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Anniversary Special

Rivers, Flowing With The Tide

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As history beckons today on the Golden Jubilee anniversary of Rivers State, one monument of history that cannot be forgotten amidst the pomp, pageantry and manifold emotions of the day is The Tide. It is rightly so.
Lively as the victor, illimitable as the ocean, illuminating as the sun, exhilarating as the break of dawn, liberal as the boundless creed of divine testament, the Nigerian Tide  (now, The Tide) has munificently provided a veritable market place of ideas that has seen Rivers State through critical stages of development since December 1, 1971, when it debuted.
Thus, as Rivers people roll out the drums today to festivate the golden jubilee of the state, The Tide cannot be said to  be undeserving of a special kind of celebration. If anything, it deserves a clink of good wine glasses for its own sake and for the sake of the government and people of Rivers State with whom it has shared the vicissitudes of time.
A sweeping look back at the people and events that have shaped Rivers State in the past 50 years clearly evinces the fact that The Tide has paid its dues, and well.
The Tide has visited the Brick House of every Governor (or Administrator) from Alfred Papapreye Diete-Spiff to Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and is still visiting.
The Tide has worked tirelessly with every administration, civilian and military and is still working.
The Tide has witnessed elections and had insisted in the retrieval of the people’s stolen mandate and is still doing so in the public interest.
The Tide has rubbed elbows with heroes and icons who shaped their destiny and is still doing so.
The Tide has accompanied leaders and activists who fought for change from outside the traditional halls of power and is still doing so.
The Tide has joined builders and titans whose efforts helped mould the society for the benefit of posterity and is still doing so.
The Tide has sang with creators, artists and entertainers whose work has shaped and mirrored the society, and is still doing so.
The Tide has flowed with the ideas of scientists, innovators and thinkers whose vision have changed our lives and revolutionized the society and is still doing so.
The Tide has watched and told the news of pioneers who have dared to explore new ground and break down barriers.
The Tide has gone to war with our patriots over resource control, fiscal federalism, ecological degradation and marginalization of our people and the entire Niger Delta region and is still doing so.
The Tide has joined well-meaning Rivers men and women to effectively resist the tyranny of the majority tribes who are wont to lord it over  the minority at will and is still doing so.
The Tide has at all times joined the Rivers State Government to protect the interest of the government and people of the state and is still doing so.
The Tide has, infact, hob nobbed  with the A-list of our most influential people; individuals in the crucible of history who, for good or for ill, influenced the course of our history.
It is thus irrefragable that The Tide, through, four years younger than Rivers State, occupies a pride of place in the annals of the state, having seen it all, in due diligence to the template set for it by the premier administration of the state.
Determined to erase the deliberate misconceptions about Rivers State after the civil war, the Military Governor of the State, Lt Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff harped on the “crying need” of government sponsored newspaper that would “accelerate the achievement of the yearnings and aspiration of the government and people of the state”.
Consequently, on August 28, 1971, Diete-Spiff established the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC) and announced the birth of the Nigerian Tide by edict no 11 of that year (See box).
Launched on December 9, 1971 as a bi-weekly, the Nigerian Tide with its blue logo, went daily on May 24, 1974. It actual marketing started on December 4, 1971.
On April 12, 1973, the RSNC, publisher of The Nigerian Tide, was provided an office at No.4 Ikwerre Road, Port Harcourt, from where it produced and circulated some 120,000 copies daily to all the regions of Nigeria.
With a pioneer Board of Directors that included Mr A.O. Wulechem (Chairman); Mr H.H. Jumbo, Permanent Secretary; Mr Preye Okosi, Chief Information Officer; Professor Theophilus Vincent, Chief Israel Idamiebi Brown, Chief Ashley Williams, Chief D.K.S. Ebeh, Mr George Valentine Ebinimi Spiff and Miss Joy Amangala-all with formidable background in their various field of eadeavour, RSNC was determined to tackle the “crying need” for organs of publicity which Diete-Spiff had identified.
To meet that need, the corporation was structured along five departments-administration, finance,  Editorial, commercial and works.  The pioneer team of the newspaper included the General Manager, Mr Gabriel Okara; Secretary, Mr Godwin Namele Loolo;  Production Manager, Mr J.O. Yekwe; Advertisement Manager, Mr D.O. Jumbo;  Acting Editor, Mr Roland Amaewhule ; Chief Reporter, Mr Tons Fetepigi; Lagos Representative, Mr Monday Nwilepo; Chief Cameraman, Mr Igolokuma; Mr Wofuru Okparaolu, Mr Fitzallen Briggs and Woman Editor, Miss B. Obisesan.
The state government, from the outset carefully recruited experienced media practitioners to run the paper. It had also provided employment for many Rivers people and non-indigenes.
Many people have run the affairs of the corporation, either as General Manager, Sole Administrator, overseer, or Editor-In-Chief/Chief Executive or such other titles as the government of the day deems fit.  A few others too have been heads in acting capacity for a brief period.  They include Dr Gabriel Okara, Chief Okogbule Wonodi, Chief Dominic Anucha, Mr Felix Obilor, Mr Lyte Kosu, Mr Anthony Tebekaemi, Mr Edward Akpa, Mr Magnus Bara-Hart, Mr Godfrey Sikoki and Dr Anthony Amakiri.
Others were Mr Eriye Iyaye, Mr Benard Graham-Douglas, Mr Dan Obinna, Mr Vincent Ochonma, Mr Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart, Mr Amabipi Martins, Mr Augustine Nwikinaka, Mr Celestine Ogolo, Mr Soye Jamabo and Sir Valentine Ugboma.
The Tide and its now rested stablemates, The Tide On Sunday, Weekend Tide, Business Tide, African Tide and the Midweek Tide, have been edited by professionals, some of whom later became Editor-In-Chief or General Managers.
They were Mr Roland Amaewhule, Mr Maurice Domboh, Mr Tony Tebekaemi, Mr Magnus Bara-Hart, Dr Anthony Amakiri, Mr Bieshia Adolf Belgam, Mr Kwaku Joffa, Mr Balafama Banigo, Mr Bobo Brown, Mr Nendo Gawa, Mr Luky Ajoku, Chief Wofuru Okparaolu and Mr Ipalibo Karibi-Botoye.
The rest were Mr Innocent Okpukpo, Mr Williams Wodi, Mr ThankGod Igwe, Chief Dagogo Clinton, Mr Soye Jamabo, Mr Celestine Ogolo, Mr Chukwuka Umejuru, Mr Monima Daminabo, Mrs Juliet Njiowhor,  Mr Nengi Ilagha and Mr Friday Nwinudee.  Added to these were a crop of dedicated reporters actively recruited by the corporation over the years.
