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For The Record

An Open Letter To President Bola Ahmed Tinubu On The Imperative Of Revisiting The Eight-Point Resolution Brokered As Truce For The Rivers Political Crisis

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Your Excellency, as belated as it may come, please, do accept my congratulations on your victory in the last Presidential election, and the seamless swearing-in ceremony that ushered you in as the sixth democratically elected President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Of course, your victory did not come as a surprise to many, given your antecedents as a democrat, astute administrator and, a go-getter. Whereas your track record as a political activist, especially in the wake of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election is self-evident; your exceptional performance as Governor of Lagos State is a clincher any day.
It is my prayer therefore, that the good Lord, who has brought you this far, guide and direct your ways to steer the ship of state aright.
That being said, Your Excellency, please permit me to commence this correspondence with an allegory drawn from our recent past. A few years ago, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected Nigeria’s President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You were equally elected Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). This electoral upshot inevitably placed you in opposition to the government at the centre.
The dust raised in the wake of the elections was yet to settle before you disagreed with then President Obasanjo. The bone of contention transcended personal vendetta, or so it seemed. Again, it happened at a time when our democracy could rightly be described as nascent. You had approached the court to seek judicial interpretation on some grey areas of our constitution, as provided for, in the concurrent list.
Much as Obasanjo would have loved to have things go his own his way, he was apparently restrained by the grundnorm. And he recognized it was within your right to seek judicial interpretation as to whether he wasn’t exercising his powers as president ultra vires. That was the rule of law at play; a classic specimen of what we fondly refer to as the beauty of democracy in our political parlance.Above all, it underscored the centrality of the constitution in resolving state matter.
Nigerians gave you thumbs up for engaging Obasanjo and the federal government all the way up to the Supreme Court. Moreover, happening at a time when the fear of President Obasanjo and the unwritten federal might were considered the beginning of political wisdom in our polity. Of course, the constitution came handy as a leveler between your good self and former President Obasanjo.
In light of the above, Nigerians naturally expect a clear departure from what the Obasanjo era and the immediate past regime offered them as constitutional democracy. Whereas it is still early in the day to rate your performance in this regard, one cannot but acknowledge that you have so far shown that you have some listening ear. Your intervention in what could have degenerated into a total breakdown of law and order in Rivers State late last year comes as a reference point. For me, stepping in to halt the ship of state from completederailment is an eloquent attestation to the fact that you place the security of lives and property, peace and harmony, and national cohesion over and above partisan interest.
You could equally have looked the other way and allow the crisis fester, since Rivers State is a PDP state. But you hearkened to the voice of reason, and that of well-meaning Nigerians, particularly, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the leader of the Ijaw nation, and, the Ijaw National Congress (INC) to halt the drift. Notwithstanding your tight schedule, you took out time to summon the governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Joseph Fubara, his predecessor, now FCT minister, Barr. Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike and Hon. Martins Amaewhule who were the principal actors in the crisis to the Villa, and have them subscribed to a peace deal.
Although I had my reservations over the eight-point resolution ab initio, I refrained myself from joining the bandwagon in pointing out some of the obvious limitations in the document at the time. My position was informed by the following reasons. First, I didn’t see it as the wisest thing to do at a time when the crisis was raging like a wildfire. For me, nothing could have been more paramount than bringing the situation under control, which the armistice effectively accomplished. Second, I trusted your judgment, and honestly believed that you brokered the deal in good faith. I was therefore willing to give the truce the deserved benefit of the doubt by putting it to test. Finally, and most importantly, the governor who was in the eye of the storm was unwavering in restating his commitment to the terms of the truce.
However, three months after the deal was struck, I dare say, Your Excellency; that it has failed in attaining the ultimate goal of reconciling the warring factions.Instead, it had become the template for the palpable tension the state has since been grappling with. This outcome is by no means surprising to any discerning mind. And the reasons are not far-fetched. First, as I mentioned earlier, it would appear that in a bid to halt to the looming anarchy, the constitution which is the grundnorm was not properly consulted in forging the eight-point resolution. Also, a reexamination of the document reveals a certain degree of political fiat in its construct.
That the eight-point resolution has since triggered a plethora of litigations is only natural. That it has induced a near state of anomie clearly points to the inherent flaws in the document. That it has thrown up desperadoesand warmongers like Chief Tony Okocha and Engr. Samuel Nwanosike who now disparage, distract and outrightly abuse a sitting governor with reckless abandon is equally expected. As for Wike, the man believes the governor is his lackey, therefore, tongue-lashing, and outrightly threatening to give the governor sleepless nights are privileges he believes are within his right. But most worrisome, is the fact that Wike doesn’t make empty threats. In other words, backtracking on getting the governor out of office, either by hook or crook isn’t just an option.
The truth is, some of the articles in the eight-point resolution stealthily stripped the governor of the powers and aura of his office;thus exposing him to the ridicule we see today. For instance, article three directed the governor to reinstate former members of the state executive council,who had earlier resigned their appointments from the state cabinet. Truth be told, such directive to a sitting governor, in the very least, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Perhaps, it would have been a different kettle of fish had the governor whimsically sacked the commissioners because he suspected their allegiance lay with the FCT minister. But here, these supposed honourable men and women resigned their appointments on their own volition, citing “personal grounds”.
One would have expected Your Excellency toresolve the issue a little differently given your groundedness in public and private administration; knowing that trust and mutual respect took flight the moment those commissioners handed in their resignation letters. In other words, people with obvious reservations against each other cannot truly work as a team.
The constitution expressly confers the powers to appoint commissioners on the governor of a state. It follows therefore that commissioners owe their loyalty to the governor who appoints them. While in the saddle, Wike was unequivocal in demanding a hundred percent loyalty from his commissioners. And that was what he got during his eight-year reign. Granted that the commissioners in question were all nominated by the FCT minister as we now know; the question is, was it also within his right to direct their resignation at will, and then re-direct their reinstatement because the plot to remove the governor failed?
