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Special Interview

‘Allow States to create Local Govts’



What’s more  important in my state  today, is allowing states to create additional LGAs irrespective of whatever the funding situation will be even if they’ve not changed whatsoever in the funding formulae as it is today, that they’ll not get a kobo extra, my people will want additional Local Govts.

The National Assembly has intensified its quest at constitution review, with the committees  on constitution review of the Senate  and House of Representatives recently holding a retreat in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State on the much- talked-about review of the 1999 constitution with a view to harmonizing their separate documents. Three-time Governor of Yobe state and Senator representing Yobe East Senatorial District in the present Senate, Senator Dr. Bukar Abba-Ibrahim bares his mind on this and other related issues in an interview with The Tide On Sunday in Abuja.


One thing that is causing ripples on the streets of Nigeria is the deployment of troops, soldiers to the airport at the time that the President arrived; we’re told –reliably- that the order to deploy soldiers was not given by the Acting President who was empowered by your resolution to be the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces…. why?

(Cuts in) No, No, No! I read this in some of the papers – the safety of Mr. President is under the control of the Brigadier of Guards; he doesn’t need to talk to anybody except if something beyond him happens, he doesn’t even talk to the Chief of Defence Staff; he doesn’t talk to the Chief of Army Staff. This is a routine work, normal job unless  the Acting President (gives a contrary directive); of course if the Acting President had given a contrary directive, they could have done his directive,  but ordinarily when the President is travelling or is coming (in), even other presidents – not necessarily our own president, Brigade of Guards takes care of this – it’s a routine job; that’s their own job. That’s what the brigade of guard’s job is all about – it doesn’t concern anybody.

Of course their superior (officers) shall still tell them if there is anything they notice is unusual or if there is anything they think is being done differently, otherwise they have their normal way of doing this kind of things. I don’t think that anybody has any contrary opinion except if something strange happens…but nothing strange happened, Mr. President (was) coming back home, even the Vice President when  he is travelling, the Brigade of Guards takes care of his security – until he goes and as soon as he’s at the airport, retires to his house – all around, it is under the control of the brigade of  guards. I read it in the (news) papers.

There is nothing worrisome or nothing unusual about this, it’s purely a routine military job. I read it in the papers it’s purely a routine military job for the Brigade of Guards their commander, of course they are under the command of the chief of Army staff and also the Chief of Defence Staff.

Rightly or wrongly, it’s said that the first lady is responsible for people not seeing the president including the special delegations from Governors Forum, (which include his son-in-law), House of Representatives and the PDP in Saudi Arabia. It is also worrisome  that the same thing obtains now that he has arrived the country. In the overall interest of the nation  since the president is a ‘public property’, you may want to advice Her Excellency, the First Lady.

I don’t believe the First Lady would be the one to stop everybody from seeing Mr. President that probably must have come from his doctors. Even in Nigeria, when people fall sick, even an ordinary person – like us, when we fall sick the way people worry you & bother you, it doesn’t really help you in anyway at all, so doctors tend to control crowd and so on and so forth. So when you have a president who is sick if you allow people to go in freely & come out, pressure will be too much on the President but this is purely general statement.

I cannot expect the First Lady to stop his Son-in-Law to go in and see his father-in-law or his daughter to go and see their father. I don’t think that is possible except if it’s order from the doctors so I believe if what you’re saying is correct – that it must have come from the doctors.

But as you rightly say and rightly say earlier, the President is a public property, no Nigerian, not even his wife has the right to stop Nigerians from knowing what condition he is in, if that happens, it’s wrong. We need to see him clearly, at least a glimpse of what the situation is – that’s our right as a people but doctors always behave in a way that will help his patient so I believe any such orders, it must have come from his doctors, not from the First Lady but of course even doctors cannot stop the First Lady from seeing her husband. The First Lady will be No 1 person to see her husband, every other person comes distant second.

But I’m not  sure people are not unnecessarily blaming the First Lady. This is, I think, beyond the First Lady; it must have come from the doctors. But I don’t know really, nobody knows – nobody, nobody really knows.

 I know that you’re not a member of the constitution review committee

 (Cuts – in) No, am not.

But I know that  you’re full of expectation since you have the interests of Nigerians at heart. The members of the committee have proceeded on their retreat, they’re expected to be  joined by their counterparts in the House…

 (Cuts-in) Yes. My wife is a member, in the House so I  know that.

 At the end of the retreat, what are your expectations?

Eehmm… at the end of the retreat, we expect them to be putting finishing touches to all the (grey areas and employ) hard work in trying to amend some aspects of our constitution and also the public hearings in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. They should have put all these together, not even talking about harmonization of the position by the position of the Senate and the House of Representatives which is going to be a very big exercise. As you are aware, it was impossible for the Senate and the House of Representatives to jointly do the exercise. They did not get on the way they should so everybody did its own separately; they must find a way of putting these together so that we know that we have one document we cannot have two amendments to the same constitution.

So am sure they’re going to put finishing touches to this very important exercise

(c): Finally, what should be expected of you by your constituent of Yobe East, now and 2011 and indeed 2011 – the election year?

 To do  more of the other good things I’ve been doing – to do more and more of them and I also want the constitution to be reviewed – so I am expecting the committee to finally submits its reports. What’s more  important in my state  today, is allowing states to create additional LGAs irrespective of whatever the funding situation will be even if they’ve not changed whatsoever in the funding formulae as it is today, that they’ll not get a kobo extra, my people will want additional Local Govts. This is the No 1 issue in my state today, I hope that at the end of the day, this will prevail, this will happen in the review exercise.

As far as Yobe is concerned, I think that’s what they really need – very special attention.

I know what is important to us may not be important to other people, somewhere within the country – I know we are all within the country; but in my state that’s the No 1 priority. In some states they are talking about creation of state. We don’t ask for additional states except if every states must have additional states.

Come 2011, What should your constituents in particular and your admirers expect from you, as a former presidential aspirant of the ANPP?

