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Rivers’ Brotherhood Revisited

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Excesses are the uncountable number of syndromes in any governmental sector which can render it to ruin. The White men say that “excess of everything is diabolical or bad”. This philosophical statement seems to be directed at Rivers indigenes and their governments from 1967 till date.
Congratulations to the maiden Governor of the state, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, a Bayelsan who set the pace for others to emulate through the policy of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation. Also, I thank the present Governor of the state, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his wisdom in applying the realistic political philosophy to move the state to its present level.
From here, I am appealing to all our leaders in Rivers State to combine the past history with the present and endeavour to create room for adjustments. Rivers State is the Treasure Base of the Nation, but the indigenes are hardly benefitting from the material and physical wealth of the state. It is manipulated by the non-indigenes due to no cooperation among Rivers people. Even though there are cultural differences among the indigenes, languages and tribal sentiments, such must be controlled as is done in other states of the federation.
Rivers State is used as a ‘scape goat’ and becomes victim of circumstance. When such is not practised by other neighbouring states, then why Rivers State only?
Truly speaking and as recounted, the different sectors of the Rivers economy are controlled by the non-indigenes. For instance, at the Civil Service Secretariat in Port Harcourt, some non indigenes claim to be Ikwerres whose language align with Igbo and continue to occupy paramount positions. Such is not happening in our neighbouring states. Evaluating the data of the working population, only 10% of the citizens are amongst the working class. As a writer, I went to the Schools Board of Imo State in Owerri, and was not granted the privilege to go in, being a Rivers indigene. Understanding them was not easy for me. They used their language power (Igbo) so that I would not understand them. In Rivers State, everything is accessible to strangers and they transact business anywhere without limitation. This has continued in the state for a long time.
Rivers indigenes are now treated as strangers and remain alienated from their natural resources. They are now like slaves in their land, looking beggarly and poverty-stricken. No leader wants to hear the hue and cry his people.
Does it mean that Rivers State should always consider others, while neighbouring states cannot consider Rivers people when it is their turn to recruit? If others fail to consider employing Rivers indigenes,why then should Rivers State do hers differently? The neigbouring states use language and cultural differences to wave off all others, and to abide strictly on recruiting their indigenes. Are Rivers leaders invoked to consider non-indigenes leaving out some of their equally qualified indigenes?
What is happening in Rivers State can be likened to the border impasse between Nigeria and her contiguous West African neighbours. For far too long, Nigeria has acted as a big brother to these neighbours at the expense of her economy. In return, she has benefitted very little (if anything).
Rivers State has always accommodated applications from indigenes of other states in Nigeria during job recruitments and contract awards. This is not to suggest that she lacks sufficient number of her own indigenes who are qualified and willing to undertake such duties. It is understandably in the spirit of brotherhood.
But what treatment do Rivers indigenes get elsewhere? Discrimination, intimidation, nepotism, exploitation and outright robbery. It is extremely difficult to identify any Rivers name in the payroll of any of her neighbouring states. To be sure, a few years ago when some South East States attempted to purge their civil services of non-indigenous workers, Rivers State was hardly affected because no Rivers man or woman got pay- rolled in the said states.
Now, there is news of the recruitment of another set of workers in the Rivers State University (RSU), Port Harcourt, leading to the setting up of RSU Employment Committee by the state governor. The mistake of the past should not repeat itself. Consideration must be given to the indigenes first before we can think of non-indigenes. Also, Rivers leaders in public and private positions of responsibility should begin to reconcile and relate well with each other. There should be no political antagonism amongst the ordinary citizens and the elites.
We must sink our social, political and cultural acrimonies for the purpose of establishing good goals and objectives to fulfill the dreams of the founding fathers of this esteemed state.
Only through this realization can we build a virile state ready to curtail the strangers who sabotage the economic development of our state. I was chanced to witness the off-shore work by a certain indigenous oil firm in early 2003. While there, I discovered that all the key positions were held by non-indigenes, while the mean ones were left for Rivers men. No Rivers indigene was granted full rights like enjoying the benefits of an ideal citizen.
A Rivers man is a stranger in his land, and the time has come to put an end to this unreasonable tolerance. The Rivers elites should have constant meetings at youth and elite levels of our rural and urban communities where proper resolutions can be taken on issues affecting the Rivers economy, pointing out reasonable suggestions and the way forward.
We cannot continue to feel that, due to our multi-cultural and language differences, there is no way out. Rome was not built in a day. A single tree cannot make a forest. Both the Rivers indigenes at home and abroad should have a sober reflection on issues affecting the state of our economy.
Anor is a Port Harcourt-based social analyst.

