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For The Record

Nigeria: The 2015 Question

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Being a text of a lecture delivered at the second conference of the People’s Media Limited by Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON, Governor, Rivers State and Chairman Nigeria Governors’ Forum at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton, Abuja on Thursday, March 6, 2014.
The invitation to speak was a bit confounding to me as it reeled out names of important men and women who will grace this occasion. The topic also appeared difficult and rather general. There was the need to streamline the topic. I therefore decided to speak on “The Metaphor of Change and the Politics of 2015.”  My view of course is that while this is similar to the general theme it is somewhat more specific and focused.
To deal with the idea of change, one must first chronicle what is to be changed. Nigeria, a nation amalgamated in 1914 by a crusading colonialist with economic motivations was granted an unwilling political independence on October 1, 1960.
Nigeria has a chequered political and economic history which ranged from a “democratic election” that saw the emergence of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as ceremonial President to the current government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria’s political and economic history is beset with ethnicity, corruption, poor and weak or lack of institutions, glorified by poor leadership. In the 60’s Nigeria was blessed with some quality leadership like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, amongst others. The colonialists left behind a (Westminster system of government) which embraced a bit of federalism to accommodate different ethnic and religious interests.
The different ethnic, political, religious, economic and the growth of corruption led to Nigeria civil war after the coup that had the principal officers of government assassinated. The coup and the assassinations were seen as ethnically motivated and led to a counter coup, which in itself resulted to a civil war. This was after a protracted negotiation between the two leaders of the Nigerian nation and the emerging Igbo nation. An estimated over one million persons died in the war. Several Nigerians leader were killed during the coup that ushered in the leadership of General Aguiyi Ironsi, most of which were of the northern extraction. Soldiers of Igbo or Eastern extraction led the coup. The counter coup itself and the insurrection that followed led to the killing of southerners in the North.
The resultant civil war ended in 1970 and the counter coup had thrown up Yakubu Gowon as Head of State. The Army had become involved in civil and political administration. With the impunity and command control structure attached to the military, corruption and dictatorship grew in the Nigerian polity and became the common reason advanced by the military marauders and economic scavengers for the frequent coup d’états and the change of government. This was the basis on which General Gowon was over thrown in 1975. General Murtala Mohammed was killed in 1976 after a few months in office. And after General Obasanjo emerged, and organised an election that ushered in democracy and Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
They also made different contributions at development especially the governments of General Olusegun Obansajo and that of General Yakubu Gowon. The short-lived General Mohammed Buhari was focussed  on anti corruption. For this reason and more it was quickly set aside. The regime of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda ushered in development, economic and political reforms. It took us through different phases of democracy, had unsuccessful coup attempts to dethrone him. The regime created states like that of General Gowon. It had a dramatic exit that led to a brutal regime of General Abacha. Abacha mostly characterized by corruption and human rights abuses after a palace coup that took away the brief regime of Ernest Shonekan.
The death of General Sani Abacha ushered in the Government of General Abudusalam Abubakar whose presence we are enjoying today. One of his greatest achievements is transitioning the country to a democracy with Rtd. General Olusegun Obasanjo returning to governance. He calmed and stabilized a country in turmoil from the brutality of an Abacha who wanted to return as a civilian dictator in the name of democracy and election. We have since then had three democratically elected presidents.
A common feature that characterized the different governments is corruption in varying degrees. The fight against corruption was given a serious thought under civilian administration of Obasanjo. He instituted the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) as a corruption-fighting agency despite the fact that there was in existence a Nigeria Police who has as one of its responsibilities fighting corruption. Nigeria as a country had abandoned its progress in Agriculture development and Agrarian economy for and economy driven by oil revenue.
The oil revenue itself enhances the development of an army of looters. John Campbell the one time America Ambassador to Nigeria in his book “Nigeria Dancing on the Brink” had this to say,

