Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, deservedly took the oath of office and allegiance, for a second term on Wednesday, May 29, 2019, amid pomp and pageantry, and promised to do more for Rivers people and the State.
Against this backdrop, Dr. Samuel Chisa Dike, a legal practitioner, former Leader, Ikwerre Local Government Legislative Assembly and Associate Professor of Law and Head of Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, Faculty of Law, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, in this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi, takes stock of the Governor’s first term and charts the way forward. Excerpts.
Sir, how would you assess the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike since May 29, 2015?
Well, in all ramifications, Governor Nyesom Wike has proved himself to be a committed, hard working Governor. He has excelled in several areas and in most of the areas and there are other areas he needs to cover if you take them one after the other.
Let’s look at education, Rivers State University is wearing a new look today, courtesy of the Governor. A lot of the Faculties have been accredited. A lot of infrastructure development can be noticed. These were not there before. And with the right calibre of persons heading the place, applying the little subventions from the Governor, the place has been transformed. Professors are promoted as at when due. Academic environment is healthy. There is no interruption of the school calendar as a result of insurrection or strike. There is harmony in the university.
And you can see that it is also transforming and translating, whatever is happening in the Rivers State University, it is also affecting the entire Rivers State because it is a mini universe; it is a mini state.
And then, a lot of other infrastructural development in primary and secondary schools in Rivers State. The same thing applies to Ignatius Ajuru University of Education and Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic.
All these institutions have received government subventions and are doing well. In my place, Ubima Community, today, a secondary school that was in comatose before has been resuscitated. And we give thanks to Governor Wike. So, educationally, he has tried and he has done very very well.
Then, you talk about Agriculture. Agriculture used to be the mainstay of the nation’s economy before the advent of oil, before the discovery of oil. But you see, both the Federal Government and most of the state governments have not paid due attention to Agriculture. Agriculture prides itself as one of the sectors that would transform Nigeria and lead it to sustainable development. But it is sadly abandoned, sadly ignored by successive governments. We have all it takes in this state to be the food basket of the nation. We have all it takes to have an agro economy, to develop it and spread it to other states. But successive governments have not paid adequate attention to agriculture. Hitherto, we had Rubber Plantation in Rivers State located in Okomoko, we had Risonpalm located in my village, Ubima. And we had bodies of waters where fish farms were being established and fishes of various kinds being produced. These potentials have not been harnessed by successive governments.
So, we believe and hope that Governor Wike will look inwards into these areas. It will help to reduce criminality because a lot of our boys would be employed in these areas, and then also reduce the cost of living. Sometimes, what leads to criminality and what makes people to commit crime is hunger. If people can go to somewhere and get plantain and eat, go to somewhere and get garri and eat, buy bread, the tendency to commit crime will be reduced. So, there are a lot of pathological reasons and social factors that combine to determine who has a criminal tendency. So, if you address the issue of agriculture in Rivers State, you would have, in a way, addressed some of the security challenges we are facing in this state today. This is because if you are addressing agriculture, you are also addressing employment; because a lot of youths, even graduates would like to work in agricultural farms.
So, we hope to see another Songhai Farm or whatever they call it, Risonpalm is resuscitated. We have to look inwards to see the contractual relationship between Rivers State and Risonpalm, which is today known as Siat Nigeria Limited, whether it is people-oriented, whether it favours the communities, wheter it favours Rivers State Government or not. Governor Wike has to look at it again because we need our people to be employed in that company. We need that company to add to the economic development of this state. We need Rubber Estate to be rejuvenated; to be reactivated; to be resuscitated. He can embark on Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the companies. Latex from rubber can give us a lot of other raw materials, a lot of other finished products as well. So, government should deploy capable strategies to make sure that the Rubber Estate in Okomoko is resuscitated. And various fish farms can be developed that will employ people in the riverine areas.
Cannoe trade can also be propagated to employ people. Government can give loans to people to go into such trade. Agriculture is another area the government ought to look inwards and resuscitate. And we have to be honest with ourselves that we need to do more in this sector.
