By Anietie Okon
THE brouhaha between the Federal Government and the very upbeat and alert Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is uncalled for as the primary objective of government is the security of lives and property. This translates to protection from threats and potential threats to the lives of citizens in the concerned state.
It is indisputably deceitful, dubious and malicious for the Federal Government through the Ministry of Aviation, to authorise flights to the State without correspondence with the Rivers State Government as regards the freight and movement of these workers in the state knowing that the state government had proactively imposed a statewide lock-down to curb the spread of Coronavirus in the state. Does this mean the legislations of the Rivers State House of Assembly are not recognised in Nigeria?
How does the minister intend to present a defence regarding the insubordination of the passengers and crew of the flight who refused to comply with the proactive legislations put in place by the State government in a quest to flatten the COVID-19 curve?
Hadi Sirika’s argument that such flight had nothing to do with the state government exposes the surreptitious nature of transactions of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Sirika’s objection to the actions of the Rivers State government is disdainful and unfortunate. It shows high-handedness and disregard which eventually lead to failure of policies and legislations, hence, institutional corruption presents itself as the Achilles heel of the Nigerian government.
Governor Wike is well within his statutory constitutional powers to take necessary action on the unwarranted presence of the passengers and crew of the concerned flight, also the management of Caverton Helicopters.
Governor Wike, as the chief executive of Rivers State, backed by constitutional legitimacy had imposed a lockdown in view of the coronavirus pandemic. With this imposition, movements under whatever guise were to be restricted or permitted by the imposing authority in the State.
If the relevant federal agencies had reached out to the state to show compliance in view of the present situation, would it have demeaned them? If the apex shows no regard for the laws why should the citizens? If this continues would we not be treading towards anarchy?.
What would it cost the Federal Government to liaise by informing the state of the presence of the expatriates in Rivers instead of attempting to intimidate a tier of government, a critical component in the Federal system and a major contributor to the fiscal sustenance of the Federal Government itself?
This ugly expression of power in the face of a global pandemic is endangering, shambolic, unfortunate and regrettably not in the interest of the safety of the people of Rivers State, but a clear neglect of the legitimacy of the Rivers State government, an action completely foreign to the constitutional diktat of a federal system of government. Whereas constitutionalism is “adherence to the spirit of the constitution”(Igbuzur 2011),
The Nigerian Constitution has procedures and provisions for the government and governed, and in this case there has been a glaring debasement of the Constitution.
As a federation, constituent units (federal, state and local) governments must work in tandem, and have the right to exercise governmental powers and legislate within their statutory and constitutional rights.
Government is limited by law; thus, no provision for one to usurp and vanquish the powers of another. The brute, errant and uncouth attitude of seeing certain areas and its people as conquered territory is gone and gone forever.
No one in government should be ignorant of the fact that peace and unity are necessities for Nigeria’s nationhood; thus, sectoral or ethnic dominance will lead to disequilibrium.
Nigeria’s Federal Character principle stipulates that all and sundry must be carried along in not just appointments but dealings of government leaving no vacancy for segregation, in a bid to foster national unity and command national loyalty.
No one should be swept aside, especially in times like these where our unity and strength are tested.
Senator Okon is spokesman of Akwa Ibom Leaders Vanguard