Gov. Amaechi

Gov. Amaechi

“Throughout the post-civil war period, the self-enrichment of individual military officers was made possible by immense oil revenues combined with weak institutions of governance with little accountability to the public. Militarization and centralization of government authority went hand in hand, power in Nigeria became much more centralized than its “Federal” label would indicate.”
Like was said earlier, corruption is not a repository of the military alone. The politicians were also experts at it. We had earlier reported the institutionalization of the fight against corruption through a state agency fro the first time in the history of Nigeria by President Obasanjo. The degree of progress that was made may be open for debate especially as it was alleged that he used the same agency to go after his political opponents. John Campbell continued in his treatise,
“Where he created anti-corruption   agencies, he used them against his own political enemies. Nevertheless, their establishment bodes well for the future if they evolve into mainstay for the political enforcement for the law.”
The progress made in fighting corruption began to erode under President Yar Adua. His short-lived region cannot be assessed in this wise. Currently in the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan, corruption appears to have been institutionalized. A whopping sum of twenty billion dollars is alleged to have been missing. The stories of both fuel and kerosene subsidy are not anything to behold. It smears of corruption and rottenness. The aviation bulletproof saga remains unresolved. The Shell Malabu story is a macabre dance. The response of the regime to corruption is to imprison those exposing corruption. The impunity in corruption is extended to the punishment of those who fight corruption. The removal of the Governor of Central Bank is unconstitutional. Constitution means nothing to the current government. What we see is the re-emergence of civilian dictatorship, but enough about corruption.
Statistics emanating from both the World Bank and National Bureau of Statistics states that unemployment rate is 23 percent in Nigeria. It was by far lower than this before the enthronement of the Government of President Jonathan. Unemployment rate averaged at 14.6 percent, reaching an all-time high of 23.9 percent in 2011. It had an all-time high record low of 5.3 percent in 2006. Nigerians live in want, hunger and penury. Unemployment and poverty may differ in regions to varying degrees, but it knows no faith, nor religion, knows no tribe, nor nation. It brews violence and has led to the annihilation of families in the North East and South-south of Nigeria. Death on the streets of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, and Bauchi are no longer lessons for discussions. They are a daily occurrence. The debate is whether it is religious, motivated or it is driven by ignorance, hunger, and poverty. Whatever part of the divide you find yourself, you will know that violence has overwhelmed the government. Kidnapping is an everyday affair in the Niger Delta. It becomes strange, any day it does not occur. Political assassination is also on the rise. Violence is the order of the day. Richard Dowden in his book, Africa, Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, had this to say “ Nigeria is famed for its sudden explosions of violence, usually in cities where a politician has stirred up his own ethnic group or co religionist to try to wipe out a rival. These brief explosions regularly leave 400 or 500 dead in a couple of days when gangs of thugs take up clubs, machetes and knives. Whole suburbs are burned down – often with people locked in their homes.”
This is a similar picture with the burning of the Federal Government College in Yobe State and the killing of the existing students.  There are ethnically driven violence as exemplified in the cases of the Fulani Herdsmen in Zamfara, Benue and Plateau.
Nigeria is famous for out of school children. We top the list with a figure of 8.6m-10m out of school children. Education is not affordable and accessible. Education infrastructures are deteriorating or non-existent.
Beyond the education infrastructure are the softer issues, insufficient, poorly trained and ill-motivated teachers, a static curriculum, a lack of monitoring and quality control to ensure that education is not only available but is fit for purpose, competitive and qualitative. The result is that our children leave school, half baked at best and uneducated at worst.
Infrastructure
The current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has spoken variously about its commitment to infrastructure development on a broader scale. Its efforts in resuscitating the railways and its sale of the power infrastructure are commendable initiatives that should be followed through. Regardless of the first steps though, complaints by the different buyers of the generation and distribution companies point to debilitating challenges in the roll out that might affect the government’s power delivery promises. In the roads and maritime sector however much remains to be done. Water and sanitation should also receive better attention especially with donor agencies anxious to support investments in that sector.
The Rule Of Law
