With Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike’s NEW VISION in progress, not a few local government in the state, particularly Asari Toru Local Government Area (ASALGA), are keying into it to ensure that the much-needed democracy dividends get to the rural folks.
ASALGA Caretaker Chairman, Hon. Wright Promise Warmate, in this encounter with The Tide Political Editor, Victor Tew and Chief Correspondent, Ike Wigodo, dwells extensively on the NEW VISION and sundry issues.
What is your vision of developing Asari-Toru Lga?
Development of Asari-Toru Local Government Area is essentially long term due to the geographical structure, having eight of its 15 communities cut off from road connectivity thereby hindering commerce, a major catalyst for economic development of any area. Provision of the necessary infrastructure required to stimulate sustainable development is way out of my mandate as Caretaker Chairman. However, given the dearth of economic activities owing to lack of industries and security challenges in the area that have placed economic dependence of the people almost entirely on the Council directly and indirectly, I intend to focus on improving security as an incentive to reviving activities in our traditional occupations that had been in limbo over the years. For over a century, our aquatic traditional occupations sustained families, education and even real estate development in the area; the disruption of it by insecurity is the immediate cause of the rising unemployment and idleness of the youths with its attendant increase in social vices. With the fairly constant power supply I restored on assumption of office, I also intend to organize an empowerment program to train youths and women across the 13 political wards in relevant skills to promote enterprise for self-reliance. This is beside the plan to organize traders into a cooperative and to assist them to take full advantage of the Kalabari Central Market established by the Rivers State Government to alleviate poverty and improve family economy.
It does appear that your administration’s development programmes are sited only in Buguma. Why?
I don’t think that is the case. As much as erstwhile Caretaker administrations might not have done much to impact on communities generally due to limited tenure and mandate that does not extend to capital projects, am aware that power supply is enjoyed by almost all the communities except for terrain restricted few. And your observation is particularly untrue about my administration for the obvious reason of my planned programmes being inherently beneficial to all especially the empowerment programme which earmarks 10 persons from all the 13 political Wards for the proposed skills training.
Against the backdrop of paucity of funds and your limited tenure. How feasible is your empowerment?
I would admit that my tenure is limited and that there is no financial resources in the Council to execute the planned programme of training together with start-ups for at least 10 persons from each of the 13 Wards of the LGA on such skills as ICT, recharge cards printing and distribution, yoghurt / ice-cream production, detergent/soap production, etc that can immediately make youths income earners. But we are pursuing a Public Private Partnership means of achieving it by involving individuals and corporate bodies who feel obliged towards improving the economic life of the area as a way to curtail crime and insecurity. We also intend to engage the Rivers State Microfinance Agency (RIMA) in the area of providing start-ups for graduates after the training. Already, we have commenced with empowering 65 women five from each of the 13 Wards – that were paid to clean the Council Secretariat to give it a new look. Next to come will be to engage 65 youths in same manner for clearing/desilting jobs in the LGA.
We are doing this to compliment the laudable efforts of the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to positively re-engage youth energy in productive ventures which was the vision behind the establishment of the German-run Port Harcourt Technical & Vocational Centre. Hence, we dubbed the programme Nyesom Ezenwo Wike Empowerment Scheme (NEWES) in solidarity with the Governor and in appreciation of his honest and untiring efforts to make Rivers State great again.
Your blueprint seem to be woven only around Governor Wike’s New Vision. Why?
The new vision of my leader and mentor, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is all about building a truly united, secure and prosperous Rivers State with boundless opportunities for everyone who resides in the state to peacefully pursue goals and realize potentials in self-dignity and happiness. The Governor is a role model for emerging leaders nationally and we, his followers, who know that his heart is cut for service to humanity naturally, take cue from his dutiful service to Rivers people. Asari-Toru has a new slogan under my administration- asalga attests that wike is working. We have seen his good works in his ongoing revamping of the moribund Buguma General Hospital, the only secondary health facility in the entire local government area abandoned for decades by past administrations- despite repeated promises. Of course, my programmes are cut to replicate the vision of the Governor for the state.
We have progressed with the goal to unite the party by bringing all the stakeholders on board. The PDP secretariat which had been closed down for more than a year now, has been reopened and given face lift; we are on course with our peace-building effort and have mediated into and resolved some conflicts that could have led to breach of public peace; we restored power and water supply to the great pleasure of the people; this we did within two days of my assumption of office as the CTC Chairman. It is a feat that drew the admiration of all and sundry.
What is more, we have commissioned ICT Library at Kalabari National College with commitment to renovate it and provide facility to support the computers donated by some well-meaning old students and our payment of salaries has been prompt. Aside preparations for a Town Hall meeting to address community security and the arrangements for our proposed empowerment programme, we are also working on our contingent to put up a good showing at the inter-LGA competitions for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Rivers State.