Well, that depends on what you’re talking about because in 2011, I‘ve 3 options. Either to go for the Presidency which I’ve started to made wide consultations and I attempted before, and I still have the ambition or going back to the Senate to continue to make good laws for the Republic of Nigeria or simply retire to the farm in Damaturu where my attention is also very badly needed. So I’ll take my time to decide but for now,  the priorities are in the order I’ve stated – presidency, Senate and my private life.

Just a follow – up. Talking of 2011, would you join your friend Gen.  Muhammadu Buhari in the mega party come 2011?

No, Gen. Buhari didn’t go to the mega party. Gen Buhari has registered his own party; we already have our own party (ANPP) he made us in the party, he didn’t  find it easy; he didn’t find it totally acceptable so he left; we’ll continue, he’s very well building his new party. Probably we’ll meet in the mega party proposal as equals.

The idea of a mega party is not that you’re going to register one party – to my own understanding. It’s not you to register one party – that everybody should come and join as individual. No! I think it’s going to be an amalgamation or a union of all the opposition groups in the country, including the greater opposition called the Progressives – the true progressives – who doesn’t really align (with) PDP, who are scattered all over in the other parties so that mega thing is going to be and electoral arrangement of maybe parties – several of them – all equally registered, all with their leadership and so on and so forth – voluntarily coming together to form the huge electoral coalition to defeat the PDP hands down in 2011 because the PDP has failed Nigerians in the last 10 years. So we might meet somewhere so there’s no question of anybody following anybody to anywhere else; we could, we may meet in the greater arena because we have something in common, that is our ‘total opposition’ to the PDP, if nothing else.


Justus Awaji, Abuja.

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Special Interview

We’ve Succeeded In Reducing Crime Rate In Rivers By 50% -CP Disu



One of the two primary responsibilities of any government is to protect the lives and property of the citizens. Section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 succinctly declares that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
It is safe to say, therefore, that any government that’s worth its onion will prioritise the security of its citizenry. It is against this backdrop that The Tide, in its assessment of Governor Siminialayi Fubara’s one year in office, took time to x-ray some of the modest achievements recorded by the administration in the area of security in the last one year.
The Rivers State Governor is, no doubt, the Chief Security Officer of the State. But given the fact that the governor can not secure the State alone without the  collaboration and cooperation of the security agencies, chiefly the Police, the Editorial Team of The Tide Newspaper comprising the Acting Editor, Reward Akwu; Group News Editor, Boye Salau; Chief Correspondent, John Bibor and cameraman, Dele Obinna, took time to secure a brief interview with the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu, on the security of lives and property in the State.
In this no-holds-barred interview, CP Disu eloquently highlighted some of the achievements recorded under his watch in the last six months. He also talked about his command’s relationship with the State Government and other stakeholders in the State.
Can you tell us how has crime fighting been in Rivers State since you assumed duty?
CP: It has been great since I came. Don’t forget that I had worked in Rivers State some years back. I was a DPO in the metro, I was a DPO in Elimgbu, I was a DPO in Elelenwo; then I was Commander, SARS; I was Commander, Anti kidnapping, and I was AC CID before I left this town.
So, I know the town, I know the terrain. So, when I came back to Rivers State as CP, the most pressing of all crimes was the issue of 2baba who was said to have killed DPO, Ahoada, Superintendent Bako. So, the first thing I did was to go to the place, see the police officers working on the case, discussed with them, boost their morals and let them know the importance of getting the suspect who killed that wonderful police officer and dismembered him.
At the same time, one of the most important thing we did was crime mapping of the whole town. How did we do it? By getting data, statistics of all kinds of cases we are having in the State. With that, we were able to build up the crime mapping.
So, we know at the tip of our hands any kind of crime that is happening in the State and we are able to place them location by location. For example, in Etche, we know what is happening there, the kind of crime especially along the Airport road; we know the kind of crime at Igwuruta; we know the kind of crime we expected in the outskirts. Towns in the outskirts like Ahoada West, East, we know the kind of things to expect in those areas.
This was achieved with crime mapping which has been able to assist us in reducing crime.
Most importantly, the DPOs, we gather them together and talk to them to boost their morals and everybody including the Tactical team are very happy to go ahead and do their job.
So, these are what we have been able to do to reduce crimes and these had assisted us a lot in achieving all these successes.
For your information, we have been able to reduce crime to the barest minimum. We have been able to reduce the rate of robbery, we have reduced the rate of kidnapping and most importantly, the police are getting more and more friendly with the members of various communities because of the meeting we have been having, encouraging partnership with members of all communities. All youth leaders have been contacted, the police have contacted all youth leaders, traditional leaders have been visited and everybody is cooperating with the police.
Sir, since you became CP in the State, what can you consider to be the most difficult challenge you have encountered?
CP: At first, one of the difficulties I had was convincing the people to cooperate with the police, to give information to the police, but within a month or two, we were able to go round, talk to elders, talk to youth leaders and then had various meetings with a lot of student leaders, and leaders of students bodies, and then, it was just as if they were waiting for us to make the contact.
Now, as I speak with you, I can tell you authoritatively that information are coming in to us. People are talking to us, people are becoming confident in giving information to the police and these have been so interesting and a lot of successes have come out from these cooperation with members of the public.
We noticed that for some time now, there has been this problem of car robbery and we know that your men are on top of the situation, how have you been able to address this very serious crime?
CP: You know I mentioned to you that we did crime mapping. We know where the issue of car hijacking, robbing of cars take place most. So, the DPOs were tasked with the job of ensuring that these people are caught, and with a lot of information, we gathered data on them, we are able to profile them, we are able to identify them and beginning to know them. So, it makes it easier for us to go after them and again you notice as you are driving into town and out of town the presence of police officers.
You see them checking vehicles in and out of town and this has contributed a lot in preventing these thieves and robbers from taking these cars out of town like they used to do previously.
The tactical team officers are waking up to their responsibilities and all the tactical teams are bringing in successes.
From what you have said, it is obvious that you are getting the cooperation of Rivers people and stakeholders in achieving all these, what has been the relationship of your command with the State Government, especially in terms of support?
CP: The State Government has been very very supportive of the police. A lot of the times that we asked for assistance from them, they never disappointed. We have assistance in the repairs of a lot of our vehicles, they assisted in the repairs of APC, that is Armoured Personal Carriers, and the Governor has asked us to compile Divisions that do not have vehicles. As I speak with you, it has been sent to the Governor and we have heard he has promised to deliver to us one hundred vehicles, and if information at our disposal is right, some of these vehicles are beginning to arrive. We have seen some of them. At the end of the day, by the time they finish work on the vehicles and the vehicles are complete, these vehicles will be given to the police.
Everything we have asked of him a number of instances we needed accomodations for senior officers visiting,he has always complied.
What has been the relationship between the Police and other security agencies in the State?
CP. The relationship between the police and other security agencies is a fantastic one. It is a very very great one. We hold security meetings regularly and we share intelligence. Before 2baba was captured, we had series of meetings where it was agreed among all the security agencies that injury against one of us is injury against all of us and everybody was not happy about the way DPO Bako was killed and his body dismembered and displayed. Everybody (security agencies) was ready to come together. We shared intelligence, we did a lot of operations together.
Before 2baba was finally gotten, we contacted the Air Force who assisted the Police to soften the ground which made it possible for the Police to assault the camp of 2baba. That was a beautiful synergy between us and the Nigerian Air Force and other security agencies. So, in this town, in this State, we worked together as one.
Can you also tell us how have the Police been addressing the upsurge of Yahoo boys in the State particularly among students in higher institutions? This is a very coded kind of crime. We want to know what the Police have been doing considering a recent incident where somebody dismembered his girlfriend and others. That case is in the court now. How has the Police been able to fight this kind of crime?
CP: I want to differentiate between Yahoo boys and the example you gave for somebody dismembering his girlfriend. We want to look at it as a crime of what it is. That is a case of murder, homicide. We want to treat it as such but yes, we have cases of Internet fraud popularly identified as Yahoo Yahoo. All these are perpetrated by young men and women of certain ages.
One or two of them have been arrested and we have charged them to court as deterrent to others. A team has just been created specifically to tackle this issue of Internet fraud perpetrated by the youth and a lot of students.

