By Fidelis Egugbo
A leader always exudes confidence when he is sure that his followers are comfortable and happy. So, it was heartwarming, indeed, a welcome relief, to see Delta Caucus in the House of Representatives, led by the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, paying a solidarity visit to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday at Government House, Asaba.
That visit is very significant as it shows that the lawmakers, though, far away in Abuja, are abreast with what is happening in their state. It also shows that sons and daughters of the state reckon that the State Government alone cannot bear the brunt of the colossal damage done as a result of the #EndSARS protest.
Elumelu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, told the governor that the lawmakers were on a solidarity visit to him to empathise with him and the people of the state over the unfortunate destruction of public buildings by hoodlums during the #EndSARS protests.
He announced the donation of N150 million by members of the caucus to support the re-building of the burnt High Court building in Asaba, the state capital.
Hopefully, that donation will spur other well-to-do Deltans and corporate organisations to join hands with the Delta State Government to speedily rebuild the damaged structures and also, instill in residents with similar destructive motives the need to desist from further damage of public and private property in the state.
During that visit, the obvious feeling of pains felt by Governor Okowa was not lost on his guests as he explained how he tried to manage the situation, disclosing that lives were lost in the state as a result of the protest.
Below is the speech of the governor during the visit. Happy reading:
“I truly must be very thankful to you for this visit and the show of love for your dear state, Delta. I do recall that, in this year alone, this is the third time you are coming as a group of NASS members, to come to be with us at the moment of difficulties. Twice you came when we had issues concerning the COVID-19 infections; and, today, you are here again.
“I truly must let you know that I appreciate you very greatly because you feel for your people and you are concerned about the things that take place in Delta State.
“On behalf of the government and the people of Delta State, I want to thank you for always being there for the people of Delta.
“Your visit shows the unity amongst you as a team in NASS and that is also, very important for us a state. It is good to know that our own are united and it is possible for us to speak with one voice and to ensure that what is due to Delta State comes to Delta.
“Yes, we have had difficulties in the course of this year particularly across the nation. With the COVID-19, it was a situation across the globe and then, the flooding and now the #EndSars protest which were peaceful and which we gave a voice to because we believed that the youths who set out to conduct the #Endsars protest had a reason and their voice needed to be listened to.
“Apart from myself, several other governors did address them, and we understood that they had their pains and there was the need for reforms.
“Just as that was going on, unfortunately on the 20th of October, an incident took place in Lekki which turned the whole thing away from the peaceful protest to wanton destruction of property and looting, which is very unfortunate.
“Here in Delta State, we did notice by Tuesday, first that there were infiltrations from outside the state into the #EndSARS protesters and we did draw the attention of their influencers, asking them to watch very closely so that their protest will not be gradually hijacked. By Wednesday, that was also noticed and then the crisis had started in Lagos.
“The security agences were very professional in Delta. There is no doubt about that and they tried to manage the situation but by Wednesday night, the 21st, it went burst of course and the destruction did take place obviously not by Deltans but by those infiltrators.
“It is a very sad thing for us because the High Court building on Ibusa Road, the Federal Road Safety Corps (state operational office) and where they also keep some of their seized vehicles, and the Magistrate Court were also torched. The Ministry of Justice was heavily vandalized and then, of course, the various beautification projects that we had were destroyed.
“I don’t know why they were so concerned about that and they started destroying them and burning some. But, thank God the security agencies stood up and were able to confront the situation and we have been able to ensure that there is no further destruction.
“That of Warri area, unfortunately, was not from the public, it was within the prison. In an attempt to cause some problem so that they could escape, they, from within the prison, set a part of the prison on fire.
“It was a very difficult situation to manage, but today we thank God that we have been able to manage it. Unfortunately, few people lost their lives, one in the Warri area who was knocked down by a truck. It was obviously not from the police. One person in Sapele, unfortunately too, was knocked down by a truck.
“Here in Asaba, on that Wednesday night, a soldier who was on duty, not from within the brigade in Asaba here, but whoç was on transit to Anambra State, was killed on the expressway and two of our youths were also killed on Thursday by the external infiltrators when the youths went out on a campaign mission to various portals in Asaba that people should please stay peaceful, and that they were not going to tolerate a situation where they (protesters) begin to destroy the infrastructure that had already been put in place in Asaba.
