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Sir Fidelis Okenmor Tilije speaking at 2023 Maris Lecture
Sir Fidelis Okenmor Tilije speaking at 2023 Maris Lecture

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Maris Lecture: Tilije decries Nigeria’s poverty situation, power concentration in President


…as discussants applaud Okowa’s marvelous work in Delta.

The awful poverty situation in Nigeria and the concentration of power in the hands of the President, have been identified as issues that need to be urgently attended to in order to make the country a pleasant one to live in.

This is the contention of the Delta State Commissioner for Finance, and chairman, college of commissioners, Sir Fidelis Okenmor Tilije, who also called for the restructuring of Nigeria while delivering a lecture at the 2023 edition of the Maris Annual Public Service Lecture series held Wednesday, April 12, 2023 at the unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.

At the well attended lecture, which had Dr. Gabriel Ogbechie, Group Managing Director of Rainoil Limited as Chairman and Chairman, Maris Trust Council, Sir Kenneth Kemneti, wife of the former deputy governor of Delta State, Lady Esther Elue, also had the discussants and the lecturer giving kudos to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in acknowledgement of the exemplary impact he made in the life of the people of the State through infrastructure development.

The lecture titled: “Provision of infrastructure as catalyst for growth of Democratic Governments, the guest lecturer decried the situation where concentration of so much in the President and commander-in-Chief has impacted negatively on the other arms of government, the legislature and the judiciary.

Sir Tilije said legislators are always taking into consideration the body language of Mr. President while making laws, while adjudications by the judiciary are never obeyed by the executive.

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He said: “The unfortunate situation in Nigeria is the fact that the judiciary cannot watchdog the Executive because the president has the power of the other arms of government in his hands. The president has not been faithful in obeying court decisions.”

He gave the examples of the President’s defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court, which ordered the release of Nnamdi Kanu from prison and the subsequent defiance by the president of the apex court’s order in the Naira-swap policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

As a result of the lopsided nature of power that is heavily skewed in favour of the president, Tilije said he does not see credible elections taking place in Nigeria in the farthest future. “You need a strong institution to run the process of election conduct in Nigeria,” he said, adding that the struggle for equality must not be an issue in the running of the electoral process.

Lamenting the distressing poverty situation of the country, Sir Tilije said that Nigeria’s poverty index of 9.8 per cent in 2015 grew to 12 per cent in 2022 and above 12 per cent in 2023, thus showing that poverty is an issue in Nigeria.

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Another disturbing situation for the guest lecturer is the struggle for power in Nigeria. He said: “The struggle for power is not that the seeker wants to enhance the economic value of the people and build a strong, enduring democratic and governance institution, but that someone wants power for the sake of getting power. After getting it then I can begin to decide what to do.”

Calling for the restructuring of Nigeria by taking away certain responsibilities from the Federal Government and given to states, Tilije said: “Until law is made not to be a respecter of persons, we won’t have credible elections. Line ministries like education, environment, works, women affairs, etc should be removed from being the responsibility also of the Federal Government and made exclusively for the State Governments.”

He condemned yahoo practice, saying that those who indulge in yahoo by killing in order to have money that these persons should be in the hottest place in hell.

Meanwhile, discussants at the lecture included the Chief Strategist of Delta state Government, Dr. Festus Okubor, Dr. (Barr) Paul Oweh, Comrade Olumami O. Oyibo, and Dr. (Mrs) Augustina Erah. The session was moderated by Dr. Kemi Emina.

Discussing the topic, the discussants said that the fundamental issues facing Nigeria should make people pessimistic, but urged that Nigerians should ape God. “Nigeria has no sectoral cultures, thus everything is corrupted.”

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They also said that infrastructure must be properly catered for. It was also pointed out that it was expected that Deltans in Asaba should have appreciated the doings of Governor Okowa by voting for him to be vice president during the last elections. They called for the remaking of the Nigeria Constitution, even as they identified that there is virtually no local government in the country, pointing out that the ones around exist only in name.

While pointing out that what takes poverty away from society is a combination of factors, they said however, that there’s also the need to provide other services that will help to enhance human living.

Each discussant acknowledged that the Okowa-led administration in Delta state has done marvelously well in the provision of road infrastructure, adding that there virtually is no area of the State that the governor has not touched. “There’s no area in the State that Okowa has not touched. The floating market.”

Comrade Oyibo scored Governor Okowa 90 per cent, Dr. Erah said the Governor has done “efficiently well, fairly and effectively,” Dr. Okubor scored the administration A+, while Dr. Owe scored him a Distinction.

Highlight of the lecture was a goodwill address sent by the former Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and read by his daughter, Orode. He decried the skewed provision of infrastructure in Nigeria.


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