The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has restated his earlier position that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flag bearer in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki, has no opponent.
Speaking as a guest on a live television programme, last Wednesday, Wike said that the people of Edo State already know the type of candidate the All Progressives Congress (APC) was presenting, going by what Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said of him four years ago.
“Adams Oshiomhole told Edo people that Osagie Ize-Iyamu was rusticated from school; that he poured acid on a fellow student which destroyed his manhood. That he is an armed robber that cannot be trusted with money.
“Such a character cannot be accepted by Edo people as governor during the election.
“I respect the Benin tradition and I know that Edo people are educated to know that Oshiomhole cannot play on their intelligence. If he is now retracting what he said of Ize-Iyamu, who is sure that he’s saying the correct thing now.
“Adams Oshiomole’s sudden u-turn is a great insult on Edo people. This is an opportunity for Edo people both at home and in the Diaspora to use their votes to tell Oshiomhole that they cannot take his lies anymore.
“From all indications, it is obvious that there is no strong opposition against Obaseki, and he will win convincingly”, he said.
Wike, who is the chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council, stated that he and his team accepted the responsibility to lead the campaign because they were satisfied with results coming out already from Edo State.
Wike pointed out that the PDP has continued to take steps in strengthening the nation’s democracy.
According to him, the party does so with the promotion of internal politics, and resolving conflict of interests of members to achieve common goals.
He noted the success recorded by the PDP in conducting free and fair party primaries in Edo State.
The governor explained that all the aspirants decided to work together to support the candidature of Governor Godwin Obaseki who is the party’s flag-bearer.
“It was not easy to have a sole candidate for the party in Edo State. People thought there will be problems, given the fact that Obaseki was coming from another party. But party members who are grounded and believe in the party didn’t see any sacrifice too much to make.
“Even in Ondo State, the former Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, who decamped to PDP, contested keenly during the primaries and lost. If there are other pending issues in the South-West, be sure that the party will resolve them.
“That is exactly what Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as the chairman of South-South States’ Governors had done. He is making sure that we are all on the same page to ensure that all states in the South-South are controlled by PDP,” Wike added.
We’re Prepared For Schools’ Resumption, RSG Assures
The Rivers State Government has assured parents, guardians and students in the state that it was fully prepared for the resumption of schools for exit classes in line with the Federal Government and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) COVID-19 guidelines.
The state Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, gave the assurance while meeting with staff of the ministry in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday, to brief them on the preparations for schools’ resumption in the state.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had, last Monday, announced that secondary school students in the exit classes would resume on Tuesday, August 4.
He enjoined the ministry staff to work assiduously to ensure successful reopening of schools, noting that all hands must be on deck to achieve successful resumption and safe operations of schools.
Ebeku said: “all necessary hygiene kits needed for the safe resumption of schools will be deployed to all public schools”, disclosing that the ministry will also deploy its staff “to ensure strict compliance with the wearing of nose masks and other COVID-19 hygiene protocols within the school premises”.
The commissioner said “there will be a team that will be going around enforcing the compulsory wearing of face masks at the entrance gates, around the schools and in the classrooms.”
He disclosed that the ministry, with support from the state Ministry of Health, will make provision for a sick-bay or nursing stations with first-aid boxes in all schools to facilitate immediate response to emergency cases in schools, and added that the “ministry shall provide hand sanitizers, buckets with running water and infrared thermometers for temperature checks which will be placed at the entrance gates and at the front of each classroom.”
Ebeku emphasised that all schools must ensure strict enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines, noting that a task force comprising officials of health and education ministries as well as security agencies would be constituted and deployed to monitor compliance and enforcement of extant Coronavirus protocols.
The commissioner explained that the state government was working ahead to ensure a seamless reopening of schools to allow students writing their external examinations to start revision classes.
However, the National Association of Parents of Private Schools Students (NAPPSS), Rivers State chapter has restated its readiness to support the state government’s plan to reopen schools in the state.