“Unfortunately, they were attacked amd we lost two of them, one from Asaba and the other one from Oko.
“Another ugly incident that would have taken place was the issue of palliative looting but luckily that was managed because there was nothing to loot. The CA-COVID items were delivered to us in September and as soon as the distribution was launched, we ensured that within two weeks it was distributed to all 270 wards of the state.
“They were specifically meant for the very indigent in every ward, so,197 families in every ward received the items as specified by CA-COVID and every single thing had been distributed.
“So, when the information came in and within the social media, the misinformation was there. A large crowd did gather around the Event Centre but we opened it up for them to see that it was empty. So, we thank God for that.
“Unfortunately, in Sapele, a supermarket was invaded and our brother’s place was also invaded. It is quite unfortunate, but we thank God that everything has calmed down. The peace has began to return but we are still very much on our toes, being very watchful realising that there are external factors trying to cause disturbance to the peace that we have.
“Attempts were made to destroy several police stations but unfortunately for the hoodlums, they were not able to break into any of them. And we thank God that the police, the military and the Department of State Services have been working very closely with each other to ensure peace.
“I must also pay very good tributes to some of our well-meaning youths, the community youths, the vigilante youths from the various communities. They stood up to ensure that they did not allow any further destruction, for which we must be very thankful to all our youths across the various communities in the state.
“So, calm has returned and we thank God, hoping that we stay vigilant. I also intend to have town hall meetings, in Warri with a select group of youths and also in Asaba.
“That is already being planned, where we will be able to talk with some of our youths, continue to engage them, continue to make them understand that working together in partnership, we can improve the governance structure.
And that all we need to do is to ensure that there is a reasonable level of communication, because we do not want our youths to be misinformed. In misinformation, all kind of activities can truly take place that may not be in the best interest of the state. So, we want to ensure that we continuously communicate with them, particularly through the Ministry of Youth Development, and that we are already achieving to a large extent.
“We have also inaugurated the Panel of Enquiry, and that panel will formally start sitting on Monday, the 2nd of November, to take complaints from all persons who have been brutalised or who have had their loved ones killed or brutalised in the course of the actions of the (disbanded) SARS in the last several years.
“So, we hope that people will come up to the panel with evidence and formally report so that investigations can be carried out. We are also in the process of constituting what we call a Special Security and Human Rights Committee. The committee will look at every action of every security agency particularly with any special team that is put in place to ensure that they work within the ambits of the law. And, I think that as we hold town hall/community meetings with the youths in the state, we will be able to formally communicate this to them and to make them realise that they have a place to report to in case anybody is unprofessional in his or her relationship with them.
“I also want to appeal to our youths that it is important that even as we ask for the end of SARS and for the end of all forms of brutality and killings, we must also continue to assist both the government and law enforcement agencies to ensure that the criminal elements within the society are not aided and that they are not encouraged in any manner to continue with their criminality.
“It is important that we try to keep ourselves focused because their well-intended protest was hijacked by criminal elements in the society. And, it came to a stage where they actually lost control of the protest. But thank God, they had already put forth their voice and the nation, both at the national and the sub-national levels have already come to understand what exactly their pains are.
“So, we want to urge that every Nigerian youth must stand up to ensure that even as we preach the right things, even as we ask for reforms, that we also will continue to encourage a situation where the criminal elements are not in any manner covered up or assisted to do the wrong things in the land. And, I know that majority of them stand for what is right for this country. I hope that our attention having been drawn to some of the pains that our youths are going through, that we will as government, even as legislators, continue to do a rethink, a partnership, with the younger ones to understand their feelings, so that we are able to address the issues that have been raised. Not only concerning the issues of security but on how to meaningfully ensure that they are engaged and they are productive, both for themselves and the nation.
“I want to specifically thank you people for this visit and to thank you specially for the promise that you have made in the repairs of the High Court building. That is actually paying back to the society and it is only God that can replenish this which is coming out of your pockets. I want to thank you, I want to appreciate this visit and I am sure that all Deltans do appreciate your concern and we pray that God will continue to enable you to perform your duties to the admiration of your constituents.
Thank you and God bless you.”
FIDELIS EGUGBO is Special Assistant, Media to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa
By Fidelis Egugbo