The Presidency has faulted the call by a group for Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr Matthew Kukah, to either leave Sokoto or tender unreserved apology to the Muslims for his controversial Christmas message and critical comments against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prof. Isa Maishanu of Sokoto-based Muslim Solidarity Forum (MSF) had described Kukah’s message as “malicious comment” against Islam.
The Presidency in a statement on Wednesday titled, ‘Father Kukah must be allowed to practise his faith and politics’ by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu, described the call as unconstitutional, adding that the MSF’s comment “is wrong because it is not in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It said under Nigeria’s constitution, every citizen had the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to own property and reside in any part of the country, and the right to move freely without any inhibition.
The statement came just as the Youth Wing of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) vowed to retaliate any form of attack on Kukah, over his recent message on Nigeria’s woes.
It was also reacting to Maishanu’s statement, asking Kukah to vacate the seat of the Caliphate.
Kukah had written in his Christmas essay: “Every honest Nigerian knows that there is no way any non-Northern Muslim President could have done a fraction of what President Muhammadu Buhari has done with his nepotism and got away with it.”
The Presidency’s statement read in part, “Father Kukah has greatly offended many with his controversial remarks against the government and the person of the President, with some even accusing him of voicing anti-Islamic rhetoric.
“On matters such as these, responsible leadership in any society must exercise restraint. Knee-jerk reactions will not only cause the fraying of enduring relationships, but also the evisceration of peaceful communities such as Sokoto, the headquarters of the Muslim community as beacon of pluralism and tolerance. The Sultanate has historically had good relations with followers of all faiths. That is why Father Kukah was received on his arrival in Sokoto with friendship and tolerance.
“Under our laws, groups or factions must not give quit notices, neither should they unilaterally sanction any perceived breaches. Where they occur, it is the courts of law that should adjudicate. Unilateral action is not the way to go.
“Groups such as the Muslim Solidarity Forum must be seen to share and uphold the country’s multi-religious principles. And individuals like Father Kukah must respect the feelings of his fellow Nigerians in his private and public utterances.”
The National Leader of the SOKAPU youth wing, John Isaac, accused the MSF of trying to incite the peace-loving people of Sokoto and some northerners against the cleric over his Christmas essay.
The SOKAPU statement entitled ‘Enough of the Bigotry and Senseless Attacks on Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, lamented, noted that the call by the MSF for Kukah to apologise to the Muslim Ummah or quietly leave Sokoto was ridiculous and unacceptable, describing it as an affront to the rights of all Nigerians to live freely in any part of the country.
He said, “We believe that the reckless statement credited to the professor does not, in anyway, reflect the position of a responsible group such as MSF.
It said the youths and people of Southern Kaduna would not accept further attacks on the person and character of Bishop Kukah under any pretence.
It stated, “The bishop’s message was directed at the powers-that-be and cannot in any way be said to have been directed at Muslims and Islam, a religion well-known to profess peace.
“The youths of Southern Kaduna, therefore, vow to retaliate any form of attack directed or aimed at putting the bishop in harm’s way by any group of ethnic loyalists, religious extremists and enthusiasts.”
FG dismisses Transparency International (TI) verdict on Nigeria
Federal Government, yesterday, dismissed the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International (TI), which said the country dropped five places in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
It boasted that some of the government’s legacy projects have been facilitated with funds known as Abacha loot, hitherto stolen and stashed abroad by a former Nigerian leader but returned to the country.
This came against the backdrop of reports that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points while ranking 150 among 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index released by TI, a development which has continued to stoke concern by citizens.
Although the country maintained its previous year’s (2021) score of 24 out of 100 points, however, there was a change in rank from 154 to 150, as some other countries performed more poorly in 2022.
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Fielding questions, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, downplayed the rating, saying the Nigerian government’s fight against corruption is not at the whims and caprices of the global agency.
The minister spoke after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “We are not really worried or bothered about rating of the TI, because we know that everything we do is to ensure that we fight corruption the best way we know how to. If TI is not seeing this, then I think it has to change its template. But, again, we’re not fighting corruption to impress TI.
“We are not fighting corruption because we want to impress Transparency International or any organisation whatsoever. We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we do not fight corruption, there’ll be no growth, either in terms of the economy or even political.”
The minister added: “Therefore, what we do and what we’re putting in place to fight corruption is not because we want to be rated by anybody. I can assure you that we do not know what template TI is using. Whatever template it is using, it is clearly oblivious of what this administration is doing to fight corruption.
“Corruption fighting is not just by how many people have you arrested? How many people have you tried? How many people have you convicted? Of course, even in that respect, we have a very impressive record.”
East-West road, 43 others to be completed without delay – Fashola
All 44 road projects in the approved phase two of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme including the East-West road will be completed without any delay or break.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), stated this, stressing that sustainability of funding for the critical infrastructure in Nigeria would be guaranteed.
