Commission Of Inquiry Not For Witch-Hunt, Says Wike   | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Commission Of Inquiry Not For Witch-Hunt, Says Wike  

Posted: Jun 28, 2015 at 12:02 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, briefed the media on the state of affairs in the state since he took over. JOE NWANKWO was there. Excerpts:



 Last week, there was a report of the recovery of a vehicle from a former commissioner, seen by some people as witch-hunt. Did you ask former public office holders to return their vehicles? Thank you for this question. If you can recollect, after we were sworn in we told the whole world that there was no handover notes. We were not briefed at all. We had no information as to whether there was anything given to anybody as parting gift.  As you all know, we noticed that Government House was looted. They said that it was not correct; that I was just looking for a way to award contract and I said that I don’t need this before I can award contract. Take, for instance, in the Presidential Villa, the former President relocated some weeks before handover; he packed out of the place so that the place could be renovated. Renovation did start before he handed over. If I come in, I could say these chairs are old, I need to have new chairs; it is not a ?witch-hunt. The issue of removing old furniture so I can award fresh contract is neither here nor there; which is not correct. We got information that some of the vehicles were scattered here and there. We got information that some of the vehicles are parked at Trans Amadi, we sent security men; they discovered that the vehicles were parked there and they helped us to recover them. We also got information that a Lexus Bullet Proof 570 SUV was parked at the premises of a former commissioner. We reported to the Police; that was one of the Government House vehicles. It is not the vehicle she was using in her office then as a commissioner. She cannot use Lexus that costs N60 million to N70 million as official vehicle. So, we sent security men to recover the vehicle. Initially she said on phone that it was given to her as parting gift. I have no problem with that but there should be record to show it was given to her as parting gift. We asked where the records were because they didn’t handover anything to anybody. Later, she said that it was bought for her by her husband and we asked her to bring the particulars. When I came here (Abuja) last week, I went to the Bank of Industry building; the former Liaison Officer, not knowing that we were there, was with one of the vehicles we were looking for. The security recovered it and I asked them to bring the man. When he came, I asked him why he was using government vehicle and he claimed that it was his vehicle and I asked him to bring the particulars. Till now, more than two weeks, he has not brought them. So, it is very easy to go to the media and make false claims; dish out propaganda. All those things were not correct. Monetisation policy is such that when I was a minister, for instance, no vehicle was bought to me in the ministry. Whatever thing, including housing, have to be built into your salary. So, when did they buy the vehicle? I worked there, so, they can’t deceive me. If he did not handover anything to me and I got information that some people have taken our vehicles, is it not incumbent on me to recover the vehicles? That is as it relates to the vehicle. You said the former governor said it is a witch-hunt and I say, witch-hunt for what? Is this the first time a commission of inquiry would be set up in Rivers State? When he set up judicial commission of inquiry, were they all witch-hunts that he is now saying it is witch-hunt? When he came in, he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; was that a witch-hunt? He set up commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Georgewill, who is now in the Court of Appeal. After the crises in the House of Assembly, two weeks before he left office, he set up the Odinla Kalu Commission of Inquiry on Political Killings and gave them two, three weeks to make recommendations. Was he witch-hunting people? Now, the question is, if those panels were not witch-hunt, at what time did it become a witch-hunt? Why is this one now a witch-hunt? Can we have more details on the handover issue? When we came into office on May 29, he didn’t hand over anything to us; nobody handed over anything to us. Should we now simply continue to lament that I have nothing to work with? I called the Permanent Secretaries and they said they were not even aware of these transactions. What then do we do? These are Rivers State’s funds and assets; let us see how they were sold or purchased, he said it is a witch-hunt. According to him, he ran a transparent system. Why should anybody witch-hunt him? I am saying it loud and clear that nobody is going to witch-hunt anybody. The commission is not illegal, unconstitutional. Nobody indicted anybody. You have a right to ask one or two questions. The essence of the commission is not to witch-hunt anybody but to unravel anything we may not have understood. Nobody was there to explain anything to us. If he had worked with our transition committee, there would have been an interface, but he did not set up a transition committee; nobody explained anything to us. You are also aware that it is only in our state that there was no transition committee set up by the government. We wrote letters, nobody agreed to listen or explain anything to us. The looting at Government House was also not correct. He refused to set up a transition committee to interface with our own transition committee. He sent back the letter. We went through e-mail; we wrote the Permanent Secretary, but he instructed them not to interface with us. We were working based on information made available to me. It was when we took over that we summoned all the Permanent Secretaries and they gave information to the transition committee. We asked them questions and they said they are not aware of it. Every Permanent Secretary said he was not aware and that some of these things were done without their knowledge. What do you want me to do? We are working from nowhere. In every system, you should bring a document, even if it is not much but it is a guide. Who is the person that handed over to me? He even said he handed over to me. How could he have done that after I was inaugurated? Tell me. For whatever it is, on the day of inauguration, was there anybody who came and handed over anything to me? So, how did you get started? After my inauguration, I went to office; then on Monday, I went to office where I