Then, we now talk about security. Security is a very serious concern to Nigeria today, not only to Rivers State. There are security breaches here and there, in all parts of Nigeria, let’s face that fact, it is not peculiar to Rivers State. But one problem here is that in order to frontally fight insecurity, we need the support of the Federal Government. This is because the Armed Forces are controlled by the Federal Government. The Police are controlled by the Federal Government. The desire to have state police has not sailed through the National Assembly. And that is the only way you can now hold the state Governor accountable for security breaches because he does not control the Police. If the state governments are allowed to control the apparatus of the military and police, and there are security breaches, then, you can hold the Governors accountable. Whereas the police, the military and other security apparatuses are controlled by the Federal Government, these are the people and agencies that will help to fight crime, the states may be helpless. So, let’s face it. Every time they call the Governors names when there are security breaches, what can the Governors do when they do not control the police, the Armed Forces and all that? But the only way the various state governments can help to fight insecurity is to come up with welfarist policies; social-oriented policies and people-oriented policies that would help for the social emancipation of the people; that would improve the take home for those employed in government; that would help to create employment for the teeming unemployed youths.
When you do that, then, you have helped to fight insecurity. So, security is a sector that both the Federal Government and the state government, including the local government councils would have to work together to see that we have a very secure state. I will advise Governor Wike in his second term to do his best and continue to advocate for the various states to be in charge of the police so that they can work together to improve the security architecture of the states.
The issue you raised about security is very fundamental; it brings us to the need for the Federal Government and the state government to work in harmony. Recently, as Governor Wike won election for a second term, he extended the olive branch to members of the opposition, who are basically part of the Federal Government, what are your comments on this?
Well, there are no two ways to making peace. Peace cannot be submerged or subjugated. What the Governor did is what he is expected to do. And it is my desire and my appeal to every other person, whether in opposition or by-standers, to work together for peace in Rivers State. The benefits of enjoying peace here are enormous. One, there will be more investors. Two, there will be security. Three, there will be economic development and social upliftment. So, anybody who loves Rivers State must embrace this olive branch and work together with the Governor. I believe that the Governor is honest; otherwise, he can say, I won’t work with anybody. Afterall, it is my party, I have won. But he said no, we are going to run an all-inclusive government. So, I believe that this is an opportunity for all of us to come together.
Let everybody bury the hatchet. For the sake of all of us, if you say you will not agree, you will not agree, your brothers are living here, your sisters are living here, your neighbours are living here. And there is a security challenge. Not everybody will run to Abuja. Not everybody will go to Lagos. Some of us are here. So, we need to work together to make sure there is peace. I think there are no two ways to it.
Apart from security and Agriculture which you have mentioned, which other areas do you think the Governor should focus attention in his second term?
Another area is tourism. Tourism is a money spinner for some countries. I believe that we have tourist potentials. I like what the Governor has done with Pleasure Park. Even tourism cannot work without security. That is another problem. If a state is insecure, tourists will not come. He should look at the area of tourism and the area of garnering money from other sources. Diversification of sources of revenue. Diversification of sources of income. That is what we have to do, instead of depending on monthly allocations from the Federal Government. He is trying in terms of internal revenue generation. But we can do more. The Governor must also as a matter of fact work with the Federal Government and the Federal Government must listen to the Governor in areas that they have to partner in line with the Constitution. For instance, the Port here can contribute to the economic development of Rivers State if it is functioning.