Fashola, who spoke in Abuja, noted that unlike in the past, when there was inadequate funding of infrastructure, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had secured alternative sources of funding that could guarantee sustainability from the beginning of the projects to their completion.
He said the tax credit scheme remained a new model that encourages partnership with private companies where taxes are paid in advance to enable the government invest in notable projects that would be beneficial to its citizens.
The minister said the Federal Government had focused on nine major axes of Nigeria, adding that the A1 – A4 axis covered the Northern part of the country, while the A5-A9 axis covered the East and West of the country.
He said the successful completion of all the roads would lead to sustainable mobility for Nigerians.
“The roads like Akure – Ado –Ekiti and East-West which people have been complaining about would be adequately catered for with the approval of the second phase of the NNPC Tax Credit Scheme,” he said.
On payment of compensation, Fashola noted that it would not be paid to anyone occupying the government’s Right of Way (RoW) and appealed to members of the communities occupying the areas to vacate.
Permanent Secretary of the ministry, represented by the Director overseeing the Office of the Permanent Secretary, Folorunsho Esan, said in line with the Executive Order 7 (2019), phase one was approved on October 27, 2021.
He stated that with the completion of phase one, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has also approved phase II of the scheme to fund 44 critical road infrastructure to the tune of N1.96 trillion naira.
Esan said that as it was done with phase one, phase two would be governed by a set of guidelines to be issued to each contractor, adding that there would be a funding intervention agreement to be implemented in addition to the standard condition of the contract governing the execution of the projects.
He said that the availability of this new funding window will ensure steady cash flow and a timely completion of projects.
He also stated that the NNPC intervention which began in October 2021 with phase one has now occupied the top of the log with a portfolio well in excess of N2.6 trillion.
On the part of NNPC, the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Financial Officer, Umar Aliya, said that funding would not be an issue anymore as the company is committed to fully funding the next phase.
“We are committed to setting aside funds for phase II. Funding would not be a problem. What is important to us is that our consultant will need to validate the value for money and the quality of work. We will not compromise the quality and timely completion of work,“ he said.
“There is no need for excuses. As for us, on our part, we are committed and we implore the contractors to do quality work and do it on time so that the road projects can be open for use to Nigerians,” he added.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) Mohammed Nami, explained that most of the roads captured by Executive Order 7 to be executed by the NNPC were mostly road projects inherited by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
“So, we are appealing to Nigerians to trust Executive order 007 so that government will continue to provide the physical infrastructure that our people need,“he said.
Nigeria ranks 150 out of 180 countries in 2022 Transparency International Corruption Index
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, has announced that Nigeria ranked 150 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
This according to Rafsanjani is four places lower than the 154th position in the country’s 2021 CPI results.
Rafsanjani made the announcement on Tuesday at a press briefing held at CISLAC meeting hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
He however added that in terms of points, the country has retrained 24 points it had in 2021.
He also noted that the data index used for the CPI is not collected by CISLAC/TI- Nigeria but by Independent and reputable organisations with sound research methodologies.
“While Nigeria moved four places up on the country ranking, it has maintained it’s previous score of 24 which is it’s lowest score on the CPI since 2012, which suggests a slowdown in the steady decline observed in the previous three CPI’s, he said.”
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The CISLAC boss lamented the rate of corruption in the country and reserved some blames for the Judiciary.
“Nigeria as a country has reached a point where citizens should come out in their millions to protest against corruption, thus, with the expectations that this regime could address the issue of corruption, yet the world continues to face corruption with the help of high profile officials,” he lamented.
Among other recommendations, CISCLAC called on the executive arm of government to stop granting pardon to corrupt politicians recklessly.
As a means to curb and tackle the incessant corruption in Nigeria, CISLAC also recommended as follows:
1. The presidency, INEC, political parties, security actors and other relevant bodies should ensure that the 2023 general election are free, fair and credible.
2. The relevant anti-graft agencies should ensure that high profile corruption cases are pursued to their logical conclusion for the benefit of Nigeria and her citizens.
3. Agencies given the mandate to recover assets under the proceeds of Crime (and Management) Act 2022 should ensures that they establish a database where information about assets in their custody is easily accessed by citizens in line with the Act and the proactive provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
4. The Federal government should address the lingering issue of oil theft in the country.
5. The relevant agencies should investigate those behind the important of toxic fuel to Nigeria in 2022.
6. The National assembly should ensure transparency in the implementation of the constituency projects. The relevant agencies should ensure that those found guilty are brought to book.
7. With the election fast approaching, the judiciary should ensure more than ever to deliver justice.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) developed by theTransparency International (TI) in 1995 is an annual ranking of countries on the prevalence of corruption within each country, based upon surveys by experts and business executives. It’s aims is to serve as a basis for critical reflection on tangible ways to strengthen the fight against corruption.
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