Category Archives: Niger Delta

Announcement of new Olu, kangaroo exercise, Olu of Warri(Ogiame) not dead – Ologbotsere

Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayirimi Emami

The Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayirimi Emami, has dismissed the unveiling of Prince Tsola Emiko Monday April 5, as successor to the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Ikenwoli, insisting the revered Warri Monarch has not joined his ancestors.

Chief Emami, spoke in reaction to the announcement by the Iyatsere of Warri, Chief Johnson Atserunleghe at Ode – Itsekiri in Warri South Local Government Area, where Chief Atserunleghe declared that Prince Tsola Emiko is the successor to Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of Warri.

He declared: ” The Olu has not joined his ancestors. As far as I am concerned, whatever was done today at Ode – Itsekiri was kangaroo in search of power. The person that has the right to pronounce the transition of the Olu of Warri, whenever that happens, is the Ologbotsere, which i am till this moment by the grace of God. I must add that the 1979 edict has not been amended to give any other person the right to pronounce the passage of the Olu of Warri, apart from the Ologbotsere “.

Scores missing, houses burnt in Akwa Ibom, Cross River’s communities boundary dispute

Map of Nigeria showing Akwa Ibom and Cross River States

Several people were said to be missing on Tuesday morning and houses set ablaze in a renewed boundary hostility between the people of Ikot Offing in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State and Oku Iboku, in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.

The two communities have been at each other’s jocular over control of a piece of land for the past 30 years, leading to loss of lives and property at both ends.

“Earlier today, the assailants came loaded in two 75 horsepower speedboats, they engaged in a 25-minute gun battle with the military at the checkpoint.

“The calibre of weapons used by these assailants forced the people to flee for their dear lives, although the military officers were also equipped with machine guns,” a source said.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, who confirmed the attack, said the Commissioner of Police, Andrew Amiengheme, has mandated the Divisional Police Officer in Itu Division, Celestine Ude, to carry out an assessment of the situation and report back to him.

Macdon, who confirmed that some houses were torched, said until the DPO gives first-hand information, the command would not be able to say what actually transpired.

He said, “We have received a preliminary report about the renewed crisis, no lives reported lost. We are still awaiting a more discreet situational report because the CP, has ordered the DPO of Itu LGA division to proceed and give him first-hand information about the crisis.

“For now, the situation there is under control, there is no cause for alarm. It’s only when the DPO comes back that we can get comprehensive report. I hear that some houses were ransacked and some shops were burnt, but we are yet to get more information about what really transpired”.

PUNCH

Jubilation as Obaseki commissions Ovwor — Effurun-Otor Bridge in Delta State

Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, Tuesday, commissioned the multi-million naira Ovwor-Effurun-Otor Bridge, Ughelli South Local Government Area, built by the Delta State government.

Indigenes of both communities who were excited by the completion of the project were on the ground to entertain Obaseki, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and other dignitaries who graced the occasion.

Commissioning the bridge, Obaseki who had earlier inaugurated the rehabilitated 34 kilometres Otu-Jeremi-Okwagbe Road, the interlocking of Ughelli South Secretariat and access road to the council’s staff quarters, expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done on the project.

Describing Okowa as an unusual politician who was not known to make promises he had no intention of fulfilling, he said “He is not only building physical bridges, he is building community, social and economic bridges.

“With the kind of leadership he is providing, we are very encouraged in Edo State. See the number of projects he has been embarking on in the last six years.

“Those who are criticizing Niger Delta governors on what they are doing with 13 per cent derivation should come to Delta State, should come to Ughelli South.”

Congratulating Governor Okowa, the Ovwor and Effurun-Otor communities on the completion of the project, he said “that the contractor “Is an indigene of this place is very impressive. It shows that we have the people and capacity to do quality jobs”.

In his remarks, Governor Okowa expressed delight that “what we started a few years ago has brought joy to our people”, assuring that his administration had no intention of abandoning any project it has embarked on.

While promising that his administration would deliver on the Ovwor hospital by next year, he reiterated the commitment of his administration to continue to execute projects that would impact positively the social and economic lives of the people.

On his part, the Orovworere of Effurun Otor kingdom, HRM Johnson Duku Il, thanked Okowa for resolving “the age-long infrastructural deficit” the communities, noting that “Executing people-oriented projects has become a way of life of Governor Okowa”.