The President of the association, Mr Ovie Chukwu, who stated this in Port Harcourt, said the association would support government guidelines with a monitoring team, which would regularly go round, especially private schools to ensure full compliance with government directives on safety of pupils/students and teachers in the state.
“We are making effort to raise a monitoring team to go round to various private schools to see that compliance is effected; and not only that, we will teach the children the guidelines for them to follow to ensure they are safe while in school”, he said.
He commended the decision of government to reopen schools while maintaining strict compliance with Covid-19 safety procedures.
Meanwhile, worried by the spate at which hoodlums sabotage government efforts in the rural communities, the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof Kaniye Ebeku, has challenged community leaders and all stakeholders to safeguard completed and ongoing government projects in their domains.
He gave the charge while condemning the wanton act of vandalism on school facilities at Western Ahoada County High School, Ahoada East Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Expressing concern on the level of theft in the school, Ebeku explained that what he saw during his assessment tour of ongoing schools’ construction works in Ahoada East and Abua/Odual local government areas, was unfortunate and condemnable.
Ebeku, who maintained that the durability of government facilities was dependent on their protection from hoodlums by community members, disclosed that facilities installed in some schools have been burgled while others have been damaged by miscreants.
“Communities where government projects are sited must see the projects as their own. They must strive to protect the projects. I will sincerely urge communities where government projects are ongoing to partner with government and the contractors to see that these projects are protected”, he advised.
On the ongoing review exercise by the ministry, the commissioner said it was to ensure that contractors meet the standards and specifications for the projects which the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, was executing in the state.
He urged contractors to ensure timely completion of their projects, and expressed satisfaction with the quality of work and pace of delivery by some of the contractors.
Susan Serekara-Nwikhana, Kevin Nengia & Enoch Epelle
RSG Appeals For Calm Over Oil Spill
The Rivers State Government has called on the people of Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, to remain calm, following an oil spill from a production facility in the Oil Mining Lease (OML-11) that occurred in the place.
The OML-11 is operated by a subsidiary of Eni, the Italian oil and gas giant, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
The state Commissioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno, made the appeal during an on-the-spot assessment of the impacted site of oil spill on farmlands and rivers in Obrikom OML-11 in Omoku.
Tamuno said that a joint investigation (JIV) has commenced between the oil firm and experts to ascertain the real cause of the spill, saying that action would be taken by the state government.
He noted: “There is a lot of devastation occasioned by oil spillage through the facilities of Nigerian Agip Oil Company.
“Three days ago, we got wind of it, and we took steps. As we talk, a joint investigation is going on between the state government and Agip, without basing on presumption. We expect that we will get the reports and we will take action from there.
“I must once again thank leaders of Omoku community, the youths and everybody that behaved themselves, not taking the laws into their hands. We have come and what we have seen is enough to say that there is really devastation”, Tamuno noted.
The spokesman of the affected Umueje community, Levi Uche, called on the government to take urgent action, as lives and sustenance of people were at risk.
$500m Chinese Loan: Reps Summon Amaechi, Others Over Railway Contracts
The House of Representatives has invited the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Ameachi, his Communications and Finance counterparts, Dr Ali Isa Pantani and Mrs Zainab Ahmed to provide answers on $500million loan to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of China for railway lines in the country.
The House Committee on Treaties, headed by Rep. Nicholas Ossai (Delta-PDP), also wants the government appointees, to provide details on the agreement signed between the Federal Ministry of Transport and the CCECC in respect of some railway projects in the country.
The projects are the Abuja-Kaduna, Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kaduna and Kaduna-Kano railways lines.
Also, summoned alongside the ministers is the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha.
Ossai, who issued the summons, said they are expected to appear on August 17, unfailingly with details of the contracts concerned.
According to Ossai, the House would need details on the agreement between the Federal Ministry of Transport and ZTE (Nig) Ltd in respect of the provision of community actions and signalling equipment for the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri line.
