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Senator Dickson admonishes Govs to take a cue from Bayelsa’s Transparency on State/LGs Joint Account  

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***As Coalition of CSOs honours him with Award

Former Governor of Bayelsa State and Senator representing Bayelsa West in the Senate, Senator Seriake Dickson has asked Governors of the 36 States of the federation to a cue from Bayelsa on transparency in the handling of States and Local Government Councils Joint Accounts

Dickson who made the call at the National Assembly in Abuja Friday after he was confered with Transparency in Leadership Merit Award by Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness, said Transparency Law put in place by his administration in Bayelsa State, brought about probity and accountability in the handling of the account.
He expressed surprise at the award and urged all other civil society organizations to ensure that those who have done well are encouraged with due recognition rather than the traditional focus on criticism alone.
According to him, from February 14, 2012 to February 14, 2020 when he held sway as Executive Governor of the State, not a dime was taken from monies meant for the eight local government councils in the state that came from Federation Account.
“Instrumentality of law used to drive transparency on the joint account, was Transparency Law enacted in 2012 upon assumption of office which was strictly adhered to by all parties concerned as far as the account was concerned.
“The transparency law was a template set in Bayelsa State for exercising financial autonomy of the local government councils.
“Apart from not taking a dime from federally allocated monies to any of the local government councils in Bayelsa State under my leadership as Governor, 15% of internally generated revenue by the State, was on monthly basis , given to the LGs for grassroots development.

“Having ensured transparency in governance in Bayelsa State within the last ten years, I urge  the governments of the remaining 35 States in the country, to put in place transparency law as required mechanism for handling the States/LGs joint accounts” he said.
He dedicated the award conferred on him to all the key players of restoration government he led in Bayelsa State from 2012 to 2020 .

“On behalf of my family, on behalf of the Restoration Government, the good people of Bayelsa, i thank the DG, and the organizers.

“I dedicate the award to the members of the restoration team, the deputy Governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah, and all the top government operatives. I also appreciate those who put me on my toes, criticizing us for eight years.

“I thanked you even as I urge the NGOs not only to criticize but to also appreciate those who have done well.

“Public servants are not all devils. This country has a reservoir of great minds in the various sectors doing very well.
Nation building cannot be done by one good person alone. It takes all to make concerted efforts, the total aggregate of every profession that determines whether a nation is great or not.

“I thanked the DG for the recognition of the modest efforts and contributions in advancing the frontiers of promoting public accountability and development in Bayelsa.

“The Transparency Law is still effective in Bayelsa and I want to recommend it to other states.
‘”The law is also being adhered to by the present government in the State, making one to say that Bayelsa State is not one of any state where the joint account is being abused.”
The People have a right to know the financial decisions: income and expenditure in their state.
Bayelsa still operates the law, and the government of the day continued with it. Also, the councils in Bayelsa enjoy financial autonomy.”
A coalition of over 90 civil society organization under the aegis of the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness led by the Director General of CCLCA Dr Gabriel Gabriel Nwambu honoured Dickson with the award in recognition of his sterling antecedents in the pursuit of transparency as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Seriake Dickson as governor, had won the 2018 Transparency Award organised by the management of the Africa Independent Television (AIT).
While presenting the award to the former Governor at the Press Centre of the Senate on Friday Nwanbu indicated that it was given to him in appreciation of his “unique dimension of governance, conceived and implemented, especially in the area of transparency, accountability, probity and integrity.”

The Director General explained further that his organization was particularly impressed with the Governor for the bold step to initiate and the implement the Bayelsa State Transparency Law.

According to him, Dickson acted in an unusual and unique manner by initiating a law that makes it mandatory for the Governor and council chairmen to declare monthly incomes and expenditures of the state.

He stated that his Organisation found it fascinating to discover the Dickson made it an impeachable act of gross misconduct for non disclosure of state income and expenditure for three months in the then executive Bill.