It is interesting to note here that most of the afore-mentioned journalists and others that were recruted later have made their marks in journalism and other fields of human endeavours.
A former General Manager and Editor of The Tide, Tony Tebekaemi was to later become the General Manager of The Observer of the Old Bendel State. Tons Fetepigi who had had stints at the defunct West African Pilot and Nigerian Outlook was a Second Republic lawmaker; Aloys Nweke was a Third Republic legislator.
Nigerian Media Merit Award (NMMA) winner, Moffat Ekoriko is the Publisher of The Moment and the London-based New African magazine,  Braeyi Ekiye was President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Documentation, Award –winning poet and author of several works, Nengi Ilagha was Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s Speech Writer just as Mike Ejims Enwukwe was Rivers State Budget Commissioner.              Paulinus Nsirim was Chief Press Secretary to two military administrators and Ex-Governor Celestine Omehia, Prose stylist, novelist and poet,  David Diai is currently the Publisher and Editor-In-Chief of the on-line medium, Flashpoint and a Special Media Assistant to Delta State Governor, Senator  Ifeanyi Okowa.
Chief Wofuru Okparaolu was a Commissioner, Rivers State Local Government  Service Commission and pioneer Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Rivers State Council.  Senibo Bobo Brown was also an ex-chairman, NUJ,  Rivers State and former Managing Director of the defunct Garden City  Sunray  and one-time President, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). The list is endless.
Forty six years in the existence of a newspaper as The Tide, certainly something worth crowing about, just as the 50 years of Rivers State, given the tempestious see that has characterised Nigerian journalism.
That most of its contemporaries – The Herald of Kwara, Standard of Plateau, Voice of Benue, the Statesman of Imo, Daily Star of Old Anambra, The Triumph of Kano, The Observer of Bendel (now Edo), The Lagos Horizon, The Chronicle of Cross River, The Renaissance of Defunct East Central State, The Sketch of Old Western State and later day tabloids like The Ambassador of Abia, The Pioneer of Akwa Ibom, The Waves of Bayelsa-have either fallen by the wayside or are not fairing any better, testifies to the dream of its founders and the religious preservation of professionalism by those who have, at various times, been at the helm of its affairs.
It is for that reason that Sociology teacher and Assistant Director of the Clande Ake School of Government, Dr Sofiri Joab-Peterside, while reviewing the people and institutions that have shaped Rivers State in the past 50 years, said that the history of the state would be incomplete without a special mention of The Tide.
Insisting that The Tide had been a symbol of Journalism in Nigeria for its pungent editorials on matters of public interest, the university don said the paper deserves the support of the people, companies and organizations in the state.  We cannot agree more.
At the risk of sounding immodest, it can be said that The Tide has come of age. However, longevity is not the only apparel that it  wears.  The paper has, within limits of human fallibility, championed the cause of Rivers people and achieved their true aspirations.
It has served the best interest of government at all times and had also played crucial roles in ushering and sustaining democratic values in the state.
Nothing really evinces that more than the “Abandoned property” saga of the 80s between Rivers and Imo State government when both states disagreed so sharply that they engaged in a fierce press war. The Tide, expectedly, lived up to its billings as the defender of the government and people of the state.  Of course, The Tide won the war as our more populous Igbo neighbours eventually discountenanced their agitations over the properties in Port Harcourt.
Recalls veteran journalist and media consultant, Fitzallen Briggs; “We used Nigerian Tide to fight the Ibos.  Today the Statesman will say something, tomorrow the Nigerian Tide will finish them.
“Our editorials were lucid, pungent and hot that Radio Nigerian was airing them daily. An entertainment column ‘The Tide Beats’, edited by Jossy Jacks and later by myself, made youths crazy.
“The Tide sold like hot cake. Vendors were using it to sell epileptic papers.  The Tide hardly had unsold copies and we were running three editions with the first one moving between 1pm – 2pm to our outstations”.  For this, Briggs adds: “Rivers State Government and its people owe The Tide a wealth of debt”.
Added to these, Tide had also walked the tight rope of multi-ethnic balancing and sectoral unity while countering the minority stigma attached to Rivers State.
“The Tide”, observes an elder Statesman, “may not be fantastic  at all times, but until it carries a statement, the Rivers State Government has not spoken; until it takes a stand, the people of the state have not been heard”.
The Tide is, indeed, pleased to have served Rivers people and indeed Nigerians so religiously all these years, hence it deserves to be greatly celebrated.
Notwithstanding its chequered history, as is the case with state-sponsored newspapers, The Tide will continue to flow and will not ebb or give in to the occasional fluctuations of the tide of the sea.  What this means is that the commitment of successive government to keep The Tide dream alive must be sustained for posterity and even more as a tribute to the founding fathers, especially Diette-Spiff who dreamed it and realized it and in whom we owe eternal gratitude.
Thank goodness.  The Tide’s new helmsman, Mr Vincent Ake, a veteran journalist, has started repositioning the paper in consonance with government’s new vision and developmental agenda rather than as a tool for propaganda or misinformation.
That effort is being complemented by a team of professionals who have already keyed into the dream of a greater Rivers State.  These are Donald Mike-Jaja, Acting Editor; Goodluck Ukwe, Acting Chairman, Editorial Board; Amieyeofori Ibim, Research and Training Editor; Nelson Chukwudi, News Editor; Victor Tew, Political Editor; Boye Salau, Op Ed/Features Editor; Gabriel Nwanetanya, Sports Editor; Ibelema Jumbo, Business Editor; Tonye Ikiroma-Owiye, Director, Special Projects; Mrs  Abiebuka Johnson, Director, ICT;  and Donatus Ebi, Acting Production Editor.
As Rivers State marks its 50 years of existence, all The Tide is asking for is an increased patronage and support to enable it serve the society even better than envisaged by the founding fathers of the state.
As a the timeless index of development of society, The Tide, on its part, will, within the dictates of journalism best practices, continue to pursue those goals that would ensure the attainment of “a desirable social change” as encapsulated in the editorial of its maiden edition in 1971.

