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Editorial

FG And Kerosene Scarcity

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Like a festering sore, the issue of kerosene scarcity had persisted at various times in different parts of the country. Sometimes, the product, otherwise known as Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK), would be so scarce that many Nigerians are compelled to seek various alternatives.

In such circumstance, the privileged resort to the use of gas not minding its high-risk value while the less privileged embark on various methods of extracting dry firewood, including bush burning from the already depleted forests. Some even surrender to the use of charcoal for cooking.

But while the kerosene scarcity persists, its negative consequences are usually most unfortunate. Some callous businessmen cash in on the situation to adulterate the little quantity in circulation. And like a keg of gun power awaiting ignition, massive fire explosions claim many lives and raze houses.

In Rivers State, the effect has not been less severe. Not too long ago, a 12-year old Hope Fadae was flown to South Africa for medical treatment after a weekend kerosene explosion that killed his parents and three siblings. The list of victims and casualties is endless as adulterated kerosene-induced explosions had claimed lives at Abonnema Wharf, Eagle Island, Railway Quarters and other parts of the state.

Early in the year when kerosene scarcity resurfaced in Port Harcourt, about eight people lost their lives to kerosene explosion, and no fewer than 5,000 residents of Elechi Beach were rendered homeless.

Once more, Dual Purpose Kerosene has disappeared, and its absence is biting hard on the users as the product is either not seen or available at extremely exorbitant prices above the reach of the common people. The Tide’s recent market survey indicates that a litre of kerosene which officially sold for N2,400 is now N4,300 while a bottle rose from N100 to N300. As usual, reasons have been adduced for the scarcity.

While government officials  said the post-election violence in the Northern  part of the country was responsible, officials of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) argued that the partial deregulation of the product was reason for the scarcity. The IPMAN’s South East Zone Chairman, Chief Chukwudi Ezinwa, explained that while petrol is still subsidised, kerosene is partially deregulated.

Be that as it may, we are more concerned on government’s move to find a lasting solution to the scarcity, and give succour to the already over-stretched masses whose lives ultimately depend on use of kerosene without alternatives.

While we are not oblivious of the long term benefits of deregulation to the people and the economy of the nation, which include availability and quality content of the product, we make haste to say that the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, make a bold and definite statement on the nagging issue of deregulation while taking serious action to address the life-threatening situation.

Agreed, it is not unlikely that the post-election violence in some parts of the North may have contributed to the difficulty in procuring and circulating the product within the period, its lingering effect could not have escalated to the current magnitude as witnessed in various parts of the country. Even so, the fact that the scarcity has persisted in the South East, South South and South West, which did not witness any post-election violence gives room for more answers to this troubling enigma.

Nevertheless, we urge government not to relent in seeking measures to cushion the harsh effects of the scarcity and the exorbitant price of kerosene on the people. In fact, we insist that government should introduce economic policies that would benefit the masses and also ensure that  corrupt officials do not hijack the process and impoverish society the more. For instance, several poverty alleviation programmes introduced in the past were abused as there became conduit pipes for siphoning government funds.

Unless this is checked, the years of sacrifice and unquantifiable contributions of the oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta would be in vain, if nothing is urgently done to ensure that they are not starved of the end-product extracted from their soil, even if they must pay for it.

We are, however, not unmindful of the antics of dubious elements in the country whose stock-in-trade hinges on greed and sharp practices to circumvent government’s people-oriented programmes for their selfish interests.

Such people must be checked in their tracks for President Goodluck Jonathan to sustain his efforts, now a reference point, at ensuring availability of petroleum products nationwide. The Tide expects that the various arms of government and extra-ministerial agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) War Room, including officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC) and Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) should synergise with major and independent marketers for the purposes of maintaining unfettered delivery of petroleum products to the masses.

In addition, government should endeavour to put to optimal use the nation’s existing four refineries, and expose economic saboteurs in the system who would not see anything good with our refineries functioning in full capacity.

It is, indeed a cheering news that private investors are at the verge of establishing refineries. But we note that the take-off of these refineries and the attendant encumbrances are quite discouraging. We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to ensure full commitment and engage genuine and sincere investors. Such enduring plans, no doubt, would end the frequent scarcity of  petrol and diesel which are already scarce in some parts of the country, and particularly kerosene, which is so dear to the common people.

