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Special Interview

“We Plan New Cities At Waterfronts”

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This is part IV of The Tide Roundtable encounter with Hon Osima Ginah, Commissioner for Urban Development, Rivers State, first published last Monday. Read on, very refreshing. The most important demolition is the Aborigine type, and Okrika people have been saying we are aborigines in this place. What are you going to do there? As I said first, what is the definition of Aborigine? Now, I want one Okrika man who will tell me that he is not part of Kunuji or Tugbunuji, Ibaka, Ogboko. I know Okrika very well and for those who came to tell me I’m from these and that, they have their traditional homes and like I tell you, we are moving on. Nobody can coarse us. Nobody can force government out of its decision to do what it wants to do and once government moves in you cannot intimidate especially this present government. You cannot intimidate us. That we have not reached does not mean that we will not go. As I told you, we are not carrying out indiscriminate demolition of waterfronts, we are carrying out planned demolition and when we demolish it, obviously, government has plans to develop that area. And I want to put it on record that we will demolish all the waterfronts in Port Harcourt. One after the other. But if we reach any water front and where the people can, with facts prove that that area is an aborigine and that the people have no where to go and they can show us as Rivers people, their ancestral artifacts, the things that they worship. Go to Angulama for those who know Angulama, you know that in those days even up till now you don’t need to mention certain things because they are in the criminal code. Those are the things we use to deceive ourselves that once you mention, you will die because those were the things that our forefathers worshipped. It is there, that is our ancestral home. So when we find ancestral home, then we will relocate the people. Take for instance the Finima people, they have ancestral home and when government wanted to take their home, they relocated them. When we reach an ancestral home of the people we will relocate them. But let me also tell you, the Okrika people are not against the demolition of the waterfronts. They are not against the development of the waterfronts. Now because of the word “Demolition”. This is also synonymous with the forceful removal of illegal structures that people are afraid. No what we are doing is development and I want you to put it on record that it is development of waterfronts. What is urban renewal in itself? Urban renewal is the removing of an old thing or what is not supposed to be there and replacing it with new one. Do you like the way the waterfronts are? The answer is no. We want to get the water fronts to modern city status. Do we build in the way it is? No. We want to sandfill the waterfront. Do we pump sands on the people the way it is and upgrade it to the level needed? The answer is no. So what do we do? We have to remove those shanties and the structures there so that we can pump in the sand, construct roads, install water, put on light, build up recreational facilities and then you have a modern state status. That’s what we mean by urban renewal. The Okrika people welcome urban renewal. I put it on record that Okrika people welcome the development of the waterfronts. But what is their fear? Their fear is that the governor is an Ikwerre man. “So maybe if the place is developed, it will be given to Ikwerre people. That is their fear. I want any Okrika man to challenge me. And I say it and the governor has said it several times that it is open to all Rivers people. Now what the government is doing is not an Ikwerre agenda afterall the governor has said it that Ikwerre people who have taken over government land, take for instance, ‘Eagle Island’. We will demolish all the structures there and return to those whose land were not yet built on their own land. The governor has said it that we will move into Elekohia Stadium. Now the land that was acquired by the government and where Ikwerre people have taken and sold to people, we will demolish all the structures there and take over the land. The same way the governor has also stated that the sandfill that were planned and allocated to the people that the Okrika people have taken over. We will demolish all the structures and return it back. Government must be respected. Government is meant for all of us. Government for the people, by the people and of the people. My answer is that it is not Ikwerre agenda. So the fear of Okrika people is whether there is Ikwerre agenda where once the waterfronts are developed, the Ikwerre people will now move over from Diobu to go and live in town. That is their fear. Just make your statistics, how many Ikwerre people do you find that have property in the town? So there should be unity in diversity. Rivers State is a multilingual state. But I want to assure the Okrika people and the Rivers people that there is no hidden agenda. Take for instance, if they say it is Okrika or Ikwerre agenda, I am not from Okrika, I am not from Ikwerre? I’m a Kalabari man and we are talking about the development of Rivers State and Rivers State belongs to all of us. Rivers State is not Ikwerre. Rivers State is not Okrika. Rivers State is Ikwerre, Okrika, Kalabari, Etche, Ogoni and others. So Rivers State belongs to all of us. What gives you the boldness? I have over the time developed that boldness and I believe that anything that is worth doing is worth doing well. I’m one man who believes that anything any human being can do, I can do it. If I want to be a militant I would have been a militant but I choose to be a lawyer. Those who practised with me will tell you I move in to do my practice with boldness. Secondly what also gives me the boldness is that when I took over the responsibility of the Ministry of Urban Development I looked at it, it is a very sensitive job but I said someone must do it someday and so when? Now is the time. Who?, I’m the person. So it is an opportunity for me to contribute my own quota in the development of Rivers State. And I believe that my being in public service is divine because from Action Congress, coming to be a commissioner. If I were in PDP probably, I wouldn’t have been a commissioner. So God moved me out of PDP and pushed me to Action Congress and brought me back to PDP government and said serve. And that give me the boldness. Before I do anything, firstly I commit it to God. I say God, take over me, give me the courage to do my work and direct me well. And God gave me a spirit and I moved ahead and when I move, I move like Suname. You are a product of the Unity Government. Can you reconcile PDP government and AC vision for the government? No, No, No, there is no AC vision in government. Like I said the visioner is the Governor. Who is the governor? Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is the visioner. There can never be two visioners. There cannot be the vision of Amaechi and the vision of Tonye Princewill who is my governorship candidate. But you see in Amaechi vision, is Akin to Tonye’s vision so Tonye will say, Oh, Amaechi this is your vision, I also see the vision. Let me ensure that I put it into your government and we move ahead and it became friends to friends. They say show me your friend and I will tell you who you are. They have similar things. This, will also have done if I am the governor of Rivers State so let us move together and that’s how we came in to it. And when we came into it he said I saw this vision also, Okay His Excellency, you saw this vision”. We can partner with you to achieve that vision and they gave us responsibility and I will tell you that I pray that even after this government Rivers State should have a governor like Amaechi because one, there is no sycophancy. I don’t go to Government House to say His Excellency I come to say good morning to you, no. Amaechi doesn’t even like it. I’m loyal! What is your loyalty? Your loyalty is your service delivery. Now if you are performing your duties, then you are the one that is loyal. He is not the one that is just a PDP person, or the one that is Action Congress or the one that says good morning governor or the one that calls the governor. It may interest you to know that I don’t have the phone number of the governor and I never called him on phone. So there is no reason for that. If the governor wants me then it means that he has seen a vision. If the governor wants to direct me, then he has to call me. When he gave me an assignment, he expected me to go and deliver. He expected me to go and perform a duty. He expected me to sit down in my office and l am in charge. He expected me to go out and perform any duties. I’m incharge of the Ministry of Urban Development, I am the boss. My over lord is the governor who is in charge of all the activities of the state. What I do is when he sees the vision he calls me to go and deliver and I sit down and do my work. I am very comfortable. If I want to do a thing and it costs me one Naira, I say, His Excellency, this is the assignment you give me, it costs one Naira and the governor looks at it and says this one Naira, can you use it to do it and I say yes. He gives me the one Naira, and he monitors me, how I would spend the one Naira and I achieve the result, I give him the report, I have implemented it. He sees another vision and says oh from this vision, you also need to do this or atimes I go back to him and say His Excellency, this we have done, we have not done this, it takes Forty Naira, give it to me and he will give it to me. I go back and I spend the money and do the job. Every money released from the government is for a purpose. If that is not achieved, you loose the confidence of the governor. You don’t need to be the governor’s brother; you don’t need to be the governor’s friend. If you look at it, in our cabinet reshuffle what did the governor do? The governor reshuffled the cabinet and to some of his friends that were in government, he tries to distinguish himself from Amaechi as a Governor and Amaechi as a friend. What do we have? We have the government of Rivers State and I am serving in the government of Rivers State where PDP as a party brought the governor. But AC in Rivers State and people who are AC members in Rivers State are Rivers people. And what did the government do, government of Rivers State. We are also having a new orientation in politics. An orientation where irrespective of your political party or your political inclination what is paramount is your contribution and service delivery to your people, not to your party. It is not party inclination. Any feeling of regret in the course of carrying out your duties? No, there is no regret but not that I don’t have challenges; I have challenges but not regret. I had threats to my life. Even before I became commissioner I had threats to my life. Although, I have received several calls and text messages of threats to my life but I believe that service to humanity is a sacrifice and it is something that must be done. Like I said when I took over the mantle of leadership as the commissioner for Urban Development, the first thing that came to my mind was this job is quite sensitive because you are given the armour to go and destroy. But I quickly remembered in the Bible, God said go, destroy and build and I said God, be with me. That as I am going, I am going to war and you are the head of the war. We are going to destroy and build a new city and so direct me. I have an excess confidence in me. And the confidence is such that when I see the Governor’s house and it is an illegal structure, I will demolish it. I marked Government House personally. But what is holding it? Yes, you know that structure is built by Julius Begger and it’s so strong that we don’t have the equipment to even demolish it. So, the governor had directed the Chief of Staff (COS) Government House to ensure that Julius Begger corrects that place. But you see, we are also expanding the road, the Azikiwe road which also affected the parts that we want to correct and we believe that collectively, we are going to