These strides must have ostensibly posed some security challenges to your administration. How are you tackling them?
Security of lives and property is a basic constitutional responsibility of government at all levels and it is essentially a function of law enforcement involving the security agencies prominently. The success of it however depends on sincerity of purpose as no tangible results could be achieved where it is politicized. This is what has ensured the well acclaimed success with accolades for the Governor of Rivers State from whom we are taking a cue to relentlessly pursue security as a top priority. Indeed, the good efforts of the Governor on security transcends the entire state. Therefore, we met a relatively tranquil and peaceful Asari-Toru local government area when we came on board, with pockets of occasional breach of public peace due to the criminal tendencies of some youths in the area. The Governor would have ensured total peace in the state including Ogoniland where he has reopened the closed Amnesty Programme to accommodate youths who earlier declined. But this move is being sabotaged by opposition leaders with official complicity. The major issues we are saddled with at the moment in Asari-Toru are the complained cases of theft and burglary at night in Buguma and environs that has been put on security alert with no new incident yet; drug abuse, illegal possession of arms and occasional gun threat amongst youths as well as the chieftaincy-induced tension at Minama community. We are engaging dialogue on the Minama issue. We are deploying security profiling and intelligence gathering in dealing with youth criminality in the area which has led to the identification of 28 groups operating like cults in the area with their leaders and members placed under security watch. We intend to collaborate with the State Amnesty organ to retrieve arms from willing youths. We may opt for preemptive arrests if need be to prevent crime commission and to promote peaceful coexistence in the area.
Considering the inadequate funding of local government areas in Nigeria, what is your take on the issue of local government autonomy?
As tenable as they make the idea to sound, the advocates have not put up convincing argument as to how the autonomy would change the trend of corruption and inefficiency at the local councils. They only criticize the Joint Account allegedly used by some state Governors to shortchange local councils of their monthly allocation without reference to the entrenched tendency to divert received funds for personal use by council officers. If the autonomy being canvassed is all about giving allocations directly to local councils, then it would be worse for the system because of the present corrupt orientation in the system and weak or even lack of supervision in some states. The case of Rivers State is different. The Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is an experienced administrator at all the three tiers of government who does not need to keep back council funds but is rather desirous of channeling state funds through local councils for rural development. His close supervision of councils has ensured probity in the system where hitherto, caretaker administrations fail to pay workers salary as they were specifically mandated to do.
How does the issue of illegal crude refining affect your area and what is your idea of a permanent solution?
It is now a phenomenon in the Niger Delta area such that products from this illicit activity have found their way into the tanks of filling stations for retail to users. And what more, it is gradually becoming the order of the day not only because it is receiving the backing of capitalists and security operatives but also because the federal government is now considering replacing the operation with modular refineries. How well this will serve the need of environmental safety and security should be a matter of concern. Already the environmental effect is manifest. The black soot pervading the atmosphere in Rivers State lately would have worsened by now but for the proactive steps of the Governor of Rivers State to reduce the emission of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Communities in Asari-Toru are not left out on it. I think that it is unfortunate for us to come to this as a country when we had all the opportunity and the resources to develop our crude refining capacity to become a major exporter of petroleum products and to channel the foreign exchange earned into national development and prosperity instead of this dependence on importation and the wastage of nearly $40B in subsidy payment since 1999. The consequence of that choice is the illicit crude refining and environmental hazard we live with today. I believe that a PDP national government still holds the solution to Nigeria’s economic development to which production on the basis of comparative advantage is the key because, but for the 2015 loss of the presidency, we were looking forward to the construction of the proposed mega refineries to end fuel importation in the country. This is the way out for Nigeria’s prosperity and poverty reduction.
What measure of support do you enjoy from your council staff?
I can say that I met a Council staff that was not emotionally buoyant toward work due to backlog of unpaid salaries owed them by past administrations. But I have been able to stir their confidence that I will live up to the Governor’s instruction to prioritize salary payment and I have done that promptly in the last two months. This has been a great boost to staff morale.
Osun Election Tribunal Affirms Certificate Forgery Against Adeleke
The Osun Election Petition Tribunal said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the July 16 governorship election, Adegboyega Oyetola, were able to prove a case of forgery against Governor Ademola Adeleke.
The tribunal, however, held that the forgery case was not enough to disqualify him from contesting the election, adding that the PDP candidate had acquired additional qualifications.
Delivering the majority judgement, the tribunal, led by Justice Tertsea Kume, noted that the petitioners were able to prove a forgery case against Adeleke as EC9, which is the affidavit in support of personal particulars about the governor told “a lie about itself.”
