WEEKS after the White Paper by the Ogun State Government on the Justice Abiodun Akinyemi-led Judicial Commission of Enquiry on Land was released, Primate of The Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide (TCLAW), Dr. Rufus Ositelu, has said that the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is surrounded by liars and sycophants.
The White Paper released by the state on the probing of land allocation from 2003 to 2011, among others, revoked the land of the church.
Ositelu was particularly irked that there were certain areas in the report, presented by the Justice Akinyemi-led panel, that did not reflect the true account of his position when he was invited during investigation.
The cleric, who was visibly disturbed by the report, described the exercise as an attempt to get at the former governor of the Gateway State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, by Amosun “through this church”.
Speaking on the State of the Nation at a press conference at the Victory Ground of Mount Tabieorar heralding the 2012 Mount Tabieorar with the theme ‘Testimony Galore’ which begins this week, Ositelu advocated true federalism and stressed the need for leaders to organise a national conference to restructure the country.
In his account on the land issue, Ositelu said plans were underway by the church authority to properly brief Amosun on the true picture about the land and many irregularities in the report.
He added that he was dismayed when the report indicated that government, which had acquired the land about 25 years ago, had paid compensation to the community before it was allotted to the church for the proposed Divine Grace University.
“I don’t know that whenever government assigns some people to do some investigations, they can come out with lies. To me, it is a big surprise because I was there when they were questioning us.
“If you have read the report and the recommendations, actually which the government did not follow, government declined to follow the recommendation of the commission. During the investigation, the chairman of the panel asked if the government representatives had any title on that land? And the response was no and even the Housing Corporation that got the land over 25 years ago has not done anything there.
“The land is there, it is on the way to Isiun-Ajura road. The government has not done anything on that land for 25 years. So, the representative said the government had no title because the community has not been compensated.
“But in the final report of the commission, they said Housing Corporation had title and that government had compensated the community.”
Giving the genesis of the land issue, Ositelu said: “When we wanted to start the proposed Divine Grace University, we wrote to two communities through our own university commission. We wrote to the community in Ogere and Ilisan.
“Ilisan gave us land of about 350 hectares. But the Kabiyesi then in Ogere wrote the government.
“We did not write to government or Gbenga Daniel, it was the community we wrote. But Kabiyesi, instead of replying me, wrote the governor and copied me. I have the letters and I took all these letters to the commission but the commission pretended as if it doesn’t know anything about it because it was not mentioned in its report.
“In that letter, Kabiyesi said he had held meetings with the chiefs in Ogere and they have concluded that the land, which government took from them 25 years ago should be given to Church of the Lord for the establishment of the university. This is the content of the letter, the letter I still have till today.
“This was what the Ologere wrote to the governor then that the land be given to us because it was a collective decision of Ogere communities.
“It is also in the letter that since the government had not compensated the communities, they believe the land is still theirs and the land, which is about 180 hectares, be given to the church of the Lord. However, based on that letter, I now wrote the governor that I have the copy of the letter from Ologere on behalf of the Ogere community that they want to give us this land so, he should please do something about it since the government had not compensated the community.
“And the government then asked us to go and pay for the survey. We took the application form of about N20,000 and resolved within themselves that since the government was yet to compensate the community, we should pay the rebate which was N3.5 million which was paid for.
“The interesting part of the story is after paying for the survey, when we took it took it to the Bureau of Land and Survey, they said the survey the government did was wrong so, we should go and do a new survey.
“After we have paid for the survey of the government, we now went again to do another survey which cost us millions, it is not mentioned in the commission’s report.
“So, I was wondering what type of government we have these days and what type of people are the government using to achieve its aims. That is the truth of the matter.
“Right now, we will talk to the governor and let him know the truth. I think he is surrounded by sycophants, that is my position, that the governor of Ogun State is surrounded by sycophants who are deceiving him, who are not giving him the true story.
“If one had read the report in some newspapers, they were comparing groundnut with tomatoes; they said in government policy, the price of an hectare is so much but which land are they talking about? They are talking about the land along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
“The land we are talking about is in the bush of Ogere, the place where the land is now, it does not cost more than N250,000 per plot till today whereas government land along the express is about N2m per plot.
