Ibim Semenitari: Exceptional Amazon, Epitome Of Selfless Service
“Chief (Mrs.) Ibim Semenitari, the Eleru of Ifon Kingdom, Ondo State, through Little Drops, a stage drama, took the story of the vulnerable Niger Delta woman and child to the national stage. The story of the region was told through the eye of the vulnerable. Semenitari had approved the purchase of mobility aides for the Association of Persons Living in Disability in Niger Delta and had engaged critical stakeholders in the supervision of projects being undertaken by the NDDC.
If these are not revolutionary acts, then I wonder what revolution is all about. Considering the unique feats of Chief Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, I can now understand Abraham Lincoln the foremost world leader properly when he stated, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
It is as if Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan , two former great presidents of the USA, had the appointment of Ibim Semenitari into higher offices by Rt. Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and President Muhammadu Buhari in mind when they stated, respectively, that: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it”; and “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Ibim has demonstrated that both her appointments as the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication by Amaechi, erstwhile governor of Rivers State and as Acting Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Buhari was not only in order but that these two great Nigerian leaders did not make any mistake in given her the freedom to act and exhibit the leadership acumen in her if her feats achieved in these two assignments are to be used as criteria one can then come to terms that a new leader is born or rather exposed to our nation.
Ibim, in supporting this postulation by these two outstanding presidents of America, described Amaechi as a very simple man, extremely very simple. He is very trusting. Once he trusts you, he totally abdicates mistrust of any kind. “However, you find people taking advantage of that. If you are close to him, you will see that he is a very humble man, because he is not carried away by trappings of office. As a matter of fact, he is not interested in trappings of office. Above all, he is a passionate man. He is passionate about governance and delivery on his promises. He is in a hurry to deliver what he promised the people because he is very close to God. Perhaps, because of the challenges he went through before reclaiming his mandate.” But, the fact remains, for Amaechi to make this needed impact; he needs a strong army of which Ibim is one of these captains
Having monitored her very closely for about seven years, I have been struggling against this pushing urge to write on her. But this urge these days becomes very compelling, that signifies this treatise. But my biggest challenge is the fact that to examine or x-ray the life and activities of a very versatile, all-round, exceptional, multi-talented and broad-based character like Mrs Semenitari is not only an uphill task, but one the author is bound to be at a loss on how and where to begin as you have other thousand angles opened to you.
It is in this confusion that I decided to project a woman whose threat to the enemies of democracy in Nigeria was not only effective but infectious. I will come to this later. But let me introduce formally this unsung icon, Amazon and heroine of Niger Delta.
Who is Ibim Semenitari?
Ibim Semenitari born on March 19, 1968 hails from the coastal and ancient town of Opobo, the headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State, and married to HENRY JAMES SEMENITARI an award-winning banker and financial whiz-kid, who hails from Okirika Local Government.
Until she was appointed Rivers State Commissioner of Information & Communication in 2010, member of the Campaign APC Presidential Media Team for the 2015 general elections and the NDDC boss in December 2015; she was the publisher of Business Eye, a weekly business magazine. Before then, she was editor of Broad Street Journal, a tabloid in the stable of TELL Magazine. She is an outstanding journalist and an award winning investigative reporter, editor and publisher who has worked for over 20 years with some of Nigerian and American leading titles. She has also worked as journalism trainer/editor with the BBC World Service Trust. She was the first Nigerian female journalist to win the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards, and for her reports in the Nigerian print media; she came second in print journalism in the CNN African Journalist Award in 1997. The vastly-experienced journalist is a two-time winner of the Nigerian Media Merit Award and a three-time winner of the Diamond Award for Media Excellence, amongst others. Besides being an award-winner herself, Mrs. Semenitari is a mentor to several award-winning journalists. The NDDC boss has contributed as a resource person to journalism training workshops organised by UNICEF, the World Bank, Freedom House, the BBC and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Factors That Shaped Ibim Semenitari
My seven years association with Ibim exposed me to four major acts/actors that shaped her life and influences most of her actions: God, her parents, her grandmother, husband and hard work.