Sincerely speaking, this thing is prevalent all over the country. What have we been able to do about it? We have been able to have discussion with student bodies, advising them again and again to stop from these activities of defrauding members of the public and especially stealing from the international community. We have been able to let them know the implications of this for the country, damaging the reputation of the country. A lot of countries do not want Nigerians to come because we have been associated with fraud of various kinds.
Question: We equally want to talk about what is going on around our office particularly the Diobu area of Port Harcourt. We have cases of cult clashes and that is very close to a very major station, Mile 1 Police Station. We are equally affected not by the cult related alone but by the act of robbery that happens around our office. Many of our staff have been robbed at the close of work. We want to know what the Police are doing to reduce this criminal activity to the barest minimum if not to totally stop the crime around that Diobu axis of Port Harcourt?
CP: Sincerely, if I tell you that I’m not aware of this issue I will be lying to you. We get cases of cult clashes in that area and time and time again we have been able to arrest a lot of them and ensure that we charge them to court.  I want you to know that we are not the cause of these cult activities.
The issue of cultism is becoming endemic. Hardly can you see people moving around there, even walking there without belonging to a particular cult or the other. Day in, day out, new kinds of cult are coming up, and the police don’t have any choice than to continue to raid them. We have been raiding those areas, and recently we have been able to recover firearms. We recovered four AK-47 riffles during one of our raids.
We recovered two pistols with AK-47 ammunition close to 200 during one of our raids. There is no time we go there without recording success, without recovering one arms or the other, locally made pistols in those areas. Almost all those areas are infested with cultists or various groups.
So, the solution is to keep it minimal and what do we do about it is to continue to raid and we will continue to do that until we are able to dislodge them finally from that area.
Question: What kind of assistance are we going to get from the Police in that dimension? We are very particular about security around our office (The Tide) in Diobu. What assurance are we getting from you concerning our office, that henceforth, our staff can go home freely and safely when they close from work no matter how late without robbery incident?
CP: First and foremost, we will tell them to be security conscious, for them to have it in their minds that they are walking through an area that is dangerous. Information is vital to them.They should open their eyes, open their ears, they should know when a clash is going on, they should look forward and see it on time for them to be able to take necessary actions.
Carrying their phones, exposing their expensive phones on the street all over the world is condemned. Keep your phones, don’t appear expensive to these hoodlums, they look at you, size you up before they attack you.
Now, on the part of the Police, we will continue to patrol these areas. Our men can come and identify your area. Like we have been able to do, we identify a lot of stakeholders. Police officers have been advised to come down from their vehicles and do foot patrol. When they are doing that, these hoodlums are seeing them and at that particular time we have been able to curtail crimes because they know the Policemen are moving around.
We will take care of your area. We have noted your area and most importantly, we will tell the DPO to put special interest in this area.
Question: What is the crime rate in Rivers State when you assumed office and now if you are to access it?
CP: I will be able to tell you that we have been able to bring it down to 50 percent.
Question: Finally Sir, we want to believe that your familiarity with the Rivers terrain as DPO in several stations and now as CP, has helped in the success recorded so far. If by tomorrow you are posted out of Rivers State, what will you remember Rivers State for?
CP: I will remember Rivers State. I know Rivers State as a peculiar State, one of the most important states which has a lot to do with the economy of this country. I will remember Rivers people for being wonderful set of Nigerians, friendly and ever ready to assist. I will remember members of the State for giving me all the cooperation I need to do my job as a police officer.
I will want you to know that during my short stay (in Rivers State), I have been able to receive more awards. I got award as the Best CP of the Year just within a short stay. That was possible with the assistance and cooperation of the people of Rivers State.
If I have to come back to work in Rivers again, if it is ever possible, I will not hesitate to come and work in this State.
It has been a wonderful place, the people know their rights, they fight for their rights and they assist security operatives.

