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Rivers: Of Amaechi’s helicopters and controversial salary deductions

By Odimegwu Onwumere, Port Harcourt on 10/11/2012

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In a town hall meeting with Rivers community in Abuja last Monday, November 5, the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led Government of Rivers State, so they said, announced that it has placed order for two helicopters.

It was a good development to note that the helicopters would be used to assist security operatives in the task of safeguarding oil and, hounding its criminals out of the thievery business.

While this is good, one aspect of that gathering that was so exceptional was the governor’s intimation that the state was in its impulses and fancy with plans to trail a veritable new environmental law. This law which was said would be sent to the House of Assembly was also said, would absolutely foster an optimum waste management in the state. The issue of pollution arising from virtually all facets of business in the state was not left out.

It is better we read those issues raised in Amaechi’s own words: “We are putting a law in place that will punish all those who pollute our environment. We have placed orders for two helicopters that will arrive in December. Those helicopters will fly across the entire state 24 hours. They carry cameras that can see criminal activities; the police, the State Security Service (SSS), the army will be monitoring the areas also.... I want to see a waste treatment plant which we are already building at Rumuokwurusi. There are two plants; they are building one at Kira in Ogoni which deals with metal scraps. The Rumuokwurusi plant will deal with solid wastes, and work is expected to be completed next year.”

It is important that the state takes the issue of environment seriously to reinstate Rivers State to its inventive plan. This was the plan that most of us saw in Amaechi when he newly came to power. It could be recalled that in September 2008, Amaechi, through the state Ministry of Urban Development, ordered the knocking down of a warehouse belonging to his wife, Judith. This happened near the Abonema Wharf, Port Harcourt. The building was found to have impinged on the right of way. It was classified as illegal structure, hence bulldozers were sent to do the clean-up job.

In the voice of the then state Commissioner for Urban Development, Barrister Osima Ginah, he gave reasons for the action thus: “The property was an illegal building situated where it is not supposed to be. So what happened to other stores in the neighbourhood also happened to hers. Government is firm, fair, transparent and serious about her urban renewal programmes. It is not correct that the exercise is targeted at the supposedly enemies of the government.”

As a result of that people said that the Amaechi-led administration deserved a pat on the back, especially for seeking to bring Port Harcourt to its creative Garden City status. Many people were called to join hands with Amaechi to redeem the state. Some observed that what Amaechi was doing was to bring the city back to the original form as planned by the British many years ago. But instead of continuity in doing much after the much praise, three years after, the story has changed?

At the moment, it is the news of deduction of civil servants salaries; although Amaechi might have a cogent reason for that. Conversely, this is evident that things are done half-haphazardly in the state. And in some intelligence, the residents were not happy. This view was even caught in a rather factual observation thus: “It’s not a matter of putting a hold to the illegal deductions; it is a matter of integrity and resentment to obnoxious law and a governor’s penchant to flout simple agreement with no regard for the next party.”

That statement was from the civil servants, while Amaechi was said to have given reasons for the action the government had taken amongst which was the funding of the free education policy. Did you hear that?

Many of us had argued of how Amaechi could fund the “free education” in Rivers State when he was swaggering of it to the high heavens. These days, Amaechi and the civil servants are at daggers drawn. The later was telling Amaechi to discontinue with the deduction of their salaries, a statement which led them planning to stage an industrial action on Friday, November 7, 2012.        

There was a belief that the governor had made several promises in the past without keeping them, especially to the civil servants, a case that made them wanted to show him the war of ego and profession and, that they were nobody’s stooge. This pressure could be the reason the governor was said to have made a promise of halting the deductions. Notwithstanding, it was not yet Uhuru as that promise was temporarily placed, for the civil servants to enjoy the forthcoming season, hence the game would continue in February 2013 in what was termed a better synchronised mode.

But this seemed was not the first the Amaechi-led government was deducting the poor civil servants’ salaries. Investigations revealed that the state government had once mandated the state Ministry of Finance to do same shoddy thing of arrears of 8 months from the civil servants salary which was with upshot from August to December 2012 to coat the preceding years – 2010/2011. As a result of this, it was learnt latter that the State civil services with the offices of Internal Revenue, Accountant General of the State and the Ministry of Finance saw themselves in a freezing confrontation over who faultily issued the indication that sparked off the emergency in the state.

These things are not good for our Rivers State, especially among the class regarded as educated people. When did Rivers State turned to a combat zone? It was not long that Amaechi called the then militants ‘criminals’ and, everybody seemed was in support of him than hypothetically the militancy of words cropped-up. It is not good that each day that passes comes with it one form of threat or the other from the state government. This November alone, the Rivers Government has threatened to close down hospitals that were not adequately staffed and equipped. And the question could be, what does the government want those under such hospitals’ employ to do? What is the resourceful alternative given by the government to the would-be affected hospitals?

As this Amaechi-led government of Rivers State had always posited to be a developed one in comparison to the governments in Europe, it behooves it to create loan approaches with which it can assist the less-privileged hospitals, but regrettably the government was sourcing for fund more than some of us who are beginners to assist in its long-queue of projects. It is not better times to hear the threat of sending those hospitals packing from Dr. Sampson Parker at a press briefing consequently: “Any hospital that is below the required medical standard will be closed down, whether it is owned by government or private individuals. Rivers State will no longer tolerate quackery; there is no way only two doctors can service a secondary health centre.”

What was expected from the Amaechi-led government was to maintain or sustain its numerous policies instead of all these gra-gra we can see. Even at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, where Parker had swanked that his presence has revived since he assumed office five years ago as he had claimed that patients received drips on the floor, it is our informed prayer that he should do undercover investigation and, he might be surprised with the way the management run the business of the hospital. Hooey!

However, Amaechi should further put a law that will punish all those ministries that were underperforming or that were just titular in the state. They also pollute our environment. Amaechi should also place orders that all the roads, say in Oyigbo, should be reconstructed in December. The presumed law would be monitoring the activities of all the ill-ministries in the state at least for 12 hours instead of 24 hours. It would also be a good development if Amaechi would place orders of helicopters that would be used to investigate the many bad roads the residents have come to endure in Rivers State in the name of democracy.

Photo: Governor Amaechi.

Source News Express

Posted 10/11/2012 6:31 PM





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