correct it. That shows that we have a governor who is not biased. Before now, no government can albow you even go close to a commissioner’s house talkless of Government House. And I went in, I did it by myself, marked it by myself being supervised and monitored by the security in the Government House. Hon Commissioner Sir, you said the word is development and not demolition. Can we know when to expect structures in the demolished water fronts? Yes, you know like I said in the next two, three years, you will expect it? Now why in the next two, three years? It takes time to pump in the sand; you allow the sand to settle before you build. In the next two, three years, you expect very beautiful sight. Infact I’m even planning to live in the water front. You know I’m a water front product, 11 years as a fisherman. People have the fear that some government officials will hijack the place? No, I will explain to you that some government officials who used their positions as opportunity to hijack lands and build where they are not supposed to build, we demolished them. Not the money, you see the payment of compensation not withstanding. Even if you have the money, it will take your time to build. Now let me also tell you, we are not building alone as a government, we are partnering with private investors and we are also putting in statutory provisions (laws) to guide the development and management of those things. We have what is called the Infrastructural Development Laws before the House of Assembly. The law is put in place in such a way that even Amaechi himself cannot allocate anything to himself. So those of us in government can never use our privilege positions to get what we are not supposed to get. Infact this is one government that as a commissioner, you are not a demi god. We have demystified our offices in such a way that you can just come into my office; you knock at my door and see me. We want the Honourable Commissioner to tell us, where the job of the Ministry of Urban Development ends and where that of the Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority begins? I think this is not what you can just describe with words of description. If you look at the plan, you have about eight local government areas covered by Greater Port Harcourt. It is a conscious determined effort of Amaechi to ensure that we don’t live in one-city state anymore. Because Port Harcourt is already congested. Now parts of Obio/Akpor, the entire Port Harcourt is not part of greater Port Harcourt. Now Greater Port Harcourt will extend the city of Port Harcourt. That is how we came up with the name Greater Port Harcourt. Already Port Harcourt has been extended because Obio/Akpor which ordinary is not Port Harcourt, the main city of Port Harcourt is from UTC down here but development has already moved in. Now parts of Obio/Akpor will be taken by Greater Port Harcourt down to Ikwerre axis, you have part of Etche, Oyigbo, Eleme, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika. These are areas that are covered by the Greater Port Harcourt. But I think very soon, we will decimate the area and publish it for people to know this is the exact area. But you see the Greater Port Harcourt master plan covers the old city and the new city. What do we mean? While we are building a new brand city, we are also upgrading the old city. If we don’t upgrade the old city, by the time we finished the new city; people will run away from the old city. How many illegal structures have you demolished since you started? Over one thousand. It can be much more than that if you consider the Njemanze waterfront? No Njemanze, we don’t call it illegal structure because if they are illegal structures, we wont pay them compensation. We term it development urban renewal agenda. Now they were affected by the urban renewal policy of the state even though there were security issues and that informed government to say let it be. Of a truth, the structures in the waterfronts are all illegal structure except those ones that have approval to build. But even though before now, like I said these were carved approvals, if we had treated it as illegal structures, we would have demolished them. Infact, by now we would had finished between ten to twenty waterfronts. Because I have the capacity to finish the whole waterfronts for five days. Taking one waterfront five days, how many water fronts we would demolish in a month? You see that I may have finished a lot of waterfronts by now. But we said no, this is a government that handles this exercise of renewal with a human face. And human in human face we moved on not only the payment of compensation but payment of replacement value. The replacement value is higher than what the law said should be paid. And that is why we carryout our assignment with human face. Commissioner, as a matter of fact, we know you as an action man. How do you relax? Or do you have time to relax? Very well, I’m a man of the people. You know I practised law and in law you can’t survive if you don’t have good Public Relations. I came from a grassroot. Infact from the downtrodden. You know somebody who lived in the waterfront for eleven years cannot claim to be a big man. Even now I ask people what class, urban class, no middle class, no lower class. My class now is the privileged class. What I do is once I finished my official assignment in the official time, though my work is twenty four hours everyday. You can call me on Sunday, 5 O’clock, 10 O’clock, I will come. I don’t mind if it is a weekend, I will come. I will drive myself to that place. You won’t see the siren of the security and police. No, they are not really part of me. So a times I follow my friends, I attend parties, I sit out with friends and enjoy the things I know best to do. Do you still go fishing? No, what time do I have to go fishing when I am demolishing. There is no time to go fishing. But I visit friends. Not my friends as commissioners but my friends as my classmates and those who lived in waterfronts with me. I do go to visit them in the waterfronts. Before I demolish, I visit them, and I tell them I am coming. END