Earlier, Chairman of Ughelli South, Dr Richard Kofi, described the project as a legacy project that has connected the two communities and other communities in the council area.

Chatting with newsmen on the sidelines of the Commissioning, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Obakpor J U Construction Company, Olorogun J U Oguma thanked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for giving them the opportunity to express their technical know-how in the building of roads, bridges and other infrastructures in the State.

Oguma said the completion and Commissioning of the bridge have opened up Ovwor-Olomu and Effurun-Otor, adding that it was a boost to the socio-economic lives of the people.

BREAKING: 3 killed, taken away as Akwa Ibom marauders attack Ugbo Arochukwu community, burn houses

There is mayhem currently going on in Ugbo village Arochukwu as marauders from Ikpanja community of Akwa Ibom have attacked the village.

According to reports reaching our newsroom, three people were shot and killed this afternoon and their bodies taken away by the killers.

Villagers, according to eye witnesses have been sacked to neighbouring villages.

“Violence have escalated in Ugbo, as I am talking to you now. One of the people killed is called Obasi, from Nde Chima compound. Many other people have been shot and seriously injured. They are burning houses too. They are claiming that the lands of our ancestors across Iyi Ivara river belong to them”.

Another source who spoke to Jungle Journalist Media Ltd said the trouble with Ikpanja community has been on for so many years now. Only recently, they started blocking farmers and fishermen from Arochukwu from using the farmlands.

“They rape our women and girls, and steal our farm produce. We have gone for peace talks with them all to no avail. The latest ịs a fall out of recent skirmishes between our people and them.

” We need urgent intervention from the Abia State Government and the federal Government. Our lives are no longer safe. Our homes have been attacked. We now live in fear and can no more go home”, he cried.

An SOS message from Ugbo Welfare Union, Enugu branch read “There is an ongoing attack on Ugbo village by the people of Ikpanja, Akwa Ibom state. The attack has been on since Friday 11th March. Many persons have been shot and three have died. Ugbo has been deserted and the tension is very high. We need police and military intervention. Efforts to get security haven’t yielded any fruits yet.”

PIB: Oil Producing Communities in Abia have been Calm, Deserve Adequate Attention – Ikpeazu

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has expressed concern that despite the long years of oil exploration in the state, there has been no tangible impact of it in the lives of oil producing communities in the state.

Governor Ikpeazu who stated this when he received in audience a delegation of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill led by Senator Albert Bassey at Government House, Umuahia, said that Abia should benefit more from the Petroleum Industry Bill when passed into Law.

He said that Abia oil producing communities have remained peaceful more than any other oil producing Community in Nigeria, emphasising that the peaceful disposition of Abians should serve as a model for the compensation of oil producing communities. He thanked members of the committee for their untiring efforts towards passing into law a Bill that will protect the interest of the oil host communities.

Governor Ikpeazu regretted that petroleum exploration and production companies who do business in the state do not pay taxes in Abia rather reside within neighbouring states and pay their taxes there.

The state Chief Executive expressed the hope that the visit will mark a new beginning for oil host communities as well as nip in the bud issues of agitation arising from various oil producing communities.

He called on relevant government agencies to expedite action in exploring the entire value chain of crude oil as such will generate more revenue for the country.

As it concerns Abia, the Governor said, “Despite the fact that they (oil companies) have received unfettered cooperation from the oil bearing communities in Abia State, you will not notice one signboard of any company anywhere. They don’t live here, they don’t pay taxes here.

“They come, dropped in Coaster buses led by heavily armed soldiers from Port Harcourt everyday and they leave after work by 4pm leaving the communities to their fate.

“Oil communities in Abia State remain very calm and if there’s a State that’s supposed to benefit from what you have come to do, it is Abia. And I recommended at some point that the Abia example should become the focus based on which other host communities should learn.

“But that cannot be taken for granted or weakness…”.

Speaking earlier, leader of the delegation, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan said that the delegation is divided into five committees covering various NDDC states, and that his committee covering Abia and Imo states were in the state to get the inputs of oil producing communities to the Petroleum Industry Bill undergoing consideration at the National Assembly.

