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Wike Accuses Abe, APC Of Jealousy

Rivers State Governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike has lashed out at chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, saying they were jealous of the achievements of his administration and the successes recorded by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

Speaking, during the swearing in of new PDP executives of the Party in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike accused members of the APC of demonstrating ignorance in their condemnation of actions of his administration.

He said many of the critics of his government lacked informed knowledge of issues that led to the demolition of two hotels in Eleme.

The governor accused Senator Magnus Abe of doing nothing to protect the people while he was the secretary to the state government (SSG) under former Governor Chibuike Amaechi when the government demolished several buildings of Rivers people.

Wike said under the immediate past administration which had the former senator as the SSG, many buildings were pulled down in the guise of the government’s Urban Renewal Policy, emphasizing that his administration have never contemplated carrying out such vendetta since coming to office.

Governor Wike also debunked claims by the opposition party that he decided to temporary lift the lockdown to give the PDP the chance to swear in their new executives.

He explained that even the opposition Party took advantage of the lifting of the lockdown to attend to their legal disputes in the court and wondered how they would have done so if the government had allowed the lockdown to remain.

Wike said any responsible government must at all times remain consistent and take responsibility for its actions; adding that the government will remain firm in any decision that affects the state.

He charged the new Party Excos led by former Minister of the Federal Republic, Amb. Desmond Akawor to toe the line of the former executive led by Bro. Felix Obua by working hard to sustain the successes recorded by the party in the state.

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EMPTY STREETS HIT PH OVER FRESH LOCKDOWN .RSG debunks ’21-days’ Rumour .Police vow to ensure food, .Enforce Executive Orders

The streets are silent as residents of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas moved back into their homes in obedience to the lockdown order by the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency Barr. Nyesom Wike.

The State Governor had in a broadcast on the review of the initial lockdown of the two local government areas, given one week to enable residents take fresh air and restock food as the COVID-19 pandemic battles to establish its presence in the state.

The  governor said,  “In consideration of  the concerns of our people, and the need for residents to replenish their supplies, especially, the State Security Council has decided to impose a night-time curfew and review the effective date of the complete lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas from May 14, 2020 to Sunday, May 17, 2020 by 8.00 p.m.”

“Consequently, there will be: (i) a night-time curfew from 8p.m. to 6a.m. on Thursday, May 14, 2020, Friday, May 15, 2020, and Saturday, May 16, 2020; (ii) while the total lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas will immediately follow from 8p.m. Sunday May 17, 2020 until further notice.

“Furthermore, all residents are again advised to comply with all other established measures, including the compulsory wearing of face masks and the closure of our land, sea and air boundaries and entry routes, which are still in force. We expect residents to make good use of the new four-day daytime window to purchase, restock and prepare for the total lockdown, .” he added.

Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Paulinus Nsirim, in a radio programme in Port Harcourt reminded residents on the need to obey the Executive orders made to drive the war against COVID-19 as well as the various steps taken by the state governor to ensure public health and safety.

The commissioner also denied online posts alleging plans by the state governor to ensure 21-days lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mukan, the State Police Command will respect all the directives and Executive Orders issued by Governor Wike and the presidency.

The Police Commissioner made the clarification on behalf of the IGP at a meeting between the Police authorities and members of the Civil Societies Organization/Media Situation Room in the state.

He said that both the Federal and State governments mean well for the people and were working together to ensure that measures designed to control the coronavirus pandemic will not hinder supply of food items in Rivers.

CP Mukan was reacting to concerns raised by the Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers on the recent setting up a Technical Taskforce for the interstate movement of agricultural products and other essential services by the state police command on behalf of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Muhammed Adamu

The Police Commissioner has also warned those bringing foods into the State not come in with any human cargoes.

CP Mukan during the inauguration of the technical committee, comprising the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Interior and ministry of Defence, on the movement on agricultural products into the State, said the key mandate of the Committee is to ensure the distribution of agricultural produce from the farmers to the consumers at the local areas.

The Police Commissioner categorically warned that any truck conveying food products found with human cargoes hidden inside the goods will be confiscated.

The trucks are restricted to carrying food and Agricultural products, if they go ahead and carry human beings, we will not allow that because the federal government clearly stated that. And if you look at what the state government is doing, it’s not against agricultural products as such.  So, a situation where you carry food products and there are human beings in it, becomes a problem, so this Taskforce is addressing that issue”

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Complaints Mount Over Distribution Of Food Paliatives

The Committee set up by the Rivers State Government
commenced the distribution of food stuffs to various Local Government Areas of
the State.

The Vortex correspondent who visited the committee’s warehouse located at the former state campaign office of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) opposite the Port Harcourt Pleasure Park, witnessed vehicles loading tubers of yams, bags or rice and cartons of Indomie noddles to Local Government Areas.

An official of the committee who spoke to The Vortex under anonymity explained that the 23 local government took councils turns to load their allocations to their respective areas; stressing that it was the councils to distribute what is due to the wards and communities in the councils.

At the Obio Akpor local council headquarters, where the council authorities shared the items to the various wards on Thursday, The Vortex noted that each of the wards was allocated 10 bags of rice, about 50 tubers of yams and some cartons of Indomie noddles. The items were supervised and conveyed to the respective wards by the councilors representing the wards in the council.

Attempts to ascertain the criteria for the allocation of the
items to the wards from the chairman of the council was rebuffed by aids to the
chairman, Hon. Solomon Eke.

At the Port Harcourt City Local Government Area which took
its turn on Friday, each of the ward councilors took turns to load the
allocated items approved for the various wards in the city council area.

Although no explanation was made available on the modalities for allocation of the palliatives to the wards, The Vortex noted that some wards loaded as many as 100-200 cartons of Indomie noddles, 10 bags of rice and over 50 tubers of yams in the respective vehicles heading to the wards in the local government.

However, information received from some residents of the
wards in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Council area speak of mounting
discontent and frustrations over the manner the items were shared in the wards.

In ward 2,3,4,5 in Ogbunabali area of Port Harcourt City Local Government, residents who spoke to The Vortex said they were not aware of any items being shared to residents in the area.

A widow, who gave her name as Mrs. Chiamaka, told this
medium that she only heard that the state government would distribute food to
the people but she was yet to see where the food are being given out.

Many people interviewed on the matter seem not to know their
council representative or where the items were being given out to the
residents, there were complaints about the items is being carried by Party
faithful and ward.

In Obio/Akpor, ward leaders were said to have diverted most
of the items basely be enough for a baby.

