Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike in a Special Appearance on Channels Television Sunrise Daily talks on the forthcoming elections, disqualification of Rivers APC to participate in the polls and sundry national issues.
On the disqualification of APC candidates in Rivers State, Is it possible that when it gets to appeal, it will turn things around?
It cannot be turned around. The law that we practise today is that they did not have any lawful primaries.
What happened is that we felt that, look, you have to comply with the provisions of the law and of course if you look at Section 71 of the Electoral Act and then Section 66(b) and Section 221, Section 106(d) and Section 176 of 1999 constitution as amended, what we merely did was to look for interpretation, that look, for you to sponsor candidate for election, there must be a valid or lawful primaries. And so, if a court has said that APC did not conduct a lawful or valid primaries and should not participate in the general election, so, we are not talking about any case of APC candidate. No, we are talking about the compliance with the provisions of the law.
So, your case wasn’t the APC. Why did you go to court?
We are not talking about candidate of APC, we are talking about what the law says. The law says, you must comply with certain provisions for you to participate in the general election. And the law says look, this party did not comply with the provisions of the law, and therefore, INEC if this party has not complied with the provisions of the law, can they still be recognized to participate in the 2019 general election? And this is what is provided in the Fourth Alteration of the 1999 constitution, No:21, Act 2017, which says that a political party can challenge INEC if INEC is not complying or carrying out what they are supposed to do. And that is why we came into.
But, if this was any other political party, will the PDP have gone to court?
If there is any other political party that has not complied with the provisions of the law and we know, of course, we will do this same thing. There is no special thing about it. We have complied, we have carried out our valid and lawful primaries, and so, we expect you as a political party to also comply. And if you don’t comply, you cannot participate with us.
So, the APC is challenging the competence of the law here. How do you view that?
But, we went to court merely for interpretation. But, you ask yourself, what type of interpretation? As we are saying, an interpretation of section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended, section 221 sub-section 65(2b), section 106(b) and section 176 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic as amended, whether APC being a political party seeking to nominate or sponsor candidates for the 2019 general elections into this offices, they are entitled to nominate or sponsor, without having a valid or lawful primaries for its aspirants. The court should Interpret this sections of the law of the Electoral Act and the constitution. Two, in view of the electoral act and the constitution, can INEC still allow APC to participate in view of the fact that they have not complied with the provisions of the electoral act and the constitution of not having a valid and lawful primaries. Thirdly, in view of the judgement of the State High Court that nullified the primaries of APC, which means there were no primaries abinitio. Having nullified the primaries, can they still be allowed to feature in the 2019 election. Now, what is your own contention? Their contention is that, look, these are internal affairs of the party, that PDP has no business. But, we said no. It has gone beyond internal affairs of the party. We are not interested on who become your candidate, we are talking about you complying with the provisions of the law. At least, do comply with the provisions of the law and if you are not allow to participate. We are not saying that this should be your candidate. That is not our business. And in doing that, we came under, if you look our judgement of the Supreme Court. Look at page 16 of the judgement of the court. And it is important for people to understand not just necessarily when you hear story, you say, oooh, PDP took APC to court.
Remember, on the 10th of October, 2018, the State High Court nullified the primaries of Now, also remember that there purported candidate, Tonye Cole sort means to apply to appeal that judgement as an interested party, because as at that time, he was not a party in the matter. Also, remember that there so called party Chairman who is a wanted person by the court who is suppose to be facing multiple murder trial so applied for leave to appeal that judgement, and in doing that, on the 23 of December, 2018. But if you look at the Fourth Alteration, No:21 Act of 2017, it allows that; once it is a pre-election, you must apply or you must appeal within 14 days the judgement is given. And the judgement was giving on the 10th of October and the so called candidate for the APC and their chairmanship candidate in quote applied after 23 days in which case, they applied out of time. Now, when they go to Court of Appeal, the man of the other side of the APC, filed a motion to say look, if the appeal filed, is incompetent. Why, because the judgement that was given was a content judgement and therefore they did not seek leave of court before the appeal and two that even those who are seeking to join to appeal, they have done that after the time, and therefore their appeals are defective.And the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice A, Abubakar said yes, it was out of time and that appeal was struck out. And the main appeal patterning the judgement of the 10th of October was dismissed on the ground that they didn’t seek leave since it was a consent judgement. Therefore, the judgement of the 10th of October giving by by the State High Court is still valid. They have appealed to Court of Appeal and lost. Now, what do we do as a party, we say look, if there were no primaries as heard by the court, can INEC still allow these people to still participate in the general election? It cannot allow them.
And part of the argument also is that at this point, the contest for your party to have come in at this stage has a missing link because they haven’t participated in an election with the person contesting against me.
