FIRS Demands over N3 billion from Cross River

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) says the Cross River State Government was owing FIRS in excess of billion naira from taxes and other deductions made by the State Government from contractors and other sources. The coordinator of the FIRS for Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Cross River State, Mr. Innocent Ohagwua,

Officials of the FIRS met with the state deputy governor, Professor Ivara Esu in his office, where they spoke on their mission to recover the unremitted funds for the federal government. He said his delegation was in the state to discuss the way forward on how to get the money remitted to the service. “So, we are here sir, to raise some of the outstanding issues, and some of those outstanding issues. Without wasting your time, if we need to quantify it in terms of outstanding, they are in excess of N3 billion,”Ohagwua said, according to extracts of recordings from the meeting. Ohagwua said though the FIRS would prefer the arrears of outstanding deductions, especially taxes deducted from contractors and others, to be remitted to the service in bulk sum, they were prepared to provide a window of opportunity to the state to make such remittances in instalments.

Responding to the demands of the FIRS, the state deputy governor said the state government will continue to work with the service to ensure that its objective of generating revenue for the federal government was realised. The FIRS coordinator said revenues generated and remitted to the FIRS by state were for the execution of projects for the benefit of the people at the federal, state and local government levels. Esu demanded that issues raised by the FIRS be documented and forwarded to the state government for necessary action. “I want to also let you know that we are a responsible government, we know that it is important for one to pay his or her taxes; very important and I can assure you that, if you properly document this things that you have told me that we that we have not done, especially the issue of deducting taxes from contractors and not remitting them... “My advice is that you should properly document these matters, make them very clear, let them not be ambiguous, they should be as clear as possible, and then give that to us,” Esu Said.

Transforming Cross River to an Industrial Hub is Governor Ayade’s passionate business

“That is what we are trying to achieve here, we have the pharmaceutical industry, the rice city project. There is also the bio-technology centre, the Sugarcane Island and off course, the affordable homes starting, and coming on stream soon. So the whole of this Jonathan by-pass would just be a massive construction site and an industrial zone. That is why we have set a target to have 40,000 people employed from the sugar factory, the pharmaceutical, the rice city as well to the garment factory within a very short time”, the visionary governor further stated. Speaking sometime in December 2015 at the event of the City Lighting at the Millennium Park, Calabar to herald the beginning of the “super week” of activities of Calabar Festival the amiable governor reiterated the determination of his administration to make Cross River an industrial hub as an avenue to curb the increasing unemployment in the state, the Cross River State Governor, pledging to work hard to eradicate or at least reduce to the barest minimum, the scourge of unemployment in the state by the end of his first tenure in office.

He ensured that only policies which will create jobs for the people would be formulated by his administration with a promise that no Cross Riverian, who is willing to work, will be unemployed at the end of his tenure. “Today we the great people of Cross River State are having reasons to come together and celebrate our annual festival. Today marks a turning point in the philosophical theory of the people of Cross River State. We are redesigning our philosophy and concept to create a new horizon of opportunity for young people.

Young people who by no fault of theirs, are facing challenges in their own time. As a young man who grew from those challenges and now on the saddle of leadership, I want to commit and challenge, and to tell every Cross Riverian that the new theory behind the carnival this time is that we want to return power to the youths. Stating further, he explained that “We want young men and women to have opportunities and so switching on these lights today is a luminescence of the celestial path to the growth, to the future, the prosperity of the young. We make commitment, for those who do not know the theory that no matter how challenging this may be, just understand the fact that this state has to grow.

I make it very clear today; my government is focused on the poor because that is my heritage that is my background. " On the new philosophy that underpins his administration, he said: “As sophisticated as this carnival looks, there is a simplicity that I am bringing into it, bringing it back to nature, climate change as our new focus. I will create jobs for all the young men and women that is why I am focusing on the green police and the green carnival and the climate marshals. As far as I know, by the end of my tenure, we are not going to have any young man who is a Cross Riverian, and unemployed. “I give this commitment because I understand the challenges of our people. I know our heritage and God, bringing all of you here means I have an opportunity in history to change the course of mankind. You are going to see a man who will come with so much verve, so much energy. No challenges will dare us, we are going to take them down.

