Mrs Okorite Carrie Adiele is the immediate past Caretaker Committee Chairman of Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. In this interview with Opaka Dokubo, the former council boss shares her experience in office among sundry issues. Excerpts:
How would you describe your experience as chairperson for three months?
Fantastic! I had a good time with my people. I came down to earth with them. I saw them in their good selves and in their bad selves. I saw the political terrain of the local government area. The people, actually, had needed a governmental touch and in my own little way, I tried to give them the touch they had been yearning to get. I wish it was a little longer they would have had a reason to sing praises unto God.
What did you see as the most pressing need of the people?
I think they need healthcare facility, they need roads, they need water, they need electricity. These are the basic things that they had come demanding. To be honest, the people need adequate healthcare facility and I’m sure this was what His Excellency, Chief Nyesom Wike,Governor of Rivers State saw that made him to bring that cottage hospital to the area. Though it is still under construction, I know that by the time it is completed, it will be able to handle that basic problem of the people.
If given another opportunity, where will you concentrate your attention?
I would like to touch on the welfare of the youth. The youth really need attention. Secondly, the elderly ones really need some form of welfare packages if the economy was good enough, a monthly stipend of N5,000, N10,000 to the elderly would go a long way to help.
I really feel for them. Many times they come around and say they can do this, they can do that, they can farm, they can engage in one activity or the other. They are willing to do something but I could see age telling on them.
For the youths, yes they have all the energy but they really need orientation. Orientation in terms of having a skill or having some job to do as a source of livelihood. They need such orientation and the National Orientation Agency is trying.
The Orientation Officer there has ideas, he has wined and dined with them, he knew what the way forward for them is and I buy those his ideas.
If we could work on the basic things he had proposed to us, I can say that all these indulgences of our youths will be drastically reduced. He had a way to go with them but he didn’t have the where withall. If the government can come in, it will go a long way.
It has never been so good for women in Degema politically. what do you say?
It’s not been easy but in my own case, having been secretary of the council for eight months, the men were able to observe in me that women could also stand firm to take certain decisions, women can be trustworthy, they can keep up with the demands of administration. There are women out there who can even do much better but they have not had the opportunity to be there. That is why we praise His Excellency for giving women the opportunity. He open- handedly gave women the opportunity to come on board. He may have realised that women are wise, they could be knowledgeable and they can stand on their own administratively.
Take the example of our Deputy Governor, she has handled series of administrative jobs and found to be trustworthy in the past and now. She can be trusted at any level. There are women and there are women out there that can do it.
Women groups across the state have been calling on the governor to make himself available for election in 2019. Are DELGA women part of this?
Yes, DELGA Women are. In fact, women from all local government areas are. Women of Delga are even having a larger share of the number of women making the call. You know that our Deputy Governor is an indigene of Degema Local Government Area. We have come to realise that His Excellency has a special place in his heart for women. In decision making, women do well. He has confirmed that and that is why he has given us opportunity in strategic offices and we realise that it’s good we honour him, it’s good we say our kudos to him.
Be that as it may, we are still asking for more so that the percentage ratio can be increased in favour of women. He is quite good and he has given us the free hand to operate. We love him. He is a women-friendly governor and we want him over and over again. We cannot be tired of his type of governor.
Do you believe that the local government should be financially and administratively autonomous?
Autonomy is a principle. In this dispensation, the local government areas in Rivers State are invariably autonomous. Though His Excellency will tell you pay salaries, take care of security and all that, those are priority areas to him, but he has never imposed anything on anyone. He has left the local government administration to pure administrators to man the affairs of the local governments and there has not been any problems. So, I see the clamour for “freedom for Local Governments” as a mere principle.
If they say that the local government administration should be totally free, we are already experiencing that freedom in Rivers State. We are not being teleguided, we are not being controlled in any form. We are free, we know how to organise ourselves, we do our meetings, we take our decisions. Under the present administration in Rivers State, we experience a whole lot of freedom at the local government level.
Make a case for women involvement in politics in Nigeria
At the state level, I would wish more women to be in the State House of Assembly making the laws and policies. I would wish women to be at the helm of major parastatals in the state. Even at the federal level, I would wish women to be in the finance sector. This is because, of a truth, women have a certain level of reservation. They have their husbands to protect, they have their children to protect, they have their homes to protect and they have their world to protect.
As much as possible, there is a certain level of sanity in a woman’s life. The fear of embezzlement is more in women than in men. That’s the reality of it. Even at the family level, though you have the man, the family is invariably run by the woman. The man may be bringing the money, yes, but if you look at the nitty-gritty of family life, women are at the helm of affairs. I would wish judges, to be more of women, House of Assembly members to be more of women, etc and you will see our society grow. Let the percentage ratio between men and women be more in favour of women in politics and governance and the society will be better for it.
In your opinion, has the PDP, the ruling party in Rives State, done enough to win again in 2019 and the forthcoming local government elections?
Yes, the PDP has done enough. In Rivers State, they have done enough. In spite of the lean financial inflow into government coffers, inspite of the stiff opposition, in spite of the fact that PDP is not the party in government at the centre, if you take Rivers State as a case study, you will find out that PDP has more to offer to the people of Nigeria than any other party can do.
PDP is more realistic, it is more practical, it is more friendly, it is more humane; it has a broad spectrum. PDP is not the type of party that is conservative and becomes an embodiment of autocracy. PDP is a pure democratic party. It is a pleasure to identify with PDP anyday anytime in terms of behavioural pattern, in terms of manliness, in terms of courage. PDP is such a bold party that fears no odds.
I know PDP has done enough to win, even at the federal level.
