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*AMAECHI* *OKONKWO* writes on the ongoing dramatic alliances in Rivers State, especially in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as hitherto loyalist and allies of Governor Nyesom Wike, embark on an apparent revolt against their principal.

 

Governor Nyesom Wike of River State is a veteran in political battles. The battles have come in various shades and forms since he took a plunge into the murky waters of politics in the country in 1999. From being the chairman of a local government, he became the chief of Staff and minister of state for education before his election as governor in 2015.

 

In the course of his political journey, Wike succeeded in creating his own team of like-minds, especially in Rivers, a few of whom are highly exposed politicians, with many of them unrepentantly loyal to him at the height of his political fight with his hitherto godfather, ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the immediate Minister of Transportation. His soldiers made sure that not even the ex-minister could threaten the political fortress Wike was able to establish since he became governor.

 

On August 14,  2022, the governor declared that there was a gang-up against him by Rivers elders, due to the outcome of  primaries conducted by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in his state. At reception marking the 74th birthday of one of his predecessors, Dr Peter Odili, Wike alleged some of the elders decided to take their own pound of flesh by working to ensure that he failed to secure the post of running mate after he lost the  bid for PDP presidential ticket.

 

In the views of some major stakeholders in Rivers politics, the bubble has burst in the Rivers chapter of the PDP and Wike.  Men and women strong but long-disenchanted members of the party have finally decided to engage the governor in brinkmanship in events that will lead to the 2023 general election. But Wike, who wants to remain in charge and unchallenged, would not accept that and is threatening and kicking. The result is that the once strong and united Rivers PDP is tearing into shreds. Many strong and fierce loyalists to the governor have now fallen out of favour with him, In fact, they are no longer hiding the disagreement but are beginning to quarrel openly to the surprise of many in the state.

 

It was discovered that the mutual suspicion, which was hitherto discussed in hushed tones, assumed serious altercations reflecting deep-seated anger and frustration by some of his acolytes following the conclusion of the presidential primaries of the PDP and the choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for 2023 presidential election.

 

Having lost out in the primary and was by-passed in the choice of running mate, the Rivers governor has been pointing accusing fingers to certain individuals and groups for the current development.  However, the situation is polarised his supporters, many of whom had before now been looking for  avenues to assert themselves within the political space in the state and at the national level. Thus, the scism between him and Atiku has further widened the scope of crevices in Rivers PDP, with those that are opposed to the leadership of the governor ready to face the consequences of their actions. Some of them expressing their support to Atiku or any other candidates of their choice.  So, Wike removed those he was no longer sure of their loyalty from whatever positions they were occupying. He also sacked those he gave one form of appointment or the other. For example, in a move to get at Senator Lee Meaba, he dissolved the board of the Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt headed by the former senator. Others affected by the move by the governor to preserve his political dynasty include a former governor of the State Celetine Omehia; ex-deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable  Austin Opara and many others whom he relinquished of their leadership of the party in their local government areas.  There were claims that the governor threatened to strip other high profile politicians of certain privileges due to political differences. the list is said to include a former national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, whom the governor facilitated his emergence as PDP boss as a political ally. Wike was also said to have played a major role in the events that culminated in the premature exit of Secondus from office in Wadata Plaza, Abuja.

 

But unlike before when they would always cringe at Wike›s directives, those loyalists have chosen to challenge his actions. In a recent interview, Senator Maeba claimed that the reason behind Wike›s dissolution of the board of the polytechnic was because of his (Meaba›s) closeness to Atiku. The view of the senator came against the background of the political intrigues that threw up the former vice president as the standard-bearer of PDP for next year’s presidential election. He said: “We have a candidate of the party who has the capacity to lead Nigeria out of crisis. So nothing can deter us from supporting Atiku to save Nigeria. Wike is not hiding that he is fighting Atiku. He is ready to fight to the finish. We don’t know what he (Wike) is planning to do because when campaigns start, we are qualified to campaign too. We are waiting to see how he will do it. This is a joke taken too far.”

