Tony Ita Etim in Port Harcourt writes on the alleged looting of public property at the Rivers State Government House
“Looted items to include, foreign furniture, (tables and chairs) air conditioners, window blinds, rugs, bullet proof doors, cars, electrical/electronic gadgets, Safes, Jacuzzis, room facilities and other domestic utensils, including fridges, freezers, televisions, beds and beddings.”
It started as a rumour few days before the final exit of former Governor Chibuike Amaechi from the Rivers State Government House popularly known as The Brick House. When the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party raised the alarm some weeks back that a massive looting of government property was going on in the Government House many, including people in the state dismissed it as the usual political propaganda they had become used to since the two major parties in the state had been tearing at each other at the slightest provocation. Despite this allegation by the PDP there was no denial, then, from the state government or the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
But on Monday, June 1, 2015 credibility was given to the PDP allegation. Governor Nyesom Wike, who resumed duty on Monday at the Governor’s Office, after performing the swearing in of Justice Daisy Okocha as the Acting Chief Judge of the State, took his first official tour of the Government House, which he left in 2011, when he was appointed a minister and resigned his position as Amaechi’s Chief of Staff between 2007 and 2011. What Wike, who was accompanied by some leaders in the state saw, shocked him. Wike was overwhelmed by the CHANGE in the Government House. As a former Chief of Staff to Amaechi, Wike has a fair knowledge of what the facilities and furnishings in the complex looked like. But what he saw was as if an army of occupation has just left the place. The choice things were looted with reckless abandon.
It was crestfallen Governor Wike that broke the discovery to the congregation of Salvation Ministries during a thanking giving service at the on Sunday. He shocked the congregation when he told them that the official vehicles of the governor and other vehicles in the governors office were no where to be found.
In her reaction, the state Deputy Governor, Mrs Ipalibo Harry-Banigo condemned the action of the officials of the out gone administration who vandalized government property.
Amaechi’s former Deputy Engr. Tele Ikuru simple says he wants the new government to take steps and ensure that all those involved in the looting of the facilities at the Government House, where brought to book. Ikuru regretted that officials of the Amaechi administration would stoop so low to loot furniture, coat of arms, crested rugs and electrical fittings. Worried and shocked by the level of looting of facilities in the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt by the former Governor of the State, Rotimi Amaechi and his aides, the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Felix Obuah appealed to the leadership of the All Progressives Congress APC, to prevail on, Amaechi, to kindly return all the looted items, as failure to do that will continue to present both the APC and the former occupant of the State House, Amaechi in bad light.
Obuah, who condemned the action as childish and criminal action described it as shocking and embarrassing to the people of Rivers State, the political elite as well as the APC. Obuah pointed out that the massive looting of public facilities in the State, more of which is evident in the Government House, further exposes the greed, corrupt and unpatriotic disposition of former Governor Amaechi, which the PDP had over the years consistently complained about. The PDP, Obuah stated that “the numerous reckless actions and misguided utterances that he chooses and employs as his leadership tools has exposed Amaechi as unfit and undeserving of any further public office, so he does not desecrate such office.”
Obuah enumerated the lists of the allegedly “ looted items to include, foreign furniture, (tables and chairs) air conditioners, window blinds, rugs, bullet proof doors, cars, electrical/ electronic gadgets, Safes, Jacuzzis, room facilities and other domestic utensils, including fridges, freezers, televisions, beds and beddings.” The party chairman declared that “It is therefore, our view as a responsible Party, considering the huge resources and inconveniences that would cause the State to replace the looted items, in terms of fresh procurement or refurbishment of the broken items, to again urge President Buhari and other APC leaders to sanction the former Governor, ask him to return the loots and also charge him to apologize to Rivers people for the shameful act, which is responsible for the delay of Gov. Nyesom Wike to move into the Government House and the use of those public facilities by the new administration since after its inauguration on May 29.”
In his reaction, Amaechi described the allegation of looting against his administration as “attempts by the new occupant of Government House in Port Harcourt, Barr. Nyesom Wike to intimidate, threaten and blackmail officials of his (Amaechi’s) administration, including civil servants into making false, phony and bogus claims of alleged corruption and corrupt practices against him (Amaechi) and his wife, Judith; concocted claims that cannot be substantiated.” Amaechi also debunked claims by Wike that the seat of power in the State, Government House, Port Harcourt was vandalized and looted by him. He described Wike’s provocative utterances as another cheap smear campaign and ploy to siphon billions of naira from the State treasury under the guise of renovating a ‘vandalized’ and ‘looted’ Government House. In a statement signed by Amaechi spokesman, David Iyofor, the former governori stated that Wike had gone to ridiculous and absurd lengths to show his imaginary claims of vandalisation and looting in Government House in his bid to vote billions of naira for renovation of the place. According to Amaechi, “I am aware that this (Monday) morning, Wike in company of his coterie of court jesters took some video cameramen and photographers on a tour of the Governor’s residence inside Government House. He took them to the Governor’s bedroom where he made further claims that the place have been looted. The question to ask is, did Wike know what was in my former bedroom before now, to conclude that the bedroom was looted? Did he speak with or review with the Permanent Secretary of Government House, who is the chief accounting officer before jumping into such hasty and misguided conclusion?”
Amaechi maintained that “Apparently, he had already reached a conclusion before arriving Government House, and all he has been saying and doing is to work towards that conclusion of looting and vandalisation. It’s instructive to note that on Friday, May 29, Wike had barred some key officials of Government House, including civil servants from accessing the place. 48 hours later, he started shouting ‘vandalisation and looting’. This doesn’t smell right. I left the place intact. If there’s any vandalisation or looting in Government House after I left, Rivers people should ask Wike what happened.
This is clearly a grand conspiracy to siphon state funds in the guise of renovating a vandalized and looted Government House and falsely smear my image. On the latter, Wike is sparing no expense, employing all sorts of insidious tactics to accuse me and rub me with the tar of corruption.” Also reacting to the allegation of the massive looting of public property at the Government House, the Rivers APC said “We have watched his usual theatricals as he pretended to conduct his associates around the Government House facility just to prove that it was looted by the former government.
The entire drama has been made to look like the storming of the Palace of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and later that of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in 2011, just to prove that Government House, Port Harcourt requires massive refurbishing and repairs. All of this is ostensibly aimed at paving way for massive refurbishment and repair contracts whose costs will be in several billions of Naira for himself and his cronies.”
The statement which was signed by the State APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone said “ Notably, the APC did not deny the allegation of the looting. The party did not also accuse PDP members of looting or hiding the property to give the APC a bad name. The questions remains, who looted the Rivers State Government House? Are the aides or former associates of Amaechi that did this to a state the claimed to love? Or are the civil servants working there did the dirty job?
Where were the security men at the Government House gates who screen persons coming and going from the premises? Since the state APC sees Wike as a caretaker governor, are these looted items actually in safe custody of APC in case the party wins at the tribunal and their candidate is declared governor and these items would be restored? These are questions that remain to be answered to this ugly development in the state.