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Abia repeal of life pensions for ex-govs, deputies: Matters arising (2)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

While most Nigerians still clink wine glasses in toast to Abia State Governor Alex Otti for belling the monstrous cat of life pensions for former governors and deputy governors, three Abia ex-governors have punctuated Dr Otti’s enviable limelight, by denying drawing pensions, and the accompanying perquisites of office.
Under the repealed law, former governors and deputies were to be paid lifetime salaries; get houses in Abia and Abuja; receive 100 per cent of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy; get two brand-new vehicles worth N20 million every four years; and have three police officers and two operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), and cooks, stewards, drivers, and gardeners.
The denial by immediate past Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (2015-2023) came on March 20 – a day before Otti signed into law the bill repealing the pensions. A statement by Dr Ikpeazu’s chief press secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka, refuted reports “mischievously couched to give the false impression” that Ikpeazu’s among former governors receiving pensions from Abia State.
Ememanka stated: “Dr Okezie Ikpeazu wishes to make it abundantly clear that since after handing over the reins of power as Governor of Abia State on May 29, 2023, he has neither requested for, nor received from the Abia State Government, any dime under any guise whatsoever, and has no intentions of doing so.
“Former Governor Ikpeazu has since moved on with his life and is currently engaged in other areas of interest to him and advises the Abia State Government and her various organs to face the business of governance and desist from engaging in needless media sensationalism. The general public should be properly guided, please.”
Former Senator and ex-Governor Theodore Orji (2007-2015) also debunked claims of benefiting from the pension largesse, saying on March 21 that, “he hasn’t received any pension, he hasn’t asked for it, and he’s not interested in it.” Orji spoke via his former chief liaison officer, Hon. Ifeanyi Umere.
Umere said: “Nobody should link Senator Orji with the said pension law because nobody has paid him any pension after leaving office as Governor. He transited from Governor to Senate and he made it a point of morality that he will not, and he didn’t ask for any pension or question anybody about it because he is not interested in it. He didn’t receive any pension from Okezie Ikpeazu and he didn’t pay anybody, too.”
And Sen. and former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (1999-2007) – whose government established the pension law in 2001 – said he didn’t receive any pensions since 2007. One of Kalu’s aides was quoted: “As a former governor of the state, T. A. Orji did not pay him (Kalu) a dime as pension, and Okezie Ikpeazu continued in the same manner.”
Recall that Dr Kalu, fielding questions from journalists at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja on February 20, 2017, distanced himself from the 108 ex-governors that a national daily claimed were “living off their states through pensions and other entitlements.”
As reported by Vanguard on February 21, 2017, Kalu said he hadn’t received “any payment, entitlements or privileges of any sort from his successors (Sen. Orji and Dr. Ikpeazu), adding that the Abia State government had “withheld and refused to pay his pensions and entitlements, making him the only ex-governor in the 36 states that does not receive pension.”
Kalu said on leaving government on May 29, 2007, he left behind “all the government vehicles and every other thing that belonged to the government,” and that, “none of the privileges, like security details or vehicles that accrue to former governors has been extended to him.”
Asked if he’s broke because of non-payment, and his next line of action, Kalu said: “It is not about being broke or not. The pension law of the state did not exclude me from being paid as expected. In fact, it is illegal, according to the law, to deny one his rights and privileges.”
Also reacting to the abolished pension benefits, former Deputy Governor Ude Chukwu, under the Ikpeazu regime, said: “Nobody has given me a dime. I am aware of the law. For me, it (the law) is as good as not being there. If all past governors said they have not been paid anything, what is the essence of the existence of the law?”
Relatedly, former Lagos State Governor and ex-minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has revealed that his monthly pension is N577,000, after eight years in office (2007-2015). Mr Fashola, appearing on ARISE TV programme, ‘Perspectives,’ on January 20, said:
“The benefit I get, I think, is a N577,000 monthly pension from Lagos State. So, in spite of all the stories that we got several billions of money (after leaving office), I’ve come out to deny that repeatedly. Well, I don’t know how long it lasts, but all I know is that I get N577,000 per month consistently,” without stating if he’d enjoyed the “full package” pre and post-effort by the Lagos State House of Assembly (LGHA) to halve the pensions in 2021.
The poser: If Otti’s predecessors in office denied receiving any pensions, why the Labour Party (LP) governor’s bravado to sign into law the pensions repeal bill passed by the Abia State House of Assembly (ABHA)? Was it to score political points by painting black Dr Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Orji (PDP), and Sen. Kalu of All Progressives Congress (APC)?