1. Ibim’s grandmother’s influence
Mrs. Semenitari lost her grandmother in 2003; an event, if possible she would want to obliterate because, according to her, it was her saddest in life and in tandem with the understanding of one of the foremost American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln who stated, “I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” ; Ibim stated, “My grandmother was a woman of prayer. I was extremely close to her. She was my role model. Everything her children and grandchildren are today is because she prayed. She was very strict, disciplined and prayerful.”
2. Ibim’s Parents’ influence
To Ibim, “whatever I am today is a result of the seeds unconsciously sown in me by my parents. I am the beneficiary of the grace of the activities of my parents. I am proud to say that I am the daughter of the former deputy governor of Rivers State, Sir Gabriel Toby. I am proud of his legacies. Every parent lays heritage for his children without knowing, because the heritage you lay is what would help the children years down the line. When you do certain things truthfully to the society, you will not know that you are sowing seeds which your children may harvest many years after you are gone. I just hope I will be able to match my parent’s commitment in terms of community service, because they were totally committed to everything they do.”
3. God and Husband
Ibim is a devoted wife, mother of four beautiful children and a devoted Christian who teaches during Sunday school at her local Nigerian church. She is so passionate about God that she must seek approval from Him before venturing into any enterprise, including being a commissioner or NDDC boss. To her, “God has shown me so much favour and love, and that is the more reason I fear Him because there is no one like Him. The mistakes we make as humans is that we do what we think is right instead of doing what God wants for us. There is no job I ever took that God never intervened. I will never take up any job until God approved it. As soon as my HUSBAND approved of it, and there are passages of Esther in the Bible to support it, I knew it had God’s backing.” Yes my climb to the peak of my professional career maybe quite rapid and based on many factors. But in all and all, at the peak of each factor, there is always God showing up. Joseph was a tiny little kid when he dreamt that the sun, the moon and all the stars were bowing down for him. Then he was sold to slavery, then to Potiphar and, when he was there, he found favour from God. That is where hard work comes in. That was the beginning of his greatness, because Potiphar’s wife reported him to her husband who, in turn, threw him into prison where the king’s’ prisoners were kept. This was where God’s plan was being activated; because, if he had not gone into prison, he would not have told the butler when Pharaoh had a dream that `there is this Joseph who can interpret dreams’. When he came out, because of hard work, the king had to abandon the administration of the kingdom to him. If you don’t work hard, you will not get anything. It is there in the Bible.”
Ibim As A Mentor
Though Mrs. Semenitari has won several awards, the remarks dedicated to her by one of her subordinates many years back – during the Nigerian Media Merit Award held in Port Harcourt – was one of the most memorable in her life. According to her, “One of my subordinates went up the rostrum to receive his award and he said: ‘I dedicate this award to two women in my life’. I was waiting to hear ‘my mother and wife’ or ‘girlfriend’ and he said: ‘My mother and Editor’. It made me cry. I have won several awards and even that night, but there is no award that I have won that meant much to me as much as Tunde’s comment. What that did to me was this: It is not wrong to be hard. That is one of my greatest joy that I have been able to mentor people who are also doing well in the society.”
Ibim on Wike, Jonathan and Other Agents of Undemocratic Acts
To Ibim, “The real reason why Amaechi turned against former President Goodluck Jonathan was to ‘save Nigeria from the brink. Amaechi believed that Buhari had all it will take to change the trajectory, and envisioned that Nigeria was heading in a different direction. For Amaechi, having Buhari there was great for the integrity of the country, and also to pull back the country from the brink.”
This struggle to free Nigeria from the hands of Jonathan and his cohorts earned both Ibim and followers of Amaechi ‘death sentence’ and some of the challenges that Rivers State is currently suffering from now. As this treatise is on Mrs. Semenitari, let me dwell on what she suffered as an apostle of Amaechism: the art and gospel aimed at bettering and emancipating Nigeria and watering the growth of democracy in Africa.