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Special Interview

Honesty, Diligence, Performance’ll Take Any Individual, Entity Far – Isokariari



Today, Chief Okoma Kio Isokariari clocks 87 years on Earth. The czar of civil engineering and construction, and foremost indigenous contractor, though looking frail with age, had worked tirelessly to the zenith of the industry, with particularly iconic buildings dotted across Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State, and Nigerian’s indelible legacies of his professionalism, competence and commitment to excellence.
Before he retired from active site works and supervision, O. K. Isokariari was a colossus of brick and tar. He could work and move from one project site to the other without resting. He traversed the length and breadth of the country snapping jobs and executing them with zest, finesse and dexterity. His footprints stand out like a diamond in the sky across many communities, and today, represents part of the positive contributions of Rivers State to the realisation of the Nigerian Project.
Ahead of his birthday, today, barely 123 days after celebrating 50 years of the existence of O.K. Isokariari Nigeria Limited(formerly O. K. Isokariari & Sons) as a corporate entity, on July 4, 2022, the legendary indigenous contractor sat down with The Tide Editorial team led by the Acting Chairman, Editorial Board and Supervising Editor, Nelson Chukwudi; Health & Metro Reporter, Kevin Nengia; and Photographer, Ken Nu-ue, to reminisce on the past and charta course for the younger generation who would want to leave a mark, as he has done.
Below are excerpts of the 35-minute chat with the Rivers State icon in the built industry.
Sir, can you tell us who is Chief O. K. Isokariari?
Oh yes, Chief Okoma Kio Isokariari is from Buguma, headquarters of today’s Asari-Toru Local Government Area. I was born in Buguma on the 4th of November, 1935, and was baptised at St Michael’s Anglican Church, Buguma. I attended St Michael’s School and graduated with distinction. After that, I proceeded to Kalabari National College where I was House Prefect. I graduated five years later with an Advanced Level General Certificate of Education (GCE).
Not long after, I went to Zaria in 1957, and got job with the Nigerian Railway Corporation as Station Staff-In-Training. In July, 1957, I was selected among about 30 others and sent to Nigerian Railway Traffic Training School at Ebute-Metta, Lagos, where we were trained for six months. During the training, I was made Class Prefect, flying the flag of the region. I came out of the training with sharpened skills and expertise in traffic and logistics management.
After the training, I went back to Zaria, and was deployed to Kuchi station between Kaduna and Minna as station staff, a serious position in the corporation. I moved to Kano, a major railway hub, in November, 1959. With comfortable earning and savings as a responsible Kalabari son, I began making moves to marry in 1964, and eventually got married to Grace, the daughter of Amanyanabo of Kalabari, King Abiye Suku Amachree in Buguma.
Following the social upheavals in the North as a result of the 1966 coup, I returned to Buguma in June, 1966. I went back to Kano in August, 1966 after normalcy had been restored. But tension soon rose again in September, 1966. This time, the national crisis was more serious and disrupted my career. God saved me during the crisis as a lot of us from the South were killed in Kaduna in the reprisal mayhem. I went into hiding for many weeks in Kano to avoid being killed. However, I escaped by divine grace by flying to Lagos on October 17, 1966. It was a very difficult journey of life and death. In fact, I walked in the valley of death. That escape has been my happiest moment in life and the driving force of my success. It was a turning point. From Lagos, I returned home to the warm embrace of my mother in Buguma by boat on October 19.When the crisis died down, I went back to Zaria and continued with my job.
Not too long after, the civil war started. During the civil war, I shuttled between Buguma and Port Harcourt, striving to eke out a living amid the unspeakable humanitarian tragedy, and ruins of war. I first worked as supervisor at the Rivers State Ministry of Rehabilitation. I served in the state rehabilitation committee. Before then, I had attended St John’s Ambulance Course, similar to the Red Cross training. With my experience in providing emergency services, I was busy serving war victims. After the war, I actively participated in the resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration efforts of displaced people in Port Harcourt.
Not letting go of my business instinct, I registered my first company – ISOYE Enterprises to explore opportunities in stockfish distribution business. But seeing the urgency in addressing the housing and rehabilitation needs of Port Harcourt residents, I ventured into engineering and construction with the setting up of O. K. Isokariari & Sons in 1970, and incorporated it on July 4, 1972.
After the war, I returned to Zaria to continue with my work at the Nigerian Railways. My exceptional performance on the job earned me several awards for my dedication and commitment to duty. But with the lessons of history hovering over me, I voluntarily resigned in 1969 after 12 years of meritorious service to Nigeria, and the management of Nigerian Railways paid me all my entitlements.
So, how did you start your construction business considering the fact that you retired as a civil servant?
After my resignation from the Nigerian Railways, I returned to Port Harcourt to join the concerted efforts at rebuilding the war-ravaged city. Having settled down in my state, I added the little savings I had made to my pay-off, and used it to start my business. But let me say this, the war provided me the opportunity to delve into the construction sector because many opportunities existed then.
After the war, I started business with my experience in the Railways by engaging in house painting, renovations and supply of workshop tools to Rivers State Ministry of Works. Many houses were in ruins and people were starting life afresh. With the conditions of the city, it was not difficult for hardworking Rivers sons and daughters to find good paying jobs to feed themselves and their families. So, with the good foundation I had, with high level of discipline, frugality, honesty and integrity, I started getting clients. Not long after, bigger contracts started coming in, including contracts from the Rivers State Government under its First Military Administrator, Commander Alfred Diette-Spiff, and the Federal Government under General Yakubu Gowon.
My first big contract was the Braithwaite Nursing Home (Memorial Hospital) Building renovation and reconstruction in Old GRA, Port Harcourt in 1970. I was one of those who submitted tender for the project and as God would have it, I was awarded the contract in the sum of £14, 700 at the time. We completed the job in 1971. My company also built the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation in 1972. Of course, that became the launch pad for O. K. Isokariari and Sons.