Senator Akpan noted that when passed into law, the Bill will create a Trust Fund for the oil host communities without government interference, pointing out that the Bill also places responsibility on the oil host communities to protect the assets in their localities in order to create the necessary balance and stability .

While also noting that the Bill will address the hostilities within the communities, the Senators commended Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for his giant strides in all spheres of the state economy.

The Senator representing Abia South, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Ifeanyi Uba among other members of the National Assembly were part of the delegation.

BREAKING: Prince Lawrence Ezeh nominated to chair PDP screening Committee

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have appointed Prince Lawrence Ezeh as chairman of its Screening Committee, for South South chapter.

According to a letter signed by the National Organising Secretary of the Party, Colonel Austin Akobundu, the National Working Committee of the party appointed Ezeh, alongside other members to serve in the Screening Committee to screen all aspirants from the South South for its upcoming zonal Congresses.

Other members of the Committee (NWC) include
Barr Austin Mbaka (Secretary),
Prince Ukpong Akpabio (Member), Banigo Boma Edward (Member), Hon Chima Ekeleme Ikeije (Member).

The screening exercise is scheduled to hold on Wednesday, March 03, 2021 at the Zonal Headquarters of the Party, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

According to the letter, “they are expected to be guided strictly by the PDP
Constitution (2017 as amended), the PDP Electoral Guidelines for the conduct of Ward, LGA, State, Zonal Congresses and the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.”

BENIN WATER STORM PROJECT PROBE: Eholor to Gov Obaseki- Resign now for a transparent probe, as Oshiomhole’s Economic Adviser

Social Crusader and Political Activist, Chief Patrick Osagie Eholor has asked Governor Godwin Obaseki to resign from government as part of measures to ensure that a transparent and unbiased prove is achieved in the Benin Storm Water Project Probe.

Eholor said that as the Special Adviser to Oshiomhole on Economy, Governor Obaseki was part and parcel of the corruption that took place during the water storm project and must not try to exonerate himself.

Eholor while reacting to the decision of Governor Godwin Obaseki to probe the Benin Storm Water Project said he was ashamed of the level of corruption ravaging government driven institutions.

He said the corruption in the public sector is not limited to the Benin Storm Water Poject but to every other government projects in Nigeria with all institution of governance comprising the executive, legislative and judiciary arms of government as pepetrators of the massive corrupt practices affecting the nation.

His words: “The Benin Storm Water Poject misappropriation is a typical and recurrent culture in governance we are used to all over the country.

“The abuse of power and privilege by public office holders on the treasury and commonwealth of those that entrusted them with their future.

“They use all manner of decoy to perpetuate this act of wickedness and insensitivity to the welfare and progressive growth of the masses. The count of these type of scenarios nationwide is alarming in proportion.

“Public funds are depleted by looting with no value addition to the quality of life of the people, but rather subject them to untold hardship and penury.

“The call for the head of those who masterminded this shameful act cannot be overemphasized. To muster courage to defraud the good people of Edo is quite sad. The precedent of deceit and cover up in governance in this country must be rooted out and the players banished from participation in government.

“We as a people cannot let this endure. If we don’t speak up and act, we are mortgaging our future and the survival of our great country. Let those responsible be apprehended and be brought to public shame to serve as a deterrent. Good spirited activists should raise their voices high and loud. Enough is enough.”

“I Challenge Governor Godwin Obaseki to begin the probe but with on the condition that he resigns as he was a part and parcel of the Approval and Evaluation of the project, more so all the commissioners and SSG, even himself as Special Adviser and Chairman of Economic Team be subpoenaed as witnesses. Lets see who is probing who, even the first N25billion bond obtained from the stock market was facilitated by Afrinvest.

“Tell the world how much you and the HCF collected as facilitators fee. The major consultant to Edo State Government from 2016 has been Afrinvest. Tell Edo people and Nigerians how much Afrinvest has made from taxpayers money from Edo State.

“Godwin Obaseki, please keep Edo safe and clean better or as you inherited it from your boss (predecessor) who is now your enemy. May God heal Edo State from deceit!”, he said.

Emeka Kalu calls for probe of Akpabio, Okon Akwa over N22billion NDDC funds, N100m bribe

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Engineer Emeka Kalu has called for a thorough investigation of alleged squandering of a whopping N22 billion by Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, and the Sole Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Effiong Okon Akwa.