In the politics of Rivers State, Chief Nyesome Wike whose controversial ascendancy to the office of the Governor of Rivers State, courtesy of the Supreme Court ruling which did not reflect the reality of the results of the polls in the 2015 gubernatorial election, is well-known to the world. Discussing the Rivers State politics without mentioning the inputs of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation will be like discussing Nigeria politics without mentioning Chiefs Nnamadi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Alh. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello In the inner circle of the political machine of Rt. Hon Amaechi are: Dr. Dakuku Peterside, Senator Magnus Abe, Chief Andrew Uchendu, late Chief G.U. Ake and of course, Chief Mrs. Ibim Semenitari. One single fact that most watchers of Rivers politics does not know is that not minding all the public showbiz by Chief Nyesom E. Wike, he dreads all these former colleagues as a Jew dreads a leprous man. Ibim, being the only woman in this team, has been maliciously attacked in a manner to suggest that only fear drives her political enemies to such acts.
The following buttress this assertion: Ibim is a bold and fearless woman, who has demonstrated that fear, is alien and does not exist in her dictionary. Based on this character and her stoical defence of the administration of Amaechi as then governor of Rivers State, she became a target before the administration of ex-President Jonathan. In demonstration of this fact, she made history when at the heat of persecution of Amaechi and his lieutenants, she was the only one among the Amaechi’s loyalists invited to appear before the then dreaded National Security Adviser to erstwhile President Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki, when the heat was on us in Rivers State. When this act of intimidation against her could not cow her, the plot to assassinate her with other All Progressives Congress (APC) principals by PDP hoodlums at the Okirika rally attack of APC was hatched. To the shock of both these PDP hoodlums and even APC supporters, the shooting that claimed the life of a police officer during the Okirika rally that was beamed to the entire world by Channels TV, this woman was seen dancing in the midst of confusion and, if not for security aides attached to the APC governorship candidate, Dr Peterside, who dragged her out of the arena, who knows what would have been the outcome.
When Ibim survived this plot and Wike saw himself accidentally in the Brick House as Governor of Rivers State, and after the shameless drama of visiting the Governor’s House in order to embarrass Amaechi who brought him up politically, the major assignment he carried out as the Governor of Rivers State was to visit the official house of Mrs. Semenitari in Port Harcourt to cart away her personal jeep, in order to publicly disgrace her.
Reacting to the carting away of her Lexus SUV and other property by Wike’s agents; Semenitari described the scenario in these words: “Over 10 heavily armed policemen in two trucks – one Ford Transit and a Hilux – on Thursday, invaded my 12A, Ernest Ikoli Street, Old GRA Port Harcourt, residence, without a search warrant, as they forced their way into my premises. My security guard on duty requested to know their mission and who sent them.. They refused to disclose either, but went round taking photographs and recording my premises on video. The security guard got in touch with my assistant who spoke with the men, explaining to them that I was out of town and again requested to know their mission. Again, they declined, insisting on seeing me first. She then got in touch with me on phone, as we were uncertain of the identity of the policemen in question. Upon further investigation and after about three hours of laying siege to my premises, I was told that they were from Rivers State Government House and had been sent to recover vehicles in my possession. They attempted to break into a Range Rover SUV belonging to my husband, which was bought long before I was appointed commissioner in Rivers State, damaging the front door. The vehicle in question, contrary to the lies being paraded, is not an armoured vehicle and has never at any point belonged to the Rivers State Government nor its agents, including myself as commissioner of information. By the time I finally made contact with them and expressed my displeasure, they insisted that they would take away a Lexus SUV duly allocated to me as commissioner for information and which, by law; I am entitled to leave with upon leaving office. “The monetisation policy of the government allows public officers to leave government with their official vehicles, as this is in lieu of vehicle allowance, transport and other allowances, which they cannot draw because of the monetisation policy of 2002. Mr. Wike served as chief of staff, and upon departure left with all the vehicles he used. This has been the practice since this democratic dispensation.
