As the year 2020 winds off, it is pertinent to have a look at some major events that took place in the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt otherwise known as the Brick House.
The Next Governor of the State
As political pundits concern themselves with the all-important question of who becomes the next Governor of the state, the sitting Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike on various occasions has given indication that neither himself nor anybody else knows on whose head the cap would be.
While receiving the People of Kalabari and Oyigbo Ethnic nationalities who had paid him solidarity visits in various occasions, Gov. Wike explained that he has never promised any ethnic group in the state the position of Governor of the state.
He said: “ Only God has the capacity to make the next Governor, not me or any man”.
He advised ethnic groups interested in the seat to liaise with other ethnic nationalities as no single ethnic group could single-handedly produce a governor without the assistance of others.
Burial of Late High Chief O. B. Lulu- Briggs
Governor Wike has expressed worry over the continued delay of the burial of a foremost philanthropist and oil mogul, Late Chief O.B. Lulu-Briggs as a result of family feud.
He made his feelings public when the leaders and people of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality paid him a solidarity visit in Government House, this year.
The Governor promised that the state Government would honour the late philanthropist with a befitting state burial and appealed to the leaders of the area as well as the family of the deceased to set aside their differences and bury the high chief.
“ I have intervened more than three to four times, having meetings, but was disappointed by the wife. I have to say clearly to all of you, I have never received insult like that in my life”, Gov. Wike said.
RSG’ s Court Victory Over Soku Oil Well
Another major event in 2020 was the eventual victory of Rivers State on the controversial Soku Oil Wells in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
An Abuja High Court had declared Rivers the rightful owner of the oil wells.
Gov. Wike, who spoke during the state celebration of the victory expressed satisfaction that at last justice was done. According to him, the state does not believe in fighting but in due process.
“ Thank God the Federal High Court has affirmed and they should pay us our money which they have collected. The revenue derivation should continue to be paid into Rivers State coffers,” he said.
The Governor reiterated the determination of his administration to continue to fight towards ensuring the protection of whatever belonged to the state.
Traditional Rulers, political leaders, youth leaders, women groups and the business class in the state celebrated the victory and commended Gov. Wike for leading the state to victory.
Victory Over OML 11 & Kidney Island
In a similar vein, Rivers State Government also won her suit against the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) on the ownership of the OML 11 & Kidney Island acquired by the State Government.
Ogoni- Clean Up Programme
Rivers State Government had expressed dismay that since the flag of the exercise by Federal Government, no tangible milestone had been achieved.
Gov. Wike who disclosed this when the Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar paid him a courtesy visit in February, said rather than tell the world the level of success attained, Federal Government had continued to deceive the people by circulating same story of handing over remediation sites to contractors as if handing over remediation sites to contractors was an attestation that the contractors had done the jobs.
He also accused the Federal Government of alienating the state government from the programme and maintained that until Federal Government stopped politicising the project, it would not achieve the desired results.
RSG, Labour Crisis Resolved
The protest by organised labour in the state scheduled to hold in September was averted at the eleventh hour following an agreement reached between Rivers State Government and the leadership of the unions in Government House, Port Harcourt.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Waba who read the agreement before newsmen said both parties agreed to sign the agreement on implementation of the New Minimum Wage .He also said that the parties agreed to set up a tripartite committee to resolve the adjustment of Pension in line with the Constitution and payment of Pension and Gratiuty, among other contending issues.
As COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world Rivers State Government was the first state in the country to declare a lockdown and also took pragmatic strategies towards controlling the spread of the virus.
The State Executive Council had in March, set up a five man committee mandated to embark on aggressive public enlightenment and awareness measures to check the dreaded Corona-Virus.
The committee which was headed by the Commissioner for Information and Communications Paulinus Nsirim, had as members the Commissioner for Health, Prof Chike Princewill, Commissioner for Environment, Dr Igbiks Tamuno, Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs, Barr Eloka Tasie-Amadi, and Commissioner for Youth Development, Mr Ohia Prince.
He also initiated a Two Billion Naira (N2 billion) Food Bank. Palliatives were distributed from Ward to Ward.
Wike Unveils More Legacy Projects
Gov. Wike whose first tenure was marked by a harvest of people-oriented projects across the twenty-three local government areas of the state, continued with more key projects in 2020.
Within the year, such uncommon projects as Real Madrid Academy, Ultramodern Mother and Child Hospital among numerous others were commissioned.
He also embarked on seven flyover projects and even delivered some before the scheduled period using the world class Julius Berger to execute the projects.
The flyover projects include: Rebisi flyover which was inaugurated before the scheduled time, Okoro-nu-Odo flyover, Rumuogba flyover, Rumuola flyover, GRA flyover, the Kaduna Street flyover and the Ikokwu flyover. Most of these projects are the completion stages.
Apart from the flyovers which cost the state multi billions of Naira, there were also numerous road projects both in the new and old GRAs in Port Harcourt.
Local Government Election:
The elections of Councillors and Council Chairmen in the 23 local government areas of the state are already by the corner as the State Governor has recently reconstituted the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC).
According to the time table published by RSIEC December 21, 2010, elections campaign begins on Friday, 12th March 2021 and ends on Thursday, 15th April 15th 2021 while Ward elections hold Saturday22nd May, 2021 and Chairmanship election hold Saturday, 17th April, 2021.
Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) has announced that there would no automatic ticket for sitting council Chairmen for second time.
Gov. Wike who is the leader of the party is the state who made the pronouncement in several public fora said performance and people’s acceptance would remain the variables that would determine the faith of any chairman aspiring for second term.
RSG Promises 5000 Employment Opportunities:
Another remarkable feat of the present administration in the year under review was the decision to employ 5000 persons into the state civil service.
So far, the vacancies have been advertised and interested applicants across the 23 local government areas have also applied for the jobs. The employment scheme which has been extended to non-indigens has been lauded by the people of the state.
The step, according to many, would equally go a long way in addressing youth related crimes in the state.
By: Chris Oluoh
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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