By TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari, to heed the clamour for fiscal federalism and restructuring, to douse brewing tension in the country.
Governor Wike said stakeholders in the South-South and other geopolitical zones that met with the delegation led by Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, have expressed their grievances, which must be genuinely addressed.
The Rivers governor stated this when he featured as a guest on a live programme monitored in Port Harcourt.
He noted that stakeholders in the South-South last Tuesday, in Port Harcourt, ventilated their expectations, and what was now required is political leadership and will by the President to implement the demands.
Wike said: “President Buhari has an opportunity today, that Nigerians are saying these are the things we want; these are the things we think can move Nigeria forward. And you have to show leadership by saying, I have listened to you and these are things we can implement. You may not necessarily implement everything that the people are talking about or people may want. But, let people say that under President Buhari, he has been able to implement one, two, three and four demands by the people.
“But, if he does not take this opportunity now, and does not implement some of these requests, I don’t think it will be very good for Nigeria and for his legacy. I don’t think that will mean well”, he reasoned.
The governor stated that despite reservation in some quarters about the readiness of the federal government to address issues raised, he implored President Buhari to avail himself this rare opportunity to address nagging issues militating against the stability of the country.
“If the president does not do, given the opportunity he has now, then, he will put Nigeria on fire”, he maintained.
Governor Wike acknowledged that some of the salient demands of the South-South zone will require constitutional amendment.
He implored the President that whenever the National Assembly carries out constitutional amendment as it concerns restructuring, true federalism and resource control, he should not refuse to assent to it.
“But, again, if constitutional amendment is being made and the President vetoes or says no, he will not sign it like it has happened under the Electoral Act, then it will become a problem for Nigerians”, he stated further.
The state governor dismissed insinuation by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, that National Assembly members and ministers from the zone were not consulted before Tuesday’s meeting with the presidential delegation.
“We are playing politics with issues that concern Nigerians; issues that concern the region. I don’t need to be told, assuming I am a legislator, and something like this happens, I will rush back to the State to meet the governor; to meet the stakeholders and say what do we do. You don’t need to wait for the governor to call you. It is your own responsibility as representative of the people. You heard that your state has been burnt down for example, you don’t expect somebody who is bereaved to begin to call, to say I am bereaved”, Wike argued.
He described as regrettable the absence of the Minister of Transportation, who arrived the Government House, Port Harcourt, with the Chief of Staff for the crucial stakeholders meeting on Tuesday, but failed to participate in the event for inexplicable reasons.
“When I told the Chief of Staff, where is my own Minister, he was also shocked, because he knew that the Minister was at the airport with them”, he noted.
Speaking further, Wike said President Buhari has done the needful by appointing people to manage the affairs of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the interest of the region.
He regretted that those appointed are politicians, who have refused to work with People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governors in the region.
He accused the NDDC of pervasive corruption to the extent of claiming projects done by Rivers State government, as its own.
“Rivers State Government went to court and challenged NDDC that you cannot do what you are doing without consultation, without approval of the State Government. And the court agreed with the Rivers State government that you are right. NDDC you cannot do what you are doing. You are distorting the physical development of the state”.
The governor lamented the continuous politicisation of security in the country to the extent that it has prevented the take off of operations of the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps.
He accused the Nigerian Army, which ironically, has given tactical support to similar outfits in the All Progressives Congress (APC)- controlled states like Lagos and Kogi, of preventing the State Safety Corps to operate, despite legislative backing.
He, also wondered why the Police Command would be contemplating community policing without the involvement of State governors.
“You are talking about community policing and then State government is not involved. Who pays these officers or the men who are involved in community policing? You stay in Abuja, you take a decision, you recruit, then you come and tell the state government to come and pay; it does not work that way.
“And what do you mean by community policing? You are talking about how to provide security in various communities. Who is in charge of these communities? And that is the problem we have in our own federal structure. You cannot say you operate a true federal system when you have only one Police command”, the governor argued.
Wike dismissed claim that the State government was owing personnel of the Rivers State Transport Company. He explained that State did not have such employees on its database.
He explained that before the advent of his administration, the State transport company had been operating as a franchise, without remitting proceeds to the State government.