Victor Tew

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Anniversary Special

The Tide Keeps Flowing At 49

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It must have been extremely frustrating for the leaders of the Niger Delta people in the late colonial and early post-Independence periods in Nigeria; particularly those of them who partook in politics outside the canopies of the then three major political parties, namely, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and Action Group (AG).
For the NPC which was dominant in the Northern Region, it was the New Nigerian newspaper that served as a very potent instrument for mass mobilization and presentation of its views. The Eastern and Western Regions had the Nigerian Outlook and The Sketch as their respective equivalents.
Whereas the three main regional governments at that time were run by the above parties chiefly through the instrumentality of their respective newspapers, the Niger Delta people lacked any such viable medium to propagate their agitations as a minority group. This is even as the area paraded some of the best journalists of the time; people like Ernest Ikoli, Anthony Enahoro, Robert Ezekiel-Hart and Wonukuru Obaziorlu.
Their apparent frustration must have taken flight with the splitting of the country into 12 subnational entities, including Rivers State, on May 27, 1967 by Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon.
At the end of the 30-month Nigerian Civil War, and despite Gowon’s declaration of ‘No Victor, No Vanquished’, there still existed some undercurrents that were discomfiting to returnee Rivers people and for which they began to clamour for a voice of their own.
In short, the frenzied bid by a long suppressed but now liberated minority people to assert themselves in the new dispensation generated ill feelings from their erstwhile dominant neighbours who, like the Egyptians in the Bible, appeared very unwilling to let go easily.
A former Chairman of Board of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Mr. Friday Yowika, alluded to this while explaining why the Nigerian Tide newspaper was established.
“Pilloried by its big neighbour that had always regarded Port Harcourt as its satellite, resented by others with vested interests, the state (Rivers) found itself misrepresented in almost all the then national papers. It was no wonder therefore that the government, aware of the need to protect its own image, desirous of putting across its own views and to seek justice and fair play, came to the inevitable conclusion to establish a newspaper.”
The Rivers State Newspaper Corporation Edict No. 11 of 1971 was thus promulgated by the government of Navy Commander Alfred Papa Priye Diete-Spiff as the first Military Governor of Rivers State. The Edict provided for a Board to direct the affairs of the Corporation.
But prior to the constitution of the Board, there were those who served as the think-tank for the planning and execution of events that led to the founding of the newspaper house. Call them the Founding Fathers. They include the then Commissioner for Information, Kenule Saro-Wiwa; the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Henry H. Jumbo; Commissioner in the Civil Service, Athanesius Woluchem; and Gabriel Okara, an internationally acclaimed poet and literary icon.
When it was eventually formed, the pioneer Board comprised A.O.Woluchem as Chairman; Valentine James Spiff as Deputy Chairman; Israel Idamiebi-Brown; Ashley Williams; Preye Okosi; Dr. Theo Vincent and the General Manager of the Corporation, Gabriel Okara.
Starting as a weekly newspaper, Nigerian Tide soon grew to become an authoritative source of information to the extent that readers were wont to discard any breaking news until it was authenticated by the next edition of the paper. It was like the Rivers man’s new identity. Indigenes of the state resident in distant places like Lagos, Kaduna and a few other parts of Nigeria craved for it regardless of how late it arrived. Of course, the paper was always early at nearby newsstands and was, at some point, even used to sell copies of other reputable national dailies.
And even though it is owned by the state, the paper was by no means afraid to criticise government actions. This was confirmed by no less a personality than Chief Okogbule Wonodi, the second General Manager of the Corporation, who said, “I do not think that the history of the Nigerian Tide to date, is (that of) an official mouthpiece of the Government. True enough, The Tide has carried and will continue to carry news of government activities but the paper has also carried critical views that represent public reactions to some government policies.
“In other words, The Tide is a newspaper whose function as an independent paper is not in any way curtailed.”
The paper’s maiden edition was launched in Lagos on December1, 1971 by Diete-Spiff himself but commercial copies were officially rolled out for circulation three days later on December 4,1971. Hence, the date of its annual anniversary.