If you ask me, requesting Wike, the nominator, to nominate fresh persons in their stead would have created more semblance of statecraft, seriousness in governance and, more importantly, saved the governor’s face. It also would have gone a long way to demonstrate that some things are beyond trifles. Put differently, the notion that a crisis of that magnitude could be resolved absent collateral damage rest on a faulty premise.
Again, article six of the eight-point resolution apparently puts the governor in a catch 22 situation. Directing the governor to re-present the state Appropriation Bill that has already been passed and signed into law to Hon. Martins Amaewhule and his co-travelers, in my humble opinion, was another sore point in the document. I doubt it was a fitting consideration for a failed impeachment that shouldn’t have happened in the first place; not after the courts have already made pronouncements on the issues.
Your Excellency, I honestly believe you didn’t intend the current stalemate between the executive and the legislative arms of government in Rivers State. Nevertheless, that is the reality on ground, as the governor, on one hand, governs the state with an infiltrated state civil service; and Martins Amaehule with his ‘Assembly’ members, working at cross-purposes with the governor, dish out all the anti-executive bills they can imagine. A case in point is the latest piece of legislation coming from the ‘Assembly’. Again, one wonders,what Assembly worth its salt, wouldseekto elongate the tenure of the current local government chairmen and councilors; knowing they were elected and sworn into office for a three-year term that expires in June? The question is, do we now enact our laws retroactively?
Now, to the crux of the matter, Wike is a man with a history of political violence. His politics thrives in an atmosphere of strife and rancour. It cannot be over emphasized that he presently seeks to overheat the Rivers polity, and possibly make the state ungovernable. He is hell bent on accomplishing the intendment of a failed impeachment. His penchant for violence explains why Rivers State under his reign wore the appalling badge of a conquered territory. The state hasn’t exploded yet, given its current tenuous peace of the graveyard,is because, Gov. Siminalaye Fubara has refused to swallow Wike’s bait. In fact, his refusal to join issues with the man he calls master, and probably heat up the polity explains why restive Wike wants 2027 switch place with 2024 in the Nigeria political calendar.
Already, his vicious supporters are on the prowl, momentarily rehearsing vandalism and arson of public and private properties, with no qualms, even in broad day light. Sadly, the license to take laws into their hands springs from standing on Wike’s mandate. This much is evident in a video that has gone viral on the cyberspace. One would have dismissedthe ongoing rampageas the man’s political trademark, except that wily Wike claims to be standing on your mandate, even though he has been most cautious in defecting to his supposedly ‘cancerous’ APC.
Your Excellency, is it not curious that Wike and his supporters are the only band daily chanting “On your mandate we shall stand, Jagaban”, one year after you had contested and won the February 25, 2023 presidential election?
Of utmost concern is the disturbing silence of the Police, the DSS and other security agencies in the face of Wike’s supporters running amok. Rather, than live up to their constitutional billing, they seem to unwittingly nudge the people to resort to self-help. And while they continue in their ostrichism, the fire is being steadily stoked by the man who thinks Rivers State is his sole enterprise, and to balm his bruised ego could unleash the unimaginable.
It is however reassuring that Your Excellency is no stranger to Rivers politics and its combustive nature. As Dr. Peter Odili’s contemporary as governors, you were well abreast of what transpired in the state from 1999-2007. You were also a major player in the Amaechi-Wike debacle while the former was the occupant of Brick House. In fact, you were purported to have saved Amaechi’s skin from the Jonathans, when, in cahoots with Wike, they unleashed the federal might.
You saw Rivers State went upin flame from 2013-2019, all for Wike to succeed his Ikwerre brother as governor in a multi-ethnic state. You were also witnessto how thepolitically induced inferno incredibly extinguished itself as soon as Wike’s vaulting ambition was achieved. But while the carnage last, Rivers people lost their lives in their hundreds.
As governor, and for eight years, Wike ruled like a demigod, and the state, his footstool. He literally vetoed the constitution on Citizens’ Rights, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Procurement, and Social Justice. In fact, one of the lion-hearted among us aptly tagged the Wike-era as the years of the Rivers of Blood.
Your Excellency, there is no better way to say Rivers State is presently sitting on a keg of gunpowder, while drifting daily towards the precipice. And if something is not done urgently to avert a repetition of its recent ugly past, tomorrow may be too late.
I have personally bemoaned the lot of the Rivers man since the dawn of the fourth republic in my book: The Rivers Season of Insanity. I would spare you the details therein. However, it may interest Your Excellency to know that as a Rivers man; I have tremendous respect for you, just as I envy what you have made of Lagos State. I’m therefore genuinely bothered that Rivers State may just be the odd state out as you are set to replicate the Lagos wonder across the federation. Rivers State can only andtruly share in the Renewed Hope, if Wike is restrained from plunging it into another round of bloodletting.
Much as it is the truth, I hate to reiterate, that in all her abundance, Rivers State can only boast of the loudest and most vaulting chief executives ever, since 1999. The allure to graduate from Brick House to Aso Villa has become an elixir, which those we elect to govern have not been able to extricate themselves from. And to make a bad situation worse, it remains the only state in Nigeria that flaunts an obnoxious injunction that insulates her past and serving governors from the ethics of good governance, such as transparency, accountability and probity.
I have no doubt in my mind that you already saw through Wike and his antics. And it is only a matter of time before you reined him in. My concern however, is that it shouldn’t happen only after he must have thrust the state into another round of massacre. Need I say, that going by his claim, what Wike delivered in last year’s election were Rivers votes, not his votes.
Ask the Jonathans if their alliance with Wike was worth the trouble, given the benefit of hindsight, and your guess will be as good as mine.
In a nutshell,Your Excellency, Rivers State has had more than her fair share of bloodletting since 1999. It is against this backdrop that I most fervently pray that the blood of Dr. Marshall Harry, Chief A. K Dikkibo, Hon. Monday Ndor, Hon. Charles Nsiegbe, Amb. Ignatius Ajuru, Hon. Monday Eleanya, Barr. Ken Aswuete and several other victims of assassination be allowed to water the peace initiative and advocacy of the incumbent governor.
Finally, Your Excellency, in view of the above, it is my humble submission that the eight-point resolution be revisited with the hope that it guarantees sustainable peace and harmony in the Rivers polity.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Thank you for time and consideration.
Yours Respectfully,

Caleb Emmanuel Fubara

Fubara hails from Opobo Town

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For The Record

Can Rivers Assembly Remove Governor’s Powers To Appoint Executive Officers?

