Suddenly, all the hype of a mega party in readiness for the 2011 Nigerian general elections has simmered down. And what appears left as a strong opposition to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is to me, the PDP itself. This was how a legal practitioner, and Action Congress (AC) candidate in the 2007 elections into the Rivers State House of Assembly, Amglad Imabibo captured the myth of a strong opposition political party.
In fact, anytime soon, more armour bearers of his kind within AC in the state would defect to the PDP and publicly burn their brooms, a symbol of the party intended to sweep away all the political wrongs the party once believed, the PDP has inflicted on the Nigerian state.
Such defections have been common place, the latest being five members of the House of Representatives from Zamfara State, elected on the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) platform. Speaker of the House, Dimeji Bankole who read their joint letter to the House, last Thursday also listed the political thorn-coats as Abubakar Shehu Gumi, Mohammed Sani Takuri, Idris Mohammed Kanta, Bello Abubakar and Zubair Dahiru.
Together they bid their former party farewell but retained their seats in the House, a classic case of a kid eating his candy and still having it. Ironically that happened shortly before the lower Chamber of the National Assembly was to address the vexed issue of carpet crossing and the penalties that such must attract.
Earlier same day, the Senate had passed 36 amendments, one of which was that in respect of section 109(1) of the 1999 Constitution which states; “A member of the House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if- (G) being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the periods for which that House was elected”.
Strangely, the Senate voted in favour of expunging this welcome check, the aspect of losing the assembly seat if such law maker defects to a party other than that on which platform he was elected. The implication is that the much expected institutional , structural and legal frame work needed to build and sustain multi party democracy, grounded in diverse ideological and interllectual inter-play as operates in other well planned political cultures, might have been dashed. Dashed, if after the likely harmonisation between the two chambers of the National Assembly, the amendments are sent to the various state Assemblies for support and eventual passage.
How can a pro-active Senate of the kind Nigerians have come to behold as nationalistic ignore a legal loophole that is likely to encourage the production of political thorn-coats, men and women with same principles and ideologies? Yes, many have said that Nigerian political parties lack clearly definable ideologies as can easily be discerned of the American type democracy, which model we have adopted, but part of the necessary checks should have been to provide conditions that would discourage political adventures and inconsistencies with little or no regard for the hopes and tears of the electorate.
Why, for instance, must one, elected into the ruling party defect to the opposition and still retain his seat in the state House. It was to check such avoidable political harlotry that the framers of the 1999 Constitution conceived section 109(1)-G which insists that none should eat his political cake and have it.
But with the senate decision going the way it went, the only hope left is to pray that the House of Representatives stands by its position that the offending section against carpet crossing be retained, as the House considers report of its 45-member committee tomorrow, Tuesday, March 30, 2010. But we can only pray.
Presenting its report, at plenary last Thursday, the Committee chairman and Deputy Speaker, Hon Usman Nafada, gave Nigerians a reason to hope when, he said the committee proposed the alteration of various sections namely 68, 135,180 and indeed the now contentious section 109, which seeks to make carpet crossing illegal.
The House committee recommended that “ where a person elected on the platform of a political party, he becomes a member of another political party without evidence of merger or faction of his former political party, he will vacate his seat”.
It also recommended that “where a person elected as an independent candidate, he becomes a member of a political party before expiration of the period of which that House was elected, he will vacate his seat”.
With the opportunity offered by ungoing talks and debates concerning the production of a constitution that would reflect the opinions and wishes of the majority of the people, one expects the National Assembly to do everything that will encourage stability of democratic institutions, key among which should be a vibrant opposition that will offer alternative views on burning national issues. That without doubt, is a necessary step towards checking the now familiar defections which will someday, make nonsense of the multi-party system that has been on test-drive for far too long.
Even now, there is a strong fear in the air, and many Nigerians have sensed the danger of brewing a one party state with the only opposition party being the ruling party itself. That scenario can only prove right, views of the Ist Earl of Beaconsfield who once warned, ‘No Government can be long secure without a formidable opposition’
I believe so, because history has proved that the world owes her heritage in science and technology not to those who agreed all the time but those who disagreed and kept urging on.
A formidable opposition is one that is alert and readily proves that it could be done better and differently and persuade others to try fresh ideas, surely, not the greedy cash and carry lot, Nigeria has paraded recently. A click of arm-chair critics driven most times by greed and selfishness and not the need to wrest power for the purpose and conviction of doing any better but amassing more.
But with the way things are going, with Senate watering the dry land for later-day carpet crossing with many more defecting from their parties not to the myth, that is the mega party but straight to the ruling PDP, there’s no picturing the face of Nigerian democracy beyond the 2011 elections. A one party state, is to put it mildly.
My Agony is that only defections from the ruling PDP ( and the few, even insignificant) to any other party attracts sanctions, as in Edo and not from others into African’s largest political party.
Now, therefore, is the time for all well-meaning Nigerians to defend those structures that could encourage diverse views and discourage the steady slide, deep into a single one. But that’s how far we ‘ve gone and where we are going.
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
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