After a long wait for President Muhammadu Buhari to pick ministers for his second term in office, he eventually did so with the presentation for screening by the Senate, a complement of 43 nominees, comprising 36 men and seven women; none of whom was less than 35 years of age. The list indicated that 11 of the previous ministers were returning, while 32 new ones are coming on board. Five states had two nominees each and the rest were availed just one nominee each. Expectedly, the list attracted mixed reactions from Nigerians and foreigners alike as some of its features were simply inexplicable even by the most intrepid political pundits in the country.
For the Rivers State, the story was not different as the sole nominee – Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, did not attract less concern – both for his supporters and those who had crossed his path with bitter experiences in the past along his political trajectory, as one of the most privileged Nigerians to occupy public office serially, at both state and national levels. It was therefore not difficult for questions to arise over what the Rivers State will face in Buhari’s second term, with Amaechi as the minister representing the state.
Concern over Amaechi’s proclivities as minister in Buhari’ second term could not have been raised better than by the Senate Minority Leader – the erudite Senator Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe, (representing Abia East) who during the ministerial screening last week, and in very clear terms, advised the former that as Minister he is to serve the entire country “including Rivers State”. Abaribe went on to appeal to the nominee that as Minister from and representing the Rivers State, Amaechi should see himself as a critical stakeholder in the entrenchment and sustenance of peace and progress in the state. To round off his message to Amaechi, Abaribe urged him not to forget the revitalisation of the Eastern Corridor of the country’s railway system which starts from Port Harcourt and runs across the South East and all through to the North East of the country.
The circumstance under which the Senator from Abia State was constrained to lecture a ministerial nominee from Rivers State on the benefits of peace in the latter’s own state, may seem out of place.
However, at the risk of sounding immodest but with no pun intended, it can be stated here that Amaechi had by his acts of commission and omission in the past, wittingly earned for himself the odious image of an incubus, that is determined to destroy whatever he fails to control in the state.
This self-serving agenda of his, manifested at least in several areas of interface between the Federal Ministry of Transportation which he served as its head in the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari, and is likely to be re-posted there for the second term. While the universal homily holds that “Charity begins at home”, Amaechi seemed to have reversed it with a mindset of “Charity begins abroad and dies at home”.
As an individual who the good people of Rivers State honoured specially with the rare privilege of serving unprecedentedly as Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly for two terms of eight years, and as governor for another two terms of eight years, the least to be expected from him was to lead in the transformation of the state to the next level in development, by utilising any opportunity he finds at his disposal, beyond his tenures in the previous elevated public offices. To accentuate his humongous indebtedness to the state was that even his elevation to the office of Minister, was facilitated during his tenure as governor of the Rivers State.
However, rather than meet public expectation with respect to building up the state as a partner in progress with the succeeding administration of Nyesom Wike, he elected to operate as a reducing agent as far as any of the goodies from the federal government that was designated for the Rivers State is concerned. A stock taking exercise on the ‘contributions’ to Rivers State by Amaechi as Minister of Transportation during Buhari’s first term will not exclude the avoidable collapse of the two major seaports of Port Harcourt and Onne, the blight of the Eastern Railway Corridor and the shenanigans surrounding the remodelling of the Port Harcourt Airport – all under his ministry.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, Amaechi’s re-appointment by Buhari as minister representing Rivers State in the second term in office, does not just elicit concern, but is seen by many as essentially ominous, thereby putting the federal government on the block to assuage the fears around such a dispensation, within the state and elsewhere. It is not out of place to appreciate that even Abaribe’s Senate floor appeal to Amaechi, not to forget the revival of the Eastern Corridor of the country’s railway system, is associated remotely or otherwise, with this fear.
Yet, Amaechi does not need to carry, and has nothing to benefit from carrying continuously, the toga of a vindictive spoilsport in Buhari’s second term. All he has to do is to be friendly to the government and people of the Rivers State. In fact, by so doing, he will not only atone for his sins against the state, but also prove most eloquently, that President Buhari does not harbour any malevolent agenda for the state, in his second term.
Wike Lifts Curfew On Parts Of Port Harcourt …Lifts Suspension Of Obio/Akpor LG Chairman, Deputy …As RSG Moves To Implement Palliatives
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has lifted the curfew imposed on Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction along Ikwerre Road, and Obiri-Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba, effective, today.
Wike also lifted the suspension of the chairman and deputy chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
He announced these decisions during a state broadcast, yesterday.
Wike said: “With effect from tomorrow, April 3, 2020, the 24 hours curfew imposed from Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction along Ikwerre Road and Obiri-Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba has been lifted.
“All borders and markets in the state remain closed.
“Following the interventions of some well-meaning citizens of the state, the suspension of the chairman and deputy chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area has been lifted.
“However, this should serve as a warning to local government chairmen and traditional rulers who will allow markets to be open in their areas.
“Residents of Mgbuosimini-Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area are hereby warned to desist from flouting government directive on closure of markets or be prepared to face unpleasant consequences.
“Commercial vehicle operators will soon get appropriate directives on their operations in order to maintain social distancing”, the governor said.
Wike explained that his administration was working out palliative measures to cushion the effects of the sit-at-home directive.
He said: “Implementation of palliatives to cushion the effects of recent directives on the citizens will soon take effect.
“International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the state should support government by donating towards the containment of the virus”, he appealed.
The governor thanked Rivers people for their cooperation, saying, “My Dear Good People of Rivers State, let me sincerely thank all of you for your patience and understanding all these days.
“The sacrifices we are all making have greatly helped us not to record any positive case since the index case was reported.
“As we continue to put in our best as human beings, we expect that the Almighty God will intervene on our behalf and wipe away this plague from our midst.
