My Billionaire Friends Abandon Me Over My BROTHERS Deaths

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: I’ve been away for a while. Reason had been the deaths of my two powerful BROTHERS. One passed away on September 17 and the other, October 17. All this year. Although, they were aged.

 

{Odimegwu Onwumere}
{Odimegwu Onwumere}

But as it is proverbially said, there is no feather removed from a fowl without her tweeting. I have been muddled by their deaths. They are in the morgue, anyway. I’ve been off and on family calling. Today, I decided to reach out to you, to establish my fraternal obeisance to you. Thank you Mazi John A., for your incessant calls. I won’t thank my once billionaire and millionaire friends that I had reached out to. They did not care what I’m passing through. Anyway, I’ve further deleted their numbers from my contact, the same way I did to others when my dad passed away last year (March 27 2015). I’ve also unfriend and blocked many of my billionaire and millionaire friends on my Facebook Timeline. I see no reason keeping money bags as friends when they will not be there for you in the time of need. Conversely, many of my friends on this platform – Facebook – have shown their immeasurable and unexpected love for me, even when I do not know majority of you in person. I least expected that out of difficulties you could spring up surprises for me unlike those I knew personally and had dined with that are billionaires. I thank you all for showing tremendous concern when I first broke the news of my loss.
-Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Consultant. (Picture: October 31 2016).

Kogi Politicians Should Let Gov. Bello Be

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The Executive Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello may be in for another set of distraction after the Supreme Court on September 20 2016 upheld his election as the rightful winner of the gubernatorial election in the state held in 2015. It is perceived that some politicians in the state are working round the clock in making sure that the governor suffers a setback in his administration.

{Governor Yahaya Bello}
{Governor Yahaya Bello}

Recently, they accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of keeping eyes right in their call to investigate Bello for whatever reason Nigerians are yet to know. This was coming after they had written series of petition to the body. But the EFCC seemed to know better – that there might be the hand of Jacob but the voice of Esau in their petition – making their petition null and void.
The other time, there were speculations that he was pelted with pure water sachet while coming out from the Mosque, after a day’s prayer. If true that he was pelted, political observers know who to hold responsible. And if he was not pelted, the same people know who to hold responsible for circulating the message of defame.
Most politicians hire crowd for an event, the same way they hire street urchins to cast aspersion before the public, on the personality of their prey. However, Nigerians of good will cannot sit down and watch Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the young and youthful Governor of Kogi State be brought to disrepute. We are yet to read that he associates with mischief, except as some politicians in that state want us to believe.
Unlike some persons who allow some heights they have attained in life to influence and control them, the last time we checked, Bello still respects elders and is ever ready to learn from people. While he is doing his best to bring any person or group that has been politically squabbling to make peace with each other, some of the politicians are throwing tantrums. Sad!

No matter what they might be doing to plunge Bello into the murky waters of disgrace, the governor seems not perturbed as he goes about his official duties to uplift Kogi State, putting much effort on rural and urban development. He believes that after developing this area, it will attract a lot of potentials.

With his New Direction Blueprint, the governor has vowed to take education to the next level in the state. Any doubting Thomas may ask the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Petra Onyegbule. With the state’s rich mineral and natural resources, although many are yet to be tapped, Bello has said he has the youths at heart in his development priorities.
While working to raise these youths, the governor has reiterated the need for technical education while people are pursuing the secular education. Nonetheless, many Nigerians might be crying over the lame-duck governance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the federal level, but Bello has shown that he has a New Direction Blueprint: A promise he made when he went to pick Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms of the APC in company of chieftains of the party from the three senatorial zones in the state.
Governor Bello pledged to overturn the high level of crimes in the state. The party leaders conversely knew that he would not disappoint in carrying out his official functions when they stopped the thought of any other candidate as the party’s typical bearer. The unwavering Bello filled out the form, signed by a Commissioner of Oath, and returned to the APC National Secretariat, in what political pundits said was affixed to a letter of nomination sent to INEC on Friday November 27 2015, by the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The party perhaps knew that Mr. James Abiodun Faleke might not do better than Bello, hence Falake was asked to be Bello’s running mate. But Faleke refused that offer and insisted on Abubakar Audu/Faleke ticket, which the party gave the duo before Audu suddenly died on November 22, 2015. It will be pertinent to say that with the aggressive policking against Bello in Kogi, if the state fails, it will concern everybody in the state. But it will not fail with Bello!
So, Governor Yahaya Bello should be left without distractions to earnestly fix the state to attain his dream state, where there will no longer be pot holes in front of the Government House, educational system will never be horrible again, Kogi children will not be taught under the trees, teachers will not be discouraged; the potentialities of the agriculture sector will not be undiscovered, and infrastructure will not be in totters.
Odimegwu Onwumere can be contacted via: odimegwu@journalist.com