No. That is not correct. First of all, every person who has that view does not know what the law said. Now, you have gone to court, court has given judgement. Whichever way you look at it, rightly or wrongly. What you have to say is that this was the facts of the case, or this judgement was that, these were not the issue, the judgement was judge beyond this and that, I don’t see it like that. And they went to appeal that judgement and they lost. Right now, look at what we are talking about. The law about us, we say no, we say section 285(14) of the 1999 constitution, fourth alteration No.21 Act 2017, says as follows; for the purpose of the section, pre-election matters means, any suit by; (1) an aspirant who complain that any of the provisions of the electoral act or any act of the National Assembly regulating the conduct of primary of political parties and provisions regarding to political parties for conducting party primaries have not been complied with by the political party in respect of the selection or nomination of primaries of elections; (2) an aspirant challenging the actions, decisions activities. Look at were we come in, (3) a political party challenging the actions, decisions or activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, disqualifying it’s candidate from participating in an election or a complain that the provisions of the electoral act or any other applicable law has not been complied with by the nomination of candidate of political party for an election time table, for election, registration of voters and other activities. So, we are a political party, and we are saying that, look APC has not complied with the provisions of the electoral act by holding valid and lawful primaries, and haven’t comply with that, you cannot with this qualify to participate in the 2019 election as far as this offices are concern.
But they have an option?
No, the point am saying is that, so when you say that PDP is an interloper. No, the court gives us that opportunity. As political party, we can say that INEC, this particular party in sponsoring it’s candidate did not comply with the provisions of the electoral act and the provisions of the constitution now.
Was there any intention that they were going to field candidates when the court has ruled otherwise that warranted your going to court?
First of all, we are members of the public. I know the court nullified their primaries and I want them not to participate in that election, which means that you cannot be part of what we are doing because you have failed to comply with what the law said that would enable you to sponsor candidates. So, it is not for him to say why should I not wait until after the election.
Your Excellency, there is concern that it’s as if the PDP sat back and was looking for avenues to underscore the activities of the APC considering they are afraid of war.
With all due respect, is there any election in the state that you will say APC has defeated PDP. Mention one.
What about the APC senators?
You want us to say what happened. You know and that is the more reason we accuse INEC and the security agencies. Take for example, INEC declared PDP candidate as the winner of the election and INEC certified result sheet. Then the APC went to tribunal. Police tendered original sheet of INEC. How did the police have the original result sheet. Police has original sheet, INEC also have.
But the matter got to court?
The point I am making. INEC has not even ask themselves question. We have the original sheet, how didÁ the police also have the original. There cannot be two originals. Which means, they compromised by printing two originals by giving one to police.
Was this one proven?
Well, we don’t criticize the judiciary. Once judgement is given, we abide by it. But what we are saying, it has never happened. That where a police report will be accepted above that of INEC and we don’t want that mistake to continue to happen. You can’t sit down and continue to complain.
It is not APC that seems to suggest to everybody that what you will do. But you have raised issues concerning security of the state especially leading up to the elections. And now that from every submission, the APC seems partly out of the game. That gives you free room to continue and there will be peace before, during and after the election.
Answer: No. In fact, let me tell you. All of us we know what APC had planned and it is in the public domain that APC does not want election in Rivers State. They will cause crisis so that the election will not take place the day other elections were supposed to take place in other states so that they will be able to bring in security to overcome the state and manipulate as they did in Osun State.
But, how do you justify that?
But it happened when we had a bye election. We all saw what happened. Just a bye election of state constituency. 122 units within the city and not even in rural area. The police aided the process. The electoral Commissioner from Akwa Ibom State who was one of those who came to supervise the election said he could not believe how APC aided by security carted away electoral materials. Unknown to them, he saw everything. I called the Commissioner of Police then, fortunately he is gone, Zaki Ahmed, I said I can’t believe this.
But isn’t this an attempt to get the APC out of the election, so that you can have fill.
No, it’s an attempt to put things right so that you must comply with the provisions of the law. It has come to the point that people will not keep quiet . Now, let me tell you, Buruji went to court against PDP, Buruji got judgement against PDP at the Federal High Court. INEC wrote to PDP that they are going to comply and uphold the judgement by the Federal High Court even though that Adetutu and his team had gone to the Court of Appeal. That is To tell you that INEC has various interpretations. Now, because it is PDP, INEC wrote they would comply the judgement of court.
Now, when its primaries of APC, the lawyers of the other faction write to INEC that you cannot recognize the candidates because the court has nullified the primaries, abinito, there are no candidates, so you cannot. You know what INEC did; INEC wrote to APC notifying them for their information of such a judgement, not telling them that they will comply. But for PDP, INEC wrote to PDP that they are going to comply with the judgement; that they are going to make sure that the judgement is implemented. But, when it was on APC, INEC wrote to APC notifying them that look there is such a judgement.
So, this is about the mode of operation of INEC?
That is why people don’t have confidence in them. If you look at the letter they wrote to APC on 22nd of November, 2018, they merely say that we are in receipt of this judgement from a man called Henry Bello informing us that this is the judgement of court and you must comply and therefore, they are now sending it to them for their own knowledge.
But His Excellency, what about Zamfara, INEC immediately told APC
No, it’s a different thing. It’s like you don’t also understand. Whose interest? Who are those who are saying that APC do not have candidates in Zamfara State? What they were saying is that there were no primaries in Zamfara State.
Even though they have gone to court to challenge it.