The Vortex investigation showed that the items allocated to the various wards appears inadequate to reach.

Observers believe that Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor which
are the largest urban local councils, sharing 10 bags of rice, 100 yams tubers
and some cartons of noddles to the wards for over 300 persons will indeed be a
drop in the ocean.

Comrade Enefa Georgewill, chairman, coalition of Civic
Society’s Organization in Rivers State decried composition of the committee in
charge of palliative products in the state.

He condemned the appointment of the new chairman of the PDP
in Rivers State Amb. Desmond Akawor as head of the committee, and called on the
state government to create trust by involving notable non partisan Rivers
people and engage the civil society and the press to monitor the process.

President Buhari grant pardon, excludes government in
ensuring that only the party members will benefit from the largesse. The right
activists wondered how the goods procured with the common wealth of the state
will be entrusted to the party members, chairman and councilors of the local
government and at the same time use the campaign office of the PDP as warehouse
for the goods supposedly meant for all rivers people irrespective of party
differences.

He demanded accountability, stressing that Rivers people
should know how much is being expended on the project, contribution by
corporate bodies and individuals, cost of items ete.

Georgewill said investigations  carried out by members of civil societies indicate
that only party members get the palliatives, adding that in some cases people
are given a skin of yam, cups of rice and a sachet of Indomie noddles while
party leaders take away bags of rice and cartons of Indomie.   

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COVID-19: PH Residents Battle For Survival

Panic was palpable as residents and those doing business in
Rivers State react to the measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus in
the state.

Last Friday, social distancing was re-defined as consumers
flooded various markets to buy foodstuffs amid skyrocket prices in anticipation
of the closure of all markets as ordered by the state government.

Investigations by The Vortex at various motor parks, hotels and markets showed apprehension among the populace for likely hunger and collapse of major and small businesses in the state.

Traders at the popular Mile III market who spoke to this
reporter decried the shutdown of markets and the blockade placed on travelers
in and outside the state.

The traders lamented that the lockdown will tell hard on the
business community in the state who according to them depend on supplies of
goods from Aba, Onitsha and Lagos, adding that more strategic measures should have
been put in place to stem the scarcity of essential goods that may hit the
state if the measures put in place by Governor Wike linger.

According to them, the governor should have deployed
dedicated health officials along major entry points to the state, to check the
health status of those coming into the state.

A taxi driver, Eneobong Nse complained that transporters no
longer meet their daily target because of the restriction placed on the number
of passengers that they can carry at a time.

Nse who ply the slaughter route said because of the increase
in transport fare as a result of the reduction in number of passengers, people
now choose to trek.

Another driver, Kenneth who said he runs his cab under a
hire purchase agreement, said the new regulation may cause him to default in
meeting his obligations to the owner of the vehicle.

Some passengers, who spoke on the issue, were of the opinion
that the state governments actions on COVID-19 tend to be repressive to the
poor.

The Vortex also visited some entertainment centers and brothels in Diobu where this reporter observed that many hotels have installed sanitizers with water buckets placed at the entrance.

Ibifete Captain, a manager at Royal Hotel, in Diobu told The Vortex that the price of sanitizers is hampering their efforts, adding that the product has become scarce in the market.

Ibifete appealed to the state government to be more
considerate, as closing entertainment centers and businesses will greatly
impoverish families and residents of the state.

He called for more proactive measures to contain the virus
without subjecting the citizenry to hardship.

At the Mile III motor park, traders, transporters and
passengers were seen going about their activities without adhering to
preventive measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no hand washing
equipments or sanitizers at the entry and exits points of the park.

At the Waterlines area of Port Harcourt, many loading points
of the park had sanitizers. Manager of Obi Park, Obi Emefor however expressed
fears that transport business in the state may go bankrupt if care is not taken
by the government in its lockdown actions.

He explained that the park has taken actions to prevent
spread of the disease through staff and passengers using the park, adding that
safety meetings and cautions have been 
held to educate transport operators and passengers in compliance to
government directives.

Austine Nweke of the J.C. Mass Park along Waterlines
solicited for an economic plan that will not bring hunger to the people and
lamented that the sudden stoppage of travels in and out of the state may pose
difficulties in the state.

On his part, Augustine Ikhelao of Arug Express Park located
behind the Mobil Filling Station also in the Waterlines area called for caution
in the whole saga.

He however lauded some of the steps taken by the state
government, and stated that whatever can be done to safeguard the health of the
people would be worth the while.

Ikhelao lamented the panic among the populace, noting that
passenger patronage has significantly reduced.

Stanley Ogoloma, supervisor at Rebisi Park stated that
workers and visitors in the park would comply with government directives, but
appealed to the authorities to assist in ensuring that the disease mitigating
accessories and gadgets reach the people and motor parks in the state.

Ogoloma lamented the lull in the transport business and
advised passengers and users of the park to comply with the government orders
to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Vortex recalls that the Rivers State government has ordered the closure of all markets in the state. Governor Nyesome Wike who announced this in a broadcast also ordered the closure of all land and sea borders into the state till further notice to prevent the spread of the novel disease. 

The State Governor on Saturday led a team of security
officials to monitor the closure of markets in the state.

He also signed an Executive Order  on the corona virus and enforced the
monitoring of maximum of 50 worshippers in every church yesterday.

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NIGERIA: WHAT TIME IS IT? (1) 10th Ojukwu University Convocation Lecture

Pressure from the VC made me hurriedly come up with a title
as strange as this! However, it is a title that gives rise to many thoughts,
particularly so as we look at our world, and more specifically, our nation,
today.

The notion of time is philosophy or sociology. Time
naturally means different things to different people. It generates different
levels of adrenalin in each of us depending on the occasion. A long time with a
loved one can seem so short. A short time with an enemy could seem like
eternity. A winning team would wish to bring the time to an end, a losing team
on the other hand would wish to borrow more time. Time generates different
levels of anxiety for the hanged man or for the man waiting to hear the cry of
his first baby.  Perhaps in the end, the
greatest definition of time is what the holy Bible said, that for everything,
there is a time, a time to live and a time to die (Eccl. 3: 1ff).

Julius Sevilla, a writer says that: Time waits for no one,
stops for no one. Excuses will not slow down time. Indecision will not slow
down time. Complaints will not stall time. Regret will not turn back time.
Don’t waste your time in anger, regrets, worries or hate. Time will not turn
around and cry along with you. It’s time to let go of the past and stop
worrying about the future. Your only time is now. So, make sure you spend your
time with the right purpose, right deeds, right emotions, right thoughts and
the right people. Time flies: You can. You will not pass this way again. Do
what time does, keep moving.

