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15.10.2008 Feature Article

When Information Matter Most In Rivers

The Rivers State Information Ministry has not been loquacious since High Chief Ogbonna Nwuke was appointed the Commissioner for Information in the state, as yours truly have been monitoring. The ministry talks maturely. But Nigerians or the traducers of that ministry were ear-opened to trail it on the Golgotha road as they are wont to doing before on the papers, but especially since on 6th of October 2008, the transparency Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led government of Rivers State had been clamouring for, came to the full glare of the Rivers people and indeed Nigerians when the dreaded Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by politicians and other Nigerians of questionable character arrested and detained Nyeson Wike, Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Governor, and the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Magnus Abbe, over alleged loot of the state treasury running into over N300million. The state's accountant-general and the commissioner of finance in the state would have shared in that fate of the aforementioned if not for the reason that they have travelled to London in company of Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The Rivers Information Ministry, as as far as i know, was responsible enough to jabber like a kid, against the expectation of hoodwinkers.

The governor, according to reports, expressed displeasure over the arrest of the State Government (SSG), Magnus Abbe, saying that he (Amaechi) sent him to the EFCC to tell it that the duo he travelled to abroad with were not in the run. They would answer their call by the EFCC if they come back. But the EFCC was quoted saying that the men travelled to abroad possibly to avoid arrest.

Spokesperson for the EFCC, Femi Babafemi, who was a member of Champions For Nigeria, a Nigerian organization headquartered in London, confirmed the detention of Chief of Staff and the SSG.

But how could the EFCC have arrested the SSG who had accompanied the Chief of Staff since the state government was involved? And why would EFCC before now freeze two accounts belonging to the state government as well as an individual account said to belong to the Chief of Staff, Wike, as part of its efforts at fighting alleged massive corruption and treasury looting in the state without duly labelling the victims as culprits prior before a law court? EFCC should have known that any suspect is not yet a criminal!

What a bizarre! “Some of the allegations being investigated by the EFCC, include that the Chief of Staff, Mr. Wike is allegedly in control of a massive building in Port Harcourt worth about N150 million, which he reportedly told investigators that he was building on behalf of Governor Amaechi and that all the transactions was done using cash taken out of the state accounts with Zenith Bank of Nigeria in Port Harcourt”. Stop throwing confusion here!

If this is true that he Chief of Staff to the governor, Nyeson Wike, in connivance with Zenith Bank officials at the Azikiwe Road branch, opened one of the accounts (Number 601-091-6587) on March 27th 2008 with the fictitious name, "Harrison Ba Princewill”, then there is no body on earth to be trusted. And if the fictitious account, as reported, was being run by Wike on behalf of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, without a 'next of kin', then the bank should be quizzed to why it refused to follow the nomenclature known of banks.

Hear the EFCC: "the account lacked such required information as passport photographs and information about the next of kin of "Harrison B. Princewill". However, the account was fully active and enjoying daily inflows of cash such that by April 26 2008, that is, within one month, it had already been credited with N3.6 billion ($30 million). As the money swelled in Zenith bank, officials notified Wike that the account was being monitored for suspicious activities. On June 5th 2008, Mr. Wike colluded with a Zenith bank staff named "Mohammed" to change the account details and convert it to a "Government House Account". "Harrison Ba Princewill" then became a depositor to the new "Government House Account".

Maybe, Wike was having lapses in his head. Maybe his head was jamming to be contradicting issues. Or was he afraid of the EFCC to jabber and say things, which are best, listened with the rectum. However, he may have thrown darkness or light to the whole drama, one thing what of note was how the information was let loose for the consummation of the populace. Not even the state government has denied this, but it is irked as to why the SSG who the government confirmed that he sent on errand to the EFCC office to tell it that the two people whom it alleged were on the run travelled to abroad with him.

It is the worst of shame for any government, which clamours for transparency to be caught with goat whereas there are cows. I am yet to believe the story credited to the Chief of Staff or the EFCC that Amaechi was an alleged accomplice in the fraud, which was reported that, another account directly controlled by Nyeson Wike (Number 602-500-4949) at the same branch of Zenith Bank in Port Harcourt began to witness a flurry of activities. Between June 5 and July 3rd 2008, the sum of N223 million passed into the account from the new "Government House Account" and several illegal transfers followed afterwards. And then, on September 5, 2008 at exactly 3:30p.m. Mr.Wike withdrew the sum of N300 million from his account at Zenith Bank, and promptly disappeared into thin air”.

Perhaps, there are people who are cooking up these stories because the politics in Nigeria have become dangerous. Amaechi's political opponents duly, want to pull him down, by all means. And if Wike, in his good order, confessed that he was a 'fraudstar', then we have to check if he was hypnotized. What could the governor be doing with a paltry sum of that amount, as EFCC wants us to believe, whereas the state allocation is incalculable? Amaechi should check his enemy within his household. Something is in the amiss. In a nutshell, I must give kudos to the state ministry of information for not joining issues with critics. Perhaps, it understood that a man who is not criticized is not doing well. So, Amaechi-led government needs criticisms because it is doing well. (Thunder fire monkey!)

Odimegwu Onwumere, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. +2348032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2008

This author has authored 586 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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