Kogi Gov’ship Election Petitions Stolen By Gunmen – Police
The Kogi State Police Command has confirmed that gunmen attacked the secretary of the state governorship election tribunal, Mr David Umar Mike on Monday in Lokoja and made away with sensitive petition documents on the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state.
The state police command’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP William Aya, disclosed this in Lokoja on Wednesday.
The police authorities said the attackers of the state governorship tribunal secretary carted away all the petition documents filed by five political parties at gunpoint.
According to the police authorities, the documents carted away from Mike include, petitions filed by four (4) Parties: Action Alliance (AA), Action People’s Party (APP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) as well as two (2) Record Books/a Bag containing his personal item.
The police added that the incident happened just before the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) office at about 13:20hrs on Monday, while victims were on their way to the tribunal venue at the state High Court complex, Lokoja.
Police said, “On Monday, 04/12/2023 at about 1820hrs, one Mr David Umar Mike ‘m’ Secretary to Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal along with Labode Apreala (f) Confidential Secretary and Hassimu Adamu Assistant Secretary, came to State Criminal Investigation Department, Kogi State Police Headquarters and reported that on the said date, three of them left their Hotel rooms in Lokoja about 1300hrs, heading to their Office at the High Court Complex driving in his (David’s) Peugeot 406 Car.
“That just before the CBN at about 1320hrs, one SUV vehicle which had earlier overtaken him blocked his car with two other SUVs following behind.
“All of them surrounded and blocked him as he attempted to reverse. That he saw about seven hooded men all heavily armed and dressed in black attire who shot severally into the air and dragged him and his two other colleagues out of their car, ransacked the car and made away with all the petition documents.”
SP Aya added that the state Commissioner of Police, CP Onuoha Benthrand, had ordered for a thorough and diligent investigation into the incident.
Meanwhile, the police command has advised the general public to avoid statements that may prejudice ongoing investigation into the matter even as the command appealed to anyone with useful information on the incident to provide same to the command.
SDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had traded words over the attack on Monday with both sides pointing an accusing finger at each other.
While the SDP alleged that the attack was perpetrated by hired political thugs, the APC said it was staged.
Benue LGs Dissolution Lawless – Senate Minority Leader
The Senate Minority Leader and Senator representing Benue South, Abba Moro, has condemned the recent dissolution of local government chairmen in the state by Governor Hyacinth Alia, describing it as “lawlessness”.
In an interview on live television, Wednesday, Senator Moro expressed his disapproval of the Governor’s action, stating that it was a violation of the Nigerian Constitution.
He maintained that the governor did not have the power to unilaterally dissolve elected officials, and such actions could only be taken through due process and legal means.
He said, “Let me say clearly from the beginning, the constitution doesn’t provide for caretaker. Two years plus ago, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ekiti State that sacked council chairmen that the governors do not have power to sack local government council and constitute caretaker committees.
“And even went further to say that the state houses of assembly do not have power to dissolve councils and that the state governors do not hide under laws made by the state assembly to dissolve elected councils.
“How can you now say you are investigating 23 local governments, 276 council wards and all of them have been found corrupt? If you find somebody, prosecute him.
“The issue now is that the action that the State House of Assembly has taken which they said he followed is wrong. What is wrong is wrong.
“This is the lawlessness that is taking place in Benue State. Is that correct? We must rise up against this thing.”
Third Republic Lawmakers Demand Unpaid Salaries, Allowances
Former lawmakers elected in the Third Republic, on Wednesday, demanded the immediate payment of their unpaid salaries and allowances to make ends meet.
The lawmakers made the plea while leading a delegation of the Third Republic Forum to present an award of selfless service to an alumnus of the Third House of Assembly and current member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency, Bayelsa State, Frederick Agbedi.
A member of the group, Basil Okafor, said President Bola Tinubu, who was elected Senator on the platform of the Social Democratic Party belonged to the set now battling to have their entitlements paid to them
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an octopus in battle, has fought from 1992 till date to make input and he is today the President. We have a lot of problems that we now think that having a President who is one of us, having members of the House of Representatives and multiple Senators, that some of these problems can be addressed. We have problems with our claims and salaries that were not paid at that time. We have problems that we are seeking the face of this government to see how they can help us resolve.
“And we know that having Agbedi here, he can help us coordinate his fellow members to champion this cause and the press should also help us in any way to highlight some of these problems that are facing us because we are the old boys of this current government,” he said.
He noted that the rules governing the activities of the 10th House were put in place by the Third Republic lawmakers, adding that the current lawmakers now only amend the rules to meet current realities.
Also speaking, the National Organising Secretary of the group, Hajiya Amina lauded Agbedi for his contribution to the development of the Nigerian society.
“We are here this afternoon to honour our own, the man called Fred Agbedi. He is a man who represents the interest of his people, who even represents the interest of women and fought for the creation of the Ministry of Women Affairs. He is women-friendly,” she said.
Stressing the difficulty the Third Republic lawmakers are facing owing to unpaid entitlements, she said, “Many of us have died. When we came here, we were 593, but over 250 have gone. Most of the women are dead.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) was 31 years since we were sworn in as members of this parliament. Our grandchildren can now vote and be voted for but we still have problems.
“If Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe have been honoured and recognized, we were the foot soldiers. We were the delegates that voted them into power. What about us? Why can’t we be honoured and our standing salaries paid?
“Some of us are half dead. I am also half dead because my engine is knocked. I am just trying to make life easy for myself. We are calling on the government and the President to help us.”
While thanking his guests for the honour done to him, Agbedi called on the Federal Government to quickly pay up the salaries and allowances owed to the ex-lawmakers saying, “All their entitlements should be given to them. Even the President, Bola Tinubu will benefit from this.”
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