Kalu also expressed support for the ongoing investigation of allegation of attempting to bribe some officials of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB by Akpabio.

Kalu in a statement he signed himself, and made available to Jungle Journalist Media Limited via electronic mail, said that the current corruption charges against Akpabio are one too many, and must not be ignored.

Kalu who sent the mail from the United States of America, warned that the Minister and the Sole Administrator of NDDC, Okon Akwa must not be allowed to get away with the alleged massive fraud which he said has further impoverished people of the Niger Delta.

Hear him: “We are appalled at the high level of corruption cases against Misters Akpabio and Okon Akwa, who heads the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the NDDC. What’s really tragic in the whole matter is that the funds being squandered have been allocated for the upliftment of the people of Niger Delta.

“But these two men sit on our money and dare us. I hereby call for a thorough investigation of these men, whom it has become obvious are far from being honest. Pregnancy cannot be hidden forever, and anyone whose hands are not clean should be tried and jailed for corruption.

“I hereby call on the present administration not to relent in its efforts to curb corrupt practices in this country, and to ensure that justice is served against those who have committed fraud on behalf of the people of the Niger Delta, as well As Nigerians across the globe”, he stated in parts.

Recall that a Federal Commissioner in CCB, Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma on Monday, 22nd February 2021 told newsmen that his subcommittee is currently investigating the allegation of N100 million bribe against Akpabio.

According to media reports, Akapabio allegedly offered bribe to the CCB officials to give a “soft landing” to Sole Administrator of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Efiong Okon Akwa over discrepancies in his asset declaration form.

Agbonayinma said the Bureau was looking at the accusation first made against Mr Akpabio by Jackson Ude on Twitter.

“We have been given a mandate by the bureau to investigate the allegation against some officials of CCB that we saw on social media. Let me be specific, one Mr Jackson Ude twitted, and it went viral, that money was given to some officials of CCB by Akpabio. Because of that, a committee to investigate the allegation was set up, with myself as the chairman,” he said.

The embattled Minister, Godswill Akpabio and Effiong Okon Akwa (Sole Administrator of NDDC) were recently accused of having squandered N22billion released to the agency by the Federal Government.

It was also alleged that the Minister is building a multibillion naira mansion in Abuja, and would soon take delivery of two private jets bought on his behalf by a front, one Dubem Obaze.

‘Focus on security, don’t distract Edo people with storm water project probe you were part and parcel of’, Eholor replies Governor Obaseki

Foremost social rights defender and humanitarian, Patriot Patrick Eholor has asked Governor Godwin Obaseki to stop trying to distract Edo people with what he termed a ‘frivolous probe of the N30 billion storm water project of ex governor Adams Oshiomhole.

Eholor was reacting to news reports of Obaseki threading to institute a probe against the former governor. The activist and Democracy Observer-General said Obaseki was not serious about the claim to probe Oshiomhole, as he was a principal player of that administration and must probe himself too, if he really meant it.

Governor Godwin Obaseki had on Monday, 22nd February 2021, inspected the Textile Mill Road catchment of the over N30bn Benin stormwater project, which he said his administration would probe to recover all the money stolen through it.

Commenting through his personal Twitter handle, Obaseki, while inspecting the area, lamented the poor construction work done by the Adams Oshiomhole administration.
According to him, “there is no way water can be drained from a low land into a higher ground. We say we have experts and paid over N30bn for this project”, he said, and recalled that “the original stormwater project, which was conceived by the previous administration “was designed not to work for the benefit of Edo people, but it was a contract to defraud the state.”

But reacting to the statement credited to the governor, Eholor said the governor cannot be serious, since he was a part of the Oshiomhole administration, and as a matter of fact, played a major role of serving as Oshiomhole’s Economic Adviser.

Alleging that Obaseki’s plans were to institute a kangaroo probe in order to distract the people of Edo State, the humans rights defender wondered why Mr Obaseki appealed his own(Eholor’s) lawsuit against the state during the last administration. He also wondered why the governor also appealed another recent case he(Eholor) won against the government. He therefore asked the governor to focus on governance, especially the porous security of the state, instead of trying to distract the people through an insincere move to probe a project allegedly used to dupe he state that he was part of.