Taxation Battle Over Multinational Companies Non-compliance

By Odimegwu Onwumere

“Sadly, the compliance level of the oil and gas exploration and production companies in payment of levies and taxes is very low and in fact, pitiable,” contained in a letter Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State personally wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), dated April 18, 2016.

There are indications that multinational companies in the country involve in illicit financial movements in corporate tax evasion and avoidance, with links to one heinous activity, especially, bribery.

They also milk their operating stations without contributing to the economies of the country by means of tax payment. They use trade or transfer mispricing, manipulation of tax treaties to defraud the country.

They rely on global network of dual taxation treaties or agreements. They believe that with the treaties, they can earn their income in the country other than their home country and shy away from or reduce the tax they ought to pay to their home countries’ governments.

Worried that many multinational companies do not have regard to the laws of the country and laws regulating tax in the 36 states of the country, Dickson therefore sought after the help of the Federal Government (FG) to persuade multinational oil companies to stop evading tax.

He added, “Our further position is that the Federal Government and its agencies should not condone or support irresponsible behaviour by these companies whose conduct subvert and undermine the authority of the State and our economy especially in the areas we have legislative authority such as Development Control, taxes permitted by Federal Laws and other legislations within the residual powers of the State.”

Trillions Of Naira Lost

Since August 2016, the FG has been inundated with a call that multinational companies must pay their tax. Checks revealed that Nigeria has lost money amounting to trillions of naira as a result of tax evasion by the multinational companies in the country.

Just in January 2016, Nigeria lost a monstrous US$3.3 billion to a strange tax holiday approved by the FG to three of the world’s principal multinational oil and gas companies operating in the country.

Findings by this writer showed that at the popular official rate authorised by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), that amount was the equal of N650.1 billion; while it was N957 billion at the corresponding market, with dollar exchanged for N290.00 or thereabout.

It was observable that this tax freedom was three times the bulk of Nigeria’s healthcare account (US$1.4 billion) for 2015; it was again above US$2.4 billion that was meant for education sector same year.

Double Taxation

The ActionAid, an international development agency analyzed the double taxation treaty like it’s in Nigeria-Mauritius, saying that companies doing business in Nigeria have the loophole to avoid tax by steering their investments through Mauritius as contrasting to investing unswervingly in Nigeria.

Pundits expressed dissatisfaction, saying that these were not good for Nigeria with a population of over 170 million. They added that by 2013, Nigeria was Africa’s largest economy, with a GDP of 521 billion USD and an annual growth rate of 5.4%, with debt in that year, amounting to 19% of the GDP.

But in all that, there were indices that poverty was at 33.1% with the tax-to-GDP ratio at 14% in the same year. There were also fingers pointing at oil companies that include Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC); Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC); Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL); Consolidated Oil (CL); Conoil Producing; Brass LNG and Aiteo Energy, as major culprits in tax evasion.

According to a reliable source, “Just like the oil companies, in a rare disclosure in 2013, MTN Nigeria, a telecom company, admitted it made unauthorised payments of N37.6 Billion to MTN Dubai between 2010 and 2013.

“The transfers were then “on-paid” to Mauritius, a shell company with zero number of staff and which physical presence in the capital Port Louis is nothing more than a post office letter box.

“The disclosure amounted to a confession given that MTN made the dodgy transfers without seeking approval from the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the body mandated to oversee such transfers.”

Corporate Tax Evasion

There have been policies by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Joint Tax Board (JTB) in making sure that taxes are collected, but these policies died as soon as they were implemented.

Some reports have shown that Organised Private Sector (OPS) and the oil and gas industry have robbed Nigeria enough by evading tax. The source revealed that in 2006, it was a tug of war when the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources had to look into Chevron Group of Companies for tax evasion.

There was tax blunder allegedly committed by the company which was to the tune of $10.8 billion (an equivalent of N140 billion), after an audit report had indicted it.

“Chevron over-bloated its cost of operation and evaded tax by $1.394 billion; claimed unmerited cash call of $2.112 billion,” said the committee.