Look at the interpretation, when there are judgments against PDP, immediate enforcement and complied, when there are judgments against APC, we are studying the judgements. I am giving you an instance, a practical one. It happened at Ogun State. We expected INEC as an unbiased umpire, having done the same thing with PDP in the case of Ogun State, that the same thing has happened to APC, we are going to comply with the judgement. They did not do that, what they did was notifying them about the judgement, so you can now see.
Is it about the Senatorial election?
Yes, whether you like it or not, how come you have two original result sheets? How come that you as the person conducting the election, you have the original result sheet, all other people are supposed to have duplicates, the accredited copies, the green copy and the rest of them. Police will have copy of all that, the agents will have copies of all that. Now, INEC certified their original copy and under, what happened, police went and certified their own original. The question I am asking is that INEC, what’s going on? How come, was it that you printed two originals, is it supposed to be so?
How do you know the court done that?
Is you that say. Look, yes, we have gotten your complaint. We are worried about it, we can assure you that, that will not happen again. We want you to reassure the people, instead of you to keep quiet. How did they get the same serial number of the original of INEC and the same of the police. It means that they have gotten two originals and we must have to work at it. Look, let me tell you and that is what we are saying, if somebody lets you that this election is going to be free and fair, please, no, no, INEC cannot deceive me.
We are saying the court judgement in Rivers State now about APC, but you know some members are not going to participate, at this stage is going to be difficult for the APC to get to the court of Appeal and Supreme Court and sort itself and get a candidate.
No, no. it’s not correct. They have already got to the Court of Appeal and lost, they have appealed to the Supreme Court. What the court did was to give the intricacy of the judgement of the High Court. That was all.
But the party is still going to appeal?
It’s the same thing. What we are saying is that look, based on the judgement that nullified the primaries which means, there was no valid primaries or lawful primaries as it were and therefore, if there is no valid or lawful primaries, you cannot participate in the general election.
Then for those who feel that if you say that you have participated in several elections with the APC and won them, why then do you go to court and want them out of this election.
No, it’s not me wanting them not to participate , it’s you not complying with the law. If you’ve gone to participate in an election, the law says, for you to participate in it, you must do this, and I have complied and for you to participate, you must do this, you must do that, did I say don’t comply. Why do people say it is me that has caused their problem?
What happens to their supporters?
There must be other options. Support any other parties. We have no quarrel about that. What we are saying is that look, for you, you refused to comply with the law . If we will comply, you must comply.
But, we know how politics is in Rivers State, what if at the end of the day, you have a lot of protestations and perhaps because of some sort of stalemate elections don’t hold as scheduled, would that not affect you?
Do you know part of the ground plan is to make sure election did not hold at the same time with other states. That is the background design with the collaboration with of security agencies.
Who is making the back ground plan?
The APC and the government. You all know. With all due respect, the new Commissioner of Police came to pay me a courtesy call and he said he will be professional. And I said, please, please I am tired of this professionalism. All I want you to do for us is, fight crime, fight cultism, fight kidnapping, but don’t tell me you will not come here and side APC. Don’t tell me that story. I don’t require that, I am not going to sleep for you to tell me that you’re going to be neutral. How?
Did he tell you that he is going to be neutral?
He said so, but even at that, I will tell him, you don’t make me to go and sleep to tell me you are going to be neutral.
We believe that there are going to be security challenges in the state, but that challenges is now politician?
No, no, no. Right from day one, that is what they have attributed the security threat to. Look, let me tell you something, I know you are aware people invaded the court, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN said that matter must be investigated. You are aware. Has police investigated that matter uptil today? Because they know that people invaded the court, the temple of justice. Uptil today, the police has not investigated that. I was watching the News , the President was standing when they were giving flags to their so called candidates. The so called APC Chairman whom the court had declared wanted for multiple murder trial was standing where the President of the country was standing. A person declared wanted by the court for multiple murder trial. The police gave him security movement, the police has been ordered to arrest the man for the murder trial, yet the man is moving with security. What is that telling you? Are you tell me to sit down? Take for example, I am a sitting governor for Christ sake, no Chief of Army staff can say I have ever one day since I became a governor requested for a soldier . I don’t need it. But you see those politicians, you are sitting here, you see them with troops of soldiers moving about. And I said what is going on in this country. We have reduced ourselves to the point that ordinary politicians, you see platoon of soldiers moving with them.
When they were in opposition, didn’t your party use them?
It’s not correct. I challenge you. You know it is not easy. Assuming it was so, though not correct. If it was so, and you say you want to make it change, do you think you must continue with that pattern? If you are saying that you are giving a change, these things were not done right till now and then instead of you to change that, you are continuing with that, so, where is the change?
You are saying that the process is not going to work out, that the elections are going to be compromised. Why do you say that the election is going to be compromised?
Now, let me tell you something. You remember the 6th division created. The headquarters of the 6th division is here in Port Harcourt. Then I hear they have a new GOC. Rivers State government played a major role to commence that 6th division. Rivers State government played a major role in terms of providing accommodation and the rest of them. Do you know that as I sit here, the so called GOC who is sitting in my own state, where we have provided them virtually everything for them for the 6th division to take off, he has gone to visit my colleague in Akwa-Ibom State, he has gone to visit Delta State. Do you know that the GOC has never deemed it necessary to pay a courtesy call on the Governor of the state where the headquarters of the division is?