Impressed with what we did at BMH, the military administration at the time led by Commander Diete-Spiff selected me among other contractors to build general hospitals across the 21 divisions in the state. I was fortunate to be one of those awarded the contract to build the 30-bed Buguma General Hospital at the cost of £130,000 in 1972. Each of the general hospitals were awarded at Ahoada, Isiokpo, Bori, Abua, Bodo, Sagbama, Nembe, Yenagoa, and Brass, among others, at the same value. Of all the contactors, we were the first to complete and deliver good quality project at Buguma in March, 1975.That project later became a reference point for other hospitals. I earned a recommendation in March, 1975, for our quality job at Buguma during the commissioning.
Afterwards, we handled the PAN African Bank headquarters building at Azikiwe Road, awarded at N9million. We also got the NNPC zonal headquarters building at Moscow Road – a nine-storey building – and later, the NAFCON Village and staff quarters at Onne. We got that at N26million. The NAFCON building was worth $28million because at that time, the Dollar was little lower than the Naira in 1982.We delivered the project in 1985. We also built the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) staff quarters on Okporo Road at Mgbuesilaru in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; NNPC awarded us contract to build the Japanese Construction Company’s staff quarters for the construction of Port Harcourt Refinery at Eleme. We built the Abonnema Ring Road and bridges; built the University of Port Harcourt’s arts theatre – The Crab – at Choba; DSS senior staff quarters in Port Harcourt; Nigerian Defence Academy senior officers’ quarters in Kaduna; Nigerian Army Command and Staff College school building in Jaji; NNPC’s 40 houses for new Finima Town; the Port Harcourt Cenotaph at Isaac Boro Park; NCDMB’s NOGAPS capacity training centre and Industrial Park’s internal roads in Bayelsa; Port Harcourt New Layout Market; Okochiri internal roads phase 1; among many others. In fact, I have seen the delivery of over 400 housing projects, school and hospital projects, and 150km asphalted roads that have continued to stand the test of time, in addition to many reclamation, sand-filling, canalisation and water projects, awarded by government at all levels, oil and gas companies, and others.
So, after all these iconic projects and achievements, how has life been?
I have retired long ago, and my children have taken over the business. Life has been good, though today, I am getting frail and weak. However, as a man with passion for adding value to society and impacting lives positively, I still make inputs to push the envelope further in the portfolio of my business.
Looking back at how things used to be, what would be your advice for young contractors of today?
I would advise them to be honest, steadfast, diligent and committed to delivering quality jobs to their clients. They need to have the stamina to overcome challenges as they come. Such problems include delay in payment for contract fees; navigating the financial system and economic policies, including the commercial and lending banks; even in the face of economic downturns. They also need to be patient and trying to meet clients’ demands without compromising job specifications, standards and best practices. That, to me, is very essential in sustaining contracts and winning the confidence of key stakeholders.
They should also remember that devotion is very important. I mean devotion, diligence and commitment. In our days, it was much more difficult to get contracts than what obtains today. Our work spoke for us at that time. Our legacies still speak for us today because our values, business principles and character remain the same. Anyone who has seen what we did before and what we are doing now, knows that our watchword is quality.
Like The Tide building on No 4, Ikwerre Road, which still stands strong even after a devastating fire outbreak in 2012?
Yes! And others like it. We built them with unmistakable commitment to quality, and desire to bequeath to our state enduring landmarks for posterity.
And these landmarks are major signature achievements that leave O. K. Isokariari in the history book of the state?
Our work spoke for us! They are known for their strength and unique structure. Anyone who sees our job could easily identify us. To some extent, we were far better than some foreign contractors. That is why I always emphasise on quality. That is what I am known for!
What is your take on the recurrent issue of collapsed buildings, most of them giving way while still under construction?
It is unfortunate. Most of the people involved in many of those cases are quacks and desperate individuals struggling to cut corners in order to enrich themselves at the detriment of the people. Such people should not get any construction contract, whether from government or any other entity.
So, what would be your advice to governments?
For me, prudence is the word. That might mean accountability, but the key thing is for government officials and decision-makers to be conscientious and determined to use only those contractors who can deliver quality jobs, knowing that they hold their offices in trust for the people, and also that the money expended on those projects belong to the people.
Unfortunately, most of the contractors today fall short of the standard. Most of them are portfolio contactors who are looking for government money to siphon. Yet, they are getting jobs! How can you award a contract to a company that has no wheelbarrow? No paid, competent staff? No reputation and track record of performance? So, government must be careful, meticulous and ensure due diligence so that monies are spent on quality, and for the best.
So, on your 87th Birthday, what do you like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as that Rivers man from Buguma who touched and transformed many lives; whose legacies would remain a source of inspiration and motivation to generations yet unborn. I want my footprints in Buguma, Kalabari Kingdom, Rivers State, Niger Delta, Nigeria and the whole world, to inspire greater desire for service to humanity. I want to be remembered as that good father who gave equal opportunities to his children to be what they dare to be. I want to be a reference point for many young entrepreneurs, especially in the state, who want to add value to the overall development of the state. I want the projects I have executed to continue to speak for O. K. Isokariari Nigeria Limited, my children and grandchildren.
Madam, it has not been easy taking care of your husband and children all these while. What is that unique thing that has sustained your marriage? And to the young girls out there, what advice do you have to help them manage their marriages to be as successful as yours?
Well, the most important thing is contentment and love. You have to be satisfied with what you have, and love your husband and children equally. Patience is key to building a peaceful family. So, I will advice young couples to be contented at any level they are. If they are contented and work hard, God will help them grow to be successful.
I am happy that my son who took over from his father is doing well. He is trying his best. Humility pays! Often times, he seeks and gets advice from the Dad, who is the Founder of the company. And that is very important for the growth of the company.

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Special Interview

‘Our One Year In Obio/Akpor Council Has Been Fulfilling’ 



This is the concluding part of the interview carried last Friday, July 22, 2022.