Many Nigerians and groups condemned the act by the company and tagged it as national embarrassment but blamed the country for being irresponsible with its tax system that these companies could maneuver.

Viewpoints By African Union

From Nigeria to Niger, from Somalia to Soweto, indications have emerged that oil multinationals and multinational companies swindle Africa’s tax billions yearly, said African Union (AU)

Against this backdrop, the Federal Ministry of Finance had to inaugurate a participatory method of instituting a Presumptive Tax Regime to successfully tax the casual sector, while Nigeria’s Joint Tax Board (JTB) had initiated the practice of balancing the assorted ( given at about 85) diverse taxes charged diagonally in the country to stay-away-from numerous taxation but criminalise the practice.

There was the introduction of a Tax Identification Number (TIN), which was meant to distribute a digit to a person as a requirement for involvement in some economic activities. There had been platform established for fair taxation: The Tax Justice & Governance (TJ&GP), which aligned with Oxfam, Actionaid, Christian Aid and others. This platform made appearances in May 2014, as a host of Pan African civil society when the African Union Finance Ministers meeting held in Abuja, likewise in the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Abuja .

In March, the same year, a sophisticated panel by AU (chaired by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki) on illicit financial flows, had found out that the money Africa had lost in tax was more than what it received in improvement aids from abroad or foreign direct investment joined together.

“They (multinationals) are depriving some of the world’s poorest countries of money vitally needed to pay for schools, hospitals and other essential services,” said the report.

ActionAid, conversely, noted that what the multinationals have been doing on the country, Africa should be renegotiating on tax, among the African governments, if necessary. The organisation advised that Africa might cancel some of her tax treaties in making sure that more money was accessible to help better the lives of the majority of her citizens.

“About $138 billion is given away by governments in developing countries annually in corporate income tax exemptions. The amount could have been enough to put every primary school aged child in school, meet all the health-related Millennium Development Goals and leave enough money for the agriculture investment needed to end hunger. African governments should also review their tax incentives and cooperate at a regional level to develop a coordinated approach to tax competition,” ActionAid said.

Government’s Voice

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun on October 7, 2016, while briefing journalists in Washington D.C concerning the aftermath of a closed-door meeting of G-24 of an IMF/World Bank meeting, screamed that all multinational companies doing business in the country rarely paid tax and must pay their taxes.

“We were able to make two contributions; one of it was the need for accelerated investment in infrastructure as the way out of our current situation. This is what we believe will create jobs and reduce poverty.

“Another issue that we raised was tax evasion and the fact that we need the multilateral agencies to support us. Yes, trade is very important, but we need the multilaterals to ensure that all multinational companies that trade in Nigeria pay their fair share of taxes and that point was well taken,” Adeosun said.

Senate President Bukola Saraki related on October 12 2016, at the 22nd version of the Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja that Nigeria’s corporate taxation scheme should be improved on to get the country out of the economic downturn.

“With 37 million small and medium scale enterprises providing about 95 per cent of our jobs, as we promote ‘made-in-Nigeria’, we must also use our legislative powers to amend the taxation laws. To get out of this recession, we must provide a business-friendly environment,” he said.

On August 3 2016, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in a meeting presided over by Major General Muhammadu Buhari had approved a Multi-lateral Competent Authority Agreement on Exchange of Country by Country Report.

What this meant was that the accomplishment of the report would help the government to fast track tax laws. This was made known by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in Abuja. Mohammed also informed that revenue companies have lost a lot of money.

“Where multinational companies operate, it’s quite easy for them to move profit from one territory to another territory where the tax law is very favourable to them. And what has happened over the years is that the revenue companies have lost a lot of money.

“As at the last count, over $1 trillion has been lost over a period of time. And the revenue companies have found that they were losing more money in terms of tax evasion and avoidance than what they were even receiving as grants from multinational agencies,” Mohammed said.

Importance Of Tax

An analyst who would not want the name in print told this writer that the importance of tax was immeasurable. He lamented that he wouldn’t know why multinational companies evade tax.

He added that apart from resources from agriculture before oil was found in 1956, Nigeria was thumping the ground with revenues from tax. He believed that Nigeria has lost a lot in the absence of tax since crude oil was discovered.

Apart from the money made from agriculture before the discovery of oil, this writer gathered that a personality like Chief Obafemi Awolowo (now late), as the first premier of the Western Region, built a lot of people-oriented infrastructures from money, also, gotten from tax.

