Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The allegation by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, that wife of former governor of the state, Mrs. Judith Amaechi, was extorting between N2 and N3 million monthly from commissioners and local government chairmen during the tenure of the former governor has pitted both camps in a war of words.
While former Governor Chibuike Amaechiâ€™s aides claim the allegation was false, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said evidence of the payments abound.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt thursday, the commissioners and local government chairmen who served during the tenure of Amaechi described the allegation as false.
The statement, signed on their behalf, by Fred Mbombo-Igwe and Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, former Commissioner for Sports and former Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, respectively, accused Wike, who was former Chief of Staff under Amaechi, of hiding under the subterfuge of his office as intermediary between the then governor and other elected or appointed public officials made financial demands and extorted money from council chairmen including arm twisting them to award contracts to him.
The statement read in part, â€œThe attention of former Chairmen of Local Government Councils and Commissioners in Rivers State during the administration of former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi have been drawn to a recent media interview granted by current governor of Rivers State, Wike, where Wike falsely accused Judith Amaechi, the wife of our boss of extorting and collecting monthly, between N2million to N3million from Commissioners and Local Government Council chairmen respectively, while her husband was the state governor.
â€œWike, while serving as the Chief of Staff to Amaechi interfaced regularly with council chairmen. With this rare privilege and his avarice plus his corrupt tendencies, he elected to commit a lot of fraudulent and sharp practices including massive looting and various degree of financial extortion on the council chairmen and commissioners who felt hapless due to his perceived closeness to the governor as the chief of staff.
â€œOn several occasions, Wike hiding under the subterfuge of his office as intermediary between the then governor and other elected or appointed public officials, made financial demands and extorted money from council chairmen including arm twisting them to award contracts to him.â€
But, in a swift reaction, the Publicity Secretary of PDP, Samuel Nwanosike, challenged the former commissioners and chairmen local government councils to provide evidence that Wike made monetary demands from elected and political appointees while serving as Chief of Staff to Amaechi.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt thursday, Nwanosike said: â€œRivers people are aware of what happened in Empowerment Support Initiative (ESI) under the leadership of Amaechi. In fact, to put the record straight, it is not only commissioners, even lawmakersâ€™ constituency projects were made to be diverted to ESI as part of condition to allow them the opportunity to run for election again.
â€œAs I am talking to you, Timothy Nsirim, the former chairman of Obio/Akpor local government area, was sacked from office because he insisted that he will not contribute to that.
â€œI challenge Ojukaye Flag-Amachree and those that signed the press statement to produce any document showing payments made to Wike. But, I am telling you, all the monies paid during the tenure of Amaechi to ESI have evidences.â€
The PDP publicity secretary also said Amaechi should bury his head in shame for daring to talk about probity when he mismanaged the resources of the state during his eight years as governor.