Interestingly, the only member of the tribunal, Justice B.A. Ogbuli, who gave a dissenting ruling on the judgement, aligned with the position of the majority judgement on the issue of disqualification.
The tribunal held: “Respondent through Mrs Joan Arabs produced FILE D which was tendered in evidence. The said exhibit FILE D is in respect of the election conducted by the 1st respondent in 2018.
“Exhibit EC9, as earlier indicated, is the affidavit in support of the personal particulars of the 2nd respondent which he presented to the 1st respondent for the election of the 16th of July, 2022.
“On page two of exhibit EC9, the 2nd respondent (Adeleke), in his handwriting, wrote under (1) School Attended (Educational qualification with dates: Thus: 2. Secondary Ede Muslim Grammar School, Eede – attended 1976 – 1981, Penn Foster High School Diploma -2021”.
“3. Higher Atlanta Metropolitan State College – BSC Criminal Justice 2021.
“On page 4, of exhibit EC9, there is a letter of attestation from Ede Muslim High School dated 22nd of May, 2016.
“Learned counsel for the petitioners, as earlier stated, referred to the different names in the schools reproduced above and the evidence admitted by RW2 under cross-examination, that Osun State was created in 1991, and as such, any evidence that a qualifying certificate or document stating that it was from Osun State in 1981 is a forgery”.
Meanwhile, the PDP, Saturday, alleged that the tribunal judgement that sacked Governor Ademola Adeleke was way billed by the APC.
Addressing journalists in Osogbo, the party leadership, led by the State Caretaker Chairman, Dr Adekunle Akindele, said the judge abandoned legal arguments and submissions to dwell on the trivial as the foundation for his pronouncement.
Citing many examples of bias and personal hatred for Adeleke by the Tribunal Chairman, the party accused the Benue-born judge of serving as the mouthpiece of the petitioners during the hearing and of personal attacks on the governor in the ruling, citing the reference to Buga dance in the judgement.
“Even if the judgement was way billed to him as we suspected by his petitioner collaborators, he should have disguised and exercised some restraints by expunging the foul languages obviously written for him in local parlance of Buga lyrics to disrespect an elected governor. He shouldn’t have gone so low, low, low!,” Akindele said.
“This is more so, when he’s expected not to be too carried away or in the least, to be aware that his warped position was a mere starting point in the legal tussle in this context as provided in our extant laws.
“For us as a party, we understand the desperation of those behind the Jankara judgement. We understand the trap they tried to set against the BVAS innovation in our electoral system. We understand the desperation goes beyond the Osun election or Governor Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke.
“The evil plot is ultimately against the coming general election where in their usual fraudulent habit, millions of voter cards have either been cloned, registered with ghost names and are being made ready to be deployed especially for the presidential election, in which they could smell their total rejection far ahead of time.”
2023: Police Get N64bn For Operations, Deploy APCs, Others Nationwide
A total of N64 billion has been approved for the Nigeria Police Force as operations fund for security management for the forthcoming general elections.
This is as the Force Headquarters has dispatched anti-riot weapons, water cannons and Armoured Personnel Carriers, among others, to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to ensure watertight security during the elections.
Police sources confirmed to The Tide source that all the commands and formations across the country had got their share of the arms and ammunition unveiled by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, in Abuja.
The sources, however, noted that the total number received by each command and formation could not be disclosed for security reasons.
One of the sources said, “The HQ has deployed all the anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition in all the 37 commands and police formations in preparation for the elections.”
Another source said, “We have got the arms and ammunition, including water cannons, APCs and anti-riot weapons, and we’re fully prepared for the election security management. But we can’t declare the total number that we got for security reasons.”
Our source reports that N2.98 trillion was provisioned for the police, military, intelligence and paramilitary services as recurrent and capital expenditures for defence and security in the 2023 approved budget to tackle insecurity, which represents 13.4 per cent of the entire N21.83 trillion budget.
The N64 billion police operations fund for the elections was contained in the N21.83 trillion budget approved by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.
Meanwhile, the Force Headquarters has confirmed the deployment of the equipment and given assurance of security before, during and after the elections.
It also noted that it had continued to deploy adequate personnel to ensure security during political activities, as political parties demand more police presence at campaign venues.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “There is no cause for alarm as we have shared a large number of equipment, most especially anti-riot equipment such as APCs, water cannons, tear-smoke, pepper sprays and some nonlethal weapons.
But we won’t want to be specific about the actual number deployed because we don’t want to reveal our strength to the enemies, but every command has got its share, and we are sure that they will be of great help.
