Wike, Amaechi rift worsens over probe panel

The crisis between the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, worsened on Tuesday with each of them trading blame.

Wike, who spoke in an interview with journalists in Abuja, said Amaechi was going to the media to divert attention from the probe panel he set up.

Wike, in another interview with State House correspondents shortly after a meeting President Muhammadu Buhari had with state governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said Amaechi needed not to entertain any fear over the probe panel if he had no skeleton in his cupboard.

Amaechi, who spoke through his former Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, accused Wike of stopping the Federal Government from refunding N108bn it owed the state.

Justifying the probe panel he set up, Wike said, “The essence of the judicial commission does not have to do with a witch-hunt of anybody, but to understand things we could not have understood.

“If he had worked with the transition committee we set up, the committee would have asked one or two questions. No transition committee was set up by the government (Amaechi’s administration).”

The governor insisted a Lexus Jeep (bulletproof) seized from Semenitari belonged to the state government.

He alleged that the commissioner initially said the car was given to by her husband and later claimed that it was a parting gift from government.

According to him, there are no documents to back both claims by the former commissioner.

He recalled that Amaechi, during his administration, set up many probe panels, adding that nobody said such panels were aimed at nailing those opposed to him.

Wike faulted a claim that the Amaechi administration gave him a handover note.

He asked, “Let us start from the national level. When Jonathan was leaving, did he just handover the villa?. Did he not hand over the whole government structure;. from one ministry to the other?”

The governor said the Permanent Secretary of the Government House never gave him a handover note.

He said, “What the permanent secretary did was to brief us on the office… When we set up the transition committee, we wrote to him and said, ‘Time is going. Will you please set up your own transition committee?’”

According to him, apart from refusing to set up his own committee, Amaechi allegedly directed permanent secretaries not to cooperate with the one he set up.

He said apart from owing workers, two months salaries, past administration refused to pay players of Sharks, Dolphin and Rivers Angels football clubs for eight months.

Wike said that pensioners in the state had not been paid since February, adding that there was refuse in the whole of Port Harcourt, because refuse contractors were being owed.

He added that the recommendation of the probe panel he set up would determine whether Amaechi would be reported to anti-graft agencies.

But Amaechi had denied all these allegations, saying he had left the state far better than he met it over eight years ago.

Amaechi in Abuja on Tuesday added that because his government was accountable to the people, he would not shy away from giving the account of his stewardship to the electorate.

Amaechi, who spoke through Semenitari, debunked the claim by Wike that he did not leave any handover notes behind.

She said that all the commissioners and heads of MDAs submitted their handover notes to the Secretary to the State Government, who forwarded same to the Head of the State Civil Service as is appropriate.

“Governor Amaechi also directed the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Tele Ikuru, to be the liaison between the outgoing administration and the incoming one.

“Ikuru, as the Deputy Chairman of the state Executive Council and second man in government, had all the facts necessary to brief the incoming administration,” she added.

Semenitari denied the claim by Wike that she was contacted by security agents before her official car was forcefully taken away from her residence in Port Harcourt.

Semenitari said that at no time did she claim that the Lexus Jeep, forceful taken from her residence, belonged to her husband and that what belonged to him was a Range Rover jeep.

She also said that the government of Amaechi had commenced the payment of April salaries of civil servants before he handed over in May.

She said the Amaechi administration inherited pension arrears of over N4.5bn and that by the time he was leaving office, the state government was owing three months of pension arrears to the mainstream retirees and two months arrears to parastatal pensioners.

“It is to the credit of the Amaechi administration that by the time he was leaving office, he had completed 90 per cent of the Phase 1A of the Rivers State Monorail, completed two major interchanges, two flyovers, 25 bridges and five shore protection projects,” she added.

Semenitari said the Amaechi’s administration also completed 890 kilometres of the ongoing 1,424 kilometres of road projects across the state.

“Out of the roads completed, some of these were federal roads for which the Rivers State Government spent N108bn, Mr. Wike as Minister of State for Education was among those who prevented former President Goodluck Jonathan from paying the Rivers State Government back this debt,” the former commissioner added.

Semenitari said that other states like Akwa Ibom and Abia received repayment for the federal roads they constructed.

She said that as of the time that Amaechi was leaving office, the debts owed the contractors for ongoing road projects totalled N44, 942,354,44.10, adding that the last government owed two banks N17.7bn.

On how the state spent the money made from the sales of the equity in the power generating assets’ company, she said the amount was captured as income in the 2014 Appropriation Law and used to fund capital projects. – Punch.

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