In what seemed a serious soul-searching, the Federal Government Monday reappraised the hydra-headed Niger Delta crisis and submitted that negligence on the part of oil companies operating in the area led to severe environment problems like oil spillage, gas flaring, water and air pollution, which in turn engendered the current youth restiveness in the region.
The government, through top federal officials, including Niger Delta Affairs Minister, Ufot Ekaette, the Minister of State, Godsday Orubebe and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Y.A. Abdullahi also accused the oil firms in the Niger Delta of falling short of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) to their host communities, especially in the area of protecting the people from the hazards posed to them by the companies’ crude exploration activities.
The officials, who spoke at a consultative meeting on the region’s environment- related challenges tagged : “Moving the Niger Delta Environmental Agenda Forward,” disclosed the Federal Government’s intention to move beyond mere talkfest on the Niger Delta environment issues to tackling them head-on.
However, elder statesman and renowned accountant Senator David Dafinone, has described the current state of the Niger Delta as “disturbing, “ laying the blame for it at the doorsteps of the nation’s past leaders who, according to him, failed to address the Niger Delta question “in a holistic way.”
Specifically, Dafinone, who spoke Monday in Lagos at the launch of a biographical work titled Dafinone: An Uncommon Life written in his honour by Dr. Udu Yakubu as he turned 82, said the Federal Government’s failure to effectively act on the Willink Commission of 1958 made the Niger Delta problem to fester, which haunts the nation to this day.
He stressed that resorting to military action in the region would not solve the problem.
His words: “It is my considered opinion that the force of arm may not solve the situation. They need to go to the round table to dialogue to resolve the issue. From 1962, I worked closely with Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and at one of the conferences held in the north, he categorically stated that those Nigerians who say the Niger Delta is out of their reach or who say that the Niger Delta is not in their backyard, hence they cannot say anything must not forget that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a State, and a breakdown in one part of the country may affect the whole nation. That is what we have been experiencing. “
Dafinone also took a swipe at the current political dispensation, describing it as a “militarisation of democracy.”
He said this approach had bogged down Nigeria, stressing that the nation needed to restructure in line with true federalism to attain its full potential.
Quoting copiously from various authorities ranging from United States’ President Barack Obama to the poet Lord Alfred Byron and economist Adam Smith, Senator Dafinone said the only enduring legacy the current crop of Nigerian leaders could leave for generations yet unborn was the enthronement of good governance, where the popular will of the people prevailed and where charity and brotherhood were held in esteem.
The federal officials on their part said the violence in the Niger Delta region could be traced to the people’s vexation over environment degradation and neglect.
Ekaette said the consultative meeting was convened so that all stakeholders in the Niger Delta could proffer ways of checking environmental degradation in the region.
His words: “Over the years, there has been a near total neglect or failure to diligently integrate environmental concerns into oil exploration and production activities by the oil companies. This region is heavily polluted due to oil spillage, sabotage, pipeline vandalisation and emission from gas flaring.
“It is not enough to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) especially with the people who do not understand the meaning of MoU. Sometimes, the terms of the MoU are not kept and at the other times, the terms of the MoU are reversed.
“Oil waste pits and hazardous waste dumpsites abound in the region while untreated industrial effluents, solid and municipal wastes are discharged with little concern about the environmental impacts.
“The on-going agitation in the region includes quest for a better environment gravely affecting peace and security in the region. Unfortunately, youth restiveness has assumed a high level of criminality in many instances and the primary cause cannot be removed from the gross neglect by the oil companies and allied industries to the yearnings of communities, lack of basic infrastructure and employment opportunities and the degradation of the environment on which the rural people depend for their sustenance.”
Orubebe said the current difficulties in the Niger Delta area was as a result of the “inactions” of its past leaders to chart a course for its environmental development.
He said it was high time the Ministry networked with relevant stakeholders to solve the problems.
His words: “It is worthy of note that oil, which is the major source of revenue for Nigeria, is one of the primary roots of the insecurity in the region because of its attendant negative impacts on the environment and natural resources. This is as a result of the negligence of the oil companies in addressing issues of environmental pollution in oil production.
“As a result, today, the Niger Delta is a place of frustrated expectations and deep-rooted mistrust…many years of neglect and conflict have fostered a siege mentality, especially among youths who feel they are condemned to a future without hope and see violence as a strategy to escape deprivation.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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