Perhaps, Otti wanted to fulfil a campaign promise, and guard against any governor resurrecting the dead law in future. Signing the law on March 21, Otti stated: “Even before this new law came into place, a lot of people, who have followed our views in the national discuss (discourse), understand that we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.”
That said, pensions for former governors and deputy governors aren’t “illegal,” as the issue is perceived in the public. What Nigerians detest and question is the morality of and insensitivity in awarding huge severance pay, lifetime pensions, allowances and material benefits to former governors and deputies.
Some former governors-turned senators or ministers also receive emoluments in a couple of places: pensions from their states, and salaries and allowances from the National Assembly (NASS) or the Executive, against the rules that exempt farming as the only avenue to possibly earn extra pay, while boosting the country’s food production and security.
In 2023, some members of NASS were enticed by the mouth-watering pension packages for federal and state executives, and proposed same for the President and Deputy President of the Senate, and Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives – an incentive for State Houses of Assembly to follow suit. But the bill was shot down due to public outcry.
In the oft-quoted Lagos High Court judgment of November 26, 2019, in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1497/2017, filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo queried the legality or validity of pensions for former governors and deputy governors, but pushed the burden of discovery to the Attorney General of the Federation.
Justice Oguntoyinbo had differed from the position of then Attorney General Abubakar Malami (SAN) that, “the States’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged,” and said, “I do not agree with this line of argument by the Attorney General that he cannot challenge the States’ pension laws for former governors.”
“In my humble view, the AG should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians, being the Chief Law Officer of the Federation,” the judge said, and then gave the following commands:
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the Attorney General, AG, to urgently identify former governors and their deputies collecting pensions from their states and to seek full recovery of public funds from those involved.
“AN ORDER of mandamus compelling and directing the AG to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, serving as senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices.”
Based on the orders, SERAP asked President Bola Tinubu, in a letter on March 23, “to immediately obey,” to recover pensions collected by former governors, and to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting those involved to collect such “outrageous pensions.”
Equally instructive is an Appeal Court ruling, in suit no. CA/A/810/2017, against the Kogi State Government seeking pensions and severance packages in the state, which’s referenced by Alex Enumah in an opinion piece, “Pension Laws for Ex-Govs: The Abia Example,” published by THISDAY on March 31, as follows:
“The court held that the fact that elected public office holders and political appointees were paid huge amounts of money as monthly salaries and other forms of allowances while in office makes it morally wrong for them to demand pensions, gratuities or severance allowances for holding such an office for four to eight years as the case may be.
“The three-man panel of the appellate court, which had Justice Emmanuel Agim, Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya and Justice Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, submitted that it amounted to gross social injustice, and unjustified in the context of the nation’s present social realities.
“The lead judgment, which was delivered by Justice Agim (now JSC), said it was wicked and morally wrong for political office holders and political appointees, who helped themselves to public funds while in office, to claim entitlement to pension and severance allowances.
“He submitted that it was wrong for political appointees and elected public office holders, who do not work as long and as hard as career civil servants to quickly get paid huge severance allowances upon leaving office, in addition to the huge wealth they acquired while holding such offices and without having been subjected to any contributory pension schemes.”
So, controversies trail pensions for former governors and deputies not for being “illegal” but because they’re overbloated, and a huge drain on the lean resources of many states, which owe months and even years of backlogs to retirees, some of who spent over 35 years in service and retired into penury, as their pensions are withheld by governors, who are “qualified” for hefty pensions and adds-on for life, and even pay themselves upfront part of the packages before they leave office.
It’s reassuring though that former Governors Ikpeazu, Orji and Kalu have denied receiving pensions, and challenged Otti’s sweeping statement that, “we were not going to continue the practice of paying pensions and allowances to this set of former government officials.” But can hundreds of other former governors – accused of drawing huge pensions and entitlements from their states – emulate the Abia trio by disavowing the allegations against them? The ball, as they say, is in their court!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Opinion