“May I, therefore, urge you all to continue to seek the face of God as we earnestly await His divine intervention,” he added.
US, UK Diaspora Groups Hail Wike’s Measures Against COVID-19 Spread
Two Rivers groups based in the United States of America, Ikwerre Peoples Forum, and Rivers Development Forum, have commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike for taking proactive measures to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state.
In separate press statements, yesterday, the two groups expressed satisfaction that the governor was committed to the protection of Rivers people through actions that have stopped the explosion of Coronavirus in the state.
The Chairman of Ikwerre Peoples Forum, USA, Mr Michael Ewule, said that after Lagos State, Rivers State was the next major hub in the country that can be accessed through air, land and sea.
He said that the determined efforts of Wike saved the state from the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus in the state.
The forum stated that: “We have watched closely what is happening all around Nigeria, and we are happy that our Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has worked hard to prevent Coronavirus from spreading.
“We support the measures that have been taken by Governor Nyesom Wike to stop Coronavirus from killing our people. Worldwide, such measures have been taken by governments to stop Coronavirus”, the forum noted.
The group urged the Rivers State Government to continue to review the measures in line with new developments.
The forum stated that it was working with non-governmental organisations and faith-based groups in Rivers State to reach out to Rivers people with donations of hand sanitizers and face masks.
The group also commended Governor Nyesom Wike for setting up a world-class treatment centre, which was handling the index case in the state.
The IPF further lauded the Rivers State governor for mobilising health professionals, facilities and drugs to tackle the disease.
Similarly, the Chairman of Rivers Development Forum, USA, Piegbara Baridoma, said the union was happy with Governor Nyesom Wike for working for the people at this tough time.
He called on Rivers people to support the governor to keep the state healthy through the right measures.
Baridoma noted that the sensitization process by the Rivers State Government since the index case of Coronavirus in Nigeria was reported has helped to create awareness of the disease in the state.
He explained that because the people are aware, it would be easier for health professionals in the state to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, Rivers United Front, a Coalition of Rivers State Indigenes based in the United Kingdom has commended Governor Nyesom Wike for displaying pragmatic leadership in the fight against coronavirus.
In a statement issued by the President and the Secretary of the Group, Dr.Tubotamuno Mpaka and Mr. Kingsley Chimzi respectively, they stated that the proactive approach employed by the Governor has helped to contain the virus.
Lockdown: Open Food Reserve Centres Now, PDP Tells Buhari
Federal lawmakers from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the House of Representatives have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately unlock the national food reserve agency and distribute items to Nigerians across the 774 local government areas.
This, they said, will curb the spate of hunger in the land amid the lockdown order to halt the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
In a statement issued by the parliamentarians under the umbrella name, “PDP House of Reps Caucus”, yesterday, signed by their leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers State, PDP) and made available to newsmen in Abuja, the members said that available records indicated that compliance to total lockdown has not always been 100 per cent successful if the food question was not addressed.
While commending Buhari for the directive during his state broadcast last Sunday, the caucus, in the statement titled, “COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Further and Decentralized Action”, also asked the National Assembly to immediately enact a law for national food prices control.
The caucus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken our country on the emergency course, unexpected and unanticipated at the beginning of the year that strategic legal, policy and legislative responses have dovetailed into measures directed at curtailing or halting the pandemic.
“As members of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives, we have consistently called, and we still continue to call, for measured responses that take the poor economic conditions of Nigerians, the rights of citizens, the scaling up of the medicare framework, into account in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While many governors have stepped away from what Prof Wole Soyinka rightly described this week as an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic virus by constitutional piracy, we note that the absence of a structured federal response, based on the dictates of the law, may have led them to ramp up measures outside the remit of their constitutional powers.
“The rule of law has now prevailed, and it is in this light we welcome some of the measures outlined in the President’s belated broadcast and in the Regulation (COVID-19 Regulation 2020) made pursuant to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act; though the presidential broadcast and Regulation took a long time coming. Well, better late than never. While we find the measures largely satisfying, it is our considered view that the palliative measures outlined in the presidential broadcast and regulation are not far-reaching enough, while some are completely inapplicable.
“Experiences through history have shown that citizens’ rights to movement are often heavily implicated when measures directed at halting the spread of contagious diseases and restoring public safety do not address the food question behind the curtains, worsening food security conditions.
“During the Ebola outbreak a few years ago, citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone openly defied the restrictions that were imposed on movement to limit the transmission of the disease, after staying indoors for a few days in hunger. We must learn quickly from these experiences by ensuring that immediate measures on food security are ramped up.
“One way of doing this is to open up our national food and grain reserves across the country and distribute food to the poorest of the poor in our country at the Local government level. The President should as a matter of utmost urgency issue an Executive Order, pursuant to his powers preserved by Section 5 of the Constitution 1999, directing the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, National Food Reserve Agency and National Emergency Management Authority to release and manage the distribution of food in our national reserves.
“The Executive Order must set out clear consequences for breach, particularly as they relate to public officials who seize on the times to make brisk businesses and gains from the miseries of the people.
“Other measures such as food prices control should be ramped up; though specific, targeted and temporary legislation on food prices control will be needed for enforcement. This is where the National Assembly comes in – by establishing a framework of teleconferencing and social media communication, where the current lockdown and the medical advisories that bar public gatherings make it impossible for the reconvening of the National Assembly, to deliberate and pass such bills, as the Food Prices Control, COVID-19 Containment, Emergency and Disaster Management, into law.”
Also commending the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and the House for the timely passage of an emergency bill to provide palliatives and the donation of members’ of March and April, 2020 salaries to fight the disease, the opposition lawmakers, however, asked that their deductions be transferred directly to their constituencies, saying they had no confidence in the sharing formula of the government.
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