The Rivers State Government has described as untrue the false alarm raised by unidentified persons that the military was forcefully vaccinating pupils with Monkey Pox virus in schools in the state.
The state Commissioner for Education, Dr Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja made the clarification after he led the management team of the Ministry of Education to visit some schools within Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City Local Government Areas, yesterday, to ascertain the veracity of the information, which caused serious panic in the state.
He described the information as a false alarm that was raised by unidentified enemies of the state, adding that nobody can even substantiate the source of the information.
“Parents were surging into the school premises to withdraw their wards due to the false information,” he regretted.
The commissioner averred that he had met with the military authorities in the state, adding that there was no such exercise being carried out by the military in the state.
“There is nothing of such that is happening. I have personally visited the Army, and they said the military has not contemplated carrying out such exercise in the state.
“There are rumours orchestrated by some people outside the state to cause crisis in the education system in our state. Parents should not allow themselves to be misinformed by the agents of rumours”, he added.
Gogo-Jaja posited that the rumour was capable of instilling fear in the minds of the children, which according to him, could cause the children to lose concentration and focus while at school.
He urged parents and people of the state to remain calm as government was on top of the situation.
The state commissioner for education, however, directed principals, headmasters and head mistresses across the state to report any individual or group of persons that may come into their schools for any immunisation exercise to security agents.
The Tide reporter, who was in the commissioner’s team, reports that at some schools visited, parents and guardians were seen scaling the school gates in order to withdraw their wards.
Our correspondent further reports that armed policemen were also stationed in some of the schools to prevent breakdown of law and order.
Also speaking, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike said there was no ongoing immunisation in the state or any of such programme in schools.
Chike, who visited schools in Mgbuoba, Rumuokwuta, Oyigbo, Rumuolumeni, Rumuola, among others, yesterday, amid panic and fears as a result of rumoured military immunisation in schools, dismissed the claims as false and misleading.
He said, “I want to tell the general public that those claims are rumours and are spread by mischief makers.”
The health boss explained that there was no collaboration of any medical outreach with the Nigerian Army to conduct immunisation programme, since such responsibility rests solely on the primary healthcare board.
Calling on parents and guardians to disregard the rumoured Army’s effort to immunise children in schools, Chike disclosed that currently, only six local government areas of the state have immunisation programmes ongoing in primary healthcare centres.
He listed the local governments to include Bonny, Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Ahoada West, Port Harcourt City and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni.
The health commissioner maintained that the immunisation in the listed local government areas was sponsored for children by the World Health Organisation (WHO) only in primary health centres.
Earlier in a statement, the Rivers State Government said it did not authorise the Nigerian Army or indeed any other body or persons to enter into school premises to administer forced medication or vaccination on any child in any school in Rivers State.
Reacting to claims that the Nigerian Army was conducting vaccination on school children in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barrister Emma Okah said, “Inoculation is personal and consent of the Rivers State Government and parents must first be sought and obtained before it can be administered on any school child in a school premises. Consequently, all school heads and parents should resist any such attempt.”
Okah disclosed that “The State Government has set up a task force to ensure that no school premises is violated in the state for the purpose of immunising any child.
“We appeal to members of the public to remain calm and return their kids to school as Rivers State Government will continue to ensure their peace and security.
“The State Government has ordered the arrest of anyone attempting to vaccinate any child in any school premises in Rivers State,” the commissioner added.
In a disclaimer notice signed by Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col Aminu Iliyasu, yesterday, the Headquarters of 6 Division, Nigerian Army dismissed the rumour as handiwork of enemies of the state.
The statement reads in full: “The attention of Headquarters 6 Division, Nigerian Army has been drawn to some rumours making the rounds that some Nigerian Army personnel are going round schools in Rivers State dressed in military camouflage uniforms with the intention of forcefully vaccinating students with an unknown substance.