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Background
On Thursday, February 15, 2024 at its 109th Legislative sitting, the House passed into Law, the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2024. The Bill repealed the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law, No. 3 of 2006 and further amended the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission Law of 1999. The Bill was sent to the Governor for his assent and after the statutory 30 days, the House re-passed the Bill into Law on 22nd March, 2024.
The Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission was established by the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission Law of 1999. Section 2 provides:
“The Commission shall comprise a Chairman and four other members who shall in the opinion of the Speaker be persons of unquestionable integrity.
“The Chairman and members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Rivers State House of Assembly acting on the advice and recommendation of the House Committee of Selection and shall in making the appointment be guided by the geographical spread and diversity of the people of Rivers State.”
The above section was repealed by the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law No 3, 2006. In Sections 2 and 3, the Amendment Law provides that:
S. 2 “Section 2 of the Principal Law is amended by repealing subsection (1) and substituting the following subsection:
“(1) The Commission shall comprise a Chairman and 4 (four) other members.
S. 3 “Section 2(2) of the Principal Law is amended by repealing subsection (2) and substituting the following subsection:
“(2) The Chairman and members of the Commission shall be appointed by the Governor subject to the confirmation by the House of Assembly and shall in making the appointment be guided by the geographical spread and diversity of the people of Rivers State.”
The import of the 2024 Amendment Bill passed into Law by the House is that the Governor will no longer have the power to appoint the Chairman and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission and the power of appointment shall be vested in the House of Assembly.
Legal Issues
The first issue to consider is the Constitutional power of the Governor. Section 5(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides that the executive powers of the State shall be vested in the Governor of that State.” Further, Section 176(2) provides that: “The Governor of a State shall be the Chief Executive of that State.”
This follows that the Governor is the Chief Executive Officer of the State Government and by the powers vested on him, is responsible for making appointments into various executive bodies, subject to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and other statutes. All Commissions and other parastatals are executive bodies under the control of the Governor. The House of Assembly Service Commission is an executive body and as such, the Chairman and members can only be appointed by the Governor. The House of Assembly has no powers to make any appointment into an executive body as no statutory body is under the control of the legislature. The Rivers State House of Assembly should not mistake the presence of the building of the Service Commission in its premises as conferring powers on the House to appoint the Chairman and members of the Commission.
The second issue to consider is the Constitutional alteration of 2023. In that alteration, the Third Schedule was amended to include State Houses of Assembly Service Commissions, which invariably follows that a State House of Assembly Commission is one of State bodies established by section 197 of the 1999 Constitution. Let’s be reminded that Section 198 of the 1999 Constitution gives the Governor the power of appointment into various executive bodies, subject to confirmation by a resolution of the House of Assembly of a State. The job of the Rivers State House of Assembly ends with the confirmation of the appointees.
The alteration to the Third Schedule, paragraph 1A provides that the composition, tenure, structure, finance, functions, powers, and other proceedings of the Commission shall be as prescribed by a law of the House of Assembly of the State. Notice that the appointment of the Chairman and members of the Commission is not listed. Therefore, it can be safely inferred that the power to appoint the Chairman and members of the House of Assembly Service Commission lies with the Governor, as is the case with the other bodies listed under Section 197 of the 1999 Constitution.
There is nothing in the Alteration that, by any stretch of imagination, can be inferred to confer the power of appointing the Chairman and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission on the Rivers State House of Assembly, notwithstanding the fact that the law creating the Commission was enacted by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Thirdly, is the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission and its staff under the control of the State Government? To answer this question, we will take our voyage to Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution. That section gives the definition of a Public Service of a State to mean: “the service of the state in any capacity in respect of the government of the state and includes service as: clerk or other staff of the House of Assembly; member of staff of the High Court, the Sharia Court of Appeal, the Customary Court of Appeal or other courts established for a state by the Constitution or by a law of a House of Assembly; member or staff of any Commission or authority established for the state by this Constitution or by a law of a House of Assembly; staff of any Local Government Council; staff of any statutory corporation established by a law of a House of Assembly; staff of any educational institution established or financed principally by a government of a State; and staff of any company or enterprise in which the government of a State or its agency holds controlling shares or interest.
The purport of this section is that the Assembly Service Commission is not an appendage of the legislature but under the control of the State Government. Even at the national level, the members of the National Assembly Service Commission are appointed by the President in collaboration with the National Assembly.
Fourthly, what is the position of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission Law vis-à-vis the National Assembly Service Commission Act? Section 4(5) of the 1999 Constitution provides: “If any Law enacted by the House of Assembly of a State is inconsistent with any law validly made by the National Assembly, the law made by the National Assembly shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of inconsistency, be void.”
Further, in A.G Bendel v AG Federation & 22 Ors (1982) 3 NCLRI, the Supreme Court held per Fatayi Williams CJN (as he then was) “neither a State nor an individual can contract out of the provisions of the Constitution. The reason for this is that a contract to do a thing which cannot be done without a violation of the Law is void.”
The fifth issue is: “can a statute revive a repealed statute?” In the case of Idehen v University of Benin, Suit No FHC/B/CS/120/2001, delivered on 19th December, 2001, the court held that:
“Contrary to the contention of the University, the effect of a repealing statute is to erase the repealed statute from the statute book. When a statute is repealed, it ceases to exist and no longer forms part of the laws of the land. In other words, the effect of the repeal is to render the repealed statute dead and non-existent in law. Like a dead person, it cannot be revived.”
The court also held in Onagoruwa v IGP (1991) 75 N.W.L.R (pt. 193) 593 that in law, a non-existent statute is dead and cannot be saved or salvaged by the court.
In Madumere v Onuoha (1999) 8 NWLR (Pt. 615) Pg 422, the Court of Appeal held that:
“the effect of repealing a statute is to obliterate it completely from the records of the Parliament as if it had never been passed. Such a law is to be regarded legally as a law that never existed…This means in effect that when a statute is repealed, it ceases to be an existing law under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
For the purpose of reviving your memory, the provision giving the Governor the power to appoint the Chairman and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission under the repealed 2006 Law provides in its opening paragraph:
“3. Section 2(2) of the Principal Law is amended by repealing section 2 and substituting the following section…” (emphasis mine).
Further, Section 6(1)(a) of the Interpretation Act provides:
“(1) The repeal of an enactment shall not revive anything not in force or existing at the time when the repeal takes effect.”
Please note that Section 318(4) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “The Interpretation Act shall apply for the purposes of interpreting the provisions of this Constitution.”
It follows from the above that the House cannot repeal Sections 2 and 3 of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law No 3, 2006 to revive the already repealed provisions of the 1999 Law.
Conclusion
In conclusion, the Rivers State House of Assembly lacks the powers, legal or otherwise, to remove the power of appointment of the Chairman and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission from the Governor and vest that power on themselves. The provision in the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law, 2024 seeking to vest that power on the House is in clear contravention of the 1999 Constitution, and therefore, a nullity in the eyes of the Law. See the case of MacFoy v UAC (1961) 3 All ER 1169 where the court held that you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
In that case, Lord Denning stated: “If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad, but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of court to set it aside. It is automatically null and void without more ado, though it is sometimes more convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.”

