Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, on Friday, said a proposition to establish a law school in Rivers State was denied by the administration of his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi.
Wike served under Amaechi as Chief of Staff between 2007 and 2011. The two have since fallen out politically with Amaechi joining the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 and his successor remaining in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The governor spoke at the commissioning of the new Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Rumueme, Port Harcourt as part of a week-long unveiling of legacy projects with six months to the end of the governor’s two-term administration.
“I remember when I was chief of staff, the law school that is in Bayelsa today was to come to Rivers but the government at that time said no. They were not willing to have a law school campus in Port Harcourt,” Wike said.
The governor narrated how attending a Call to Bar at the Nigerian Law School in Abuja led to the establishment of the new Rivers campus. As the Nigerian Body of Benchers filed into the hall, according to him, he could not help but notice the poor state of the surroundings.
“‘How can we have this as a law school and especially the headquarters of the Nigeria Law School? This is unacceptable.’ I sent somebody to call me the Director General of the Law School, though I didn’t know him,” Wike said.
“He came and I said, ‘This is our law school? What is happening?’ He said they would manage with what they had as there were no funds. This is my constituency.
“If I leave tomorrow as governor and then I’m criticising, people would ask me, ‘When you were there, what was your contribution to making sure we have a better legal education?’”
According to Wike, the Director General turned down his offer to renovate one of the buildings in the Abuja campus, opting instead for him to “take the money to Bayelsa State”.
The governor after a trip to the Bayelsa campus said he was moved to establish the Rivers State campus.
“You would never allow even your worst slave to go to that school. It was so bad. I was touched and I said, ‘What do we do?’ (The DG) said their immediate problem was that there was no accommodation or auditorium for them to do any activity.
“I said the Rivers State Government would contribute to building 900 spaces of hotels and then 1,500 capacity multipurpose hall. Then I told him to go and design it. He designed it and brought it at the cost of over N5bn. We passed through the due process and awarded the contract,” he said.
The governor put aside his political differences with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, lauding the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, for being instrumental in the establishment of the Rivers campus.
He said, “The Permanent Secretary (Ministry of Justice) said, ‘I will carry this tempting request to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.’ And I said, ‘Ha! I don enter wahala. If it is going to pass through the Attorney General, just forget it. It’s gone because I’m one of their worst critics.’
“I said, ‘How would they see that and approve? Wike? No, it’s not possible.’ The DG came back to me and said, ‘Put in your application.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said it would go to the President. I said, ‘The president too? Maybe you people don’t want this thing to work.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Wike stated that the Council of Legal Education approved the request, which was then forwarded to Malami for approval. The governor said, to his surprise, the minister treated the request favourably.
“(The DG) said when he got to the Attorney General, he (Malami) said, ‘Somebody wants to assist us, something the Federal Government cannot do? You want me to play politics? I will not approve (of it).’”