“Having served as commissioner for two tenures, I am entitled to my status cars and have proof of allocation. While I understand that Mr. Wike feels a dire need to destroy the reputation of (former) governor, Rotimi Amaechi, and all those who worked with him, it is unacceptable that he will engage in brigandage, thuggery and underhand tactics to do so. A simple letter from any government official requesting me to make a submission or tender documentation would have been the appropriate way to go; and I would have willingly tendered all the relevant documents to them. Breaking into my home, invading my privacy, damaging my property and removing property from my premises is inappropriate and illegal.”
Reacting to this crude attack against an innocent woman who has served her state diligently, another illustrious son of Rivers and incumbent Director-general (DG) of NIMASA, Dr. Peterside, said: “What has happened is condemnable and I hope this government of Wike is not going to run an irresponsible government. Rivers people are ordinarily law-abiding, and it will be unfortunate and regrettable if what had been foisted on Rivers people is a government that has no respect for rule and order. The PDP-led government must realise that we are not in a Hobbesian state.”
On his part, former senator representing Rivers South-east Senatorial District, Senator Magnus Abe, said there was need for the Wike-led government to exercise caution, as they need to respect the fundamental human rights of people, especially people that have served Rivers people in the past.
“Every position is temporary and disrespecting those people that had served the state in different capacities should be condemned in strong terms. Breaking into people’s houses is not the right thing to do. This incident is very unfortunate. When I was Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG) and we needed to recover vehicles, we made an announcement on television and radio, asking people to return government property in their possessions.”
Truly, Ibim is a thorn in the flesh of Wike and his misguided political associates; there is nothing they did not do to undermine this woman. Her crime is: why should she support a cause of liberating Rivers State from its present state?
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2000, established the Niger Delta Development Commission, to ensure sustainable development of the crude oil and gas-rich region. The NDDC is to improve on the performance and activities of the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). The Federal Government’s interventionist agency is also to facilitate the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful, thereby offering lasting solutions to socio-economic difficulties of the oil-producing area. The nine states that make up the Niger Delta region are: Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Abia,
Appointment of Ibim Semenitari as NDDC Acting Boss
President Buhari, in his determination to make life better for the people of the crude oil and gas-rich Niger Delta, on December 21, 2015, appointed Mrs Ibim Semenitari, as Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission. As at the time of her appointment on December 21, Semenitari was in Abuja and without wasting time and in order to hit the ground running, she moved to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on December 22 and was received by a large crowd at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
The airport’s tumultuous crowd consisted of beautifully-dressed women in uniform, and other eminent persons from the nine states of the Niger Delta: with many people singing, drumming, dancing and waving at the new NDDC boss in admiration, before joining her car. The hardworking and foremost journalist quickly moved to the corporate headquarters of the commission on the Port Harcourt – Aba Expressway, with the outgoing managing director, Bassey Dan-Abia, a lawyer and an indigene of Akwa Ibom state, who was two years in office on December 18, handing over to her at NDDC’s boardroom on the eighth floor of the office complex.
Semenitari, while addressing the directors and other top officials of the commission, shortly after the handing over at NDDC’s corporate headquarters in Port Harcourt, promised to ensure a better life for Niger Deltans. She noted that she understood what the challenges and issues confronting the crude oil and gas-rich but marginalised region were, stressing that she had in-depth knowledge of what NDDC ought to be doing. It is a new dawn in NDDC, with the appointment of the hardworking and dogged journalist, who has promised to ensure real transformation of the region, thereby writing her name, once again, in gold.
