Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state on Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari, urging him to make the dredging of River Niger from the Atlantic Ocean to Lokoja a priority of the federal government as well consider the state for the setting up of an airport.
This is even as he debunked claims that his administration has introduced bread levy, saying he was not that wicked to impose hardship on the people of Kogi State.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, the governor explained that the dredging of the river would boost the economy of the northern region of the country.
Bello, while talking about the purpose of his visit, said he was at the State House to brief President Buhari on developments in his state, as well as to deliver the Kogi State people’s goodwill message to him.
The governor said: “I paid a visit to the President to brief him about the confluence state, the development and challenges we are facing and also to convey a message form the people of Kogi State that the social bond between the government and the governed is still very strong.
“Also, I informed the President that the youth of Kogi State are expressing their appreciation to the President over the various social intervention programmes that are geared towards lifting the youth and women out of poverty.”
On the request he made, Bello disclosed that he appealed for support in establishing an airport in Kogi and the dredging of River Niger up to Lokoja to boost the economy of the State and country at large.
He said: “I also made a demand to the President that he should place ensure that the pronounced airport to be established in Kogi State be looked into when funds would be released, let Kogi be the first.
“I also drew the President’s attention to the dredging of River Niger form the high sea to Lokoja, up to Baro if actually we want the economy of this country and of the North to prosper.”
On the controversial levy on bread in the state, Bello said the state government did not introduce any bread tax as being speculated, saying those behind the purported law would soon be unmasked and punished accordingly.
“The incident of bread tax in Kogi State is the most unfortunate infraction that any right-thinking human being would allow to fly. When I assumed office on 27th of January 2016, I inherited a decayed civil service and I embarked on massive reform of the civil service.
“Before now, the civil servants in the state don’t follow the public service rules or the financial regulations. A similar incident happened within this period of COVID-19 where two Permanent Secretaries decided to take the laws into their hands and wrote a letter to worship centres, demanding that fumigation of the worship centres be paid for despite the fact that it was a service that Kogi State rendered free of charge and those Permanent Secretaries have since been dismissed from service.
“The particular incident of bread tax is being looked into as I speak, we are investigating those that are behind this. It is evil and it is unaccepted, to say the least.
“I have ordered the Head of Service to issue queries to those that are responsible and they will face the law accordingly. This is a State that never locked down over COVID-19 but our economy was badly hit because all our neighbours; 10 State, including the Federal Capital Territory, locked down.
“If I didn’t lock down to subject my people to hardship, why should I because of tax or hardship impose additional hardship on them by paying bread tax? If there is a way, I can even give tax holiday for some of our businesses, I will do that, not to tax bread.
“So, the Permanent Secretary concerned is facing disciplinary action and we are going to communicate to the world at the end of the day. I never ordered that and I don’t think any senior member of my cabinet will order such,” the governor said.
Bello, however said his administration had since launched a post COVID-19 relief package of over N1.56 billion for citizens of the State, to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
He however maintained that Kogi state is free from the COVID-19 pandemic.