The Rivers State government has berated an accusation by an opposition leader in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, that Governor Nyesom Wike is on a property procurement spree.
Peterside, former Commissioner for Works and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, alleged that Wike acquired not less than 400 houses for himself and his cronies.
The government, in a communique signed by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, stated that Peterside had dangerously crossed the line of decency into “primitive maliciousness”.
Peterside stated that the governor imposed agony on some senior civil servants last year when he dismissed them from their official residence in the Old and New Government Reserved Areas (GRAs) and other areas in Port Harcourt.
The immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), reported that Wike acquired some of the houses, whilst others were sold off at ridiculous market value to his friends and partners in crime.
He said: “Wike will go down as the most greedy and covetous governor in Rivers’ history. No governor has ever shown such craving for obscene wealth in Nigeria’s history as Wike.
“Wike’s house in his village, Rumueprikom, with all luxurious appetite that includes a helipad and bullet-proof gadgets, has become the official Government House of Rivers.
“And, in his unbridled lust for estate acquisition, Wike is buying-off more property, including churches, schools, and private family houses, in the Ada George area of Port Harcourt, either opposite, behind, or adjacent to his palatial mansion to expand his estate.
“To intimidate his Rivers’ victims more, including the families he forced to relinquish their family legacies to him, Wike has mounted all caliber of surveillance equipment and armed security men to provide 24-hour security around his mansion.
“On top of all of that, Wike’s appetite to seize-and-acquire, like hell, is enlarging by the day.”
Peterside blamed Wike of giving away over 50 houses which he used his office as governor to seize from their rightful owners, located in the Old GRA, Amadi Flats, GRA Phases 1, 2 and 3, to his political friends within and outside the state.
“Governor Wike behaves as if he is in control of the future, disregarding the culture of civility, equity, fairness, empathy and due process associated with the exalted office of the governor; Wike is indeed a shame to Rivers’ people and all that the state represents,” he said.
But Nsirim faulted Peterside of being invidious.
He said: “One cannot help but wonder, not for the umpteenth time, how low, petty, jaundiced and begrudgingly spiteful Mr. Peterside has sunk, in his unbridled obsession to discredit Governor Nyesom Wike.
“His latest rant not only reeks of resentful bitterness and acrimonious slander but has dangerously crossed the line of decency into primitive maliciousness, unbecoming of a man of his supposed intelligence and claimed academic status.
“From puerile and unsubstantiated allegations of seizing property and dashing them to his friends and cronies, Dakuku Peterside betrays his shallow pettiness by crudely attempting a graphically salacious, yet tasteless description of a functional and operational building, located in the very heart of a throbbing capital city like Port Harcourt, in line with the urban renewal initiatives of the Governor Wike administration, which is transforming Port Harcourt in particular, into a capital city of picturesque beauty.
“For the avoidance of doubt and with sincere apologies for the repetition, we wish to appeal to the patience of those who may rightly recall, that we have explained and cleared the air on the recovery of properties, especially in previous rejoinders to this same Dakuku”.
Nsirim disclosed that the Rivers State Executive Council decided to acquire deteriorated government quarters from civil servants and unrightful occupants within Old and New Government Residential Area (GRA), Port Harcourt and relocated them to competent private individuals.
He said a task force, established by the Rivers Government discovered that some of the properties were illegally procured by retired civil servants through fraudulent processes of allocation and sale and some others also fell into utter dilapidation following abject neglect and lack of maintenance by the occupants.
He said: “The properties were totally in uninhabitable condition and many were converted into commercial and business uses; in some cases, they were even sub-let to private tenants, and some of these tenants used the premises for poultries, fish ponds, barbing saloons, and other unauthorized activities.
“The task force also discovered that some of the properties were found to be under illegal occupants by non-civil servants, some of whom were even non-indigenes.
“This, therefore, necessitated the recovery of these properties as part of the government’s urban renewal programme.
“The task force accorded the people the right to follow due process, even though some folks stubbornly toed the ill-advised path of non-compliance, which had its well spelt out penalty. Notices were duly served in addition to a series of meetings so that nobody was taken unawares.
“The civil servant-occupants, who were affected by the recovery, contrary to the lies and misinformation by Dakuku Peterside, now have alternative private properties through financial support provided by the state government.
“They are very comfortable in their new residences; a situation which would have been near impossible for them to accomplish at the time, on their civil service emoluments”.
Nsirim emphasized that the possession of the properties and their subsequent reallocation had been properly enunciated as part of the first phase of the ongoing urban renewal programme of the Rivers State Government within the Old and New GRA, Port Harcourt.
“So, it completely beats the imagination to identify where Dakuku Peterside came up with the hallucination that people were ‘ejected in a ridiculous and undignified manner’ and the misleading rumor that the governor had cornered no fewer than 400 houses for himself and his cronies and then sold-off at ridiculous market value to his friends and cronies.
“Again, we have consistently declared that Dakuku Peterside does not live in his village, Opobo, the capital city Port Harcourt, or anywhere within and around the capital city territory, otherwise he would have been a little bit more circumspect and less flippant before describing Rumuepirikom, a bustling, thriving modern community, located in the very heart of the state, as a village,” he said.
Nsirim noted that Wike, unlike some past leaders in the state who acquired Rivers wealth to build mansions in Abuja and develop other parts of the country, ostensibly to curry favor, was proudly and patriotically building at home, develop Rivers and transforming the state capital into a befitting metropolitan hub.
He added: “The urban renewal programme encompasses the entire state capital area, including Rumueprikom. By the way, if Governor Wike does not build his own house in his community, is it in a foreign land that he will go and build it?
“Charity, they say, begins at home and the infrastructural legacies Governor Wike is setting down, especially the amazing, breathtaking flyovers, the state-of-the-art unity roads and expressways and indeed the modern markets, the medical and academic establishments, amongst other excellent infrastructures both in the capital city and across the state, will remain in Rivers State and will continue to be used and utilized by Rivers people, long after his tenure would have ended.
“Governor Wike has even hinted that as his administration gradually winds down, he would be spending quite a bit more time in his country home, interacting and fraternizing more with his people and carrying out his usual on-the-spot inspections of the projects that are still ongoing in the capital territory and across the state, to ensure their completion on schedule.
“This is in line with his pledge that he will not leave any uncompleted project behind for his successor.
“That indeed is the hallmark of a visionary leader who is building in the present for the challenges of the future, unlike some leaders whose legacies ended in the past.”