“The callous and unpatriotic rumours spread by these enemies of the state are, to say the least, despicable, deplorable and highly condemnable by all well meaning Nigerians as they are intended to cause pandemonium among the general public.
“The authorities of 6 Division, Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that while the Nigerian Army plans to undertake such gestures like free medical outreaches, sanitation exercises in host communities and distribution of educational materials as part of our community relations activities during the ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile II, these activities are yet to be conducted and will eventually be conducted with the consent of relevant authorities of designated communities and at venues and dates that will be duly communicated to the general public through future press releases and relevant posters.
“For the purpose of emphasis, the Nigerian Army does not and will never carry out its medical outreaches or vaccination exercises for that matter in Schools. We can therefore categorically inform the public that the ongoing rumours about Nigerian Army personnel going round schools in military camouflage to forcefully immunize school children are not true and should therefore be discountenanced with.
“Additionally, members of the public are please requested to call 09072509436-8 to report any case of any impostor(s) that may be seen actually trying to commit such atrocities,” Iliyasu added.
Similarly, the Rivers State Director, National Orientation Agency, Mr. Oliver Wolugbom has called on teachers, parents and pupils in the state to be calm and disregard the rumours making the rounds that the Army was injecting poisonous substances into school children.
The NOA boss made the call following series of calls from local government areas seeking clarifications on the rumour.
According to the NOA boss, the agency was disturbed by rumours of children and parents running aimlessly to avoid the rumoured immunization, warning that this could endanger the lives of the children.
He enjoined teachers to educate parents and their wards on the true situation on the issue, and appealed to the head teachers and principals to take control of their schools and allow the school session to go on uninterrupted.
“The National Orientation Agency calls on all the citizens of the state to ensure that our children do not get kidnapped, missing or injured this period because of this wicked rumour,” Wolugbom cautioned.
Speaking further, Wolugbom advised that teachers, religious leaders, traditional rulers and chiefs and community development committee executives should report to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, if they observe anyone carrying any unauthorised immunization in the schools.
The Tide reports that there was panic and pandemonium in some parts of Rivers State, yesterday, as speculations that soldiers were entering schools with the aim of forcing school children to receive vaccination allegedly from the Nigerian Army.
Several callers to some Port Harcourt-based radio stations had triggered anxiety among parents, who trooped to various schools within the state capital to take their children away.
As of 9.45am, parents were seen at the gates of some of the private and government-owned nursery, primary and secondary schools, asking the school officials to release their children for them.
On the street, parents were seen with their children hurriedly stopping taxies and buses to convey them to their various homes.
As of the time of filing this report (12.49pm), almost all the schools in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital were without pupils and students due to the panic.
Parents whose children attend schools around Nkpolu, Rumuagholu, Rumueme, Nkpor, Rumuolumeni, Rumuosi, Rumuola, Rumuekini and Rumuokoro, Rumuomasi, Rumuokwurushi, Elelenwo, Woji, Elekahia, Ogbunabali, D/Line, Diobu, AND Port Harcourt Township in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas were seen rushing to schools following rumours that soldiers were coming to schools to vaccinate pupils against monkey pox.
A student of Community Secondary Schools, Rumuekini, (surname withheld) told The Tide that the students only saw a team of young people dressed in National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) uniform who entered their school for the exercise.
The student noted that students fled the classrooms when the team mentioned that they were on immunization, because they believed that the team was sent by the military to inject monkey pox into their body.
In Etche, Khana, Eleme, Gokana, and across some other local government areas, schools hastily closed academic activities following rumour of forceful vaccination of children by suspected military personnel.
Some proprietors of the schools who spoke under condition of anonymity with The Tide, however, claimed ignorance of the source of the rumour, adding that they decided to close for the day in order to safeguard the lives of their pupils and students.
John Bibor, Kevin Nengia, Mirian Obusele, Peter Edwin & Janefrancess Chibundu
PDP Inaugurates 15 Convention Sub-Committees –
Wike Chairs Special Duties Committee
6,000 Delegates Expected To Attend
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention Committee, yesterday, in Abuja inaugurated 15 sub-committees for its national convention scheduled for October 30.