I believe that a reflection on the concept of Time is
pertinent for a gathering such as this. For the graduands, your performance may
have much to do with how well you used your time. For those who used it well,
stay on that path because the future is waiting for you. For those who may not
have done so well, remember that you still have time to re-set your clock if
you want a happy life. For those just getting started, you have a chance to
reflect on the road that lies ahead of you. How you use and manage your time
will largely determine whether the investment being made by your parents pays
off or not.

I use the concept of time largely as a metaphor for defining
both identity and vision. Players and their team members must have a common
sense and understanding of time. Equally so with actors in a film or play.
Similarly, Students and the University staff know that all things being equal,
if you register for this or that course, both sides know when you should
graduate. Imagine what chaos there would be if each Student, Department or
Faculty considered time differently from the University authorities. Imagine
what would happen if Passengers had a different understanding of time to the
managers of the flight or train.

In the drama of life, each and every one of us is allotted
time, and our ability to make or not make any contribution in life depends on
how we manage this gift, this investment. Every individual, every generation,
every society must appreciate what time it is, the challenges of the time, and
figure out how to use it well. Today we reflect on what we did with the time of
yesterday. Tomorrow will depend on what we make of today’s time. Time is
another word for the gift of life, an investment. The bank of time neither
grants loans nor cancels debts. So, management of time is so central and
critical that literally everything, success or failure in life, depends on its
use.

In the next few minutes, I will not dwell on the philosophy
of time, but reflect on how our country has used its own time. This of course
sounds very ambitious. I wish to briefly look at what has happened to our own
time, how is it that our dreams of yesterday seem to have turned into nightmares.
I will argue that our inability to manage time efficiently is another word for
what Onyeka Onwenu referred to a squandering of riches, akin to what the
American intellectual, Lillian Hellman referred to as scoundrel time and
Scripture refers to as the years consumed by the locusts (Joel, 2:25). Whether
we can salvage something out of all this, pull out a few chestnuts from today’s
inferno, remains the challenge for our future.

1. Time, Moments for Nations: How telling Time became
difficult in Nigeria

I believe that the first signs of our confusion with time
arose from the challenges over the synchronization of our African time with a
new clock imposed by colonialism. To be sure, before colonialism, we can argue
that we all had different clocks and used them differently as communities. We
had no sense of urgency because everyone, individual or community, had their
time and managed it as they wished. Traditional societies relied on a
crystalisation and interpretation of the intersection between terrestrial
elements such as the state and position of the sun, moon, stars, shadows,
weather or such neighbours as the cock.

In traditional societies, there were no bells announcing
that it was time for the farmer to head to his farm, nor was there a time for any
farmer to return home. Communities however had an agreement on the times for
the community festivals, market days or meetings at the village square for
example. Community cohesion depended on a common understanding of duties and
responsibilities of members of the community on the major issues that they had
agreed upon.

However, the emergence of the modern state compelled us all
to submit to a new sense of time with the emergence of the clock and
calendar.  The new clock now became the
centre and means of regulating all activities for the individual and his/her
community. Metaphorically, and for nation building and progress, to attain a
common sense of cohesion and act as a community, our nation’s Constitution, our
national Anthem and our common currency could now be referred to as some form
of a clock, marking our sense of common purpose.

In other words, the idea of time would be reduced to how a
society saw adherence to a set of values or rules that held it together. As we
will see, confusion later set in because just after the British left, we all
seem to have reacted differently to the concept of time, values and rules.  Goals, vision and a sense of national unity
and common purpose began to change as different persons, groups and
institutions began to react differently to the dictates of a common clock. Even
the titles of our novels would gradually suggest this: Things Fall Apart, My
Mercedes is Bigger than Yours, Born without a Silver Spoon, Stillborn, or The
Famished Road. In my view, the confusion we find ourselves in now is the
visible manifestation of the fact that perhaps we may not all have had, or
indeed still have, a common understanding of the clock and time, a set of
values to serve as a moral anchor or to serve as a compass to lead our nation.

We have come to refer to the first generation of the
political class as founding fathers. I think this reads too much into our
history and the notion of founding fathers. In truth, can you found what was
already there? You can only found something whose vision only you possess. The
British had founded and named what would later become Nigeria, they designed a
political, social and economic map for it. What those we call the founding
fathers sought to do, and did commendably, was to put pressure on the British
to step aside and the British did that on their own terms. They were not
conquered in a liberation war. Indeed, as we all know, there was even no
agreement among the three ‘founding fathers’ as to when the British should
depart. I will return to this towards the end, but for the purpose of this
lecture, let me turn to the experience of the United States from where I wish
to draw inspiration.

I am turning to the United States largely to explain what we
think founding fathers should look like and how their imprint vision and dreams
have continued to drive the politics of that country. What today we call, the
American Founding fathers were preceded by the Pilgrim Fathers who set out from
Europe in search of a new land to practice their faiths and seek a new life a
new land away from the oppression and persecution that they had experienced in
Europe. In other words, they were looking for a place to feel at home, create
their values and live their lives as they believed. The settlers would later
decide to bring an end to British colonial rule by way of war.

The same people would still fight another civil war to
decide what manner of country they would bring about, to decide whether all
should be free or if some would be in servitude. This is why the country would
later be known as the land of the brave and the free! These founding fathers
were culturally of the same world view. They were White, Anglo Saxon and
Protestant. These identities would later coalesce to become the categories of
power in America captured in the acronym, White, Anglo Saxon Protestant, WASP.
The local Indian populations paid with their lives and would become the victims
of the brutality of their conquerors.

If you compare this with our situation, the confusion begins
to show very clearly why it is more important for us to be modest in our
application of the term founding fathers for our situation in Nigeria. Yes,
like the American founding fathers, we were colonised, but unlike them, we did
not go out to colonise anyone. Our colonisers had come to find and extract
minerals and make profit. Colonialism was an economic adventure that became
necessary when slavery ended and Europe had to industrialise. In the American
case, the founding fathers raised a superior force, built an army, economy and
ideology that would surpass that of their British colonisers. They conquered
their oppressors and laid the foundation for a new and free nation based on its
own new principles and ideology of freedom.

In our own case, events leading to our own independence
would be fraught with the seeds of conflict in perception and expectations,
suggesting clearly that even the founding fathers were looking at different
clocks. For example, compare some servile aspects of our negotiation for
freedom in the famous with the British with the American situation and we can
appreciate the decisive difference.

