It was a pariah people were afraid to discuss in the open, but they preferred murmuring it. But on Friday, 15 January 2009, the Rivers State's Information Commissioner, High Chief Ogbonna Nwuke broke the jinx. He said that government is now anxious to handle the issue people were afraid to discuss: over reported cases of harassment and extortion of guiltless commercial motorcycle riders, whose areas are not affected by the state government policy in the ban of Okada.
However, it is no longer news that the many Nigeria's enforcement agencies derive joy and happiness in repressing the citizens of our great nation. Reports of extortion and harassment of commercial transport operators including commercial motorcyclists in the rural areas of Rivers State by security agents is one of such useless repressing approach that enforcement agencies derive joy and happiness from. But Nwuke, in his capacity as Rivers State Information Commissioner, is showing tremendous improvement in overall safety with information management in the Rivers State.
He stated that the state government has warned that it will deal with any law enforcement agent held for repressing the Rivers people and their visitors without the kids'glove o the issue of Okada ban. Nwuke said this at the same time as briefing reporters after the first State Executive Council's meeting this year.
Whilst Oyigbo and Eleme Local Government Areas main townships were announced by Nwuke as the areas affected by the ban on commercial motorcycle operation and not the surrounding communities, one wonders why some of these good-for-nothing enforcement agents still derive joy in the peril of their dastardly act in catching okada men whose areas are not affected by the ban? Even that the Commissioner has expressed regret that men suspected to be in uniform were harassing and extorting money from commercial motorcycle operators plying within the suburbs of Eleme and Oyigbo townships? The act now seems to be a norm among these suspect uniform men.
Hear Ho. Nwuke: “The ban on Okada affected only Port Harcourt, Oyigbo, Obio Akpor, and Eleme townships, and not the outer reaches like Afam and Ebubu.” Nwuke condemned the harassment of innocent Nigerians in the rural areas of Rivers State, and said that such further act will no longer be tolerated, in respect to the ban.
Despite the fact that Nwuke is doing his best to make sure that any information about Rivers State get to all and sundry without any iota of deceit, it is regrettable that men in Police uniform, who were expected to help enforce the laws, were the ones ridding motorcycles without crash helmets. This was even observed by the State Executive Council during the meeting.
This is the same way Hon. Nwuke has informed the Rivers State that the Rivers State Executive Council has directed the Commissioner for Energy to take necessary steps within the law to ensure compliance, following the reduction in pump price of Petroleum Products, and the attendant sharp practices engaged by marketers. This has resurrected the Energy Ministry's Task Forces in the state, who now mobilize security agencies to monitor the operations of filling stations in a bid to checkmating hoarding of Petroleum Products and selling above approved pump price.
Even as briefing newsmen on the outcome of the State Executive Council meeting in Port Harcourt, the Commissioner disclosed this and said, “The Executive Council reviewed actions of petroleum marketers before taking the position to protect residents from hardship caused by their attitude.”
On the government's efforts on automated salary payments, Nwuke agreed that “the new system posed challenges in some areas that need to be corrected, particularly the mix ups that resulted in salary delay of some workers.”
In his words: “ The Exco has directed top officials of the state to crossing point with the bank officials to ensure that all the bottle necks identified were corrected to enable its workers benefit maximally from the automated salary payment.”
He has talked on the Council approval of building of a 250-Bed Mother and Child Hospital. He has also talked about the18 storey Adolphus Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital construction and said it will commence within the year.
He did not deceive the people when he stated that, “Although the site for the hospital is being tested to accommodate the gigantic structure, the design is ready, and soon the plan would be translated into reality as funds has equally been set aside for the project.” On security, he said, “The security situation in the state has greatly improved.”
There is every need for Rivers people and Nigerians indeed to thank such a man like Hon. Ogbonna Nwuke, for not have opaque nature, in the dissemination of information that concern Rivers State, because Information is power.
Odimegwu Onwumere, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Oyigbo, Rivers State. [email protected]