Rt Hon Ehie is Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.

By: Edison Ehie

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For The Record

We ’ll Not Take Rivers People’s Trust And Confidence For Granted – Fubara

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Being a text of the 2024 Budget speech presented to the Rivers State House of Assembly by Governor Siminalayi Fubara at Government House, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 13, 2023. Excerpts.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to be before this hallowed chamber today to present our state’s budget estimates of Revenues and Expenditures for the fiscal year 2024.
Before I proceed with my presentation, I wish to, again, thank God for the special opportunity to serve our people as their elected Governor.
We thank our dear President, His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR for his special interest in the peace and progress of Rivers State and the bold steps he has taken to revamp the nation’s economy and sustainable development across the country.
We are also grateful to the good people of Rivers State and the progressive members of the State House of Assembly for your continuing support and prayer for the success of our administration.
We assure you that we will never take your trust and confidence for granted. We will remain faithful to our oath of office and do the best we can to advance the aspirations of our people for good governance, peace, security, and inclusive development.
Our spirit is high; our determination is forever strong as we remain focused on delivering on our mandate in an honest, accountable, just, and fair manner to all parts of the State and all segments of society.
Under our watch, no part of the State will be neglected in our development agenda; no one will be left behind in the distribution of resources and opportunities.
We reaffirm our commitment to working closely with the State House of Assembly to fulfil all our promises and take Rivers State to greater heights of peace, progress, and prosperity.
Mr Speaker, recall that we launched the construction of the Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Ring Road as a flagship project to accelerate the socio-economic development of our State. Julius Berger has since mobilised to the site and work on this multi-billion-naira project has begun.
In line with our consolidation mantra, we have in the last six months, completed many of the uncompleted projects we inherited from the immediate past administration, including roads, hospitals, and schools, while those not yet completed, have reached advanced stages of completion.
Some of the completed roads include Oyigbo – Okoloma Road, Alode – Onne Road, Botem-Gbene-Ue-Hiro Road, Mgbodahia internal roads, Ogbo-Uhugbogo-Udiemude Road, Omoku-Aligwu-Krigene road, Eneka internal roads, Ogbakiri internal roads, and Omagwa internal roads.
Other roads, which construction is proceeding very well include Ahoada-Omoku dualization, Emohua-Tema junction dualization, Umuakali – Eberi road, Alode-Ebubu-Eteo junction road, Egbu-Ehuda internal roads, Elelenwo internal roads, Rumuepirikom internal roads, phase 2, Bori city internal roads, the Ngo section of the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo unity road, and the Opobo ring road and electrification projects.
On education, we have delivered Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Borokiri, Government Secondary School, Eneka, Government Secondary School, Emohua, Government Secondary School, Okehi, Comprehensive Secondary School, Alesa – Eleme, Government Secondary School, Ataba, and the 10,000 capacity University of Port Harcourt Auditorium. The hostel and auditorium projects at the Yenagoa campus of the Nigerian Law School are also almost completed.
Our commitment to healthcare delivery remains strong. Already, we have delivered the Professor Kelsey Harrison Hospital, the Dental, Maxillofacial, Ear Nose Throat and Ophthalmology Hospital, and several primary healthcare centres across the state.
To accelerate the delivery of affordable housing, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TAF Global Africa and turned the sod for the phased development of 20,000 units of houses in the State.
This is another signature project of our administration, which is targeted at creating new model cities within Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre Local Government Areas of the State with enormous socio-economic benefits to the State and our people.
On sports development, we have opened the Real Madrid Football Academy for full academic and football training activities with the admission of the first batch of students. We have also rehabilitated the indoor basket hall and pitch at Niger Street, Port Harcourt.
We are poised to stimulate industrialization by creating an enabling business environment to attract investors to invest in the different sectors of the State’s economy.
To this end, plans are underway to organise the first Rivers State Investment Summit in decades to work out an investment and industrialization road map for the State.
We have also approved three bills: the Rivers State Investment Promotion Agency Bill, the Rivers State Youth Entrepreneurship Development Trust Fund Bill, the Rivers State Electricity Bill, and the Rivers State New Towns Development Bill, which are critical to accelerating investments, job creation, energy security, economic empowerment, and the socio-economic advancement of the State when passed into law.
Furthermore, we have concluded arrangements to launch the N4,000,000,000.00 seed fund in partnership with the Bank of Industry to support small and medium-scale enterprises across the State at a single-digit interest rate.
We have also entered into a memorandum of understanding with an investor to build a modern spare parts market in the State.
We appreciate the relevance and importance of the civil service to the development of the State through effective implementation of government policies and programmes.
Consequently, our commitment is to strengthen and motivate the civil service for optimal and responsible performance through regular promotions, payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities, and the provision of a good working environment.
Accordingly, we are happy to report that we are up to date in the payment of salaries and pensions to our civil servants and concluded the promotion exercise for our mainstream civil servants and other staff, except those without functional governing boards, such as the secondary school teachers and health to legally conduct the exercise, will be done as soon as we constitute the governing boards.
We have restored water and installed new lifts at the State’s Secretariat complex to improve sanitation and ease access to the higher floors of the complex.
Since we came on board, we have spent over 6 billion naira to pay the gratuities backlog to retired civil servants. Again, our commitment is to ensure that we clear all arrears of gratuities owed to civils by previous administrations.
Also, the recruitment exercise of 10,000 workers into the State’s civil service is almost completed and successful candidates will receive their engagement letters as soon as the report from the State’s Civil Service Commission is ratified by the State Executive Council.
Finally, we have worked with security agencies, local governments, and community leaders to keep our State peaceful, safe, and secure. This is an achievement we will continue to further improve and sustain throughout the Yuletide and beyond.
Mr Speaker, I have highlighted some of our achievements in policies and projects as a relatively young administration implementing a budget and programmes we inherited from the immediate past administration.