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Special Interview

Those Demarketing Rivers Should Stop Spreading Falsehood -Sophia

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Only recently, the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications orgainsed an essay competition for students in the State as part of the second phase of the advocacy campaign of #Our StateOurResponsibility, aimed at changing the negative narrative about the State.
The first prize winner of the competition, Miss Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem, now the Ambassador of the programme and the face of the Information and Communications Ministry for three months, is truly passionate about advancing the frontiers of the campaign.
In this encounter with our General Manager, Ernest Chinwo and Group News Editor, Victor Tew, she dwells extensively on the imperatives of potraying the state in its true positive status, given the giant strides of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and many more.
Excerpts.
Could you please, tell us about yourself?
I am Oyibo Sophia Awajibenem from Ngo in Andoni Local Government Area. I am 18 years old. I am a public health student. I reside in Port Harcourt.
I school at Port Harcourt Joint Professional Training and Support International Institute.
I am the Ambassador of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications. I am patriotic and ready to achieve more success.
I will like to further my education in order to become a Medical Doctor.
How do you intend to go about that in terms of resources and all that?
It is by being studious. By going out there to read and gain information, do my research and also being focused. The determination in me will keep me focused
Why did you participate in the essay competition orgainsed by the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications on the advocacy programme tagged. #OurStateOur Responsibility?.
I did it because I love the vision of #OurState OurResponsibility. I deemed it fit to participate to promote our State as an individual and also as a youth.
What really spurred you into partaking in the essay competition? Is it because of the pecuniary benefit attached to it or an altruistic concern to change the narrative of the State?
Firstly, I never saw the competition as a challenge. I just wanted to write the truth. I wanted to make known what I felt was what we as individuals, as the State should do.
I wanted to spread the love. It is not just about your personal benefit or your personal need. It should go around, it is collective.
What was the major attraction to you?
I don’t want to use the word major because I saw just the Ambassadorial duty. First to be the Ambassador of the ministry before I ever read down to see that there was a cash prize attached to it. I wasn’t concerned about the cash prize, I was concerned about being an Ambassador. I wanted to represent that and that was the goal.
When you submitted your essay and was shortlisted, how did you feel?
I felt overwhelmed, this is where the trust comes in. They should know who we are personally and believe in us, that it is actually from within. I had to go there, to do what I had to do because it was not something that was forged, it is the passion in letting people know. So I felt appreciated by that means.

OurStateOur Responsibility. How do you see it?

It is a vision. It is telling us that we have roles, obligations, duties to perform in the state. When we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it includes everyone. We are the State, we are the government and that responsibility is what we have to render to the state.
Well, there was a statement credited to you in your essay. You did say that you remembered a piece by Erekosima.What did you think about that piece?
The piece by Boma Erekosima is a motivation. It is what inspired me to write, to participate in the essay writing. It actually spelt out my essay. That piece was a summary of what I wrote.
Can you recount it?
Love Rivers State or leave her alone, don’t pull us down, see what you can do for us, engage yourself in meaningful activities, no room for gossip and do something meaningful.
How does it relate to us, the youths of today, our politicians, those who are trying to pull the State down and those who don’t have the interest of the State?
When we say we should love the State, it means that we should love ourselves, everything about the State, we shouldn’t be into propaganda, we shouldn’t spread rumours, flasehood. We should appreciate the fact that our State is improving. We should see the progress, we shouldn’t just vandalise those things that have been provided for us. We should use them as resources. We shouldn’t be idle because an idle man is the devil’s workshop.
We should grab opportunities, work with them and make them a success.
We find our youth involved in anti-social activities. So, what is your message to youths of Rivers State?
There is no benefit in doing things that are irrelevant. We should put our vision where it will benefit everyone, it should not just be personal. Don’t do things that are illegal. Grab opportunities that will promote the nation, that way, we all can grow.
How do you think the youths can be detached from being used as political thugs and all that?
If they are given proper knowledge about the consequences of the things they indulge in, I feel that it will bring them to the consciousness that they are better off than being thugs. Proper orientation of being good in the society to be leaders of tomorrow. That way, they will see the bright side of it and focus on good visions in promoting theState.
If you are asked to draw up a sensitisation programme for youths, how would you go about it?
I will start with an orientation or a sensitisation programme because it does not just start like that. You make them understand, you bring them to their notice and do a follow up. When you tell somebody about something, as you let them be, you are not really convinced that you are passing the message to them. You have to follow them up, bring up situations and platforms that will ensure that they are actually rooted in being successful.
As the face of the state Ministry of Information and Communications programme: #Our State Our Responsibility, what would you like to do?
As an Ambassador, I am an advocate of something, an advocate of the vision, #OurState Our Responsibility. I am here to start a programme to enlighten the youths about the good opportunities that abound in the State and to make our leaders know that we are not lazy and we have talents and if only we are given the platform to showcase them, we will do better.
It is something that we as youths have to bring out the best in us.

OurStateOur Responsibility, how do you see it?