 

Maeba also confirmed the removal of former Governor Omehia and ex-deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Opara, as leaders of their party in Ikwerre and Port Harcourt City LGAs respectively. Meaba added: “Yes, he (Wike) called them before their people because we went to pay a solidarity visit to Atiku which we are supposed to do. All of us knew Atiku before him. Austin Opara has been in the House of Representatives since 1999. He was the deputy speaker when Atiku was vice-president. That time, Wike was struggling to be a local government chairman. So, if Austin Opara has to take permission from him today to go and see Atiku, then something is wrong,” the ex-lawmaker said. Maeba also took a swipe at Wike, saying nobody was in charge of Rivers’ votes. His words: “There is nobody that is in charge of any vote. Vote is individual business now. For somebody to be boasting that he is in charge of votes, means he has a rigging plan.“Why are you in charge of votes? You cannot be in charge of votes, because everybody has individual votes to cast. If Adegboyega Oyetola was in charge of votes in Osun State, he wouldn’t have lost election,» he stated. “for somebody to be boasting he is in charge of votes, people should ask him where do you want to get the votes? How many voter cards does he have? On the allegations of politicians holding meetings in Abuja against him, Maeba said the governor was talking as if he was ‘superhuman.’ “Let me tell you something. When you apportion so much right to yourself, then you are superhuman. Austin Opara was the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives when Atiku Abubakar was the Vice President. They attended caucus meeting together and National Economic Council Meeting. So, does it mean that Austin Opara, who has been friends with Atiku for over 20 years ago, will now start to beg Wike to go and see Atiku? I met Atiku first in 1992 in Jos for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) campaigns. We started working together in 2003 when I became senator. That time where was he (Wike)? When Austin Opara was working with Atiku, holding meetings, Wike was struggling to come into limelight.”  Maeba opined that the governor does not allow the strengthening of institutions in the tradition of democratic ethos.  Maeba said: “If you continue to call yourself, I am a strong Governor, we need strong institutions not strong men. The best way to democracy is strong institutions not strong men. There are no strong men anymore. What we need are strong institutions to strengthen our institutions.” Some sources said the frosty relationship between the governor and his former allies and associates could soon crystalise in broad-based coalition. This because of the raging hide and seek between him and PDP presidential candidate (Atiku).

 

*Vintage* *Wike*

 

Meanwhile, Wike believes some political gladiators from Rivers run to Abuja to plot against him.  He listed aggrieved members of the PDP who were not successful at the party primaries conducted in the state to pick candidates for the general election. However, the governor seems poised for any eventuality. For instance, some of his critics, his decision to reach out to governors of other parties to inaugurate some projects in his state was meant to spite those forces.  He has also warned that anyone that believed his base was not that important in the next election would be deceiving himself. His words: “If you say Rivers State does not matter, Rivers State will tell you that you don’t also matter at the appropriate time. If you don’t like us, we will not like you. If you like us, we will like you. Nobody will use our votes for nothing. Our votes will matter and Rivers State must benefit from anybody that we are going to support. Politics now is no longer just voting for somebody; it is about what you will do for the people of Rivers State.”

 

He says he is averse to people with questionable character becoming Rivers governor. “Those who looted the treasury of the state will not come here to be governor of Rivers State and I have challenged them. I am fully in charge. I am not that kind of governor people will go to Abuja and hold meetings against. I am fully in charge here,” he said. Wike also berated the critics of his style of leadership, saying he had no apology to offer;  “First of all, let me state, if there is one state that pays salary regularly, it is Rivers State. Let me also state, every month we pay pensioners. Let me also state since we have been paying gratuity, have you been hearing anybody talking on radio?”