The sub-committees as read by the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Duoye Diri, include the National Convention Organizing Committee, chaired by Adamawa State Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri.
Others are Constitutional Amendment Committee, chaired by Akwa lbom Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Zoning Committee chaired by Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Screening Committee, chaired by former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
Sub-committees and their chairmen also inaugurated were Screening Appeal Committee chaired by Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Special Duties Committee chaired by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Accreditation Committee chaired by Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; and Security Committee chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase.
The Electoral (Statutory) Committee, with Adamawa Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri as the chairman; Publicity Committee chaired by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; and Venue Committee, chaired by Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed are also among them.
Others include: Welfare and Entertainment Committee with Mariya Waziri as chairperson; Transportation Committee, with Ibrahim Dankwambo as chairman; and Contact and Mobilization Committee with Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku as chairman.
The rest are, Protocol Committee with Sen. Biodun Olujimi as chairperson; Medical Committee — Nuhu Zagbayi; and Secretariat Committee — Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri.
Inaugurating the sub-committees, Fintiri expressed belief that the October convention would be successful and lead PDP to victory in 2023.
Fintiri said that the leaders and members of the sub-committees were carefully selected to organize a credible convention for the party.
The Adamawa governor urged them to make the necessary sacrifices to deliver the best convention to the party.
Fintiri, fielding questions from newsmen after the inauguration, said that by PDP’s new constitution, over 6,000 delegates were expected at the convention.
“We are fully prepared for that. We are expecting everybody in every ward that is a delegate to attend the convention.”
He said that the sub-committees had been given directions and they were expected to go back, adequately prepare and submit their report to the main committee for approval.
On which part of the party’s Constitution would be amended, Fintiri said he could not pre-empt the Constitution Sub-Committee, but allow them do their job.
On how far the zoning committee had gone after the one-week appeal he gave them, last week, Fintiri said the committee was in a meeting in Enugu carrying out its responsibilities.
“You can see the party is working, and it is a turning point for all of us,” Fintiri said.
According to him, the leadership tussle in the party has largely been addressed even as he came short of saying the PDP has moved on from the crisis.
He said, “We are moving on. I am the chairman of the convention committee and you can see that we are doing our work. Everybody is happy and participating. I don’t see any crisis in this party.”
The party’s national elective convention is slated for October 30 and 31 this year in Abuja.
RSG Recommits To Building Agric Sector
The Rivers State Government has said that it was committed to building the agricultural sector and utilise the huge potentials the state has for the benefit of Rivers people.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, stated this while speaking at a seminar of the Norwegian Seafood Council at Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Wike said, “In the face of dwindling oil prices, and the need to diversify the economy, we see a lot of potentials in the seafood industry especially post Covid-19. This is an important industry for creating employment opportunities, generate revenue and boost economic activities in our area”.
Wike, who said that Rivers State was one of the coastal states in the Niger Delta endowed with valuable seafood resources, revealed that Norway and Nigeria have had a long history of relationship and trade.
According to the governor, “Rivers State, known as the oil and gas hub of Nigeria, is open to do business in all sectors including maritime and welcome more partnerships and investments from stakeholders who wish to do business in the state”.
Wike further said, “In the effort to grow our economy, the Government of Rivers State supports making laws that work for us all, by putting laws in place to improve society’s efficiency. Hence, the assent and signing of the VAT law”.
The Rivers State chief executive, who commended the Norwegian Seafood Council for conducting the seminar in the state, stressed that stock fish was enjoyed across Rivers State by all groups, including low and high earners, while both men and women are involved in the sales in our markets.
“I believe this seminar will examine the many advantages and gains of seafood as well as anticipated support from the Norwegian Embassy in the areas of encouraging deep sea fishing, trawlers, good storage for sea products, training to grow and nurture fish production standard, fish ponds and open fish farms, use of technology and encouragement, support to artisan farmers.
