Some of us have read with interest, the multiple comments which have greeted the approval of refund of N78,953,067,518.29, by the Federal Government, as reinbursement for the repairs of federal roads in the state.
Some of these comments have been genuinely honest and well meaning in their suggestions on how the funds should be utilized, but some others like the press statement of Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, a chieftain and former National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have sadly veered recklessly and quite unnecessarily into the realm of acrimonious absurdity and pathetic pettiness, which unfortunately undermines and diminishes the
Federal government’s well intended gesture.
For the avoidance of doubt and to set the records straight, we wish to state here categorically, that His Excellency, Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON GSSRS POS Africa, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, expresses his sincere gratitude to Mr. President, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for his magnanimity in approving the release of the refund to Rivers State and four other states. Thank you Mr. President.
We also wish to express our gratitude to the Minister of Works and Housing, His Excellency, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who presented the memo at the third Federal Executive Council (FEC) virtual meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari inside the Council Chambers of the State House, on Wednesday June 3rd, 2020.
We recall with fond memories, the very cordial working visit of the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to Rivers State on Thursday March 19, 2020, where he was warmly received and hosted by His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike in Government House Port Harcourt. The meeting, which later went into a closed session, not only showcased Governor Wike’s leadership philosophy of developmental politics without bitterness and boundaries admirably, but also underlined the early consciousness of the Rivers Governor to the emergence of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, with the famous “elbow shake” he did with the Minister, which captured popular imagination both nationally and globally.
Again, to set the records straight and correct the erroneous impression being created by peddlers of misleading information on the genesis of this refund, it is important to state here that in 2016, the 36 states of the federation, including Rivers State, with Governor Wike on the saddle, sent a memo to the federal government, asking for compensation for monies expended by their state governments on federal roads.
This prompted Mr President to set up a committee chaired by the honorable minister of Works and Housing, which also had the Ministers of Education, Transportation, Finance, Minister of State for Works, DG BPP and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office, as members, to verify the claims of these 36 states, whether indeed these projects were actually constructed and completed in line with the federal government standards.
At the end of that verification exercise, the inter-ministerial committee recommended that the federal government should refund N550,364,297.31 billion to 31 of the 36 states, after they were convinced that the projects under review, were completed and they were federal government roads. The five states; Cross River, Rivers, Ondo, Bayelsa and Osun, that were recently refunded, had been advised to update their documentations to include all the works done on Federal Roads since 2016, amongst other information and it is this additional expenses that has boosted the incremental reimbursement for Rivers State to the approved N78.9 Billion, which it will now receive.
The importance of this information is underscored by the necessity to debunk certain deliberate insinuations propagated in the public space about the appropriation of funds belonging to Rivers State, especially when placed against the backdrop of the caveat defining this refund, which is that the Federal has also warned, that any state which willingly intends to execute projects on federal roads henceforth, must first seek permission of the federal government so the job would be supervised by the federal ministry of works and housing, otherwise the state funds expended for such repairs would not be refunded.
While we recognize the pains and agony of those pushing the fallacious and inverted narrative of the refund and deeply sympathise with their desperate logic as a pitiable attempt to attract and arrogate some incohate relevance to their already dwindled and fractured public image, we make bold to assert unequivocally and with very legitimate authority, that Rivers money belongs to Rivers people and that the completion of Federal projects on Rivers territory for the collective benefit of Rivers people and the state had completely occupied the infrastrural agenda of Gov. Nyesom Wike’s first year in office.
It was little wonder therefore that an obviously impressed and visibly elated Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, overwhelmed by the monumental achievements of Governor Nyesom Wike’s exemplary leadership, devoid of partisan acrimonies in the noble act of not only delivering democracy dividends to Rivers people, but also assisting the Federal government address some of its challenges in the delivery of roads infrastructure, christianed him with the enduring sobriquet: “Mr. Projects”. That recognition and commendation, pronounced at the time it was made, was even sufficient all by itself, to convince the Federal Government that the N78.9 billion refund to Rivers State, was a well deserved reward.
As for Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze’s ludicrous rant over the refund, delivered in his usual pugnacious and utterly obsequious puppydog obsession to please his paymaster and shamelessly justify his attackdog credentials, which has sadly transformed into a lap dog whimper, we can only sympathise with the truncation of his wild dreams and imaginations, which hit him hard in the solar plexus and ruptured his mental aptitude, after the 2019 governorship election in the state.
What has become obvious since the onset of the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, is that it is not in the nature of the Government to join issues and glorify the petty provocations of rabble rousers who have achieved legendary notoriety for their wild, phlegmatic, unguarded, sentimentally clouded and emotionally befuddled psychophantic vituperations, which more often than not, have instigated and propelled the actualization of wrongheaded, disastrous denouements, by those who believe in and act out their zany scripts.
Yet, as our people say, “Advice no be curse,” so there is every certainty that Governor Wike, as the listening leader that he is, will most definitely take the good advice given by one and all in the utilization of this refund. But “when the handshake don pass elbow…” the rest as they say, will be history.
Rivers People should be rest assured, that Governor Nyesom Ezenwon Wike, will utilize the refund, which in the first place belongs to Rivers State, for the betterment of the lives of Rivers people. Perhaps it will also be germane to note here, that the legacy projects, massive constructions, rehabilitations, renovations and programmes already ongoing all across the state or fully completed and commissioned in the last five years, were not done with the N78.9 billion.
As a responsible and responsive government, desirous to always put the interest of Rivers State and Rivers people first, Rivers people are already reassured that the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike will remain focused, committed and dedicated to providing the best for Rivers State protecting the lives of Rivers people and ensuring that it will always fight to advocate for and secure whatever is accruing to Rivers State.
The administration has loudly and constantly raised it’s voice and will continue to do so, when Rivers people feel marginalized or shortchanged by the Federal Government and now that the state has been granted its due refund, Governor Nyesom Wike and the good people of Rivers state say Thank you once again, Mr. President.
Long live Rivers State
God Bless Nigeria.
Belema Godswill is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Port Harcourt