According to the source, Awolowo built such structures that included the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University); Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos; Oodua Textile Mill, Ado Ekiti; Ifon Ceramics Industry, Okitipupa Oil Palm Plc, Oluwa Glass Company Plc, Ondo state, Cocoa House and the Western Nigeria Television Authority (Now NTA), Ibadan, and so many others.

This writer’s source said that no country survives when its citizens, but especially, mutlinational companies doing business in that country are evading tax. He, therefore, suggested that all companies have to pay tax according to their resources.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Consultant based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348057778358. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Governor Ganduje’s Emergency on Malaria

With Kano State acquiring drugs and diagnostic equipments at N59m due to 22,000 recorded deaths from malaria in the state in 2015, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that the state Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje may be living up to the health promises in his inaugural speech

During his inaugural speech, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje made many promises of which he might be living up to now, but especially on the health sector of the state. He endeared the people of Kano and spectators when he said that the All Progressives Congress-led administration in the state would be much pleased in tackling health issues headlong with prevent measures.

{Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje}
{Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje}

The governor added that the measure was imperative to curtail the escalation of incidence of common killer diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, polio, malaria and dysentery and others. Routine Immunisation programme was fad in his speech. He acknowledged what he said were the contributions of Bill and Melinda Gates and Dangote Foundations in that respect. He vowed to look into the State Health Insurance Scheme but that was to be after ample consultations with stakeholders, then the policy would be investigated properly. He mentioned using groups, public, private and communities to achieve his healthcare policy in Kano State, of which the service of Environmental Health Workers (Duba Gari) was to be revived to be more functional with the dictates of the state.

The governor said that the agency was to be empowered to return to the nooks and crannies of the state by being physically present in the inspection of houses, markets, abattoirs and what had the state in that capacity. The governor clamoured that there would be a legislation to ban tobacco smoking in public places but that would be forwarded to the Kano State House of Assembly for suitable legislation.

In strengthening the people’s health and the Kano State health sector today, Governor Ganduje told journalists in an interview on September 24, 2016 that his government spent over N3 billion on subsidy accommodations, medication of pilgrims, and sponsorship of officials for this year’s pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia by Muslims from the state. That was coming after the Kano State Government on September 22, 2016, made it public that it had acquired drugs and diagnostic equipment at the value of N59 million to combat malaria in the state.

It was made public by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Kabiru lbrahim Getso, who added that the materials would be shared out to the 38 hospitals in the state. Parts of the allocated materials, as according to Getso, were 6.5m treated mosquito nets, 20 microscopes for diagnosing the disease, inter alia. While this lasted, it was heartbreaking to note that the government had shown bitter expression that it was not up to the average of people who received the nets use them. Checks, however, revealed that the residents of Kano State had no excuse to abandon the use of the nets for malaria aversion having witnessed a number of 22,000 people killed by malaria in 2015. It was Getso who made this disclosure at a news conference to mark this year’s World Malaria Day.

Kano State under the watch of Governor Ganduje could be enjoying a sincere leadership, not one laced with propaganda, as Getso did not shy away to say that environmental issues made the number of deaths to be high and that remained a major challenge to the state. There was apprehension that there were 214 million malaria-related issues with 400,000 malaria-caused deaths, with the continent of Africa sharing 90 per cent of the many deaths. Perhaps, the deaths that saw Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo accounting for more than 35 per cent of malaria deaths globally, necessitated experts during the World Malaria Day 2016 (with the theme ‘End Malaria for good’), advising that mosquitoes bite should be seriously fought in Nigeria.

It was not out of place for the Kano State Government to be expending heavily in making sure that the scourge is curbed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that under-5 children were among the victims of malaria with the ratio of 78 per cent, mostly in sub-Sahara Africa. The resilience of Governor Ganduje in the fight against malaria in Kano, reminded one of August 29 2009, when the then Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, represented by a then deputy director in the federal Ministry of Health, Mrs. Chioma Amajo, at the flagging off of the second wave of the Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) campaign which held at the premises of Sheikh Mohammed Jidda Hospital in Kano, said that the state was doing well in the fight against malaria.

At the first launch of the exercise then, the state had more than two million treated nets which were distributed across 21 local government areas. It was from this programme that the choice of the ministry to take the campaign to Anambra State was formed. Conversely, Anambra in that year had a success of 1.7 million shared bad nets. It’s indispensable that the Kano State Government has had the gusto to move and hold on strong efforts at controlling malaria until it sends the disease on an errand. By 2009, there was a target to give two nets to a household.