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Editorial

That Desecration Of NDA

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The contumelious assault on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday, August 24, is possibly the most menacing sign that the Federal Government may have lost total control of the ungraceful security predicament faced by Nigerians. With this tragic incident and many others counting, obviously, the North-West may have increasingly evolved into the new terror epicentre, as the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism ostensibly dies down in the North-East.
According to media reports, the gunmen took advantage of a chasm in the NDA’s perimeter fencing and stormed the location along Airport Road, Afaka. They gained access to the residential area where two senior officers (Lieutenant Commander Awolor Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Chinecherem Okoronkwo) were shot dead. They also abducted another officer, Major Christopher Datong. The NDA is just steps away from the Federal Forestry Mechanization College, Afaka, where a gang of bandits kidnapped 39 students last March.
Indeed, the NDA, an institution that engenders young men and women to become gallant military personnel, should not come under an invasion of that dimension so easily. The onslaught was a rude reproach to the military, and by extension Nigeria. The Armed Forces ought to have carefully studied earlier raids and taken steps to safeguard their men and institutions. That this did not happen was indicative of imprudence on their part.
The inability to repel or capture the assailants highlights the shortcomings of our security system and demonstrates how daring terrorists or bandits are. Are there moles inside the Army? How would bandits attack a military institution without any effort or considerable resistance? We are asking because there has always been lingering suspicion that people are undermining the endeavours of our military, particularly in the ongoing anti-insurgency and banditry war.
While we vehemently denounce the incursion and call for the perpetrators to be apprehended and prosecuted, we urge that every effort be made to salvage the kidnapped major in the attack. The military must note that the continuous assaults on their men and formations are not only disconcerting, but hazardous as they erode the confidence of Nigerians in their ability to keep them safe. Something has to be done about that. These relentless attacks should be considered acts of terrorism and properly addressed.
In the aftermath of the NDA ambuscade, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt-Gen Lucky Irabor, assured Nigerians of updates on the search and rescue of the abducted officer, and added that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue operations to ensure that all those involved in the dastardly act are brought to justice”. Much as Irabor’s words may be soothing, we believe more can be done to reassure Nigerians that the military is in firm control.
It was reported that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was investigating the unfortunate attack. It is a step in the right direction. But characteristic of the government, it should not take eternity to conclude. We call for a thorough inquiry and all those found to have pitched in to the success of the onslaught either through their actions or inactions must face the law. Also, the findings should be released to the public to instil trust in the inquisition.
Nigerians have consistently been experiencing fear and anguish. Most people are afraid of the road these days. Anytime they have to travel, their hearts are always tucked in their mouths. It was no surprise that in 2020, our nation was considered the third most terrorized country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Sadly, and most ignominiously, the authorities have never been perturbed by such unenviable rankings.
Millions of scared Nigerians are wondering what truly is going on. What is happening to our once mighty Nigerian Armed Forces, which were able to keep the nation one during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, and return peace to war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mali and even Libya? Why can the once dominant military power in Africa no longer defend itself from ordinary armed thugs on motorbikes that have clearly become a new frontier for terrorism?
Could it be the insatiable greed of the leaders? Could it be that top military officers have been compromised or put in jeopardy and are politicking with issues as sensitive as security? Have our soldiers lost the will to fight gallantly? Or are their weapons obsolete and can no longer withstand the sophisticated projectiles of their enemy? Or could it be that the military is no more as potent as it used to be back in the day? Those critical questions deserve responses.
What is most perplexing is that the security of our country is degenerating vis-a-vis the ever-increasing military allocations. Official figures indicate that more than N5trillion of our annual budgets have been spent on the military for our defence in the past six years. Allocations to the police and other security agencies not inclusive. All seems to have gone down the drain without a corresponding output.
These bandits have to be regarded as terrorists and treated as such. Lately, they have become very unsparing and appear a step ahead of our security agents. Therefore, they should be handled ruthlessly. Those behind the attacks must be fished out. The criminals must be properly defined, chased after, and apprehended, including their patrons. This can be accomplished by the military intelligence.
There is no doubt that the NDA attack is a special message that the bandits are sending to Nigerians to prepare for more deadly onslaughts. So, the security agencies must brace up. This is to say the least, very hair-raising, and the Federal Government must sit up to protect, not only the military establishments, but the country in totality. Hence, there is a pressing need for a change in our security architecture.
All patriotic Nigerians should be troubled by the attacks on the NDA and other military establishments as they undermine the sovereignty of the country. As a result, security agencies are expected to grow with renewed fervour to tackle this failing condition in the nation. Insecurity is the biggest challenge every government has to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Additional tactics must, therefore, be deployed to hammer away terror and banditry in the land.

