NEWS

CHURCH GIFT IS CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – PRESIDENCY

Presidency sees CSR differently

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By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor, BEN Agande & Henry Umoru

ABUJA—The Presidency, yesterday, described as laughable and desperation on the part of political opponents, suggestions that President Goodluck Jonathan should be impeached on account of the controversy arising from the construction of a church building in his country-home, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, by an Italian construction firm.

The Presidency’s reaction came as the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described the call for the President’s impeachment by the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, as reckless, infantile and reflective of a party limited by its obsession with provincial ideas.

CPC upbraids President
There was, however, no respite for the President, yesterday, as the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, described the Presidency’s defence as reflective of a President inclination towards imperial tendencies. CPC’s spokesman, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, told Vanguard, yesterday, that the nation was now at the mercy of the President.

St. Stephen Anglican Church

Civil rights activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, described the President’s action as a lapse in his moral judgment, which he claimed was an impeachable offence. He, however, doubted the moral rectitude of the National Assembly in initiating any such action on the President.

The issue arose from claims by ACN that the President solicited for bribe in the form of a church building from the Italian construction company, Gitto. Gitto, it was claimed, built the church building on the request of the President, a development which ACN amounted to soliciting for bribe for which the President should be sanctioned.

Reacting to ACN’s call yesterday, presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, in a statement said: “The Presidency has noted with surprise and some amusement, the patently laughable attempt by political opponents of President Goodluck Jonathan and their collaborators to brew up a storm in a cup over the alleged “gift” of a church to the President.”

“It should be clear to all knowledgeable and discerning Nigerians that these allegations are nothing other than another mischievous attempt to denigrate President Jonathan, cast unjustifiable aspersions on his personal integrity and distract him from the serious business of governance.”

“For the benefit of the unwary who might be taken in by the antics of an unscrupulous opposition that has little or no regard for the truth in the pursuit of their self-serving agenda, the Presidency wishes to state emphatically that President Jonathan never solicited nor received a church as “bribe” from any contractor.”

Presidency denies asking for ‘bribe’

“Yes, a contractor who has worked and continues to work in Bayelsa State and other parts of Nigeria thought it fit, in fulfillment of its corporate social responsibility, to facilitate the renovation of the small church in the President’s home town of Otuoke.”

“It takes a lot of desperation to translate this act of social responsibility for which there are innumerable precedents in our country into a crime for which the usual suspects are now calling for the “impeachment” of President Jonathan.”

”It is indeed, ironic that the groups and individuals now castigating the President because a company freely chose to fulfill its corporate social responsibility by helping to renovate a communal place of worship, are also amongst those who constantly berate companies doing business in the Niger Delta for not doing enough to support the development of their host communities.

“Examples of such corporate assistance to communities, cities and states abound across Nigeria. The President’s accusers are certainly not unaware of the fact that the famous Millennium Park in Abuja was donated to the city by a construction company, but we do not recall that anyone was ever accused of receiving the park or other similar communal projects as a bribe.

“For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the renovated church in Otuoke does not belong to President Jonathan or his family. The church belongs to the Anglican Communion and the entire Otuoke Community. It has existed for generations and is not a new church “donated” to President Jonathan by his “contractor-friend” as is being mischievously alleged.

President Jonathan has not committed any crime or violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers by being present at the dedication of the very humble community church building and publicly acknowledging the assistance of a corporate entity in its renovation.

“Those peddling allegations to the contrary know very well that their charges are baseless and unsustainable. If they must oppose for the sake of opposition, let them desist from peddling patent falsehoods and make a greater effort to be a responsible opposition by offering intelligent and constructive criticism.”

ACN is a distraction —PDP

PDP, in its reaction articulated by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, yesterday, warned ACN against distracting members of the National Assembly, just as it urged the assembly members to disregard ACN and remain focused in the joint effort to achieve the transformation of Nigeria.

The PDP spokesperson stressed that PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was deeply worried by what he termed the incessant destructive chants of an opposition ‘’who though bereft of a credible alternative model, still struts the stage in a jaundiced illusion of a model driver of the perfect.

“We are not surprised ACN is losing sleep over the maturity and stability that the National Assembly, led by our great party has gained in the last few years, much less its smooth working relationship with the executive.

Metuh said:‘’The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described the call by the Action Congress of Nigeria,ACN, on the National Assembly to impeach the President as recklessly infantile and the hallmark of a political party whose provincial obsession and pretended nationalism have left mercilessly hobbled; hence the perennial perchance for antics of destabilisation.

“The strength of any viable democracy lies in the mettle of a credible opposition. The PDP welcomes this. However, where the opposition is irresponsibly engrossed in making a mountain out of a mole hill and ceaselessly creating an imaginary tiger in the neighbourhood, it leaves no one in doubt that it is committed to a hidden agenda that neither benefits the nation nor enables the people.

“Let’s therefore ask the ACN; ‘quo agendum? ’ – whither your agenda?” Is it to destabilise the Federal Government and hasten the quest for a divided patria? Is it to gain what the opposition in their collective whole failed to achieve in April 2011 presidential election? Or still, is it a vengeance for the inability of the opposition to win successive five governorship elections, the nullification of some of which was achieved via judgements with questionable trends”?

The PDP demanded from the ACN a proof to Nigerians that the rehabilitation of a Community church by a construction company, an act which ordinarily falls under community relations has personally benefited the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The CPC, however, faulted the presidency’s claim of decency on the issue saying through its spokesman, Fashikin that the President was turning into an imperial president on account of the deficiencies of the Nigerian constitution.

“The President knows that the Nigerian constitution supports imperial presidency and he knows that he is an autocratic President. What he has done is an impeachable, he has broken and transgressed our laws, he has committed infractions against the constitution, it is because that in this part of the world that we don’t have respect for decency.”

“If we have respect for constitutional order, President Jonathan should not stay a day longer in office with what he has done. The fuel subsidy alone should have made him to leave. A man that budgeted N240 billion but yet expended more than N2 trillion unbudgeted funds for the said subsidy.”

“Jonathan is gradually becoming an imperial President, he is running a fascist regime. We are at his mercy,” Fashakin said yesterday.

Civil rights activist, Aturu in his own reaction to the issue yesterday raised questions on the development.

“The question is whether the code of conduct even allows him to receive such gifts under the law and that raises moral questions that he needs to respond to.”

Asking whether the President was a community leader to solicit for such gifts on behalf of his community, Aturu asked, “Why was that church not given to other communities even in Bayelsa State?” “Was that thing not given with an intention and intent to compromise him?,” he further asked.

“This is why I think he ought to have been more circumspect in accepting the gift of the church building on behalf of the church. This is my view and I think it is morally indefensible, he did not probably consider all the implications. It is an error of judgment and he should return the gift. It is a Greek gift with the aim of compromising him.”

Against the background of the demand by the ACN for the President’s impeachment, Aturu said: “It is an impeachable offence but I doubt whether that will fly with the National Assembly?”

Via Vanguard

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