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of our nationhood is the arrogant display by the elite of power above the rule of law.  The learned Joseph Bodunrin Daudu, SAN, in his welcome address at a stakeholders symposium on the rule of law organized by the Nigeria Bar Association, puts it very succinctly. I have taken the liberty to quote him quite generously “ Strict adherence to the rule of law remains the hope and solution to Nigeria’s multifaceted problems. it is  a guarantee against unworthy livelihood. the rule of law helps to forestall vices such as dictatorship totalitarianism, anarchy, oligarchy personifies. it also serves a s a guarantee that those who are strong and valiant today will not be molested in their moments of weakness and infirmity brought about by old age and ill health. Thus the able politicians of today require no other protection whether in or out of office than the existence of an entrenched rule of law regime. the same goes for the citizens.”
It then is evident that the failure by government to provide the appropriate environment for the people to thrive, and a failure to guarantee the people’s right could lead to a breakdown of society. Democracy requires more than just the right to vote. A democratic country has to guarantee basic human rights to every person. Although these rights are enshrined in the country’s Constitution, it is crucial that the rights are ensured and protected by government as well as the citizens themselves. I will quote the learned Daudu again,  “ Breaches or non observance of the Rule of law breeds inequity. Some may say that all fingers are not equal but at least we take equal care of all fingers when we wash our hands.”
Good governance is the responsibility of every democratic government working in the interest of the public, as is the smooth handing over of batons from one administration to another. Nigeria is at the threshold of history with yet again another election. The Electorate is already demanding a better deal. The poll commissioned by the All Progressive Congress being unveiled today has shown that more than half of those polled insist that they are dissatisfied with the status quo and want change. The message is clear, the people want to be allowed a chance to freely make up their mind about who should lead them.
In political circles the drums of war and voices of intolerance gives cause for worry about the determination of the Federal Government controlled People’s Democratic Party to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in 2015. It is crucial that the elite and those of us in government understand that disallowing free elections would not just be an albatross but could be an invitation to anarchy.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says with regard to change, “Students of political systems must grapple with a subject matter that is today in constant flux. They must deal not only with the major processes of growth, decay, and breakdown but also with a ceaseless ferment of adaptation and adjustment. The magnitude and variety of the changes that occurred in the world’s political systems beginning in the early 20th century suggest the dimensions of the problem. Great empires disintegrated; nation-states emerged, flourished briefly, and then vanished; world wars twice transformed the international system; new ideologies swept the world and shook established groups from power; all but a few countries experienced at least one revolution and many countries two or more; domestic politics in every system were contorted by social strife and economic crisis; and everywhere the nature of political life was changed by novel forms of political activity, new means of mass communication, the enlargement of popular participation in politics, the rise of new political issues, the extension of the scope of governmental activity, the threat of nuclear war, and innumerable other social, economic, and technical developments”.
For an extended period of time, change became somewhat subdued around the world? Then came the blinding sand storm dubbed the Arab Spring, our own January protests in Nigeria ( which while I may not entirely agree with was an indication that Nigerians do have a potential to rise up) and more immediate the spectacle in Ukraine and Venezuela.
People around the world have become restless because certain existing political systems are trampling on the two key internationally adopted United Nations covenants:
1. The international covenant on political and civil rights
2. The international covenant of economic, social and cultural rights.
These rights define the very substance of life and once abused or denied will ultimately lead to birth pangs of unpleasant change.
The state has three key institutions, each with separate powers: government has executive power to run the country according to the policies of the ruling party, parliament has legislative power to enact the laws which government has to enforce and the courts of law have the judicial power to protect the Constitution and legislation passed through parliament.
Civil society, labour, business, media, communities and citizens, along with government, carry the responsibility to protect the country’s constitutional rights. Participation is central to these stakeholders fulfilling their obligation. It can be realized in a number of ways. After the end of apartheid, more democratic structures were established to enable active participation at local, provincial and national levels. However, if people do not become part of these structures, decision-making is left to a minority group.