As a government, we are satisfied with the modest mileage we have gained in implementing our blueprint despite the prevailing economic hardship and the political challenges and distractions we faced since the inception of our government.
Nevertheless, we can assure our people that the tempo of governance and delivery of services in our priority areas of investments and economic growth, infrastructure delivery and job creation, education, healthcare and human capital development, agriculture, and food security will gain traction and accelerate with speed and vigour in the new year.
2023 BUDGET PERFORMANCE REVIEW
Mr Speaker, a total revenue of 755,666,987.238 was projected for the 2023 fiscal year. This sum included a supplementary estimate of 200,000,000,000.00, which we accessed for the exclusive purpose of funding the construction of the Port Harcourt Ring Road project.
35. The breakdown of the 2023 budget was as follows:
(i) Recurrent Expenditure: N175,249,692,201.00
(ii) Capital Expenditure: N380,417,395,037.00
(iii) Supplementary capital estimates: N200,000,000,000.00
Total: N755,666,987.238.00
As of October 2023, the total actual receipts from all sources, was approximately 66% performance on the revenue side.
There were encouraging improvements in internally generated revenue receipts as against the projections for the year, while the performance of recurrent expenditure was 100%.
THE 2024 BUDGET ASSUMPTIONS
38. Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, the 2024 budget, christened Budget of Promise is based on the following assumptions:
(i) oil price benchmark of $70 per barrel;
(ii) oil production rate of 1.5 million barrels per day; and
(iii) exchange rate of #750/US as projected by the Federal Government. THE 2024 BUDGET SIZE
The total projected revenue for Rivers State for the 2024 Fiscal Year is N800, 392,485,433.01 billion. This is constituted as follows:
(i) Recurrent Expenditure: = 361,598,242,570.85
(ii) Capital Expenditure = 410,266,485,090.64
(iii) Total: = 800,392,485,433.01
FINANCING THE 2024 BUDGET
The financial sources of the 2024 budget are as follows:
Internally Generated Revenue – 231,057,836,945.00
Statutory Allocation – 68, 458,610.00
Mineral funds – 145, 526,581,463.00
Value Added Tax – 55, 650,000,000.00
Refunds Escrow, Paris/ECA – 1, 200,000,000.00
Refunds from bank charges – 1, 500,000,000.00
Excess Crude Account – 1, 700,000,000.00
Exchange rate gain – 1, 200,000,000.00
9. Forex equalization – 3, 000,000,000.00
10. Other FAAC – 5, 000,000,000.00
11. Asset sales – 20, 000,000,000.00
Capital receipts – 9, 879,557,210.00
Proposed internal/external grants – 24, 570,000,000.00
14. International Credits – 2, 000,000,000.00
Bonds – 237, 000,000,000.00
Internal loans – 235, 000,000,000.00
Prior year Balance – 6, 934,784,872.01
TOTAL = 800, 392,485,433.01
RECURRENT EXPENDITURE
The Recurrent Expenditure is projected to be spent as follows:
Personnel Emolument – 99, 588,939,939.39
New Recruitments – 28, 924,562,980.61
Overhead costs – 18, 871,623,339.00
Grants, contributions & subsidies – 7,908,000,000.00
Counterpart pension scheme – 15,000,000,000.00
Gratuities/Death Benefits – 77,850,000,000.00
Monthly pensions – 30,240,000,000.00
Domestic loans interest – 32,420,734,367.60
Foreign loan interest – 536,709,798.04
Domestic loan, principal repayment- 26,018,966,086.70
Foreign loan, principal repayment – 5,081,731,374.51
FAAC Deductions- 12,865,723,913.00
COT/Charges/ General Admin – 5,000,000,000.00
CAPITAL EXPENDITURE
The capital allocation of 410,266,485,090.64 represents about 51 per cent of the total budget projections for the fiscal year 2024.
SECTORAL ALLOCATION OF THE CAPITAL BUDGET
The sectoral allocation of the capital budget is as follows:
Governance – 161,742,835,256.27
Information & Communication – 2,234,273,168.00
Public Administration – 13,852,493,641.59
Finance and Planning – 7,779,818,293.13
Agriculture – 20,311,574,254.53
Infrastructure – 128,003,540,952.66
Commerce and Investment – 1,787,418,534,40
Culture and Tourism – 1,381,187..049.31
Education – 40,426,441,994.74
10. Health – 30,555.506,748.20
Social Development – 10,155,787,127.27
Environment & Sustainable Development – 8,449,614,889.89
Judiciary – N 5,646,617,642.76
The 2024 Budget Policy and Objectives
Hon. Speaker, the overall policy objectives of the 2024 budget are to promote economic development in the State through inclusive growth, the provision of critical infrastructure to support economic, business, and social activities, and the creation of an enabling environment for private sector-led industrialization, job creation and poverty reduction.
We will strive to address the challenges of socio-economic inequalities by ensuring improved access to quality and affordable education, healthcare, water, electricity, housing, social investments, gender empowerment and social inclusion.
This accounts for the reasonably high allocations in the 2024 capital budget to infrastructure, education, healthcare, social development, environment, sustainable development and agriculture.
With these funds, we will build more road networks to interconnect the State, rehabilitate, equip, train and staff all dilapidated primary and secondary schools, build technical and vocational education centres, and allocate more funds to our tertiary schools to improve the quality of teaching, learning and research.
We will also rehabilitate, equip and staff dilapidated primary healthcare facilities, restore, equip, and staff all our general hospitals, complete, equip and staff all five zonal hospitals, implement socially beneficial healthcare schemes, and introduce social investment schemes to fight poverty, social exclusion, and gender discrimination.
Given the importance of the judiciary in the advancement of the rule of law, economic growth, and social accountability, we have also improved the allocation for the funding of the judiciary, law, and justice sectors in this budget to achieve effective and speedy dispensation of justice in the State.
We will ensure that accessed local and international credits are used only for capital projects that would benefit economic growth, give attention to the completion of ongoing projects before embarking on new ones, and grow the economy through targeted investments in areas of comparative economic advantage, including commercial agriculture, electricity generation, renewable energy, oil and gas, housing, and sports development.
We will also provide our young people with the skills and tools they need to succeed in the 21st-century economy and to ensure that education and healthcare are accessible to all regardless of background and means.
Conclusion
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, thank you again for your patriotism and dedication to the service and advancement of the State.
The budget we have put forward reflects our commitment to responsible financial management and our dedication to the progress of our State and the well-being of our people.
Our priorities are clear: to secure our State, foster sustainable economic growth, create opportunities for all, invest in the future, and ensure our collective prosperity.
As we all know, the security and well-being of the people are the reason we are in government. The budgeting process is fundamental to the realisation of this fundamental objective of state policy.
We recognize the challenges we face as a State and the pointless efforts to frustrate and sabotage our government even before we get started. As you know desperate situations call for desperate measures. I assure you of our determination to weather the raging storm strategically and responsibly.
Mr Speaker, I, therefore, commend this budget to the House of Assembly for your consideration and speedy passage.
Thank you for your kind attention. God bless you all; God bless Rivers State.