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Editorial

Slaughter Market Demolition: Kudos To RSG

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On Thursday, September 1, the Government of Rivers State commenced the demolition of Oginigba Slaughter Market along Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The demolition came exactly one month after the State government permanently shut the slaughter and the market on account of the health hazards it posed to the people and residents of the state as well as the security and social menace it also posed to the people.
Governor NyesomWike maintained that besides the demolished slaughter being a haven for criminal elements, its location at the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area is now considered inappropriate in terms of the State government’s urban renewal policy.
The Governor only said the obvious as the area around the slaughter has become a death and drug zone. The base of the adjoining bridge not only served as a home to all sorts of criminals, the area indeed had become the drug capital of the state.
Indeed, as Governor Wike explained, over the years, the area had come to be identified as a very dangerous place, where large cache of weapons were harboured and used at will to terrorise innocent people.
To have such a slaughter located in the industrial hub of the state definitely runs counter to the urban renewal programme of government and efforts to return Port Harcourt to its Garden City status.
We therefore see no ethnic, religious or other divisive and less altruistic sentiments attached to the decision to relocate the slaughter to a more spacious and modern facility by the State Government.
This is moreso as the State Government has already commenced the construction of a modern abattoir, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment with capacity for the slaughtering of 400 cattle as well as 1,500 goats and sheep per day at Mgbuosimini, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, where butchers and other related businesses would be accommodated to engage in their activities in a more decent, healthy and conducive environment.
We believe that the action of Government will check the incessant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and other violent crimes perpetrated daily within the precinct of the Oginigba slaughter market.
Also, with the clearing of the area of shanties that doubled as stalls and criminal covens, residents of Oginigba and commuters through the area will heave a sigh of relief from activities of the men of the underworld that had made life a living hell for them.
We are further gladdened that Governor Wike has said the demolished site would not be left fallow but will house another befitting project that will not only occupy the same land but that will be in tune with the urban renewal effort of the present administration.
The governor has earned the reputation and trust of the people that he keeps to his words as exemplified in the number of projects littered all over the 23 local government areas of the state. That is why The Tide aligns with his assertion that, “Anybody bringing religion or ethnic colouration doesnot mean well for the people of the state and the country. And I am not going to be perturbed; I am not going to be cowed; and also, I am not going to be blackmailed by anybody.”
We believe that no government worth its time in office will stand by and watch miscreants and criminals turn any part of its jurisdiction, let alone a choice area of its capital city, into an enclave where lawlessness reigns, criminals rule and safety and security of lives and property of innocent and law abiding citizens cannot be guaranteed.
We are also encouraged that Governor Wike has taken the war against shanties in the state capital and its environs to every nook and cranny of the state. Evidently, the recent demolition of illegal structures around the Eastern Bypass, Ikoku and other areas within the metropolis and other parts of the state have not only chased criminals away but has tremendously enhanced the beauty of the state capital. We also salute the Governor’s recent order for the demolition of shanties where counterfeit bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are produced side by side some other criminal and illegal activities at Nkpogu area in Port Harcourt.
This is why The Tide salutes the courage, determination and zeal of Governor Wike for standing up to the challenge of ridding the Oginigba area of the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout of the criminal elements, giving the residents a new lease of life and bringing restoration to the area by the plan to site a trademark quality project in keeping with his revolutionary urban renewal agenda.
As in many other areas where successive administrations had failed or feared to tread, Wike deserves nothing but acknowledgement, appreciation, support and encouragement from every well-meaning Rivers indigene and lovers of the state in what he has been able to do at the Oginigba Slaughter Market and other parts of the state as part of a comprehensive effort at identifying and demolishing all criminal hideouts across the state and making the state safe for residents and legitimate business activities.
The Government needs the support of all people and residents of the state. Indeed, only people who do not mean well for the state and its people will complain about efforts to restore sanity to our polity.
All hands of Rivers people and residents of the state should be on deck to realise the vision of Governor Wike to recreate Rivers State as a business destination of choice and a safe, secure and peaceful habitation of note for all law abiding Nigerians and others across the world.

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Editorial

VAT Judgment: FG May Lose N92bn To States

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If the judgement of the Federal High Court asking state governments to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) in their domain is upheld by the Appeal Court, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)  will lose about N92 billion which it is expected to earn as cost of collection.
The law setting up the FIRS allows the agency to a percentage, as determined by the National Assembly, as its cost of revenue collection from non-oil taxes before remitting same into the Federation Account.
A report on FIRS official website revealed that the service collects four per cent as cost of collection for non-oil revenue collected.
In the 2016 fiscal period, the FIRS received the sum of N85.99 billion as cost of revenue collection, while it got N100.3 billion as the cost of revenue collection in 2017.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the service got N114.1billion as the cost of revenue collection out of the N5.32 trillion actual revenue it generated for that year.
According to documents obtained from the Budget Office, the FIRS received an estimate of N112 billion and N121 billion as cost of revenue collected in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
With a projected VAT pool of N1.3 trillion in 2021, the FIRS is expected to earn N68 billion in the 2021 fiscal period based on the cost of collection rule.
Based on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper 2022-2024, the Federal Government is proposing to generate the sum of N2.3 trillion from VAT in 2022.
With the FIRS entitled to four per cent as cost of collection, it implies that the service is expected to earn N92 billion in 2022 as cost of revenue collection.
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had dismissed an application by the FIRS, seeking to stop the state governments from commencing collection of VAT in the state.
Consequent upon the court ruling last Monday, Governor Nyesom Wike, had directed the Rivers State Revenue Service, to immediately commence collection of VAT from corporate bodies and businesses in the state.
Already, the dispute between the FIRS and Rivers State over the collection of VAT has inspired some more states such as Lagos, Ogun and Akwa Ibom States, to enact laws that will enable them to collect the tax in their states.
It was learnt that stripping the FIRS of the power to collect VAT would reduce the commission the agency will be receiving.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami, had penultimate week, told the Senate Joint Committees working on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, that the agency would soon approach the nation’s legislature with a bill to amend the Finance Act 2021.
The amendment, according to Nami, will centre basically on the issue of Stamp Duty and how to drag those transacting businesses on the social media to the tax net.

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