For example, legislation requires schools to establish democratic school governing bodies for parents, educators and learners to manage the schools’ affairs collectively. School fees cannot be increased without the input from the three parties. But if parents fail to attend meetings or respond to correspondence, the educators and school management are forced to make decisions that may be regarded as undemocratic, causing unhappiness within the community.
One’s level of education, financial status or language should not hinder active citizenship. When we become active in our communities, we stand a better chance at entrenching values such as accountability, transparency, honesty, trust and respect, which are needed in order for democracy to thrive. For example, in a democracy, everyone is free to voice his or her opinion as long as it does not amount to hate speech. The media has the right to report on all matters concerning the public, even if it means exposing the wrongdoings of government, powerful institutions or people.
Even in a democracy, public protests have a place as a form of participation in community issues. However, it is important to acknowledge that with public protest comes the need for disagreeing parties to talk to each other. Talking about our different viewpoints is perhaps the most difficult engagement, but it is the most viable means to resolving complex matters. Yet an intolerant government that doesn’t appreciate the role of the electorate as partners in ensuring better governance is a government that is on its way out.
In a speech to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, on January 23, 1967, former British Prime Minister and Statesman Harold Wilson said, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”.
Are we where we are, in this decay of uncertain dimension because we are rejecting or resisting change? Have we voluntarily or involuntarily built a tower of babel where progress suddenly comes to a halt? Electoral frauds constitute the substructure of the abuse of political rights. And abuse of one right can lead to the abuse of other rights or all rights.
What has been the Nigerian experience with respect to elections and by extension political rights?
Here are the facts:
·1n 1993, when we thought we had repented of The post independence national election of 1964 set the stage. It was characterized by wide spread rigging, intimidation, and chaos
The election of 1965 followed the same pattern and became one of the reasons for the 1966 coup.
When the country returned to the ballot box in 1979, the ghosts of the 1964 and 1965 elections came back to town to cause havoc.
· Four years later in 1983, things took an even worse turn
·1n 1993, when we thought we had repented of our sins, the baby was not even allowed to come out deformed, it was aborted
·In 1999, 2003 we barely limped along with bruises
And then crowned things up with the 2007 election described at that time as the worst in Nigerian electoral history.
Just when you thought we have learnt our lessons, the 2011 elections came along with all the imprimatur of all previous elections.
Since 2003, almost every election has been called a make or mar election due to fear of massive rigging and its byproduct of violence. The big question is, how many make or mar elections should we have in the life of a nation?
Once again, here we are in a pre-election year. And once again, the witches’ cauldron has begun to boil over. Majority of our political gladiators are neither debating ideological leanings nor scrutinizing past records to guide rational choices in the upcoming general elections. Rather they are engaged in a series of spectacular arguments about agreements reached in dressing rooms and whose turn it is to be at the villa.
Today, the attention is not on possible post-election mayhem or violence. The twin evil of insecurity and violence are already here with us. Right to life has been diminished as never before. We have become so used to stories that hitherto were blood chilling that we flip over them in our newspapers.  A new normal has been enthroned. And the man is dying in each of us. Yet elections loom ahead with a fast moving cloud soaked with highly flammable materials. Meanwhile, the political space is so constricted that politicians are gasping for breath and forced into unseasonal migrations. Today’s lecture for me is a wake up call for all of us in the political space, government, politicians and electorate alike. It is a call to ensure that we all work together to guarantee the sustenance of our democracy and the existence of our nation. I will end with another comment by Dowden in the same book. He says “ on the contrary, I sometimes feel Africa is not violent enough. If Africans fought back sooner against theft and oppression instead of allowing themselves to be slaves to the rich and powerful, Africa would be a much more peaceful place. Instead, African patience allows exploitation and oppression to thrive until everyone looses their temper and explodes.” Hopefully this would not be our lot.
Thank you for your kind attention and May God bless Nigeria.