Cross River state must raise above all the challenges which are the reason why I said we should come here and as we are switching on this light, we are switching on the prosperity of Cross River State”. It is based on the very rich economic and development blueprint which Ayade has drawn out for the state that motivated the Bank of Agriculture recent expression of its readiness to partner and assist the Cross River government in large scale Banana production amongst several others in its bid to deliver on its mandate of financing the agro sector for the nation to reach food sufficiency and security level. In an interactive meeting with the Cross River governor, Senator Benedict Ayade, the Managing Director of the bank, Dan-Bala Danju disclosed that plans were in place to ensure the state benefits from the over N 200 billion Naira set aside by the country's apex bank to be accessed by states for agricultural purposes.

He said that the bank will readily partner the state due to "the enthusiasm and passion you (governor Ayade) have showed towards agricultural development which encouraged me to leave other engagements in Abuja to come here”, stressing that the country currently faces an existential problem due to the relative performance of agricultural yield and called for more financing for the sector to ensure the true diversification of the nation's economy. On his part the Governor of Cross River, Senator Ayade urged the Bank of Agriculture to see Cross River as a unique state to partner with and called for a rethink in the methods and mechanism used in agro business, while describing Cross River as a state that is very unique, the governor asserted that the state is focusing on a few major crops which are essentially traditional to the state, which includes banana, maize, rice, corn and cocoa. He called on the MD of the bank to "give us attention for this four crops and give us a target.

Work and identify with us, structure a facility that does not comes to the state in Naira", pointing out that the state is the only one in Nigeria with almost all the geographic belts for various crops to be grown, and queried "how can I sit on a state with such vast resources and say we are poor? It will be sterility of ideas." Ayade stated that Nigeria has lost it due to an attitude problem where all focused on oil, stressing the various programs so far failed to address the problem which left the hopes very dim. "We have an attitude problem where there is so much sophistry because of so much certification in university education without a corresponding hands on skill to sustain agriculture at the level that passion and core competence required to get us there”, and lamented a situation where farmers are allowed to bear the brunt of production which does not encourage high productivity, he then called for a technologically driven agro sector to increase yield due to the scarce availability of arable land to cultivate. Watching keenly the direction, vision/blueprint and governance style of Ayade’s leadership the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador John Calderwood recently went into mutual collaboration with the Cross River Government to assist the state in the areas of health, fishery/agro forestry, skills acquisition, training and micro-financing for entrepreneurship.

The meeting came on the heels of several others with countries and reputable organizations and institutions which views Cross River as strategic and secure for investments in Africa. In a resolution reached after a fruitful meeting with Governor Ben Ayade at his conference room, Governor’s office, Calabar, the Canadian High commissioner announced a 15 million dollars window program for skill acquisition, training and microfinance for youths in the areas of agro-forestry, fisheries and agriculture, explaining that the meeting was also an approach for the state to increase its investment in essential medicine, especially for women and children; scale up access to diarrhea treatment, oral rehydration. "This program aims at developing entrepreneurship in Cross River State in the areas of fisheries and forestry in particular.

This programme matches the energy and the enthusiasm of the youth in your state that are keen to work, and matching that with the natural endowment of mineral resources you have in your state in the areas that I have mentioned, this will achieve sustainable economic development”, the Canadian High Commissioner asserted. Calderwood disclosed that his country has been partnering the state through several programmes in the areas of health and was looking forward to include agriculture even as his country bids to become a key player in the exploitation and utilization of solid minerals in the state to create wealth for the citizenry. Responding, Ayade said his administration is committed to creating an alternative economy for the state, and that the state would readily partner any investor to ensure the realization of its investment, while promising to upgrade the facilities at the school of nursing to meet a standard where surgery and other advanced medical studies are offered, he assured that he will approve the request of the institution to get certain facilities to ensure its accreditation.

He said his ultimate aim was to decouple the state from dependence on federal allocation, further solicited the support of the High Commissioner to support the state’s Green Police initiative which he said was a large scale program to assist the state in achieving its goals. "The Green Police will grow trees that we can process into end products, protect and conserve the forest, ensure that the environment is properly taken care of. It will be involved in waste management, urban afforestation and proper agro forestry,” he said. On the superhighway running through a forest reserve, Ayade assured Calderwood the issue was a misconception that has since been taken care of as it does not cut through the National Park. While showing the High Commissioner the route which work has since begun, Ayade said as an environmentalist and a leader of a state which has about 50 percent of the country's remaining rainforest reserve and hosts one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world, there was no way the planning of the road would have included cutting through the Cross River National Park. The Canadian High Commissioner, upon learning the state’s plan in developing its solid minerals, urged the governor to attend the PDAC mining convention in Canada scheduled for the first week of March 2016.