Isn’t it that professional?
Is that professional? That courtesy demands that you cannot pay a courtesy visit on the seat of government. . If they are posting, they say he must report to the Ministry of Transportation first, if it come to CP, you must report there first. When the last Commissioner of Police, Zaki Ahmed was going, I said, I told you, they are going to use you and dump you at the appropriate time. They sent one Cross River boy here, a Brigadier General who came and carried out the functions he was instructed by the army headquarters on our Neighborhood security. What happened, Neighborhood security was a creation of law. We were not the first state that started this community policing. We took it from Lagos State. Police and DSS are not members of the board. Here, we included them members of the board. In order to go far those that we employed were to be trained by the security agency. And so, during this period, they got approval to go to NYSC camp, government camp, federal government camp for training. They wrote to Nigerian Army to send instructors and they acknowledged, they wrote to police, they wrote to the DSS, then people were all there. What happened, they sent the soldiers to chase everybody away that we are training militia. You train militia in government camp? You train militia by writing to the army to send instructors, you train militia by writing the DSS and police. No, the Brigadier General, he was very happy and when he invaded the camp. After completing the assignment, he has been sent to Kontagora. He is from Cross River State. When he was leaving, he wanted to see me I said no, I don’t see agents of satan. Now look what happened in Edo State, the army were there, look at what happened in Kogi State. Come to Rivers State, which was a creation of law, then you came to say we are creating militia. The point we are saying, they cannot deceive me. So you are sitting here and you see a GOC who believes that he has a specific assignment.
Why do you come to that conclusion?
Is not that I got to a conclusion. It’s very clear. First of all he ensured that by making sure that Neighborhood Watch does not exist, that is the politics. Two, he came to a state where you have the headquarters and you don’t know that courtesy demands you must pay respect to the authority that I am the new GOC, I am here now. And you want to tell me that nothing is going on.
Is it possible for Rivers State to have a peaceful elections.
I have always say that INEC and Security are the cause of violence Rivers State. People say politicians are the ones causing trouble, which is not true. If I come to you for example to do what is unlawful, must you do it? I go to INEC and say INEC come and do this for me, are you under any obligation to do it?
Assuming they do?
We Rivers people are always very peaceful, law abiding. The only time we have crisis is when we see the electoral umpire being biased and and the security operatives trying to manipulate the freedom of a political party which we will continue to resist.
Is it a political party or individual politicians within a party?
APC are in power right, the security apparatus is working for them. For Instance, they called the IG and say there is no way as a government at the center, we cannot control one of the states in the south south . Therefore we are looking at Akwa-Ibom and Rivers State, make sure you work out the modalities. As a good IG, you will say sir, I have no role to play but my role is to make sure we protect people to vote. As a Governor some many people have come to me, why don’t you go have a deal with the Federal Government so that you will have your way smoothly . But why would I do? Must I be a Governor forever?
Does the peace accord mean anything to your party?
That is a ceremony . I don’t like those ceremonies. All those things are mere public display.
You don’t dance to it?
As an individual no. This Peace Accord doesn’t work. Truly if you want us to have non violent elections, those to sign the peace accord are INEC and security agencies because they are the ones that create the environment for violence. If INEC doesn’t support APC and do their job for example, would there be crisis?
You believe that there is no sincerity of purpose from government to ensure that….
Infact I was shocked and surprised that the President refused to sign the electoral act into law. I remember vividly in my matter when we went to court, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the card reader is an innovation and it will help us to move to the next stage of our election process . But it is not backed up by law. Therefore, there is now need to amend the electoral act to bring this card reader that will in a way reduce the level of fraud . Now the legislature has come up with a law to authenticate the card reader, you refused to sign it. A process that you said helped you to win election.
He didn’t say that he’s opposed to the card reader
That the President has refused to sign the electoral act is purely to manipulate the 2019 election. All of us know. It is not about coming to television to tell me you will create a legacy of free and fair elections, when you have refused to sign what will enable us to have free and fair elections.
The President gave his reasons
With all due respect, it is not correct. The National Assembly corrected the electoral act after the presidency complained. The second time, you complained that the National Assembly mixed up issues and the interpretations will be difficult. What is your business? That is why there is always an amendment.
But the Card Reader is there?
It is not backed by law. What is there is manual. The law said it is manual. All these things Mahmoud is saying is neither there nor here. INEC guideline cannot take the place of the law.
Why did you terminate the contract and concessions of Subsidiaries for Sahara Energy ?
When will you do it that It will not be political? In 2015, we set up a commission of inquiry, they came up with a white paper report and indicted the former Governor. He went to court, lost at the High court and Court of Appeal. He refused to file his brief at that Supreme Court and we filed that the Appeal should be struck out for onward prosecution and he went and filed his brief. The Attorney General said we should begin to implement the White paper because there is no stay for us not to implement the White paper then the Attorney General died. Having buried him, we appointed a new Attorney General and he needs time to study it and having studied it he said we can go ahead and start implementing the white paper. So even if you do it after election, it will still be because the man contested against you.
Wike Has Made Rivers People Proud – Eke
His Majesty King (Dr) Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, Eze Gbakagbaka, Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom in Obio/Akpor Local government Area of Rivers State, is a First Class Traditional Ruler.