Mr. Chairman, there was recently an incident in Rumuogba where miscrants accosted workers at a property site claiming to be working for the council whereas their claim was not true. How do you handle the issue of touting in revenue generation in your local government?
Let me tell you the candid truth: my problem is not with the people that go about asking for such money. No! My problem is with those people like the property owner you just talked about. We have gone on air, we have announced severally on radio and TV: anything you want to pay that concerns the council; our offices are open from 8am to 5pm, which is when they close that gate, come to the council here, and make your payments and obtain original receipts from the council. Get your approvals and papers from us here. We do not exist in heaven, we are here at Rumuodomaya. Come and pay your tenement rate fees, operational permits and other taxes here.
The truth is that people deliberately fail to do the right things, believing that when those boys come knocking, they will just pay a little token, and they will give them adulterated documents claiming to be issued by us. And by paying them that money, you are encouraging them to do same to another person or come back tomorrow. We are aware of all these. They patronise the touts at the detriment of the council. That is what they do!
For instance, if you want to develop your property, you come to the council to pay the land rate and fencing permit levy. Outside of that, before you start your building, you bring your drawing here for approval. And most of our people do not do that. They don’t! Like I said, my problem is not with the boys who tout around, but the people that are giving them the leverage to continue to exist. Because if you come to the council, and you get the right papers, as a right-thinking Nigerian, you cannot get your papers and somebody will come and tell you to pay again for the same papers. You will not accept it because you know that you made your payment at the right source and place. All you need to do is to come back to the council, and complain, and your grievances will be resolved. If it is not what you are supposed to pay, when you go back, and the people come again, you arrest them with the police. Inform us, and we will come there and tell the police that we did not send these persons. And they will be prosecuted.
But what do we find here, we find people who will stay back, they won’t pay what they are supposed to pay, and then, when the boys come, if they fail to settle as per price, maybe, they will tell you the boys are coming to harass them. But in your conscience, you know you have not paid what you were lawfully meant to pay. That is what we see. And that is the problem we have! The council gates are open to all who have any legitimate business to transact with us. If we said this is the levy you are supposed to pay, first and foremost, if you get the remand notice, and you are too sure, get across to us at the council for clarification. We have designated bank accounts, go and pay what you are due, and come and obtain original receipts and your papers from us. Do they do that? The answer is no! Then, at the end of the day, when they are not able to pay the touts whatever they are asking for, it becomes an issue of complaint: they are coming to harass us. That is the problem we are facing.
Nobody wants to do the right thing, but they sit back and then, they make so much noise only in the guise of wanting to tarnish the image of the local government. That is what they do. Most of them don’t pay. It is only when the boys go to their sites, and seize their material, that is when you see them bring their drawings here for approval. That is when they come here to pay if they are not able to pay those people there. And for the ones that think they are smart, that is when they will give those boys money there, and they go. Then, when we set up our own monitoring teams to go and verify, they now say… they gave this much; meanwhile they did not come to the council to pay and obtain their original receipts and papers. You gave the money to who? When we ask them, they look for one story to tell. So, that is the problem we are having! If the people, out of their own volition know that this is their civic responsibility, and do those things expected of them to do, you can now come back and tell us that we are the richest local government, and we will tell you, yes, we are because we are seeing the money. But we are not!
Don’t you think that is one of the reasons why you are not because a large chunk of what is supposed to be coming to the local government council is not coming?
That is what we are saying. We are saying the same thing. You can’t just assume it to be so. Alright! It is like the misconception about budgeting. You hear that they have budgeted N50trillion. Is the money there? The money is not there! It is a mere projection. Most times, they will not even get up to half of that amount. Most times, they will spend above that amount. It happens because we are all human beings. That is how it is with what you are trying to assess now. So, that is what we are passing through. And the best way to it is to still appeal to those who are doing business in our local government to do the right thing.
Because the only option left for us now is to set up a task force team to go and verify whether you have paid or not, and get our money for us, if you have not paid. And you see those people who patronise the touts are the same people that shout the most. Before you know it, they have gone to social media; they have gone to conventional media, claiming that Obio/Akpor officials are harassing them and breaking into their shops or business premises. But we have given you enough time; we have announced in the media the timeline and deadline for you to pay. Early January to mid-February, we are on air all-through making announcements for people to come to the council and make their payments for the year. What else do you expect us to do? The moment we set up task forces now, they will start shouting to high heavens, they have come again; they are harassing us; they don’t want us to do our business. But you that was supposed to pay your obligations to the council; you have failed to do that, and you are blaming us for taking steps to recover our money. Because if you have come here to pay, we do not have any reason to set up any task forces that sometimes, are confrontational, to recover our money. And then, it becomes the issue of complaint. That is the problem we have!         And when you say, let me avoid these complaints, and not set up any task force, they still won’t come on their own to make the payment so that we can have money to work for our people. Or is it my personal money that I am going to use to work for the people? Is it my own money that I am going to use to pay for the Postgraduate grants? Or pay for the skills acquisition training for beneficiaries? Or for the projects we are doing? It is this money from levies, taxes, etc, that we are using to do them! And they make it look like if it comes, you put it in your pockets: it is not for personal aggrandisement! It is for the delivery of democracy dividends to the people. It is only those who do not have initiative that will not utilise the council’s money prudently to deliver quality services to the people. We are focused and resilient, and we know what to do to make our people, who elected us to serve them, happy.
But we are still reaching out to them. We will continue to appeal to business operators to come and do the needful for the good of all in the local government, because without that money, we cannot work. Let them stop patronising touts. They are the ones encouraging them. So, these are part of the major problems we experience in trying to harness our revenue for you to have the foundation to tell us we are the richest or we are the largest. There is no statistics to back that up! That is what it is.
Chairman Sir, you have said a lot concerning your achievements in the past one year. I know it requires a lot of money for you to carry out these development projects in the local government. So, what are you doing to shore up the revenue base of the council by way of diversification of the economy of the local government?