Today, the State under Governor Ganduje has continued with the fight and sensitisation of people in the urban and rural areas in making sure that malaria was mitigated.

The Panacea for Cheap Drugs

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Before now, there have been suggestions that local industries should be supported in order to produce guaranteed pharmaceutical products for local utilisation, because no nation progresses by importing everything it uses without the local content. This has made the opinion expressed by Prof. Temitope Alonge, recently signifying that expensive drugs can be a thing of the past if only Nigeria can talk to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for authorisation to churn out vaccines and tablets that are cheap and relevant to healthcare.

Alonge, who is the Chief Medical Officer of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, believed that successive governments have not done much through their policies to alleviate the pains that Nigerians go through in getting medical attention, but especially drugs. Nigeria has over the years been implementing policies in the health sector without much execution in the area that they will positively affect the people, therefore making Alonge’s clarion calls essential for Nigeria and her citizens to recognise and take pharmaceutical products as susceptible items.

{Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole}
{Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole}

There have been different bans placed on some pharmaceutical products by successive Nigerian governments to enhance the health sector, especially the ban in 2005, of which Paracetamol was the only drug among the banned regarded as being locally produced to be self-contained. That was a feint to Nigeria considering the fact that India had 16, 000 companies where drugs were manufactured with over 1, 000 of them certified by the WHO.

An eye-opener, when Nigeria was gasping in speculation to produce cheap drugs, is the revelation made by a lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, Kristin Peterson, the author of the book, ‘Speculative Markets: Drug Circuits and Derivative Life in Nigeria’, in an interview with a Nigerian newspaper published in August this year said “There are over 80,000 chemical and drug companies in China (some of which are foreign owned) and national regulatory agencies might inspect 20 or 30 of them per year.”

The irony was that Nigeria had not taken some decisions in the health sector and considering such decisions with paramount watchfulness. While at any blink, the government would ban some pharmaceutical products, Nigeria by 2010 hadn’t factories that produced Ibuprofen, Tetracycline, and among others. In the same year, the lives of 140 million Nigerians were virtually and harmfully impinged on, by the policy assessment.

Some health organisations in the country hence proposed for the launching of a scientific foundation for decision-making. They were of regret that when foreign donors made donations to Nigeria in the area of drug purchasing, the country turned around to expend the money in foreign market. A case-of-study was in 2009 when N4b was made available by the Global Fund for the purchase of drugs and no pharmaceutical company in Nigeria was of standard to purchase drugs from. However, analysts have said that independent drug importers in the country are patriotic, but in the international periscope, standard is top priority than patriotism.

The sad aspect was that there was no pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria that was of the WHO standard, making the Nigerian pharmaceutical sector incapable to apply for loan from Global Fund, therefore giving the Europe, China, India and America the edge to continue to see Nigeria as a great purchaser of their drugs. This was revealed by Peterson, saying: “In the 1970s, prior to the implementation of the structural adjustment programme, American and European brand name pharmaceutical companies saw the Nigerian population as buoyant purchasers. And, of course, at that time, the naira was at par with the dollar and the pound. There was a fairly robust middle class and people were able to afford many of the products produced by those corporations.

“But the moment the economy started to take a downturn after Babangida’s 1986 implementation of structural adjustment, many things changed. On the one hand, the private sector could no longer cope because the value of the naira was crashing. It also became risky for drug companies to do business because the population could no longer afford their drug products.

“Because of that risk, the brand name multinational drug companies abandoned the Nigerian market that they themselves created. On the other hand, the population was expecting social welfare entitlements like pensions and free education, both of which they were receiving. But dictatorship and austerity led to mass protests as Nigerians’ sense of security was slipping fast out of sight.”

In 2005, some of the banned pharmaceutical items went up above 500 per cent, with Lavampisol, a worm expellant, as an archetypal example. The relevance of the position by the Professor Alonge will help douse the stereotype among many Nigerians who misconstrue cheap drugs for counterfeit drugs, even when Nigeria has not won the battle against fake drugs. Peterson further highlighted, “The global brand name drug industry at one time did exceptionally well in Nigeria. Companies such as Pfizer, Roche, Upjohn, Ciba, among many others came to Nigeria as early as the 1940s and 50s. By the 1970s, Nigeria’s oil boom attracted the major drug companies around the world and they distributed and manufactured products within Nigeria. In some cases, they made a lot of money – in fact, some products that sold in Nigeria were the highest selling products in the world.”

