The Rivers State Government says the issues of oil exploration and the degradation of land and water of the Niger Delta region, especially Ogoni land has impacted negatively on the lives of our people.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike stated this during the commissioning of office building and laboratory of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in Port Harcourt, last Friday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, the governor said that since the last quarter of 2016, Port Harcourt atmosphere has suffered from the appearance of black soot which was very injurious to the health of the people as they could no longer engage in their natural vocation to carter for their families.
He said the state government had to set up a high-powered technical committee which expressed the need for the Federal Government to implement the stop gas flaring policy that has been in the archives since 1979, and also to ensure that the gas flare sites were handed over to investors by 2020 as captured in the gas flare commercialisation programme of Nigeria.
Wike said one of the things that came out of the report was the fact that illegally refined petroleum products were being set ablaze by the security forces in a manner that was further endangering the community, the land and the water.
The state chief executive called for the establishment of a tank farm, where seized illegal products can be stored and used for the benefit of the Federal Government and the people.
According to him, the legality of artisanal refining has promoted unregulated use of technology, stressing that the Federal Government should accelerate plans for the establishment of modular refineries in the crude oil-bearing regions of Nigeria.
The governor also advocated that the International Oil Companies (IOCs) should be compelled by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Environment to have remote sensing and command control centres which can detect oil spills, leakages and oil facilities tampering across their operational areas, to enable them spot vulnerable points on the pipelines.
Wike, who expressed the state government’s willingness to partner with NOSDRA to achieve results, expressed the hope that the commissioning of the laboratory would positively impact on the lives of the people in the oil producing region.
In her keynote address, the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, said the Federal Government was committed to oil spill management in Nigeria, noting that the implementation of the United Nations Environment Report (UNEP) on Ogoniland led to the setting up of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
According her, remediation works were underway and it was intended that all remediated sites would be restored to all practical extent, and directed that the facilities available in the National Oil Spill Response Laboratory should be patronized by HYPREP and its contractors as well as the oil companies operating across the nation to maximize the potential of the facility.
She congratulated NOSDRA for the completion of its office in Port Harcourt, which according to her, was the hub of oil exploration and production in Nigeria, and urged the agency to ensure that standards were kept and maintained in line with international best practices.
In his remark, the Director General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, said the building was designed to serve as administrative block, warehouse for oil spill response equipment and reference laboratory for the agency.
Musa noted that the sitting of the National Oil Spill Reference Laboratory in Port Harcourt by the agency was deliberate in view of its central location in the Niger Delta region, where oil prospecting and production activities were predominant in Nigeria at the moment.
Police Sergeant, One Other Nabbed In PH Robbery
The Rivers State Police Command, yesterday, confirmed the arrest of one of its officers, Sergeant Ibrahim Odege, for alleged involvement in armed robbery in Port Harcourt.
Odege, attached to the Operations Department of the Rivers Police Command, was caught, last Saturday night along with one Sampson Inomoghe ‘m’ 32 years by security guards and residents of Elekahia Housing Estate, where they reportedly robbed victims at gunpoint.
In a statement in Port Harcourt, yesterday, following the handover of both suspects to the police, the State Command Public Relations Officer, SP Nnamdi Omoni, said the police officer and his civilian partner-in-crime were caught at about 2200hrs.
Omoni said, “The two armed robbers were later identified as Sergeant Ibrahim Odege attached to the Operations Department of the Rivers State Police Command and one Sampson Inomoghe ‘m’ 32 years from Nembe in Bayelsa State but resides at Rumuokwurushi in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
“The duo were arrested at the scene of the crime with the exhibits, including three different handsets belonging to their victims and one locally made Bareta pistol.
“One of the victims, Mrs Doris Elechi identified them as those that robbed her of her Tecno handset, one of the exhibits recovered. At the station, the suspects confessed to have carried out the robbery attacks, among other revelations.
“Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, has condemned the act, and ordered the immediate transfer of the suspects and exhibits to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) for investigation.”
Reports had earlier indicated that a suspected armed robber who was among two others arrested by security guards and residents of Elekahia Housing Estate was seen with an identity card of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
It was gathered that the suspects were arrested on Saturday night after successfully robbing two ladies, but could not escape from the estate because of the presence of members of local vigilante group.
Speaking with newsmen, President of Elekahia Progressive Youths, Prince One Aholu, confirmed the arrest by the youths of the area, saying he got the report that the suspects were arrested during a robbery operation in the area by local vigilante team.
Aholu said the security guards alerted police officers from Elekahia Divisional Police Station in Port Harcourt, who responded swiftly, and arrested the suspects.
The youths president also confirmed that one of the suspects was in possession of an NPF identity card and the two suspects were armed.
He commended the police for their quick response, and urged Elekahia youths to remain calm as the matter was being investigated by the police.
Aholu also urged the police to pay more attention to Elekahia ring road and railway axis as the areas have become a den for criminals.
He alleged that many of the criminals use the railway and ring road axis as operational base, and appealed to security agencies to rid the spots of criminality.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
Don’t Let Buhari Sell Govt Properties To Fund 2021 Budget, SERAP Urges 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 “urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget”.
SERAP also urged them to identify areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for members and the Presidency to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had last week, reportedly confirmed that the Federal Government would sell some government-owned properties to fund the 2021 budget.
This is in addition to the government’s growing borrowing appetite to fund the budget.
SERAP noted that the N13.58trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year signed by Buhari on December 31, 2020, was about N505billion higher than the budget proposed in October, 2020.
The government reportedly proposed to borrow N5.6trillion from domestic and foreign resources to fund the 2021 budget.
In a letter dated January 16, 2021 by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, yesterday, said: “The National Assembly (NASS) has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure a responsible budget spending. Allowing the government to sell public properties and to enjoy almost absolute discretion to borrow to fund the 2021 budget would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and fiduciary duties.”
SERAP maintained that selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive, as it would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement, saying, “it would undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the government worse off, and hurt the country in the long run. It is neither necessary nor in the public interest.”
According to the organisation, “The country’s fiscal situation must be changed – and changed quickly – through some combination of cuts in spending on salaries and allowances, and a freeze on spending in certain areas of the budget such as hardship and furniture allowances, entertainment allowances, international travels, and buying of motor vehicles and utilities for members and the Presidency.”
The statement read in part, “The time is now for the leadership of the National Assembly to stand up for the Nigerian people, stop the rush to sell public properties, push for a responsible budget, and support efforts to have the government spend responsibly.
“Other areas to propose cutting include, constituency allowance, wardrobe allowance, recess allowance, and entertainment allowance.
“SERAP urges the National Assembly to promptly work with the Presidency to fix the current damaging budgeting process and address systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). Tackling corruption in MDAs, and cutting waste and salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officials would go a long in addressing the budget deficit and debt problems.
“SERAP also urges the National Assembly to stop approving loan requests by the Federal Government if it continues to fail to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained.
“The current level of borrowing is unsustainable, which means that the National Assembly under your leadership can play an important role to limit how much the government can borrow in the aggregate. The National Assembly should urgently seek assurances and written commitment from President Buhari about his government’s plan to bring the country’s debt problem under control.
“We would consider the option of pursuing legal action to stop the Federal Government from selling public properties, and we may join the National Assembly in any such suit.
“The budget deficit and debt problems threaten Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services, and will hurt future generations. If not urgently addressed, the deficit and debt problems would seriously undermine access to public goods and services for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
“The deficit and debt problems can be fixed immediately if the National Assembly can exercise its constitutional and fiduciary duties to push for cutting salaries and allowances of members and the president and vice-president”, he added.