Nigeria, the compromised Society

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By Jibrin Samuel Okutepa
Nigeria society seems to be a place where everything now appears to be compromised in favour of bad and corrupt practices. Nigerians are in hell in their own land. Those who worked hard to see that the right things are done are discouraged by decisions that support the continuation and approval of wrongs as rights. Nothing appears to be done to promote the greatest good of all in the governance and in decisions in judicial adjudications.

Justice appears polluted in favour of evil men in power and positions. The institutions that are supposed to protect us have left us to the whims and caprices of those who cheat us out of our rights. The pillars of justice appeared to have collapsed. Many have lost hopes. The ability to manipulate is required to be in the systems that need no manipulations. The judgment delivered today, the 27th day of May 2024, by the Kogi State Election Petition Tribunal
In petion No: EPT/KG/GOV/03/2023, YAKUBU MURTALA & ANOR. VS. INEC & 2 ORS clearly turned the law on its head. The Tribunal closed eyes to evidence and struggled to do what it did. It was pure judicial summersault in support of wrong processes.

The foundation for the collapse of justice was laid by those who have the responsibility to lay solid foundations for sustainable justice in legal processes. Justice suffers in the hands of those who are to serve it in the most undiluted form.Those who are trained to enforce the laws are doing it incorrectly and inconsistently and not within the letters and the spirits of the law. They closed eyes to injustice. They lament behind but lack the courage to do what is right.

We live in compromised systems.
The evil doers dictate everything that goes on in every department of the systems we operate. No system operates independently of interference. Those who do not want to compromise are living in agony and are daily agonizing. That is why democracy in Nigeria appears to be heading to catastrophic destruction.

Sovereignty does not belong to the people. It belongs to a few tiny cabals in and out of powers. We live in a completely compromised democratic corrupt system in Nigeria.There is nothing like the rule of law in Nigeria.
Justice has developed eyes and acquired sight to follow evils and to support and sustain them in Nigeria.

Nothing good will be seen and work in Nigeria until Nigerians collectively agree to do what is right and just. A just and egalitarian society can not be attained when truth and justice are compromised on the primordial partisan interests in judicial adjudications. Where cases are decided to support the subversion of democratic processes, anarchy is eminent.

No society can grow and develop when people are allowed to profit from their own wrongs and wickedness perpetuated in sabotage of law that was promulgated for the promotion of a just and fair process.
Society of compromises is a society destined for destruction.

It is a society where people are held accountable and punished for evil they do that can produce and promote enduring democratic legacy for the happiness of the vast majority of the people. Nigeria appears to be far from such an egalitarian society given the intolerable spirit of compromises by those who should not tolerate evils and violations of our laws.

By Jibrin Samuel

The purpose of law is to ensure orders and good behaviour. Those who interpreted the law upside down to achieve a predetermined outcome are enemies of a just society. But let me say that despite all these compromises, we must ensure that light is not overwhelmed by this darkness hovering in our land.

Calm down. We will not run away from practice. We will show light in darkness. One day and not too long, our light will outshine the darkness in the firmament of legal practice in Nigeria. Be calm. Congratulations to my colleagues on the wonderful legal team who displayed unparalleled legal dexterity despite all odds.

