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Kerosene Scarcity Bites Harder In S’South, S’East

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Households in Rivers State and most parts of the South-South and South-East states of the country have resorted to the use of firewood and charcoal for domestic cooking as kerosene scarcity bites harder in the geo-political zones.

Investigation reveals that the lingering scarcity of the product has also increased its price across the zones.

A market survey carried out by The Tide in Port Harcourt reveals that 20 litres of kerosene which used to sell for N2,400 is now N4,300, while a bottle of kerosene which used to sell for N100 to N150 now sells for N300.

The Tide also learnt that the situation has created the opportunity for the influx of adulterated kerosene into the market.

The Tide also discovered that a number of filling stations across the city had no kerosene in their stock, while at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Mega Filling Station, Lagos Busstop, buyers had to purchase the product through a third party.

However, efforts to reach the manager of the station proved abortive as he was said to be out of office, but another officer of the station, however directed the reporter to the Public Relation Officer of the Pipeline Product Marketing Company of Nigeria (PPMC) whom he said was the only one competent to speak on the matter.

A number of households who also spoke to our correspondent, however grumbled over the situation, noting that it had worsened their plight.

For Madam Eno Adah, a resident of Diobu, Port Harcourt, adulterated kerosene was more attractive than the real product which she said was out of stock.

She noted that the urgent intervention of the government would save the situation.

When contacted, a senior official of the Rivers State Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources who spoke under condition of anonymity, however, assured that something would be done about the situation.

In Auchi, Edo State, most residents  now make use of charcoal and firewood for cooking as scarcity of kerosene has persisted across the state.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that most filling stations in Auchi and its environs had long run out of kerosene with a few still managing to sell the product at N160 per litre.

The situation, The Tide investigation revealed, had led to many thriving black market spots in Auchi and adjoining communities.

Black market operators, who are found mainly around major street junctions in Auchi, sell a litre of kerosene for between N200 and N250.

Some residents, who spoke to newsmen, described the scarcity as shameful.

One of the residents, Mrs Edith Elajah, said: “Is it not shameful that what we produce in this country we can’t find it to buy?

“It is even more shameful that it has become easier to get food than to get kerosene to cook it.’’

Elajah said the scarcity of the product and its attendant high cost had forced her into using firewood and charcoal for her cooking.

“ I have made a makeshift kitchen in my compound where I use firewood for cooking as I can no longer afford high cost of kerosene,’’ she said.

Another woman, Mrs Munirat Audu, told newsmen that even firewood and charcoal had become expensive because of the demand for them.

Audu, who said a bottle of kerosene was now being sold for N200 in her area, noted that the development had brought hardship to many poor homes.

At the only filling station on Igbe Road where kerosene was being sold in Auchi last Saturday, an official who does not want to be mentioned, told newsmen that the price of the product was determined by the cost of importation.

“We do not just increase price arbitrarily, but because we spend so much in getting the product into the country, we have to sell at a price that will ensure recovery of our investment,’’ he said

With the scarcity of kerosene in Asaba and its environs, firewood, which was seen as a cheaper alternative, has also become expensive.

Our correspondent recalls that there had been reports of high price of the product across the country due to its unavailability.

In the Delta State capital, a litre of kerosene currently sells at N150 in filling stations while the price is between N200 and N500 in the various black market spots in the city.

But firewood which many residents had resorted to has also witnessed a steady rise in price.

The Tide investigation revealed that a small bundle of eight pieces of firewood, which was sold at N350 towards the end of 2010, currently sells at between N500 and N600.

The same quantity of firewood, it was gathered, was sold at between N250 and N300 in 2010 and at between N150 and N200 in 2009.

A firewood seller in Asaba, Mrs Nedi Onodu, attributed the increasing price of firewood to the current high demand for it by residents.

Besides, she explained that the increasing demand for firewood by users had put pressure on the sellers, leading to upsurge in demand from suppliers.

She said the bulk of the firewood being sold in Asaba came from neighbouring Onitsha in Anambra State, adding that dealers were rationing their stock to meet  the increasing demand.

“Even with the reduced quantity that we now get from Onitsha due to the rationing, our suppliers have increased the price of firewood as demand for it increases,’’ Onodu said.

She, however, said that the rush for firewood had reduced, adding, however, that the business was still booming.

Some firewood users in Asaba told newsmen that they resorted to it due to the scarcity and high price of kerosene.

“ Now that the price of firewood has also started going up, we have started going to the bush and building construction sites to look for it,” Mrs Fumnanya Ijeuwa, a civil servant, said.

Two women, who were spotted buying firewood at Issele-Uku, headquarters of Aniocha North Local Government Area, said the purchase might be their last as they would resort to charcoal.

Mrs Agnes Iwu and the other buyer, who only identified herself as Juliana, said they had discovered that charcoal was cheaper.

Apart from Asaba and Issele-Uku, the high price of firewood was also noticeable in Agbor, Ogwashi-Uku, Akwukwu-Igbo and other communities in the area.