If the Airport, both the international and local wings are working effectively, it can also have multiplier effects on the economic development of the state. So, the Governor will have to also work with the Federal Government to make sure that whatever is due Rivers State is not denied us by reason of being members of PDP, APC or whatever party. We should all work together because these are things that will help to improve the lives of Rivers people and the state economy. Diversification of sources of revenue, tourism are another important areas we feel that the Governor should do well. In order to achieve this, he must put square pegs in square holes because he cannot do it alone. He must get competent persons to work with him. It may not be technocrats but people who are specialised in their chosen professions. People who know their onions. Those who value reputation more than money. If he surrounds himself with such people, I tell you, he is going to succeed. Election is over. Everybody worked for him. As far as he says he is Governor of Rivers State, not the Governor of PDP and not Governor of APC, it does not matter what the Federal Government is doing at the centre. Buhari had told us he is for nobody, he is for everybody. But we can see clearly today. For the four years, we did not get any federal presence in Rivers State. That is true. No federal presence in Rivers State but we are part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But in the case of the Governor, virtually all the local government areas have presence of his government in his first term. If you did not get primary school, you got health centre renovated, if you did not get health centre, you got a road project. This true governance. Wike delivered true governance to Rivers people. And we commend the Governor for that.
And he can do better now by assembling right minded people. Those who are ready and hungry for achievements. Those who are ready to take him to another political level because I believe that he might have another political ambition after this time.
Taraba Guber Poll: Tension Mounts As Appeal Court Decides, Today
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal will today deliver its verdict in the appeal brought by the All Progressive Congress (APC) seeking to reverse the judgment of the Taraba State Governorship Election Tribunal, which affirmed the re-election of Governor Darius Ishaku of the Peoples Democratic Party in the March 9, 2019 governorship poll in the state.
Already, there is mounting tension in the state among supporters of the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, ahead of the judgment.
This is demonstrated by their large turn up in Abuja where the judgment will be delivered.
A three-man panel of the tribunal led by Justice M.O. Adewara had in a unanimous judgment of September 20, 2019, dismissed the petition by the APC and its candidate, Abubakar Danladi on the grounds that the petitioners failed to prove their claims that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The tribunal further held that Danladi was not qualified to contest the March 9 governorship election.
It would be recalled that before the March 9, 2019 governorship election, the Federal High Court sitting in Jalingo, Taraba State, had disqualfied Danladi and equally restrained his political party, the APC from Fielding him as a governorship candidate.
Attempts by Danladi to overturn the order of the Federal High Court that disqualified him were unsuccessful at Court of Appeal and Supreme Court respectively.
Following the above development, the petitioners had on July 10, 2019, withdrew the petition on ground of the disqualification of Abubakar Danladi by the Supreme Court and the petition was accordingly disimissed.
However, on July 13, 2019, the petitioners filed a motion and prayed for an order setting aside the order of dismissal and asked that the petition be relisted.
The tribunal on August 9, 2019 granted the petitioners motion, set aside the order of dismissal of the petition and same was relisted, thereafter, Danladi ceased to participate in the proceedings.
Delivering its judgement after close of hearing, the tribunal held that a Federal High Court in Taraba State had given a judgment on March 6, 2019, in a suit marked FHC/JAL/CS/01/2019, disqualifying Danladi from contesting the election.
It noted that the affirmation of the judgment by the Supreme Court implied that the APC had no valid candidate in the election.
Besides, the tribunal explained further that even if the petition was to be considered on the merits, the petitioners failed to lead sufficient evidence to establish their claims that the governor was not validly elected by a majority of lawful votes.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the tribunal, the All Progressive Congress, without its candidate, Danladi, approached the Court of Appeal marked CA/A/EPT/934/2019, on October 3, 2019, in petition No: EPT/TR/GOV/01/2019, for an order setting aside the decision of the tribunal.
In the said notice of appeal, the party contended that the tribunal erred in law and occasion a miscarriage of Justice in arriving at its decision dismissing the petition.
Meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the Court of Appeal to dismiss the appeal with punitive cost as same is frivolous and unmeriterious.
The party in its brief of argument filed by its counsel, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN) noted that the appeal by the APC did not include the name of its candidate, Danladi as a person who would be directly affected by the outcome of the appeal.