Jibrin Samuel Okutepa

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Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (4)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Seeming to belie the header for this article that’s run three installments, a couple of weeks has witnessed the return of former Governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Nyesom Wike – from his semblance of a sabbatical leave – to rejoin Governor Siminalayi Fubara in shadow-boxing, and stoking the metatarsising Rivers political crisis.
On Saturday, May 11, 2024, in Ogu-Bolo, Rivers State, at a grand reception in honour of Chief George Thompson Sekibo for his 20 years of public service, Wike – who no longer has the luxury of daily political rhetoric as when he’s governor – addressed five issues Fubara would likely tackle on separate days.
They include: A mistake he’d made, without elaborating; his deliberate bullying of the Fubara camp, to create fear, and make it to commit mistakes; that nobody can remove his pro-lawmakers sacked by the court; denying asking anyone to worship him; and the need for beneficiaries to show appreciation to their benefactors.
This comes as Fubara says he’s records of his duties as a civil servant, and the Accountant General of Rivers State under the Wike administration (2015-2023), stressing that all activities he carried out were based on “approvals” from his superiors.
In a veiled reference to his promise to probe the Wike government, Fubara, during the inauguration of Egbeda internal roads, in Emohua local government area on Thursday, May 16, said he’s ready to answer any queries, as his records would show that his previous official activities in government “were based on approvals.”
In similar masked remarks obviously referring to Fubara, Wike said he made a mistake in his political calculation, by shutting out an array of chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the Rivers governorship in 2023, and settling for Fubara. “But nobody is above mistakes,” Wike said, and asked Rivers people to forgive him.
His said: “I want to say this clearly, in life we have made a mistake. I have made a mistake. I own it up and I say God forgive me. I have said all of you forgive me. I am a human, I am bound to make a mistake. So, forgive me for making a wrong judgment. So, nobody should kill (because of it). But we will correct it (mistake) at the appropriate time.”
On the sacked lawmakers loyal to him, Wike said the law and due process would take its course, irrespective of whatever happened, adding, “If they like, they can go to anybody by 2 a.m or 4 a.m to get an injunction. The law will take its course. We must follow due process.”
Wike urged the lawmakers not to be intimidated, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Nobody will remove you as a lawmaker. Most of you don’t understand. This is our work. Our business is to make them fear. That is what I am doing. We will make them to be angry every day, and they will continue to make mistakes.”
Rounding off, Wike said he isn’t God, and as such, had never demanded that anybody should worship him. “Nobody can worship man. All of us believe that it is only God we will worship. (But) as politicians, we appreciate people who have helped us.”
On the latter issue, Fubara’s previously said he appreciated the fact that Wike played a pivotal role in his governorship, but that it’s God that used him as a vessel to fulfil His purpose, and so, only God deserves his worship and not any human.
Fubara said: “God can do anything He wants to do when He wants to do it. It is only for us to realise that God will not come down from Heaven but will pass through one man or woman to achieve His purpose. So, for that reason, when we act, we act as humans; human vessels that God has used, and not seeing yourself as God.
“I want to say this clearly, that we appreciate the role our leaders, most especially the immediate past governor (Wike) played. But that is not enough for me to worship a human being. I can’t do that.”
On the hot-potato matter of probing Wike, whose government Fubara served as Accountant General, the governor told his audience at the Egbeda roads’ inauguration in Emohua that he wasn’t entertaining any fears, but ready and prepared to defend himself whenever he’s queried or called to answer alleged financial impropriety under the Wike government.
Fubara said: “What we bring to our people is service delivery at record time and cost-effective. Everything we are doing is in my white paper (record of activities). I carry it along. There is no issue of any manipulation. Call me any day, any time, it is there.
“Even the ones l did (as a civil servant) before this time, I still have all the records. If you call me any day, I will bring my records of all my activities in government. I know that as a civil servant, what is most important is record-keeping.
