Delta's 100 early days of knocks for Okowa

By Harris-Okon Emmanuel, Delta on 02/09/2015

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Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa of Delta State, also known as Ekwueme by his political acolytes, rode to power on a populist platform with a striking campaign slogan, “PROSPERITY FOR DELTANS.” The catchphrase instantly stole the hearts of many, apparently due to the poverty level in the state. No thanks to the economic meltdown occasioned by alleged unbridled sleaze in the polity and bad administration since 1999 when democracy returned after many years of military interregnum.

As paradoxical as ever, barely 48 hours on the saddle, Okowa did the unthinkable. Without blinking an eye lid, the “prosperity governor’’, sacked no fewer than 3,000 workers in the Delta State Civil Service, employed between 2013 and 2014 by the former Governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan.


The reason for the putsch, contained in a circular letter dated June 1, 2015, with reference number GHA16 Vol. VI/154, stated that the recruitment exercise, was fraught with irregularities and that exorbitant amounts were extorted from some job applicants before they were employed by dubious senior civil servants. The Civil Service Commission Board was equally suspended.

 It was like a bolt out of the blue. To say that Deltans, especially the sacked workers and their families were shocked by the dramatic turn of event for a man who preached the prosperity mantra on every campaign stops, could be merely restating the obvious.

A public affairs analyst, Dr. Fred Latimore Oghenesivbe, without delay poured venom on the governor for the kick out, and predicted succinctly in his piece that the worst was yet to come because there were several other surprises to be rolled out by the “EKWUEME” of Delta politics.

“He is known to be extremely rugged and heartless and could revenge to the point of spilling blood. That is Ifeanyi Okowa for you, any time, any day. I told a friend at that time that the slogan is merely crafted by political tacticians to attract votes from Deltans and nothing more,” Oghenesivbe said.

Many had described the retrenchment of workers as the harbinger of Okowa’s many surprises.  And they were not wrong. A few days later, the governor with secret file under his arm, approached the State Legislature, where he announced to the world the huge debt burden of N637 billion he inherited from his predecessor, Uduaghan.

In what could be described as an “epistle” to the lawmakers, the governor reeled out details of the debt profile and pleaded with the legislators and the people of the state to gird their loins as the task ahead was enormous.

Prior to that announcement which sent shock waves round the state and beyond, he had reportedly sourced for and taken a loan of N10 billion from a commercial bank without the approval of the lawmakers, it was gathered.

Also before his inauguration proper on May 29, the governor had pieced together what pundits called a bogus 97- man transition committee and in their report, they had amongst other things put the number of civil commissioners in the erstwhile administration of Dr.  Uduaghan at 33 while his special advisers and political aides were put at 165.

However, in his 100 days in office, Okowa has appointed 12 civil commissioners as his first batch of commissioners in the State, eight other names have been forwarded to the House for screening and clearance for appointment. Besides, well   over 100 political aides either as special advisers, special assistants, project directors and personal aides, including a 30-man advisory and peace committee headed by Professor Sam Oyovwaire, a former Minister of Information have been engaged.     

Within the period under review, the governor sent three executive bills to the House for passage into law, which included, one, a bill for a law to establish the Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency (DSCTDA). Two, a bill for a law amending the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Commission (DESOPADEC). And third, a bill for the law establishing the Delta State Technical and Vocational Education (DSTVE). These bills were passed by the Assembly with supersonic speed, or so it seemed.                                           

As he joined his counterparts in the country to observe the proverbial 100 days, many respondents have taken the governor to the cleaners over alleged non-performance on the job, with some wondering whether the shoe is too large for him to wear going by the nuances of his policies, appointments and pronouncements. To them, it is business as usual as they were yet to see a sharp departure from the past in his style of leadership.

A prominent human rights lawyer, Oghenejabor Ikimi scored the governor very low in his assessment, picking holes in his appointments, accusing him of recycling “old brigades” and relating it as “100 days of commotion in the governance of the state, reminiscent of the television drama series, Fuji house of commotion.” 

According to Ikimi, a common feature of the governor’s appointments made so far is that of duplicity of job description and functions, and the dissipation of public funds.

