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President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council may have been deceived into approving N4 billion for the purchase of a new office complex in Abuja for the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM.

 

The approval, according to reliable sources, was based on the presentation by the NAICOM management to the office of the President that they were buying a ready-to-use magnificent office complex better than what they were currently using in Garki 2 District of Abuja.

 

The said building, which was initially valued at N2.5 billion, was surreptitiously raised to N4 billion by the time the presidential assent was obtained.

 

 

The cost of the building is expected to further rise by the time agency fees and taxes are added but the commission may also need to expend additional N5 billion or more to put the carcass into a functional office use.

 

Celebrityplusnonline gathered that trouble, however, started when the management of the commission went to draw the cash but was promptly informed by the Director of Finance and Administration that there was no cash backing for the payment and that it would be imprudent to expend such cash towards the end of the year that could affect staff salaries and other recurrent matters.

 

At the same time, Celebrityplusnonline learnt that many of the board members were dissatisfied with the discovery that the building for which the huge sum was to be committed was still under construction, against the position of management that it was a ready-to-use complex.

 

Many of the board members were, therefore, opposed to paying the huge cash for the uncompleted structure.

 

A source in NAICOM said that the Deputy Commissioner and other senior management staff of the commission opposed the move on the ground that the building was not worth the huge amount and that the agency had a beautiful and functional office complex in place.

 

But it was learnt that some top officials of NAICOM working with some powerful officials in the Presidency had pushed for the cash to be taken out of the commission on or before August 25, 2022.

 

It was gathered that moves are being made to get the money out of the Dollar Account of NAICOM with the CBN.

 

Apparently to pave way for the cash to be easily taken out and ‘spent on agreed formula’, the Director of Finance and Administration, who advised against the expenditure until the approval is cash-backed, had been removed from the headquarters and sent to Lagos office.

 

In the place of the DFA, the leadership of NAICOM reportedly handpicked an assistant director to handle the finances of the commission with immediate effect.

 

Similarly, the commissioner for Insurance has gone ahead to effect the signatories with the accountant-general’s office so as to pave the way for the cash withdrawal.

 

However, things came to a head on Monday when the Chairman of the Governing Board led the members to inspect the building.

 

It was gathered that the board members discovered to their chagrin that the purported ‘completed office building’ was nothing but an uncompleted building originally slated for a hotel that could require another N5 billion to complete and put to office use.

 

An inside source said: “The commissioner got the approval from FEC to acquire a befitting office complex for NAICOM but the approval is yet to be backed with cash.

 

“Surprisingly, the man became desperate after being advised to get cash backing before drawing the cash. The commissioner decided to boycott necessary protocols by transferring the finance director and mounting pressure on an assistant director in the finance and accounts department to proceed to the Accountant General’s office to effect a change in the mandate to enable him move out the money.”

 

‘The union and staff members are aggrieved and are battle ready should the purchase be carried out.

 

This is so as some of them contacted claimed that there would be no money left in the account should the property be purchased in this budget year.

 

But when contacted the spokesman of NAICOM, Razak Salami, neither confirmed nor denied the claims but promised to make an official position of the agency known next week.

 

“I will respond to the matter once I settle down,” Salami promised when contacted by one of our correspondents.

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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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