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Much Ado About Rivers Governorship Poll

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Never has the question of who should be the Governor of Rivers State been so contentious, contemptuous, and acrimonious in the history of the State, as it has been before, during, and after the 2019 Governorship and House of Assembly elections of March 9, 2019. The nearest to it was in 2015 when the state was drafted into becoming opposition for the first time.
Since then, it has become worse in the context of redefining the essence of politics in the State, which currently wears a toga of vendetta hinged on a surreptitious inclination to have a no-holds-barred control of whatever goes on in and about the State.
Before now, but for the usual relatively minor disagreements warranted by alignments to different political parties, Rivers State has been an epitome in the political sphere of Nigeria: it was common for leaders of several other States in the country to consult or seek the advice or help of key actors in order to better build their States. In other words, the State was noted for always holding the most peaceful elections. Currently, however, the reverse is the case.
Even when there had been disagreements then, they were soon resolved as mere misunderstandings. In virtually no time, such misunderstandings were settled and the State becames the wiser in terms of key participants letting bygones be bygones and working together for the good of the state. At worst, if the disagreement continued, from the point at which there was clear indication of the one being favoured, the other soon gave up and planned for the next election.
The question is thus, why is the 2019 Governorship election different from all the rest? Why can’t the one honourably accept defeat and begin to plan for 2023, or beyond, as the case may be? Why must the 2019 election be a do-or-die affair?
In answering the stated questions, what becomes more worrisome is the acrimonious manner in which the leadership of the All Progressives Party (APC), as represented by the Honourable Minister of Transportation, and former Governor of the State, Chibuike Amaechi, has been going about it.
The former Rivers State Governor, who had before then been the Speaker of the State House of Assembly for eight years, seemed to have set the tone of what is panning out now on February 12, 2019, when the APC held its Presidential rally at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, in Igwuruta-Ali, Port Harcourt.
According to him, ”Whatever PDP wants in Rivers State, we are equal to the task. In 2015, the army tried to arrest me as a sitting governor. Now, we have a Governor, who is trying to negotiate with us, asking us to give him Governor and in return, he will support us for President. He is afraid, isn’t it? We will battle him till the last.
“On Saturday, we are ready for them. They used Federal and State institutions against us. They used to kill our people every day. Because they want to deny us the right to choose our leaders, they ran to a state High Court judge to give them judgment. Saturday is our day.”
Retrospectively, in 2015, Amaechi, as Governor of Rivers State, was the Director General of the Muhammadu Buhari campaign organisation. He did everything possible to conquer the entire nation for the APC. At the end of the day, Buhari emerged President. Unfortunately, he could not conquer his home state for APC, as incumbent Governor, Wike, defeated the APC candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside.
The APC, especially Amaechi, never ceased to lay the blame of its loss in Rivers State on Wike, and then President, Goodluck Jonathan. And, from what has transpired so far, it would require more than mere say to convince keen observers that this grudge is not what is playing out presently in the stalemated Rivers Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Just as genuinely concerned citizens of the State, the country, and the world at large tried to truly appreciate the scenario in the State’s political space, another bubble got busted last Monday by certain declarations made by the Deputy Governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) party in the State, Akpo Bomba Yeeh.
In a letter stating his resignation from the AAC, and defection to PDP addressed to his principal, and Governorship candidate of the AAC, Biokpomabo Awara, Yeeh said his decision to dump the party was due to ”complete hijack of the structure and administration of our party by a faction of the APC in Rivers State led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for his personal political ambition”.