“How can they be comparing what we paid with what Deeper Life paid, if it is the government that is sincere, they should be asking Mountain of Fire and Miracle church to pay more or have their land revoked because the land MFM and Deeper Life have along the express are about the same.
“Deeper Life paid N500m while MFM paid N45m, even the government was not ashamed to publish it too but all they want to do is to get at Gbenga Daniel through the Church of the Lord, the church of his spiritual father.
“They thereby exposed themselves because MFM paid N45m for almost the same size Deeper Life paid N500m.
“That is why I want to talk to Amosun, he should go and see the land for himself, the land is not along the expressway because everybody knows that land along the express is extremely costly which is normal but we are talking of a land in the bush.”
Meanwhile, the Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria, Dr Sunday Ola Makinde, has lauded Daniel for releasing the site of the old National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp in Sagamu to the church during his administration.
The prelate gave the commendation yesterday in Sagamu during the dedication of a Retirement House built in his honour by the Remo Diocese of the Church.
He said the church made the request for the release of the centre which originally belonged to the Methodist movement after the Ogun State Government, under Daniel, built a new orientation camp for youth corpers.
The Prelate said the former governor acceded to the request of the church, thereby restoring the fruits of past heroes of the church to the delight of its members..
"We requested the release after the new Camp was built, the letter went and he released the camp. I also want to thank you also for the return of our schools to us. Daniel has done well. We have turned the camp to a Conference Centre, our people are camped there.
Daniel returned the fruits of the labours of the past taken over by past military administrations. However, we have gone to court since another administration is contesting the release of what is ours,” Makinde said while giving a short speech at the ceremony which took place inside the Methodist Theological Institute in Sagamu.
Also yesterday, the Ogun State Commissioner for Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the tax fraud uncovered at the state Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
She declared that N10 million was involved in the fraud.
Adeosun, who spoke with reporters at her office in Abeokuta, the state capital, said the matter was still being investigated by the police.
She said contrary to media reports that N100 million was involved in the scam, the authorities have been able to confirm only N10 million fraud.
The Nigerian Compass had reported on Monday that Amosun’s Senior Special Assistant on Taxation and Revenue, Chief Olufemi Allen, and about 10 directors at IRS were allegedly sanctioned over the scam.
While Allen was redeployed from his position, the affected directors were suspended indefinitely after making statements at the State Police Headquarters, Eleweran, Abeokuta.
However, the Finance Commissioner denied yesterday that the redeployment of the governor’s aide and some top officials of the IRS was part of a normal reorganisation going on at the agency.
In the same vein, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, said Allen was not involved in the fraud.
He maintained that the said governor’s aide was redeployed in a new capacity to head the Central Revenue Team (CRT).
In a statement issued in Abeokuta, Olaniyonu said Allen was the person who actually blew the whistle on the individuals who have been defrauding the state by colluding with some companies to underestimate their taxes.
The commissioner explained that when a company based in the state levelled the fraud allegation on July 30, the IRS immediately reported the matter to security agencies for proper investigation and further action.
“Four persons were invited for interrogation and they were detained for a few days. They have since been released on bail, pending conclusion of investigation. Also, in line with civil service regulation, the officers concerned have been suspended,” he added.
Olaniyonu further said, “As a result of his role in uncovering the scam which is believed to have gone undiscovered for years, the SSA to the governor, who is an experienced chartered accountant and auditor, has been given the task to supervise the audit and headcount of various companies and firms operating in the state in a new capacity as the head of a Central Revenue Team (CRT).
“The CRT was formed based on the realisation that additional expertise is required in agencies other than OGRIS and it has been charged with the responsibility of reinvigorate revenue collection activity in key ministries, departments and agencies including education, health, local government, commerce and industries, environment and advertisement and signage agency.
“The reorganisation of the state revenue collection machinery is also expected to lead to a thorough overhaul of the OGRIS and may have accounted for the recent disengagement of some personnel.
The commissioner, however, insisted that the ongoing investigation into the tax fraud was a demonstration of the state government’s zero tolerance for corruption which had nothing to do with the ongoing re-organisation at the agency.