Rivers’ lawmakers threaten court action against Amaechi over refusal to present handover note

• Seek probe of past council chairmen, caretaker committees
• My response to Wike’s allegations, by ex-governor

Rotimi Ameachi




FORMER Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, may be facing a court action over refusal to present a handover note to Nyeson Wike administration.

The move was yesterday initiated by the state Assembly lawmakers who passed a resolution directing the Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Emmanuel Aguma, to take all necessary steps within the ambit of the law to compel Amaechi to present a handover note to the present administration.

The resolution, which was passed by 28 lawmakers, followed a motion moved by a member representing Degema Constituency, Farah Dagogo.

The lawmaker in the motion stated that the present administration do not know the assets and liabilities of the state due to the failure of the ex-governor to properly handover to his successor.

Meanwhile, Amaechi yesterday responded to allegations made by Wike on the state of the economy of Rivers State.

A statement issued yesterday by the former Commissioner for Information, Ibim Semenitari, on behalf of the former governor stated: “On Monday, June 22, Mr. Nyesom Wike briefed the media and made numerous allegations. These allegations are the same ones that Mr. Wike set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. However, in keeping with Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi’s commitment to good governance, transparency and accountable stewardship to Rivers people, we will reiterate the facts.

“N150 billion owed Ministry of Works contractors: Rt.Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi inherited a state that was comatose and in dire need of infrastructure. Years of militancy and criminality had forced government and business in Rivers State to a standstill. He therefore embarked on land reclamation in our riverine communities and the massive construction of roads, bridges and interchanges all over Rivers State, realising that there is a direct link between state of infrastructure and the growth rate of any economy, It is to the credit of the Amaechi administration that by the time he was leaving office, he had completed 90 per cent of the Phase 1A of the Rivers State Monorail, completed two major interchanges, two flyovers, 25 bridges, and five shore protection projects. He also completed 890 kilometres of the on-going 1,424 kilometres of road projects across the state. There are over six land reclamation/shore protection projects at Andoni, Opobo, Buguma, Abalama, Olumbie/Owukiri Island and Oba-Ama-Okrika with over 1,140,000 kilometres completed. Out of the roads completed, some of these were federal roads for which the Rivers State Government was owed N108 billion, Mr. Wike as Minister of State for Education was among those who prevented former President Goodluck Jonathan from paying the Rivers State Government back these funds. It is on record that other states like Akwa Ibom and Abia received repayment for the federal roads they constructed. As at when Governor Amaechi was leaving office, the debts owed the contractors in the Ministry of Works, which were for ongoing road projects, totalled N44, 942,354,44.10.

“N15 billion owed to Zenith bank: Governor Amaechi in his valedictory address to Rivers people announced the loans owed to various banks. I will herein reproduce the excerpts of that speech “Today, Rivers State is the least indebted state with a loan portfolio of N17.7 billion to banks owed as follows: Agriculture loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria – N2 billion; Zenith Bank Plc  – N15.7 billion.”  This was the status as at May 27. The repayment for the loans is via an irrevocable standing order and so will have reduced as at today.

“Sale of Power projects: For the records, the government of Rivers State under Dr. Peter Odili made substantial investment in electric power-related projects with the aim of mitigating the malaise of inadequate power supply. The projects included generation (Omoku and Trans-Amadi 1), transmission and distribution interventions. Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on assumption of office recognised the importance of improved electric power supply in the socio-economy regeneration of the state. At the time Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi assumed office, of the 350 megawatts (MW) total capacity generation assets invested by the state, only 70MW (equivalent to about 20 per cent) was available. With enthusiasm, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi ramped up the efficiency to 77 per cent availability, including injecting another 360MW Green Field Generation Project at Afam, of which 180MW have been commissioned and is in commercial operation. To mitigate the swing in efficiency and its debilitating impact on the economy, the state government sought private sector operators and sold 70 per cent equity stake in the power generating assets’ company to NG Power HPS. For the transaction, the state government adopted the same model as the Federal Government in the sale Egbin Power Plant. The sale was at a price per MW higher than all the privatisation MW rate done by the Federal Government. The proceeds from sale of the equity in the power generating assets’ company was captured as income in the 2014 Appropriation Law and deployed into funding capital projects as appropriated.

In another development, the state Assembly has set up an eight-member ad-hoc committee to investigate the income and expenditure profiles of the 23 local councils in the state for the period between 2013 and 2015.

Speaker of the House, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, set up the committee due to a motion moved by the House Leader, Martin Amaewhule, who alleged that the former council bosses were involved in financial recklessness and failed to execute projects in their localities within the period under review.

The ad-hoc committee, chaired by member representing Akuku-Toru II, Tonye Awari Alalibo, is expected to invite treasurers and heads of works in the 23 local councils to appear before it and submit its report within nine days.

Dagogo said: “Part of our oversight functions is to prevent people and institutions from doing the wrong thing. If we fail to do this, we are setting a bad precedence in the state. This is why this motion is exigent considering the fact that the past administration failed to give handover note. As it stands now, the current position of the state finances is unknown because the state is in a precarious position.”