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TAX EVASION AND FORCEFUL ACQUISITION OF OBAJANA CEMENT, KOGI & AKWA IBOM GOVERNMENT BATTLE DANGOTE

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These are not the best of times for Dangote Group as they face allegations of sharp practices in business from Kogi State government, Kogi Assembly as well as Akwa Ibom State.

Already, the Kogi State House of Assembly has ordered stoppage to the activities of the company in two Local Governments in the State while investigations continue.

The crux of the matter, from our investigations arise from sharp practices in terms of tax payments.

According to exclusive reports from Kogi State, the initial story was that Dangote Group took over the State Cement Company illegally without paying a dime for the takeover.

 

According to our findings, Dangote took over the State Cement Company Obajana Cement without paying the necessary compensation to the State government.

This is corroborated by the State Assembly findings.

According to some media reports, ‘the parliament stated that all available documents showed that the company started as Obajana Cement Company before turning to Dangote Cement company without any considerations.

It also directed that the documents signed at the establishment of the company and relevant receipts of dues claimed to have been paid to the government be made available at the next adjourned sitting date.

 

The Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Matthew Kolawole, gave the order after interim reports of the ongoing investigative hearing on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which was submitted by the ad hoc committee led by Hon. Isah Tenimu and deliberated upon at the plenary on Wednesday.

 

Kolawole said this has become imperative in view of the claims and counterclaims between the Chairman of Kogi State Internally Generated Revenue Service (KGIRS) and representatives of Dangote Cement.

 

The Speaker further directed that the Financial Director of Dangote Cement Company should meet with KGIGRS and the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry to reconcile financial differences.

 

Earlier, during the investigative hearing, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry had pointed out that Dangote had not been paying business premises fees since operation in the state.

 

Responding, the representative of Dangote, Alhaji Jimoh claimed that on the contrary, Kogi State had 10 per cent share which could only be claimed if the state showed interest, adding that since no interest was shown, the shares had been acquired when Dangote became a conglomerate.

 

While the Financial Director of Dangote, Segun Oyebanjo, claimed that since 2016, the company has paid in total dues the sum of N14 billion to the coffers of Kogi State Government through KGIRS with receipts.

 

But the Chairman of KGIRS said it was not so, adding that the receipts being bandied are not from them.

 

Oyebanjo stated that it was only in 2021 that some certain taxes were not being paid’.

But the Kogi problem with Dangote is not limited to this.

In another development, Following the unrestrained environmental degradation in Ankpa and Olamaboro local government areas, Kogi state House of Assembly on Wednesday, directed the Commissioner of Police and Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to seal off operations of Dangote Plc in the affected areas of the State. The House gave the order during a public hearing on activities of Dangote Group in the state, especially on the the massive exploitation , environmental degradation and non compensation to the affected owners of the land and without revenue accruing to the state government.

 

The Speaker, Kogi state House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, charged the NSCDC commandant to ensure immediate implementation pending when the ad hoc committee on revenue clarifies some grey areas. Kolawole, who lamented the environmental degradation caused by mining activities on Kogi by the Dangote group and its subsidiaries, accused the multi national business concern of making billions in the state but yet fails to give back to it.

 

Akwa Ibom is also finding it difficult to collect its entitlement from the Dangote Group. According to reports from the place, the Itu Local Government blocked Dangote premises with their trucks because the company has refused to pay tax for more than two years despite series of pleas.

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Rethinking Tourism For A More Sustainable World, By NTDC DG *Folorunsho* *Coker* 

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As we celebrate this 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day, this is within the frame of reflection on the urgency of building a practice that is environmentally sensitive and future complaint. The need for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable tourism has now forcefully come on the global agenda of governments, international organisations, businesses, and local communities, and we must all work together to mitigate the evident challenges and concerns, in a way that safeguards our planet.

 

It is a great delight to witness and mark the 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD). This is a day set aside to create awareness about tourism globally, while contemplating the different milestones that have been achieved so far, alongside the recognition of its importance as a crucial pillar of development, both here in Nigeria, and worldwide.