 

By: Christian Anor

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Opinion

Sanitising Rivers Housing Estates

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The beauty of any housing estate comes when there are impressive and imposing housing units clustered in an exclusive area with the control, maintenance and sustainability of the desired aesthetic ambience. Many housing estates exist in this country, from east to west and from north to south, but the question is how regulated are they or how do they conform with the best practices as stipulated by the United nations or any other regulatory body?
This is the reason why the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike CON, charged the newly constituted Board of Rivers State Housing and Property Development Authority (RSHPDA), hereinafter referred to as ‘the Authority,’ that the dilapidated nature of the Rivers State housing estates is of concern to him. He charged the body to move in and sort out the “mess” created in the estates. This calls for absolute regulation and sanitization of the estates.
The Board members who were well-chosen by him comprised a chairman who works in an estate firm of international repute, estate valuers, a retired well-rounded permanent secretary, a senior member of the Bar, a renowned journalist and a seasoned woman leader.
These Board members are set to put in their best in regard to repositioning the Authority to meet the desired objective of his Excellency’s target in this sector.
The Board members, after their inauguration, hit the ground running by carrying out their operational research to identify and sort out the major challenges which provided a road map to aid the anticipated operations vide the “Housing and property Development Authority Edict No. 14, 1985, Part II, A62 and A64, among other provisions and, in part, states that:-
“2 (a) to undertake the development, construction and management of housing estates and industrial estates;
(i) To plan, develop, maintain and promote beauty sports including parks and gardens in its estates or other property’
(m) to control the environment within its sphere of operation generally.”
First of all, the members zeroed in by having a conducted tour of the various housing estates owned by the Authority to ascertain their state of functionality. The estates include Elekahia, Rumuobiakani, Rumuibekwe, presidential, Ndoki, Marine Base, Aggrey, Abuloma Phase I, II, III; Diobu Mile I, II, III; Port Harcourt Township, Rumuomasi and Iriebe Housing Estates.
From the inspection of the estates, the Board found the system had been turned upside down with tenants pulling down buildings and replacing them with churches, duplexes, shopping complex, etc. It was, indeed, a threatre of the absurd – even clusters of numerous batchers nestled with the estate buildings, thus defacing the entire estate. There might have been peaks and valleys on the regulation of tenancy of these estates in the past but this time around the new team is ready to put paid to all irregularities that have pervaded the management of the estates.
Critically following its core mandate, the Authority, working at full stilt to bring the estate in line with the best practices in the world, issued notices directing owners of buildings in the estate to remove all illegal structures around their buildings within a stipulated time.
Without wasting any time, the team recently went into action and pulled down all illegal structures which were earlier marked for demolition. By these bold acts, the Authority could move the needle towards bringing sanity and security in the various estates.
Regrettably, some residents were angered by this act which made them resort to protesting. They must be aware that they cannot eat omelets without breaking eggs. However, putting a human face into whatever action that has been taken by the Authority, and considering the prevailing circumstances, the Authority directs owners to come to its office to seek permission to build security houses and fences within the estates.
In furtherance of this order, the Authority directs that all buildings, security houses, fences must be painted with the estate colour to bring uniformity in the estates.
The Authority, in pursuing the administration’s set goals with such single-minded purpose and dedication, is ready to re-invigorate the management of the housing estates in Rivers State to serve the people better and make them revel in modernity.
Furthermore, the Authority warns that there will be regular checks in all the estates to ascertain heir compliance with the rules and regulations of the Authority and that defaulters will, henceforth, be penalised. Raising the bar of performance should be the watchword of the Authority to bring out the best in the estates.
The Authority’s ultimate aim is to protect the environment, identify defaulters, prevent irregularities in Rivers estates, and eventually bring in the deserved revenue for the state. Let’s all join hands to restore the value of the estates in Rivers State in line with the Governor’s administrative thoughts in order to bring back the Garden City status of old which we are all proud of.
Thom-Manuel is on the Board of RSHPDA.