Change Security Chiefs, Tactics To Tackle Insecurity, Wike Tells FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has called on the Federal Government to change the security chiefs in order to allow for fresh ideas and strategy in tackling the threats to internal insecurity in Nigeria.
Wike made the call during the wreath laying and parade ceremony organised to mark the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Port Harcourt, last Friday.
The governor, who acknowledged the efforts made so far by the security chiefs in the battle against insurgents, noted, however, that despite full military engagement with Boko Haram and killer bandits, the threats appear to be overwhelming the security agencies.
Wike said, Boko Haram, bandits and killer herdsmen have continued to overrun communities, randomly killing and abducting helpless people.
According to him, these insurgents have also destroyed private and public property with relative ease, adding that it was time for the Federal Government to take decisive action and end such menace.
“A country is as strong as its Armed Forces. Her inability to defeat Boko Haram insurgency despite years of full military engagement shows that all is not well with our approaches and commitments to the battle against internal insecurity.
“Today, therefore, also raises the need for all of us to be worried by the deteriorating security situation across the country, and restate the call on the Federal Government to do everything necessary to bring the security threat by Boko Haram and armed bandits to a decisive end in the shortest possible time.
“We thank the service chiefs for their efforts so far in the battle against the insurgents. But we also align with the concern of citizens that having seemingly reached their wit end, they should now give way for fresh hands and ideas to give the fight the impetus that it so strongly needs to ensure that Boko Haram and killer bandits are comprehensively defeated and smoked out of existence.
“The time has come for the Federal Government to stop the preteens, change strategy, seek help from our friends and confront the urgency of the internal insecurity situation in Nigeria with every weaponry at its disposal to stop the killing, free all hostages and improve the physical security of our country for all Nigerians,” he said.
The governor stated that all Nigerians were gracious beneficiaries of the various sacrifices made by the Armed Forces as they put their life in line to defend the country.
According to Wike, the least duty every Nigerian owe the soldiers, veterans, and their families was to continue to remember, honour and celebrate them for their extraordinary courage in service and sacrifice to the country.
“On this solemn day and occasion, therefore, we join the rest of our country to honour and pay tribute to all our soldiers who died at the various battlefields in the service of our nation.
“We also salute and honour every serving member of the Nigerian Armed Forces carrying on today in the noble tradition of those before them dutifully defending our nation’s territorial integrity.
“They are fighting to keep us safe and secure in the face of insurgencies from Boko Haram, bandits and other criminal elements threatening our peace and security across the country.
“Our beloved country is still together, existing and waxing stronger as one indivisible, free, and democratic country because of your commitment and sacrifice to its unity and progress.
“As Nigerians, our collective desire is to have a country where we can all live in unity, freedom and security. A country where our children and grandchildren can live in relative comfort and strive for a brighter future,” he stated.
Wike reiterated the need to have an enduring reward system for officers and men of the Armed Forces to encourage them in their sacrifices to the country.
He said his administration has continued to implement such financial support policy for security personnel of Rivers origin because of the importance it places on the selfless sacrifices that they make to keep Nigeria united and in peace.
“No amount of recompense can adequately assuage the loss of precious life or the disabling effects of permanent bodily injuries. But we shall never cease to accord profound honour that you deserve and canonise your bravery and patriotism at all times in expression of our gratitude for what you truly represent.
“As a government, we believe that society must endeavour to move beyond the yearly ceremonial ritual and comfort speeches of today to proffer adequate care and support for the families of everyone of our soldiers who unfortunately pays the supreme price or suffers permanent disability in the line of duty to our nation.
“It is for this reason that we have since adopted and implemented the policy framework that guarantees some financial support to the immediate families of any soldier from Rivers State that pays the supreme price or suffers permanent disability at the battlefields in the course of his or her service to our nation.
“We have also fulfilled and continue to fulfill our promises and commitments to our veterans through the Rivers State Chapter of the Nigerian Legion. Two days ago, we released the sum of N70million to the chapter,” he added.
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