Where is the limit of political ambition? Rivers State has been in the news in recent times for the wrong reasons. The state which has enjoyed relative peace in the last four years was suddenly invaded with an oppressive and vicious culture of political violence driven by one man’s ambition.
The clear abuse of apparatus of the Nigerian state to torment and compel the electorate, and offials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to do contrary to the expressed will of the people at the ballot box, is not only criminal but, is highly condemnable.
This culture of do-or-die politics in Rivers State weaves around the inordinate ambition of Honourable Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi to become the emperor and lord of the manor.
It is an amazement that Right Honourable Rotimi Amaechi who should have every reason to be grateful to the people of Rivers state would become the terror tormenting their very peaceful existence, all in the name of seeking to control power.
Driven into a frenzy by this ambition, former Governor Amaechi wants to determine who becomes anything and everything in Rivers State. He wants to control power and dispense it from his kingdom. Unlike himself who was freely given an opportunity to become someone in life, Amaechi would want everyone in Rivers to crawl on their fours to him, just to receive crumbs dropping from his table.
Himself a creation of the political large-heartedness of former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili, Amaechi has every reason to be grateful to God and the people of Rivers. But, he has despised in all forms his very little humble beginning.
The story of Rotimi Amaechi is a 20-year journey crafted by his benefactor and political mentor, Dr Peter Odili. But as it is with many, Amaechi has grown monstrous with his political pursuits, so much so he has forgotten where he is coming from. Those who doubt this shoukd ask him about his relationship with Dr Odili. They are daggers drawn.
Currently, Nigeria’s serving Minister of Transportation, Amaechi came into position of value when he was spotted and given opportunity to move up the ladder of life by Dr Peter Odili. He was a debt collector in Dr Odili’s PAMO Clinics in Port Harcourt. Later he became Special Assistant to Dr Odili as Deputy Governor of the state between 1992 and 1993.
In 1999, he was elected through the court into the Rivers State House of Assembly and became Speaker of the House for two terms between 1999 and 2007; at the same time, he was made Chairman of Nigeria Conference of Speakers.
In 2007, Rotimi Amaechi became Governor of Rivers State through the legal process and re-elected for another four years in 2011. He is a recipient of one of the country’s highest national honours – Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
He defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on November 27, 2013 and as a compensation for his betrayal of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the APC in 2015 appointed him Minister of Transportation.
As Director General of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign both in 2015 and 2019, he appropriated and arrogated influence and power to himself telling his new allies in the APC how evil his erstwhile benefactors were.
Aggregating these past and current accomplishments – 8 years as governor, 8 years as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, and four years as minister of the Federal Republic; it would appear that the most recent engagements of Rotimi Amaechi is an outright denigration of the honour done him by his people and those whom God in His infnite wisdom have allowed to assist him become a person of substance.
With a track record of an incurable appetite to destroy the very structure that brought him into relevance, it would be recalled that in the run up to his 2007 governorship ambition in Rivers State, Amaechi who was then the Speaker of the State House, mounted a campaign of calumny against the very government and person of Dr Peter Odili who had sustained him.
For many who do not know, that the battle for the emergence of Amaechi as a governor was fought by present governor of Rivers State, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike who ensured victory at the courts and brought Amaechi back from Ghana to become governor.
It is on record that this callous hunger to control not only the leadership of the APC in the state but, dictatorial control of a complex state like Rivers, precipitated the series of activities engineered and sustained by Amaechi and which denied the APC an opportunity to vie for any office in the 2019 elections.
It is infra dig for a man who was a nobody, from the back waters of his local village, Ubima in Ikwerre Local Government Area and has emerged into national politics to harbour intense hatred for the people and state that made him.
Honourable Chibuike Amaechi owes the entire people of Rivers State an apology for assaulting their sensibilities and right to choose candidates of their choice at any election.
On the other hand, the APC should be inquisitive as to how and why the party became a subject of ridicule in Rivers State instead of allowing itself to be deceived into thinking that Nyesom Wike is its problem. No, not at all, the APC problem in Rivers is the man who now constitutes the party’s shame in the South-South.
Ifeanyichukwu, a political analyst writes from Enugu.