In parts of what came to known as the Self Government Motion
by Mr. Tony Enahoro in 1953 for self-government to be granted in 1956, we see
highlights of our predicament. Among other things, Mr. Enahoro said: The
question in the public mind since the end of the war has been self-government,
when? What time, what date?….We do not want to part with the British people
with rancor. For many years, they have ruled us. We are not an unreasonable
people, and like a good house servant, it is only fair that we give our masters
notice of our intention to quit, so that they can effect arrangements either to
employ new servants or to serve themselves. We do not wish to take them by surprise.
Clearly, we were asking for some form of dependent independence!

The British who had sowed the seeds of our division in the
political arrangements would mischievously frame the issues differently.
Independence would clearly be a set-up, burying in its womb, the seeds of
conflicts the inevitability of instability. 
Sir Bryan Sherwood Smith, the Colonial Governor of Northern Nigeria
summed it all up when he said: The British were not the enemy. The enemy lay
beyond the Niger in the persons of the political leaders and their followers
who desired independence for Nigeria before the North was ready, in order, the
north was convinced, to dominate the whole. Tragically, till date, attempted
handshakes across the Niger, have exacerbated these fears.

These men had no common vision of a country because their
views were the views designed and manipulated by the colonial government. Both
Nnamdi Azikiwe and Awolowo had been exposed to the secular Democracy of the
West whereas Ahmadu Bello had just come out of the womb of feudalism and an
Islam inspired by the Arab world. Ahmadu Bello, on the other hand, was a proud
Prince of the over one-hundred-year-old caliphate whose overthrow laid the
foundation for British rule. He was proud of his ancestry and unwilling to trade
its values for the new values espoused by the British. Azikiwe and Awolowo on
the other hand looked into a future framed through the lenses of a western
liberal worldview of modernity, individualism, progress and freedom. Whereas
Ahmadu Bello was no stranger to privilege, having come from an environment of
slave holders, his counterparts came from a background that celebrated
egalitarianism, individualism, success and struggle.

On a broader note, Chief Awolowo’s exposure to Fabianism and
Azikiwe’s exposure to the liberal culture of American Democracy ensured a
coincidence in their world view, but the same could not be said of the
Sardauna. Hence, according to the famous anecdote, when Azikiwe suggested that
they should forget their differences and unite to move the new nation forward
towards a liberal western worldview, the Sardauna suggested rather that they
should understand these differences. Janus faced, our founding fathers looked
in opposite directions for inspiration. The inability of these fathers to
synchronise their clocks and agree on what time it was has haunted us and
accounts for our seeming immobility.

It has led us to an internecine war and back. It has led us
to several Constitutional Conferences with no final Constitution. Despite all
these initiatives we remain inundated with the threatening clouds of fear,
anxiety, suspicion, self-doubt, self-abnegation, lassitude, ennui, exhaustion
and despair. With these twisted hands of the clock, we have been unable to tell
what time it is. Today, by whatever name our confusion is called, whether we
call it the quest for true federalism, resource control, Sharia, or
restructuring, the essence is the same: we have one clock but no common
agreement as to what time it is.

2: Lessons from the American Experience

Let me now turn our attention and briefly look at the
American experience, with all its imperfections, and see what lessons we can
draw from their history today. The American story of  Democracy is not perfect, but I believe no
other country in the world has made such great sacrifices to institutionalise
this system of governance than that country. They have since outclassed and
outlived those from whom they borrowed the system, from the Greeks to the
French. They received the statue of Liberty as a present from the French on
October 28, 1886. The timeless and most inspiring words of the poet, Emma
Lazarus, summoning all to freedom have the power of a sacred text. They still
resonate till date. The Poem reads: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled
masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden
door. I know the flood of exhilarating emotions I felt when I climbed the
edifice in 1986.

The very successful story of the United States of America
illustrates what human beings, collaborating with the grace of God, can achieve
when they work together under a common vision, or clock. Do not get me wrong. I
am not naïve to think that the United States does not have its own problems. We
can remember the history of the struggles for equality of the black race and
others for justice and integration till date. We can recall the struggle of
women to have their equality as citizens recognized. Time Magazine (March
16-23rd, 2020) has dedicated a two-week edition to the Women struggle in the
United States and around the world. We can also afford to quarrel with the new
restrictions imposed by the Trump administration today, whether on border
walls, immigrants, visas, or how much you need to have to get their visa. But
in whichever way we look at things, every struggle there still finds it
legitimacy in the vision of the founding fathers of that country against the
backdrop of commitment to freedom and human dignity.

In 1776 after they won their war against Britain, the
founding fathers set about laying down the moral basis for what they had done.
After the holy Bible, the Declaration of Independence can be considered the
most powerful source from where the United States has continued to draw its
moral authority. The writers (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin,
Robert Livingston and Robert Sherman) stated very clearly the reason why they
had fought a war and what kind of society they wanted to live in.

The Declaration of Independence opened with the following
words: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any
Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the
People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to
them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence,
indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed
for light and transient causes.

Who would imagine that these words, written over two hundred
years ago are still so inspiring? They could pass for a text of agitation from
any of the angry, frustrated and militant separatist groups spread around every
nook and cranny of Nigeria today. So, what time is it for Nigeria? How does it
happen that we have not been able to resolve problems whose solutions were
offered over two hundred years ago by men and women of vision? How could we
have offered to sit for their examination and sixty years later are still
unable to graduate?

The founding fathers of America drew their strength from the
Christian faith, calling their nation a City on a hill, a Nation under God and
God’s country. The inscription on their currency reads, In God we trust.  Today, these appellations have paid off because
faith, including today greater respect for all faiths, has remained the
rallying cry for the people. Thus, we can all agree that, America may sway, but
it remains a worthy reference point for how Democracy should be. This is the
price we have had to pay for trying to merely understand our differences rather
than hammering them out on an imaginative anvil that would enable us weld these
differences together and subordinate them under a Constitution would serve as
our secular sacred text?

Apart from the Declaration of Independence, two other
speeches are important for understanding why American Democracy has stood the
test of time and why honouring the time-tested principles laid down by the
founding fathers has conferred a form of secular sacredness to these texts. The
first is a speech that has come to be known as the House Divided Speech,
delivered on June 16th, 1858, was an acceptance speech which Abraham Lincoln
delivered after he accepted the nomination to run for the Senate for the State
of Illinois. Although Mr. Lincoln lost that election, the contents of the
speech show an ideological consistency that shows the depth of his moral
convictions about human dignity. His entire political life would hang around
the themes of the speech.