 

Nimi Thom-Manuel

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Opinion

Buhari Must Read This

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Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to give a boost to the education sector. Irrefutably, the alarming crime rate in the country resulted from the neglect of the sector for decades. The leadership class patronized foreign and private universities but abandoned public schools which the majority of citizens could afford. And to make the matter worse, they’re never bothered about what goes on in public schools except pecuniary interests.
Consequently, the quality or products are affected. All the misconducts, atrocities they without restrictions embraced and practised in schools followed them outside the walls of the institutions after their graduation. Today, scamming, banditry, kidnapping and ritual-killings are rampant in the society, and the policymakers alongside their children they sent abroad or private schools and the general public are all the victims. It means everyone is paying the price and, therefore, points to the fact that the sector deserves critical attention.
Discernibly, public schools over the years breed more of questionable characters that constitute menace to national security. And except checkmated, the future is bleak. By the rampant incidents of crimes involving young persons in the recent times, it is obvious the society has started paying for the neglects. Hence, President Buhari’s resolve is on track.
Relatively, the unending frustration of law graduates of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) that have been waiting since 2013 for admission quota into the Nigerian Law School leaves much to be desired from federal government. The crisis is now in the fifth year since Buhari assumed office, and altogether seven years after their graduation. The quagmire, to say the least, reflects thriving corruption and system failure.
From investigations, NOUN law students in 2012 contested alongside other home-based universities and emerged overall winner with a great margin. Still, some folks reportedly recommend them for a strange qualifying programme. What then are the criteria to arrive at the conclusions that the star-prize winner is deficient than the beaten counterparts? This is, indeed, absurd. Nigeria must not continue to enthrone selfish interests at the expense of public interest thereby ridiculing itself in the world.
As Buhari extends premium attention to education which is commendable, ensuring that these victims are admitted into the nation’s law school without further delay is important. The law school is a government facility and, therefore, cannot be used by some individuals to settle personal scores. This matter has lingered excessively and should be addressed forthwith. It is insane that despite Senate’s amendment of the controversial clause in NOUN Act to which Buhari gave assent, the matter is still dancing. This is bizarre.
The question is, why must officials that are evidently frustrating government’s policies and citizens’ careers be retained in the cabinet even when insecurity is alarming? In which country of the world would students that studied in a government institution be encumbered like in this scenario? Yet, the government is voting much resources in fighting crimes. Anyway, Buhari has a duty as the President to ensure that no vulnerable citizens are oppressed by advantaged individuals.
Perceptibly, NOUN was recommended for a strange one full-year Bar Part-1 to possibly separate her graduates for malicious doses, particularly mass failures. Or, is it possible that the separation plan is to prevent them from competing with others for fear of another win? Otherwise, on what ground will they exclusively undergo a strange qualifying programme even after defeating their counterparts in a national moot-court competition? Arguably, their win sufficiently attested to their proficiency and superiority.
The greatest danger is that to execute hidden agendas can easily succeed if they will be in secluded class which is unprecedented in the history of the Nigerian Law School. From inception, all students from various universities attend classes and sit for examinations together without any discrimination. Obviously, to settle scores is foreseeable.
The second is; NOUN is not a foreign university that undergoes Bar Part-1 which is purposely to remedy about six home-based courses that are not offered overseas but essential for practice in the country, and NOUN offered all those courses as approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC) like other home-based universities.
Again, the Bar Part-1 in the law school is a three-month programme with a tuition of N220,000.00 (Two hundred and twenty thousand naira). By the absurd plan, it means NOUN law graduates will even pay more as the strange classes will run a full year, and not three months. Note this is different from the compulsory Bar Part-2 for all students; foreign and home students with a tuition of N310,000.00 (Three hundred and ten thousand naira) preceding call to bar.
The third issue is the strange ‘fail-once-and-quit’ proviso discriminatorily for NOUN law graduates. In other words, they will possibly be victimized through mischievous mass failure in the Bar Part-1 after spending such a volume of money, and encumbered from qualifying for Bar Part-2 while their counterparts can rewrite failed modules in Bar-1 & 2 for many times. This, therefore, is a pointer to a sinister motive to ground these citizens’ career as alternative option. Presidency should take note.
Of course, the authorities can review academic programme in the law school if needful, however, it must be applicable to all students. It is imperative to reiterate that NOUN, as a home-based university offered the same courses approved by the regulatory body (NUC) like her counterparts in the country. Hence, there is no basis to subject them to undergo any strange programme.
Clearly, their opponents do not have strong arguments but mere hostility. Federal government should critically note that these victims are grown-ups from families and have responsibilities. Above all, it is despicable for President Buhari’s assent to be facing such resistance from his own appointees, fearlessly. To summarize, these students must be admitted into the law school they qualified for accordingly. They shouldn’t be pushed further to take laws into their hands. Thus, let their admission quota be released.
Isowo, a social activist, wrote this piece from Ilorin, Kwara state.

