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.
Huge Cost Of NASS Maintenance Worries TUC
Rivers State chapter of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), has called on the Federal Government to reduce the costs of governance in the country, noting that it cost the country billions of Naira to maintain the National Assembly alone.
The State TUC, chairman, Austin Jonah who spoke when he appeared as guest on a live Radio programme in Port Harcourt monitored by The Tide stated that the cost of governance in Nigeria is very expensive and not attainable.
Jonah further said the federal government will have enough funds to pay the minimum wage when they reduce the salaries and allowances of political office holders.
“Look at the welcome pack of the National Assembly members. N4.6 plus billion for accommodation and furniture. A Senator is going home with about N10million, while the member of House of Representatives is taking N9million plus.
“If you calculate with 360 persons in the House of Reps, plus 109 in the Senate, that is about 469 people and they have severance gratuity. They have so many things they are going home with plus their salary. You see, if you look at governance and cut down expenditure in governance this money, they have already taken the money that are talking about.
“They have taken it in the sense that they want to increase communication tax, such as that every call you make you pay tax, sms you pay tax, data you pay tax and even cable Television,” Jonah lamented
The State TUC chairman said what the labour union negotiated with the Federal Government was not the minimum wage but consequential adjustment.
“What we were negotiating was the consequential adjustment. Now from N18, 000 to N30, 000, the difference is N12, 000, which is 66 per cent. That 66 per cent was what we negotiated. By right we are not supposed to negotiate.
“If you trace the history of minimum wage in Nigeria, it started in 1981 during the Alhaji Shehu Shagari Government. Whenever you finish with minimum wage, the consequential adjustment is based on the percentage of the difference.
“The first minimum wage presented by the NLC was N300, but at the end of the day N125 was agreed,” he said.
NASS Promises Better Funding For Nigerian Army
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume and his House of Representatives counterpart, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, have promised to ensure adequate funding for the Nigerian Army in the 2020 budget.
They made the promise on Saturday in an interview with newsmen during the Passing Out Parade (POP) of 78 Regular Recruits Intake at the Depot Nigerian Army, Zaria, Kaduna State.
They said that the army needed to be adequately funded to be able to effectively tackle the prevailing security threats in the country.
Ndume, who agreed that the N100 billion proposed for the defence in 2020 budget was inadequate, said that the committee on army was looking at how to help to enhance the funding.
He said that the national assembly was aware of needs of the army that needed to be provided to enable its personnel to perform their duties effectively.
“We are going to do something despite the fact that the resources are scarce but security is first and everybody has agreed to that.
“We are looking at the budget critically to place our priorities right so that the right things will be done first.”
Namdas said that the joint committee had embark on fact finding tour to army formations across the country and realised that the army had challenges.
According to him, they are really on ground, they have done so much and now that the National Assembly is considering the budget we can appropriate for the army.
“We will see how we can be able to adjust and see how that can be able to cope with the challenges at hand,” he said.
Namdas also disclosed that a motion to provide for special funding for the armed forces was currently being considered on the floor of the House of Representatives.
He added that the armed forces could not be adequately funded only by the budget, adding that there was need to look beyond the budget to finance the operations of the armed forces.
“That motion has been taken and we are looking to it and by the special grace of God, even after the budget we will look for special funding for the armed forces generally,” he said.
The Depot Nigerian Army on Saturday graduated a total of 4832 regular recruits who would be deployed to various formations of the army.
Similarly, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, urged the graduating soldiers to always uphold the oath of allegiance they had taken to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
Olonisakin also tasked them to display total loyalty while pledging that the prevailing security challenges would soon be over through the commitment of the military.
APC, Party For Notorious Liars – Ayade
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State has described the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a group of persons notorious for lies, especially in his state.
He said the assertions credited to the APC chairman in the state, John Ochala, over his return to school to pursue a Master’s degree in law at UNICAL were as laughable and pathetic as the party itself in the state, adding “the party in the state is notorious for lies.”
Ochala is reported to have said that Governor Ayade returned to school because of idleness and laziness and that he (Ayade) lacked ideas on how to govern the state.
But the Governor in a statement by Mr. Christian Ita, his chief media adviser, said it was “funny that a party like APC which prides itself as a major opposition cannot engage the Governor on governance issues but chooses to lie to score cheap political points.
“If they didn’t see anything wrong with Governor Malam Nasir el-Rufai returning to school in 2017 in faraway Netherlands for his PhD, what,then is wrong if Governor Ayade returns to school to add to his numerous degrees within Calabar, the state capital?” he asked.
The statement reminded the APC that Chief Whip of the Senate and member of the APC, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu was an undergraduate student while serving as Abia State governor.
“The timing of Governor Ayade’s decision to return to school is unequivocally perfect. Unlike APC members, the governor, despite all the resources at his disposal didn’t choose any foreign university, he decided to do it locally thereby boosting the reputation of Nigerian universities at a time tertiary institutions in West Africa are under attack,” he said. Ayade said to attack his quest for more academic degrees shows that APC in the state was weak as opposition party and could not be able to distract him.
Friday Nwagbara, Calabar
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