Citing several case laws, Akuma argued technically, that a party to a suit is not allowed to unilaterally alter a case as constituted from the trial court and that names of parties must be maintained on appeal except as may be ordered by the court.
He submitted that, the unilateral alteration of the parties in the petition, as shown on the face of the notice of appeal, without the name of Danladi, who was the first petitioner at the tribunal renders the said notice of appeal incompetent and liable to be struck out.
Akuma specifically drew the attention of the Court of Appeal to its decision wherein it held thus: “It is now trite law that an appellant or a party seeking to appeal as an interested party cannot rearrange or reconstitute the parties to an action as constituted in the lower court at appellate court. The parties on record at the lower court must be retained at appellate level…the structure of the parties cannot by unilaterally changed or amended by any of the parties to an appeal.”
On the merit of the appeal, the PDP urged the Court of Appeal to hold that the appeal lacks merit and should be accordingly struck out.
The Court of Appeal is expected to give judgment today after the adoption of briefs of arguments by counsel to parties in the appeal.
Cleric Tasks Leaders On Citizens’ Welfare
A High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River State capital, presided over by Hon. Justice E. Ita has ordered Governor Ben Ayade to conduct local government elections in the State.
The Court in a Suit No: HC/514/2018 filed by the APC through their Lawyer, Chief (Barr.) Utum Eteng against Governor Ben Ayade and the State Attorney-General, frowned seriously on the action of the defendants and stated that there was no alternative to obeying the constitution and the law in the matter of this nature.
The Court held that it is a breach of section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution for Gov. Ayade not to conduct election to usher in a democratically elected Local Government as stipulated by section 7(1) of the constitution and section 2(1) of the CRS Local Govt. Law 2007. The Court said that more than three years after the expiration in December, 2018 of the democratically Local Government Councils put in place in December, 2015 by the Gov. Liyel Imoke led State Government the Ayade Government had not found it proper to do the needful by conducting Local Government elections into the 18 Local Government Councils in the State.
The Court also held that the representation put in place by APC members, Engr. Obono Onen, Ekaha Effiom, Hon. Polycab Effiom, Rt. Hon. Mkpanam Obo Ekpo and Benedict Lukpata, representing other APC Chairmanship candidates to the 18 Local Government Councils was in order pursuant to the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2008.
The APC had stated that Gov. Ayade and the CRSG had no constitutional power to stop conducting local government elections in the eighteen local government areas in the state. The APC was represented by Chief Utum Eteng, who led two other lawyers from his chambers, Barrister Jude Otakpor and Ihua-Maduenyi.
They commended the Court for being on the side of the clear and unambiguous provision of section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution.
By: Friday Nwagbara, Calabar
Polls: SERAP Wants ICPC To Probe APC, PDP, Security Officials
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether the persistent crimes of corruption, violence and killings during elections in Nigeria, most recently in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and the repeated failure of the Nigerian authorities to address the crimes amount to violence against Nigerians and crimes against humanity.
The petition dated 16 November, 2019 was sent to Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, ICC.
The organization urged Ms Bensouda: “to push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, officials of the two main political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and other actors who contributed to the corruption, violence and killings during the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”
In the petition signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The events in the Bayelsa and Kogi elections suggest criminal conduct within the jurisdiction of the ICC.
“The incidents of bribery and corruption, intimidation and violence witnessed in Bayelsa and Kogi states also strike at the integrity of the democratic process and seriously undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to fight corruption and end impunity of perpetrators.
“The desire for power at all costs by politicians undermines Nigerians’ rights to open, transparent and accountable government that respects human rights and observe the rule of law. Election-related corruption and violence make public officials susceptible to corrupt incentives.
“The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of election-related corruption, violence and killings, which in turn has promoted the sense of impunity and emboldened those politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit these crimes against the Nigerian people during election periods.
“The violent events witnessed in the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states suggest the lack of political will by the authorities and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to respect the sanctity and integrity of the electoral system and to apply criminal sanctions to perpetrators of corruption, violence and killings during elections.
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