He said, “Senator Henry Seriake Dickson was sworn-in as Governor of Bayelsa State on the 14th of February, 2012 and left office after eight years of meritorious service in February 2020

“On resumption, he, among other novel initiatives, sent an Executive Bill to the state House of Assembly called “Transparency Initiative Bill”.
“This Bill makes it mandatory for whoever is the Governor, or his representative, to make public, on monthly basis, the financial standing of the state. In other words, the bill requires a mandatory full disclosure of the total income and expenditure of the state for the preceding month.

“This law literally makes it mandatory for Governors and Local Government Chairmen to declare to the people, the income that comes into their coffers, and the expenditures thereof.

“Within the context of the BayelsaState Innovative Law, the bill established and enshrined the right of the people to know how their money is received and spent. Failure to align with the legislation for 3 consecutive months would compel the state House of Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings on the Governor or Local Government Chairman as the case may be.

“Political leaders and several other interest groups at the time, were shocked when, in the draft bill, Senator Dickson insisted that non-conformity with the provision of monthly briefing should amount to gross misconduct in the law, for which the governor could be impeached. Even the lawmakers felt it was too harsh, but Dickson insisted.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is first of its kind in Nigeria and it is now 10 years since the enactment of this law, no other state in Nigeria has enacted any law similar to this.”

Nwambu stated further that the Senator continued with the monthly implementation of the law for eight years thereby propelling the confidence and trust by the electorate in the government.

He said Senator Dickson’s uncompromising stance on transparency made the Association of former LGA Chairmen who served under him to unanimously affirmed to his integrity in public service and declared that as Governor for 8 years, he never tampered with Local Government Council funds.

He noted that it is indeed encouraging for the ex-Chairmen to affirm that “not only did Dickson not tamper with Local Government funds, he also added 15% of the state IGR to the local governments, to assist them with payment of primary school teachers salaries etc.”

He observed that “With this clear focus on transparency and openness and the introduction of higher standards in the administration of the State, little wonder that even in a recessed economy, the new standards brought in ensured that available funds were duly channeled to the actualization of massive developmental strides in Education, Healthcare delivery, massive road network construction, Human Capital Development, Agriculture and general infrastructural Development, including the BAYELSA State International Airport, the N10 billion Bayelsa cassava processing plant, the Aqua culture village, the gulf course, Universities among others which were initiated, completed and commissioned under him. Many other projects cutting across several sectors were either built and completed under him or conceived initiated and started by him as part of his brought vision for a modernized Bayelsa State.”

He stated further the Dickson period signaled departure from the previous practice where public office holders tampered with state resources with impunity.

He indicated that while it is the practice in Nigeria to honour those who have distinguished themselves in various areas, the organization finds it necessary to break from the practice by honouring those deserving of such honour while they are alive.

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Fubara vows to liberate Rivers people from oppression

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Gov. Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers has vowed to his to liberate Rivers people from bad governance and oppression.

Fubara spoke on Saturday at a thanksgiving rally organised by the SIMplified Movement at Ibaka, Okirika Local Government Area.

The SIMplified Movement, a pro-Fubara group, organised the event to mark the governor’s successful election and victory at the Supreme Court.

Fubara who spoke through Awajinombek Abiante, the member representing, Andoni/Opobo/Nkoro federal constituency in the House of Representatives, said that Rivers people had been oppressed for too long

”A reggae artiste named Lucky Dube, once sang about the imprisonment of the mind, that song mirrors our pathetic situation in Rivers state today.