His words “I was surprised and shocked to hear the governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki say that he is going to probe the previous administration over the storm water project.

“Has Mr Governor forgotten so soon that I had instituted a case against the former governor, Adams Oshiomhole, himself and Clement Agba? And he went to court appealing the case, after I won them in court? So what is he now trying to prove?
Is he trying to distract us, so that we don’t talk about the park he said he is going to build? So that we don’t talk about Gelegele? So that we don’t talk about Central Hospital? So what is he really trying to prove?

“Don’t also forget that I took him to court to explain to Edo State State people about the capital flight, why he was taking our juicy jobs away to contractors in Lagos and Bayelsa, which he has not explained. So, if he is going to talk about this, then he must include himself in this probe, because you can never be a judge in your own court.

“Don’t also forget that even the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) that they did with the Edo University, Iyamho, he was also part of it. Everything that Oshiomhole did within his administration, Governor Obaseki also has to explain to us. They also have to probe him, and tell us the roles he played in all, as the Economic Adviser of Oshiomhole’s administration. We don’t want to turn this thing to a Rochas and Uzodimma affair, because if the two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffer it.

“We are not supporting any corruption, but we are not also going to be supporting any witch hunting. You cannot dispose of a godfather and now become the new godfather. So, this can never happen in our state again, we have grown beyond that. So whenever anybody wants to talk in our state again, you use your foot soldiers to be threatening people and fighting people, giving somebody taxes that don’t exist, and trying to prove that you are an emperor, or that you are a god. You are not God.

“I am not here to support Adams Oshiomhole, or to support APC. but am here to make sure that we do things in the right way, so if anything I say or do today is wrong, I think Obaseki has to prove me or take me to court, because I remain, and I speak on behalf of One Love Foundation, and I speak on behalf of Edo people.

“It has also been said in the past Obaseki has not invested in security in Edo State. That’s why we have a lot of killings, a lot of kidnappings, a lot of herdsmen. I think he should focus on how to combat crime and deal with herdsmen, than distracting us again. So, we are tired of distractions.

“He should tell us about his MoU on Gelegele Seaport, he should tell us about the modern park he said he is going to build.

“We are tired of him deceiving us, telling us things that don’t exist. I have been saying this in the past, why did you go and appeal the case, why did you not take it serious then? There are a lot of cases I have instituted against you that you have not really spoken about, that you have not really done anything about.

“So, I think the world is watching, and we the good people of Edo State are also watching with keenness. And I also want all those people who think I am against Obaseki, no, I am not against him. I am actually doing him a favour. I am bringing out these issues in order for us all to live peacefully in Edo State, so it’s bound to be very ineresting and we are watching with keen interest.

“Those who love our Governor should try and tell him truth, instead of trying to run me down. We must hold politicians accountable at all times”.

INTERVIEW: A lot of things were done to unseat Governor Douye Diri- Daniel Alabrah

Daniel Alabrah, a seasoned journalist, is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri. Between June 2017 and February 13, 2020, he was Special Adviser on Public Affairs to the immediate past governor of the state, Seriake Dickson, now Senator representing Bayelsa West in the Senate.

Alabrah was a Deputy Editor at The Sun newspapers when he was appointed to head the Media and Communication Unit at the Presidential Amnesty Office in Abuja in June 2012, a position he held till September 8, 2015 when he resigned.

In this interview with MICHAEL JEGEDE, the former professional footballer and current chairman of the Bayelsa State Scrabble Association, speaks extensively on the various efforts and exploits of Governor Diri as he marks one year in office on February 14, 2021 (today).

Excerpts:

As spokesman of Governor Douye Diri, how would you describe the journey so far for the man now widely known as the ‘Miracle Governor’ due to the way he miraculously emerged?

Quite frankly, it has been a challenging experience. It has not been a very easy ride. And there are reasons I say so, some of which are obvious. For instance, Senator Douye Diri came at a time the whole world was gripped by a pandemic that actually distorted plans of national and sub-national governments. COVID-19 was not expected and it spread in such a way that virtually no one was spared its anger and fury.

