Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike Sheds Light On The Alleged Rape Of Resources Of Rivers State Which Made Him To Buy Diesel Out Of His Pocket To Power Government House On His First Day At Work
Tony Ailemen, Abuja
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State yesterday advanced several reasons for setting up a Commission of Inquiry into the activities of the past administration in the State, stressing that it has nothing to do with alleged witch-hunting of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Governor Wike, while speaking at an interactive forum with Journalists in Abuja, stated that the exercise would have been unnecessary if the previous administration had handed over properly to the incoming administration. According to him, Amaechi emptied accounts of the state such that he personally bought diesel, from his pocket, to power generators at Government House Port Harcourt on his first day at work.
He also disclosed that 70 percent of the state’s power assets were sold by Amaechi for $302,400,000 but added that “the money was paid in December; as at March this year, there was no single dollar. The Permanent Secretary denied knowledge of this transaction”. Wike, while lamenting how every effort to get the Amaechi administration to support his transition committee was rebuffed and ignored, revealed that he took over the affairs of the state without anyone to brief him on assets and liabilities of the state.
“What do they expect me to do in this circumstance?” he asked, adding that “I did not receive any brief from anybody about the affairs of the state. All the letters we wrote to the then government to set up a transition committee or nominate persons to work with our own were rejected and the letters returned to us”. According to him, “We were operating without any information from the previous government. Is that how to hand over? Is that how other states did theirs? So, we have no reasons to witch-hunt anyone, all we are doing is to get proper information concerning the state of affairs of Rivers”.
Governor Wike, while refuting allegations that he sacked 344 lecturers of the state’s polytechnic, described the allegation as part of the propaganda to blackmail his administration, adding that they were never employed in the first instance. “None of the so-called lecturers completed documentation necessary for their so-called employment. They were in the process of employing them before we asked the authorities of the schools to stop.
“How could we have sacked such number of lecturers? How many lecturers do they have in the School? We need to ask questions when people come to us with these kind of stories”, he said. While speaking on the state finances, the governor disclosed that he had to mortgage the state’s share of the Value Added Tax (VAT) for the next 20 months to secure a loan to complete some strategic projects which were abandoned. He said the action became necessary because of the poor state of the finances he inherited. “Former Governor Amaechi refused to hand over government.
Even the Permanent Secretaries denied knowledge of what transpired before I assumed office. “On the first day I assumed office, the Permanent Secretary, Government House told me that there was no diesel so, I had to use my personal money to purchase diesel for the generator. It was as bad as that”, he noted. He also alleged that 70 percent of the state government’s power assets were sold off by the Amaechi administration and that the “over $320 million sales proceeds were completely expended even before we got to office”.
He further explained that he had to pledge the state’s monthly N900 million VAT allocation as collateral to secure N10 billion loan for 20 months. He listed some abandoned projects which needed urgent attention as the Iroabuchi road; Iroabuchi-Eagle Island; Law Faculty of the RSUST which had stagnated for 15 months; burnt judiciary premises and the House of Assembly complex renovation.
“The roads in town with potholes everywhere, were divided into two: Julius Berger takes the whole of town; CCECC takes the whole of Diobu with the traffic lights and we attached the N10 billion to these projects for 20 months at 16 per cent”, he said. ”Let me make it clear, the Rector was still writing employment letters in April after I had won election. He had not even issued letters to anybody. Nobody has started any work.
When you can’t pay salary for two months, you were employing more people, how do you pay them? “He started employing April 20th. The mere fact that somebody was given letter of employment does not make one a staff. The person must have fulfilled other conditions, but they have not. So, the issue of sacking lecturers is not true. You can only sack when somebody has started working”, Wike noted. “The allegation of removing old furniture so I can award fresh contract is neither here nor there.
They looted Government House and we showed the world what they did. Apart from this, we got information that some government vehicles were stolen and scattered here and there. We got information that some of these vehicles were at Trans Amadi, we sent security men, discovered the vehicles were parked there and they helped us to recover those vehicles. “We also got information that a Lexus Bullet Proof 570, Government House vehicle, was parked at the premises of a former commissioner. We reported to the Police. As a commissioner, she cannot use Lexus that costs N60 to N70 million as official vehicle. “Initially she said on phone that it was given to her as parting gift.
We asked where the records are because they didn’t hand over anything to anybody. Later, she said it was bought for her by her husband and we asked her to bring the proof, the particulars. “When I came here (Abuja) last week, I went to the Bank of Industry building, but there, the former Liaison Officer, not knowing we were here, was with one of the vehicles we were looking for. The security recovered it and I asked them to bring the man and he came and I asked him, why he was using government vehicle and claimed it was his vehicle and I said, bring the particulars.
“You said the former governor said it is a witch-hunt and I say, witch hunt for what? Is this the first time a commission of inquiry was set up in Rivers state? When he set up judicial commission of inquiry were they all witch-hunts that he is now saying it is witch-hunt?
“When he came in, he set up Truth and Reconciliation Commission; was that a witch-hunt? He set up commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Georgewill who is now in the Court of Appeal, after the crises in the House of Assembly; two weeks before he left office, he set up the Odinla Kalu Commission of Enquiry on Political Killings and gave them two, three weeks to make recommendations. Was he witch-hunting people? At what time did it become a witch-hunt?”