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For The Record

17 Oil Wells: We Hope Uzodinma’ll Accept S’Court Judgment In Good Faith -Wike

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Being a text of a state broadcast by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on Friday, May 6, 2022 following the Supreme Court judgment on the disputed 17 oil wells between Rivers State and Imo State. Excerpts.

My dear people of Rivers State, today, 6th May 2022, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has delivered its judgment on the subsisting boundary dispute between Imo State and Rivers State over the ownership of some oil wells at the Akiri and Mbede oil fields.
Let us recall that following the disputed claims to the location and ownership of some oil wells at the Akiri and Mbede oilfields between Imo and Rivers States in 1999, the Governors, Their Excellencies, Achike Udenwa and Dr. Peter Odili respectively, worked out a political settlement and mutually settled for a 50:50 percent beneficial sharing of the derivation proceeds accruing from these wells pending the proper demarcation of the boundaries between the two States by the National Boundary Commission (NBC).
While the dispute lingered, nothing was done by the NBC to demarcate the boundaries of the two States and establish the proper location and title to the disputed oil wells.
However, instead of instigating the NBC to do the right thing, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, shortly after assuming office, repudiated the subsisting 50:50 percent sharing formula and made provocative claims to the exclusive ownership of the entire Akiri and Mbede oil wells.
In order to actualise this spurious claims, he stealthily wrote a letter dated 9th August, 2019 to President Muhammadu Buhari and requested for the refund of the sum of N15, 000,000.00 (fifteen billion naira) from Rivers State to Imo State as backlog of accrued proceeds from the 13% derivation revenue of the said oil wells.
Acting on Governor Ihedioha’s letter, Mr. President warranted a letter to be written to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) through his late Chief of State, Mr. Abba Kyari, to alter the status quo in favour of Imo State without reference to the subsisting dispute and agreement between the two States.
Surprised by the surreptitious plots and collusive actions of the Government of Imo State and the NBC to overreach the legal interest of Rivers State in the disputed oil wells, the Rivers State Government opted to approach the Court for a just and lasting resolution.
Accordingly, we first applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja and among other reliefs, successfully challenged the powers and authority of Mr. President to give directives to the RMFAC and or interfere in any manner whatsoever with the distribution of public revenues from the distributable pool account, including the Federation Account.
Not satisfied with the positive ruling of the Federal High Court, the Imo State Government appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost. We then proceeded against the Government of Imo State at the Supreme Court in a fresh suit for a final and conclusive determination of the boundary dispute between our two States.
In approaching the Supreme Court in this matter, we believed that the dispute between the two States and the contentious issues are such that the Court can judicially, justly and expeditiously determine with the available facts and supporting evidence, including valid administrative maps, subsisting judgments, and other relevant documents.
And so, the Supreme Court has finally and conclusively resolved the dispute and granted full and exclusive ownership of all the disputed oil wells in Akiri and Mbede oilfields, to Rivers State much to everyone’s relief.
Although Governor Hope Uzodinma was not the mastermind of the impulsive trajectory that compelled us to seek the intervention and protection of the Courts, he nevertheless participated fully in the litigation process to the end without engaging the Rivers State Government for a possible political solution.
However, his reactions to the judgments of the lower courts on this matter were clearly uncalled for.
Indeed, itwas rather unfortunate that for someone who became Governor through the instrumentality of the judiciary could turnaround to castigate the very institution that made him ruler over the good, peaceful and progressive people of Imo State.
Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, we hope Governor Hope Uzodinma will accept the outcome in good faith, refrain from his usual diatribes against the judiciary and explore possible pathways to accommodation and compromise from the Rivers State Government.
This, we may readily oblige, despite the betrayals and back-stabbing by Emeka Ihedioha, who in spite of the extensive support and goodwill he received from the Government and people of Rivers State to become Governor, led the onslaught and created a wedge between two brotherly States that have been living at peace and in friendship with each other.
We also deplore the collusive actions of the NBC, which unfortunately, has become notorious as one of the most corrupt national agency, which has functioned more in causing confusion than resolving boundary disputes.
It bears repeating that the quest to defend our ownership rights through the courts over the Akiri and Mbede oil wells was not intended to claim victory over Imo or any other State.
We are therefore open to further discussions with the Government of Imo State on the best way forward without prejudice to the outcome of today’s judgment.
We appreciate the lawyers that prosecuted and secured this landmark success for Rivers State, and for their efforts, it is my pleasure to announce the conferment of State Honours on every one of them as the Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS).
Finally, I wish to reiterate our resolve to continue to fight for, advance and protect the best interest of Rivers State at all times and under any circumstances up to the end of our Government, and we hope our successor would likewise continue in this courageous spirit and determination to make the desired positive difference for our State and our people.
Thank you and may God bless you all!

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For The Record

‘We Are Working To Leave Rivers Better Than We Met It’