So, for a man that just came into office on February 14, 2020 at a time this pandemic was sweeping across the world, there was bound to be some challenges to contend with. With the coming of COVID-19, the world got used to a new normal, which we all had to adjust to. The new words became lockdown, palliatives, COVID-19 protocols. States and countries were locked down and Nigeria was not spared. The new government had to start thinking and planning how it was going to survive the effects of the pandemic. That was a challenge. Be that as it may, as a man with good knowledge of what governance is all about, he was able to manage the situation very well that till date Bayelsa is one of the states with the least number of cases because of the measures that were put in place.

In Bayelsa, unlike in some other states, Governor Diri did not direct a lockdown of the state in a manner that it amounted to punishment on the people. He ensured that most of the decisions at that time had a human face. For him, people would have to learn and understand the effects of COVID-19 by persuasion and not by force. He understood that this was unexpected and that nobody prepared for it. The pain of COVID-19 is such that you do not make the people suffer double jeopardy. So, largely the situation was well managed and we saw that at the end of the first wave of the pandemic, the situation wasn’t too bad in the state. However, with it came a lot of things that the government had to do. It had to distribute palliatives to the people across the state, ensuring that persons whose means of livelihood had been affected needed to be given some support to be able to survive.

The government had to embark on the distribution of foodstuff and other palliatives four times between April and July of last year. It also had to establish a research and diagnostic centre with a standard molecular laboratory for testing infectious diseases just as it embarked on extensive sensitisation campaigns across the state. Now, we are in the second wave, which means the government still has to keep an eye on how to protect the people from the effects of the pandemic.

Knowing that the entire world economy was badly affected by the pandemic, resulting to sharp decrease in the revenue of most countries, Nigeria inclusive, how was Diri able to raise funds to cater for the welfare of the people of Bayelsa in the last one year?

The economic situation too did not help matters. COVID-19 ensured there was a downturn in the Nigerian economy, which greatly affected our revenue and monthly allocation from FAAC as an oil producing state. You know there was a drop in the price of oil. So, national revenue was affected. And that by extension meant that the revenue accruing to states, particularly the oil producing states, was affected and Bayelsa was badly hit. But the governor had to prioritise. One of the things he prioritised was the welfare of civil servants, retirees and pensioners.

Bayelsa largely is a civil service state. So, when revenue dwindled it affected the projections, particularly with the infrastructure and other areas the government needed to tackle headlong. With the lockdown, not much could be done at that time. But Governor Diri decided that regardless of the drop in monthly allocation, our people should not suffer so much. He ensured that salaries of civil servants be paid as and when due. In fact, he directed that by 27th or 28th of every month, civil servants get their salaries.

Are civil servants still getting their salary promptly?

Bayelsa has not owed any civil servant salary from January of 2020 till now. In fact, since 2019, no civil servant in the state has been owed despite our tight financial situation. But let’s look at it from when the Miracle Governor assumed office in February 2020. Since then, the first priority monthly is civil servants and pensioners’ salary, no matter how poor the allocation was.

Are you saying the pay of Bayelsa civil servants was never slashed unlike in some other states?

Salary of civil servants or political appointees was never reduced due to COVID-19. There was no pay cut or slashed allowances. The governor ensured that everybody got paid accordingly. He was able to manage that very well. He also courageously handled the situation with the retired civil servants by way of paying their pension regularly and their gratuity. For instance, between N100 million and N200 million is set aside every month since February 2020 for clearing the backlog of gratuities, which date back to 2008. But in January this year, N650 million was released for gratuities. So, in the last one year, over N2 billion has been disbursed as gratuities of retirees in the state. However, what suffered initially was infrastructure development.

Within this period not much could be done until towards the end of last year when the government decided that in spite of COVID-19, we needed to touch the lives of the people better than we were already doing. So, at the moment, Bayelsa is gradually turning into a massive construction site with the number of projects and contracts that have been awarded, particularly for road infrastructure projects. They include the urban renewal project of expanding the Etegwe/Edepie roundabout, which is being done through direct labour by the state Ministry of Works and Infrastructure. This project is almost completed as it was the first to start. Other projects include the Yenagoa-Oporoma road with a bridge across the river at Aguobiri and another major bridge at Angiama. This very important road started by the immediate past administration of Senator Seriake Dickson and being constructed by the Chinese construction giants, CCECC, leads to headquarters of the Southern Ijaw local government area that can only be accessed by river just like the headquarters of the Brass council in Twon-Brass.