”Few days ago, a report revealed that many schools in the state lacked teachers, and are dilapidated.
”This reported decay and shortage of teachers did not happen in the last 10 months of my administration, it is an accumulation of neglect.
”They decided not to build schools because they want to imprison the minds of our people, to make us blind in loyalty and unable to ask questions,” he
Fubara said that his government had already commenced efforts to revive the education sector by renovating schools and recruiting more teachers.
”It is for this sake that this government has come to guarantee liberty and break the chains that have held us bound,” he said.
The governor said that his administration had commenced the rehabilitatiin of Okirika Grammar School to provide a sound learning ground for the people of the area.
According to him, his administration would listen to the yearnings of Rivers people and take actions without making noise about it.
Also speaking at the event, Mr Anderson Allison, APC member representing Okirika/Ogu/Bolo federal constituency in the House of Representatives, said that membership of the SIMplified Movement spanned across political parties.
Allison said that prominent politicians and the elite class in Rivers were in support of Fubara due to his integrity and commitment to the service of the state.
”Fubara sees the welfare of Rivers people as a priority, he has also demonstrated dedication to good governance and service delivery.
”The governor has been in office for just 10 months and has already achieved a lot without resorting to abuses, this is how a leader should behave,” he said

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Abeg, where is “WHITE LION”?

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By Tunde Olusunle

There’s always the tendency to ascribe our failings and flailings in our developmental and democratic growth as a nation, to our amoeboid leadership recruitment process. I differ slightly though from this perspective. My contention is that prospective leaders must first be identified and groomed before they can be deployed to the various sectors we expect them to function. Tunji Olaopa’s 2022 essay titled “Nigerian Civil Service and the Trajectory of Public Administration” illuminates the evolution of Nigeria’s civil service which was inaugurated in 1954. He alludes in the paper to “a very strong and professional civil service regarded as perhaps the strongest of the colonial legacies bequeathed to Africa.” Olaopa speaks to the “quality of the officers who founded the civil service and the institutional quality of the public service itself.” He lists Nigeria’s “civil service pioneers” to include: Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Samuel Manuwa, Ahmed Talib, Abubakar Koko, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imoukhuede, Ojimiri Johnson and Fola Ejiwunmi. This generation of public servants Olaopa notes is what we now describe as the “golden age of the public service in Nigeria.”

The second generation of public administrators and civil servants who grazed the limelight between the 1960s to the early 1970s are those popularly described as “super permanent secretaries.” This is the generation of Allison Ayida, Sunday Awoniyi, Liman Ciroma, Philip Asiodu, Abdul Aziz Atta, Festus Adesanoye, Olu Falae, Solomon Akenzua, Francesca Emmanuel, Ahmed Joda, Gilbert Obiajulu Chikelu, Gray Longe, M.A. Ejueyitchie, among others. Olaopa reminds us that the actual core of this generation who were festooned with the broche of “super permanent secretaries” were so described because they were called up at a period of grave national emergency. It was during the Nigerian civil war and they were requested to avail the country their “administrative acumen, competencies and wisdom,” to steer Nigeria through the war and stabilise the polity thereafter.

Olaopa observes that beginning from the 1975 civil service purge by the Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo government and onwards to the era of the Ibrahim Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme, (SAP), a de-institutionalisation process had begun. The concomitant value-orientation of the inherited civil service had been damagingly eroded. He laments that his own generation of permanent secretaries came at an age when, according to him, the service “was already deeply embroiled in the dynamics of the bureau-pathology that had debilitated the civil service.” He laments that his generation of public servants was mentored by the icons of decades past who connected them to the ideals of the golden age “in terms of their passion, professionalism and knowledge-propelled zeal for service.” Such was the archetypal stuff the pioneering Nigerian civil service was made of.

I needed to lay this background to underscore the rigour, the exertion, the perspiration which typified the discovery and grooming of those who operated the levers of public administration in decades past. They were an integral part of the conceptualisation of government policies and also contributed largely to their actualization. I should equally remind us that the famous, now ancient, “fattening rooms” of the Kalabari, Efik and Ibibio in south south Nigeria admitted women in their puberty and prepared them for womanhood. Among others, they are grilled on marital etiquette, their culinary capacities improved upon even as they were tutored in acceptable social customs and comportment. They were usually admitted in facilities away from their families and could be so boarded for various lengths of time, the minimum being for one month.