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For The Record

‘Big Tech Firms Are Threat To Journalism In Nigeria’

Published

on

Being a paper titled, ‘Nigerian Media Sustainability and Existential Threat by Big
Tech’, presented by Azubuike Ishiekwene at the 19th All Nigeria Editors Conference
holding at Ibom Icon Hotels & Resorts, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State from November 14 -18, 2023.

Protocol

“Every morning a lion wakes up, it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death…It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle, you better be running”
Quote first attributed to Dan Montano in The Economist, but was popularised by Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat.
Overview
If you asked me if big technology (or big tech) companies were a threat to journalism, say, 20 years ago, my answer would have been an emphatic yes. After all, these companies do our job without our job description. They also disrupt the media space while taking little responsibility for content.
Before I go too far, perhaps I should explain that there is a slight difference in form, but not always in substance, between big tech and big search engines.
While big tech could sometimes be a dominant player in information technology hardware, like Samsung, or in e-commerce, like Amazon, search engines are software monsters although both core hardware and software providers in this field have the capacity as we have seen, for forward or backward linkages. In this paper, I will focus more on search engines, at least a few in the big league that have significantly disrupted our work, for good or ill.
I am sure you know them – Google, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Yahoo, YouTube, Baidu and so on. Please, do not add MySpace to this list; it died before they could write our obituary.
By the topic assigned to me, it appears that I am obliged to follow the lead that big tech – that is, one or a combination of the companies I mentioned – could eventually send traditional media into its final resting place.
However, the caveat in this topic, “sustainability” suggests that the Guild still hopes that conventional journalism would survive. But what is sustainability? One of the most practical definitions I have seen is, “sustainability consists of fulfilling the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations.”
As to whether big tech poses an existential threat to the survival of the Nigerian media and the way out, if indeed such a threat exists, we shall see soon enough.
How media earns
Traditional media’s two basic sources of revenue are advertising and circulation or subscription sales. On the face of it, the fear of a journalistic doomsday appears justified in light of catastrophic declines in revenues from these two major sources of media income.
The relationship between big tech and traditional news media is already complex enough. But I can assure you that the impact of big tech on the media as we know it is just beginning. The Reuters Institute has already predicted this year to be the breakthrough year for artificial intelligence and its application for journalism.
The institute rightly said the arrival of ChatGPT has transformed the debate over whether AI is here to stay or not. In its journal, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2023, the Institute said about ChatGPT, “Its speed and capabilities are awe-inspiring and frightening at the same time. While the underlying models have been around for some time, ChatGPT has turned these into an accessible prototype that gives a real sense of where AI may be heading. It can tell jokes (but has been trained not to tell racist or sexist ones), come up with plots for a film or book, write computer code.”
In case you missed it, AI even mocked our industry in the report by summarising the challenges facing local news media in 50 words!
The above was published in the report.
More news outlets, including News24 of South Africa, are training their systems with the voices of their popular anchors with astonishing accuracy.
Big Tech: Archenemies, Frenemies, or Friends?
Big tech may be playing more actively in our industry than us, taking an increasing share of our money and maybe our jobs without being responsible – both in proprietorship and accountability – for the information it disseminates. It has exploited its unmatched reach, ability to use algorithms to tailor content to suit consumers, and real-time engagement advantage to retain consumers. But as they say, there are two sides to a coin.
Positive Impact:
1. Increased Exposure:
• Big tech platforms provide news media companies with a vast audience. Articles and videos can be shared and spread rapidly on these platforms, leading to increased visibility and traffic for news outlets.
2. New Revenue Streams:
• Some tech platforms have revenue-sharing agreements with news media companies. For example, YouTube shares ad revenue with news organisations that post videos on its platform, once you reach a certain threshold.
3. Better Analytics:
• Tech platforms provide news media companies with sophisticated analytic tools that allow them to better understand their audiences and tailor content to user preferences.
4. Engagement Opportunities:
• Social media platforms allow news outlets to interact with their audience in a way that was not possible before. They can receive immediate feedback, address concerns, and build communities around their content.
Negative Impact:
1. Ad Revenue Competition:
• Big tech companies have diverted advertising revenues away from traditional media outlets. They offer targeted advertising based on vast amounts of data, which is often more appealing to advertisers. I was scandalised during the recent general elections in Nigeria that folks who had built their careers in the mainstream and whom we were banking on left us high and dry, with the excuse that their principals wanted minimum use of legacy media platforms! But I understood, even if I did so with a heavy heart! Why? A BBC online report www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zd9bd6f/revision/7 said, “Politicians are investing heavily in the use of websites, blogs, podcasts and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter as a way of reaching voters.”
