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EFCC Set To Prosecute Ex-Governors …As Group Wants JAMB Investigated

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The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)  Chairman,  Mrs Farida Waziri, says the anti-graft body would ensure the prosecution of indicted  ex-governors.

Waziri said this yesterday  in Abuja when the National President of  the NUJ, Malam Garba Mohammed, paid her a courtesy visit.

The EFCC boss said  contrary to speculations that the EFCC had abandoned the cases involving the ex- governors,  the commission was bidding its time and planning on how to build a case against each of them.

“You have to establish a prima-facie case against a person before you make any arrest or charge. We have to build a strong case based on evidence  and witnesses before going to court.

“We have our lawyers whose legal advice we seek to see if we have a strong case before we act. We do not just arrest for the fun of  it. It is a tedious process that requires careful planning,” she said.

Waziri  also debunked allegations that she was engaging in selective  prosecution, noting that the commission’s war against graft was neither personal nor  a media campaign.

She said it was pertinent that Nigerians understood the workings of the commission, adding that the EFCC had always ensured  a thorough building up of  its cases  before making any  arrest.

“This is why no court has ever struck out any of the commission’s  cases on technical grounds,” she said.

Waziri said she had become a victim of  persistent attacks  by detractors, vowing that she would  not  be perturbed or distracted.

She decried the kidnappings and bombings in the country, saying they  were crimes caused by poverty and unemployment.

In his remarks, Mohammed said the visit to the EFCC was important  because  the union  had a good working relationship with the commission.

He said the media had a critical role to  play in helping the commission  to win the war  against corruption and other crimes.

The NUJ leader, who commended Waziri for her doggedness in the  fight  against corruption,  urged her to  rid  the country of  cyber crimes especially in institutions of  learning.

The President of NAWOJ, Asabe Baba, commended  the EFCC boss  for her achievements, saying  women were proud of  her.

The EFCC boss was presented with an  award by Mr  Chukwuma Oraegbu, the Editor-in Chief  of  the New York-based Xclusive Nigeria, an online magazine.

Oraegbu said Waziri was given the award because it was the opinion of many Nigerians, especially those abroad,  that she had fought corruption with “determination and zeal.”

Meanwhile, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), on Wednesday, urged the EFCC to probe officers of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) over irregularities in the recent Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Our correspondent reports that complaints had trailed the use of the biometric machines used by JAMB in the examination.

In a statement released in Lagos and signed by its National Coordinator, Mr Hassan Taiwo, the group demanded a public explanation by JAMB on why the biometric machines malfunctioned at most centres.

They also queried why writing materials and calculators were allegedly not provided to the candidates even when JAMB budgeted for it.

“We call on the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies to probe Prof. Dibu Ojerinde and other principal officers of JAMB for procuring malfunctioning biometric devices for use at examination centres.

‘ We demand that the post-UTME held at the various universities, polytechnics and colleges of education be at no cost to candidates.

“We also demand a re-composition of JAMB along democratic lines to include representatives of teachers union, students and parents in the running of the body to curtail bureaucracy and corruption,” the statement stated.

It called for an internal mechanism to be set up in the examination body, with powers to receive and act swiftly on candidates complaints.

It said the internal mechanism should also impartially investigate proven cases of malpractice.

“We demand expansion of facilities in universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education and the establishment of new tertiary institutions to accommodate the annual increase of candidates that seek for admission,’’ it said.

The statement also called for adequate funding of universities with up to 26 per cent of the annual budgets of state and federal governments.

It attributed the poor results in the 2011 JAMB examinations to the underfunding and commercialisation of the education sector.

“The poor results show how government’s neo-liberal education policies, underfunding and commercialization are wreaking the education sector’’ it further stated.

Our correspondent reports that the JAMB on June 24 released the results of the 2011 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME)

Out of the 1,493,604 candidates who registered for the examination, only 1, 450, 143 candidates sat for it.

Of this number, 50, 733 results were either withheld, under investigation or considered invalided or incomplete.

The total results released were 1,399, 410, showing a 6.3 per cent shortfall in the total number of candidates that registered for the examination.

Out of this, 597,494 candidates scored 200 and above, while 842,851 candidates scored below 200.

Of the total results released, 60.2 per cent candidates failed while about 40 per cent of the candidates passed.

From Right: Representative of NEMA Director General, Mrs Aisueni Clem; Director, Planning, Dr Charles Agbo, and Director, Administration, Dr Mohammed Zana, at a NEMA meeting with stakeholders in emergency Management in Abuja, yesterday.

From Right: Representative of NEMA Director General, Mrs Aisueni Clem; Director, Planning, Dr Charles Agbo, and Director, Administration, Dr Mohammed Zana, at a NEMA meeting with stakeholders in emergency Management in Abuja, yesterday.

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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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