…Awards N100,000 Christmas bonus to workers
Siminalyi Fubara, governor of Rivers State, has remained silent since he returned from the Aso Rock meeting where he was said to have signed an agreement to allow peace to reign. He has however done more with policies than statements.
He first approved N100,000 per civil servant as Christmas bonus, a largesse that has thrown the state into a joyful mood. Some other sections such as retirees and professional bodies have appealed for theirs.
Fubara has also indicated that the bonus and promotion of civil servants were not all he had in mind for the workers. The hint has triggered chants of more support in the political crisis that has pitched him against his political godfather, Nyesom Wike, now FCT Minister.
He has also moved into administrative action, visiting project sites and garnering support. But he has not said he wants the support for, since he has promised to pay any price for peace, a stand that indicated he would not repudiate the controversial Aso Rock agreement.
Civil servants front:
Wike was at loggerhead with Labour all through his tenures but Gov Fubara seems to embrace them. He said the friendly leadership of the organised labour in the State engenders mutual cooperation and his administration is committed to do more for workers beyond implementing promotions and Christmas bonus.
Fubara spoke when he received thousands of jubilant civil servants who thronged the Government House gate, Port Harcourt, with their leadership and some members of the organised labour on a thank you and solidarity march on Friday, December 22, 2023.
Represented by the Head of Rivers State Civil Service, George Nwaeke, Gov Fubara said the sum of one N100,000 given as Christmas bonus to each civil servant is unprecedented and far exceeds the monthly salary of some workers.
He explained that the gesture represents the commitment of the administration to make workers know that they are important partners and must be properly appreciated while motivating them to be more productive.
“Within these few months of being in office, promotion has been made and reflected in salary; rehabilitation work has been done at the State Secretariat Complex to provide a good working environment for workers.
“All these are possible because the leadership of labour in Rivers State is friendly. They have been supportive of every government activity.”
Reading the statement jointly signed by the Rivers State chairman of the joint negotiation council, Chuku Emecheta, State Chairperson of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Ikechukwu Onyefuru, the Rivers State Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Alex Agwanwor, said the current political crisis poses potential threats to stability, and good governance as being provided by Gov Fubara.
According to him, “The Congress unanimously pledged to accord all the necessary support to the government of Fubara to deliver the dividends of democracy for the prosperity of our members and good people of Rivers State.”
Agwanwor showed the workers appreciation of the gesture of the governor on the matter of N100,000 bonus which he recalled that broke the record by then governor, Peter Odili, who gave N20,000.
Am not fighting anybody:
The governor says he is not fighting anybody, but many think he does. Fubara declared that his administration was not fighting anybody but was preoccupied with taking care of the needs of the people and protecting the interest of the state.
This seems to be a better way to fight as his actions seem to incite the masses in his favour, thus sending hot air to anybody that is against him, including the ex-governor. Fubara said this while flagging off the 20,000 housing units for low-income earners in the State, along the Obiri -Ikwerre- International Airport road on Friday.
Gov Fubara said in protecting the interest of the State, his administration would continue to do what is right before God and men while encouraging a robust participation of the people in governance.
“It is not service to the elites, but to the poor and low-income earners. Those are the people we want to stand with and we are standing with them from today.”
Fubara noted that his administration has started a new history with the 20,000 units of housing by giving new hope to Rivers people, particularly the poor.
He assured that in a few months, the first phase of the project would be completed and the housing units allocated to the low-income earners through a transparent process.
“I want to also say it here, let it also be my commitment that this facility, once it commences and gets to the stage of allotment, will go to the rightful people and not one big man to allocate to his family. It will be transparent so that the targeted people will access and benefit from it.”
Fubara remarked that his administration has started reaping from its open door policy because opportunities like economic empowerment, access to housing, and other benefits are now in the offing for the people.
“First of all, we need to give our people hope and today, I believe that everybody in our dear State has seen that light. How did we come about this magic? We opened our doors for negotiation and opportunities, knowing that the government cannot do it alone. We had to invite people that are ready to invest in our state.
“I make bold to say it, Rivers State is a safe haven for investment. What we are doing today is to let the world know it, and not what you hear in the media. I tell you that Rivers State is safe and secure for anybody anywhere to come and invest. Your investment is safe in our hands.”
In his remark, the Acting Administrator of New City Development Authority, Aaron Obelley, said the 20,000 units of housing will sit on 1000 hectares of land.
The first phase, now started, on 100 hectares of land, Obelley stated, will provide affordable houses in a striving and inclusive community for the people to live in.
On his part, the managing director and CEO of TAF Africa Global, explained that the project is the largest housing initiative on a public-private partnership in Africa and the Rivers State government will not incur any financial cost in accomplishing the project.
He assured that his company will be diligent in speeding up work to deliver it in good time, while also creating economic opportunities for the people.
Shakes the university community
Fubara took his rallying style to the university community in the state when he stormed the Rivers State University (RSU). He promised to provide necessary financial and other levels of support that will strengthen the capacity of the RSU to rank as one of the best in Nigeria.
Fubara made the promise at the 35th convocation ceremony of the Rivers State University that took place at the Convocation Arena of the institution in Nkpolu-Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt on Saturday.