Trained as a Biological Scientist at Illinois State University, Bloomington Normal, United States of America, he holds a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from Wycliffe University & ATS, California.
Suave, ebullient, accessible, humble, down-to-earth and cerebral, Eke is also the Secretary General of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDMON) and the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Chapter of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM).
In this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi and cameraman, Egberi A. Sampson, Eke poignantly bares his mind on sundry issues affecting the State and the nation. He particularly eulogises the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for the giant development strides of his administration within the past six years and comes to the inevitable conclusion that he has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, having performed beyond the expectation of Rivers people.
His Majesty, by virtue of all that you have seen in the State in the past six years, what are your comments on the achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike?
As it concerns us and the Governor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is God-sent, a purposeful Governor, a vision-full Governor and a man that knows why he is Governor, why he did come to contest and contested as Governor. And this man, meticulously, seriously, honestly, has continued, day by day, month by month, to roll out projects that are impactful to the society, to Rivers people. Roads infrastructure, schools, hospitals, human capacity, I mean continuously. This man has turned the Garden City into a city of flyovers. And that is very meaningful. We very much appreciate such a person. And unfortunately, he can’t go for a third term. We wish he goes for a third term. He is going to give so much to the Rivers people.
He has made us so proud. He has distinguished himself among the Governors and governments in Nigeria. All the things he has done, other governments and even the Federal Government should learn from him.
A case in point is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our Governor took proactive actions in time and that is why Rivers State did not suffer much from the pandemic and they had to learn from him. He has impacted on the people commercially, economically and otherwise. Even our Christian lives have improved because he gave this State to God and declared it a Christian State. He built an Ecumenical Centre and God literally has come down to work with His people and has begun to give us a sense of direction, a sense of belonging. We appreciate so much from the man, who has unlike others, really worked even in the second term, working like it was the first term. And we are grateful to God for all his achievements. He is a true Ikwerre son. We appreciate him. We pray that he would find more to do even after he has left this stage of governance. We couldn’t have had it any other way.
Would you then say that Governor Wike has performed beyond expectation?
Very true. This Governor has done beyond expectation. Looking at precedents, looking at people before him, what he has done even per month, it is unequalled anytime, anywhere in the history of Rivers State. This Governor has done so much.
In spite of all that you have seen he has done, is it not surprising that there are still pockets of opposition in the State?
Well, it is unfortunate but we must have opposition. We must have people that agree and people that don’t agree. It is normal. We just want to encourage them to criticise constructively. They should engage in constructive criticisms. They should criticise him constructively. Not just opening your mouth for opening sake. This time around, it will be very difficult. You know, he has been accused of 3D projects. It is no longer 3D now, because you can come there and see it for yourself. You will see the flyovers. Who does three flyovers at the same time? Nobody. And he has told us that he has more, seven more to deliver to Rivers people and put us on the world map of very very improved humane settlements. We appreciate that.
You said it is unfortunate that the Governor won’t run for a third term, but there are people out there calling on him to run for the Presidency come 2023. What is your take on this?
At his point, I am not a politician. For him to run for a federal office, it is entirely his prerogative, it is at his discretion. It is left for him to decide. He has to watch the politicial terrain and decide what he wants. But one thing is sure. Anywhere this Governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike finds himself, he would deliver on his promises, he would deliver on the NEED Assessment of the people. This man is in tune with development. He is in tune with the people. And I am not afraid. If tomorrow, he runs for the Presidency, it is Nigerians that will gain because he is going to work tirelessly. I don’t know where he gets his energy; he is going to work tirelessly and fearlessly and deliver on the things that matter to the people.
As a royal father, which areas would you like to advise the Governor?
Well, first and foremost, he has to watch his back. He is a Governor that works by self-conviction. And so he cannot be deterred by anybody, by superiors’ stories, very bad advice; he is unaffected by those kinds of things because he is a man of conviction. When he decides on a project, he delivers, because he is in tune with the people. He is a grassroots politician; he feels the pulse of the people. And I am sure he knows what Nigerians want too and if he finds himself in that national stage, I have no doubt in my mind that he will win and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
We have been having some security challenges in the country and even in the State in recent times to the extent that Governor Wike had to impose curfew in the State. How would you react to this?
Well, the Governor has done well in the area of security. This Governor has done more than any government, to give state of the art equipments to security operatives in the State, both water and land. He has done so much and continues to do. So, the rest is left for these professionals to deliver. The Governor is not a policeman or a soldier. He has built a Guest House for the Army, giving them vehicles, and the police, you know it, giving them so much including other security organisations. The government has done so much for the security people and they are supposed to complement the huge expenditure of government on them.
The idea of having a curfew is also part of his own actions to mitigate these security lapses that are creating fears among our people. So, he is helping them. It is good for them. It is good for them to complement what he is doing, in terms of speaking to the people by his now and then broadcasts. It is to encourage them to know exactly what government is up to. It is for them to know what is happening. In this way, they are able to work with him, and stay distance and time with the Governor and not begin to feel that he is not doing enough. He is talking to them constantly. The security operatives should complement this government’s efforts and prove it right in its activities to secure lives and property. I support the government of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. I support him wholeheartedly and he has done well. I score him high and give him excellent mark.
