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Rivers Lives also Matter

Published as an advertorial by a group of Concerned Citizens of Rivers State on 18 March, 2019 in Businessday, Vanguard, Thisday, Guardian, The Nation and Daily Trust Newspapers

1) We the undersigned are concerned citizens and stakeholders of Rivers State. 

2) We have watched with disbelief and horror recent violent incidents which occurred before, during and after the elections that were held in Rivers State on 23rd February, 2019 and 9th March, 2019. These incidents occurred supposedly as a result of the elections. 

3) These violent incidents have led to the needless loss of so many lives, especially youths in various communities.

4) We do not believe that elections which are designed to enable the people choose their leaders should lead to their death instead. Therefore, every single death must be investigated and the culprits brought to justice. 

5) We are particularly concerned about the role played by the Nigerian Army in these events and welcome the announcement by the Army Command that they have set up a panel to investigate the conduct of their personnel who were deployed on election duties. In the light of numerous disturbing video footages which have gone viral across the globe, it is important and imperative that the investigation is thorough, professional and unbiased. 

6) Whilst we cannot and should not stop the Nigerian Army or indeed any professional body from reviewing the conduct of its own personnel, we hereby call for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to be speedily set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria to secure a broader thorough, professional and unbiased inquiry into the massive loss of lives which occurred before, during and after the elections in Rivers State. 

7) We are deeply troubled by the inability of the political leaders in our State to manage their rivalries and differences within acceptable norms of a civilised society as has been done in several other States in Nigeria. 

8) Rivers State comprises many Ethnic Groups which have largely lived in harmony since its creation. Random killings are bad enough, but where patterns are discernible and some communities become angry because they hold others responsible for the needless loss of lives in their own immediate vicinity the potential exists for a general and more troubling breakdown of law and order.

9) Our fear now is that, if not checked immediately, the escalating cycle of violence will drive away investors and investments thereby leaving our people impoverished.

10) Rivers State hosts some of Nigeria’s critical oil and gas facilities and it is crucial that we do not inadvertently encourage a return to pre-amnesty acts of vandalism and destruction that could send the national economy into a tailspin. We therefore urge all indigenes of Rivers State who are engaged in politics and their Political Parties to act with restraint at all times and avoid utterances that may further inflame passions. 

11) We are willing to work with sincere and responsible stakeholders and all genuine friends of Rivers State (who understand and agree that Rivers lives also matter) to find a lasting solution to the problems that have bedevilled the State of recent.

Signed on 18th March, 2019 by:-

Mr Atedo N A Peterside (a Commander of the Order of the Niger) is the Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc. He is the Founder & President of Anap Foundation.

Mr George Etomi, FNIALS, NPOM, is a lawyer and Pioneer Chairman of the NBA Section on Business Law.                

Mr Tein George is a former bank executive and is now a businessman and investor in the oil and gas, real estate and manufacturing sectors of the economy. He is the Chairman of Aveon Offshore Ltd.         

Mr Emmanuel T Georgewill is a Registered Member of The Nigerian Society of Engineers. He is an Engineer and Entrepreneur in the Oil & Gas Services Industry.

Senator John Azuta-Mbata is a retired politician and businessman.

Mr O.C.J. Okocha, MFR, SAN, is a Legal Practitioner. He was the President of the Nigerian Bar Association 2000-2002.

Dr Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe is the CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading banks with a strong sustainability ethos.