The Election Tribunal in Rivers State has received a total of 14 election petitions challenging the outcome of the National Assembly election conducted on April 9, 2011 in the state.
The Tide investigation revealed that the three senators- elect on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the three senatorial districts of the state are being challenged by the candidates of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Peoples Mandate Party (PMP).
In the election Petition number EPT/NASE/PH/3/2011 filed by Ayo Akan, counsel in Kanu Agabi and Associates before the tribunal, Dr Nomate Kpea, senatorial candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is challenging the election of Senator–elect, Magnus Abe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Rivers South-East senatorial district.
Also, Chief Abraham Igwe Eke, the senatorial candidate of Peoples Mandate Party (PMP), Barrister Shedrack Akalokwu, the senatorial candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Chief Ighobo Edum Obaghama, the senatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are individually challenging the declaration of Chief Wilson Ake as the Senator-elect on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party for Rivers West Senatorial district.
Similarly, in the petition number EPT/NASE/PH/1/2011, Pastor Leslic Chizi Michael Atata, the senatorial candidate of the Action Alliance (AC) is challenging the declaration of Senator George Thompson Sekibo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the senator-elect for the Rivers East senatorial district in the April general elections in Rivers State.
In the Federal House of Representatives, Election Petition No EPT/NAHR/PH/7/2011, Chief Ambrose Nwuzi, Action Congress of Nigeria candidate for Etche/Omuma Federal Constituency dragged Hon Ogonna Nwuke, of the PDP before the election tribunal.
Hon Tobins Oyekode candidate of (APGA) in election petition No EPT/NAHR/PH/2/2011 and Gogo Kiikpoye, (ACN) candidate in petition No EPT/NAHR/PH/4/2011 individually challenge the declaration of Hon Betty Apiafi, candidate of the Peoples Demcratic Party for Abual/Odual/Ahoada East federal constituency as the representative-elect.
In the same vein, Reason Rewo M. Onya, candidate of (ACN) and Mr Ovievai Onisokumeni Zodonu, candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance are separately challenging the declaration of Honourable Asita, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for Ahoada West/Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni federal constituency as the representative-elect in the election petition No EPT/NAHR/PH/8/2011.
Hon Pastor (Mrs) Nancy Nwankwo, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria is challenging the declaration of Hon Barry Mpigi, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of Eleme/Tai/Oyigbo federal constituency in the election while Grace Bellgam, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria petitioned the election of Hon Dakuku Peterside, candidate of Peoples Democratic Party for Opobo/Nkoro/Andoni federal constituency as well as Prince Cletus Kpekpon, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria who challenged the election of Maurice Pronen, candidate of PDP for Khana/Gokana federal constituency.
Opunabo C. Inko Tariah, candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria is challenging the election of Dr Dawari George elected candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for Asari-Toru/Akuku-Toru federal constituency .
Meanwhile, no single petition was filed against the governorship and state House of Assembly before the election petition tribunal in the state.
According to the clerk of the election petition tribunal in High Court 16 who pleaded anonymity, the Tribunal would commence sitting from May 16th, 2011 in the old High Court 16 complex.
However, from the processes filed by various petitioners, arguments are based on section 138 (b) (c) of the electoral Act amended 2010. Section 138(b) stated’ that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non compliance with the provisions of the Act.
Section 138(c) stated” that the respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
Meanwhile, the Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr Ola Makinde, has urged the various election tribunals to be fair and transparent in the discharge of their duties.
He said fairness and transparency on the part of tribunal members would help to reinforce the wishes of the electorate.
Makinde gave the advice in a statement obtained by newsmen, he said the only way to ensure that aggrieved parties, with legitimate claims were pacified and the victory of those who righteously earned it was validated, was to make the trial process transparent and just.
“The country, in the last few weeks, has witnessed some of the freest and fairest elections in her history.
“But like every imperfect institution, there must have been some fairly disputable results which have necessitated the search for legal redress now available at the election tribunals.
“It behooves on members of these tribunals to do everything possible to ensure that justice is done in these cases.
“They must be above board and adhere strictly to their professional ethics and the oath which they swore to,” he said in the statement by the church’s Media and Information Officer, Rev. Oladapo Daramola.
Makinde urged the judiciary to strive to clear its name in the court of public opinion, considering the enormity of some accusations that had been levelled against it.
The cleric said the tribunals’ sittings presented yet another opportunity for the judiciary “to win back the public and ensure sanity in its ranks’’.
According to him, the outcome of the tribunals’ sittings will lend credibility to the 2011 elections.
“It is not merely of some importance, but it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done,” Makinde stressed.
He lauded past judicial pronouncements on disputed polls and urged the bench to do more.
“The saying that justice delayed is justice denied should be an important watchword for effective judicial trials.
“They must avoid corruption in any form and desist from denying just to the justice deny the just of justice or give undue advantage to those who are undeserving of it,” Makinde said.
RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court
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.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
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.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
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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