But some people are still complaining about the curfew, what do you have to tell them, both the residents of the State and Rivers people?
The curfew we should obey. The residents and people of Rivers State should obey the curfew. It is even in the Bible, that we should obey the laws of government. And so, if it is this one regulation that government has brought, we should obey. It is not for peace-loving rivers people but this is to catch the criminals. We too should complement government’s efforts by obeying the rules and regulations. Like when we had the lockdowns, don’t we see that we are enjoying health now? At that time too, people criticised the government and the Governor, but today, they have swallowed their words. They are enjoying health now. If the Governor had left Coronavirus to fester, then, it would have been terrible for our people. But today, we are walking around, the markets are open, and everywhere else, people are able to live their lives.
His Majesty, some Nigerians are today calling for the restructuring of the country and some too are calling for secession, from the foregoing, what do you think is the fate of Nigeria and what do we really need?
Obviously, to sustain the various geo-political zones of Nigeria, we do need restructuring within one Nigeria. And people that are resisting this, obviously, in time, will bow to the yearnings of the people. If you go back to the time when we had regions, we had relative peace. We are not saying we should go back to that but those kinds of things we were enjoying regionally, should begin to be apportioned within the States. Like for us in the South-South or the core Niger Delta, it is very important that we enjoy the proceeds of the God-given minerals that we have. We cannot have these minerals and people who are somewhere else, even beyond the shores of this country, are enjoying them. We can’t have that. No responsible government can do that. What God has given Nigeria is for Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the ongoing Constitution Review vis-à-vis the need for the traditional institution to be given roles in the Constitution?
The Constitution Review is welcome even if we are hearing that they are spending so much. Unwarranted expenditure is not good but the Constitution Review is good. And as it concerns the traditional institution, we need to spell out the functions of traditional rulers. With what we are doing, now, that I say it is illegal, as per it is not captured in the Constitution. But when it is captured in the Constitution, then, it serves as a support for us to do what we are supposed to be doing; and that is to complement government in the area of governance. So, that is very important. We should be captured in the Constitution. Traditional rulers are very important in nation building. They are very important in creating national identity. We are doing it now. There is this unofficial regulation, as it were, for Northern traditional rulers to come and visit their counterparts in the South and vice versa, both in the East and the West; that kind of friendship is ongoing. But it needs to be captured in the constitution. If it is captured in the constitution, it will be sustained and it will be done as a matter of duty.
FG, Insensitive To PANDEF’s Agenda – Ogoriba
We thank Mr. President for flagging off the clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The long delay in starting the Ogoni Clean-Up had sapped confidence locally and had caused the broader Niger Delta to doubt the intentions of Government. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to speed up this exercise, especially by following through the emergency steps outlined in the UNEP Report, which includes the provision of safe drinking water for a populace whose water has been declared unfit for human consumption by UNEP, years ago. We also urge the federal government to commission a Region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the Niger Delta and undertake to enforce all environment protection laws.
We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforce the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We, therefore, strongly urge the President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also, we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a university should be implemented.
Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank President for ensuring that the first phase of the coastal railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos.
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland waterways and riverine infrastructure.
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing ports in the Niger Delta, including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep sea-going vessels and expedite work on the dredging of the Calabar Port. The Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review is done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility for the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result, the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta remain unconnected to the National Grid.
We, therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where the Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to signal their interest in sustained economic development in the region by:
i. Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
ii. Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
iii. Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
iv. Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region, in particular, the Gas City, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu, in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
v. Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
vi. Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
vii. We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
vii. Resolve the various issues leading to the non-operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land will continue until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Interventionist Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, even though it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need, therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent blueprint for the development and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We, therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be re-echoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
What message would you want to pass to the Federal Government for being insensitive to these issues five years after?
It is regrettable to say that the 16-point agenda has not been attended to thereby bringing about high rate of insecurity in the region.
For emphasis, after having several interface with these boys, they saw the reasons for dialogue than allowing the region go in flames as a result this brought about ceasefire in the region making everyone to be enjoying the relative peace being enjoyed today.
I want the Federal Government to know that when these boys see that there is blatant refusal in addressing their issues by the Federal Government, they are capable of making the region go into flames, adding that he appealed to the Federal Government, and other critical stakeholders responsible for the implementation of this 16-point agenda to be sincere to themselves and do the needful, adding that what the people in the Niger Delta region want is that all must be fair, just and equitable in what they do, so as to engendered peace and security to the Niger Delta region.
Rivers, Now Investment Destination Of Choice-Nsirim
Rivers State Government, under the leadership of His Excellency Nyesom Wike, is one administration that has experienced several attacks from the opposition party in the state. Ironically, the more the attacks, the more adorable the governor becomes going by his infrastructure developmental strides across the nooks and crannies of the State. In this interview, the State’s Commissioner for Information and Commu-nications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, speaks extensively about the Wike administration. Excerpts:
Prior to your assumption of office as the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, you initiated a project called “Our State, Our Responsibility.” What inspired that project and what were the issues you wanted to address with that initiative?
