From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has accused the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government of shielding the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, from prosecution over misappropriation of proceeds from the sales of state assets.
Governor Wike said it was disingenuous for the federal government to flag-off the narrow gauge railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri at a time when the rest of the world is building standard gauge railway.
The remarks were made during the commissioning of 6.1 kilometres long, 7.3 metres wide Omuihuechi-Omuoko-Omokiri link Road in Aluu Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state on Wednesday.
The governor said it was appalling that the federal government has continued the shield the Minister of Transportation from prosecution for his inability to account for $308 million from the sales of the State-owned power plant and other critical assets when he was the Governor of Rivers State.
Governor Wike said that it is due to the federal government protecting the minister that he has consistently made efforts to undermine the state government by influencing who is to be posted as Commissioner of Police and General Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army to Rivers State.
‘People gave you the opportunity. You sold our properties, everything. And people are talking in this state because of the government that says they are fighting corruption and protecting people,’ the governor said.
‘You (Amaechi) sold our property for $308 million and kept for us $208,000. That is the kind of people parading themselves in government, for a government that says they are fighting corruption, shame.’
The governor urged the people of the state not to be deceived by the antics of the APC-led government following the flag-off narrow gauge rail line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. According to him, the project flag off was politically motivated.
‘I heard people came to Rivers State to flag-off narrow gauge (rail) when the world is talking of standard gauge. What they are giving Rivers State is a narrow gauge because I challenged them, show us what you have done for the people of the State. So, what they will do is to come and say okay, since you are complaining, let us come and give you that narrow gauge.
‘Instead of giving us the standard gauge to Maiduguri and they are making noise about it. Rivers State, the Treasure Base of the nation, the state that they used their money to produce their President. Towards the end of their administration is when they come and tell us of the narrow-gauge railway.’
He added: ‘You want to finish the narrow gauge in 33 months. Will he be in power then? I am going to finish every project I have awarded, this Government will finish it.’
The governor stated that the proposed University of Transport in Ubima, Rivers State, is deceitful, saying the Minister of Transportation lacks the capacity to see the project through.
According to him: ‘Since 2015, it is now you want to go to Ubima to build University of Transport.’
Governor Wike said despite his (Amaechi’s) opposition to his political aspiration to govern the state in 2015 and 2019, he (Wike) had been elected twice as governor.
‘They said we will not be governor, we taught them a lesson in politics. In 2015, they said over their dead will we be governor, am looking for the dead body. 2019, they said we will not be governor, that they are in power. I said you are not in power, God is in power. We defeated them. They are small kids in politics.
‘But let me warn the man who thinks he has President, he has soldiers, he has police, you should have learnt your lesson by now, that when God has left you there is nothing you can do again.’
Former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Austin Opara, said at a time when the federal and state governments were struggling with COVID-19, Governor Wike has instead been commissioning and flagging off projects across the state.
‘The federal government has relied on the disturbances of COVID-19, states are grappling with the inability to pay salaries, you are still commissioning projects, you are breaking grounds, you are commissioning more projects. Indeed, it gives concern, what is the magic.,’ Opara said.
‘When you started, your critics, what they were saying was that even what he is doing, he is just working in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor. You immediately started commissioning projects in Eleme, Tai, Gokana, Khana, Akuku-Toru, Ikwerre, Emohua and many other Local Governments, then they kept quiet.’
Opara noted that the announcement that Rivers State would be building a Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Centre worth N25 billion soon was gladdening.
He said the federal government ought to send a delegation to Rivers State to understudy Governor Wike’s government to learn what is the secret of his success.
‘So, indeed, I recommend to the APC-led federal government to send a high powered delegation to Rivers State to understudy the infrastructural revolution that is taking place in the state.’
Rivers State Commissioner for Works Elloka Tasie-Amadi said the Omuihuechi-Omuoko-Omokiri road before the administration of Governor Wike was a nightmare for residents and road users.
‘This road is of immense benefit to the three communities it is named after. It is also of benefit to residents and people of Choba community; it is of benefit to the students and staff of the University of Port Harcourt; it is of benefit to land and homeowners in this area. It is of benefit to real estate development within and around Aluu,’ he stated.