To be continued…

Dr. Kukah, Essayist and commentator is Catholic Bishop, Sokoto Diocese

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FocusFront Page

Sports Betting, N730b Industry On Hold

Sports events and the sports industry around the world have
been halted in recent weeks following the outbreak and spread of coronavirus
(COVID-19). With Nigerians reportedly spending a whopping #730 billion annually
and #2billion daily on sports betting, revenue generation is sure to be a
concern to sports betting companies.

Since the pandemic outbreak, major leagues such as the
English Premier League, Spanish Laliga, Italian Serie A and the German
Bundesliga have been suspended indefinitely with UEFA announcing the suspension
of the Champions League and Europa League fixtures.

Truly, the Nigerian sports betting and gaming industry has
grown astronomically. The exceptional growth can be attributed to the large
population of the nation and increased access to internet devices. The advent
of the thriving industry provided Nigerian fans with the opportunity to earn
money from what they loved; playing online poker, casino games, and sports
betting.

It didn’t matter if you had an idea of the sport; there were
guidelines online to help you become a good pundit in the betting industry. The
popularity of the business has seen sport betting shops spotted in almost every
nook and cranny of our country, with new ones propping up daily.

But that’s as far as it went before the outbreak of the
coronavirus, which led to the suspension of sporting activities worldwide and
consequently, the shutting down of business for the punters.

For operators of the betting companies and their clients,
it’s been business unusual.

While companies are ruing the reduction in the revenue they
accrue from those who visit their sites to place bets and punters, who see
betting as a means of increasing their income, are also at a loss. Workers at
betting companies and punters who spoke with The Vortex said the inactivity in
sports had affected their businesses.

A member of the House of Representatives and founder of
Nairabet, Akin Alabi, voiced the frustrations of stakeholders in the industry
when he admitted that sports betting was one of the worst hit since the virus
outbreak.

“A business that has been badly hit by this shutdown is the
sports betting business. No sports. No deposits. No income. Yes there is a
virtual sport but it’s only a consolation. I know some companies will have to
send staff on unpaid leave very soon,” Alabi wrote on Twitter.

Clever Phinere took care of his daily needs through extra
cash he makes courtesy of betting, but that has been cut short due to the
shutdown.

He said, “I normally get some fund from betting every week
no matter how small to add to my daily spending but since last week, the odds
have dropped, and we can no longer punt well again. If this coronavirus
continues it will affect a lot of businesses and movements.”

It’s also a tale of lamentation for Charles Amadi, a
vulcaniser who said, “The coronavirus has affected me; I can’t stake as much as
I do. I remember before the outbreak; I staked a lot to boost my chances of
winning, I can pick games or fixtures from other leagues and place a certain
amount on them. The more the options, the better your chances of winning.

“But, since this coronavirus started, I have not been able
to make much, you know, the chances are slim, and one can’t make money. At
least if the season was still on, I would have made money but, now no matches,
nothing. I don’t know which matches and leagues are still on. I pray this
disease will just go so that I can make some money”, he intoned.

Emeka Onyema lamented that the suspension came at a time he
was on a winning streak.

“This coronavirus outbreak and the cancelling of sports
events have made things difficult for me. I have been broke since they stopped
football matches and the ones we’ve been managing to play keep getting called
off and rescheduled every day. The painful part is that I’ve been winning
lately and this trend might change when the leagues resume,” he said.

Segun Ogundare has devised another means of overcoming the
meltdown in the industry. He has resorted to ‘doing business’ with Premier
Lotto, popularly known as ‘Baba Ijebu.’ ‘Baba Ijebu’ is a form of gambling
where winning numbers are drawn and monetary rewards are given to the winners.

He said, “I have resorted to playing ‘Baba Ijebu’ and
virtual sports betting since all the coronavirus thing. Even though I don’t
really like it, I just have to use to keep myself busy as I now experience very
boring weekends.”

Eric Titus, stated, “The suspension has affected us, I must
confess. At least before the shutdown we could still stake games in Malaysia,
Indonesia, and other parts of Asia. But now, it’s worse. There was a time I
even staked games on matches in the Nigerian league, just to make small cash
but with the suspension now, I don’t know which games to stake.”

The reality of self-isolating at home without making extra
cash to survive gives Chris Buchi genuine worry.

“Sports betting is a hobby and a means of augmenting my
salary. I can play 10 games with N1,000 and win N22,000. That’s some extra cash
for some days. Sometimes, I cash out and get N15,000. I don’t play risky games;
I always try to play safe. However, these days we don’t even have any
opportunity of getting any cash,” Buchi said.

For Alex Ovie, he could only recall the good days of the
booming business with envy.

He said, “I bet every week at least twice in a week and I
engage in it because it’s something I love; I have made it my hobby. Sometimes,
I just play with my cash with as low as N100. I don’t win little, I always win
big, I can use N1,000 to win N22,000 or use N800 to win N45,000, if you compare
how much I play with and what comes in, it’s usually very large”.

“Now that sporting activities have been suspended, it’s not
possible any more. I was on a N44,000 game, which I played with N800 and almost
all the games were cancelled, only two games came and I got only N300 on it. It
has really been affecting me. Since the suspension of major sporting
activities, I have not opened any betting site.” Ovie disclosed.

Chukwuemeka Orlu, a Bet9ja branch manager who spoke to The
Vortex, revealed that although there has been a drastic decline in revenue due
to the COVID-19 pandemic, bettors can still take advantage of the virtual
games.

He said, “A secret goldmine that many bettors are not even
aware of is virtual. Majority of Nigerians are football and sports fans, whose
passion inspired them to make stakes. So they have only been betting on sports.
That mentality must be changed in these times. In the face of the coronavirus
pandemic, online platforms like virtual, with no human-to-human interaction is
the safest and the best bet. You can have the same feel as sports betting.
Bettors have same opportunity to stake any amount and also select their
favorite teams. For me, it is better because the matches are played and
resulted in less than 5 minutes”.

In a contrary opinion,     Mr.
Victor Robinson explains that virtual games cannot be trusted.

He said, “Virtual bets are a rabbit hole, it’s determined by
code. With real bets, I can bank on Messi and Ronaldo saving the day. But with
virtual bets, you’re at the mercy of the algorithm. You lose your money in five
minutes and then start scrambling to win it back. You’re not betting on real
people with a pattern, it’s like playing a slot machine while trying to protect
the outcomes”.