The battle against fake drugs has been in vogue, especially with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) subjecting to superfluous inspection of every drug imported into the country. The NAFDAC has been in this battle against fake drugs since it was established by Decree 15 of 1993 as amended by Decree 19 of 1999 and now, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The Association of Pharmaceutical Importers of Nigeria (APIN) in 2010, fought a battle against fake drugs, by helping the government owned health organisations perform their official roles in checking the drugs imported into the country and making sure that drugs from India and China that came into the country were not fake and substandard. Nigerians have however, always shown concern over alleged fake drugs imported into Nigeria from India and China.

Nevertheless, what Alonge invariably meant was that Nigeria has to tow the line of the APIN which gave China and India a condition that their drugs, before they are imported into the country, must be certified by the WHO. If there were incidences of fake drugs from India and China imported into Nigeria, the WHO ought to be asked questions. While the authorities may buy the idea raised by Alonge, there are factors that may hinder the proposal except they are put in place.

It is saddening that Nigeria has grown thick skin not to accept industrialisation with electricity being the arch-hitch to investors in the country. Banks hardly give loans without increased interest and other financial institutions hardly fund projects in the country making entrepreneurs the melon that proverbially sourced for its cooking water.

The hardship in the country has spurred bad eggs in the medical profession and the government has been tapping their back with the kid’s glove when a country like China once put-to-death the head of China’s Food and Drugs Authority. The victim’s ordeal was his involvement in illegal trades in drugs, using his office. Nigeria has to put in place every mercenary for zero tolerance in the peddling of fake drugs and to their producers. By 2010, the world stood still when Chinese government also killed five persons involved in the creation and selling of contaminated baby milk with melamine.

Rivers: Why Wike Shouldn’t Go About Peace Without Princewill

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In Rumundele Community of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, the residents threw open party recently in jubilation that over 200 youth from two bloody cult groups that had terrorised the area for months with property worth hundreds of thousands of naira destroyed and many lives lost, have openly denounced their membership in the Community. In some communities in the state, cult-related activities were rife which compelled the state governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to initiate amnesty for the bigoted cultists of which, not only in Rumundele, many youths who were into gangsterism across the state, have embraced the initiative. Like the immediate past governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, Wike invariably inherited a volatile Rivers State in what have been as cult activities, militancy, piracy along waterways, political backbiting and hostage taking. Amaechi-led administration implored the services of security personnel with the code names, Joint Task Force (JTF) or Operation Flush Out, which moved in the streets heavily armed. But upon the presence of the security agents, the much sought peace was elusive till Prince Tonye Princewill waded in and took peace campaign personally to the creeks and hideouts where the boys took as their base for operation. So, with Amaechi recording half-baked peace with the presence of JTF, till Princewill came in and helped for the restoration of peace in Rivers State, Wike might not bring about absolute peace in the state with his amnesty initiative.

{Governor Wike}
{Governor Wike}

Prince Tonye Princewill, the Labour Party governorship candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Rivers state, may have diverted his attention from the politics of the state to other ventures out of principle but observers know that he was part of the foundation to the relative peace that the state is enjoying today and he should have a rethink or be appealed to help the present government of Governor Nyesom Wike to succeed because Princewill knows how best to go about peace.

In the event that Wike was declared the winner of the election, the voice of Princewill was up in advice that all political parties should be civil in any move for redress in the court of law and should not incite their followers into violence. This was given that the election in the state raised tension upon that the 3 major candidates that were contesting in the persons of Dakuku Peterside of the All Progressives Congress, Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party and Tonye Princewill of the Labour Party had signed an undertaken on January 22 2015 before a US Ambassador to Nigeria to ensure a violent free election.

Many political observers saw that move as the first in the political history of the state. Of a truth, Princewill has maintained that peace pact covertly and overtly by not citing comments capable of breaching public peace like some other person has been doing. Although, he has told truth to the people that the election was marred by irregularities. Since he’s not a lawyer, legal luminaries at the Supreme Court had said that Wike was duly elected and is the Governor of Rivers State; Princewill has since then, channeled his energy to his private business.

