This is not the best of times for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as its corporate headquarters located in Port Harcourt has, once again, been sealed off by the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RIRS) over alleged unpaid withholding tax to the tune of N50billion.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Chairman of the RIRS, Adoage Norteh, explained that the NDDC premises were sealed off because the commission refused to make its financial records available for audit.
According to Norteh, “The place is sealed off; we got a court order to seal off the place. We had gone to court to say that we are frustrated by the antics of NDDC.
“They had assessed themselves, last year, and admitted that they were indebted to the tune of N671million, but they did not pay.
“When we now sealed the office (last year), they then paid. We told them that we are going to audit their books, but since last year to this time, they (NDDC) have refused to allow us have access to audit their records.
“The N50billion that is being talked about is our best of judgement; that is the amount we assessed because they refused to open their books.
“That they did not object to it means that it is the amount they owe. If they have nothing to hide, why would they not show us their records? For many years, these people have refused to open their books,” the RIRS chairman stated.
He, however, noted that the agency (RIRS) had opened talks with the commission with a view to resolving the issues regarding unpaid taxes.
“We are talking with them now; they are asking that we should come and do the audit now, and that whatever we come up with, they will pay. I am reluctant because we have gone past that process; we have got a court order.
“We would not have gone to court if they had done the needful. But if they say it is not N50billion, how much do they owe? We are not interested in sentiments, we are interested in the records,” Norteh said.
Meanwhile, the NDDC has maintained that it has not defaulted in meeting its tax obligations to the Rivers State Government, even as it expressed surprise that the state revenue agency claimed the commission owed a whooping N50billion.
The commission, in a statement issued by its Director, Corporate Affairs, Charles Odili, read, “It is rather curious that the RIRS would rush to seal the gates of the commission, disrupting activities at its headquarters, without any form of notification.
Susan Serekara-Nwikhana & Dennis Naku
Ateke’s Reign As King Has Brought Peace To Okrika, Wike Confirms
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said that the recognition of King Ateke Michael Tom as the Amanyanabo of ancient Okochiri Kingdom by the Rivers State Government has brought peace, stability and security to Okochiri and entire Okrika communities.
The governor acknowledged that without the support of traditional rulers, it would be difficult for any government at whatever level to achieve peace.
Wike stated this after he was conferred with the traditional title, “Se Taribo 1st of Okochiri Kingdom (a man who has love for his people),” at Okochiri in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, last Saturday.
The governor said: “The recognition of Ateke Tom by government as the Amanyanabo of Okochiri has brought peace in this domain, and the people are happy with his leadership. And that is why, today, you can see that there is peace that reigns within the environment of Okochiri, and to greater extent, the entire Okrika Local Government.”
The governor noted that when a person is saddled with the responsibility of presiding over the affairs of the people, once his administration is predicated on justice, fairness and equity, it would yield peace and happiness for those governed.
“It is one thing to be traditional ruler, it is another thing to live up to the expectation of a traditional ruler. You have kept your kingdom as one, you have kept your kingdom in peace, you have kept your kingdom united, and that is what is expected of a traditional ruler.
“You’re not just a traditional ruler to confer chieftaincy title on us; you’re also a traditional ruler to help government to maintain peace in your domain; because without the traditional rulers, it will be difficult for any government at whatever level to achieve anything.
“Governance without peace, governance without security is no governance. Governance is predicated on protection of lives and property.”
Wike noted that the massive turn out of people from all walks of life to grace the fourth anniversary of the coronation of King Ateke Michael Tom as the Amanyanabo of Okochiri, and dedication of his new palace, was a demonstration of their appreciation of his leadership.
“Ateke Tom has brought peace. Don’t see him as Ateke Tom that fought for the Niger Delta, see him as Ateke Tom, the traditional ruler, the Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, whose traditional duty is to make sure peace reigns in his domain”, Wike told the people.
Wike, who commended the king for being supportive of the Government of Rivers State, promised to complete all ongoing infrastructural projects started by his administration in Okochiri and the entire Okrika Local Government Area.
The governor urged the people of Okrika and the rest of the country to rally round, and collectively ensure that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was ousted from power in 2023.
“It’s only God that is holding us today. Things are very difficult day by day. The government at the national level has failed us, and therefore, it’s time for Nigerians to rally round to make sure we have a government that will take care of our people.”
In his remarks, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo said the recognition of the ancient Okochiri Kingdom stool by the governor has brought peace, joy and development to the entire Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Subsidy Removal’ll Worsen Nigerians’ Suffering, PFN Tells FG
The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) has told the Federal Government that removing fuel subsidy would worsen the suffering of the majority of Nigerians who are already impoverished.
The President of PFN, Bishop Wale Oke, urged the government to shelve the proposed policy in order not to worsen the hardship and trigger crisis in the country.