If the coronavirus disease is contained and sporting
activities resume in a short time, it would mean that the effects would be
minimal. The danger will be if the pandemic lasts longer, especially as many of
the players in the sector were blindsided by the crisis. But in the meantime,
it puts online betting companies and their customers at an interesting
counterpoint.

While the aphorism is that you can never beat the house,
punters want online bet companies to power their virtual sports with algorithms
that feel beatable. But with COVID-19, everyone is on edge.

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CommentsFront Page

Still On The Upgrade Of NASS Complex

Since the National Assembly (NASS) approved N37billion in
the 2020 budget for the renovation of the NASS complex, there have been   arguments over the appropriateness or
otherwise of the amount.

As opinions on the issue oscillate, various camps or divides
are being formed in defence of their respective positions the lawmakers have
insisted that the humongous sum for the project wasn’t misplaced.  As the debates and arguments surge furiously
on all sides, there seems to be no meeting point on the issue.

When the NASS legislators sacrificed their annual vacation
to approve the 2020 budget, some thought it was done squarely for national
interest and to return the country to the January to December budget cycle.
They were hailed for a sacrificial act. But their real intentions were
discovered with their insertion of N37 billion in the budget.

It is difficult to understand how the federal lawmakers
arrived at the figures without a deep reflection the nation’s battered economy
which has always been at the butt of global economic rankings. Is it not
surprising that despite the belt-tightening homily by President Muhammadu
Buhari, the lawmakers could still propose such a prodigious amount for the
renovation of the NASS complex?

It seems the NASS lawmakers who claimed to understand
Nigeria’s economic problems in their 2019 election campaigns, have suddenly
lost touch of what this nation of over 180 million people is experiencing. Why
have they chosen to close their eyes to the economic realities and shameful
waste of our resources?

Although current oil prices appear favourable, where were
these lawmakers when the World Bank forewarned that Nigeria’s economy could be
at great risk should oil prices fall to the level they were in 2016? Besides,
in arriving at the decision to spend that much on the renovation of the NASS
complex, the lawmakers could have considered our rising debt profile and the
amount used to service it. Why did these factors fail to feature in their
debate?

The truth is what the lawmakers are asking for is more than
an upgrade. It is an outright reconstruction or rebuilding of the complex. That
is why when Nigerians criticized the proposal, the criticisms were dismissed,
especially by the senators. Anyone who has seen the NASS structure in Abuja of
recent would agree that the edifice is not 
doesn’t require such volume of renovation or reconstruction.

This is not the first time federal lawmakers have been
criticized by Nigerians for their spending habits in a dwindling economy like
ours. A few months ago, senators where criticized over the plan to purchase
SUVs that would cost the nation N5.5billion.Those vehicles were purchased in
the face of cheaper alternatives. It is sad that these federal legislators,
rather than act in ways that would benefit the country economically, indulge in
wastes that have always earned them storms of criticisms.

Our federal lawmakers have to purge themselves of the
arrogance of power and denigration of the opinion of Nigerians as such
arrogance   arouses the anger of
Nigerians.  

Since the advent of the present administration, there have
been excessive dependence on foreign and domestic borrowings.The   question the legislators ought to ask is
whether it is profitable to borrow, not for the development of the nation, but
for white elephant projects that add no value to the economy such as the one
the reconstruction or renovation of the NASS Complex.

It is better to invest such money more widely in small scale
businesses that can get several Nigerians employed than expend it on an
unbeneficial single project. The controversy clearly indicates that we haven’t
got our priorities right.

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Front Page

Deposed Sanusi: Lessons For Niger Delta

I consider an analysis on the deposition of the former emir
of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi  in
a Whatsapp  post as brilliant. But to me
there are three important points in the article that need to be interrogated as
follows: First, is it right to suspect that the President is in the know of
what happened in Kano? Yes, President Buhari is a public servant whose every
action should be subject to national debate and analysis.

If there was any doubt about the President on the matter, it
has been cleared by the early assignments in the itinerary of the new Emir. It
was reported that the new Emir was received within 24 hours of his sudden
ascension, by President Buhari in the Villa. Why was it so important and urgent
for President Buhari to receive the new Emir of Kano? Has President Buhari
received any traditional ruler with such haste? Is there such a protocol that
the Presidency must allow a new traditional ruler to meet with Nigeria’s
President?

 I doubt that the
Amanyanabo of  Bonny, Opobo or Nembe, the
Oba of Benin, the Obi of Onitsha, the Tor Tiv or the Oba of Lagos among other
traditional rulers, have had the opportunity of a prompt invite by the
President. Should the President not extend to them similar courtesy of a prompt
invitation, for the sake of fairness in a nation bound in freedom, peace and
unity?

Second, in my view a major weakness of the analysis is a
surprising wrong conclusion: “ that you cannot be a traditional ruler and an
activist” for a better society. Yes, you can! In fact all of us should be
activists to change Nigeria’s ruling system of mass poverty and those who
continue to profit from it. And Emir Sanusi has demonstrated that it is
possible. He made the Emir of Kano’s seat an advocacy platform for economic and
civil rights for the poor. His position is so eloquent that traditional rulers
cannot continue to dodge a duty to define the future and prospects of the
society they rule.

As Emir of Kano, Sanusi II refused to follow tradition to
stay blind and quiet in order to keep the luxurious life of an eminent office in
Nigeria. Sanusi didn’t want to pretend that the increasing poverty of the
masses in society was ok. He chose to speak out against a society that produces
more helpless slaves.

First as Central Bank Governor under President  Goodluck Jonathan, he spoke out against so
much wealth in the hands of a corrupt few while poverty flooded the land. And
as Emir of Kano, he said something is wrong with a system that produces more
poverty in the North. Nigeria knew that truth all along, but the ruling class
won’t let anyone attack the system behind it. Islam and poverty were wrongly
juxtaposed as being together.

 Sanusi took the
challenge to attack the ruling class in the North by unmasking the rulers as
the one who are giving Islam a bad name. He quoted Prophet Mohammed to prove
his case that Islam is against man-made poverty; that is poverty from wrong
policies in the society.

The same argument applies to our Niger Delta Governors,
legislators, sundry politicians, Church leaders and traditional rulers.
Sanusi’s voice rings loud and clear in his silence: How can you claim to be
Christians? Not when the local and State governments continue to produce
poverty and misery, their cronies steal 
their way to a life of luxury! Jesus Christ did not embody that in his
life style and not in his teachings.