Not quite long after its launch, the Nigerian Tide began a twice weekly publication (Wednesday and Saturday). Its pioneer management team was said to include Gabriel Okara, General Manager; G. N. Loolo, Secretary to the Corporation; J. O. Yekwe, Production Manager; J. E. Agbogidi, Assistant Production Manager; and D. O. Jumbo, Advert Manager.
The first set of Editorial Managers was made up of Rowland Amaewhule, Acting Editor; Bieshia Bellgam, News Editor; Anthony Tebekaemi, Features Editor; Maurice Dombo, Production Editor; Tons Fetepigi, Chief Reporter; William Bozimo, Chief Correspondent (Lagos); A. F. Isokariari, Circulation Officer; and Monday Nwikpo, Advert Representative (Lagos).
With almost all the states inheriting or floating their own newspapers, there was a serious shortage of professional journalists across the land. It therefore became the practice then for media organisations to recruit secondary school leavers as cub reporters and sponsor them to journalism training schools such as the Nigerian Institute of Journalists (NIJ) in Lagos and Jos or Daily Times School of Journalism. Some were also sent abroad to study at prestigious training centres on Fleet Street in London.
Staff welfare was robust as operational vehicles were made abundant for both the distribution of the newspaper and conveying workers to and from assignments. Residential quarters were rented for staff at some low-density areas of Port Harcourt, including D-Line. At a time, Nigerian Tide offices were said to be operational in 10 of the original 12 states with radio communication links for daily transmission of reports. The paper was also said to have undertaken the payment of its staff salaries.
Such was the good fortune of the Nigerian Tide in its nascent years. In fact, not even the sudden emergence of colourful private newspaper in Port Harcourt, Garden City Sunray, could affect the former’s print run in the early 1990s.
Then, let us fast-forward to 1995 when things took a turn for the worse, leading to the suspension of the paper’s titles for several months.
It took the efforts of a team headed by the then Information Commissioner, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, to revive the Nigerian Tide stable in 1996 but under a new name, The Tide. The state government had hired Taijo Wonukabe, a professional team of consultants led by Chido Nwakanma to undertake the recruitment of some experienced hands to refloat the paper. Their effort saw to the emergence of a new Editorial Management under Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart as General Manager/Editor-in-Chief; ThankGod Igwe, Editor; Dagogo Clinton, Deputy Editor; Nengi Ilagha, Editor (The Tide On Sunday); Kadilo Toby, News Editor; Celestine Ogolo, Sports Editor; Soye Jamabo, Entertainment Editor; Goodluck Ukwe, Political Editor; Fred Fabor, Copy Editor; Juliet Njiowhor, Women Editor; and Friday Nwinude, Business Editor.
The Tide was able to return to the newsstand but only to discover the disappearance of almost all its state-owned contemporaries.
There is no doubt that The Tide hoped to fare better with the return of democratic rule in 1999. But unfortunately, there has been no tangible relief for the RSNC for so long. Yearly budgetary accommodations have hardly translated into any meaningful fiscal dole-outs. Printing machines bought at the inception of the Corporation in the early 1970s are still in use. What’s more, the newly installed state-of-the-art Goss machine acquired in 2014 was immediately discovered to have been shipped without a very vital component. And this has rendered it non-functional ever since.
The Tide staff had until a few years ago retired without any benefits under the former parastatals pension arrangement before the system was brought into the state’s mainstream civil service pension scheme.
Again, the current facelift being enjoyed by the Corporation was at the insistence of the present state administration after many years of the structure being abandoned to the elements.
Then entered COVID-19 with its lockdowns which drained advert sources and temporarily forced the paper out of the market.
As if this was not a handful already, the second-hand electricity generator donated to the Corporation by a previous administration in the state is now a cause for daily concern as it breaks down every so often, mostly in the middle of production.
Even in the face of all this, the RSNC still hopes that the state government’s recent appointments in the Corporation indicates its determination and poise to throw more positive surprises in the paper’s direction. Until that happens, The Tide will continue to flow, by the special grace of God.
So far, those who have served as General Managers of RSNC include Gabriel Okara, Okogbule Wonodi, Dominic Anucha, Felix Obilor, Lyte Kosu, Anthony Tebekaemi, Edward Akpa, Magnus Bara-Hart, Godfrey Sikoki, Anthony Amakiri, Eriye Iyayi, Bernard Graham-Douglas, and Dan Obinna.
Others are Dagogo Ezekiel-Hart, Amabipi Martins, Augustine Nwikinaka, Celestine Ogolo, Vincent Ake, and now Ernest Chinwo.