 

Yakubu Isowo

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Opinion

NASS Complex: Repairs Or Upgrade? 

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Since the National Assembly (NASS) approved N37 billion in the 2020 budget for the renovation of the NASS complex, there have been interminable arguments or disputes over the appropriateness or otherwise of the amount.
As opinions on the issue appear to oscillate, various camps or divides are being formed in defence of their respective positions. The NASS lawmakers have been working assiduously to convince Nigerians that the humongous amount of money for the project wasn’t misplaced. On the other hand, civil society groups think that the amount is another monumental waste the lawmakers have always driven the nation into.
As the debates and arguments surge furiously on all sides, there seems to be no meeting point on the issue. So, it will be a useful expedient that we don’t sit idle and observe a question of this nature pass by without deeply interrogating it to discover the truth and take a firm position.
When the NASS legislators sacrificed their annual vacation in order to approve the 2020 budget, some thought it was done squarely for national interest and to return the country to the January to December budget cycle which hitherto had failed to materialise for many years. They were hailed for a misconstrued sacrificial act. But their real intentions were revealed when Nigerians discovered their insertion of N37 billion in the budget.
It is difficult to understand how the federal lawmakers arrived at the figures without full consideration for the nation’s battered economy which has always been at the butt of global economic rankings. Is it not surprising that despite the belt-tightening homily by President Muhammadu Buhari in his New Year message to Nigerians, the lawmakers could still propose such a prodigious amount for the renovation of the NASS complex?
It seems the NASS lawmakers who pretended to understand Nigeria’s economic problems in their campaigns towards the 2019 election, have suddenly lost touch of what this nation of over 180 million people is experiencing. Why have they chosen to close their eyes to the economic realities and shameful waste of our resources?
Although current oil prices appear favourable, where were these lawmakers when the World Bank forewarned that Nigeria’s economy could be at great risk should oil prices fall to the level they were in 2016? Besides, in arriving at the decision to spend that much on the renovation of the NASS complex, the lawmakers could have considered our rising debt profile and the amount used to service it. Why didn’t these factors feature in their debate?
The truth is what the lawmakers are asking for is more than an upgrade. It is an outright reconstruction or rebuilding of the complex. That is why when Nigerians queried the proposal during the public debate, the criticisms were dismissed, especially by the senators. Anyone who has seen the NASS structure in Abuja of recent would agree that the edifice is not dishevelled and therefore doesn’t require any renovation or reconstruction.
This is not the first time federal lawmakers have been berated by Nigerians for their unwise spending habits in a dwindling economy like ours. A few months ago, senators purchased SUVs that cost the nation N5.5 billion despite criticisms by Nigerians. Those vehicles were purchased in the face of cheaper alternatives. It is sad that these federal legislators, rather than act in ways that would benefit the country economically, indulge in wastes that have always earned them storms of criticisms.
Our federal lawmakers have to purge themselves of the arrogance of power and denigration of the opinion of Nigerians, particularly in matters that affect the country. Such arrogance always arouses the anger of Nigerians. If not properly checked, these legislators might become a law to themselves.
Ever since the advent of the present administration, there have been excessive dependence on foreign and domestic borrowings. Therefore, a question the legislators ought to ask is whether it is profitable to borrow, not for the development of the nation, but for white elephant projects that add no value to the economy such as the one they have included in the budget?
I believe it is better to invest such money more widely in small scale businesses that can get several Nigerians employed than expend it on an unbeneficial single project. Indeed, the ongoing controversy clearly indicates that we haven’t got our priorities right. Hence, the lawmakers should cut down the cost of the project in more drastic ways than expected.

 

Arnold Alalibo

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