“During the 2019 election campaign,” the BBC report continued, “the Conservatives spent one million pounds on Facebook alone, at a point, running 2,500 adverts.”
Let’s look at some more numbers: Google earned about $3billion from sales to China-based advertisers in 2018; Google UK earned £3.34billion in 18 months ending December 2021 as total revenue in the UK market; in 2022 Google’s share of UK digital advert market was 38 percent of all adverts valued at £5.72billion.
If the UK media is complaining, I will advise they should not do so as loudly as us. Why? I’m sure most of you already know that on revenue from traffic, for example, while you can get as much as $2 in CPM from traffic from the UK or the US, the best you can hope to get from local traffic, that is, traffic from Nigeria regardless of the size, is probably 80cents per 1000! Sure, this example is related to revenue from traffic; but the ratio, even for advertising is not significantly different.
2. Spread of Misinformation:
• The ease of sharing on social media platforms can contribute to the spread of misinformation. This not only misleads the public but also undermines trust in news media.
3. Algorithmic Control:
• The algorithms used by tech platforms control what content is seen and what is buried. This can lead to a loss of control for news media over how and to whom their content is distributed. In an article by Kanchan Srivastava, published on February 27, 2023, entitled, “Surviving the algorithm: News publishers walk the tightrope as Google ‘updates’ hit hard,” the author quoted a respondent as saying, “Google has released major algo updates in 2022, which impacted search traffic across publishers.” Publishers did not find two major updates last year by the big tech funny at all.
4. Dependency:
• News media companies may become dependent on these platforms for traffic and revenue, which can be risky given the changing algorithms and policies.
5. Potential for Censorship:
• Big tech companies have the power to censor or prioritise certain types of news content based on their own policies or external pressures, which can impact the democratic discourse.
6. Data Privacy Concerns:
• There are concerns about how big tech companies handle user data, and these concerns extend to the partnerships between tech platforms and news media companies.
7. Dilution of Brand Identity:
• Being lumped together with a multitude of other content producers on a single platform can dilute a news outlet’s brand identity.
8. Room for redress
• Complaints about discriminatory business or editorial practices from Nigeria and a number of other developing countries are hardly treated with seriousness
All About Algorithm, the Devil?
Not all the challenges summarised by our AI friend in 50 words were brought upon the traditional media by big tech. Nor are we here solely because of Google’s malicious fiddling with its algo. We in the traditional media space share in the blame for what took our industry from distress to life support.
I will tweak HBS Professor Clayton Christensen a bit by saying for a long time, we were innovating our products in response to technological shifts, with very little attention to our business models, or if you will pardon my drift, what E. Jerome McCarthy described in his book, Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, as the 7Ps of marketing – Product, Promotion, Price, Place, People, Process and Physical Evidence.
Nothing depicts this more tellingly than media organisations’ need to reconsider obsolete editorial culture and imbibe new ones, especially in the areas of collaboration, audience-centered production, and creating an audience community.
To be able to compete favourably, media houses may have to take another look at the redundancy levels in-house. Reuters Institute predicted that more newspapers would stop daily print production due to rising print costs and the weakening of distribution networks. It also predicted a further spate of venerable titles switching to an online-only model. They are happening before our own eyes.
Let me be local. In LEADERSHIP the average production costs of our major consumables – newsprint, plates, ink, energy – have risen, with the most significant rise being in energy cost, which increased by 40 percent in one year, while our advert rates have remained largely constant.
Survival in the media industry used to depend on rivalry in the media; now it depends on collaboration. Recent collaborative works on the Pandora Papers, BureauLocal, and the #CoronaVirusFacts have shown that media organisations can work with colleagues across boundaries to share resources for the common good.
In 2020, Aliaa El-Shabassy, a teaching assistant at Cairo University, listed six reader needs outlined by the BBC for media organisations that want to stay ahead and compete with tech platforms. Why should other media companies listen to the BBC’s advice? Well, its global reach in 2020 was 468.2m people a week!
El-Shabassy wrote, “During Corona’s peak when audiences needed a trustworthy source to rely on, BBC News scored the highest reach among other international media organisations. Moreover, according to the annual Global Audience Measure, a total of 151 million users per week are accessing BBC’s news and entertainment content digitally.”
Six reader needs that any Media Practitioner must be aware of, according to the BBC are:
Update me – which means in the era of information overload, your audience should know in a new light what they already know about.
Give me perspective – it is a newsroom’s own goal to believe that perspective can only be shaped by the newsroom. Your audience can provide perspective.
Educate me – everyone wants to learn about an exciting new thing. Once you provide diverse content with curiosity value, your audience will be eager to find more from you.
Ishiekwene is Senior Vice Chairman/Editor-In-Chief, LEADERSHIP Media Group.