Reports in recent weeks and months have alluded to the disappearance of Yahaya Bello, the immediate past governor of Kogi State from the prying lenses of the public and press. The initial rumour was that he had made himself a permanent guest of Lugard House, Lokoja, the government house of the intriguing state capital which sits at the confluence of Nigeria’s two largest rivers, the Niger and the Benue. Not satisfied with the eight full years of his despotic, even demonic over-lordship in Kogi State, he has chosen to encamp permanently within the same facility on an extended post-disengagement vacation. Elsewhere in the media, it has been suggested that Bello is now a permanent member of his successor, Usman Ododo’s convoy on all his travels. Ododo is his official shield from investigators on his trail.

After hectic, sweaty public service immersion over long spells, the tradition has been for public officers to embark on extended holidays and rest. Willie Obiano, immediate past governor of Anambra State, left for the United States on extended rest, immediately after he handed over to his successor Chukwuma Soludo in March 2022. Babatunde Fashola was chief of staff in Lagos State; governor of the state for eight years and minister under the Muhammadu Buhari regime for eight years. He served notice during his valedictory conversations that he wanted to return to be “president” of his home, after being a virtual absentee for 20 years! The practice of former governors pursuing “residency programmes” in the very same addresses where they operated from for years, is novel.

As governor of Kogi State, Bello hailed and serenaded himself, by himself with his own *oriki* whenever he had a microphone. He introduced himself with flourish as “His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, CON, the Executive Governor of Kogi State.” Humility, civility and restraint had no place in his thesaurus. He beaded himself with the moniker of “white lion” and rechristened Government House, Lokoja the “lion’s den.” Yahaya Bello apologists and boot-lickers defaced the public space with billboards celebrating their idol, throwing him in the face of a populace so mercilessly trampled upon by him. He never left people in doubt about his limitless powers as a governor cum demigod who could do whatever he wanted and get away with it.

Bello cast a permanent pall on the people of Kogi State. Mentions of his name were in cover-mouthed whispers. Remember the depiction of the former Ugandan carnivore, Idi Amin Dada in the film titled *The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.* The character, Maliya Mungu was his undisguised hitman. Bello reportedly recruited spies in various WhatsApp groups who reported the direction of discourse to him and fed him with the names of his critics. He mutilated the payrolls of hapless civil servants and paid them preposterous percentages. Workers and pensioners dropped dead like flies during his reign, unable to cater for the basic needs of their families. By its very characteristic the economy of Kogi State is fuelled by the civil service. Staccato remittances of workers salaries was therefore going to affect the burgeoning business community in the state.

Elections were weaponised in the vilest of fashions. Bello’s goons were condemned to win every and any election “by force, by fire.” There were mortal consequences for failure. His aides moved around on election days with platoons of vagrants and policemen, scaring voters with gunshots, seizing ballot boxes and rewriting poll results. For dissenting with poll riggers in her unit, hapless woman politician, Salome Abuh was on November 18, 2019, burnt to death in her home in Ochadamu. Bello’s men reportedly dug trenches around Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan’s community, Ihima, all in a bid to disenfranchise her during the February 2023 senatorial election which she contested. Yahaya Bello indeed corroborated the action saying he was helping to build a security hedge around her during the election.

Yahaya Bello is the first governor I ever heard about, who launched a post-disengagement media and public relations salvage project. Some officials and members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), about a month ago honoured an invitation to visit Kogi State to tour some of Bello’s so-called legacies. Curiously, for all the time the team led by the President of the NGE, Eze Anaba spent in the state, the most senior state official they encountered was the Kogi State information commissioner. They could neither meet Bello at whose instance they visited, nor his successor, Usman Ododo. I sent private notes to some of our colleagues who went on the needless voyage asking them a few questions: Apart from being herded through so-called Yahaya Bello’s achievements, did you go to the streets to find out the last time civil servants and pensioners were paid their monthly entitlements 100%? Did you check about the last time workers were promoted after writing promotion exams? Did you find out how many Permanent Secretaries own official vehicles? Did you try to obtain contract award documents about Yahaya Bello’s so-called “legacy projects?” Did you endeavour to compare with the costs of similar projects elsewhere? Did you ask for example to be driven through the “State Secretariat/House of Assembly/DSS road”? Do you know that all through his years in office, Yahaya Bello didn’t rehabilitate that all-important road?