Also, the ministers are to provide details of the agreement between Federal Ministry of Transport and the China Railway Construction Company International (CRCCI) in respect of the Itakoe-Abuja line/ New Port in Warri project.
At its sitting, yesterday, the committee raised alarm over alleged waiver of Nigeria’s sovereignty in the government concessions loan agreement on Nigeria National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II project between the government of Nigeria, represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance (borrower) and the Export-Import Bank of China (lender) dated September 5, 2018.
The committee specifically cited Article 8(1) of the agreement, which states that “the borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding pursuant to Article 8(5), thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuant thereto, except for the military assets and diplomatic assets”.
But in his presentation, the Minister for Transportation, Chibuike Ameachi, said the loan being sourced by his ministry is a total of $500million to complete the Lagos-Ibadan railway line, which he put at a total of $849million, with $349million as counterpart funding.
He explained that because China, which is giving the loan is sensitive and monitoring happenings in Nigeria, the House committee might wish to give him till end of December when all the loan would have been received.
Amaechi argued that the constant investigations by the National Assembly might give the impression that a part of the government does not approve of the loan and the Chinese government may withdraw the loan.
He said if this happens “some parts of the country will suffer.”
He added that the railway projects (Lagos-Ibadan, Ibadan-Kano) are yet to be completed and these will be affected Amaechi appealed to the committee to consider national interest in carrying out their oversight function.
He said if the Chinese government gets to know that there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislature concerning the loans, the process may be truncated.
“My fear is that if this probe continues, at the end of the day, some sections of the country may suffer. In oversight, there is what is called national interest. But in asking questions on these loans now, it may jeopardize these loans. The Lagos- Ibadan is not completed; the Ibadan-Kano is not completed.
“Let the government of China not say there us a disagreement in government on this loan and so we will not give this loan. So, I appeal to the chairman to give us from now till December, when we are likely to secure the loans. Then, from January, February, you can resume this investigation”.
Amaechi’s plea was not taken as the committee chairman insisted that the minister should return to the committee on August 17 with other ministers to give details of the contract agreements. He said, “we are looking for transparency, which is what the Chinese government wants. So, we will like to have the pre-payment plans from these loans.
“Most of these contracts signed by the government are not known by the National Assembly as provided for in the DMO Act, and we are supposed to know. We need to know how many Chinese are involved in these projects and their expertise.
“In the documents, we have seen there are variations in interest rates. Why do you sign these documents at the same time with different interest rates”.
Similarly, the Senate, yesterday, summoned the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, her counterpart in the Ministry of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, and the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to appear before it over the N2.7trillion legacy projects of the Federal Government.
Also summoned were the contractors handling the legacy projects which included the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge.
The Senate Committee on Finance led by Senator Solomon Adeola gave the summons after a meeting with the management of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), led by its Managing Director, Uche Orji.
Adeola, who spoke on behalf of the Senate panel, said the committee needed those being summoned to provide information about the variations that had taken place on the projects and the approving authorities.
He also said the panel would need to know details of the agreements signed between the Federal Government and the contractors before the NSIA took over the projects.
There has been an existing tripartite agreement between the NSIA, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Works on the Legacy projects.
The Senate summon was sequel to the disclosure by the MD of the NSIA that his agency had no details of the agreements signed on the projects before he took over.
He said, “On the issue of funding, by virtue of the information at my disposal and by what the finance minister made me to understand, is that you are playing critical roles by providing funds for the legacy projects. As of today, two years down the line, only $300million is in the books, this cause for concern.
“We believe that funding is critical to these projects. If the funding is not there, there is no way we can achieve those time frame that you have set out for the completion of the projects.
“On that note, we would be bringing on board, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Works and Housing, the Managing Director of the NSIA, the Accountant General of the Federation, and the contractors who should be invited by the Minister of Works.”