The truth is that Rivers State is blessed with human and material resources. It is also the headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry in Nigeria. We have two sea ports and an international airport. We have a welcoming culture and a rich cultural heritage. We have cuisine that is second to none in this country. But we have found out over the years that a lot of people are de-marketing the state, making investors to flee. So the campaign is designed to correct that perception and let people know that Rivers State is set for business and to make everyone living and doing business here in the state understand that we have a shared prosperity to protect. This means that if Rivers State economy is booming, everyone that lives and does business here will be a partaker of that boom. The campaign was aimed at injecting into the psyche of everyone even children yet unborn and those who will visit the state in a couple of years to understand that as long as you live in Rivers State, it belongs to you. Every resident must participate in ensuring that the state is positively projected at a level where it becomes the investors destination of choice, just like His Excellency, Nyesom Wike is building the right infrastructure now.
Is there any parameter by which the success of such projects is measured?
There are practical ways. Since that campaign, we found out that a lot of investments are coming in. For example, you have the biggest supermarket in West Africa and other markets in Port Harcourt. You have stock gap company here in Port Harcourt that deals with producing domestic gas. Prior to now, LNG would ship gas to Lagos and truck back to Port Harcourt. But right now in Port Harcourt, you have a company that produces domestic gas for the domestic market. Also, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Ethiopian and Turkish Airlines had begun flight operations to Port Harcourt. Businesses are booming in many parts of Port Harcourt industrial area. Those in Real Estate are also experiencing a boom because a lot of people are coming in to do business here and of course, the narrative is changing gradually.
God helped us with a visionary leader who has put in place a strategic security architecture which has checkmated all forms of insecurity that was holding sway in the past. Now, things are stable and the narrative has changed for the better. One can always find out with the National Bureau of Statistics that these things they say about the state with the highest Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). After Lagos, the next is Rivers State. You cannot generate the volume of IGR that we have if our state is insecure and the business climate is not thriving.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one thing that has changed the global environment. What lessons would you say that Rivers State government has learnt from this virus?
I like to underscore this point that before His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, came on board as governor, he initiated what he called the “NEW Rivers Vision” blue print which encapsulated everything that has to do with health. A lot has been put in place. We have what we call the Mother and Child Hospital now in Port Harcourt, we have five zonal Hospitals. The General Hospitals in the state have been reactivated and fully functional. The state now has a University Teaching Hospital; the former Braithwaite Memorial Hospital is now Rivers State University Teaching Hospital with the right infrastructure. We have a Medical School now in Rivers State University; all these have happened before COVID.
So what has occurred is that, the onset of COVID has helped the state to build more on infrastructure and facilities and also ensured that the medical personnel have the requisite training and knowledge.
Are you saying that if there is a second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, Rivers State has the right model to sustain its economy?
If you are very current, you will find out that this was one state that had a robust palliative committee; we had a food purchasing committee, that was designed in such a way that they bought off all that the farmers and fishermen produced, thus empowering them. You will also know that this State was in the forefront in the fight against COVID-19, which the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), affirmed when he visited Port Harcourt. So, Rivers State is fully equipped. We have a functional Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) which is located in the State Ministry of Health, working in conjunction with strategic international partners.
We have a technical working group properly equipped and trained. It’s been in place before COVID because prior to this time, we used to have the outbreak of Lasser Fever and other such diseases. So, the EOC of the state has been fully functional. In fact, the Emergency Operation Centre will avail you the opportunity to see the kind of coordination from the field at a glance. Like even COVID now, at a glance, you will see at various places where they are collecting samples, what the statistics have been within the last one week and so on.
Still on COVID, most Nigerians were disappointed by states who claimed that they distributed palliatives, but during the EndSARS protest, many warehouses stocked with undistributed palliatives were discovered. How did Rivers State handle its palliatives distribution that you did not record any ugly incident?
Rivers State has become a model for good governance. When the issue of palliatives was booming, we did not play to the gallery. His Excellency ensured that the palliative committee that was set up consisted of representatives of all the interest groups you can think of. We had all the Armed Forces, Police, Civil Defence Corps, Civil Society groups, Clergy, Women Groups, Youth Groups and the Media. It is a model that I am so proud of. I was the Secretary of that Palliative Committee. The Central Committee was overseeing what was happening at the Local Government and Ward levels. At the Ward level, a mini committee was also set up that had Traditional Rulers, the Civil Society reps, Clergy, Women group and Youth leaders.
So, when the palliatives moved from the Local Government to the Ward level; for example, in my own Ward, the Chairman of the Ward distribution committee was a Clergyman who is not even an indigene of Rivers State but because he is the Vicar in an Anglican Church there, he coordinated the distribution. These palliatives got to the real beneficiaries and we did it twice. We did the first round, second round and the people were satisfied that this government meant well and what the governor promised was also given. So we did not have any issue of anybody breaking any warehouse looking for any palliatives. Even people who were trying to induce some propaganda and instigate people to say something was hidden, were ignored.
You were once the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Rivers State and now you hold the position of Information Commissioner, as a Pastor, how do you balance your calling and working in a political environment?
A lot of people ask this question. When you have an understanding that any office you hold, you hold that office in trust for God and for man, then, your attitude and style would be different?