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Being a text of a statewide broadcast by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on January 1, 2022 to mark the New Year.
Excerpts.
My dear people of Rivers State
As the clock ticks down and as we look forward to
ushering-in the New Year 2022, this is the time to give thanks to the Almighty God for his blessings and the opportunity to look into the future with greater hope and optimism.
On behalf of my wife and the government, let me thank all Rivers State citizens in particular, and Nigerians in general, for your continued love and support to our administration throughout the year 2021.
Indeed, we cannot thank you enough for the trust, the solidarity, the cooperation and above all, your prayers for the success of our government and the peace and progress of our state.
We also thank the police, the Department of State Security, the armed forces and the para military services for working round the clock to make and keep our dear state peaceful, safe and secure, not only in this festive season but throughout the outgoing year.
Indeed, there is no denying the fact that crime and criminality have been at very low rates in Rivers State and citizens felt safer and more secure in 2021 than the previous years.
With the cooperation of the security agencies, we identified and destroyed most of the shanties that hitherto served as safe havens and hideouts for criminals, who have now been dislodged and dislocated from the state having lost the space and capacity from which they could operate with ease.
To consolidate on the gains of the dislodgement and dislocation exercises, and make the state even safer and more secure, we have decided to demolish all shanties and makeshift structures in identified crime hotspots in Port Harcourt Township and the Illaobuchi areas of Diobu from the second week of January, 2022.
Those rebuilding the shanties we had demolished at Eleme or attempting to resume illegal trading activities at the closed Oginigba slaughter have one week to vacate or be arrested and charged to court.
Additionally, we have discovered that most vacant plots or uncompleted buildings in the Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRAs) and some other parts of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas have been hijacked and are now inhabited by criminal elements who are daily constituting menace to public safety.
We have therefore decided to end this danger by taking over all such abandoned plots and uncompleted buildings and re-allocate them to citizens who are ready to develop and put them into effective occupancy.
In a similar vein, we have revoked the certificates of occupancy of several undeveloped plots of land in old GRA, Port Harcourt, for breaching the covenants attached thereto, which we would also re-allocate to interested members of the public for immediate development as part of the ongoing efforts to restore the entire old GRA to its pristine state of development, beauty and serenity.
We will also not spare those contributing to the perennial flooding challenge in parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by blocking natural water and drainage channels with illegal landfilling, reclamation of wetlands or the construction of concrete structures.
Consequently, we shall recover and restore all landfilled or reclaimed wetlands and demolish all structures erected on natural water channels spanning from the Eastern Bypass area up to Abana and Eleme streets in Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Only those with genuine government permits and allocation papers will be duly compensated.
Again, it is important to appreciate what we have done to successfully transform our capital city, Port Harcourt, to one of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria with well-paved streets, pedestrian walkways, dual carriage roads and flyovers.
However, the beauty of the city is being defaced by illegal and indiscriminate trading on our streets, under flyovers and other unauthorised open spaces as well as the challenges with the current largely inefficient refuse disposal system.
I wish to, therefore, remind citizens that the ban on street trading and commuting on motor cycles in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas is still in force.
Consequently, I hereby direct the Task Force on Illegal Street Trading to arrest and prosecute all those: (i) shuttling with their motorcycles and or hawking foreign exchange along Birabi Street, Hotel Presidential, GRA Junction by Zenith Bank up to Tombia Street; and (ii) trading on, under and around the Rumuola Junction and flyover; Rumuogba Junction and flyover; as well as Rumuokoro Junction and flyover.
Security personnel abetting illegal street trading by collecting bribes and offering protection to street vendors are advised to desist forthwith or they would equally be made to face the wrath of the law.
Furthermore, we have decided to end the menace of cart-pushers who have become notorious for indiscriminate scavenging and littering of wastes on street corners and the medians of major roads and highways across the state.
These cart pushers and their unknown collaborators are also responsible for the recurring stealing of manhole covers, an act which endangers peoples’ lives and public safety on our roads.
Consequently, the state government has placed an immediate ban on the activities of cart pushers and directs law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to violate this ban.
In addition, a task force would be put in place to enforce this ban while we plead with the courts, in the interest of public safety and security, to impose the severest of punishment under the law on any convicted manhole vandal.
The indiscriminate and prolonged parking of trailers and other articulated vehicles along our streets is another environmental menace we must tackle to bring sanity to our cities and living environment.
Consequently, I hereby direct the chairmen of Port Harcourt City, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo local government councils to within three weeks from today impound and or remove any trailer, trucks or articulated vehicle packed on the streets beyond 48 hours in their respective administrative jurisdictions.
As we all know, achieving effective environmental sanitation in cities and urban centres is a global challenge, and ours is not an exception.
However, we are determined to improve on our refuse disposal system by reviewing, overhauling and strengthening the legal, institutional and economic framework for a more effective delivery of sanitation services to residents.
I urge that you bear with us for a while and things will certainly change for the better in our refuse disposal system.
As an initial step towards achieving this objective, we have placed an immediate ban on the disposal of refuse on the streets or open spaces in both the old and new GRAs of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas.
