RIVER, Nigeria – The Convener, Network for the Defence of Democracy and Good Governance (NDDGG), Sobomabo Jackrich, has faulted the N500 million donation to Sokoto State government by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, describing it as reckless, selfish and politically motivated.
Jackrich in a statement, issued on Monday said they were worried about the way Wike was wasting the resources of the state without addressing the real challenges facing Rivers.
He said while NDDGG sympathised with victims of the fire incident that occurred at the Sokoto Central Market, there was no justification for Wike to embark on such an unaccounted obligation, abandoning all the problems of Rivers.
“We sympathize with the government and people of Sokoto state over their loss, but we view this move as Governor Wike’s selfish politically motivated and reckless donation of the collective resources of Rivers state, which took place less than twenty four hours after the Sokoto market inferno during his visit to that State.
“The NDDGG wish to sound it loud and clear that Sokoto is not a territory of Rivers warranting such unaccountable obligation. It is worrisome that this official menace is coming just a few days after Governor Wike announced that his government had received the over N78.9bn refunds approved by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, being money owed the state from the construction of federal roads by past administrations of the state.
“The action of the Governor clearly proves that he does not seem to have a protected future at stake or vision for our dear state. He is not bothered that the state ranks number one on the unemployment index having the highest unemployed population as published by the National Bureau of Statistics and other institutions.
“This is a state without any functional profit-making enterprise or an industrial park. The question to ask is where is the governor deriving powers to make such arbitrary financial dissipations of our public funds that were not captured in any accessible budget if not for political trading purposes?”
Jackrich said they were bothered by the refusal of Wike to pay pensions and gratuities since 2015 till date, adding that the Governor looked the other way despite many protests and deaths of retirees in the state.
He further added: “Most importantly, our state has been operating a secret budget system since 2015 even though the government denies this fact indefensibly without any evidence to the contrary. This lack of transparency and accountability has been chasing away development partners from Rivers state.
“We have been raising alarm on this issue but the government has kept an arrogant silence. In a recent report, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed was quoted as saying that Rivers State was among four states that got zero allocation from a World Bank grant of more than N123bn due to their inability to meet the 2019 eligibility criteria, which required states to publish online approved annual budgets and audited financial statements within a specific timeframe.
“This is most embarrassing as the Treasure Base of the nation. This is just one amongst several other reasons including lack of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and in all, Rivers people are the biggest losers.
“We demand transparency on the utilisation of the N78.9bn refunds and further call on the state government to pay our retirees from the refunds as a way of not making our people die regretting why they used their entire life to serve their fatherland.
“NDDGG will be left with no other option than to mobilize Rivers people to embark on mass action in the coming days including exploring all legal avenues to compel. the Wike-led Rivers state government to account for all our monies if our governor fails to reorder his steps. If nothing is urgently done, our state will be reduced to a den of beggars as a result of artificial poverty caused by government’s insensitivity”.