Still On Security Votes
When Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), spoke at the induction programme for returning and newly-elected governors, he did not mince words in accusing governors of misusing security votes.
He alleged that some governors deliberately fuelled insecurity in their states just to collect more money as security votes.
He noted that some of the governors “now covertly promote insecurity as justification to inflate their security votes.”
Magu also alleged that there was a link between corruption, banditry and terrorism.
His allegations were contained in a paper, titled, “Imperative of Fighting Corruption/Terrorism Financing in Nigeria.’’
Magu told the session that a debate on the legality of security votes enjoyed by the governors was ongoing.
“We have also seen evidence of theft of public resources by some state governors, cashing in on the insecurity in their states.
“Insecurity has also offered the required oxygen for corruption to thrive as evident in the $2.1bn arms procurement scandal involving top military commanders both serving and retired.”
A study carried out by the University of Nigeria, agreed with Magu on the abuse of security votes.
The study is titled “Legitimising Corruption in Government: Security Votes in Nigeria.’’
It was authored by Obiamaka Egbo, Ifeoma Nwakoby, Josaphat Onwumere and Chibuike Uche, of the Department of Banking and Finance, University of Nigeria.
“The tendency among Nigerian politicians, particularly the executive arm at the various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains is widespread.
“This has been fuelled by the abuse of security votes, an ‘opaque fund’ reserved for the executive which is not appropriated, accounted for or audited through the legislature.
“ Sometimes, a state governor could (mis)appropriate as much as N100 million monthly as security vote.
“Such slush funds are channelled into the secret funding of militias and gangs of government enforcers.’’
The appropriateness or otherwise of security votes was at the centre of discourse at the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) second Quarterly Anti-Corruption Policy Dialogue Series.
The dialogue focused on Accountability for Security Votes.
ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who spoke, agreed with Magu that security vote is an easy and attractive route for stealing public funds.
According to him, it is also a veritable avenue for abuse of public trust, escalation of poverty and underdevelopment and ironically the escalation of insecurity.
“It has pushed up insecurity somehow, that is not to say we do not need security vote.
“In the 2019 budget as appropriated, for example, 162 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had money appropriated for them as security votes.
“These MDAs span boards, centres, committees, ministries, commissions, councils, hospitals, schools, law enforcement agencies, obviously the armed forces and intelligence offices.”
Owasanoye said that the number and categories of MDAs given security votes, suggest that something was wrong with the parameters for determining those who are entitled to security votes.
“This then provokes some question as which MDAs are entitled to security votes and how should security votes be accounted for?
“It is clear from our present approach, that we do not have any rational principle being followed at the moment.
“If there is one, I will be happy that my ignorance will be diminished and removed,” he said.
The chairman explained that it was clear from the current approach to budgeting for security votes, that no principle was being followed.
He said that this is clear from the quantum and range of sums appropriated in the 2019 budget for MDAs, where the lowest amount for security vote was N3,600, while the highest amount was N4.20 billion.
“What on earth can anyone do with N3, 600, and I am not talking of an individual.
“If the N3, 600 is the security vote of an individual, most likely it will take him from somewhere to his house. That is the safest place to be.
“But what on earth can an agency do with N3, 600 as security vote, as appropriated?”
With this disparity, what then should security votes be used for?
Owasanoye opined that it was pertinent because MDAs with budgets for security votes also have separate budgets for other security related matters, such as the production or procurement for security or defence equipment.
“In the case of defence and core security and law enforcement agencies, some of these items and the votes are undoubtedly justified. But the quantum and use is open to scrutiny,” he said.
He, however, explained that it was apparent that security vote was not for any of those other security items mentioned, because they were often separately covered in the budget.
“There is the erroneous impression that security votes are not being accounted for with our recent experience as a country, that almost lost a geo-political zone to insurgency.
“Whereas billions of dollars were appropriated for security, but diverted by corruption to matters like engaging prayer warriors demands that we reflect very closely and ask ourselves whether we can afford to continue on the same trajectory of lack of accountability for security votes.
“We need security votes; we should give the votes to those who deserve to have security votes and we should demand some framework for accountability,” he said.