Ibim Semenitari’s Feats as NDDC Acting Boss
1. Chief Mrs. Semenitari concern for the security and peace of the Niger Delta, which made her to host on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 the forum of Partners for Sustainable Development (PSD) streamed live to about 25 million global viewers is truly commendable and demonstrate that truly and truly she is the Heroine of Niger Delta region. “We share the stand of this Amazon that ‘the importance of this forum in the development of our Niger Delta Region cannot be over-emphasised, especially at this auspicious time when the country is relying on major actors in the Niger Delta to come together and address the development challenges facing the region in view of the Change Agenda of Mr. President’,
2. She reinvigorated work on the abandoned 3.65-kilometre Okrika – Borokiri road by mobilising the contractor back to site to complete the project. This key road had three bridges connecting Kolabi, Abotoru and Okpoka creeks to Port Harcourt and it is expected to ease traffic along the East-West Road and connect several communities. According to Semenitari, “This project is indeed a top priority because it connects several communities to the Rivers capital. It is one of the projects that can take traffic off Aba Road and East-West Road. You will find people living in Okrika, Akpajo, Eleme or even Gokana and Khana commuting to Port Harcourt through the road. When completed, it would reduce traffic congestion on the Refinery Road and travel time from Okrika to Port Harcourt, adding that it would be of immense benefit to those working in the Port Harcourt Refining Company. They just have to cross to Port Harcourt in 10 minutes. The refinery is right here and the workers don’t have to take the long route to Port Harcourt. So, it is a very vital road and it is sad that it has stayed this long.” Mr. Jolien Keneem, the Project Manager of the company handling the project, said that his firm had devised a strategy that would help it expedite work on the project.
3. Initiated tree planting to mark the 2016 World Environment Day, on June 5, to save Niger Delta Environment. Semenitari said the 2016 celebration was significant as it would coincide with President Buhari’s expected launch of the clean-up of oil spills in Ogoniland, on Thursday. “We all owe future generations a responsibility to preserve biodiversity of the Niger Delta by becoming agents of change, who will make positive impacts on our environment and planet. The theme of 2016 World Environment Day is ‘Illegal Trade in Wildlife’ – which has eroded earth’s precious biodiversity and robbed us of our natural heritage and threatened extinction of species. Tackling the scourge of illegal trade in wildlife requires concerted action because illicit business of wildlife has damaged the environment, livelihoods, communities and security. Semenitari,” adding: “Our ecosystem is our wealth, and protection of our environment should be the collective responsibility of all who live and do business in the region.’’
4. Ibim ended the 16 years of NDDC operating from a rented office complex The commission took off from rented apartments in the old Government Reservation Area (GRA) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, before it moved to 167, Aba Road, an eight-storey building that belonged to the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, before it was taken over by the Rivers government and the commission being its tenant Huge sum of money has been wasted upgrading this rented office complex on Aba Road in Port Harcourt, providing modern parking park, pedestal flyover and other facilities until the appointment of Mrs Semenitari as Acting MD for this interventionist commission by President Buhari.
On the inauguration day (July 12), the Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike; Mrs. Semenitari; the monarch of Port Harcourt City (Eze Epara Rebisi XII), His Majesty, Victor Nnanna Woluchem II and others described the new Rivers office of NDDC as a step in the right direction.
The royal father noted that the area had not been experiencing youth restiveness or cultism, stressing that the only weapon the people had was negotiation, while lauding President Buhari for the right choice of Mrs Semenitari as NDDC’s Acting Managing Director, describing her as very hardworking, courageous, disciplined, fearless and of integrity. Udo-Asubop also lauded Mrs Semenitari for her zeal and commitment to transforming the Niger Delta, in line with the vision of President Buhari and for believing in the abilities of NDDC’s workers at the Rivers State office to ensure service delivery and greater performance.
5. She arranged and sent the NDDC Management Staff to Akure, Ondo State for Procurement and Due Process Training for the management organised by the BPP officials. This is to assist the management for proper management of the budget and financial transactions involving the Commission.
