When Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took office on May 29, 2015, he made it clear that he would defend the interests of Rivers State and its people through all legitimate means available regardless of the gored ox. On several occasions, he assured the people of Rivers that he would not renege on his promise to protect what is theirs.
For a governor whose political party isn’t in charge federally, taking such an altruistic stance may have a political tinge, but Governor Wike is not a man who avoids controversy when convinced. that the inalienable rights of his people are being trampled on without good reason.
Governor Wike believes that every son and daughter of Rivers State deserves the care and protection of his government, regardless of creed, tribe, and political affiliation. To put this in proper perspective, a horrific incident occurred on July 16, 2020, when the Port Harcourt residence of a former Director General of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Ms. Joy Nunieh, was besieged by armed police who wanted to arrest her in the wee hours of the morning.
Nunieh, a cardholder of the All Progressives Congress, APC, sent a distress call to Governor Wike of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, for assistance. Matching his words to action, the governor who by virtue of his office is the father of the state, rushed to Nunieh’s residence with his aides to prevent his critics from carrying out their motive. And to guarantee her safety, he accompanied her in his official car to Government House where she took refuge for a while.
Telling reporters of his ordeal, Nunieh said, “They (the security guards) came to take me away, I said for what? Do they have an arrest warrant. They said there was no arrest warrant.
“Around 6am they broke down the door and later Senator Magnus Abe called me to say he had reached the Commissioner of Police who said he didn’t know anything about it (l ‘arrest).
“I managed to go through the governor. So, my governor came, asked them for their arrest warrant and why they didn’t invite me to the police, that I will come, instead of going to take a wife like a criminal.
“So the governor took me in his car and I took refuge in Government House.
“I want to thank Her Excellency for keeping her word that nothing should happen to the daughter of Rivers State.”
Another incident where the Governor demonstrated his unwavering commitment to protecting the natives of Rivers occurred during the COVID 19 lockdown.
The Rivers State government had ordered the arrest of two Caverton Helicopter pilots and passengers because the company had failed to provide those affected with testing by state health officials.
Their arrest and detention caused a rift between the state and federal governments, with Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika stating that “Governor Wike acted illegally because the workers were authorized by the federal government to travel to Port Harcourt on a national mission”.
Explaining Rivers State’s position, former Information and Communications Commissioner, Rev. Paulinus Nsirim said: “Contrary to the opinion peddled by the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the two Caverton Helicopter pilots and their 10 passengers were not arrested because they were operating a permit granted to them by the Ministry of Aviation, they were arrested because they consistently violated the executive order issued by Rivers State Governor, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who is demanding that anyone entering the state for essential duties undergo mandatory health checks to verify their Corona virus status.
“The Government of Rivers State, under the leadership of His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, remains committed to the protection of over six million citizens of the state. We are not fighting to issue landing permits to airlines, nor to control airspace. Therefore, the ground issue has nothing to do with the exclusive list.
“The goal of the Rivers State Government is to ensure that no one, under the guise of transporting workers on essential services, is transporting people who compromise our health care system.”
Governor Wike also took a commendable step in upholding the constitutional right of the state when the Rivers State Government, through the State Assembly, enacted the Value Added Tax of Rivers State No. 4, 2021 making it a legitimate right of the Rivers State Government to collect VAT. .
In a state broadcast following the judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt which dismissed a request from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for a stay of execution on the matter, the governor explained that what the government of Rivers State had done was to contribute to the advancement of the fiscal federation.
He said the Rivers State government has done nothing wrong in exercising its legal right under the country’s constitutional democracy to stop the continued violation, denial and restriction of states’ constitutional rights.
He said the FIRS was wrong to impose and collect VAT and other related taxes in the jurisdiction of Rivers State.
“For us in Rivers State, we will continue to secure and project our constitutional rights to access all possible resources that we can seize both within and outside our geographic boundaries to advancing the progress of our state.