Bello is validating the title of a classic novel by the legendary American thriller writer, James Hadley Chase. Back in 1957, Chase wrote *The Guilty Are Afraid* a blockbuster which gained global appeal and readership in its days. This is the same Bello who was showcasing his boxing skills to the world on social media, virtually calling for a match with Anthony Joshua. We have seen him working out on the treadmills too, thumping his chest as he reminded us that he will flatten Mike Tyson in a fitness contest. So why wouldn’t Bello move around freely, “flex” as we say in contemporary Nigerian lingo, the way his former contemporaries are free birds? It is uncharacteristic for the lion, king of the wild to be mirrored cringing beneath the bed of his successor.

We are indeed talking here about a “white lion,” a very rare *albinoid* species native to the *Timbavati* region in South Africa. Public discourse in recent weeks has thrown up the thesis about Bello evading arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) for the monumental heist his regime committed against Kogi State during his reign as *King Herod.* The weekend edition of *Aljazirah* newspaper of April 6 and 7, 2024, had Bello’s photograph and that of the EFCC chairman, Ola Olukoyede with the headline: *Ex-Gov Yahaya Bello Seeks Safety in Kogi Govt House.* Bello is said to be reaching out to former first lady, Aisha Buhari, even as the EFCC is hot on his trail. The President, Bola Tinubu is said to have distanced himself from Bello’s plea to be given a soft landing in his matter.

Yahaya Bello is a very good example of the post-1975 degeneration of the public service to which Olaopa alluded. He was neither scouted for leadership nor was he trained for the job. He was reportedly an anonymous personnel of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, (RMFAC). He reportedly made good for himself ostensibly through corrupt enrichment and floated a transport company, *Fairplus Transport* with a handful of mini vans. With this, he sold the impression of a nouveau riche to delegates to the 2015 gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Bello emerged second behind the late governor Abubakar Audu in that contest. He was hoisted to the gubernatorial high stool courtesy of some unprecedented judicial interpretation of the constitution, upon Audu’s mysterious death before the results of the governorship election! We must revert to the leadership grooming process of the pre-independence era and its immediate aftermath to begin the sanitisation of governance and leadership. And beyond the EFCC, Bello should have his day in court to defend his appalling human rights record during his eight year sojourn in Government House, Lokoja. Hopefully, victims of his queer and insensitive governance model will have the last laugh.

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

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Peter Obi grieves over Ogbonnaya Onu demise

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**Describes him as a patriotic, inclusive leader

The Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi has expressed deep sadness over the news of the passing of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Minister of Science and Technology. He described Onu’s death as a significant loss to the nation.
A statement by his media aide,Victor Obienyem said Dr. Onu, who also served as the first civilian governor of Abia State, passed away Thursday morning after battling an undisclosed illness.

In a condolence message issued to the press, Obi lauded Late Onu as a patriotic and inclusive Nigerian leader who served the nation diligently in various capacities.
He highlighted Onu’s notable contributions to Nigeria’s educational advancement, both as a lecturer and an author.

“Dr. Onu epitomized leadership characterized by a commitment to peace, progress, and justice,” Obi’s message read. “He courageously championed equity and good governance, leaving a lasting impact on our nation.”

Obi further emphasized Onu’s efforts to promote local production for national development during his tenure as Minister.
He extended his prayers to Onu’s grieving family and the entire nation mourning his loss.

“The passing of Dr. Onu is an immense loss to our nation. May God comfort his family and all of us as we mourn his departure, granting us the strength to bear this irreplaceable loss. May he rest in eternal peace,” Obi concluded.

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