6. Rehabilitation of Calabar – Itu Road
For awarding the rehabilitation of the Calabar –Itu Road that has become not only a dead trap but a hell for both the transporters and commuters of this road, Ibim has become a heroine to some people in the Niger Delta region. According to this CNN Award-winner and the Eleru of Ifon Kingdom, Ondo State, “the state of the road was causing economic hardship to the people.” In order to speed work on his road four functional firms were awarded the contracts. She explained that the award of the contract to four contractors would increase the pace of work and encourage the completion of the road without delay. While section one of the road, which covers Ikot-Ekpene to Itu Bridge, is being handled by Atafranc Nigeria Limited, section two; Itu Bridge to Okuruikand junction is being rehabilitated by Darycet International Nigeria Limited. Semenitari also stated that Base Engineer Limited was handling section three of the road from Okuruikang Junction to Odukpani Junction while Zenith Construction Limited was working on section four, which covered Odukpani Junction to Tinapa Junction. “The contractors we are using have capacity and by the time they complete the work, motorists and other road users will be relieved,” she said.
7. Culture of transparency and accountability. That much is reflected in the release of NDDC’s first quarterly report, which is also online on the NDDC website. “In our first quarterly report, you will find published our finances and budgeting process; a breakdown of all contracts awarded from inception; and several areas of intervention,” she said.
8. The NDDC under Ibim endowed a Professorial Chair in Malaria Research for the Centre for Malaria Research and Phytomedicine, (CMRAP), at the University of Port Harcourt, for the sum of N25 million per annum, to encourage the global fight against malaria. The NDDC has intervened in the education sector by constructing students’ hostels across the nine mandate states. She said the objective was to build and equip the hostels and award of scholarship to deserving students from the region.
9. Ibim arranged and mobilised the NDDC Management Team for a two-day training by the Bureau for Public Procurement, BPP, Abuja on "Understanding the Public Procurement Process and the Public Procurement Act, 2007" in Akure, Ondo State. The Ag. MD/CEO, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari ,led the team that was trained
Ibim and Youths of Niger Delta
Mrs Semenitari, while expressing her stand on the future of youths of Niger Delta during the occasion of the International Youth Day 2016 on Friday, August 12, 2016 stated: “I must say that education remains one of the most sustainable ways of eradicating poverty among the young population. This understanding drives our education and other pro-youth policies as a commission. To achieve that, the NDDC has maintained a scholarship line that has continued to build manpower. In 2016, we upped that stride by striking the gender parity cord through instituting the Girls-in-engineering, Mathematics and Science Competition (GEMS). This competition invites girls of the Niger Delta region to greater involvement in STEM-related courses. So, ahead of time, NDDC is working to position our youths in the competitive edge. We believe that our young people must occupy their slots in labour and economic markets through intense academic engagement. Here our module is that which accommodates healthy competition among the youths and challenges their potential creativity. The NDDC is raising a community of young people sharpened and horned to achieve greatness through education and mentorship. We are building a culture that redefines dignity among the youths through hard work. As we particularly celebrate the youth and draw attention to their place in building a world of sufficiency and growth, I enjoin Niger Delta youths to queue in the re-orientation that abhors rent culture and embrace industry which NDDC is building; to emulate worthy patriots whose commitment to collective good of the region defined the shape and rhythm of the region’s geography and history. I task our youths to use this year’s celebration to engage in self-appraisal, to do a self-audit as to how they have participated in the current negatives pestering our region. We have always been proud stock whose progenitors were familiar with mutual respect and civility.”
Ibim on Niger Delta Environment
According to Ibim, “Covering about 70,000 square kilometres, the Niger Delta region is home to one of the largest wetlands in the world, and Africa’s largest delta. It has at least five distinct ecological zones. These range from the montane and savannah belts in northern Cross River to the mangrove swamp forests near the Atlantic coast, which embody some of the last remaining untouched forest resources and centres of endemism in Africa. These bio-geographical attributes are known to have created the complex and rich environment of habitats that supported the evolution of its fantastically wide range of plant and animal lives. Some say the Niger Delta is home to all of Nigeria’s endemic or near-endemic mammal species. Others say Niger Delta harbours many locally and globally endangered species: approximately 60-80 per cent of all plant and animal species found in Nigeria. However, the globally significant environment and biodiversity of the Niger Delta are in grave danger. Some endemic fish species of the region are in grave danger of extinction due to many reasons, including environmental degradation and over-exploitation among others. Likewise, some animal species such as the endemic African monkey (Guenon species), one of the world’s most beautiful monkeys found mostly in the West African rain forest region (the Niger Delta Region inclusive), are at the risk of extinction.
