Rivers at 50: Government Honours 127, Set to Amend Awards Law

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  • Says Amaechi was indicted for fraud

BY Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Golden Jubilee celebrations came to a climax at the when the state government honoured 127 distinguished Nigerians who served the state meritoriously in different fields of human endeavour.

It also announced its resolve to ensure that no indicted governor received any automatic honour, learning from the issue concerning the immediate past Governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, who was allegedly indicted by a judicial commission of inquiry over the sale of valued assets of the state during the twilight of his administration.
Presenting the awards at the remodelled Multi-Purpose Hall of the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre, Port Harcourt, the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, said his administration would amend the law to ensure that criminals, no matter their previous positions, do not get honoured by the state.

He pointed out that the immediate past governor was indicted by a judicial commission of inquiry into the sale of the assets of the state, hence he did not merit the award, but was merely included in the list because he was a former governor.
He said: “You will agree with me that any person with such antecedents and formal indictments is not and cannot be a fit and proper person to be bestowed with state honours.

Wike, who spoke against the backdrop of the rejection of the proposed by Amaechi, said: “Permit me to also address the purported rejection of the award by former Governor and current Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. We are not unaware that there is a subsisting indictment from a Judicial Commission of Inquiry and attendant White Paper in relation to corrupt practices that trailed the hurried sale and management of proceeds of state valued assets in the dying days of his administration.
“Three weeks ago, the Court of Appeal affirmed the validity of that inquiry. You will agree with me that any person that is indicted by a commission of inquiry cannot be a fit and proper person to be bestowed with a state honours.

“Accordingly we queried the nomination of Rotimi Amaechi on that premise but conceded, albeit, reluctantly when we were told that his nomination was fait accompli under the State Honours Law by virtue of his position as a former governor of the state. Now that our unusual magnanimity in the spirit of the Jubilee is unappreciated, we think it is proper to amend the law and safeguard its credibility from being eroded or undermined.”
He said while the awards would hold annually, especially during his administration, only deserving persons who have contributed to the development of the state and its people would be beneficiaries.

The state’s law on honours and awards, Wike said, was enacted under the administration of Dr. Peter Odili, but has not been implemented by past governors.
Some of the awardees were honoured posthumously for their outstanding contributions to the growth of Rivers State at different times.
Wike, who personally presented the awards to the awardees or their representatives, presented three categories of awards to the distinguished personalities. They include: Grand Service Star of Rivers State (GSSRS), Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS) and Governor’s Medal of Honour (GMH).

All civilian and military former governors of the state accepted the award except the immediate past governor of the state, Amaechi, who declined to receive the awards citing personal differences with Wike.
Prominent among the awardees were: Former President Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan; First Rivers Military Governor, King Alfred Diete-Spiff; Former Rivers State Governor, Dr Peter Odili; Former Rivers State Governor, Chief Rufus Ada George; Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche; and Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara.

The late Governor Melford Okilo, late Ken Saro-Wiwa, late Senator Obi Wali and late Edward Kobani were among those honoured posthumously.
A new political group, Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) has promised to rally professional, technocrats and corporate players together in order to get them more involved in the political process with the aim of “retiring and replacing the old order.”
A statement issued by the group quoted the  National Coordinator of the group and Harvard University scholar, Dr. Jay Osi Samuels, saying it was high time young and upwardly mobile Nigerians who have made their marks in their different private endeavours became more interested in the political process and play a role in determining who governs the country.
The group said for long, professionals and technocrats hardly participate in the political process of the country.
“Rather, what they do is to complain and lament about the state of affairs of the country. We have complained enough,” Samuels said.
“We cannot continue to go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp groups and be lamenting about how the country is drifting. Enough of that. It is time to get involved and try to change things in the country by being part of the political process. And there is no better platform to do this than through the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN. We are out to serve as the rallying point for technocrats and professionals to come out of the shells and become part of the political process.”
The Edo State-born medical doctor added that the group is made up of those he called ‘Technoticians’; a hybrid of technocrats and politicians. He explained, however, that in their own case, the 80-20 rule applies as they are more of technocrats than politicians.
“For us to be involved in politics, we have to be known as politicians. But we are first and foremost technocrats only getting involved in the political process.

Samuels lamented that for long, the nation has left its political destiny in the hands of few career politicians who only think of the next election and nothing more. The medical practitioner said these professional politicians are the ones that decide what goes on in the country and who and who gets what. He said it was time Nigerians take their destiny into their own hands by legitimately interrogating these forces.
“If you notice, only thirty percent of the populace gets involved in the political process in the country; either through active participation or via voting. Those who hold public offices are less than 20,000, including those at the state level. What we are doing is to talk to the remaining seventy percent and get them to be part of the process. This is what ANN is all about.”

The group said in the statement that the process of INEC registration is at an advanced stage and very soon, this, hopefully would be concluded.