Oke said this in a statement, yesterday, on the proposed subsidy removal.
He explained that the implementation of the policy would lead to hike in the price of fuel and this would have a ripple effect on prices of goods and services
Oke warned that the implementation of such policy would increase the hardship currently being experienced by the people of the country.
The cleric said prices of foodstuffs and other daily needs were increasingly going out of reach of the people, noting that if the proposed subsidy removal was effected, it would exacerbate the hardship of the people of the nation.
Oke further said the situation in the country was very bad because of the steady decline in the purchasing power of Nigerians as a result of the continuous fall in the value of the nation’s currency.
The statement read, “Everybody will feel it, particularly the less privileged. The negative effects will surely outweigh the positive.
“The cost of transportation for human and goods across the country will skyrocket and other things connected which will have a spiral effect on general living standard of the populace; the suffering will be multi-dimensional. Please let all stakeholders be sensitive to this avoidable path and do the needful.
“By whatever means, let the Federal Government put its heart into ensuring that our refineries are back to life. In addition, in order to stem the rising cost of living, farmers and others connected to them should be encouraged. This is what can help our economy.”
He said the PFN would always support policies that would enhance good governance, but charged the government to this effect to put in place tangible palliative measures that could ameliorate the hardship being experienced.
He said, “Without begging the issue, there should be well defined palliative measures in place that can cushion the effect of the hardship being experienced by Nigerians, especially the commoners. One is not talking about political palliatives that never last. We have seen enough of such.
“An increase in the price of petroleum from its present N165 to N340 per litre can trigger tension and crises in the country which in turn can paralyse our economy if not handled with utmost care.
“Again, the planned introduction of N5,000 for 40million poor Nigerians is to create a cesspool of corruption. How do you define the poor? They, mostly, don’t use telephones. They, mostly, don’t have bank accounts. How will the money get to them?”
Oke advised the government to be wary of policies that could jeopardize the conduct of the 2023 general elections, insisting that all hands must be geared towards steering the wheel of the country to safety.
As a panacea to the rising cost of food items, the PFN President advised that farmers and relevant stakeholders should be empowered with relevant tools and funds through loans with little interest.
Oke, who is also the presiding Bishop of The Sword of the Spirit Ministries, implored the government not to relent in its efforts at ensuring that security challenges in the country become a thing of the past.
Similarly, the Leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele has warned President Muhammadu Buhari against the proposed fuel subsidy removal.
In a statement released by his media aide, Osho Oluwatosin, Ayodele warned the government to withhold plans to remove fuel subsidy in the interest of the poor masses because a lot of things would be affected by it.
He made it known that the Nigerian economy isn’t in good shape at the moment and removing subsidy at a critical economic situation would cause more damage than good for the Nigerian economy.
He noted that some banks, companies would be affected and that the debt profile of the country would keep on increasing unless the government swings into action.
Furthermore, he warned Buhari not to be carried away by wrong advice because it would lead his government to nowhere.
‘’The removal of fuel subsidies at a time like this is not advisable because the economy of Nigeria isn’t in good shape. Already, the people are faced with enough hardship and removal of fuel subsidy will only worsen the situation.
‘’When the report came up last week that the government will be replacing subsidy with N5,000 transportation grant for 40million poor Nigerians, I smiled because that plan is not sustainable, there is no provision for it in the 2022 budget, then what’s the plan?
‘’I have said it before that I foresee a massive protest against hunger which will involve everyone in the country, the government doesn’t have to wait till this happens, that’s why I warned them ahead, but the path they are toiling right now is moving towards the direction of the protest. They have gotten it wrong and a time will come when political leaders will regret their positions because there will be attacks against them from everywhere by those who elected them.
‘’I advise the Federal Government to hold on with the plans to remove subsidy for the sake of the masses and for peace to reign in the country. If not, there will be an uprising,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of the Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma has asked the Federal Government to jettison the idea of paying N5,000 palliative to 40million Nigerians.
The government said the decision was to cushion the effect of the planned removal of fuel subsidy.
But Chukwuma, who rejected the removal of subsidy, described the proposed N5,000 palliative “as a huge disgrace.”
He said this during a press conference on the activities lined up for the 50th Anniversary of the Enugu Diocese, Anglican Communion.
While noting that the Enugu Diocese was concerned about the level of governance of Nigeria, he added that “we are also concerned about peace and the unity of Nigeria, as well as infrastructural development.”
He called on the government “to be sensitive about the situation of Nigeria; we frown against the killings, the banditry, the kidnappings, inequality, injustice and all the evils.
“Of late, we can see how ‘Mkpuru Mmiri’ is destroying our youths, it is highly condemnable. We are calling on our youths to please avoid this so that they don’t get their heads out of order. This is not how they will become future leaders.
