By Paulinus Nsirim
Our attention has been drawn to a write up titled: “RIVERS AIRCRAFT: AGAIN WIKE LIED AGAINST AMAECHI, by George Tolofari, former Rivers State Commissioner of Transport (2007-2015), dated, January 26, 2022.
We are truly amazed at the sheer desperation with which Mr. Tolofari and indeed several key figures of the previous administration, have been attempting with obvious futility, to deny the truth about the Rivers Aircraft in Germany.
To put the matter in its proper perspective, Governor Nyesom Wike visited Germany recently with some top ranking Rivers Indigenes, to finally lay to rest, the matter of the Rivers Aircraft, which had been secretly abandoned in Germany since 2012 by the previous administration.
Explaining how the Rivers State Government discovered the Aircraft secretly abandoned in the European country by the previous administration, Governor Wike told the German officials that in a bid to recover State assets, when he assumed office in 2015, his administration had discovered that the Legacy 600 jet, purchased by the Dr Peter Odili’s administration in 2003 was in RUAG, before General Atomics in Germany and the Germans had obliged him the privilege of coming to confirm the property belonging to Rivers people.
“This plane was bought in 2003 by the government of Dr Peter Odili, and by 2007 he had handed over to the next government which was my predecessor’s, now, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. While he was in office, by 2012 this plane was brought here. Reasons we do not know,” Governor Wike had declared.
This Statement is actually what has got the members of the previous administration falling all over themselves in a frenzy of denials and puerile clarifications to exonerate their principal.
But of course, it is quite typical of the opposition to deploy its now tired diversionary tactic, by dwelling on the personality of Governor Nyesom Wike and attempting to obfuscate the facts, whenever contentious issues of their mismanagement of Rivers funds and maladministration of the state are brought up.
In this case however and as in several other glaringly verifiable instances including their failed monorail project, amongst others, they have once again, fallen woefully short of upholding their sincerity and integrity.
Everyone residing in Rivers State in 2015, is aware that the previous administration never intended and indeed had no intentions whatsoever, of handing over to the administration of Governor Wike, when it became incontrovertibly clear that he had won the 2015 Governorship election.
They fought Governor Wike ferociously, throwing everything they had at him, and continued to fight him even after February 2016 when the Supreme Court sealed his election victory, until the very last days of his first term, when a Federal High Court dismissed an age falsification suit literally hours before the March 9, 2019 Governorship elections.
The Supreme Court was to rest the matter once and for all in July 2019 and then the same Apex Court put the final stamp on Governor Wike’s second term victory in August 2019.
George Tolofari in his watery defence, had gone to great lengths, especially since he was the Commissioner for Transport in the previous administration, to insist stubbornly, but with scant corroboration, that the issue of the secretly abandoned Aircraft was properly articulated, in the hand over notes passed down from the previous administration.
We all know what manner of handover notes would be prepared by a roundly and comprehensively defeated outgoing administration, that never intended to hand over and did not even hand over at all in accordance with the recognized and accepted _modus operandi_ of the process.
Indeed, Governor Wike summed it up aptly during his meeting with Markus Froetschi, Manager, Business Development, General Atomics Aerotec, when he said: “The issue is, why was there no documentation to let the incoming government to know that we have this facility and we sent it to RUAG for inspection.
“Again, I do know from experience that inspection of such facility does not take more than six months. So, if it was brought in 2012, expectantly at least, by early 2013, the plane ought to have come back for use.”
Indeed, Governor Wike has confirmed everything they have said about the Aircraft, from its purchase by the Dr. Peter Odili administration, up until the point where the previous administration surreptitiously sneaked it into Germany on some very spurious reasons and then apparently forgot it was there for the next three years.
It is therefore better left to the imagination to conjecture what the intentions of the previous administration, which never intended to hand over in the first place, would have been, when they decided to ‘abandon’ the aircraft in Germany for three years and as the saying goes, you will have to use your tongue to count your teeth to get the answer on this matter.
Rivers State remains the only State in world history where a previous government refused to hand over in a democracy.
George Tolofari who was part of this odium should bury his head in shame as he continues to defend his master’s profligacy.
Rivers people will surely be grateful and satisfied that Governor Wike has succeeded in recovering this most valuable secretly abandoned huge asset for Rivers people. This is the true quality of a patriotic leader who is sincerely determined to give his people quality and resulted oriented leadership.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State