BUHARI IS NOT DEAD BUT THEY ARE KILLING HIM ON SOCIAL MEDIA!

BUHARI IS NOT DEAD BUT THEY ARE KILLING HIM ON SOCIAL MEDIA!

 

By Tony Okoroji

 

You better believe it, Nigeria is at war. I am not talking about the Boko Haram war in the North. I am also not talking about the never-ending skirmishes in the Niger Delta that threaten to bring to a halt whatever little income we still generate from crude oil.

 

Nigeria is at war over the control of the minds of our young people and the millions of our vulnerable citizens. The war is fierce. There are no rules in this crazy war. The Geneva Convention does not apply. Religion is in play. Tribe has become a major weapon. Genocide soon will be okay. Torture will be allowed. Right now, every crude propaganda tactic is being deployed as tribal, religious and ethnic hatred is being incubated in our land.

 

My biggest worry is whether the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria fully understands that our nation is at war and that if we do not do what we need to do and do it fast, Rwanda may once again be repeated in Africa.

 

I can hear a chorus of 'God forbid!'. That is part of the problem. Somehow, we Nigerians have convinced ourselves that God loves us so much that we can do very stupid things and there will be no consequences Yea! We believe that what applies to the rest of God's children do not apply to us. For some reason, we have begun to believe that we are such a special breed that we can consume all our seedlings, sow nothing and yet reap a bountiful harvest. Let me ask: did the Almighty step down from His throne while the horrific tragedy of Rwanda occurred? Was He not there while brothers and sisters butchered themselves in Sudan? Right now, in Syria and Iraq, unspeakable mayhem and suffering are taking place but God is still on His throne.

 

Let someone show me that chapter in the Bible or the Quran that says that God loves His children in Nigeria but hates his children in Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and the other places where the incubation of hate has led to indescribable human suffering. Was God not on his thrown when Nigerians slaughtered each other during the Biafra war? Why is today different?

 

Everywhere in Nigeria people are praying from dusk to dawn. Everywhere you look, there are new churches and mosques being built. Pray, how can we love God so much, that we hate our brothers and sisters, children of the same God so much?

During the week, I accidentally ran into Femi Adesina, President Buhari's chief spokesman, in Lagos. Femi probably would tell you that I was very upset with him, his team and their tactics in what has clearly become a war of attrition. I accused his team of leaving our president naked to be shot at and made fun of by all kinds of characters. Femi is clearly one of the finest journalists Nigeria has produced in recent years. He has grilled me in a memorable interview at the Sun. Practically, everyone who knows Femi will tell you that he is also a very decent gentleman. I like him. I am however asking myself whether Femi is not too decent to lead a critical part of the war that President Buhari must wage to prevent Nigeria from going the way of Rwanda or Sudan.

 

The war I speak of is not in Sambisa Forest or the creeks of the Delta. The war is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and all over the internet. At this point, millions of Nigerians are being recruited to despise their President, to despise their fellow countrymen and to despise their country. History tells us that the ongoing recruitment has huge consequences for every Nigerian, man woman and child. Times are hard for a lot of Nigerians and that makes it even easier.

 

As has been clear in other places where foot soldiers of hate have been unleashed, a lot of the people being recruited do not even know that they are being recruited. How did Al Qaeda begin? How did the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda who had existed together for hundreds of years wake up one morning and start butchering each other? How did Boko Haram grow under our eyes and become the terror machine that has traumatized the Nigerian people?

Let's face it – Buhari has stepped on Big Toes. Big Toes are fighting back with vengeance. Big Toes are incredibly cunning. A hungry man is an angry man and the story being craftily told the millions of hungry Nigerians is that Buhari is responsible for the biting hunger in the land. Big Toes will not tell you that they stole Nigeria's common wealth, bought mansions across the world with the money budgeted to fight Boko Haram and sent our young men without weapons to go and die in Sambisa Forest. They will not tell you that they are responsible for the hunger in the land.