Thirdly, there are important lessons about the emirate
system which the Niger Delta and the non- emirate North need to learn from what
has happened in Kano. (a). Northern Emirs are sometimes directly chosen by
Governors and Emirates created by Governors, as happened in Kano. It is not so,
for the traditional institution in the Niger Delta. We should be careful not to
affiliate our ethnic institution to the philosophy and practices of the Fulani
Emirate system.

(b) By its historical and logical presentation, the Emirate
system is clearly an imposition on indigenous ethnic groups of each state
concerned. The Fulani own the Feudal system and the emirate structure that
sustains it, as conquerors of the indigenous communities they lord over. This
is internal colonialism that has been left intact by the Nigerian State since
1960. But in the Niger Delta, our chieftaincy system does not follow the
pattern of internal colonialism that defines the emirate system, where a group
of occupation such as the Fulani, is a dominant minority.

(c). We need to redefine how our traditional institution and
governments (Local Governments and State Governments) should relate. Why do we
need traditional rulers’ stools to be classified or given recognition by
government? Can we find a better way of managing that process of authentication
of chieftaincy stool or throne without partisan political sentiments?

Also, we need to redefine how those holding political power
and our traditional rulers should relate in order to harness public confidence
as a crucial resource for economic development. For instance, a study by GRAIN
Consulting in 2013-2014  and in 2017-
2018 ( before  the general elections)
showed that among top five things Niger Delta people resent, is why they see as
arrogance, disregard and abuse they suffer from political office holders, Civil
Servants and traditional rulers. Maybe it is worth addressing now to avert the
danger of perceived internal colonialism. Even worse is what we see now.

Since 1999 our “royal fathers” have been steadily reduced by
government pressure to conduct themselves as “royal servants” of the Governor
and his associates. Yet the people in power are indigenes of each State. For
them to treat our traditional institution as a public service appointment is to
sow seeds of ethnic disharmony and mutual suspicion for the future.  It is a confrontation that assaults our
history as a people. Even the colonial masters couldn’t win that battle. But
today it tends towards increasing fragmentation of groups within each clan and
ethnicity.

We need to have our Houses of Assembly hold public hearings
and call for ideas to redefine the function of traditional rulers, code of
conduct and a payment system that does not make traditional rulers subservient
to the government of the day. The traditional institution should embody the
spirit, values and aspirations of each clan or ethnic group in a State. It
should not exist at the whims and caprices of a Governor or the demands of
partisan politics. To kick a traditional ruler around or to ignore the protocol
of decency in exchange between government officials and the traditional
institution is to degrade the ethnic group that the institution represents in
each Local Government Area or State. It is a slap that no compensation can
off-set in history!

d) Niger Delta traditional rulers through their South-South
forum should reach out to parallel regional bodies to refuse underlying
feudalist sentiments and  internal
colonialism about the traditional institution. For instance, the idea that only
the Sultan of Sokoto or someone from the core North can be the Chairman of
Nigeria’s traditional rulers’ council is an abuse of our traditional
institution. That appears to be the philosophy the emirate system is built
upon.

In the Niger Delta the chieftaincy institution is
historically different. It’s root is indigenous among the clan or ethnic group
of each kingdom. They are not a conquered people. We need to educate our
politicians by urgent and positive debate towards a legislative process to show
that we are not running a quasi-emirate system in the Niger Delta. No Governor
or Local Government Chairman should be allowed to treat any section or group in
the constituency as “a conquered people”. That is not the way of democracy.

Traditional rulers represent an institution that is a
foundation stakeholder of our society. Political parties or governments come
and go, but our traditional institution remains. It has to be treated as a
proper stakeholder of our society in terms of function, Code of Conduct,
protocol and a transparent reward system that is protected from partisan
meddling or Chiefs who seek to inflate their position.

Finally, sustained and subtle exposure to the emirate system
could lead to a “contagion effect” of a social equivalent of the dreaded
“Coronavirus”. No Governor in Niger Delta states should be tempted on his own
or by outside political forces to violate our history. Installation, suspension
or outright removal of any traditional ruler or chief must be in accordance
with the tradition of the people in that particular part of the Niger Delta.

 Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown, veteran
journalist and emeritus National President of Nigerian Institute of Public
Relations, is the Managing Consultant /CEO of Grain Consulting, Port Harcourt.

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CommentsFront Page

Security Agents Demoralising Patriotic Youths

It has become a routine for security agents to harass
Nigerians, particularly youths, under the guise of law enforcement. Nigerian
youths are intimidated, extorted, arrested illegally, arbitrarily detained and
even killed extra-judicially.

This unfortunate development has been perpetrated by regular
security agents like the police and even the military for a long time. But it
seems the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and some other
paramilitary organizations have entered the fray.

In Ibadan, Oyo State, EFCC operatives, using crude force,
sacked the patrons of a nightclub in a bravado style. This action caused so
much concern that there would almost have been reprisals from the public. Law
enforcement is a given globally, but the manner security agents in this country
go about it leaves much to be desired.

In the case of Club 360, the aforementioned nightclub, EFCC
officials invaded the building at midnight and ransacked it thoroughly,
subjecting those present, especially youths, to a crude and humiliating
treatment. Vehicles, phones and laptops were confiscated. In all, about 89
persons were arrested.

By every given standard, this seems an unusual way to
enforce the law. It is harassment. Granted there could be some suspected
fraudsters at the location, but what about the innocent among them? Should they
have been manhandled and treated badly as well? In civilised climes, law
enforcement is intelligence-driven and, therefore, excludes all forms of
over-drive by security agents.

Although the EFCC has the responsibility to check and
prevent financial crimes, their dramatic incursion into nightclubs and
entertainment homes on the allegation of harbouring internet fraudsters may
amount to using a gun to kill a mosquito. The outcome is usually unintended,
one of which is to discourage investments and businesses.

When people lack trust in their security apparatuses, they
tend to recoil from society in apparent disgust and blend with their social
class, tribe or religion and do businesses in ways that benefit only them and
their families, not society or the nation. This is dangerous because of its
negative economic implications.

Harassment of innocent and young Nigerians by security
agents, notably in the services sector, will certainly harm the economy if not
checked. First, the nation’s economy is a weak and struggling one which is
being diversified from the hitherto oil monopoly we have always had.

Since Nigerians, especially at services centres, have become
vulnerable to attacks, unwarranted arrests and detention, they will customarily
be wary of patronising services-based businesses like restaurants, nightclubs,
entertainment enterprises, among others.