The letter further read in part: “Furthermore, the RotimiAmaechi-led faction of the APC is not letting in its determination to subvert the will of Rivers people and cause crisis in the state, using the platform of our promising party.
“In the circumstance, I cannot in all conscience continue to lend support to the selfish political venture of the Minister of Transportation, which does not mean well for the progress and development of the people of Rivers State.
“As a budding and promising politician, I also appeal to you to accept the reality of your crushing defeat and liberate yourself from being used by Rotimi Amaechi to cause unnecessary political crisis in our dear State”.
Addressing journalists at his home in Port Harcourt the same day, Yeeh said, ”The March 9 Governorship election in Rivers State has been lost and won; lost by my party, African Action Congress (AAC) and its candidate, Biokpomabo Awara, and undoubtedly and overwhelmingly won by the Governor of Rivers State, the candidate of PDP, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
 ”… The collated results further showed that contrary to the false claim of fictitious lead by the AAC/APC alliance, the PDP overwhelmingly won all the elections in 18 out of the 19 LGAs, culminating in the declaration and return of the party’s 26 House of Assembly Constituencies by the Constituencies’ Returning Officers.
“This fact was confirmed on March 13, 2019, when INEC stated, as a matter of fact, that it had in its safe custody collated results for 17 Local Government Areas as well as the declaration of the PDP candidates for 21 state constituencies.”
He went further to narrate how the Amaechi-led faction of the APC had two days to the March 9 elections sought an alliance with the AAC with a promise to provide whatever it would take to remove Wike from office as Governor, and make Awara the Governor of the State.
The catch was for an agreement that Amaechi will make 90 per cent appointments in the proposed government under Awara as Governor amongst others. He also alleged that he was made to sign an undated resignation letter as Deputy Governor, which he did, for fear of his life, having seen Amaechi’s desperation to execute his plan.
But for the fact that politics in Nigeria seems to have become ridiculously synonymous with stark lies, these are too serious declarations that should not be wished away as mere spurious, coming from a key actor in the fold of a Deputy Governorship aspirant. If for nothing else, they greatly affirm Amaechi’s threat on the 12th of February 2019 to cause mayhem during the 2019 elections in Rivers State.
It would be recalled that the Amaechi-led APC officially adopted Awara, a relatively unknown Governorship candidate of the AAC, two days to the elections as its candidate of choice, and directed its supporters to back the AAC candidate. This was after the legal battle that put paid to the APC’s participation in the 2019 elections in Rivers State.
In addition, the APC and its supporters mounted a campaign: “Operation Kick Wike Out”, with a declaration that if the APC candidate would not get it, Wike must not be allowed to remain as Governor. As it has played out, while the APC wanted to oust Wike and appropriate the state for itself to redeem its image, the PDP was also set to resist at all costs.
From what has played out, and given the experience of the preceding Presidential election, result for which was hurriedly announced, pundits and close watchers of the political situation seem to be unanimous in the belief that if, in reality, the APC-supported AAC had been in lead in the result available to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), collation and announcement of the results would not have been put on hold on the 10th of March, a day after the election.
As glaring as the reasons for the state of affairs in the 2019 elections in Rivers State may be, the compelling question right now is why the Amaechi-led faction of the APC would rather let the good people of Rivers State perish in unwarranted turmoil than accept the fact that the reason for their failure this time around is their wrong permutations from the onset? What wrong have Rivers people done for according him the power he now wields against them, in addition to their sufferings since 2015?