 

Sadly, while they are telling their story in a very co-ordinated way, no one appears to be telling the true story of Nigeria in a manner that makes sense. While Big Toes have an army deployed on every social media platform tugging on the hearts of our young and vulnerable, the president's men are sending press releases to NTA and Daily Times. Please, when was the last time you got your news from NTA or Daily Times? If anyone still believes that social media is a joke, he needs to be reminded that Donald Trump just became the most powerful man in the world using a smart phone.

 

Many of those who had supported our president and his determination to eliminate the virus at the heart of our nation's sickness, have even become too scared to even be associated with him. They are badly outgunned on social media. The many crazy stories that went viral recently about the 'death' of our president is a new level of the war. Big Toes want to totally demystify, discredit and destroy Buhari so that they can regain control of the purse strings of Nigeria. They cant wait for 2019. That is why they are killing our democratically elected president on the social media. Where is the guy responsible for clothing the President?

 

Let me state here that I have never met Muhammadu Buhari. I have never spoken with him directly or indirectly. I have not benefited from him in any way. I am not even sure that he has ever heard of me. I do not belong to APC or any political party. But I remember what happened in Nigeria after Buhari was taken out of power the first time. 419 took root in Nigeria and our values collapsed. The War Against Indiscipline died and madness took over the land. Buhari's medicine might be very bitter but Nigeria's sickness is that severe. If for any reason we no longer want Buhari, please let us wait for 2019 and not kill him on Facebook.

 

The truth is that our nation is at war. It is time that those who truly love Nigeria and want a tomorrow for our children fought back.

 

 

Is Governor Ayade’s proposed 260km Super Highway project plague by stillbirth?

Is Governor Ayade’s proposed 260km Super Highway project plague by stillbirth?

super-highway-ekuri.jpg

By: Nsa Gill 

Last month, October 20th 2017, made it two years since Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade got President Mahammadu Buhari to perform a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a proposed 260KM Super-Highway in Cross River State.

The proposed Super-Highway was envisioned by Ayade as an alternative routes from the southern part of the state to the northern part which by location is linked to northern flank of Nigeria.

It was also envisioned as an evacuation corridor for another proposed project; Bakassi Deep seaport. The Super Highway project kicked off only by little or no inche at all since after the ground-breaking ceremony.

However Governor Ayade has come up with his characteristic pronouncements that it will still be done. According to him, ‘Indeed, no amount of conspiracy can abort this laudable dream envisioned to take the state out of the woods.’

The 260km Super Highway project has been enmeshed in controversies from day one as the state government was accused of ignoring international best practices in execution of projects of such magnitudes.

For instance, the ground-breaking was done without any valid contract awards nor valid EIA approval in place. With just mere pronouncements of the governor, bulldozers were moved to proposed routes.

The bulldozers brought down many economic trees, farm crops of personal, family and some community estates with no valid commitment to compensation nor prior valid assessment for what were in place.

Till date, the state government is yet to meet up with conditions given to them by the federal Ministry of Environment concerning the conduct of a valid EIA report for the projects.

In fact, the state had submitted a report thrice if not more of an EIA they had conducted but it turned out to be a copied work that failed validity and standard’s test.

Besides, the proposed route in a design by the state government was reportedly cutting across the National Park forest reserves for which the state is noted internationally as one of the few remaining green forests vegetation.

That informed some international concerns on the proposed highway, particularly when the state published a Gazette that it was taking 10km.on each side of the 260km routes.

The authorities of The Cross River National Park under The federal government of Nigeria cried foul. The United Nations Green Emissions project also had concerns about their subsisting REDD+ programme ìn the state.

However, wise counsels prevailed when the state government bowed to pressure by reversing itself and amending the earlier proposed 10km.on both sides of the length of the super highway.

It was amended to just 70meters weight of the road. It’s been a topsy-turvy game about the proposed super highway project in the state with a rather unfortunate political slants which the state government is equally guilty of and accused of masterminding.

Many pro-environment NGOs that have concern themselves with the proposed super highway project in Cross River have maintained that they are not against development nor against the construction of the super highway as the state had accused them of.

For them, the bottom line has been that the state government should do the proper thing by conducting an acceptable standard and beneficial EIA exercise.

“The state clearly has no such funds as the proposed N700billion for the 260km super highway project and will definitely reach out for external funding initiatives which can only be guaranteed by a standard EIA report and approval”, experts noted in one of the stakeholders fora that were held on the matter in Calabar, the state capital.