“Right now, I want to say that the government of Nigeria has not treated the South-East fairly; particularly now that we are getting into the yuletide, Enugu-Onitsha Expressway is a total disaster, Enugu-Port Harcourt they are putting it to use but it is not yet complete.
“We are calling on the minister of works to stop playing pranks and politics with the roads in the South-East. Rail transport should also be extended to the South-East; we see no reason the minister of transport should neglect his own zone.
“It is important for our government to know that most youths are angry; they are angry because they are hungry. I just heard about giving N5,000 to 50million Nigerians, it is a disgrace. It will not bring any positives on our people. We are also frowning at galloping inflation.
“Our naira is becoming useless and something must be done about it. E-naira or whatever is not the solution at all.”
He also called on the residents of South-East not to toy with the on-going voter’s registration exercise, stressing that “these things count; South-East should stop shortchanging themselves; that’s the only way they will have a say in 2023.”
On the church’s anniversary, Chukwuma disclosed that, “It became a Diocese in August, 1970; exactly last year August, Enugu became 50 years of its inauguration with the first Bishop, Rt. Rev. Gideon Nweke Otubelu. By the grace of God, he championed the course of Enugu Diocese for 27 years.
“Last year, when it became 50 years of Enugu’s inauguration as a Diocese, we could not celebrate because of COVID; we had to shift it to this year.
“Right now, we have mapped out a one-week anniversary programme to celebrate the 50 years of Enugu Diocese. We started with a crusade which is going to last till Sunday and we have decided that from last week of this month, we will have activities from church to church, and rally, and then end it up with thanksgiving service on the 5th of December at the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd.
“More importantly, the two days out of it all are the 4th and the 5th of December. On the 4th, we shall be having a rally at the Christ Church field, where all the churches will assemble to have a rally for the 50th anniversary and they are going to march, church by church, archdeaconry by archdeaconry and so on.
“There, we will also have a dedication anniversary of the diagnostic centre of our hospital at the Good Shepherd Specialist Hospital, Uwani, Zik Avenue. The diagnostic centre is necessary to complement the hospital because we believe in health care, we believe in mission; on that same 12th, we are also going to dedicate a building built by the women at the Brethren Home Convent.
“Then on the 5th of December, which is Sunday, will be thanksgiving day, during which all the churches in the diocese and the dioceses created out of Enugu, 11 of them will also participate. Enugu has given birth to 11 Dioceses, with Enugu making it 12, forming what is now the ecclesiastical province of Enugu, for which I’m the Archbishop. We have the Nsukka Diocese, Abakaliki, Oji-River, Enugu North, Awgu-Aninri, Nike, Mgbo, Afikpo, Udi and Eha-Amufu Dioceses.
“Enugu Diocese is out to execute pragmatic evangelism; Enugu Diocese is out to make sure that we care for the poor, the less privileged, the widows, orphans and those who are displaced.”
Qatar Airways Begins Flights To PH, Enugu, Kano Airports
Qatar Airways has concluded plans to resume flying to Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Kano airports following bouts of bilateral trade agreements between Nigeria and the Qatari government.
The two governments are also considering a partnership that would lead to the development of gas in both countries.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb Gabriel Aduda, said collaboration in the areas of air travel and gas development between Nigeria and Qatar would enhance economic growth and development.
A statement by the Embassy of Nigeria in Doha, Qatar, quoted Aduda as saying this when he met with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, in Doha.
The envoys appreciated the cordial bilateral relations both countries enjoy since the establishment of diplomatic relations about a decade ago in 2013.
They agreed that the good service being offered by the Qatar Airways by launching direct flight to Abuja will be expanded to Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt while acknowledging the contributions of the State of Qatar to the improvement of livelihood of many Nigerians in some states of the country through Qatar Charity and similar organisations.
Aduda was accompanied to the meeting by the Nigerian Ambassador to the State of Qatar, Yakubu Ahmed, and the Head of Chancery, Mr. Kimiebi Ebienfa.
According to the statement, the Federal Government was currently deepening natural gas utilisation to enable it to boost investment in power and gas-based industries.
Aduda called for investment in gas exploration and infrastructure, technology exchange, skills acquisition and knowledge sharing, manpower development in safety and environment.
He also listed other areas of potential partnership to include gas shipping and marine transportation, advocacy and collaboration in campaigning for gas as fuel of choice in the midst of climate change and global energy transition.
As a result, Aduda called for relaxation of visa restrictions on Nigerians who intend to visit Qatar as well as easing of work visa for Nigerian professionals.
In his response, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Dr. Ahmed bin Hassan Al Hammadi, recalled the robust relations between Nigeria and Qatar, and lauded the proposal for cooperation between the two countries.
According to him, Qatar was ready to provide training for Nigerian diplomats.
To achieve this, he said the Head of the Diplomatic Institute would meet with the Nigerian side and agree on the terms and develop a framework to actualise set objectives.
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