As a Pastor, what do I do? I have the flock to cater for, teach them the Word of God, and take care of them. As a Commissioner for Information, what is my responsibility? To disseminate information about the policies and programmes of the government to the people and I have that understanding that public interest is paramount in the discharge of this assignment. So, there is really no challenge for me, because having risen from the rank to the position I occupy today, I understand the intricacies of governance and the meaning of leadership. I have the requisite training and experience.
To say balance, I do not even have a challenge with balance because I understand that the position I hold is in trust for God and for man.
Do you attend Church regularly and still do your job?
Yes, I still pastor my Church; even though there is no way I can do 100 per cent now but my assistant pastor covers for me when I am not available.
That must be a very challenging?
Yes, the next question you should ask me now is what are the challenges? But for me, several years ago, I understood that the Chinese word for crisis is opportunity. Now, when you have opportunity or if anything presents itself as a challenge, it is an opportunity for you to excel. For me, I do not see challenges when I am doing things, I do not see obstacles when I am doing things. I see them as part of the routine on my daily schedules.
There have been calls from some quarters for government to regulate the social media. What is your opinion on this and how do you think the government both state and federal can harness the opportunities in social media to strike a balance between the negative and positive?
That is a thorny issue. I think that we need to have adequate stakeholders’ engagement in this direction. The stakeholders’ groups that are involved need to come together, to look at the issues and then work out the best way forward. No doubt, a lot of people are abusing the use of the social media. We, who are in government, are the worst hit. You know, anybody can write anything, say anything, do photo-shop and put on the Internet. The regulation here is key, but before implementation, the various stakeholders need to be engaged for us to have a kind of balance on what should be done. Also, before implementation, adequate preparation and orientation of the citizenry would also be very relevant.
As a journalist trained to balance stories and promote objectivity, with your current position, do you still maintain your standard and not dance to the tune of the government to water down the truth from what it should be?
A few weeks ago, I hosted journalists in Rivers State here. In journalism, facts are sacred, comments free. A fact is a fact; there is nothing you can take away from something that is a fact. You see, people have that erroneous impression that if you are a Commissioner for Information, you will be padding things and covering things – No! Facts are facts, and I am lucky to have a principal who is forthright. With His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, you know where he is standing on any issue. He does not play to the gallery and he is also a principal that I would always like to work with because he is not one of those who carry out governance and development on television.
There are governors who use 3D images to deceive the public. But for us in Rivers State, the facts are there. If we tell you we are constructing Andoni – Opobo Unity Road, you go there and you will see it. If we say the Rebisi Flyover has been done, you go there and you will see it. If we say, Mother and Child Hospital, Real Madrid Academy; we say Abonnema Ring Road, Zonal Hospitals, you will see them. If we say we are rehabilitating schools, we give you 1, 2, 3, schools, if you go there, you will see them with your eyes. So, what’s there to hide?
The Opposition in the state are criticizing His Excellency that his infrastructural developments are basically in Port Harcourt; what happens to other areas of the state?
The truth of the matter is that people will always have something to say. I can tell you, apart from the flyovers that are being built in Port Harcourt, (of course, which you know; I said that His Excellency is building infrastructure for tomorrow), if you go to all the Local Government Areas of the state, a lot is happening. There is a road we call Sakpenwa-Bori Road – it is about 16 kilometers, it is completed and commissioned. His Excellency has even extended it further now to about thirty something kilometers; it is not in Port Harcourt. There is Abonnema Ring Road; that Ring Road is on water. There is Andoni/Opobo Unity Road. We went to Opobo few days ago; everybody including Opobo people drove to Opobo by Road for the first time in the history of that ancient town of 150 years. We went recently to also celebrate with them on their 150 years anniversary; it is not in Port Harcourt. Do you understand?
There is a big Cassava processing company at Afam in Oyigbo Local Government Area. There are several zonal hospitals that are scattered in Bori, Degema, Ahoada and Omoku, they are not in Port Harcourt. There is Elele/Omoku Road, it is not in Port Harcourt. Several of such projects are all over the state. But you see, if you go to all the Local Government Areas of the State, you will see several schools that have been rehabilitated. There are sand-fillings that are going on in the local governments. In riverine communities of the state, because those places are Islands. You do sand-filling first to create places they can build on. Those areas are not in Port Harcourt.
But armchair critics will always have something to say about Nyesom Wike. The Guild of Editors came here and I took them on a tour, they were shouting. If you go to that Andoni – Opobo Unity Road, what is being sunk in there is not up to what is being used to build anything in Port Harcourt, because it is on water. So, a lot is going on in the local government areas. There is no local government in Rivers State that is not receiving the impact of Governor Wike’s administration.
During and after the EndSARS protest, the governor compensated all the families of the security agencies that lost their lives during the protest; but the Rivers citizens who were killed did not get any compensation. What happened?
I may not comment on that.
Why is the governor described as a lion?
Who is describing him as a lion?
He is described in the media as a lion?
People are entitled to their perception. One thing you cannot take away from His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, is that he is fearless, courageous and forthright. These are the qualities of great men. That is why I am so proud to be associated with him. He is not a lily-livered man.
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