“I am not scared of anything. Anybody who calls me up any day, any time, I have my records to show. I have all the approvals to show that I acted based on approvals, and not personal decisions. We are not going to rest until we make everyone happy in Rivers State.”
This leads to the questions: If Fubara’s that sparkling clean, as he claims, why did he allegedly hide, and refuse to surrender himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation during the 2023 general election? Or was it then Governor Wike trying to shield him from the EFCC, to prevent him from spilling reported malfeasance in the Wike government? Members of the public Fubara’s called to witness his incorruptibility deserve a plausible answer to the query!
Meanwhile, as the probe of Wike looks to proceed apace, only a miraculous intervention in the crisis – which Fubara doubts can be settled amicably after President Bola Tinubu’s brokered peace deal between Fubara and Wike looks to breakdown – would prevent him from declaring soon that, “enough is enough,” and go for Wike and his members’ jugular, deploying the enormous powers at his disposal that he’s said “he doesn’t know what to do with power,” as “the most hit and abused governor” (in Nigeria). So, when he’s decided, the scenarios may look as follows:
First, there’re a few strategies that Fubara’s outlined to deal with the recalcitrant lawmakers he’s described as “not existing.” The governor could evict them from the Rivers State House of Assembly Residential Quarters in Port Harcourt – where the legislators and their families domicile, and also use as a legislative chamber – to deny them the venue and avenue to make laws and/or plot his impeachment.
Second, Fubara could mimic some of his counterparts, and withhold the lawmakers’ emoluments, and allocations to the legislature, such as he allegedly did to the April 2024 allocations to Rivers local councils, whose chairmen, majorly loyal to Wike, have vowed to remain in office after their tenure in June 2024, “in line with the law” passed by the pro-Wike lawmakers, extending their tenure until elected local government officials are installed.
Remarkably, a Rivers High Court has struck down that “law” as illegally enacted by the lawmakers whose seats had been declared vacant on account of their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the PDP, which sponsored them in 2023.
Prior, Fubara had warned the council chairmen that they’d a few days remaining in their tenure, and shouldn’t forment trouble within the period, as “nobody has monopoly of violence.” He handed down the warning at Egbeda community in Emohua, during the official flag-off of the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku road project.
As reported by New Telegraph, this comes as miscreants, allegedly at the behest of the aggrieved council chairmen, attacked some persons who attended the governor’s inauguration of the Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo road project in Eleme local government area on Tuesday, May 14.
Fubara said: “Let me also say this here. When we left Aleto the other day, some people went there and attacked our people. There is no need for that. Nobody has the monopoly of violence. So, I’m begging everyone, please, conduct yourself. As a matter of fact, I am the one who is most hit and abused as a Governor who doesn’t know what to do with power. Is it not? Have I said anything?
“So, I am advising those people, who call themselves local government chairmen: you have a few days in office. Please, conduct yourselves in a peaceful manner. Politics will come, politics will go, but we will still live our lives. Let nobody deceive you, if you deliberately hurt anybody because of expressing your useless support, nobody will forgive you. You will pay for it.
“Just endure until when you finish, then you go your way. I don’t want trouble. I don’t want anything that will bring any problems in this state. I know what they want to do, but we will not give them the opportunity.
“We have made our promise to our leader, who happens to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that we will take the path of peace and that is the path we are taking. We will continue to take that path.
“Don’t mind what they say. Don’t mind what they do. Peace remains the path to take. (But) while taking the path of that peace, it does not mean that we won’t defend ourselves… No, no no. We need to also protect ourselves in a lawful manner.”
The next installment of the serialisation under the running header will conclude what Governor Fubara could do to cage former Governor Wike and his loyalists in the cascading political crisis that daily produces different scenarios in Rivers State!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (3)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