swore in the acting Chief Judge and acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal; I never saw anybody. In fact, when I called the Permanent Secretary, Government House, he said there was no diesel. I was the one buying diesel in the Government House. It looked bizarre, but it is true! It is a reality. It is unfortunate and he is now diverting attention. He sold our assets. The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Power, didn’t know?. I called him to ask him and he said, “Sir, that was what I heard also.” He said he was not a signatory. About 70 per cent of our power assets were sold at $302,400,000. The money was paid in December and as at March this year, there was no single dollar. The Permanent Secretary denied knowledge of this transaction. From the briefs you received from these Permanent Secretaries, is it possible for you to know the position of the state’s finances? The Permanent Secretaries didn’t give me a brief. They had to meet the transition committee which submitted its final report last week Friday. From what they gave me, the FAC account is different from the main account. The other ones are ministries’ accounts. I can tell you that two days to the handover date, they were collecting N10 million apiece up to N200 million to paint road pavements. I called the permanent secretary then and asked him why they gave contracts and paid N200 million cash and he said he was helpless. Is this not funny? You may not appreciate what I am saying, but when you look carefully, you will appreciate what we are doing. He said he kept N7 billion. How can that be and you owed salaries for several months? What is the N7 billion doing? For April and May, they have not paid salaries, Sharks, Rivers Angel, and Dolphins were not paid for seven to eight months. Refuse littered the streets and contractors were not paid. Pensioners were not paid and you said you were saving money. What are you saving money for? When we won election, at a point, we raised alarm over the withdrawals and they stopped. As at May 28, monies were still being withdrawn. Given what you met on the ground, how do you want to resolve this issue; will you involve anti-graft agencies? We have set up a judicial commission of inquiry; let them finish and then we’ll know what to do. Why should we be writing anti-graft agencies when we have set up a commission of inquiry? Let us see what they will come up with first. Let them make recommendations. Let them submit their report first. What worries some of us is your modus operandi. Don’t you think that you could have handled the matter differently, by due process rather than use task force? How? Is judicial commission not due process? Which task force? I told you that we reported the issues to the security agencies and they helped us to recover the cars. Is this not due process? They were the ones that recovered the vehicles, not any so-called task force. Do some of these assets really belong to government? The bullet-proof vehicle was government’s black Lexus ?Jeep (tinted). It is not enough to just protect your colleague, it is your right. Part of the problems we have is you. Who determines what is due process? Would it be fair to report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) first? If the husband owns it, she should sue us or bring the particulars. The vehicle you saw was not an ordinary jeep. It is black Lexus Jeep. She is your colleague, you have the right to protect her, but we want you to help us and be objective. Look at the vehicle there. If the husband owns it, she should sue us. But you sacked 324 polytechnic workers. Why? It is not right. That is why it is good to get this information right. Do you know why the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost election in Rivers State? They were always in the media doing propaganda; we went to the grassroots campaigning from house to house and we knew we will win because they didn’t campaign. How many villagers read newspapers? Their votes are on their minds. The moment we won election, I started hearing about recruitment. I heard about RUST and the Polytechnic sacking workers and I invited the Vice Chancellor and the Rector to ask when they started recruiting and they explained to me that they got approval in 2012, and started the process in 2013 and started employing in April 2015 but, unfortunately, his chairman denied that, saying he told him he had completed employment when he was appointed. I asked again, those you want to employ, have you issued letters of employment to them? He said no. When you talk about sack, it gives the impression that people were employed and they have started working and you stopped them from working. Let me make it clear, the Rector was still writing employment letters in April after I had won election. He had not even issued letters to anybody. Nobody has started any work. When you can’t pay salaries for two months, you are employing more people, how do you pay them? He started employing on April 20. The mere fact that somebody was given a letter of employment does not make one an employee. The person must have fulfilled other conditions, but they have not. So, the issue of sacking lecturers does not arise. You can only sack when somebody has started working, properly so. But I said the process should stop until we have completed investigations. Was it not to compound the problems of the state? When I was minister, I pleaded with the President to intervene in Rivers State institutions. He approved N500 million for each of these state institution’s as grant from the Federal government. When I was being interviewed on View Point, they asked what the Federal Government has done in Rivers State and I mentioned this among several other things. Right now, not even one kobo has been released to any of these institutions. Immediately I finished, Amaechi asked the Rector to go on air to announce that he didn’t receive any money and the Rector said so. We were at a meeting at TETFUND and the Rector came and I challenged him and he said it was pressure, this man lied again. I never sacked any lecturer. When you employ somebody, there are rules; you can’t sack civil servants anyhow. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has not said anything, but the national body has taken over; Keyamo has been briefed. Look at the politics. Let them show me where they have taken salaries for even a day, and they said I sacked them. I never sacked any lecturer. There is a process for sacking civil servants. What they do is propaganda and politics. People in the state have not said anything; it is Abuja and Lagos that are complaining.