 

World Tourism Day offers an opportunity to come together and celebrate the many and varied accomplishments of our sector, particularly in its drive towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This yearly event celebrated on the 27th of September has become a formidable platform for constructive engagement with all tourism stakeholders across the value chain, and in different places across the world.

 

Of all sectors of the economy, tourism took the worst blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has in turn highlighted the critical need to transform the industry as global tourism gradually recovers. Worldwide, tourism has entered into a durable stage of recovery, and it is quite heart-warming to note that this year alone international tourism has grown back to at least 60% of its pre-pandemic level. According to estimates from the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022, as against the same period last year, and this reveals the strengthening of demand, as travels restrictions are lifted in many more countries (86 at the last count).

 

 

The impact that tourism has borne and the need to transcend this for all times makes the theme of this year’s event, “Rethinking Tourism”, quite apt. It not only recognises the relevance of tourism as one of the vital economic sectors globally but, more so, seeks to reconsider the practice of tourism by putting people and the planet first, as it brings all stakeholders – from governments to businesses and local communities – together to share in a vision for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector.

 

While tourism remains the largest employer of labour, providing livelihoods to millions of people, most notably women and youth across the world, yet this comes with the awareness that the ecosystem of this earth we call home has become fragile with the years. Hence, the composite of activities making up tourism need to be more responsive to the demands of sustainability, as tourism’s economic and environmental footprint is greater than that of any other sector.

 

It goes without much saying that the opportunities embedded in tourism are enormous. However, to fully utilise the potentials of tourism for economic growth, we must also recognise that we cannot continue in the old ways of practice, and there is the urgent need to reflect on and rethink what we do and how we do it.

 

We believe it is time to begin the transformation that the sector requires. Like most changes in approach, this will not be easy but we are already well on the way. The crisis that came with COVID-19 was a catalyst and inspiration for creativity, and change.

 

As efforts at rethinking tourism points the focus on the future, this is certainly a future in which Nigerian tourism is primed to be a major driver of, indicated in its positioning for greater activities and attraction. As the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed puts it, this edition of the World Tourism Day, “is particularly important…because of the right granted to Nigeria by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to host the first-ever UNWTO Global Conference on ‘Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development’.”

 

While tourism remains the largest employer of labour, providing livelihoods to millions of people, most notably women and youth across the world, yet this comes with the awareness that the ecosystem of this earth we call home has become fragile with the years. Hence, the composite of activities making up tourism need to be more responsive to the demands of sustainability, as tourism’s economic and environmental footprint is greater than that of any other sector.

 

He further points out that: “The conference which is scheduled to hold from 14th to 16th November 2022 at the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, provides and opportunity to showcase Nigeria tourism and creative assets. It also creates a viable platform to identify, promote and develop new models of stronger partnership between tourism, culture and the creative industries as highly interlinked sectors for inclusive economic growth and social development.”

 

Globally, the culture and creative industries constitute some of the huge drivers of economic activity that can be further purposed as greater stimuli for economic recovery. This is evident from their documented impact, seeing to the generation of an annual compound value of close to $2.3 trillion, as representation of about 3% of the world’s GDP, according to UNWTO estimates.

 

Moreover, about 40% of international tourists are observed as ‘motivated primarily by culture-related experiences’ for embarking on destinations. Therefore, it is quite safe to project that the culture and creative industries could become significant catalysts of recovery and growth in a resurgent global economy, steadily breaking out of the negative impacts of the pandemic.

 

The creative and culture industries in Nigeria are an extended composite of a number of interconnected and linked sectors, cutting through a sizeable gamut of economic activities and responsible for between 10 and 15 million jobs, from music to design, fashion, film, television, radio, photography, architecture, printing and performance arts. Also, hotel and hospitality, publishing, information technology, gaming, software development, advertising and digital marketing, etc.