It is on record that by January 2014, which was regarded as the decisive year for the 2015 election, Princewill sued for peace and reconciliation among the many warring politicians in the state. Peace has always been Princewill’s insignia. His approach to a peaceful resolution may be connected to the fact that he is the son of King (Prof) Theophanous Jacob Tom Princewill, CFR, Amachree XI, Amayanabo Kalabari whom the junior Princewill shares the same birthday with. We cannot also say that he came about peace from the books he has read as he holds a Master of Sciences degree in Mineral Resources Engineering and distinguished Diploma from Imperial College, London, having had a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Port Harcourt. But in another look, majority of the sons of Kings and influential are known for arrogance. So, we may say that peace runs in Princewill’s blood and not because of his royal pedigree.

It’s observable that his strong political philosophy of equality and liberty might be his undoing political factor as he is an apostle of free and fair elections, when majority politicians think the obverse. He also believes in civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and a right to life, liberty, and property, as was captured by one of his former aides. He does not believe in politics of bitterness, with his popular mantra that “politics is too important to be left to politicians.” Hence, his venturing into politics in 2007 under Action Congress, after he returned from London in 2003, where he spent many years studying and doing business. That year was the pick of upsurge of militancy in Rivers State with his home town of Buguma boiling.

Princewill was chiefly the arrowhead that initiated peaceful movements that resolved the crises which saw to many people and companies packing, lives wasted and property worth billions of naira destroyed. For the love of Rivers State, Princewill refused to go to court against the Supreme Court judgment that favoured the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi against Sir Celestine Omehia; the later being a very gentle man. As a master of peace, Princewill made sure that all the political parties in the state come under an umbrella known as and called Forum of the Organised Opposition Political Parties (FOOPP) in Rivers State. Over 43 political parties were in this forum and the state was calm from 2008 when the forum was formed to 2010 when Princewill moved to the Peoples Democratic Party, for personal reasons.

His peaceful dispositions and art in reconciling people saw him to becoming a member of the Rivers State Economic Advisory Committee in 2008, which Professor Nimi Briggs was Chairman. On July 7, 2008 the National Mirror, published the names of 40 Nigerians that, in its view, could fix Nigeria’s problems. It also published the pictures of the people in a publication titled, “Cabinet Reshuffle – 40 People who could Fix Nigeria” on page 6 of that edition. Princewill’s name was there.

By 2009, Princewill was on the Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta and was Sub-Committee Chairman of the Niger Delta Subcommittee on Vision 2020 that was pioneered by the then President Umar Yar’Adua. For the love of humanity, Princewill tendered his resignation letter as a sign of protestation from the Vision2020 Committee when the military invaded Gbaramatu, in Delta State.

He continued with his peace move by founding the Princewill Political Associates (PPA); although as a political pressure group. He brought Ohaneze Ndi Igbo leadership into looking for ways to resolve the Niger Delta crises; a move he personally made to Enugu in 2009. On 29th June 2009, Princewill reconciled Alhaji Asari Dokubo with Amaechi. He proved the critics of the Eso-led reconciliatory panel wrong, by leading Asari to reconcile with Amaechi, although journalists as at the time said the reconciliation was “of an unproven issue”.

But spectators knew that Alhaji Asari was angry with Amaechi over statement by the later calling the then Niger Delta crusaders criminals. In a statement by Asari to Amaechi, he said, “I decided to follow him (Princewill) to visit you, the governor, today to demonstrate that apart from the issues highlighted above, I have no other grudge against you and to formally accept you as my governor and the undisputable Governor of Rivers State, as upheld by the Supreme Court.”

Amaechi explained his happiness and commended Princewill for this feat, saying, “My becoming the Governor of Rivers State, apart from being divine, was a calculated attempt to restore hope and actualization of the vision of the founders of our dear state in 1967. Today is one of my happiest days because no matter our differences, I admire Asari so much for his love for our region and his readiness to lay his life on behalf of our people; and I feel so bad that such a personality could not team up with me to contribute to develop our only state. But thanks to God who, in his infinite wisdom, decided to use Tonye to make this great reunion possible.”

{Prince Tonye Princewill}
{Prince Tonye Princewill}

Prince Tonye Princewill knows how to go about peace and he is tested and trusted in this area. Therefore, Governor Wike and Prince Princewill have to team up and see how they can lift Rivers State to the next level irrespective of party affiliation.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Tel: 08057778358. Email: odimegwu@journalist.com

The Jobs We Are Creating For Wike

By Odimegwu Onwumere

When citizens leave their respective homes in search of jobs that they could be gainfully employed, their hope and aspiration often hit the bricks wall, given that many of the jobs governments across the country advertise that they have created are nowhere to be found.