It is a vision. #OurStateOur Responsibility is a vision that is telling us that we have roles, obligations and duties to perform in the State and when we say #OurStateOur Responsibility, it is not just one person, it is everybody in the State.
Some politicians in a bid to score some cheap political points have been known to brand the State as unsafe for people to live in, unsafe for investments and all that, do you share in that view?
No, I don’t, because we are in this State. We go out and come in to our houses. We should be security conscious. For investors, people who go about their business activities, I feel that the trust should be there.
There should be a benefit of the doubt and as far as Rivers State is concerned, we are the people who will showcase the business. We should be exemplary.
So there is no room for falsehood or any kind of conviction that we are not safe. We are safe.
So what is your advice to those demarketing the State?
I will say that they should stop spreading falsehood. There is no gain in spreading lies. At least, they should come and see for themselves. And those investors also for you to invest in a place, you should have a background check on whoever you are going to invest with or who your investors are for you to know better. Not just by word of mouth but seeing it.
How do you see the Wike administration
He has really done well. The Rivers State of yesterday can not be compared to what we have now. Port Harcourt is beautiful and safe. Port Harcourt is filled with so many businesses, so many organisations are doing well, so there is prosperity.
What about human capital development, are you impressed?
I am, because it is improving. it is not like how it was before. we are doing well.
Rivers State is blessed.
As an Ambassador of the Ministry, what is your advice to the youths, politicians and leaders?
To the youths, I will say success is not determined by age grade or age limit, we need to grab opportunities. we do not have to wait for us to be told what we have to do. We recognise who we are. Because we are the leaders of tomorrow and it starts now.
We shouldn’t wait till that level where they throw accusations at us that we are not doing anything. We need to show that we are ready for the future.
To the politicians, I feel that education is the key; knowledge is power, they should actually support the youth and everyone in Rivers State and they shouldn’t do things that make youths to regret.
They should support that which is good, education , security and also when it comes to bringing up talents. I feel that there should be more investments.
To our leaders. they should keep up the good work, because we look up to them.
They should be exemplary, they should be disciplined.
There is this misconception that the youths of our State are only interested in what they can do for money to come immediately and are not conscious to the extent of working hard, believing that their efforts will yield dividend tomorrow. So they prefer what they can get now What is your reaction to that?
I feel that it is a practice. It is not our culture because we have to be hard working. we have to be professional, we have to know what we have to do to attain such position, is not by having it immediately, because that is theft, corruption and greed.
We have to work diligently to get what we want. So it is wrong for anybody to have any amount of money that is not from a genuine source.
I feel that all we need to do is to put our hands on deck to work for that which is right at all times.
One thing we have noticed in our State, especially the state capital is indiscriminate dumping of refuse. Are we saying that it is not part of our responsibility to keep our State clean?
It is our responsibility to keep our environment clean and safe because when our environment is dirty, it affects our health. so we should actually work at our health, our wellbeing and also we have agencies which are controlling that. If the agencies are working, it is our responsibility to support them in making the place clean, because we all are humans and it will be inhuman for some one to be working for the cleaniness of our environment then, we all make the place dirty.
It’s not right. So our responsibility is taking it up to ourselves as humans to make our environment clean.
You were Commissioner for Information for 30minutes, how do you feel about that?
It was amazing, it was a rare opportunity, and I feel that for anyone to sit there as a commissioner, then, there is a whole lot to do, it is not just by saying it but it is by showing it. Our Honourable Commissioner, I know is showing it because having sat there, I saw so many opportunities on that seat and this has actually motivated me to do more to sit there one day.
Having sat there for at least 30minutes or so, will you go into politics?
Yes. For you to be a citizen, involving in politics is just what to get you to that level, it is not a bad thing.
What extent has your participation in this essay competition motivated you?
It actually gives me an opportunity to meet people, to see things, to have views, to hear about what the world is saying. So, I feel that encouragement is not by saying or being an Ambassador, it is being here in the State and doing more for the State. So, I feel motivated to bring that picture and few presentations of what the vision is, that is what I feel.
As an Ambassador for some weeks now, what has been your kind of schedule? Have you met some new persons, some new opportunities so far?
It has been excellent, but not easy, because this time around in my life, I try to schedule things and share some of my times there is time management and there is this hospitality you have to show to everyone because they want to know more about you. You give them the chance to express themselves, and that has actually made me to realise and have the knowledge about everything and because they throw questions you are not familiar with. That gives me the room to read more, that gives me the room for human resources management, to understand people, to actually know more about people, to understand their mood and where they are headed to, and to understand their different perspectives and to know what they indulge in.
Where do you see Rivers State tomorrow and in the future? .
We are already in the future because we are getting to the top; I see an extraordinary State; I see a beautiful State; I see a State that is without or should I say with less corruption, that is with more of development. That is where I see Rivers State.