As the Rivers political crisis reaches – or being pushed by the feuding parties to – its crescendo, Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s adopted a strategy of one-day, one-taunt, one-threat, one-allegation to deal with his opponents, or enemies of Rivers State, as decreed by the governor.
Hence such headlines as, “Rivers crisis: ‘I have defeated my enemies, they now sleep with two eyes open’ — Fubara,” “Fubara: ‘Small thing I did they no longer sleep,'” “You haven’t seen anything yet, wait for joker, says Fubara,” “We’re battling huge debts left behind by Wike’s government — Fubara,” “Fubara vows to probe Wike, says ‘jungle is mature,'” “I’ll liberate Rivers from oppression, says Fubara,” “Rivers crisis: ‘Conduct yourselves, nobody has monopoly of violence,’ Fubara warns LG chairmen.”
To rein in his traducers, Fubara’s decided to probe the administration of former Governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Chief Nyesom Wike – ironically his political godfather-turned nemesis accusingly fueling the Rivers crisis.
On Monday, May 13, at the inauguration of Dagogo Israel Iboroma (SAN) as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, to replace Prof. Zaccheaus Adangor, who resigned after he’s redeployed to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office), Fubara vowed he’s “not going back on it (probe).”
He told Mr Iboroma – who’s sworn in after screening by the pro-Fubara three-member House of Assembly, presided by Victor Oko-Jumbo – that he’s brought on board as the Attorney-General to tackle the legal matters faced by the government “with bravery and courage.”
Fubara’s words: “My brother, Dagogo Iboroma, you are going to be the brand new Attorney-General of our dear State. SSG (Secretary to the State Government), give him his letter, he is the Attorney-General
“Why are we bringing you at this very critical time? We have a lot of issues around us. We believe that you are not going to be the one that, when they send (court) service to you, you go and file ‘nolle prosequi’ (a formal notice of discontinuance) or you go and file one thing that would kill us here.
“Let me also say this. You have a big task. We will be setting up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of governance. So, brace up, I am not going back on it (probe).
“Please, defend us. We know that you are going to defend us because your record is clean. You are a gentleman and peaceful. You are not a noise maker. People like you are endowed, and they have the fear of God.”
Prof. Adangor didn’t escape Fubara’s censor for allegedly sabotaging the administration “he served as chief law officer,” even as Adangor, in his resignation letter, claimed Fubara interfered in the discharge of his duties.
Adangor’s letter reads: “The Governor of Rivers State had, in the past couple of weeks, willfully interfered with the performance of my duties as the Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, by directing me not to defend, oppose, or appear in suits instituted against the Hon. Attorney-General and the Government of Rivers State by persons admittedly hired and sponsored by the Government of Rivers State.”
But as Fubara said: “It is good that you (Iboroma) were already a SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) before your appointment. This means that you’re a very thorough lawyer and has earned your appointment. Not like the one (Adangor) we had here.
“Instead of you (Adangor) to close your mouth, you go publicly to claim that you are a learned person, and go publicly to tell people that you were the chief law officer. Chief law officer?
“You were here and you went to stand before a Magistrates’ court. At that time, you didn’t remember that you were a chief law officer, going against the ethics of your job. Like I said, you will get your reward, not in the next world, but in this world.”
Though Fubara’s elated to’ve found “a well- constituted House of Assembly” (of only three members out of 31) to discharge legislative duties, and “the appointment of a seasoned lawyer as Attorney-General,” he doubts the resolution of Rivers’ crisis amicably due to alleged “deliberate sabotage” of his government.
“It has become very clear that… there is no way to resolve it (crisis) amicably, and for a lot of reasons. There is visible evidence that there is sabotage, deliberate attempt to sabotage this administration,” Fubara said, adding, “for that reason, we have to move forward, and moving forward, if it means taking decisions that are going to hurt anybody, we are not going back.”
One such decision is Fubara’s avowal to rehabilitate the Rivers State House of Assembly Residential Quarters in Port Harcourt, launched in 2022, thus pre-empting the report of experts he’s commissioned to carry out integrity tests on the quarters that houses the lawmakers and their families, and also serves as a legislative house, which Fubara’s lately relocated to the Government House via an Executive Order.
With opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers alleging the governor intends to demolish the structures, as he reportedly did to the House of Assembly complex, Fubara, on Thursday, May 9, displayed the attitude of the typical politician to regard – and appropriate – state resources: financial and material as theirs.
After he “stormed” the residential quarters – and journalists wanted to know his mission to the place, Fubara asked what’s amiss if he visited his own property. He said: “Is the assembly quarters not part of ‘my property’? Is there anything wrong in going to check how things are going on there? You are aware of the developments. We have a new Speaker, and I went there to see for myself how things are. There might be a few things I want to do there for the good of our people.”