In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, statistics
revealed that out of the four areas of the economy (services, manufacturing,
construction, and tourism), services alone contributed about $2.65 trillion
which amounted to over 80 per cent GDP in 2016. These services included retail,
food and beverage, and entertainment. That is how significant the services
sector of a nation’s economy could be if properly harnessed.

But in Nigeria, rather than encourage services providers,
security agents, under the pretext of law enforcement, often invade and
humiliate them, most times unjustifiably. What foresight or tangible benefits
are there to be derived from such precipitate action?

Similarly, EFCC officers stormed a nightclub in Osogbo, Osun
State, in October 2019. At the end of their operation, they arrested suspected
94 Yahoo Yahoo boys on an allegation that they had turned the place into a den
of internet fraudsters. The EFCC had also carried out mass arrests of youths in
similar operations in Enugu, Uyo, Aba and Lagos. Sadly, such clubs are usually
unable to recover from these invasions.

In a popular case, the EFCC arrested a musician, Naira
Marley (real name Afeez Fashola), allegedly for singing songs that glorified
internet fraud. Is that not baffling? By their legal roles, the Nigerian
Communications Commission and the Nigerian Copyright Council, as regulators,
are in charge of this field, yet the EFCC intruded by taking over their
functions.

The many untoward activities of the anti-graft agency are
responsible for the crude state of the organisation. Twenty years into the Fourth
Republic, they are yet to imbibe the basics of law enforcement in a democratic
setting. Isn’t that too long a time to adjust to the present reality as against
the brutal days of military dictatorship?

Besides the EFCC, the youth have other security agencies to
contend with. Those among them who drive expensive cars, use iPhones, laptops
and technological gadgets are repeatedly hounded by the police and the
military. At a time in 2017, the molestation was so much that some young
Nigerians founded the hashtag, #EndSARS.

The #EndSARS demotic movement was incensed by the human
rights abuses such as arrests, extortion and detention of the youth by the
police. As a result, the police high command in Abuja promised to rehabilitate
the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Whether that was done or not is yet to
be seen.

While that was going on, the police renewed their abuses
when a policeman killed Kolade Johnson at a TV viewing centre in Lagos last
April in his desperation to arrest young men and women wearing dreadlocks and
“sagging” trousers. For wearing tattoos, the military descended on some youths
in Aba last year, arresting and torturing them.

Just in December last year, some police officers attached to
the Eagle Crack Unit in the Rivers State Command allegedly tortured a motor
mechanic, Ikwunado Chima, to death on allegations of being a secret cult member
and a robber. At random, officers stop vehicles and arrest young people for
flimsy reasons, apparently with the intent to extort money from them.

It is wrong to assume that every young person is a criminal
and therefore deserves to be treated as such. Law enforcement agents,
especially the police, variously rob young Nigerians by compelling them at
gunpoint to transfer monies into their accounts electronically. Girls are not
exempted as sometimes they are indecently assaulted by security agents.

Is it a crime to be a youth in Nigeria? Nigerian youths
already have enough in their kitty. Unlike other climes where young people are
entitled to many benefits, in Nigeria, they are deprived of every good thing.
No jobs, no quality health care, no good education, and above all, no future.
Indeed, youths in this country are in the most precarious state.

Therefore, security agents shouldn’t add to their misery.
Their rights should not be violated on account of where they go to have
relaxation or fun and what they put on. If they violate the law, they have to
be accosted with civility, not in a gangsterish manner.

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Wakirike Women Get N100m Largess …For Defending Rivers Mandate …Wike Assures On Okrika-PH Link Road, Others

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has instituted a
N100million empowerment programme for Wakirike women in Okrika and Ogu/Bolo
Local Government Areas for stoutly defending Rivers mandate during the 2019
Elections.

The Governor has also decried the inability of the country
to conduct credible elections after several years of practising democracy.

Speaking last Friday at Government House, Port Harcourt
during a solidarity visit by the Wakirike 
people of Okrika, Ogu/Bolo and part of Port Harcourt Local Government
Areas, the governor said:”It is unfortunate that up till now, we cannot conduct
free and fair elections in Nigeria. It is unfortunate that the giant of Africa,
lacks the capacity to conduct credible elections.”

While commending the Wakirike women for defending the Rivers
mandate against the invading soldiers, Governor Wike urged Rivers people to
always ensure that their votes count during elections.

“At all times, continue to defend and protect the Rivers
mandate”, he said.

Governor Wike said that out of the N100million meant for the
empowerment programme for the courageous women of Wakirike ethnic nationality,
N50million has been reserved for Okrika LGA and N50million for Ogu/Bolo LGA.

Governor Wike commended Wakirike people for maintaining
peace in the area, saying that his administration will fulfill key
developmental pledges to them.

He stated that he will extend electricity to Okrika Local
Government Area and work towards the construction of the Jetty at Isaka.

The Governor further noted that he will link Ogu and Wakama
communities as he promised during his campaign. He added that the next phase of
Okochiri internal roads will be completed by his Administration.

On the Okrika Grammar School , Governor Wike urged the
leaders of the area to write to the Anglican Church for the school to be
released to the state government for total reconstruction 

He reiterated his respect for Traditional Rulers, saying
that they are under obligation to promote the culture of Rivers people.

“We must always promote our tradition and culture. I have
respect for Traditional Rulers. All I say is that we should promote our own
culture,” he said.

In an address on behalf of the Wakirike Ethnic Nationality,
Senator George Sekibo said that they were at the Government House to
congratulate the Rivers State Governor on his well deserved victory at the
polls.

He praised Governor Wike for the key appointments to
Wakirike ethnic Nationality, the projects executed in the area and the
recognition/upgraded of Traditional Rulers’ stools of the Wakirike Ethnic
Nationality.

He said: “We appreciate the mutual relationship we share in
this democratic journey, and wish to remind our Governor of his promises to the
Wakirike people during the electioneering campaigns in Okirika and Ogu/Bolo
Local Government Areas.”

He urged the Rivers State Governor to reach out to the
Wakirike women who courageously defended Rivers votes, despite the deployment
of soldiers.

Earlier, former Minister of Transport, Chief Dr Abiye
Precious Sekibo said that the Wakirike people didn’t expect anything less than
a victory for Governor Wike during the last elections.

He expressed happiness that Governor Wike has confidence in
the Wakirike ethnic Nationality, hence most of their leaders are his close
confidants.

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