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Special Interview

Wike Has Made Rivers People Proud – Eke

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His Majesty King (Dr) Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, Eze Gbakagbaka, Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom in Obio/Akpor Local government Area of Rivers State, is a First Class Traditional Ruler.
Trained as a Biological Scientist at Illinois State University, Bloomington Normal, United States of America, he holds a Masters Degree and Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) from Wycliffe University & ATS, California.
Suave, ebullient, accessible, humble, down-to-earth and cerebral, Eke is also the Secretary General of the Association of Niger Delta Monarchs (ANDMON) and the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Chapter of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities (TROMPCOM).
In this exclusive interview with our Production Editor, Donatus Ebi and cameraman, Egberi A. Sampson, Eke poignantly bares his mind on sundry issues affecting the State and the nation. He particularly eulogises the Executive Governor of the State, Chief Nyesom Wike for the giant development strides of his administration within the past six years and comes to the inevitable conclusion that he has surpassed the achievements of his predecessors, having performed beyond the expectation of Rivers people.
Excerpts.
His Majesty, by virtue of all that you have seen in the State in the past six years, what are your comments on the achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike?
As it concerns us and the Governor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is God-sent, a purposeful Governor, a vision-full Governor and a man that knows why he is Governor, why he did come to contest and contested as Governor. And this man, meticulously, seriously, honestly, has continued, day by day, month by month, to roll out projects that are impactful to the society, to Rivers people. Roads infrastructure, schools, hospitals, human capacity, I mean continuously. This man has turned the Garden City into a city of flyovers. And that is very meaningful. We very much appreciate such a person. And unfortunately, he can’t go for a third term. We wish he goes for a third term. He is going to give so much to the Rivers people.
He has made us so proud. He has distinguished himself among the Governors and governments in Nigeria. All the things he has done, other governments and even the Federal Government should learn from him.
A case in point is the Coronavirus pandemic. Our Governor took proactive actions in time and that is why Rivers State did not suffer much from the pandemic and they had to learn from him. He has impacted on the people commercially, economically and otherwise. Even our Christian lives have improved because he gave this State to God and declared it a Christian State. He built an Ecumenical Centre and God literally has come down to work with His people and has begun to give us a sense of direction, a sense of belonging. We appreciate so much from the man, who has unlike others, really worked even in the second term, working like it was the first term. And we are grateful to God for all his achievements. He is a true Ikwerre son. We appreciate him. We pray that he would find more to do even after he has left this stage of governance. We couldn’t have had it any other way.
Would you then say that Governor Wike has performed beyond expectation?
Very true. This Governor has done beyond expectation. Looking at precedents, looking at people before him, what he has done even per month, it is unequalled anytime, anywhere in the history of Rivers State. This Governor has done so much.
In spite of all that you have seen he has done, is it not surprising that there are still pockets of opposition in the State?
Well, it is unfortunate but we must have opposition. We must have people that agree and people that don’t agree. It is normal. We just want to encourage them to criticise constructively. They should engage in constructive criticisms. They should criticise him constructively. Not just opening your mouth for opening sake. This time around, it will be very difficult. You know, he has been accused of 3D projects. It is no longer 3D now, because you can come there and see it for yourself. You will see the flyovers. Who does three flyovers at the same time? Nobody. And he has told us that he has more, seven more to deliver to Rivers people and put us on the world map of very very improved humane settlements. We appreciate that.
You said it is unfortunate that the Governor won’t run for a third term, but there are people out there calling on him to run for the Presidency come 2023. What is your take on this?
At his point, I am not a politician. For him to run for a federal office, it is entirely his prerogative, it is at his discretion. It is left for him to decide. He has to watch the politicial terrain and decide what he wants. But one thing is sure. Anywhere this Governor, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike finds himself, he would deliver on his promises, he would deliver on the NEED Assessment of the people. This man is in tune with development. He is in tune with the people. And I am not afraid. If tomorrow, he runs for the Presidency, it is Nigerians that will gain because he is going to work tirelessly. I don’t know where he gets his energy; he is going to work tirelessly and fearlessly and deliver on the things that matter to the people.
As a royal father, which areas would you like to advise the Governor?