“This is why we must all rise to the daunting and pressing challenge of preserving our bio-diverse environment for future generations. We all owe future generations a responsibility to preserve the bio-diverse environment of the Niger Delta. As the countdown begins for us to join people from across the globe to celebrate WED on 5 June 2016, we all need to take part in environmental action and become agents of change for positive impacts on the planet. Today’s tree-planting exercise typifies such action. This year’s theme is on the illegal trade in wildlife, which is eroding earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving species to the brink of extinction. The NDDC is statutorily mandated to tackle ecological and environmental problems in the Niger Delta region. Evidently, the killing and smuggling of wildlife constitute ecological and environmental problems. They also undermine economies and ecosystems, fuel organised crime, and feed corruption and insecurity across the globe.”
Is Ibim Fulfilled?
One would assume, given her progression of success, that Ibim would be fulfilled. But she is not, as she still misses the newsroom even as she lamented that the media is losing focus of the critical role of the watchdog in the society. Her words: “In all honesty, I am not fulfilled because I am missing the newsroom. I left the newsroom at a very difficult time. However, it appears to me that the media is losing it, because we are no longer holding the critical sectors of the society accountable for their actions. This is bearing in mind that I am presently an information manager. This is one of the reasons I set up Business Eye. I believe if we do it the way it ought to be done, properly and sincerely, we could actually become the feedback mechanism between the government and the people.”
Ibim, the Unsung Heroine of Niger Delta Region and Her Silent Revolution
On Friday, 19th, August, 2016 in recognition of the unique feats of this Amazon, the world stood still for her in far away America when she dazzled a global audience in Washington DC, United States of America at the 8th edition of the African Women in Leadership Organisation. It was a moment the audience that included top political leaders, business moguls, African-American lawmakers, listened to the dynamics of women owning their voices for the greater good.
In conclusion and for avoidance of doubt, Mrs Semenitari stopped the infamous 15 per cent handshake policy that made contractors pay upfront 15 per cent of their contracts’ value to the sitting MD. She has officially moved against official graft and other official lousiness that was the ruin of the commission; she has restored full powers to directors and heads of departments hitherto hijacked and invested in SAs to MDs. SAs had been the de factomanagement until Semenitari came on board. She has paid NDDC retirees and workers outstanding benefits owed by her immediate predecessor.
Semenitari has equally paid for contracts in the range of N10 million, which her predecessors refused to pay because their 15 per cent handshake would be too little for their pockets. That payment included N200, 000 owed a contractor since 2009. She has donated over 220 laptops to students and teachers in the Niger Delta region. She has donated tractors to integrated farmers; instituted the Girls-in-engineering, Mathematics and Science competition among Senior Secondary Classes 1 & 2 students in the focal states of NDDC.
Chief (Mrs.) Ibim Semenitari, the Eleru of Ifon Kingdom, Ondo State, through Little Drops, a stage drama, took the story of the vulnerable Niger Delta woman and child to the national stage. The story of the region was told through the eye of the vulnerable. Semenitari had approved the purchase of mobility aides for the Association of Persons Living in Disability in Niger Delta and had engaged critical stakeholders in the supervision of projects being undertaken by the NDDC. If these are not revolutionary acts, then I wonder what revolution is all about. Considering the unique feats of Chief Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, I can now understand Abraham Lincoln the foremost world leader properly when he stated, “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
•EZE CHUKWUEMEKA EZE is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt. He can be reached via [email protected] , 08038199163.