“The distribution still continues; in fact, we have just concluded the sharing of kits and accoutrements to all commands dealing with departments at the FHQ, Abuja and Lagos annex. So, our personnel are good to go, and we are still planning to share more as we expect deliveries of additional tools for the general elections.”
Security experts have said the deployment of anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition to the 37 state police commands and formations in preparation for the elections was proof that the police were in charge of election security management in the country.
A security expert, Chidi Omeje said, “This is good news for Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigeria is a democracy, and constitutionally, the police are supposed to be the de facto security agency in charge of internal security and election security management.
“This recent deployment of arms and ammunition and the N64bn provided for the police in the 2023 budget for election security management is an indication that we are on the right track as a country, and if the police stay true to the course, and if the N64bn is adequate for the police, then we’ll achieve peaceful, safe, free, fair and credible elections this year.”
Meanwhile, the police high command has stated that it will provide extra security cover for the political parties, which are only required to make requests.
Adejobi said, “We have been deploying personnel in various political activities so far, and we will continue to do so. Other security agencies have equally deployed adequate personnel to augment our power.
“The number of personnel that we have been deploying is enough for any normal and peaceful rally or campaign, except if the political parties claim or try to send a message that rallies won’t be peaceful, and they need to answer to that.
“We don’t require any conditions from political parties before we deploy personnel. All we want them to do is to inform the police in various places of their planned rallies or campaigns, and to make sure that they are peaceful.
“We expect them to be law-abiding and respect the peace accord already signed at all levels. Everybody in Nigeria is equal before the law and has rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we preach peace, we want peace, and we will enforce the law to have peace wherever necessary.”
The Ogun State Police Command said it had yet to arrest any suspect in connection with the attacks on INEC offices in the state last year.
Wike, OBJ List Path To Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria
Amidst the deepening anxiety, tension and expectations preceding the forth coming general elections in Nigeria, critical stakeholders have raised concern over the imperatives of a smooth transition to strengthen democratic culture in Nigeria.
Among the key stakeholders who raised their views on the way forward for Nigeria’s democracy were the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who spoke at the Port Harcourt International Conference, sponsored by the Rivers State Government with the theme: “Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security In Nigeria”, held at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Addressing the conference, the Rivers State Governor said Nigerians are desirous of a credible transition process with the 2023 general elections becoming the litmus test to actualise the dream of an egalitarian society and political leadership emanating from popular choice.
Governor Wike noted that Nigeria’s evolving political history has been prone to some institutional challenges that had hampered the processes but urged Nigerians to keep faith with democratic culture by ensuring that the 2023 general elections make a difference in other to avert a further drift into political disequilibrium and social disorder.
Governor Wike noted that Nigeria’s former President, late Umaru Yar’Adua acknowledged that the election that brought him as President was fraught with glaring irregularities and promised some electoral reforms in the country.
According to Governor Wike, the anomalies in Nigeria’s political transition grew unabated with litigations trailing the outcomes of the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections, as the compromise of the electoral process by the electoral umpires negated the principles of fair contest and denied citizens their constitutional rights to elect the leaders they could trust and hold accountable to stewardship.
Thus, the emergence of leaders outside the people’s will, he noted, was illegitimate and bred autocracy , abuse of political power and constituted existential threat to the peace and stability of the nation.
“None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in 2016 and 2019 re- run and general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory and retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens”, Wike said.
Governor Wike emphasised that deepening democratic culture and institutions for sustainable development and security in Nigeria can only be achieved through a credible electoral process anchored on popular will, not a skewed process that undermines the will of the people.
Governor Wike expressed hope in the new electoral law, especially with the provision of the use of technology as a measure of checking electoral frauds. He added that political parties must also conform to democratic norms through their internal practices and external electoral behaviour.
He charged Nigerians to move out of the culture of indifference and docility and be courageous enough to stand for justice, participate actively in the democratic process and defend their votes, and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and the security agencies to be impartial in the discharge of their functions.
In his key note address, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said despite Nigeria’s chequered political evolution with twists and torns, there was still hope for a more credible and sustainable democratic process in the country.
Speaking on the topic “Respecting the Principles of Democraty”, the former president said Nigeria needed a strategic move to deepen it’s democratic culture.
To strengthen the country’s democracy, Obasanjo said political leadership should not be opportunistic but laden with a high sense of responsibility with critical stakeholders such as the intellectuals and technocrats playing pivotal roles in the polity as opposed to a system that favours minions and other characters lacking in leadership acumen.
He also cautioned against the arm-twisting and gauging of the opposition, stating that such tendencies could stifle the country’s democratic growth. He pointed out that the democratic practice exhibited by Nigeria’s political class has deepened contradiction, negative coalitions, distrust, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies within and between communities and constituencies all over the country.
By: Taneh Beemene
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