According to the African proverb, when a child cries and points consistently at a bush, it is because either of, or both his mother and father may be found there. There has been a persistent outcry by Nyesom Wike, the Governor of the Rivers State over a spree of tacit marginalisation of the state in the political calculus of the Federal Government, whereby the state is sidestepped in the allocation of critical resources and development opportunities from the centre. The most recent was the instance of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approving the development of as much of N1.4 trillion worth of roads across the country, without even a kilometer assigned to Rivers State. Speaking during the commissioning of a project in Port Harcourt recently, Wike lamented over the situation and pointedly accused persons of Rivers State extraction who are leading lights in the Buhari administration of tacit sabotage of the state, by virtue of their seeming complacency at the situation.
On earlier occasions, he had lamented the failure or reluctance of the Federal Government to refund – as is statutorily provided for, the disbursements by the Rivers State Government on federal projects in the state. As a provision in the rules of engagement between the Federal Government and the states, when and if any state faces the imperative of maintaining a Federal Government project located within its territorial expanse and actually executes same, the former remains duty bound to refund the cost of such maintenance to the maintaining state.
This is a cardinal provision in the statutory template of inter relationship between the Federal Government and the 36 federating states under the principle of fiscal federalism. To accentuate the statutory foundation of this proviso, Mr Babatunde Fashola in his capacity as then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, during the first term of the Buhari administration, had informed Nigerians during a project tour in Enugu, that the Federal Government was in the process of raising bonds with which to refund states, their disbursements on federal roads. He had even added that the Federal Government had at that time even compiled such claims for further action. If Fashola’s clarification is to enjoy value beyond mere rhetoric, it evokes significant questions. Firstly is how factual was his statement? The second was whether the compilation of states’ claims was inclusive of all the states of the federation? And thirdly why was Wike lamenting and seems not to be heeded?
In the context of available records, Wike stands justified over his lament as all that he is crying over is for equity to prevail in the administration of the affairs of the country, so that no state should go begging cap in hand for what should ordinarily be its due. From his serial lament, it would seem that Rivers State may have been compelled to do just that. Tracing the relationship between the Federal and Rivers State governments, betrays a long period of neglect and patent denial of the state by the Federal Government, of its due dividends as a legitimately federating state.
However, even as Wike may be lamenting over the issue of denial of refund of funds to the state and denial of roads development in the state, his efforts in this regard qualify for amplification by the various political assets at the disposal of the state. The first level of such assets are the serving Senators and members of the House of Representatives who by statute enjoy the privileges of membership of the various committees of the National Assembly with powers of oversight on business of the Federal Government. Fortunately for the state, they are all of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is the ruling party in the Rivers State. This factor more than justifies why their advocacy against the marginalisation of the state in any form, should not be shy. After all, the amplification of and advocacy on issues of concern to the state, and as had been raised so loudly and clearly by the governor, should constitute their primary assignment in the federal legislature. Ultimately too, their contributions in that respect remains the yardstick for measuring their respective performances in the federal legislature.
The next level of political assets for the state remains the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA), which has the statutory responsibility of advocating the good of the state. So far, not much has been heard from that sector in terms of canvassing globally, the issues that bother the governor, and in respect of which he has been shouting at the roof tops. However, just in case the efforts of the RSHA may not have been appropriately captured by this piece, it is as result of such not being visible enough in the public domain. Just as a caveat, let it be stated that, any advocate that deploys feeble efforts in his or her enterprise, is not more impactful than a handsome young man who is winking at a beautiful girl in the dark. Only he knows what he is doing.
Following then is the big family of past holders of public offices, business leaders and traditional rulers who can still exercise one form of leverage or the other on the country’s leadership community especially at the federal level – if not formally, at least informally on those officials of Rivers State extraction. Their potency cannot be over- emphasised.
Hence, even as the governor may be lamenting the failure of Rivers State born operatives in the Buhari administration for failing to push the interests of the state in his ‘Rivers First’ agenda, their capacity for dragging the state back, may be over-rated. A solid rally of the respective political assets at the disposal of the state, will always prevail in reversing whatever losses the state may have suffered, or may still suffer, in the unrelenting spate of tacit and manifest sidestepping by various agents of the Federal Government.