 

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Anniversary Special

‘We’ll Continue To Advance Rivers Interests’

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Being The Text Of A State Broadcast By His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike, To The People Of Rivers State On Monday, 30th September, 2019.
My dear people of Rivers State On the 9th of September 2019 we kick-started the celebration of the 100 days of our second term in office and for three weeks we carried out the daily inauguration of completed projects as the main thrust of the celebration.
The projects we inaugurated, which ranged from strategic road infrastructure, markets and a football academy to senior civil servants’ quarters and secretariat buildings for Labour and Student Unions, are testaments to our resolve to effectively utilize available resources to advance the socio-economic progress of our State and improve the wellbeing of our people.
It is still early morning in our second tenure and we have demonstrated that, for us, there would be no lull in the administration of our renewed political mandate. Rather, we will increase the tempo of deliverables, fulfil our promises and bequeath a much better State.
We are happy to note that the soundness of our policies and governance have enabled us to grow the State’s economy, deliver so much on infrastructure and improve the general wellbeing of our people under a difficult national economic climate.
We wish to also state that we are sensitive to the agitation of our people for political and economic freedom and we shall continue to respond appropriately to the challenges of development either alone or in conjunction with our partners to advance our abiding interest in building the brightest possible future for our State and for all our people.
It is for this sense of collective purpose that I am delighted to inform you that the Rivers State Government has fully acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) 45% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 situated in Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area and the adjoining Ogoni and other communities of Rivers State.
BACKGROUND FACTS
The background of incidents and processes that culminated into this salutary development are as follows:
Following a major oil spill from SPDC Trans Niger High Pressure Crude Oil Pipeline at Ejama Community, an approximate area of 255 hectares of arable agricultural land, fishing swamps and rivers were devastated.
SPDC admitted that the oil spill came from their pipeline and occurred sometime in 1970. They paid some compensation to the community in the sum of N300,000.00 sometime in 1986 and promised to come and de-pollute the area.
SPDC failed to de-pollute the area which gave rise to a lawsuit in 1991 commenced at the High Court of Rivers State, Nchia Division presided over by Hon Justice P.N.C. Agumagu (now retired). At the end of the trial, the Court found against SPDC and entered judgment in the sum of N1 billion in addition to and order for SPDC to clean up the spill or pay N6 billion in lieu thereof.
SPDC appealed the judgement. During the pendency of the appeal, the jurisdiction of the State High Court was taken away and donated to the Federal High Court by a subsequent judgment of the Supreme Court. The Ejama-Ebubu Community conceded SPDC’s appeal without a formal hearing.
The community commenced a fresh suit in 2001 at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, this time against SPDC and its parent companies – SHELL of Netherlands and SHELL of United Kingdom.
This fresh case commenced in 2001 passed through four different justices of that Court arising from twists and turns associated with opposed litigations, until it was disposed of about 10 years after in June 2010 by Buba J. (the fifth judge to preside over the matter).
SPDC and its parent companies appealed the judgment at the Court of Appeal in 2010, which again suffered the twists and turns passing through six different panels comprising three justices each between 2010 and 2017 before it was finally disposed of by the panel of that Court led by Gumel JCA of the Port Harcourt Division. The appeal was dismissed.
SPDC and its parent companies took out a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2017, which appeal was considered and dismissed by that Court in a judgment read by Hon. Justice B. Akaahs, JSC delivering a lead judgment in a unanimous decision.
After losing at the High Court, SPDC gave the successful Ejama-Ebubu Plaintiffs a Bond Guarantee stipulating that First Bank of Nigerian Limited would pay them the value of the Judgment debt and interests thereon in the event that SPDC’s appeal to the Court of Appeal fails at that Court. The original Bank Guarantee is still with the Community.
When SPDC’s appeal failed at the Court of Appeal, Shell instructed the Bank to dishonour their guarantee, which did and gave rise to a series of six different litigations in various Courts against First Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria. SPDC’s excuse was that they had lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The enforcement cases had been to Owerri, Abuja, Lagos, etc. in six different lawsuits.
On the 11th of January, 2019, Shell’s appeal was dismissed at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The judgments of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court were registered in the United Kingdom for enforcement over there against SPDC parent companies domiciled outside Nigeria’s shores.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT IN NIGERIA
(i) The Ejama-Ebubu community commenced enforcement by domiciling the judgment in the State High Court and levying execution on SPDC movables in their Industrial Area in Port Harcourt;
