Chairman of the Nigerian Governors? Forum and Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has said that the focus of the Nigerian Governors? Forum retreat holding in Lagos State would be to look at the dire need for the country to create an alternative economy and engage its youths.
While attributing the state of insecurity in the state to unemployment and illiteracy, Amaechi noted that the major areas to focus on in creating an alternative economy were developing agriculture and the power sector, which drives the rest of the economy.
He noted that in Agriculture particularly, the excuse of having no land to farm was no longer tenable as many states are willing to provide land with friendly conditions for serious farmers. He added that the Northern would give lands free to people willing to engage in farming. Therefore there was need for Nigerians to be aware that agriculture has a major role in the future of the country.
Amaechi noted that at the last National Economic Council Meeting, he suggested that the Government should take 1% of revenues from all states to fund education in the North as a means to fight insurgency in the state as he believed that illiteracy was also another major factor in the region.
He noted that although the move may seem illegal but if the state governors were willing to go back to their State Assemblies to get approval for the contribution, then it would work. He warned that there would be no way to curb insurgency if the youths in the Northeast lack education and jobs.
Governor Amaechi has been vocal in the fight against corruption recently and there has been criticisms of the timing of his campaigns, as many wonder why he did not start out with the vocal approach against corruption in the beginning of his administration.
Amaechi argued that the assumption was a product of ignorance, as people did not know him well enough, saying that there had been ongoing talks with the Presidency on the need to curb corruption which he did not deem necessary for public knowledge. He revealed that there was a time governors refused to take their allocation for 3 months to protest the alleged racketeering in the oil subsidy issue.
However, they became louder when they lost the ears of the President. He explained that they had to go public when the President became unwilling to listen to the clamour for prudence in government.
He maintained an earlier statement that the genesis of the problems was that as Chairman of the Governors? Forum he had been very vocal about issues in the country.
Amaechi, during the week, was himself faced with the challenge of students in Rivers State protesting the non-payment of bursary allowances for 2 years and the Governor expressed his surprise at the development. He stated that he was highly embarrassed by the protest and he had summoned the Secretary to the State Government on the issue. He however, took the blame for the confusion as he promised that the funds would be made available.
He noted that his government had been consistent in paying foreign scholarships and therefore would not find it difficult to cater to the local students.
With the crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors? Forum, NGF, Governor Amaechi had been advised to step down for the sake of peace, and to send a message to the public that his agitation was about a desire for change rather than power. He was asked on the programme why he did not embrace this idea.
Amaechi said that he stood his ground on remaining as the Chairman of the forum because it was his democratic right and he should be commended for upholding the values of democracy rather than being criticized for not resigning.
Speaking on the purported low turnout of governors at the last NGF retreat owing to the crisis, Amaechi stated that the absentee governors have a choice to attend or not, but in the interest of the country, they need to attend.
On allegations made by the People?s Democratic Party, PDP, that Governor Amaechi had been squandering the funds of the state. Amaechi referred to the statement as a lie by someone ?who did not go to school?.
Speaking further on the issue, he said that he personally does not like commissioning ceremonies as he did not feel right about asking people to see him doing what is supposed to be his job, but he had to start this because of allegations like the ones made by the PDP.
He noted that he invited former president, Olusegun Obasanjo to commission projects in his state in order to ensure that the several projects executed by his administration could be verified. He also made reference to his publicly criticized rail project, which he boasted was highly commended by the former president because of the number of jobs it would create in the state.
When asked about the source of funding for the Nigerian Governors? Forum, Governor Amaechi said that they get money from donor agencies and as a club they also contribute money among themselves.