The Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has confirmed that he could not see any evidence that a building existed on the disputed land in Rainbow Town, Port Harcourt where some persons alleged that the Rivers State Government demolished a mosque.
Speaking with journalists after a joint assessment of the disputed land with Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike at Rainbow Town, yesterday evening, Fayemi described the entire controversy as a storm in a tea cup.
He said: “With what I have seen, I cannot see any evidence of any building that has been demolished here.
“If you are somebody who wants a place of worship, you should find a way to oblige them. I know within your capacity, it will be possible to find a place for them.
“From what I have seen here, I think it is a storm in a tea cup. There is nothing to warrant this kind of media hype that has been given to it”.
The NGF chairman said that his assessment visit was necessitated by a call to Governor Wike after the controversy on the disputed land broke out.
The Ekiti State governor said that when the controversy started, he placed a call to Wike, who pointedly emphasised that no mosque was demolished.
He noted that the Rivers State governor explained the history of the disputed land, explaining that it started during the Chibuike Amaechi administration and that the matter was already in court.
“If they cannot have this place that is contentious, and they have gone to court and you have respected their right to go to court, if they want to come back and seek a request to have another place, I plead that His Excellency should oblige them.
“You cannot allow people to build on a sewer. Even in my state, I will not allow people to build on a sewer. There is no governor that I know that will allow that to happen.
“If they are willing and prepared to have their place of worship elsewhere, that shouldn’t be too much of a request. It is important for us to promote harmony, rather than discord”, Fayemi said.
He said that state governors must continue to interact on sensitive matters before taking a position.
The Ekiti governor said, “All of us should try as much as possible to speak to one another when things like these happen, rather than jump to any conclusion. That’s what brought me here; so that I can see for myself precisely what has transpired, and I want to thank you for granting me the opportunity to visit when I insisted that I want to see the place in contention”, he added.
Responding, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike thanked the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, for exhibiting leadership by visiting the state to see things for himself.
Wike, who noted that the Ekiti State governor, has confirmed that there was no mosque as was wrongly reported, wondered why people politicise everything.
“I want to thank the chairman of my forum for, at least, coming to see things for himself. He called me while he was away, and I told him, you know that I can’t do something like that, and he said okay, when he comes back, he was coming to see me and he has fulfilled that promise. That shows leadership, and from what he has seen, there was no mosque.
“There is no way I will see a mosque and order the Ministry of Urban Development to go and demolish a mosque. Assuming that there is even a mosque and that government doesn’t want it at that location, we will invite them and say look, we don’t want a mosque there, can we find you an alternative place, but there was no mosque. I don’t know why people should make politics out of the issue. It’s not important.”
“So, I thank the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the Ekiti State governor for taking this bold step to come and see things for himself”, he asserted.
The Rivers State governor assured of the state government’s readiness to give an alternative place to the Muslim community if they desire it.
He urged the people not to create discord among the different religions as they worship the same God.
Similarly, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, yesterday, came down hard on politicians accusing them of fuelling religious unrest across the country.
According to him, the political class are to be blamed “for using their selfish ambition to fuel religious suspicious and create religious unrest in the country”.
He said this at Saint David’s Cathedral in Akure the Ondo state capital during a meeting with religious leaders under Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).
The head of the Muslim sect is in the state on a two-day official visit and being hosted by the Deji of Akure land, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi.
Abubakar, therefore, advised “Nigerians to shun politicians and important personalities who are politicising religions and creating tension across the country.
According to him “the Bible and Quran do not belong to any political party”.
Speaking on the controversy trailing the alleged demolition of a mosque in Port-Harcourt by the Rivers State Government, Abubakar said that the “Nigerian Inter-Religious Council at the national level is already handling the issue for an amicable resolution”.
He noted that, “nobody should claim to love God without loving his or her neighbours who are Muslims and Christians”.
The Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo said that the historic visit by the Sultan was to foster religious harmony in the state.
The meeting was attended by both Christians and Muslims leaders.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was led by their state Chairman, Reverend John Ayo Oladapo while the Muslims were led by the state Chairman, League of Imams and Alfas, Alhaji Ahmed Aladesawe.
Abubakar had earlier inaugurated the newly constructed mosque at the Deji’s Palace.
However, the Sultan will today deliver the Akure, Ondo State’s 2019 yearly Ulefunta Public Lecture.
This year’s lecture, which is the second edition, will hold at the Main Auditorium of the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
According to the Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Prince Adebisi Adeniyi, the lecture is entitled “Our diversity a divine gift and blessing untapped: Wrong path trod and way to peace”.
Explaining the Ulefunta Festival, the chairman said, “It is the brainchild of the Akure monarch, the Deji of Akure Kingdom, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, who began a process of bringing Akure’s culture into modern remembrance, one of which is the traditional period of leave of the Akure king called Ulefunta which is now celebrated to impart its lessons on the modern world”.
Adeniyi said, “The Lecture, which will be chaired by the renowned entrepreneur, Chief Michael Ade Ojo, will also have the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, as the Special Guest of Honour, and will be attended by prominent traditional rulers, religious leaders, opinion leaders, community leaders, youths and students”.
It would be recalled that the 2018 edition of the Public Lecture was delivered by the current Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah.
Also, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has appointed Alhaji Abdulrazak Deprieye as the sole administrator of Rivers State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board (RSMPWB).
A statement by the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, indicated that “the appointment takes immediate effect”.
In a related development, the Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Susan Aderonke Folarin has commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his love for children and investment in youth development initiatives.
While applauding the governor for investing in the development of youths, the envoy also charged the government to ensure that the identified talents were not allowed to waste.
Folarin gave the commendation when she played host to the players of Banham Model School, Port Harcourt, who have been sponsored by the Rivers State Government on a two-week training programme to the prestigious Real Madrid Academy, Spain.
She urged the boys to be good ambassadors of Nigeria wherever the future takes them.
Folarin did not forget to applaud the efforts of their sponsor and Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike for taking unusual interest in youth development and job creation to drive Nigeria’s socio-economic development.
While thanking God for the privileges they have enjoyed, the boys also did not forget to thank the Rivers State Government for investing in them.
With their visit finally over, the boys then headed back to the Real Madrid Academy to continue with their training programme.
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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