“We believe that the gains for removing stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the FX windows far outweigh the losses if any.
“For all the reasons stated above and many more, we anticipate Federal Government and the CBN’s removal of stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the Central Bank of Nigeria FX window”, Wike further stressed.
In his remarks, the Ambassador Royal Norwegian Embassy, Knut Lein, who described the history of stock fish in Nigeria and Norway as fascinating, said it creates a bond between both countries, and expressed the desire to foster increased cooperation, build on bilateral relations and inform the government of Norway about the opportunities in the country.
He said, “together we could create lots of jobs”, insisting that “doing what we can to promote stock fish trade was a win-win for all of us”.
Highlights of the occasion were the presentation of papers by the Director Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, Mr. Trond Kostveit, and other stakeholders.
The Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Knut Lein, had earlier paid a courtesy call on Governor Nyesom Wike, at the Government House in Port Harcourt, where the state chief executive expressed the state government’s desire to continue to partner with the Norwegian Embassy to facilitate economy growth and development of both countries, and the state in particular.
Encourage States To Harness Own Resources For Dev, Wike Tasks FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He also stressed that it was baffling to note that Rivers State was not included among states to benefit from any of the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government was seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
Wike made the observation when the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present letter of nomination to him as the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The Rivers State governor observed that there were mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
The governor decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT was not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators, including state executives, rather, they were politicising it and looking at it from prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal, and could be likened to robbing some states to pay others.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in Items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the Concurrent List. Therefore, it falls under the Residual List. It is not arguable. That yesterday, nothing happened, does not mean that today, nothing will happen or tomorrow, something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop themselves. We are in a federal system where we are practicing unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state.”
He explained that the contest against the collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) was started by Lagos State, which had sued the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
According to him, Rivers State only avoided their pitfall by suing the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is an agency of the Federal Government that was illegally collecting the tax in the state.
“The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State. It started in Lagos State when Lagos State challenged it in Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court said you (Lagos) shouldn’t have sued the Federal Government. All you would have done was to sue the agency.”
The governor observed that rather than commend Rivers State Government for seeking to entrench fiscal federalism and constitutionalism, a particular state governor had threatened that the judgement of the court that declared that states, and not FIRS, are entitled to collect VAT within their jurisdiction, will not stand.
He urged those demanding for a brothers’ keeper consideration to first, appreciate the position of the law and situate it rightly.
“Some people say, ‘be your brother’s keeper’. I have no problem in being my brother’s keeper, but why not come out and say, let us tell ourselves the simple truth: as it is provided in the law, who is the person responsible to collect the VAT?
“When you agree to that, that it is the state, then, we can sit down to look at the different problems of states. And not to say ‘be your brother’s keeper’ while you’re doing an illegal thing, in disobeying what the law says you should not do.”
Wike stated that it was sheer act of discrimination for the Federal Government not to include Rivers State as one of the states that will benefit from projects for which it was seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
“Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only state that is not benefitting is Rivers State”.
He further noted, “It is the prerogative of Mr President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that beyond the provision of infrastructure, his administration was seeking a law that would provide comfortable accommodation for judicial officers on retirement.
The reason, he said, was to ensure that, while in service, the judicial officers can concentrate on their jobs without cutting corners, and avoid corrupt practices.
In his remarks, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, said the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award was the flagship of award the company.
According to him, Wike was unanimously selected for his remarkable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and promotion of fiscal federalism with his position on VAT, which would help in the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Today, His Excellency has guided Nigeria to true federalism with the issue of VAT. Knowing what fiscal federalism should be, His Excellency went to court to challenge the collection of VAT, and the court stated that actually the states should collect VAT. And that is laying the foundation for true federalism and fiscal federalism”, he said.
Ukeh commended Wike for his sterling performance in office and infrastructural revolution taking place in Rivers State.
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