Well, first and foremost, he has to watch his back. He is a Governor that works by self-conviction. And so he cannot be deterred by anybody, by superiors’ stories, very bad advice; he is unaffected by those kinds of things because he is a man of conviction. When he decides on a project, he delivers, because he is in tune with the people. He is a grassroots politician; he feels the pulse of the people. And I am sure he knows what Nigerians want too and if he finds himself in that national stage, I have no doubt in my mind that he will win and provide dividends of democracy to our people.
We have been having some security challenges in the country and even in the State in recent times to the extent that Governor Wike had to impose curfew in the State. How would you react to this?
Well, the Governor has done well in the area of security. This Governor has done more than any government, to give state of the art equipments to security operatives in the State, both water and land. He has done so much and continues to do. So, the rest is left for these professionals to deliver. The Governor is not a policeman or a soldier. He has built a Guest House for the Army, giving them vehicles, and the police, you know it, giving them so much including other security organisations. The government has done so much for the security people and they are supposed to complement the huge expenditure of government on them.
The idea of having a curfew is also part of his own actions to mitigate these security lapses that are creating fears among our people. So, he is helping them. It is good for them. It is good for them to complement what he is doing, in terms of speaking to the people by his now and then broadcasts. It is to encourage them to know exactly what government is up to. It is for them to know what is happening. In this way, they are able to work with him, and stay distance and time with the Governor and not begin to feel that he is not doing enough. He is talking to them constantly. The security operatives should complement this government’s efforts and prove it right in its activities to secure lives and property. I support the government of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike. I support him wholeheartedly and he has done well. I score him high and give him excellent mark.
But some people are still complaining about the curfew, what do you have to tell them, both the residents of the State and Rivers people?
The curfew we should obey. The residents and people of Rivers State should obey the curfew. It is even in the Bible, that we should obey the laws of government. And so, if it is this one regulation that government has brought, we should obey. It is not for peace-loving rivers people but this is to catch the criminals. We too should complement government’s efforts by obeying the rules and regulations. Like when we had the lockdowns, don’t we see that we are enjoying health now? At that time too, people criticised the government and the Governor, but today, they have swallowed their words. They are enjoying health now. If the Governor had left Coronavirus to fester, then, it would have been terrible for our people. But today, we are walking around, the markets are open, and everywhere else, people are able to live their lives.
His Majesty, some Nigerians are today calling for the restructuring of the country and some too are calling for secession, from the foregoing, what do you think is the fate of Nigeria and what do we really need?
Obviously, to sustain the various geo-political zones of Nigeria, we do need restructuring within one Nigeria. And people that are resisting this, obviously, in time, will bow to the yearnings of the people. If you go back to the time when we had regions, we had relative peace. We are not saying we should go back to that but those kinds of things we were enjoying regionally, should begin to be apportioned within the States. Like for us in the South-South or the core Niger Delta, it is very important that we enjoy the proceeds of the God-given minerals that we have. We cannot have these minerals and people who are somewhere else, even beyond the shores of this country, are enjoying them. We can’t have that. No responsible government can do that. What God has given Nigeria is for Nigerians.
What do you have to say about the ongoing Constitution Review vis-à-vis the need for the traditional institution to be given roles in the Constitution?
The Constitution Review is welcome even if we are hearing that they are spending so much. Unwarranted expenditure is not good but the Constitution Review is good. And as it concerns the traditional institution, we need to spell out the functions of traditional rulers. With what we are doing, now, that I say it is illegal, as per it is not captured in the Constitution. But when it is captured in the Constitution, then, it serves as a support for us to do what we are supposed to be doing; and that is to complement government in the area of governance. So, that is very important. We should be captured in the Constitution. Traditional rulers are very important in nation building. They are very important in creating national identity. We are doing it now. There is this unofficial regulation, as it were, for Northern traditional rulers to come and visit their counterparts in the South and vice versa, both in the East and the West; that kind of friendship is ongoing. But it needs to be captured in the constitution. If it is captured in the constitution, it will be sustained and it will be done as a matter of duty.