The outer ring road project is also ongoing as well as the Igbedi road project in Kolokuma/Opokuma local government area. Construction giants, Julius Berger, has equally been mobilised to return to site for the final phase of the Isaac Boro expressway project as well as contractors returning to the equally important Glory Drive bypass road and the almost 90km Sagbama-Ekeremor road. There is also the bridge projects at Elebele and Imiringi in Ogbia local government area as well as internal road projects in the state capital, Yenagoa, just to mention some of the projects that are either ongoing, nearing completion or about to commence. So, figuratively, we have been able to look at the ghost of COVID-19 and said we are not going to be held back by it as we must move on with our lives.

Although our revenue has not significantly improved, we have been able to prudently deploy funds, particularly the N27.5billion that the state received as refund for executing federal government projects. That money has been deployed largely into infrastructure. The road projects are such that in the next one year or so, people would see a massive transformation in the road network and physical infrastructure outlook of the state.

Were the several court cases (both pre and post-election cases) instituted against Governor Diri not a distraction to him?

Indeed, that was another challenge that Governor Diri had to contend with – the plethora of court cases. It is on record that no governor has faced the kind of legal tussle, legal challenges that this governor has contended with. The pre-election and post-election cases altogether were about 32 and five of them got to the Supreme Court. Instructively, the governor won all of them. Without a scintilla of doubt, these court cases were a distraction. The purpose was for him to lose focus but he kept his calm. He was focused.

Often he had to travel out of the state as those cases required that he kept a close eye on them. The plan of those behind these litigations was to unsettle him. But for a man who miraculously came into office, we were not surprised that the same God that made it possible also ensured that he remained on that seat.

A lot of things were done to unseat him. Some of them we cannot even imagine the length that some persons went just because they wanted to unseat the governor. But as he always say, it is God that gives power. He is the One who is the originator of power and He is the One who ensures that you remain on any seat of power. So, that God has always been present to decide those cases in his favour.

Can it be said that the people of Bayelsa are faring better under the leadership of Governor Diri?

If you know me well, I talk straight. I like to say things the way I see them. I am not one who hypocritically praise-sing anybody. I say the reality the way it is. But, honestly, it might be out of tune for me to begin to score the administration. You can find out yourself what the governor has been able to do, particularly as we shook off the distraction from COVID-19 and the court cases. He has a good knowledge of what it takes to govern this state and to ensure that the people get the full benefits of the government that is in place. I am not saying everybody would be satisfied with the government, but I can confidently tell you that the majority of Bayelsans believe in the government of Senator Douye Diri at the moment based on what they have seen him do.

How has he been able to entrench peace and unity among the people of Bayelsa?

This is a man who is committed and believes strongly in the unity of the state. He believes in the unity of the Ijaw nation. He believes that Bayelsa as the only homogenous Ijaw state, as the home of all Ijaw people, is a place that we should allow peace to reign. It is a place that we must protect our people with everything we have. So, he has ensured that areas where there was hitherto no peace, where there were conflicts and open disagreements, he intervened in such a way that the people believe that there could be reconciliation. I give you an example.

On November 13, three days before the November 16 governorship election in 2019, supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and people who had gone to Nembe to campaign with and for Senator Diri and his then running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, were attacked. Persons were reportedly killed and several persons were injured in that attack. But beyond the attack on these persons that visited Nembe three days before the election to campaign, there was already an existing disagreement within the same Nembe-Basambiri and Ogbolomabiri-Nembe community. They were divided politically and supporters of the PDP became targets of attack.

Some chieftains of the party had to flee from Basambiri and became IDPs in their own state. But, as we speak, that situation has been resolved. The governor has been able to ensure that peace returned. Not peace of the graveyard but real peace has returned to Nembe. The IDPs have now returned to their ancestral home. Brothers that were previously at daggers drawn have reconciled. There is a unity bridge linking the two parts of Nembe. Today, the contract for that bridge that was destroyed has been awarded for it to be fixed. This is because the governor is somebody who loves peace, unity and togetherness. His positive disposition resonates well round the whole state that anywhere there is conflict, the government steps in and they are reconciled. So, the governor has been able to reduce tension and friction in the state to a large extent. Now people in hitherto crisis-ridden communities are beginning to enjoy the benefit of peace.

