The Nigerian media has recently been flooded with reports and advertorials about corruption in Rivers State, accusing former governor, Chibuike Amaechi of fraud, unlawful enrichment and conversion of state funds apparently in a bid to force the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari against Amaechi whose immense support and contributions towards the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last presidential elections cannot be over-emphasised.
While there has been a robust defence by the Amaechi camp on the issues raised, many opposed to the former governor mostly believed to be of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State have insisted on putting Amaechi in the spotlight with the smear of corruption.
In view of Amaechi’s achievements in Rivers State as governor, it seems awkward that people from his own state would come up with such spurious allegations. The expanded and reconstructed roads, flyovers and bridges, the revamped education sector which was taken over from Local Government authorities to raise the standards, the establishment of a proper Agriculture sector with the Songhai farm and other productive farms across the state, a total overhaul of the State’s healthcare sector with functional Primary health centres in all LGAs, power generation particularly the decentralization of power distribution points with the construction of various power sub-stations. A man with such purpose for the growth and development of his state and people wouldn’t do a sudden 360 degrees if he had the chance to do it already within his first seven years of service or even while he served as Speaker of the State House of Assembly for two tenures. His transparency was also seen in the constant stakeholders’ accountability meetings, town hall meetings where he conferred and answered questions from the people directly and in their domains, as well as acting on feedback generated from followers and supporters on social media as regards issues of the state. Being the closest link from Rivers State to the Presidency, Amaechi who consistently spoke up and stood against injustice meted out to the state by the erstwhile Goodluck Jonathan administration should indeed be hailed. One of such injustices was the ceding of Oil Wells from Rivers State to other neighbouring states, thereby directly dwindling the resources and revenue due to the State. As chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Amaechi also stood against irregularities in governance and was never on the side of one political party against another, but for one Nigeria and a better nation. On the supposed fraudulent sale of power projects and conversion of its proceeds, the so-called Integrity Group only outlined the sale and failed to do its home work on the proceeds which subsequently have since been captured in the 2014 Appropriation Law of the State as one of the sources of revenue to fund the 2014 budget. This inclusion was explained in the reply signed by former Secretary to the Rivers State Government, George Feyii and former Commissioner of Finance, Chamberlain Peterside. Another unverified and distorted claim by the accusers was that funds were transferred from the power assets sale proceeds accounts with Access Bank Plc to the accounts of three private companies calling it ‘a glaring case of stealing…’ Meanwhile, the response by Amaechi’s people clarifies that, “the companies that were erroneously portrayed as fronts for looting the funds were actually those that bought the US Dollars and made remittances of Naira equivalents into the Rivers State Revenue Account with Zenith Bank.” The response also explained that the funds were used alongside others from other revenue sources to finance various government projects and activities. Other rumours that such entities like Risonpalm, Supabod (Now Spar) And Olympia Hotel (Radisson Blu Olympia) were sold by the Amaechi administration has also been debunked. These previously moribund entities were leased or concessioned but never sold, and would revert to the state government at the end of the lease period. The first blunder by the petitioners is referring to Clinotech as a separate entity from Clinoriv. The government signed a MoU with Clinotech, not Clinoriv. Clinoriv was only coined to reflect the joint venture. The second mistake was claiming that the former governor awarded a fresh contract to Clinotech on the same project. This is wrong as the contract was not awarded twice. The State Executive Council simply suspended the 60% to 40% joint venture between Clinotech and the State Government and awarded it as a turnkey contract to Clinotech with direct (100%) funding by the government. However, on Clinotech’s failure to keep the agreement, Amaechi, reported to the then Commissioner of Police, alleging a case of breach of contract and fraudulent diversion of funds. The police investigated the matter. It is now clear that the tenure of Skye bank Plc as revenue consultant ended in December 2014 and Collect Solutions Limited was appointed as the new consultants with a mandate to further increase the monthly revenue from N7.5 billion monthly where Skye Bank got it to from the average of N2.5 billion when Amaechi became governor. According to the response by the Amaechi team, “Appointment of revenue consultants is within the powers of the state government and Amaechi’s administration only exercised that power in appointing Collect Solutions Limited.” Those petitioners and their sponsors trying to tarnish Amaechi’s image should have a rethink and desist from the lowly act.
• Gogo is the Secretary-General of Rivers Peoples’ Forum (RPF).