Soibi Max-Alalibo

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Senate Rejects Bill Establishing South-South Commission

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Senators yesterday unanimously voted to reject a bill seeking to establish the South-South Development Commission.
The lawmakers, after an extensive deliberation on the bill, stood it down following stiff opposition from Northern Senators.
Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, stepped down the bill when he sensed that the mood in the Senate did not support it.
The bill which was sponsored by Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong (APC, Cross River -South) titled, “A Bill for an Act to Establish the South-South Development Commission charged with the responsibility to receive and manage funds from the Federation Account Allocation and other sources, donations, grants, and for the integration, development, resolution of infrastructural deficit, militancy, communal crises as well as tackle ecological, environmental problems; and for related matters.”
No sooner had the lead to the debate was read by the Senator representing Bayelsa East, Benson Agadaga on behalf of Ekpeyong, the bill was immediately opposed by two senators from the North who spoke after him.
The opposing senators are Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi-Central) and Abdul Ningi (PDP, Bauchi-Central).
They said the proposed commission was a duplication of the existing Niger Delta Development Commission, advising the Senate to drop it.
Aliero, who was a former governor of Kebbi State, said the sponsor appeared to want to play on the intelligence of senators by bringing such a bill to the floor.
Aliero argued that the South-South and the Niger Delta areas already had a fully-funded government agency and a ministry to oversee development in the zone, adding that the proposed SSDC really duplicate their functions.
He recalled how the administration of the late President Umar Yar’Adua in 2007 created the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in addition to the already existing NDDC.
“I feel no need to support the second reading of this bill, which will make the Senate a laughing stock. It will amount to duplication,” he added.
Senator Abdul Ningi, who also opposed the bill, expressed his love for the people of the South-South.
Ningi told the session how he frequently visited the region and had always supported any initiative to uplift the zone.
He, however, said he opposed the SSDC bill because the functions spelt out for it were the same as those being handled by the NDDC.
“When you take the NDDC law and this bill and compare them, they are the same. It is important that this bill is stood down for further consultation,” he stated.
Akpabio quickly called for the votes to step down the bill, which was unanimously endorsed by senators.
Recall that the Senate on April 4, passed the North Central Development Commission (NCDC) Bill, while on April 16, it also passed the North-West Development Commission (NWDC) Bill.
While the NCDC Bill, which began its journey in the 9th Senate, was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Abba Moro (PDP, Benue -South), the NWDC Bill was sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano-North) and a host of other colleagues.
The Red Chamber had earlier in February passed the South East Development Commission Bill.

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Shettima Seeks Urgent Innovation On Nigeria’s Economic, Financial Inclusion

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Vice-President Kashim Shettima yesterday emphasised the urgent need for financial innovation to drive Nigeria’s economic and financial inclusion agenda.
Shettima said that the call is in line with the commitment of the President Bola Tinubu’s administration to bringing over 30 million unbanked Nigerians into the formal financial sector.
The vice-president made the call via a video high-level policy dialogue between the Nigerian government and private sector stakeholders held in Washington DC, the United States capital.
The dialogue brought together government officials, regulators, law enforcement agencies, and fintech industry leaders at the George Washington University.
It aims to leverage innovative approaches to drive a sustainable and inclusive financial system in Nigeria.
The dialogue also focused on addressing critical challenges in Nigeria’s fintech ecosystem, including regulatory oversight, security concerns, and trust issues that have hindered the widespread adoption of innovative financial solutions.
Participants explored strategies to enhance interagency collaboration and strengthen the overall effectiveness of the financial services sector.
The vice-president highlighted Tinubu’s commitment to bringing over 30 million unbanked Nigerians into the formal financial sector in line with the administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
“We must develop a sustainable collaboration approach that will facilitate the adoption of inclusive payment to achieve our objective of economic and financial inclusion,” he said.
Earlier, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Sen. Ibrahim Hadejia, sad the Office of the vice president gave priority to economic and financial inclusion.
Hadejia said it was expected that each agency of government would continue to play their statutory role collaboratively to achieve the set objective.
Also, Philip Ikeazor, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in charge of Financial System Stability, stressed the need for ongoing collaboration among all players to achieve the objectives of the Aso Accord on Economic and Financial Inclusion.
The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, proposed “a Digital-first approach and the need to fuse Digital Literacy with Financial literacy as a means to address trust issues affecting the inclusive payment ecosystem.”
The General Manager, Moniepoint, Tosin Eniolorunda, said that addressing trust issues that have slowed down the adoption of innovative Fintech solutions for economic and financial inclusion could be addressed through public-private collaborations.
Dr Nurudeen Zauro, the Technical Advisor to the President on Economic and Financial Inclusion, explained the gathering would eventually evolve into a mechanism that would provide relevant information to the Office of the vice-president.
This, according to him, will facilitate effective decision-making for economic and financial inclusion.
The high-level engagement resulted in various recommendations covering rules, infrastructure, and coordination, with a focus on implementable actions and clear accountabilities.
Other speakers at the event included Inspector-General of Police, Mr Kayode Egbetokun; and the Executive Director of the Center for Curriculum Development and Learning (CCDL) at George Washington University, Prof. Pape Cisse.
Others are the assistant Vice-President at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Mr Reginald Emordi; Regional Director for Africa at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Mr Lars Benson, among others

