy that his sick President was back home.

Recall alsonthat Governor Wike was the first PDP Governor to congratulate President Buhari after his second term election victory was upheld by the Supreme Court in September last year. Indeed, the warm, cordial, respectful relationship between President Buhari and Governor Wike, captured in several widely circulated photographs, of the President’s visit to Rivers State to commission the international wing of the Port Harcourt international airport speaks volumes.

We need not also remind Mr. Adesina that as far back as February 2017, when Governor Wike was not even up to two years in Office, he had already been christened “Mr. Projects” by none other than the Vice President himself, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who not only affirmed that Rivers State was an important state to Nigeria and the Federal Government, but has since endeared himself to Rivers State and Governor Wike.

This brings us nicely to the part of the letter where Governor Wike unequivocally appeals to President Buhari to honour Rivers State with a Presidential state visit and we ask Mr. Femi Adesina: ‘what is wrong with the Rivers State Governor inviting the President for a state visit. Is he not the Father of the nation again. Is Governor Wike not one of his children?

Considering the fact that the approval for the refund was also made for monies expended by Rivers State for Federal Projects, isn’t it equally apt that Governor Nyesom Wike should invite Mr. President to come and at least see the work for which the refund was made? Indeed, it will also provide Mr. President the grand opportunity to see first hand, the amazing and fantastic infrastructural wonders which Governor  Wike is delivering in Rivers State. This is absolutely the right thing to do by a grateful recepient.

Governor Wike has aptly pointed out that the decision to thank Mr. President and the appeal to invite him for a state visit was not a personal one, but a collective decision taken by the State Executive Council, to assure Mr. President that all is well with Rivers State and Rivers people are quite happy with him for approving the refund.

Like Femi Adesina correctly noted in his article, the N78.9 billion cannot be the reason for Governor Wike’s thank you letter and invitation to Mr. President. According to him: “I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I don’t agree less with Adesina because Governor Wike does not speak from both sides of his mouth and does not play to the gallery. His moral upbringing makes him to speak the truth at all times not minding whose ox is gored.

Finally, it is important to commend Mr. Adesina for  articulating and justifying the decision of Governor
Wike to thank Mr. President and invite him to Rivers State. There is absolutely no doubt, as he so succinctly pointed out, that millions of Buharists  would have actually advised the President not to approve the  refund  to Rivers State, and while many of them are still wailing and bellyaching at the President’s magnanimity, the icing on the refund cake is the chagrin and consternation, which even Adesina admits, has greeted Governor Nyesom Wike’s letter in their camp.

While Rivers people will not complain that the money was actually reduced from the original amount and that it even took so long for President Buhari’s fairness and justice to touch Rivers State, while he has been fair and just to other states, we are all still very happy and grateful that this approval for refund has been made, finally.

Attempts by people like Adesina to make political capital out of the genuine stance of a statesman will not be bought by well-meaning Nigerians.

What makes Adesina’s grandstanding more worrisome is that he will never comment or let the world know how much the South-West States received as refund for federal projects executed in that part of the country.

Governor  Wike’s letter of appreciation and appeal for a presidential state visit is thus a clear indication that what the people thought was lost has now been recovered. All is well that ends well and Rivers people are happy.

For the avoidance of doubt, the letter to Mr. President was delivered to Aso Rock, three weeks before it was published.

Governor Wike is not like Adesina who knows how to speak from both sides of his mouth. In 2008, he said this about the Chief of Staff to the President: “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now 13 years after, the shackles are still tied around his neck, threatening to asphyxiate him. What an eternal lesson for fawning bootlicking grovellers to learn. Old sins indeed have long shadows.”

Now that Gambari is Chief of Staff to the President, people have been asking if Adesina still sees Gambari’s sins’ shadows or he(Adesina) has turned to a bootlicking groveller?

There is no doubt that he is currently savouring the office of Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity as a compensation, having used his positions as former Editor-In-Chief of The Sun Newspapers and President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors to feather his own nest.

Adesina should be told that no amount of political mischief will turn Governor Wike from a hero to a villain in this matter.

The Wike that I know  cannot be swayed by pecuniary  interests. He will always stand for the truth and defend the interests of Rivers people.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

 

 

By Paulinus Nsirim

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