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary, Director of Finance and Accounts and Director of Constituency Projects in the Ministry of Works are to appear before the House tomorrow this week to explain their roles in the execution of constituency projects in the state between 2012 and 2014.

The invitation came after the House deliberated on a motion moved by the Leader, Martin Amaewhule, for “Review of the impact of Constituency Projects between 2012-2014 in the state. The House was, however, divided in the vote as seven members declined to vote on the first prayers, while nine declined to vote on the second prayers. Three members voted against.

The member representing PHALGA I, Jones Ogbonda, had kicked against the motion, saying constituency project is a privilege and not right and therefore cannot be debated on the floor of the assembly.

In his argument, member representing Ogu/Bolo Constituency, Evans Bipi, said the House can only take a decision after hearing from the heads of local councils.

Also, member representing PHALGA I, Jones Ogbona, argued that while the motion is apt, there is no petition before the House alleging financial recklessness by the past council chairmen. He called on the House to put the first prayer of the motion on hold pending the outcome of its investigation.

However, a bill to repeal the Rivers State Traditional Rulers Law, 2009 has passed first reading on the floor of the House. The House is expected to reconvene tomorrow.

The statement further said: “Salaries of civil servants: All civil servants received their March salaries while payment for April salaries had commenced by the time the administration was winding down. Again I reproduce for the avoidance of doubt, excerpts of Governor Amaechi’s valedictory speech in this regard. “As at today, we have commenced the payment of April salaries and parastatal pensions. We have made the requisite provisions and expect all salary payments to be concluded as funds are received.

“Refuse contractors: Waste management contractors were being owed N1.6 billion amounting to four months of arrears as at when Governor Amaechi left office. Instruction for the payment of N488 million was with Zenith Bank as at May 27.

“Sharks/Dolphin: The three clubs: Sharks, Dolphins and Rivers Angels were in arrears of seven months by the time Governor Amaechi left government. Before leaving office, Amaechi approved the payment of seven months arrears to the team but this was held back along with approved payments that the banks did not pay. (Recall that there were funds available for this payment but Mr. Wike had directed all banks doing business with the Rivers State government not to honour its payment instructions.) Until revenue receipts began to thin down from the Federation Account, the Rivers state government was paying N50 million every month as welfare package for the teams.

“Pension: With regards to our pension arrears, the Amaechi administration inherited pensions arrears of over N4.5 billion. By the time he was leaving office, he was owing three months of pension arrears to the mainstream and two months of parastatal pensions.

“No handover notes: There is no truth in this as all commissioners and heads of MDAs submitted their handover notes to the Secretary to State Government who forwarded same to the Head of the State Civil Service as appropriate. Governor Amaechi also directed the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Tele Ikuru, to be the liaison between the outgoing administration and the incoming one. Ikuru as Deputy Chairman of the state Executive Governor and second man in government had all facts necessary to brief the incoming administration. He also had unfettered access to Government House and every commissioner and head of ministry, department or agency.

“Commission of enquiry into the Amaechi years: We would like to believe Mr. Wike that this is not a witch-hunt but his actions and body language speak differently.

“Forceful repossession of Lexus Jeep from Mrs. Ibim Semenitari: I find it strange that Mr. Wike says that I was contacted by security agencies. It might have been necessary that he provides proof of such contact. I am also shocked that he conveniently failed to acknowledge that it was an eight-year-old car and that it was not factory proofed. He also failed to state that it was given to me after several threats to my life because of my job description and that this isn’t strange as he himself as chief of staff was aware that there are political office holders who are allotted official vehicles from Government House as the need or circumstances may dictate. Over and beyond all this, can Mr. Wike please confirm if as commissioner I am entitled to leave with the official cars used during my tenure and if indeed he as Chief of Staff and later Minister of State did so?

“However, I shall for purposes of clarity rehash the main thrust of my earlier statement:
▪• At no time was I contacted by the Rivers State government or any of its agents or anyone purporting to be working for it with regards to any car in my possession.
▪ • The vehicle was allocated to me duly and I would definitely have responded to any query raised.
▪ • The vehicle, which I clearly stated belonged to my husband, was a Range Rover jeep. At no time did I claim that the Lexus Jeep belonged to my husband.
▪ • My property was damaged and my home forceful entered into by persons who claimed to be Government House Police without any legal authorisation. It therefore would not be wrong for Mr. Wike in good faith and for reasons of justice and fairness to apologise for the vandalisation of my property by agents purporting to be acting on his behalf. As a citizen of Rivers State, I do have a right to protection from a person sitting as Governor of Rivers State regardless of my political affiliation or my voting pattern.

“The Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Administration was one committed to the service of Rivers people. Governor Amaechi and all officials who served with him will always be grateful for any opportunity given to them to set the records straight as their pledge then and now remains to ‘render transparent and accountable stewardship.’ It would be helpful if Mr. Wike while he seats as governor keeps his eye on the ball by striving to protect the lives and property of Rivers people and enhance their quality of life. This is the least he can do to assuage the pains Rivers people were forced to bear in one of the most violent elections the state had ever witnessed.”

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