Well, how do we diversify? Unless you are talking of it from the point of view of investments! But like I said, as it stands now, our core investment is in the area of human capacity development. The law allows us to provide support for health; education; build markets; parks; property approval and building permits; and collection of tenement rates and derivable levies. That is all the diversification you can talk about. Except you are talking of venturing into agriculture! We don’t have that capacity.
What we do is to see to what extent we can add value to improve the lives of our people directly. That is what we see as our own diversification or what we can call investment; because we believe that by tomorrow, it will yield positive dividends. The multiplier effects arising therefrom can also count for us.
But out of that, we have the intention of building one or two new markets, or renovate one or two. We also plan to develop one or two more parks, because even if you do so, we have parks and markets already existing. You see those ones in those communities, even if you build more, they won’t allow you to come and collect the rent. By the time you want to press it, they will say you are confrontational. It is something when you come to experience it that you know better. If not, these are the little openings the law allows us to get involved in, in order to raise revenue for the council. Because we cannot on our own get involved in things the law does not permit us to do. What the law provides for us is: you establish markets; you establish parks; you collect daily tolls; and all of that. The diversification you are talking about now can only be in the area of investment. I think we are doing all we can outside our monthly allocation to boost our revenue and add to accelerate quality service delivery. It is what we have in our place here, that God has blessed us with, but the problem is how to harness it to enhance our revenue base because of the bottlenecks I have explained to you. That is what we are exploring.
We have our agents, and we are doing everything possible to tap all available options to increase our revenue base. I must also acknowledge that they are some companies and business operators in the local government that within the period given to them, the moment they receive our demand notice, they come to pay their due. But we still have some big companies that connive with these touts to evade payment of what is due the council.
Are you planning to digitise revenue collection in the council to check corruption and other sundry sharp practices?
Cuts in!
We are working towards that. But one thing you must understand is, even at that, like I know how many filling stations that are operating in Obio/Akpor. I know how many hotels. In fact, we have a record of how many companies that are operating in our area. But no matter how you look at it, it takes a willing mind to pay what he or she is statutorily obligated to pay to the government. Anyone not interested in paying will not want to pay voluntarily. Majority of the people always wants to be forced to do the right thing. We do not have difficulty collecting the money. The issue is: are they willing to pay? Because it is a willing mind that will do what you are saying, whether automated or not. I hope you understand me? Those that are paying will be the same ones that will pay whether you automate the process or not, because it is a voluntary thing. What they hear is that one that officials will come and lock up their shops or business premises or carry their goods or wares. That is the problem: lack of people’s willingness to discharge their obligations voluntarily. Even when you spread the annual payment over a period of time within the year, those not ready and willing to pay, won’t pay.
Interjection! Chairman, let me step in here. Let us leave that issue, enough has already been said about it.
Chairman, I know that this is not your problem, but a lot of motorists have been complaining about the bad gullies and craters near the entrance to your council’s gate on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road. Why don’t you try to do something to rehabilitate those bad spots to ease free flow of traffic around this axis?
Oh! The one in front of the council secretariat? Somebody told me they talked about it on radio the other day. Well, two weeks after I assumed office, we tried to do something around that. But I have listened to some of the commentaries on radio. Some people actually feign ignorance on who has the responsibility to address that challenge.
You know that we have three tiers of government: The federal, state and local government. That responsibility falls squarely under the purview of the Federal Government, because it is a federal road. It is not even the duty of the state government to intervene, except it secures the go-ahead of the Federal Government.
If you are saying it as a suggestion, fine. We can consider it based on available resources to us. But it is not my responsibility as a council. It is not! We have a lot of competing needs that we are obligated to address as leaders at the local government level. Our people elected us to serve them, and we have to judiciously spend the scarce resources available to deliver for our people. It is not just something you wake up one day and throw yourself into. Do we have the money to do it? The answer is no!
And more so, they have given the contract to LCC, a construction company to handle. They are in the process of providing drainages on the road. It is a gradual process. They are doing the work! It is not as if vehicles are not passing the road. It is just that some people are just idle, and do not know what to say or do with their precious time. Some journalists just want people to listen to their stations, so they look for just anything to say to engage idle minds.
Chairman, every job has its own risks and exposures. This job, for the past one year, has also exposed you to certain risks that you may not have anticipated. A case in point was early this year when your task force team on illegal crude oil refineries was accosted at a point around Rumuolumeni, and there was a near combat situation between some armed personnel of a Federal Government security agency and your team. My instinct tells me that you were physically present while the fight was raging. How did you feel about your safety during that confrontation?
Well, let me start it this way. You know that one of the questions you asked was that my local government is the richest. That is part of the risk. You won’t understand.
Well, that is what leadership is about. You can’t come here and just think it is a bed of roses. There are attendant risks associated with the job. That situation on that fateful day is one of such risks. Even in the job you do as a journalist, there are risks you face on a daily basis. It is what comes with the job, and you should be ready to face it. We are here to solve problems; we are here to face challenges first and foremost. This place is not a party hall; it is not a place for luxury. You that made up your mind to become council chairman must have also made up your mind to frontally tackle whatever challenges may arise during the course of your tenure.
So, it is not the team I sent. I was physically present there, and I was the one they were attacking for leading a team to disrupt and dismantle their illegal business activities in my council area. It was the confrontation I had with men of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) at Rumuolumeni. I was the one with the guy that had a gun; I was the person in the video that went viral on social media. It is what it is: it is governance! It is leadership! You must confront issues as there arise. Because: what is democracy? It is all about the people! What is governance? It is all about the people! The centrepiece of it is the people.