(ii) Those chattels were attached on the ground but not removed;
(iii) SPDC invited the community and offered them N7 billion as against the judgment debt of N194 billion, which the community refused to accept;
(iv) The community approached the court for and order granting them leave to sell SPDC’s immovable property comprised in OML 11 and their kidney Island support base in Port Harcourt.
Upon the advertisement of the said immovable assets for auction, the Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Rivers State alerted the Government of the State.
RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO BUY
I have given due consideration of the following factors from information made available to me:
(i) That this oil spill impacted the Ejama-Ebubu community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State from the activities of SPDC;
(ii) That the impact is still there and un-remedied since 1970 as admitted by SPDC vide letters they wrote seeking to clean the spill in 2006 while the case was at the trial Court;
(iii) That the Rivers State has suffered the worst impact of environmental degradation resulting from oil related operations;
(iv) That the very difficult swamp and mischievous waterlogged terrain of the Rivers State has impeded development as a result of increased construction costs on the near and non-existent infrastructures and attendant rapid decay of the little we have been able to achieve as a result of oil related acid rain and black sooth enveloping the State;
(v) That these phenomenal degradation and impoverishment had continued with the decline of revenue and inflation, lack of employment of well-educated Rivers State youths, idleness and restiveness arising from want;
(vi) That SPDC is said to have paid the sum of USD 2,000,000 (two million United States Dollars) only for the renewal of their operatorship and interest in the said OML 11 to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources;
(vii) That for the past 25 years, the rich oil potentials of OML 11 have remained untapped following the hanging of the world-renown Ogoni poet and environmental activist, Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 as well as the unfortunate mob lynching and death of four prominent Ogoni citizens, one of whom was the Secretary of Government of the Rivers State and another, a Commissioner under the tenure of Lt. Col. Dauda Musa Komo as Governor of Rivers State;
(viii) That it has become unlikely that for peace and security, the people of Ogoni in the Rivers Stat will welcome SPDC on their land forming part of OML 11;
(ix) That a lot of revenue is lost to the Federation Account accruable to the 55% stake of the Federal Government in OML 11 and by extension the rest of the Federating States of Nigeria due to non-production of nearly 250,000 barrels per day of its crude oil potentials equalling one sixth of the country’s total out-put per day;
(x) That the Rivers State Government has continued to loose 13% derivation fund from the said 55% stake of the Federal Government in that field for nearly 30 years now, which revenue would have transformed the State and its peoples for the better;
(xi) That rather than standby and watch other persons or group purchaser SPDC 45% interest in that OML 11 and further exacerbate the poverty of the people of the State, a responsible and responsive State Government should weigh in and bid for the purchase of SPDC interest already set down for auction;
(xii) That the present Government of Rivers State entrusted in my care through the Will of God and those of the peoples of the Rivers State have concluded that it will be in the overall interest of the State, the other Federating States and the Federal Government that we as a Government, should make a bid for the purchase of the said interest of SPDC now placed on auction by extant Order of the Courts of Law.
Therefore, I directed the Rivers State Ministry of Finance Incorporated to make a bid of USD 150,000,0900.00 supported by a Bank Guarantee and cash payment to the Deputy Sheriff in the sum of N1 billion, the later payable to the Judgement Creditors while the former is escrowed.
I have further directed the relevant Government agencies to take immediate steps to liaise with any financially capable companies to partner with the Rivers State Government to ensure that the said oil field come on stream within 15 months from today.
In line with our commitment to accelerated development, industrial harmony and security, the Rivers State Government will graciously concede some portion of its 45% per cent equity interest to all the oil producing communities within OML 11 to enhance mutual ownership, participation and sharing in the benefits of these resources.
I have taken these steps with all sense of responsibility believing that addressing the pains and poverty of our peoples with the resultant security and welfare of its people is the main purpose of governance and nothing less.
Without any doubt, this is a profound economic investment with profound and enduring positive implications on peace, security, development and prosperity for the oil-bearing communities of OML 11, the entire Rivers State and our country.
I have attached a Certified True Copy of the Judicial Certificate of Purchase of Land/Immovable property dated 25 September, 2019 issued by the High Court of Rivers State under Order VII Rule 9 of High Court Rivers in reference to Suit No: PCH/1696/2019 between Government of Rivers State of Nigeria vs. Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara & 5 Ors and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd. & 2 Ors.
Thank you and may God continue to bless and prosper Rivers State.