The lawyer-turned activist was particular about the press unit, tongue-lashing the governor for appointing six spokesmen, virtually doing the same job, an action he described as insensitive and wasteful, given the state’s lean purse.

He said: “For instance, Governor Okowa has a Chief Press Secretary, a Communications Manager, four Press Secretaries i.e Electronic media, Social media, Print media and Community Newspaper, all doing the same job of image laundering for the Governor, while the state is saddled with a debt burden of N647 billion or more. One is therefore at a loss as to what has informed these bogus appointments bearing in mind the present debt profile of state. Are these appointments the necessary sacrifices the citizens of the state need to make to put our state on the part of economic recovery?  Are the above bogus appointments indices to the economic recovery Governor Okowa talked about while addressing members of the State House of Assembly?

Ikimi who doubles as the Executive Director, Centre for the Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, (Centrep), also took a swipe at the governor over the passage of the DSCTDA law, which he said was a retrogressive, sectional and clannish legislation meant to develop Asaba without recourse to other parts of the state.

“The governor since the passage of the above Law has not told Deltans his blue print or the road map on how he intends to develop the other parts of the State. Recently while swearing in 12 civil commissioners and 5 special advisers in the State, Governor Okowa reiterated the fact that his administration has zero tolerance for disunity, sectionalism, and corruption in the State. Is the passage of the above legislation to develop Asaba without recourse to other parts of the State not sectional?’’ he queried.                        

On the law amending the DESOPADEC Law, he noted that the problem with the commission was far from that of mere restructuring, more than the fact that it was plagued with undue political interference, a vice that had turned it into a cesspool of corruption.

His contention was that rather than insulate the commission from politics by appointing seasoned technocrat to man same so that the developmental needs of host communities could be met, he said the governor resorted to appointing his party members as board members, leaving the issue of political interference unresolved.

Hear him: “Thus the activities of the Commission remained business as usual while her accounts as a body have also remained unaudited from inception. Is this what Governor Okowa meant by zero tolerance for corruption in the state?’’                                                                                      

He added that despite the passage into law of the DSTVB, the building blocks needed for the foundation of a veritable technical and vocational education in the state in strict sense was yet to be laid.

To him, the governor’s  five point agenda with the acronym SMART, would not take the state to the Eldorado as it was still a mere political slogan reminiscent of his predecessor, Uduaghan's three point agenda as the blue print for the actualisation of same was yet to be laid.

“For instance, one of the cardinal points of Governor Okowa's five point agenda is job generation and creation. Recently the State Commissioner for Commerce, Mrs. Mary Iyasere told Deltans that the Delta Government has decided to revamp 20 of her ailing industries, such as the Bendel Glass Factory, etc and to even privatise some of the ailing industries to generate jobs for Deltans. The commissioner was however silent on the mechanism the government has put in place to achieving the above task as we all know that in the business world, it is not profitable to privatise an ailing company or an industry as same would be unattractive to would-be investors.

Another Niger Delta activist, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, corroborated Ikimi on the DESOPDADEC law, the various appointments so far made and lack of clear cut policies enunciation as SMART was merely political jingle.

He said: “I have not seen anything he has done. Although 100 days are not enough to assess the direction of the government, however the few appointments and policies he has introduced have shown that there is nothing special about his government. Over 50 per cent of the appointments are disappointment to Deltans because these are people who in their previous offices failed woefully. So it was surprising to see the same crop of people being appointed as commissioners and special aides. Some of tend to believe that if he continues like this, his government may not make achieve much because of the sycophants he has surrounded himself with.

Comrade Mulade, who is the Chairman of Kokodiagbene, an oil producing riverside community, particularly knocked the governor for bias in selecting members of the state interventionist agency, saying that Ijaw people were short changed because of their resistance against the amended law and campaign for equity and fair play in the board.

“We are yet to see any ground breaking of mega project(s) in the state.’’

In their summation, a groundswell of respondents are urging the governor to make the welfare and security of Deltans the primary focus of his administration and spread physical developments across the strata of the state if indeed he must succeed.




Source Whirlwindnews.cem

Posted on September, 2 2015

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