Keep me on trend – audiences want to be kept trending. Perhaps that was why the BBC reached a record number of people during COVID-19.
Amuse me – one of the reasons tech platforms prioritise user-generated content (remember Facebook’s pivot to video) over professionally produced content is that they have better entertainment value to attract adverts. The simple truth is that if you make your audience smile, they will most likely come back. It doesn’t always have to be serious! The more entertaining yet informative your content is, the more your institution is likely to grow.
Inspire me – inspiring stories attract younger audiences more than others and younger audiences source content through tech platforms more. Do the math!
Big Stick for Big Tech
Yet, big tech can’t get off lightly. In 2021, and despite heavy criticism, the Australian government pioneered a new media bargaining code that compels tech platforms to negotiate payment to local news media outlets for using their content.
Initially criticised as a form of subsidy from big tech to big media, significantly because of the role played by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the law has been hugely successful. Both big and small media outlets have benefitted from the law while the country’s journalism practice has also been revitalised, leading to the creation of new journalism jobs.
In an article published in 2022 by Brookings, Dr Courtney Radsch, Fellow, Institute for Technology, Law and Policy, UCLA, wrote that Australia’s big tech regulatory efforts were developed around three thrusts: taxation, competition/antitrust, and intellectual property.
The bargaining code therefore allows publishers to collectively bargain without violating antitrust laws; requires tech platforms to negotiate with publishers for the use of news snippets; also requires them to pay licensing fees to publishers; and taxes digital advertising and uses the revenue to subsidise news outlets.
The EU, US and India have since adopted their own media bargaining code and the idea of compelling big tech to pay for news they don’t produce but use and sell is gaining momentum, has been gaining global support since Australia took the bull by the horns.
I’m aware that the newspaper the publishers’ association in Nigeria set up a committee in July to examine the possibility of collective bargaining with big tech.
Staying in business
Understanding that consumers hold all – or most – of the aces, is the first step towards sustainability. For perspective, a paper entitled, “The Newspaper: Emerging Trends, Opportunities, and Strategies for Survival and Sustainability,” by Frank Aigbogun presented at a retreat for NPAN on July 18, 2023, said between 2010 and 2015, audience time spent spend on online media consumption soared to 150%. In that time, audience time spent on television decreased to -8%; radio, -15%; magazine, -23%; and newspaper, -31%.
The reality of digital media is that evolution has brought about new competition and fresh opportunities. Solutions journalism, citizens journalism, and a deeper interface between journalism and technology are the order of the day. There was a time when we consumed music via turntables, stereos with records, and then cassettes and then compact discs. Album sales are no longer used to measure the success of a body of work.
Now it is streaming, the playground of big tech companies such as Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, TIDAL, Pandora, etc. If technology did not pose an existential threat to the music industry, I do not think big tech would end journalism.
Reuters Institute said, “Better data connections have opened up possibilities beyond just text and pictures and smartphone adoption has accelerated the use of visual journalism, vertical video, and podcasts.”
Good content should not be free. What technology is doing, therefore, is to offer traditional media the opportunity to reach more people and make a profit.
Through the use of content and tech-led innovation, a growing list of brands are expanding into broadcast and streaming TV to grow and engage their audiences, and bring in new revenue streams. This involves the use of new formats, new technology, and new products to broaden and retain the audience base.
In addition, feedback tools, such as engagement matrices, are being used to “galvanise the industry on loyalty” (according to FT, which now uses the RFV – Recency, Frequency, and Volume of reading its digital content).
Traditional media organisations in Nigeria also need to rethink their business models, from content to distribution and personnel costs. One of the ways some media organisations are going about change in business model is by targeting niche markets, while others invest in research, education and learning.
Other ideas you may find useful in turning an existential threat to an opportunity for sustainable growth, are:
Diversify: Think about Julius Berger now into massive production and export of cashew nuts! Think about games, films, books, special events & publications, etc
Preserve your candle: Don’t give content free and still not collect and deploy customer data. Know your audiences and cultivate them
Re-purpose content
Review your systems and processes regularly and take tough decisions
Be ethical
Invest in talent
Conclusion
Let me return to the first sentence of this presentation. Yes, big tech poses a threat because of the opaque relationship it has with traditional media. However, is this threat going to pull the plug on journalism? I’ll say no. I’ll be the first to admit that the prevailing mood in the media industry is one of uncertainty.
To be certain, nothing will bring back the days when advertisement and circulation were enough to successfully run a media organisation. Also, because the media is a kind of cultural sector that does not necessarily respond to the principles of demand and supply, media organisations that fail to swim with the tide will continue to struggle or pack up altogether. If we invest in what feels relevant and useful to consumers, then we have nothing to worry about because technology will help us know exactly how to adapt and reach our target audience.
What we should worry about instead is how to retain the ethics of our practice in the face of robotic and artificial media which might just overpower the audiences we share.

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