Every household in both old and new GRAs must therefore procure and keep approved refuse disposal bins in the front of their houses to facilitate the door-to-door collection of the wastes they generate by designated contractors.
We will not hesitate to revoke the certificate of occupancy of any house in these areas without a refuse disposal bin or whose occupants are caught disposing refuse on the streets or open spaces.
We have also banned the posting of advert materials of any kind, including posters, fliers, pictures, artworks, placards or inscriptions on or under our flyovers, bridges, concrete walls and the safety barricades along the roads.
We will establish environmental marshals to enforce compliance with our sanitation laws, including this ban, by arresting and prosecuting both the person who places the advert and the person and institution on whose behalf it is placed.
Fellow citizens, we also have reason to be concerned about the operations and socially harmful activities of nightclubs within residential areas of our state.
Apart from the noise and traffic nuisances suffered by innocent residents, no responsible government should continue to tolerate the open display and solicitation of sexual services, drug abuse and public intoxication that takes place along the streets and public areas abutting some of these nightclubs, lounges and bars by the youths, some, as young as under 14 years.
Consequently, the state government has placed an immediate ban on all nightclub activities, including night-time trading and street prostitution along SaniAbacha Road and surrounding streets to stop the harmful effect of these depraved activities on the moral development of our children and society at large.
Let me also reiterate that we are as overly concerned as the public over the black soot environmental disaster that has continued to envelope Port Harcourt and upsetting residents for quite some time.
As a state government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated.
We have equally appealed without success to our people engaging in this illegal business to consider its negative effects on our economy, environment, public safety and public health and disengage from it.
We will continue to engage and plead with the Federal Government to intervene and save our people from this serious environmental and health emergency.
However, since the federal security agencies have largely refused to stop the illegal crude oil refining activities in the state, we have no option than to take necessary measures to tackle this particular and direct challenge to our collective health and survival by ourselves.
Consequently, I have directed the chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council to go after all the illegal crude oil refining sites along Creek Road and adjourning areas of the city and shut them down with immediate effect.
Furthermore, all local government chairmen are directed to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities and report to my office for further action.
Once again, we express our sympathies to the victims of the recent fire incidences in the state, especially those who lost loved ones and valuable property.
As a government we will continue to do our best to strengthen the State Fire Service to effectively intervene to mitigate the damage during fire incidents.
However, members of the public also have the responsibility to do the right thing to prevent or avoid some of these fire incidents from happening and those who deliberately bury fuel and gas tanks in residential areas are certainly not doing the right thing, and should therefore relocate their precarious businesses to more convenient and less risky places.
We wish to also express our concern over the poor compliance with the existing COVID-19 protocols by citizens and the effect on the transmission of the disease in the state.
Believe it or not, COVID-19 is a reality that has already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and disrupted economic activities across the world.
Here in Rivers State the transmission of the virus continues to surge daily and we all need to act together to stop the diseases from further ravaging our state.
We, therefore, appeal to all residents to make themselves available for testing and vaccination whether it is for your first, second or booster jab in addition to observing the existing preventive protocols, including social distancing and wearing of face masks to reduce the level of transmission.
Let me also remind all government recognized traditional rulers that they are, at all times, subject to the authority and directives of the state government and not to other allegiances, culture or otherwise.
Therefore, the consistent absence of some first class traditional rulers, especially the Amanyanabo of Okrika, the Amanyanabo of Ogu, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari and the GbenemeneNyo-Khana from participating in state functions is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
Should they, therefore, continue to absent themselves from state functions or in the regular meetings and activities of the Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, we would have no option than to direct their immediate replacement.
Finally, as the New Year 2022 inevitably beckons, we wish to assure you that we will continue to do our best to meet the aspirations of our citizens for a more peaceful, safe and secure society throughout the Year 2022.
We will continue to pursue our objectives for a stronger and more sustainable economy centred on fiscal discipline, revenue growth, job creation, and improved standard of living for all residents.
We will continue to accelerate our development with the sustainable delivery of quality roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other socio-economic infrastructure and complete all ongoing development projects across the state.
I wish to, once again, thank our leaders, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, party chieftains, our women, our youths and the press for the warmth and support we have received throughout 2021.
We wish to specially thank our religious leaders for their prayers for peace and progress as well as for their continuous support to our government in the primary task of building the Rivers State of our collective dream.
We remain grateful to God for the unprecedented peace, security and transformational strides the state is enjoying under our administration.
But we must also be vigilant because our enemies, especially, members of the opposition, are not happy with the prevailing peace, security and the unprecedented achievements we have recorded; and are therefore determined to cause crisis and disturb our peace and joy if they have the opportunity.
Let us therefore prayerfully continue to place our dear state and everyone in the safe and protective hands of God Almighty through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wish each and every one a happy and prosperous New Year!
May God continue to bless our dear Rivers State.