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Special Interview

FG, Insensitive To PANDEF’s Agenda – Ogoriba

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We thank Mr. President for flagging off the clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The long delay in starting the Ogoni Clean-Up had sapped confidence locally and had caused the broader Niger Delta to doubt the intentions of Government. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to speed up this exercise, especially by following through the emergency steps outlined in the UNEP Report, which includes the provision of safe drinking water for a populace whose water has been declared unfit for human consumption by UNEP, years ago. We also urge the federal government to commission a Region-wide credible assessment of the impacts of crude oil pollution of the environment in the Niger Delta and undertake to enforce all environment protection laws.
We similarly urge the Federal Government to take decisive steps to enforce the Zero Gas Flare deadline.
The devastating effects of coastal erosion and lack of effective shoreline protection for the coastal communities of the Niger Delta must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
The Maritime University Issue
The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, is largely regarded, by persons from the Zone, as symbolic and deserving. Its closure and certain statements around it, have been viewed as insensitive and out rightly provocative. This, of course, is aside from the obvious potential benefits that the Institution offers to the technical and managerial capacity enhancements of, not just persons from the Zone, but all Nigerians. We, therefore, strongly urge the President to direct the take-off of the already approved Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State. The prompt take-off of this University will most certainly assure the people of the Niger Delta that President’s Administration is truly a sensitive, listening and inclusive Government. Also, we strongly urge that the announced plans to upgrade the 30-year old Maritime Academy, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, to a university should be implemented.
Key Regional Critical Infrastructure
There is the need for the Federal Government to fast-track interventions on some of the indicative Regional Infrastructure viz:
• We wish to thank President for ensuring that the first phase of the coastal railway project is provided for in the current 2016 budget. We urge the Federal Government to further ensure the full implementation of this project that is designed to run through all the states in the Niger Delta, up to Lagos.
• Complete the existing East-West Road.
• Work should resume on the abandoned Bodo-Bonny Road Project. We note that NLNG had already offered 50% funding for this Project.
• Implement the proposed East-West Coastal Road Project, which stretches 704 km in length along the Atlantic coastline, from Odukpani Junction in Cross River State, connecting over 1000 communities, to Ibeju on the Lekki-Epe Expressway in Lagos State (Design already completed by NDDC).
• Implement the development of inland waterways and riverine infrastructure.
• Remove bottlenecks militating against the full activation and utilization of the existing ports in the Niger Delta, including Port Harcourt, Onne, Calabar, commence dredging of the Escravos bar-mouth which will open up Burutu, Koko, Sapele, Warri and Gelegele Ports to deep sea-going vessels and expedite work on the dredging of the Calabar Port. The Deep Sea Port project in Bayelsa State also requires consideration.
• We urge the commencement of work on the Ibaka Deep Sea Port for which Feasibility has long been completed.
Details of other regional infrastructure projects will be presented in the course of the dialogue.
Security Surveillance and Protection of Oil and Gas Infrastructure
The incessant breaching and vandalization of pipelines, and oil theft, have taken direct tolls on oil production and supplies, with corresponding adverse effects on the economy of our dear Country. Pipeline vandalism also damages the environment, health and economic activity of inhabitants of affected areas, as well as complicates environmental cleanup efforts.
It is therefore our view that an urgent review is done to pipeline surveillance contacts to give the responsibility to Communities rather than individuals in a manner that ties some benefits to their responsibility. Communities would then see their responsibility for the pipelines as protection of what belongs to them.
Relocation of Administrative and Operational Headquarters of IOCs
The Headquarters of most Oil Companies are not located in the Niger Delta Region. As a result, the Region is denied all the developmental and associated benefits that would have accrued to the Region from their presence. It has therefore become imperative for the IOCs to relocate to their areas of operation. This move would create a mutually beneficial relationship with the host communities.
Power Supply
Despite being the core of power generation in the Country, most Communities in the Niger Delta remain unconnected to the National Grid.
We, therefore, advocate a power plan that strongly ties power supply in the Region to gas supplies, thereby giving all sides a stake in improved stability. Because of existing infrastructure, this should be an area where the Government could deliver the swiftest and most noticeable change.
Economic Development and Empowerment
The Federal and State Governments need to signal their interest in sustained economic development in the region by:
i. Implementing the Brass LNG and Fertilizer Plant Project and similarly concluding Train 7 of the NLNG in Bonny
ii. Reviewing, updating and aggressively driving the National Gas Master Plan to integrate the economic interests and industrialization aspirations of the Niger Delta Region
iii. Creating a Niger Delta Energy Industrial Corridor that would process some portions of the Region’s vast hydrocarbon natural resources, where they are produced, to create industrialization and a robust economic base in the Region that would improve the living condition of the Citizens.
iv. Expediting work on the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in the Region, in particular, the Gas City, Ogidigben and Deep Sea Port, Gbaramatu, in Warri South LGA of Delta State.
v. Harnessing the huge rain-fed agricultural potentials of the area through the development of farm estates, fishery development projects and Agro-Allied Industrial Clusters.
vi. Harnessing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the youths in the Region to keep them gainfully employed in legitimate businesses, and away from restiveness.
vii. We urge the use of ICT as a tool for peace, job-creation and development. Appropriately deployed ICT can be the elixir to create much-needed jobs, promote entrepreneurship and create wealth in the Region.
vii. Resolve the various issues leading to the non-operation of Delta Steel Company, Oku Iboku Paper Mill, Edo Textile Mill and ALSCON.
Inclusive Participation in Oil Industry and Ownership of Oil Blocs
The sense of alienation of Niger Delta indigenes from the resources of their land will continue until there are affirmative actions that guarantee the involvement of these communities in the ownership and participation in the Oil and Gas Industry. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to enunciate policies and actions that will address the lack of participation as well as imbalance in the ownership of Oil and Gas Assets.
We similarly urge the institution of Host Community Content within the Nigerian Content framework, across the entire enterprise chain of the Petroleum and Maritime sectors.
Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC
There is the urgent need to adequately restructure the NDDC to refocus it as a truly Interventionist Agency, that responds swiftly to the yearnings of the grassroots of the Niger Delta. Communities must be able to have a say in what projects come to them. We also urge the full implementation of the funding provisions of the NDDC Act.
Strengthening the Niger Delta Ministry
Since the creation of the Niger Delta Ministry, even though it was meant to function in the mode of the Federal Capital Territory Ministry, its funding has been abysmal. There is an absolute need, therefore, to adequately fund, and strengthen this Ministry to the purpose for which it was created.
The Bakassi Question
The fall out of the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon continues to threaten the security of the southernmost part of the Niger Delta Region. The unresolved issues arising from the Green Tree Agreement continues to create tension and plague the region. There is also the lack of a well-coordinated transparent blueprint for the development and resettlement of the displaced populations. The host communities face huge abuses and are unable to reestablish their respective means of livelihood. We, therefore, recommend a comprehensive resettlement plan including development for the host communities and displaced populations to reduce the risk of making them into a Stateless People.
Fiscal Federalism
The clamour for fiscal federalism has continued to be re-echoed by different sections of the country. The people of the Niger Delta region support this call and urge that the Federal Government should regard this matter expeditiously.
What message would you want to pass to the Federal Government for being insensitive to these issues five years after?
It is regrettable to say that the 16-point agenda has not been attended to thereby bringing about high rate of insecurity in the region.
For emphasis, after having several interface with these boys, they saw the reasons for dialogue than allowing the region go in flames as a result this brought about ceasefire in the region making everyone to be enjoying the relative peace being enjoyed today.
I want the Federal Government to know that when these boys see that there is blatant refusal in addressing their issues by the Federal Government, they are capable of making the region go into flames, adding that he appealed to the Federal Government, and other critical stakeholders responsible for the implementation of this 16-point agenda to be sincere to themselves and do the needful, adding that what the people in the Niger Delta region want is that all must be fair, just and equitable in what they do, so as to engendered peace and security to the Niger Delta region.

Concluded.

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