On his part, Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, said that security vote was subject to audit and “if it is not done, it is wrong”.
He said that the votes were not votes for defence and were also not meant for the armed forces.
“Strictly speaking, if you look at security votes in the true context, it is not meant to tackle insecurity.
“We have funding for Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces. If you have budget lines for these services and organisations, then why security votes?
“However, it can be used for security; but it is not meant to solve insecurity,
“There are other votes which are constitutional which include the contingency fund,” he said.
Buratai explained that even though there was security vote that was generally applied, it must follow the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The chief of army staff said that if security vote was made constitutional and proper guidelines set out on utilisation, the issue will be laid to rest
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, described security vote as the budgetary or extra budgetary allocation ostensibly for security, received by the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen.
This allocation he said, is spent without legal obligation to account for how it is spent.
Fayemi said that security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because of the assumption that such funds are being abused by state governments.
He said that the problem really is not about the security vote but about its usages and the character of the people administering it.
“Security votes attract more attention because of the seemingly non accountable nature of the expenditure under the budgetary provision.
“There is widespread belief that the appropriation of security votes in Nigeria is unconstitutional and thus illegal.
“This is not correct because in the Nigerian constitution, the executive is entrusted with the responsibility of preparing a budget which is then sent to the legislature for ratification.
“The fact that huge amount of monies are routinely being budgeted and expended in the name of security vote does not make it an illegal practice
“The act of approving any sum allocated to such a heading, covert or overt, legalises the concept. The insinuation that such money is not budgeted for is not true,” Fayemi said.
Like Magu said, the legality or otherwise of security vote is ongoing, and must continue until it properly defined. The earlier the better to avoid misuse and diversion of public funds in the guise of security vote.
Sharang writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Grudges Not Healthy For Our Music Industry –PMAN President
Voombalistic Uncle P, National President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), says grudges among Nigerian musicians is not healthy for the music industry.
Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) is an umbrella organisation that guides, protect and promotes the interests of musicians in Nigeria.
Dr Obi Okwudili Casmir, popularly known as Voombalistic Uncle P, who spoke with our source in Lagos, advised musicians to shun grudges to avoid resentment in their relationships.
“Grudges amongst musicians is not healthy for our industry and will only create further resentment in their relationships as musicians and may affect what we represent or present to the public.
“Being emotionally immature when composing or writing your songs means you can not control your emotions or reactions towards your colleagues.
“Having quarrel is a fact of life amongst best of friends but you don’t take it too hard on yourselves because it might graduate to what happened in the case of 2pac and Biggie.
“I advise we settle our differences internally if we have any, rather than taking them to the studio and then streets/homes. That doesn’t project us in good light,” he said.
It was gathered that Nigerian rappers Jude Abaga popularly known as M.I and Olanrewaju Ogunmefun (Vector) are currently expressing grudges against each other in songs which had been trending on social media platforms.
The grudge, which reportedly began over supremacy in the rap category of the music industry, has being described as publicity stunts, while some saw it as real disagreement between the two rappers which had been brewing over the years.
Rescind N5,000 Fee For National ID, PDP Tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to recind the N5,000 fee for national identity cards immediately.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the new fee is repressive and an attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to further impose hardship on the citizens.
The opposition party noted that the idea of an ID card fee is offensive to the sensibilities of Nigerians, as it amounts to stripping Nigerians of their constitutional rights in their own country..
“Our party holds that issuance of national identity card to citizens, as an obligation of the state to its citizenry, must remain free as established by the PDP. The N5000 levy must be immediately rescinded before it triggers restiveness in the nation.
“Already, the fee is generating tension in the country as Nigerians have continued to register their rejection in the public space.
“The PDP notes the increasing penchant of the APC administration to impose all sorts of taxes on suffering Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed five bills passed by the 8th National Assembly into law, Mr Umar Yakubu, his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives) has said.
Yakubu who made the announcement at a news conference last Wednesday in Abuja, said that the Acts were to ensure good governance in the country.
The bills include the Obafemi Awolowo University Transitional Amendment Act, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi Amendment Act, the University of Maiduguri Amendment Act, the National Fertiliser Quality Control Act and the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology Establishment Act.
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