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Anniversary Special

Nigerian Entertainment @59 …So Far, So Good

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Kudos and more rewarding years ahead to the good people of Nigeria as  the country marks 59 years of independence and freedom from domination by the British colonial over lords. In the past 59 eventful years the entertainment industry had remained a dependable partner in the nation’s quest for economic rejuvenation, as the industry accounted for over 1.4 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) in 2013 and the figure is fast growing.

Apart from generating income for the country, the entertainment sector also provides employment to the teaming population of Nigerians as well as show cases the cultural heritage of the country and also rebranding of the nation’s image abroad. The unprecedented growth of the industry from obscurity to international limelight is evident in the achievements of stake holders in the various organs of entertainment vis-a-viz, movie, music, comedy, tourism and hospitality.

Movie: From the 1957 ‘Fincho’, 1980 ‘Kadara’, 1992 Living in Bondage, 2012 Keeping Faith to the 2014 October 1, the Nigerian film industry has come a very long way as it had witnessed the good, the bad and the urgly, but has continued to thrive in the face of the daunting challenges.

In 1957 ‘Fincho’ became the first Nigerian film to be shot in clolour following Nigeria’s independence in October 1, 1960. In 1972 the independence Decree of General Yakubu Gowon’s regime made possible the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinemas from their foreign owners to Nigerians, resulting in more Nigerians actively participating in Nigeria’s film growth.

In 1992, the release of the classic movie “Living in Bondage’ Kicked off a new era in the Nigerian film industry. This era produced movies that are still referred to as classics. It produced actors that were and still household names in Nigeria.

In the mid 2000s the home video experienced a major deadline with factors such as piracy and film rental shops playing a major role. In 2004 a new cinema era began with the launch of series of modern cinema houses by silver bird group. The new wave film to be shown at a modern cinema was Kunle Afolayan’s 2006’ Irapada’ which screened at the silver bird galleria.

Ever since then, high and small budget movies like ‘Ije’, surulere’, the Figurinel. The CEO, 90 days, Half of a yellow Sun, The Meeting, October 1 and the Arbitrator have been screened at different cinemas in Nigeria. With the launch of silver bird cinemas, other cinema houses like Ozone, filmhouse and Genesis Deluxe were also launched and are playing important roles in the evolution of the Nigerian film industry.

The Nigerian film industry has become more profitable with movie like the wedding party grossing over 405 million naira in just two months and ‘A Trip to Jamaica “earning a Guinness book of world record spot for its box office success. The industry has also created quality TV series such as ‘Hush’, ‘Sons Of Caliphate’ and ‘The Governor’ among others.