 

The culture and creative industries have been some of the priority sectors earmarked for intensive development in the Federal Government’s stimulus strategy as laid out in the Economic Renewal and Growth Plan (ERGP). This is a major effort being made to recoup lost grounds and create new value that drives sturdier economic growth, thereby resuscitating and expanding the jobs and income pool.

 

At NTDC, we realised early enough that any proposed strategic path for recovery envisaged for the industry must leverage on innovative and disruptive tech ideas to enhance and promote domestic tourism. This form of tourism is cheaper, with lesser restrictions, and it offers educational opportunities to citizens of the country, whilst generating employment and revenue, in addition to reducing poverty. Domestic tourism galvanises economic growth across sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, contributes to infrastructure upgrade in rural and urban areas by encouraging government’s commitment to its development, and it largely enhances the creative sector.

 

According to the UNWTO briefing note, “Tourism and COVID-19”, issue 3 of September 2020, domestic tourism is six times larger than international tourism and it accounts for more than a 70% share of domestic trips globally.

 

The vibrant promotion of domestic tourism is the first step to resetting the tourism and hospitality industry in a post-pandemic era where there are endless possibilities for development of our rural communities, and where a lot of our tourist sites are located.

 

The future of the tourism industry is here and we need to be prepared for the emergent opportunities and challenges, which with require a greater form of collaboration across sectors. Foremost, there is need to review regulations guiding the sector’s operations and operators, to standardise service delivery by both public and private sector partners and deploy a strategic stakeholder approach to the development of sustainable tourism practices.

 

Moreso, at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), we have focused on and given critical support to the country’s creative and cultural assets, with emphasis on the digital promotion of the diverse cultural expressions of our music, film, arts, dance, fashion, cuisine and festivals. These are all game changers that accentuate the desire to witness and experience Nigeria, as such intimately engaging the creative sector and tourism products to create new experiences for targeted consumers, tourists and investors.

 

In line with our agenda to encourage domestic and regional tourism, we created the Tour Nigeria brand to drive the domestic consumption of our tourism assets and products, create new channels of tourism markets, along with employment, and increase the nation’s GDP, by boosting spending that will grow the economy, among others. Tour Nigeria is poised to strongly complement international recovery efforts by stimulating demand locally in a way that grows the confidence to inspire Nigerian destination marketing internationally.

 

The future of the tourism industry is here and we need to be prepared for the emergent opportunities and challenges, which with require a greater form of collaboration across sectors. Foremost, there is need to review regulations guiding the sector’s operations and operators, to standardise service delivery by both public and private sector partners and deploy a strategic stakeholder approach to the development of sustainable tourism practices.

 

Secondly, there is the necessity of effective participation by, and community ownership at rural levels, as agents of change in tourism transformation. The third level requires the deployment of technology and digital techniques for easy and safe travel.

 

The potentials of tourism are enormous and we all have a shared responsibility to make sure it is fully realised. We hereby call on all tourism stakeholders and everyone at the base of the broad and diverse tourism pyramid to pause, reflect and rethink what we do and how we do it.

 

Tourism entrepreneurs are encouraged to embrace technology to gain more mileage and penetration, and acquire adequate knowledge in the proficient use of digital platforms to promote and market existing tourist sites and attractions. This is in addition to ensuring effective service delivery and sustainable practices to grow and protect the tourism industry.

 

With over 147 million active Internet subscriptions and a tele-density of almost 97%, we have a readymade and vast domestic market for the development of tourism locally.

 

As we celebrate this 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day, this is within the frame of reflection on the urgency of building a practice that is environmentally sensitive and future complaint. The need for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable tourism has now forcefully come on the global agenda of governments, international organisations, businesses, and local communities, and we must all work together to mitigate the evident challenges and concerns, in a way that safeguards our planet. The future of tourism is here, and it depends on our collective senses of responsibility.

 

*Folorunsho* *Coker* is the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the chief marketer of the Nigerian destination.

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