Education is said to be the bedrock of development. In the last one year, what giant strides has the government made in the education sector?

Without trying to make any excuse, you will agree with me that generally a lot of things didn’t take off immediately because of COVID-19. But I want to say that there are challenges we have identified in the education sector that we really have to correct. There has also been some form of infrastructure decay in the sector over the period and this is being addressed. Contracts for the renovation of schools, particularly primary and secondary schools, have been awarded. Physical infrastructure is important in the education sector. But, generally as a state, Bayelsa is one that has done very well in terms of its performance in national examinations. And the previous government of Senator Dickson did very well in changing the educational narrative of the state.

When he (Dickson) took over in 2012, Bayelsa’s position in national examinations was not good. At that time, we were around 29th or 30th position among the 36 states. But by the time he left office in 2020 that had significantly changed. Today, Bayelsa is among the first seven states when you talk about performance in national examinations. This current administration is committed to sustaining that record and even bettering it.

How was that feat achieved?

I want to say that this change in the educational performance of Bayelsa was not a happenstance. It was not by mistake. It was because of deliberate and conscious policies put in place to ensure that the state does well or for Bayelsans to do well in these national examinations. Let me also recall that in terms of infrastructure, the previous government built model schools across the eight local government areas. These model schools are a delight to see. For instance, the Ijaw National Academy in Kaiama is a school that was consciously built and developed in such a way that you cannot but admire what is in place. The Dickson administration did very well in conceptualising and developing the model schools system, which are all boarding schools and tuition-free. There is however need to replicate that across the state. For a state that is young and developing, some of these things cannot be automatic. It will take some time before we would get every school to be on that level.

Even in older states, you still have schools with dilapidated infrastructure. It is not peculiar to Bayelsa, but we believe that it can still be better. We also need teachers because we are lacking in teaching personnel in primary and secondary schools.

What is the government doing to get enough teachers?

We are carrying out a personnel audit in the civil service so that those with education-related qualifications can be deployed to the classrooms. That is a quicker way for us to be able to get ready personnel instead of trying to recruit new teachers. We started this process from the last administration. So, now we are trying to ensure that we get on top of that situation by getting those trained as teachers either in the colleges of education or in the universities.

What is the administration doing to develop the agric sector?

From the outset, the Governor Diri administration prioritised agriculture. That sector has had the second largest share or allocation in the budget of the last two years. It means we want to be able to feed our people and be able to derive the economic benefit from agriculture. So far, the government has been able to support farmers in the state by guaranteeing the CBN facilities for famers. In addition to that, the government has also taken a N10 billion CBN facility, which is a credit window the federal government opened for states in Nigeria to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. That facility would be disbursed and supervised by the CBN. That money is not coming directly to the government’s coffers. It is not a loan from any commercial bank. Rather it is a CBN facility at a very low interest rate that is going into agriculture development in the state.

What is the relationship between the executive headed by the governor and the two other arms of government?

I can tell you without fear of contradiction that the relationship between the executive and the other arms of government is very robust and collaborative. Frankly, for instance, the legislature has been very supportive of the policies and bills from the executive. The legislators have ensured speedy passage of bills so that the work of the executive is not hampered in any way. A few days ago, while declaring open a special retreat of the State House of Assembly in Asaba, Delta State, the governor said since he came into office, he has enjoyed a very cordial and collaborative relationship with the legislature. He gave an analogy of the arms of government as being like parts of a machine. That if one part of that machine is defective, it would affect every other part. So, there is the need for the three arms of government to work hand in glove, as the governor always say; to work together symbiotically in such a way that the interest of the state is paramount at all times. That is what has underlined the relationship between the executive, legislature and the judiciary in Bayelsa. The relationship has been cordial and robust. This is not political talk. It is just the situation the way it is on ground.

Is the House of Assembly not a rubber stamp in the hands of the governor as it is in some other states in the country?

The legislature in Bayelsa is independent and does its oversight functions as well as its checks and balances without let. There is no need for the governor to pocket the state legislature. To what end?

Independent