The governor said the promised support is borne out of the fact that education serves as the cornerstone for a firm, equitable and progressive society that is desired by Rivers State.
“Bear in mind that funding is a problem, not just to this university system but also to governance. But as you all know, education is the cornerstone of a firm, equitable and progressive society.
“Therefore, we will continue to do our best to finance our university. Our commitment to make RSU one of the best in this country is a target and a process we have just started today.
“Let me commend the VC for his innovation, and result-oriented approach to the administration of this university. Let me promise this university community that the grant approved but not released will be released by Monday, December 2023.
“The essence of our commitment to education development is reflected in our 2024 budget where it received the third highest allocation.
“Let me, therefore, assure you that we will disburse a fair share of these resources to address the University’s most critical challenges, including support for the full and effective development of the new campuses, the provision of a stable power supply, the building of student hostels, and effective CCTV coverage to enhance safety and security in the campuses.”
Giving his address, Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University, the professor, Nlerum Okogbule, said a total of 6,326 graduates were conferred with first degrees, postgraduate diplomas, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy.
Okogbule informed that all 24 programmes in the university have full accreditation, the admission quota for the medicine and surgery programmes increased from 100 to 200 students; that of nursing and midwifery also increased from 50 to 100, and that all of the university’s four satellite campuses are in full operation.
Ready to shrug off bullets
The governor has used body language to indicate that he is not moved but ready to withstand pressure.
He has declared that despite the current challenges confronting his administration, he would not be distracted from his oath of office to defend Rivers people and protect their interests.
The governor made the declaration while speaking to newsmen in Ngo Town, the Capital of Andoni Local Government Area, shortly after inspecting the entire stretch of the Andoni section of the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road on Thursday to ascertain the extent of work that has been done.
Governor Fubara recalled that during the campaigns leading to his election, the Andoni section of the road was in terrible condition but months after the decision was taken to re-award the contract, the milestone achieved has been commendable.
“I have to say that the contractor has done a very good job. However, we did observe that about 1km of road that will lead to the council secretariat was somehow not captured in the scope and I think it will be proper that we do that too.
“So, we will continue to do our best, not minding the challenges we are facing. The most important thing is that we have taken our oath to defend our people and protect their interest, and we are not going back on that.”
Fubara said his administration is determined to complete the road that has lingered on for over 20 years as a commitment to bequeath lasting projects that will serve the needs of the people for years to come.
“What I keep saying to everyone is, what are we bequeathing to our people? Their interests are the most important thing and governance is about the protection of lives and property.
“These include providing quality services and one of them is this road. Posterity has blessed me with this project; it was something that they couldn’t achieve for over twenty years but within the space of six months, I have been able to sort it out. It is a credit and a big one at that, to our administration.”
Responding to Dick Nkakeek, a youth leader, who appealed to the governor to consider the construction of Andoni’s internal roads including that of Oyorokoto town, Gov Fubara sued for patience assuring that his administration will consider the internal roads in Andoni once the Andoni section of the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo Unity Road has been completed and Oyorokoto Town will benefit.
David Briggs enters the fight
The governor may be willing to fight the way many expect but others are beginning to enter the ring on his behalf.
Whereas a onetime attorney general of the, Adokiye Amiesemaka, who was part of the persons in Aso Rock, has insisted on constitutionalism, a one-time commissioner in the state, David Briggs, has given his own account.
The Briggs account seems to counter some of what Tony Okocha, caretaker boss of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, revealed.
Briggs told newsmen: “I was there. So, I am a witness. What I am saying is primary, not secondary. We were invited for the meeting.
“What happened was that Mr. President walked in with written resolutions, addressed us and declared that what he has in his hands was a presidential proclamation and emphasised the fact that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and anybody who dares to say no to what he is saying, it has consequences.
“If you are in the position of governor, what will you do? Rise up and go or say no to Mr. President’s subtle but energetic threat?
“One of us asked him a simple question and to be specific, Adokiye Amesieamaka asked him; Sim should do this, governor should do this, governor should do that but you have not said what those 25 or 27 Assembly members that defected from PDP to APC without consulting their constituency and constituents should do?”
Those joining the fight including Edwin Clark of Delta State and the likes of Femi Falana, have hinged their opposition to the agreement on this. They insist it was not a result of consultations nor deliberations at the meeting.
They insist that at no time did anybody tell Gov Fubara what he did wrong, nor did anybody listen to both present and former governors in the dispute to list their grievances.
They said the contending issues that have remained a rumour, including allegations such as demand for 25 percent of the state’s monthly budget, demand for the IGR, use of the state’s aircraft, insults from commissioners, limit to signing money, etc.
The masses claim that merely allowing sleeping to lie and not allowing a renegotiation of the Wike/Fubara deal would either bring the state to its knees or create a cause for new crisis in the not too distant future.
They also argued that if the president wanted things to go back to status quo, the 27 lawmakers would have been asked to return to their political party. It is being argued that asking lawmakers to stay put in their new party (APC) but asking the budget to be represented, asking the commissioners that resigned on their free will to return, but lawmakers not to return, was selective in asking for a return to status quo.