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We’ll Support IMAM Services To Improve Malnourished Children’s Health -Fubara 

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has reiterated his administration’s commitment to prioritize healthcare services in the state, especially primary healthcare.

This, he noted, is geared towards ensuring that Rivers people get the best of healthcare services they deserve to improve their quality of life, particularly in addressing the impact of the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) programme on moderately and severely malnourished children in the State.

Fubara, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary,  Nelson Chukwudi, disclosed this when he paid an unscheduled inspection visit to the Degema Zonal Hospital in Degema Local Government Area of the State.

The governor accompanied by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh; the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Degema Local Government Area, Hon. Anthony Soberekon; and the Chief Medical Director, Rivers State Hospitals Management Board, Dr Bright Ogbonda; also visited the Model Primary Healthcare Centre (MPHC), Degema.

He interfaced with the Matron in-charge of the Primary Healthcare Centre, Matron Florence Kalio, staff who were on duty, members of the Ward Development Committee (WDC), and patients.

Fubara sought to know the challenges faced by the staff of the centre while noting the impact of the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM) programme on moderately and severely malnourished children in the area.

The centre is one of the six IMAM sites established by the Rivers State Government across the state in January, 2024, to address the healthcare needs of the people in the rural communities.

The governor said, “I have listened to you with rapt attention and have ascertained the challenges you face in the discharge of your duties.

“I want to assure you of the commitment of our administration to give Rivers people the best of healthcare services they need.

“In fact, I want to inform you that health is of utmost priority in our administration. We are prioritizing healthcare, especially primary healthcare, and we will do everything within our powers to ensure that you have what you need to provide the services needed by the people.”

In her remarks, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Adaeze Chidinma Oreh, lauded Fubara for his commitment towards ensuring the provision of universal healthcare services to Rivers people, emphasising that the administration’s huge investment in the sector was a testament to its desire to put the wellbeing of the people first, and also catalyse the overall development of the State.

Dr Oreh explained that the IMAM programme was established by the Rivers State Government, in collaboration with key national and  international partners, to address core healthcare needs of malnourished children across the state, among others.

She noted that the governor’s efforts in supporting the centre will no doubt strengthen the health sector, and the State’s economy with the aim of achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on healthcare.

Earlier, Matron in-charge of the Primary Healthcare Centre, Matron Florence Kalio, had explained that the services provided have helped address the challenges faced by the most vulnerable people in the target areas of the healthcare centre.

She specifically noted the intervention the centre has made in antenatal, delivery, newborn care, immunisation, deworming, infant and child growth monitoring, nutrition supplementation, family planning, and reproductive health services.

Kalio emphasised that the centre has also provided excellent services in the areas of cervical cancer screening, HIV testing, birth registration, health promotion, and diagnosis of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and commended the Governor for the support given to the centre to enable it deliver on its mandate to the people of the area.

The MPHC, Degema, caters for the healthcare needs of the diverse riverine population in the Kalabari axis of Rivers State, providing wide range of healthcare services, including  antenatal, delivery, newborn care, immunisation, deworming, infant and child growth monitoring, nutrition supplementation, family planning and reproductive health services.

It further provides services covering cervical cancer screening, HIV testing, birth registration, health promotion, and diagnosis of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

These services are intended to address the majority of healthcare needs required at the rural level in order to significantly improve population health outcomes such as maternal, newborn, infant, and child mortality rates in the State.

The MPHC services also strive to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

Highlight of the visit was the signing of the Register of the centre by the Governor.

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