Trans-Kalabari Road: Banigo, Stakeholders Condemn Abduction Of Expatriate
Kalabari traditional rulers and stakeholders have condemned the recent abduction of an expatriate staff of Lubric Construction Company working on the Trans-Kalabari Road.
Speaking at a meeting at the Government House in Port Harcourt, last Friday, Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo said she was deeply pained by the unfortunate incident carried out by unknown miscreants.
According to the deputy governor, who said that the State Chief Executive Officer, Nyesom Wike, was desirous to bring more development projects to Kalabari Kingdom, regretted that this act was capable of discouraging him.
“I want to reiterate that our governor is very desirous to do more developmental projects in our communities, there are many more things he has in the card to do for us, and if we allow this ugly thing to surface, that attitude will discourage him”, the deputy governor noted.
Banigo, who said that perpetrators of the heinous crime did not drop from the sky, insisted that they were community people, and must be fished out and dealt with decisively, while calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the abductee.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, expressed regrets that a project as important as the Trans-Kalabari Road would be tampered with by persons who do not mean well for the Kalabari people.
“If their intention is to run down the good works of our dear governor, over a project which the Kalabari people have been yearning for over the years, then, I am sure God Almighty will not allow them to get away with this dastardly act of kidnapping one expatriate”, Alabraba stressed.
Alabraba further said, “It is important that we talk to ourselves and ensure that everything possible is done to ensure immediate release of the victim, and ensure that measures are put in place to forestall this type of thing in the future”.
Presenting a seven-point communique, Amanyanabo of Minama, King Iboroma Talbot Pokubo, who represented the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disreal Gbobo Bobmanuel, demanded for the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate, and reassured Governor Wike of their unwavering support for the governor.
Buhari Approves Incorporation Of NNPC, Appoints Board Members
President Muhammadu Buhari, has directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited be incorporated.
He also approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as chairman.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, was appointed chief executive officer.
This was contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, saying that the president acted in accordance with the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari, in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, has directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
“This is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the company.
“The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kolo Kyari, has, therefore, been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.
“Also, by the power vested in him under Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021, President Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of incorporation of the company.
“Chairman of the board is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are chief executive officer, and chief financial officer, respectively.
“Other board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North-East); Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North-Central); Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North-West); Senator Margaret Chuba Okadigbo (South-East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South-South); and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West).”
Reject Buhari’s Fresh Loan Request, SERAP Tells NASS
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; to reject the fresh request by President Muhammadu Buhari, to borrow $4billion and €710million.
SERAP said if such request must be granted, the Federal Government should publish details of spending of all loans obtained since May 29, 2015.
The group also expressed fear that if the fresh request is granted, it may take Nigeria’s to over N35trillion.
Buhari recently sought the approval of the National Assembly to borrow $4,054,476,863 and €710million, on the grounds of “emerging needs.”
The request was contained in a letter dated August 24, 2021.
In an open letter dated September 18, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation expressed “concerns about the growing debt crisis, the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of loans that have been obtained, and the perceived unwillingness or inability of the National Assembly to vigorously exercise its constitutional duties to check the apparently indiscriminate borrowing by the government.”
SERAP said, “The National Assembly should not allow the government to accumulate unsustainable levels of debt, and use the country’s scarce resources for staggering and crippling debt service payments rather than for improved access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic public services and human rights.
“The country’s public debt has mushroomed with no end in sight. The growing national debt is clearly not sustainable. There has been no serious attempt by the government to cut the cost of governance. The leadership of the National Assembly ought to stand up for Nigerians by asserting the body’s constitutional powers to ensure limits on national debt and deficits.
“Should the National Assembly and its leadership fail to rein in government borrowing, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public loans, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly to discharge its constitutional duties.
“SERAP notes that if approved, the country’s debts will exceed N35trillion. The government is also reportedly pushing the maturity of currently-secured loans to between 10 and 30 years. N11.679trillion is reportedly committed into debt servicing, while only N8.31trillion was expended on capital/development expenditure between 2015 and 2020.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of loans by the government and cutting the cost of governance would address the onerous debt servicing, and improve the ability of the government to meet the country’s international obligations to use maximum available resources to ensure the enjoyment of basic economic and social rights, such as quality healthcare and education”, SERAP added.
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