Wednesday, President-elect Bola Tinubu criticised Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike for requesting a refund of money spent on the construction of federal highways in the state, stating that he owes the governor nothing.
Wike, while delivering a speech at the inauguration of the Rumuokwuta/Rumuola Flyover (12th Flyover) constructed by Tinubu, urged the president-elect to consider refunding Rivers State the money spent on all federal roads in the state immediately after assuming office. He asked the federal government commanded by Tinubu to reimburse his successor, Sim Fubara.
Wike stated, “The incoming governor is present. As I leave office, I will sign all necessary documents, and he will simply hand you the papers. When you are inaugurated in as president on May 29, it will be one of the first things you do.”
Tinubu responded by telling Wike that he owed him nothing and that the governor and his aides were using the disputed roads.
Tinubu, while praising Wike for making the people of Rivers happy with his development efforts, emphasised the need to consider how to advance the country forward.
However, the president-elect vowed to have a private conversation with the governor regarding his request.
He told the governor, “I owe you nothing for the refund demand you made; the road is yours. You are the resident of this street. Your effort is commendable, but you had to persuade me to collect.
“Nyesom, as you inspire enthusiasm and development throughout this state, Nigeria has something to look forward to. We will discuss the unanticipated debt.”
Tinubu, who was in the state to inaugurate two projects carried out by the state government, described Wike as a reliable ally who was always willing to prosecute a just cause in the national interest.
Tinubu was pleased that he had fulfilled his promise to Wike during a presidential campaign rally in the state by commissioning the projects. He recalled the arduous campaign he waged in order to win the presidential election on February 25.
The president-elect stated, “I am delighted to meet the newly elected governor of Rivers State.” The newly elected members of the House of Representatives and senators who will be working with me in Abuja can attest to Governor Wike’s dependability when it comes to his character.
“I am a very happy man because I endured a difficult campaign, fought hard, was supported by a large number of you, and ultimately triumphed. I could not have won without the structural support described by the term flypast.
“In His Excellency, I see a man of principle; he has taken a principled stance that the presidency must return to the South, and he has the courage to abide by his conviction, regardless of who he offends. Nyesom is a genuine man of honour, but you promoted national unity rather than his own interests.
“There was a great deal of rumour and speculation, but you stood your ground and discovered the construction of this flyover. My invitation to commission this project today is another method to build bridges in Nigeria, which cannot be overstated. Therefore, it is on the basis of your character that I will fulfil my campaign promise.”
Despite this, the governor of Rivers State sought amendments to the procurement law.
Shehu Sani, a former senator and civil rights activist, condemned Wike as desperate for Tinubu’s patronage and accommodation when he made the request.
Wike, who spoke earlier, stated that the federal government must amend its procurement law to prevent the abandonment of initiatives it manages. He stated that the current procurement law of the federal government only allowed for about 15/30 percent to be paid as a mobilisation fee to a contractor, emphasising that such a sum does not allow the contractor to make good progress on projects before being caught up by inflation effects and high material costs, which ultimately necessitates a change in contract terms.
The governor of Rivers State, while describing the state’s process for awarding contracts, stated that some of the constructed flyovers were on federal roads and that the state should be reimbursed.
Wike stated, “Unfortunately, these initiatives should be administered by the federal government because they involve federal roads. But if we had refused because they are federal government highways, who would have suffered? Since we’ve stated that we don’t want our people to suffer, I believe the federal government should congratulate us on a job well done.
“These are projects we should be working on, so please bring your bill so we can reimburse you for the money spent on these roads.” That is what a partnership with a competent federal government should look like. As soon as you assume the office and approve the repayment of this money, other states will have the courage to do the same.”