 

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For The Record

2022: FG’ll Leverage ICT Platforms To Create Jobs-Buhari

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Being a text of President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast to the nation on January 1, 2022 to mark the New Year.
Excerpts.
We remain grateful to the Almighty God for yet an
other year attained as a country, united by a common destiny and resolute in our determination to overcome the several challenges along the path to build the great and prosperous nation of our dream.
I salute the courage and resilience of all Nigerians, which was evident in 2021 as this nation, like other countries of the world, faced significant challenges that occurred as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to restore the global economy and social order.
The persistent insecurity in certain parts of the country may have threatened to unravel the incremental gains achieved in the real sectors of the economy and in the administration’s overall objective to position the nation on the irreversible trajectory of sustainable growth and progress, but I assure you that we will remain resolute in our commitments and shall continue to press ahead with our programmes and plans.
The path to nationhood is often fraught with unpredictable difficulties and challenges, and most tried and tested nations have often prevailed through dogged determination, resilience, concerted commitment to unity, and the conviction that the whole of the nation, standing together against all odds, is by far greater and would ultimately be more prosperous and viable than the sum of its distinguishable parts.
There is no doubt that the issue of Security remains at the front burner of priority areas that this administration has given utmost attention to. As a follow up to our promise to re-energize and reorganize the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police, it is on record that this Administration has invested heavily in re-equipping our military in line with upgrading the platforms and firepower required to tackle the current challenges being faced in the country.
The net results of these efforts have been the number of insurgents and bandits who have willingly surrendered to our Security Forces and continue to do so through various channels and the Safe Corridor created for that purpose.
Government, however, realises that victory on the battlefield is just one aspect of sustainable victory. We know that to fully win this war, we must also win the peace and real security lies in winning the hearts and minds of the affected citizens. To this end, working with our international partners and neighbouring countries, we would be deploying multi-faceted solutions that will be targeted at addressing human security at the grassroots, before it leads to insecurity.
Once again I would like to take a moment to remember and honour the gallant military, police officers, and other security agents who have lost their lives in the cause of protecting the territorial integrity of this nation against both internal and external aggressors, assuring their families that their sacrifices would not be in vain.
We equally remember and commiserate with Nigerians who have lost loved ones as a result of insecurity in different parts of the country. Every life matters and every single death caused by any form of insecurity is a matter of personal concern to me both as a citizen and as the President of this great country.
We remain fully committed to upholding the constitutional provisions that protect all Nigerians from any form of internal and external aggression.
On the economy, we have shown a high level of resilience to record some significant achievements despite the turbulence that has characterised our economy and indeed the global economy. The lessons we have learned and keep learning from COVID-19 have encouraged us to intensify efforts to mitigate its socio-economic effects on our nation.
The major wins we have recorded can be clearly seen in Nigeria’s most recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The 4.03% growth recorded in the third quarter of 2021 is indicative of the recovery being recorded in our economy and the confidence that is being shown through the policies that our administration has put in place after the outbreak of the pandemic.
We may also recall that this recent growth is closely followed by the 5.1% (year-on-year) growth in real terms recorded by Nigeria in Quarter 2 of 2021. This growth was one of the best recorded by any nation across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 5.1% growth at that time was and remains the highest growth recorded by the Nigerian economy since 2014.
Despite the challenges we have faced as a nation, the good news is that we have so far recorded four consecutive quarters of growth after the negative growth rates recorded in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 of 2020 due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 16, 2021, I signed the landmark Petroleum Industry Act into law. The signing of this legacy legislation is a watershed moment in the history of our nation, considering the massive positive impact the new Act would have on the economy. I would like to sincerely commend the 9th Assembly for the grit they demonstrated, succeeding where others have failed, and the cooperation that led to the completion of this process after almost two decades.
Just like I stated during the investment trips and fora that I have attended recently, the legislation is expected to serve as a liberalising force in the energy industry, and we are optimistic that this law will provide the much-needed legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the development of the energy sector, the host communities, and Nigeria as a Nation. Our objective to increase liquefied natural gas exports and expand our domestic market is still very much at the forefront of some of the policies we would be pushing in the New Year.
In year 2022 and going forward, our administration would intentionally leverage ICT platforms to create jobs, while ensuring that the diversification of our economy creates more support to other emerging sectors. I am proud to announce that several foreign investors are taking advantage of our ranking as one of the leading start-up ecosystems in Africa to invest in our digital economy.
We have given the utmost priority to fighting corruption and other related offenses which have been a bane to the growth and prosperity of our dear nation. We have made major strides and breakthroughs through the innovative use of technology and forensics in the investigative and prosecutorial procedures with commendable results to show that the anti-corruption drive of our administration is succeeding.
In the meantime, the accomplishments that have been recorded so far can be traced to the dedication of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies who have received the necessary support needed to effectively prosecute their duties.
Despite our challenges in 2021, it was also a year in which the administration executed successfully, key projects, programmes, and initiatives to fulfil the promises made under the Security, Economy Anti-corruption (SEA) agenda.
As we welcome 2022, let us, with hope; envision a year of continued progress against our combined challenges arising from security and socio-economic issues.
As it is said, the past is but a story told, the future will still be written in gold. Let us be united in our fight to keep our Nation united against all odds and with gratitude, celebrate life in this new epoch.
I wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.

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