{Governor Wike}

This brings a statement made by Steve Jobs into focus, which is: Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right. Without mincing word, the residents of Rivers State are waiting to see the 10, 000 jobs promised by the Rivers State Governor, Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, which he said are especially for the youths.

Represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr Chukwuemeka Woke, while marking the coronation and prayer in admiration of Chief Mike Elechi as Obua Weze in Elele, Ikwerre local government area, Wike said that the 10,000 jobs would be created with the expansion of Resonpalm Oil Plantation in Ubima.

Wike detailed that the jobs would be through agriculture. In the voice of Wike through a statement by Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, the governor’s Special Assistant on Electronic Media, “Aside the development of infrastructure across the state, we are working with private investors to create 10,000 jobs through key agriculture projects”.

We believe that this is not a time for rhetoric. The 10,000 jobs if truly given to the people would help alleviate the vast dearth of job opportunities in the state. This is said because the Supreme Court had said that Wike was the better leader chosen by the electorates in the state, so he should not disappoint.

While we are waiting for the 10,000 jobs, the state needs more than that. However, it will be essential that Wike established those jobs on ground rather than making them media establishments. Nigerians know that minimum wage of workers in the country is always zero. And so, while creating jobs is good, it will be better if the take home of workers in Rivers State is enhanced.

We were fed up with the successive governments in the state who made the people to see them as money driven and the common man in the street was not identified in truth and honest. Many people are looking up to Wike as a peacemaker and to be one who unites, not divides. Many families in Rivers State are today losing their families to poverty and we want a governor who will not only bail out companies and parastatals but also these families and individuals whose only future is founded on hope which is elusive.

Making a good governor or leader is up to self. In an article of Friday, 16 Oct 2015, John W. Schoen, CNBC.com Economics Reporter, diagnosed the different campaigns rhetoric by the Democrats and Republicans in the USA.

In that verdict, Schoen said, “The Republicans believe that if you lower taxes — especially on business — they’ll create more jobs and by creating more jobs they’ll create more income,” said private economist Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Advisors. “The Democrats think the problem isn’t necessarily jobs — and the only way you get wages to rise is by forcing wages up, through support of union actions or minimum wages.”

We found out from Schoen that the politicians do not live to their promises once they are elected with checks revealing that in the last 40 years, some 350 governors who have served in the 50 statehouses in the USA., Republican governors, as a group, engendered higher wages while Democrats have bred more jobs.

Schoen went further to say, “Of the roughly 64 million jobs created throughout the country since January 1976, more than half have been created on a Democratic governor’s watch. During periods when Republicans occupied a state’s governor’s mansions, overall wages posted bigger gains, in total, than the periods when Democratic governors were in office.”

In spite of that, we have had some leaders in Rivers State who funded schools but allowed education and reading to totter. Wike should know that his integrity is standing on a test-tube of time being valued by the words he says and by the confidence he reposes on the people in truth and in spirit.

We know that Wike is a very intelligent person. We want him to make democracy to reign over the incessant ‘war’ that the opposition All Progressives (APC) in the state wants from him. We believe that Wike, having passed through stages of life that were not rosy and cozy, he will not allow the residents of Rivers State to grumble.

The world is getting very difficult by the day and workers who do not show mettle in their work places do not get along with the people. This is applicable to leaders! People are expecting the best from Wike because he has shown some competence. Much is expected from a competent worker.

If Wike, perhaps, is yet to come to terms with the qualities expected of a governor in term of job creation, Alain de Botton’s “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” may help. The author asks a salient question, “When does a job feel meaningful?”

Botton later gives the answer, saying, “Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though, we are often taught to think of ourselves as inherently selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our make-up as our appetite for status or money.

“It is because we are meaning-focused animals rather than simply materialistic ones that we can reasonably contemplate surrendering security for a career helping to bring drinking water to rural Malawi or might quit a job in consumer goods for one in cardiac nursing, aware that when it comes to improving the human condition a well-controlled defibrillator has the edge over even the finest biscuit.”

Wike should not be under any pressure to give people hope that he will not fulfill later. The residents of Rivers State need countless job opportunities. They need libraries, not amouries; they need not chaos, but peace; discrimination is not in their diary, but tolerance; they want lawlessness to be hounded away, not justice; they do not need secrecy, but transparency and among all, they do not need hypocrisy, but fairness.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV). Tel: 08057778358. Email: odimegwu@journalist.com