In parts of Enugu State, the cost of obtaining kerosene for domestic cooking needs is fast getting out of reach of the common man.

A check in Enugu last Saturday revealed that the cost per litre of kerosene has increased by between 200 per cent and 250 per cent against the approved pump price of N50 per litre.

PIX 1; L-R : Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Mr Mike Igini, Returning Officer, Prof. Hilary Edoga and Supervisory Officer, Aniedi Ikoiwak, announcing the results of Imo supplementary governorship election in Owerri , last Saturday

L-R : Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Mr Mike Igini, Returning Officer, Prof. Hilary Edoga and Supervisory Officer, Aniedi Ikoiwak, announcing the results of Imo supplementary governorship election in Owerri , last Saturday

L-R : Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State, Mr Mike Igini, Returning Officer, Prof. Hilary Edoga and Supervisory Officer, Aniedi Ikoiwak, announcing the results of Imo supplementary governorship election in Owerri , last Saturday

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RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court

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The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has declared that it is the Rivers State Government, not the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), should collect Valued Added Tax (VAT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT) in the state.
The court, presided over by Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam, also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney General of the Federation, both first and second defendants in the suit, from collecting, demanding, threatening and intimidating residents of Rivers State to pay to FIRS, PIT and VAT.
Pam made the assertion while delivering judgement in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/149/2020, filed by the Attorney General for Rivers State (plaintiff), against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (first defendant) and the Attorney General of the Federation (second defendant).
The court, which granted all the 11 reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, stated that there was no constitutional basis for the FIRS to demand for and collect VAT, Withholding Tax (WHT), Education Tax and Technology Levy in Rivers State or any other state of the federation, being that the constitutional powers and competence of the Federal Government was limited to taxation of incomes, profits and capital gains, which do not include VAT or any other species of sales, or levy other than those specifically mentioned in Items 58 and 59 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution.
The judge dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the defendants that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit and that the case should be transferred to Court of Appeal for interpretation.
Pam, who also dismissed objection raised by the defendants that the National Assembly ought to have been made a party in the suit, declared that the issues of taxes raised by the state government were issues of law that the court was constitutionally empowered to entertain.
He declared that after a diligent review of the issues raised by bothplaintiff and the defendants, the plaintiff had proven beyond doubt that it was entitled to all the 11 reliefs sought in the suit.
The court agreed with the Rivers State Government that it was the state and not FIRS that was constitutionally entitled to impose taxes enforceable or collectable in its territory of the nature of consumption or sales tax, VAT, education and other taxes or levies, other than the taxes and duties specifically reserved for the Federal Government by Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Also, the court declared that the defendants were not constitutionally entitled to charge or impose levies, charges or rates (under any guise or by whatever name called) on the residents of Rivers State, and indeed, any state of the federation.
Among the reliefs sought by the Rivers State Government, was a declaration that the constitutional power of the Federal Government to impose taxes and duties was only limited to the items listed in Items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The Rivers State Government had also urged the court to declare that, by virtue of the provisions of Items 7 and 8 of the Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, the power of the Federal Government to delegate the collection of taxes can only be exercised by the state government or other authority of the state, and no other person.
The state government had further asked the court to declare that all statutory provisions made or purportedly made in the exercise of the legislative powers of the Federal Government, which contains provisions which are inconsistent with or in excess of the powers to impose tax and duties, as prescribed by Items 58 and 59 of the Part I of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, or inconsistent with the power to delegate the duty of collection of taxes, as contained in Items 7 and 8 of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, were unconstitutional, null and void.
Lead counsel for the Rivers State Government, Donald Chika Denwigwe (SAN), who spoke to journalists after the court session, explained that the case was all about the interpretation of the Constitution as regards the authority of the government at the state and federal levels to collect certain revenues, particularly, VAT.
“So, during the determination of the matter, some issues of law were thrown up like, whether or not the case should be referred to the Court of Appeal for the determination of some issues.
“The court noted that the application is like asking the Federal High Court to transfer the entire case to the Court of Appeal. In which case, if the court so decides, there will be nothing left to refer back to the Federal High Court as required by the Constitution.”
According to Denwigwe, the court refused that prayer, and decided that the case was in its proper place before the Federal High Court, and was, therefore, competent to determine it.
Speaking on the implications of the judgement, Denwigwe said it was now, unlawful for such taxes as VAT in Rivers State to be collected by any agency of the Federal Government.
“In a summary, it is a determination that it is wrong for the Federal Government to be collecting taxes which are constitutionally reserved for the state governments to collect. The implication of the judgement is that the government (federal and state) as an authority under the constitution,should be advised by the judgement that it is the duty of all government authorities to comply with and obey the law so long as the court has interpreted it and said what that law is.
“So, in other words, the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the territory of Rivers State and Personal Income Tax should be reserved for the government of Rivers State.”
Counsel to FIRS, O.C. Eyibo said he will study the judgment and advise his client.

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90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”

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We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.

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