BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, Port Harcourt
Rivers State governor, Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, has called on religious leaders in the country to speak up against illegal and corrupt actions of the federal government to stem the drift of the country into an era of unprecedented crisis.
Wike made the call yesterday in his keynote address at the 12th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), held at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The governor said, “As long as the state of affairs in Nigeria does not conform to the ideas of justice, democracy, the rule of law and the moral injunctions of God, and as long as there remains no clear hope that things are going to change for the good of the country, we need as many voices that can speak truth to power and the Church of God cannot afford to keep quiet, while things go wrong and the nation continues to drift dangerously towards the cliff of crisis.”
He regretted that the fight against corruption has been politicised and skewed in a manner to oppress opponents of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government.
Wike said, “People say power of any kind corrupts, but political power can be more vicious if exercised unchecked and in disregard of democratic norms. While we all support the federal government’s much-vaunted, but pretentious fight against corruption, it is patently wrong to fight corruption with corruption and double-speak or by side-stepping the rule of law, disobeying court orders and blackmailing the judiciary to submission. Unfortunately, this is the order of the day under the present democratic dispensation.”
The governor called on the Church to be active moral guardians of political powers as instructed by God in order to reassert its influence as a critical voice for justice and insisting that government actions must at all-time be secured on legal and moral legitimacy.
He said, “How can the federal government justify the situation where former public office holders from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are continuously harassed, hunted and hounded with corruption charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, while at the same time sparing those other members who defected to the All Progressives Congress of similar investigations and treatment except the pure vendetta against His Excellency, Dr. Bukola Saraki for daring to contest the office of the Senate Presidency against the wish of the cabals in his party.
“What has become of the case of those who were arrested for printing fake ballot papers with INEC’s authentic serial numbers to be used to rig the December 2016 legislative re-run elections? Have we not been vindicated by the recent judgments of the election tribunals, which strangely but questionably accepted and based their judgments on the fake results presented to them from the custody of the Nigerian Police, which actively and shamelessly participated in the rigging process?”
Wike used the 12th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria to outline steps his administration took to reposition Rivers State after the Amaechi’s administration mismanaged funds that accrued to the state.
The governor said, “It is over two years since we assumed office on May 29, 2015. As some of us may recall, our experience as an incoming or new government was quite harrowing. In the first instance, the outgoing government never gave us a chance to succeed and sabotaged us from the very beginning. Apart from refusing to cooperate with our transition team, we were startled by the state of things we inherited.”
“First, they emptied the state’s treasury to such an extent that we had no other choice than to scurry for funds from banks to pay salaries, run initial activities and prevent the government from failing before we even started. And when we did that with authorization from the State House of Assembly, they screamed blue murder just to score unavailable political points”.
He regretted that despite the corruption of the immediate past administration, the federal government has refused to prosecute the perpetrators of corrupt actions in the state.
Wike stated that after two years , his administration has revived Rivers State, improved the road infrastructure, health facilities and education.
The governor said, “Our economy has not only recovered, it is growing, creating jobs and driving our development agenda. Here in Rivers State, we have not only cleared the salary arrears we inherited, we do not owe salaries to any civil servant. Indeed, we are presently in a position to pay salaries to civil servants without relying on budget support from the federal government.
“The fact cannot be denied that before we came in Port Harcourt roads were some of the worst wrecked in this country. Today, residents and visitors to Diobu, Port Harcourt Township, Forces Avenue, Harold Wilson Drive, Borokiri, D/Line, Oro-Worokwo, Ogbunabali, Nkpogu, Dr. Peter Odili road and other parts of the state capital now drive on some of the smoothest roads you can ever think of.”
In his remarks, Primate of Anglican Church, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh said the theme of the General Synod, “Thou shalt not steal”, is taken from the Bible and forms the Church’s commitment to the fight against corruption.
Okoh said, “Leaders or persons who usurp the positions or privileges of others, either forcefully or clandestinely are also stealing. The culture of percentage kickbacks on contracts, outright embezzlement of public funds and bribery are all acts of stealing.
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