Over the years, the web platform like iroko TV, Ibaka TV and cix TV provide paid for Nigerian films on demand at affordable charges pay TV entertainment platforms like Africa magic have also invested in the Nigerian film industry creating shows and empowering the youths.

The Nigerian film industry has established itself as a major cultural and socio economic force in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry revenue witnessed a 25.5 percent growth. This amounted to $3.8 billion with $605 million of the estimated $764 million rise said to be attributed to internet access, according to a recent report.

Music: The development of modern music and dance had their origin and foundation in the traditions of various communities in Nigeria. Who are known to have their own music and dance forms which they use in entertaining themselves and important quests. Every event attracts its own form of music in the traditional setting.

The Nigerian music industry is proud to storm the world stage by identifying its relevance and essence. The music fact of entertainment has waxed relatively strong, expanding year after year, turning in billions of naira  to the economy. There is no gainsaying the fact that music is part of our everyday life and more or less an integral part of visual and audio media productions including sound tracks in both local and foreign movies.

With an apparently inexhaustible stream talents and capacity to innovate, the Nigerian music industry is one that can neither be hindered by economic depression nor lack of relevance.

The industry has the necessary resources to rule the airwaves of not only Nigeria, but also the length and breath of Africa and the world at large. It is note worthy that the number of stakeholders in Nigerian music business is ever increasing, they include the musicians, producers, promoters, manager distributors and marketers.

In the past six years, the growing number of new production studios and artistes springing up has paved way for a more vibrant and self sustaining industry. A lot of Nigerian artistes are already enjoying corporate sponsorship for their unique talents and achievements some have recorded land mark album sales sometimes running into hundreds of thousand copies.

Others have won prestigious awards in international contests and events hence attracting more and more investments from very many sources. The investments have no doubt aided production of world class quality music as a result of innovations in sounds, rhythms and recording techniques.

Nigerian musicians have developed a vast spectrum of music genres blending hip hop, rap, rhythm and blues reggae gospel etc with traditional Nigerian beats and instruments. Some of the popular names include 2face idibia, P-Square, Davido, Timaya, Tiwa savage, Wiziki, D’banj, Don Jazzy, M.I., Bracket and Olamide others are KCee, Asa, Skales Mc Galaxy, Yemi Alade, patoranking, Tekno, Phyno, Flavour etc

A good number of them have also made name in gospel music such as Chris Morgan, Frank Edward, Panam Percy Paul, Yinka Ayefele and Sinach among others.

STAND UP COMMEDY: Stand up comedians have come to compete in Nigeria’s entertainment landscape, they distill humour and jokes inspired by everyday life experience of Nigerians to a wide variety of audience through direct stage shows or recorded VCD/DVD in English or Nigerian pidgin.

Among the most popular of these highly talented comedians are ‘1 go dye’, Bovi, Seyi Law Lepacious Bose, Funny Bone, Klint d’ drunk, Basket mouth, Helen Panel, Chi Girl etc.

TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY:- Some of the diverse cultural features of the country are the manifestations of the socio cultural differences of the over 250 ethnic groups that have inhabited the land for ages. Some of the cultural events with tourism potentials which have attracted several international recognitions and revenue to the country, some of these tourists events include the Grand Dubar festival, the famous Arugungu fishing festival (Ondo State), Olojo festival (Ile Ife), the Oshun festival (Oshogbo), Atilogu dances and the new yam festivals from the east as well as the Abuja, calabar and Rivers State carnivals among others.

The natural tourist sites include Sukur landscape (Adamawa State) Zuma Rock (Niger State), Olumo Rock (Abeokuta), Kuru falls in Jos, Shere hills (Jos), Abokin Waterfalls, Gurara waterfalls, Erin Ijesha water falls, Mambulla plateau (Taraba State).

Idanre and Oka hills Ondo State, others are Obudu cattle ranch, Oguta Lake Imo State, Ikogosi Springs Ekiti State, Lekki Beach Lagos, Mayegum Beach Lagos and the whispering Palm resort Lagos as well as other tourists destinations across the country.

In hospitality Nigeria parades world class hotels and other outlets located in different parts of the country which ranges from first, second and third classes according to international standard and specification. The sector is regulated by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

Hotels serve as avenue for revemae generation to the economy and support for the entertainment industry by providing opportunity and platform for music and movie stars to do stage performance and lodging. Some of the top hotels in the country are transcop hotel Abuja, Eko hotel and seraton hotels lagos, Ham dala hotel, hotel presidential, Enugu and Rivers States, premiere hotel Ibadan etc.

The Nigerian entertainment clan over the past 59 years has evolved and still gaining more grounds in the global entertainment anclave, we can beat our chest and say ‘so far so good’ as the beat goes on.

 

Jacob Obinna

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