So, whatever it is that is affecting your people that you have sworn to govern, should be your personal challenge. We knew the effect of the soot pandemic everywhere in the state until the governor intervened and took the proactive step, and ordered the chairmen of the 23 local government councils to ensure that the operators and sponsors of illegal oil bunkering activities in the communities are identified and reported to appropriate authorities for investigation and prosecution while their sites should be closed permanently. He ordered the chairmen to join the fight because there is no way he can do it alone. After all, we relate more closely with the people at the grassroots. It borders on our people. The soot was affecting the health of our people.
So, for you to be a leader, no matter the level, you should be resilient; your mind should be made up to confront most of these challenges head-on. Some people have lost their lives in the course of defending their people. That is leadership! And if you are not ready to sacrifice for your people, then, you do not deserve to be a leader. So, that is the motivating factor that we have to keep pushing because it is in the interest of our people.
Chairman, you talked about what you were doing at Rumuekini: the Fish Farm. I will like to know: what is the state of that farm, today? Is it producing? Are we earning money from the farm already? Secondly, Obio/Akpor has a serious challenge of refuse disposal. We understand the challenges, especially when the issue of refuse disposal was handed over to you by the governor when Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) had problems. What is the situation now? And how are you coping with that to ensure that the local government is free of filth?
Well, we thank God that as it stands now, a task force has been set up by the governor to take over that responsibility. But while it lasted, it was a daunting experience. A big one at that! It was an intervention that we got involved directly. But experience has shownthat refuse collection and disposal is a serious business. Very serious business managed by very serious-minded people!
Of course, refuse is produced in seconds. And you know that it is human beings that produce waste. So, it follows that where you have high concentration of the population, the tendency is that you have more refuse produced by the seconds within that area. Like Obio/Akpor, if you talk about population concentration, it doubles that of Port Harcourt City. That is why we seem to have more waste than any other local government in the state.
It has always been the responsibility of RIWAMA. But through the directive of the governor, we intervened and did what we were able to do to help. The job has reverted to RIWAMA, and the task force is incharge now. We even attended a meeting at the invitation of the task force, yesterday, to ask us on what experience we have garnered and what suggestions we could make to help them do even better. We had very candid conversations around the issues, and we also made suggestions for seamless refuse collection and disposal in the capital city through a strategic synergy that works for the good of all in the communities.
Of course, the local government council must be involved; just as the communities must also be involved, because they are the ones generating the refuse. So, they should also be involved in all-round monitoring and supervision of evacuation at the receptacles and compaction at the dumpsites, because we have the manpower at this level. We know that most of the refuse contractors, if you don’t supervise and monitor them very closely, they won’t do their jobs diligently. So, we need to work with RIWAMA for them to succeed. All the same, we thank God that we were able to do that job, but it was very overwhelming, I must admit.
Now, back to the issue of the Rumuekini fish farm. Yes, as it is today, it is not functioning optimally. We are trying to work out modalities for its efficient and effective operation. But we said, if we finish securing the place first, to be sure, then, we can begin the next process. We want to set up an agro-based business there outside of the fish farm in partnership with interested investors. We are talking with some people already, and we believe that by the time we are done, we would have bequeathed a thriving agro-based business portfolio that will not only employ a lot of our people but also generate income for many families and the council as well.
If we are to continue with the facility, we may have to totally renovate and expand it. Our intention initially was to, because it is in units, just to add extra units, make them modern, and then, in each unit, raise like two or three women, give them money to run it as a business. They will manage it, sell and make returns to the council, no matter how little. We are working that out. Now that we have been able to secure the place, it will now give us that platform to work out something. My supervisor for agriculture is working out the modalities. We are talking with a team from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and two or three other organisations to see how the place can be optimised for the good of the people of Obio/Akpor.
Going forward, what are we expecting from you in Obio/Akpor?
Yes, we have hit the ground running. Like I said, in the area of human capital development, we will continue with our post-graduate grants. We will also continue with our vocational skills acquisition programme. We will do another two sets. The PG programmes, we will do another two sets of 50 for PhD and 50 for Masters. So, at the end of our three-year tenure, we would have produced 150 PhD and 150 Masters degree holders.
We have other very important projects we want to embark upon. First among them is the Secondary School Block we promised to build for Woji community. We are thinking about one or two important link roads in the two constituencies of Obio and Akpor that make up the local government. If it is not something that can go round all the 17 wards, we do it constituency-by-constituency. If it can go beyond the constituency but not up to the ward level, we do it by clans, like what we did with the Charkin Academy admission. We could not carry the burden at the ward level by choosing 17 persons, as to one from each ward. So, what we did was use the nine clans as a basis for the selection of beneficiaries. In Evo, we have three clans – Oro-Evo, Oro-Esara, and Oro-Opotoma, that is in constituency one; in constituency two, we have three clans – Akpor, Apara, and Rumueme; then, the remaining, we gave to non-indigenes of Obio/Akpor. That was how we distributed the slots for the Charkin admission. So, we had a balance in the selection process.
All we can say is that Obio/Akpor people should expect more from us. And above all of these is the programme we want to start for our women petty traders. You know that we do not have farm lands anymore. Our women used to be very industrious and hardworking farmers, but with the lands gone to urbanisation, the only available space they have now, they display pepper, tomatoes, vegetables, and all those foodstuffs. So, we think we can encourage them by giving seed money to improve their trades; maybe, N10,000 to N20,000 revolving facility, so that we can reach as many women as possible in the communities. That way, we will help them boost their small businesses to support their families, and also help the council grow economically. So, that will be our focus too in no distant time.
The moment we are sure that it is workable, and will impact positively on the people, we will kick-start it, maybe, towards the end of the year, and nosedive into next year. We have already told them that it is not going to be business as usual. They have to be judicious and frugal in the management of whatever they are given, because it is not for free; they have to pay back the money. The structures have to be in place to make the scheme sustainable.
We also have a scheme for the youths. We will identify the ones that are ready to be engaged, and want to eke out a living for themselves, if they get any support. Then, with the scheme, we will support them to be useful to themselves and the society. That way, we would have strengthened the economies of our communities; and built a more resilient and peaceful society.
We are going to do all these because we have the interest of our people at heart. We promised to address their challenges when we come on board, and we have to keep our promise. We will not disappoint them.

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