Fubara’s query reminds of the late media sensation and Kano State Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo, during the short-lived Second Republic (1979-1983). Sen. Zuwo had hardly spent a few weeks in his three-month stay in power (October 1 to December 31, 1983) when he appropriated the state resources to the Government House for quick disbursements.
When anti-graft operatives had intel about – and actually saw – the stacked amount of Kano State’s money in the government house – where Zuwo handed it out at his whim and fancy – and was asked for an explanation, the following dialogue ensued:
Zuwo: “Whose money is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s money.” Zuwo: Whose house is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s Government House.” Zuwo: “You found Kano State’s money in Kano State’s Government House, is there any problem with that?” Security operatives: Tongue-tied, no response!
Fubara’s claim of Rivers property as his also recalls an apocryphal (unverified) saying, attributed to Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state,” literally, “the state, that is me”) – allegedly said on April 13, 1655, before the Parliament of Paris – is a phrase that “symbolises absolute monarchy and absolutism,” according to Wikipedia.
In the context of Nigeria’s politics, the President and Governor act as absolute monarchs, who equate themselves as the State, and do what they like with its resources, without questioning from the legislative arm of government under their stranglehold. That’s where Fubara’s veered lately with his proclamation of a three-man Rivers State House of Assembly, to make laws for the state, and oversight the executive that installed the chamber itself.
Getting away with a five-member Rivers Assembly that passed a hefty N800bn budget within 24 hours, and signed into law the next day – a 48-hour wonder – Fubara gambles now with three members in a 31-member assembly, to “guard” his government in the next three years before the 2027 general election.
And seemingly free of the political bondage he’s been held by Wike, Fubara’s ploy – barring any unforeseen circumstances – is to put the final nail into the political coffin of his opponents: Wike and his sacked loyal members of the Rivers Assembly, depending on several factors, chiefly, the direction of cases in court, resistance from the sacked pro-Wike lawmakers, and local council chairmen, whose tenure ends in June, and the courage by Fubara’s three-member legislature to go the whole hog with the governor for the ultimate showdown with Wike.
Top of these challenges is the Wike probe, which sing-song Fubara took a notch higher on Tuesday, May 14, when he alleged that Rivers’ huge debt overhang was incurred by Wike, who also didn’t pay contractors for projects executed for the state, as reported by Premium Times on May 15.
Fubara revealed this at the commissioning of reconstructed 10.89km Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo road at Ebubu community, Eleme local government area, where he said he’d lived and worked to get to Level 14 in the Rivers civil service.
His words: “This is to let the world know that if there is one problem this administration has, it is the huge debt burden. Most of the projects being commissioned, the contractors are coming for their balance-payment, and it is running into billions.
“I have said that I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to talk because I was part of that system. But, when you (Wike) keep pushing me to talk, I will say it so that the people will know the true situation of things and be properly informed.”
Fubara’s charge counters claims by then Governor Wike in November 2022, that he’s fully funding the multi-billion naira projects executed by his administration, and that he wouldn’t leave any debts behind for his successor.
Wike said he’s deploying arrears of 13 per cent of oil revenue – (later with additional refunds of N78bn incurred by the prior Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi government (2007-2015) to rebuild federal roads in Rivers) – paid by then President Muhammadu Buhari to Rivers State.
Wike, inaugurating the Rivers State campus of the Nigeria Law School (NLS) declared: “That is why, since 2019 till now, we have been commissioning projects in the state,” and threw a challenge to other governors in the South-South zone “to account for the oil revenue they have received.”
Whatever, Fubara’s poured cold water on Wike’s claim of financial prudence and accountability, as he’s in a postion to know – as then Accountant General of Rivers – the actual financial health of the state, and challenges Wike to account for how he spent Rivers resources in eight years!
On the launching of the road, Fubara said he’s happy to be there (Ebubu community), and “to join the good people of Rivers State to start this wonderful celebration of our first anniversary in the face of all the troubles. It shows that we are still focused, not minding the level of distractions.”
“This project was awarded at the cost of N6.7 billion, and I can say boldly that no kobo is remaining. We’ve paid the contractor its complete sum. Our gathering here is to tell our people that their problem is our problem,” Fubara said.
Obviously as a parting shot at Wike, Fubara said he’d invited Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, to inaugurate the road because Otti is not a man of “artificial integrity,” but a “pragmatic man.”
Now that the die is cast for the probe of the eight-year tenure of governance of Rivers State by Nyesom Wike, how will Governor Fubara proceed with the task? This and other issues will form the next installment of this article!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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