Although the Federal High Court judgment is being challenged in the Court of Appeal, public affairs analysts have praised Governor Wike for rising to the occasion in defending the state’s constitutional rights.
A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, said: “The Federal High Court’s decision on VAT is the right one, although we can expect litigation all the way to the Supreme Court. . It deals a blow to the lazy federal government whose leader once called the youth “lazy”.
“Nigeria has long been a fiscally bankrupt state. Why should states in a so-called federation produce primarily for the federal government? The restructuring has already begun, by fire by force. I pity those who think they can stop the wind”.
The Rivers State Government under Governor Wike had also brought a case against the Bayelsa State Government in the Federal High Court in Abuja over the Soku Oil Wells and won a judgment in his favour.
Dissatisfied with the court’s decision to hand over the oils to Rivers State, the Bayelsa State government petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court’s verdict. But the Supreme Court quashed the suit brought by the Bayelsa state government and explained that it had no power to exercise jurisdiction over a case relating to the High Court judgment, the in respect of which the Court of Appeal had not ruled statement.
He felt it would be an abuse of process for Bayelsa State to skip the Court of Appeal in its bid to overturn the High Court judgment.
Welcoming the judgment, the Amayanabo of Opukula in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area in Rivers State, King Hope Dan Opusingi, said the court’s verdict confirmed Governor Nyesom Wike as as a defender of the heritage of the Kula people in particular and of Rivers State in general. .
He explained that the years-long border dispute ceded more than 60% of Kula territory to Bayelsa State and thanked Governor Wike for his determination to recover the oil wells in Soku.
Recently, the Rivers State government again triumphed in the Supreme Court over ownership of the 17 oil wells in Ndoni and Egbema communities, ending the political arrangement on revenue sharing of facilities.
There was a political compromise put in place by former Governors Peter Odili of Rivers State and Achike Udenwa of Imo State in 1999 to ensure that revenues from disputed oil wells were rationed equally before the two states. However, when Emeka Ihedioha became Governor of Imo State in 2019, he issued a presidential memo directing that all revenue be given to Imo State.
He also demanded that Rivers State reimburse Imo State for the N15 billion received as royalties from the disputed oil wells.
Predictably, the Rivers State government quickly filed a lawsuit against the presidential directive and won a landmark judgment from the Supreme Court.
Commenting on the court ruling, Governor Wike explained that the state was in court with neighboring Imo state, not to claim victory, but to defend oil well property rights in the communities of Akri and Mbede.
“It bears repeating that the quest to defend our property rights in court over the Akri and Mbede oil wells was not about claiming victory over Imo State or any other state.
“In order to actualize the false allegations, he (Ihedioha) stealthily wrote a letter dated August 9, 2019 to President Muhammadu Buhari and requested reimbursement of N15 billion from Rivers State to Imo State as 13% derivation product backlog. revenues from oil wells.
“Acting on Ihedioha’s letter, the President ensured that a letter would be written to the Revenue Mobilization and Taxation Commission (RMAFC) through the late Chief of Staff, Mr. Abba Kyari , to alter the status quo in favor of Imo State without reference to substituting the two-state dispute and agreement,” Governor Wike said.
The court agreed with Rivers State that the correct instruments, maps and documents to rely on to determine the boundary between Rivers and Imo States were those used by Rivers State to demarcate the boundary line. demarcation between the two states, including Executive Order 14 of 1967, Executive Order 12 of 1976, White Papers/Federal Military Government Conclusion on Irekefe and Nasir Boundary Commission/Border Adjustment Commission, Map of Eastern Nigeria, Map of Owerri, Warri Province, Onitsha and Rivers Provinces as well as Map of Ahoada District and Map of Aboh Division.
Since taking office as Governor of Rivers State, Chief Wike has been resolute, consistent and unstoppable in defending the interests of the state in the face of formidable challenges. He also stayed true to his mandate.
Surely, posterity will be kind to him as he strives to provide good governance to the people of Rivers and other Nigerians who reside in Rivers State. So far, so good.
By: Reward Akwu