The pressure is mounting on the state government with two years passing by and the governor likely facing the electorates in a little over a year for a re-election bid.

A recent statement from the governor, issued on his behalf by his spokesman has come down hard on an amorphous foreign sponsors accused of funding opposition to the project.

He did not mentioned any thing about EIA reports required and the conditions given, for which the state government could not meet within the stipulated given time.

Excerpts the government statement read thus: Cross River State government has dismissed claims that the state's superhighway which construction is about to commence will dislocate one million.

“Describing the claims as not only absurd, but ridiculously mendacious, Senior Special Assistant to the Cross River State governor on media, Mr. Christian Ita, said it is the biggest lies ever told.

According to Ita, "It is no surprise that elements who masquerade as environmentalists and conservationists are unrelenting in their desperate scheme to ensure that the project stalls.

"In fact, the latest outing by these desperados is one in a series of grand design to scuttle the construction of the superhighway by the administration of Senator Ben Ayade."

Continuing, the governor's spokesperson said: "It is instructive to note that since the conception of the superhighway project by Governor Ayade, some so-called civil society groups in the state, in connivance with their foreign sponsors have done everything possible by weaving all sorts of falsehoods and propaganda to make the noble idea not to fly. This is rather unfortunate.

"You must understand that opposition to the superhighway has become a huge racket that whenever these hustlers are broke, they run back to their foreign collaborators for a few dollar handouts. It has become an oil block of sorts."

According to Ita, "it is indeed ludicrous to hear that one million people will suffer dislocation arising from the construction of the superhighway out of the state's population of about four million. So the question is, how did the affected forest communities suddenly acquire such an exponential growth in population barely two years the project was conceived?"

On the claim of deforestation, Ayade's spokesperson said: "As a professor of Environmental Science, the governor is particular about the environment and has shown so much fidelity to issues of afforestation. And for this reason, he has insisted that for every single tree that is felled, ten should be planted. In the last two years, about five million trees have been planted since the inception of this administration.

"Additionally, three out of the three watersheds that will be affected by the construction of the superhighway, ten will be created. So you can see that the claims of these people are not only wide, but also bogus and outrageous."

Ita also disclosed that government has since concluded enumeration of properties and economic trees that will be affected by the construction with a view to paying compensation to people and communities to be affected by the project, adding that "government is committed to ensuring no one or community is left out in the compensation plan," even as he reiterated that "the governor has emphasized that at no time will human beings be placed at the lowest rungs of development ladder, no matter how lofty the project.

This is a governor who has placed high premium on the people he governs by ensuring that their welfare is one of the cardinal focus of his administration's agenda.

“Indeed, no amount of of conspiracy can abort this laudable dream envisioned to take the state out of the woods," the statement ended.

Some who took to social media space to react to the government statement also accused the government of telling the biggest lies by claiming to have planted 5million trees already for those their bulldozers have fallen and taken away for alleged commercial purposes.

A student in the state university of technology (Crutech) with the name Charles, responded to the government statement by noting; “God bless Crutech that we have a Forestry department which Ayade’s spokesperson could borrow some knowledge.

“Up to a million Crossriverians directly benefit from the forest for their livelihood, a feat which Ayade's government cannot match” he argued.

Adding, “In fact we heard he projected to provide employment for up to 2000 youths, which is yet a reality.

“How does the forest provides livelihood for up to a million Crossriverians? It does so through its numerous resources ranging from timber to non timber resources like food: bush meats (source of animal protein to our locals which the government cannot provide the alternative wholesome animal protein) fruits, Vegetable like Afang (Gnetum africana) which generates revenue to our locals, medicine, etc etc. it is pertinent to know that the commerce from forestry products alone has provided for a peaceful demography in this part of the country.”

He continued “the assertion of 5million trees planted is laughable. Trees are not planted on paper or media. In fact nursing and planting realistic trees in the name of afforestation is a big lie from the governor’s spokesman because the satelites Gps still shows areas of rapid deforestation in our forest. Until when the government is ready, she will do the needful. the right thing is down there to be done. Why so afraid to do it...?” he asked.

The governor often said funding was no problem as it was already guaranteed by investors he had since sourced. So what is really delaying the commencement of the project? Is it a stillbirth?

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