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Oil Spill: RSG Seeks Better Deal For Ogonis

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The Rivers State Government, has promised to push the request of the Ogonis for a quick and lasting solution to the outcome of the United Nations Environmental Programme(UNEP)repo-ort on environmental remediation for Ogoni land.
The pledge was made on Monday by Governor Chibuike Amaechi when the umbrella body of the Ogonis, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People(MOSOP) led by its President, Barrister Ledum Mitee conducted a peaceful protest to the Government House, Port Harcourt over delay in implementing the UNEP report.
Represented by his deputy, Engr Tele Ikuru, Amaechi declared that the situation needed immediate action especially as it concerned the Ogoni clean-up. “The situation which the Ogoni man lives is such that several people will continue to die of illnesses some of which you cannot fathom,” he said.
The Governor who called on the Federal Government to give the report the required attention said,” we are waiting and hoping that the Federal Government and its agencies will put this at the front burner,” and assured them that their request would be tabled before the presidency.
On the part of the state government, Amaechi stated that consultations had begun with Shell Petroleum Development Company(SPDC) and the Federal Government to provide interim measures, while a lasting solution was being worked out.
It was against this backdrop that the Rivers State Governor said that the State Government had begun distributing treated water in tankers to the affected areas ,where the UNEP report indicated heavy presence of benzene in their drinking water.
Amaechi also noted that,” the permanent solution would be to ensure that the Ogoni people have good water to drink, but it is not just about water alone. What about their livelihood? What about their land? So many things are indeed contaminated.”
While commending them for their peaceful disposition during the protest, the Governor assured them of delivering their letter of protest personally to the President, and expressed the hope that it would receive immediate action.
In his address earlier, President of MOSOP, Barrister Ledum Mitee noted that the protest had become necessary due to delay in implementing the UNEP report, including failure by the Inter-Minsterial Committee set up by the government to evolve measures to address the matter.
He added, “we want to know who are those people in the Federal Government who are delaying these issues”.
The Ogoni leader who lamented the poor living conditions in most of the affected communities blamed it on long years of neglect and oil exploration. As a result, he revealed that MOSOP had dragged Shell to court in the United Kingdom and the United States of America to seek redress over the situation.
“These are ways by which the Ogonis show that they can resolve issues in the Niger Delta by peaceful means. And that is why we have come today to say that we are tired and to ask how long our people will continue to drink this poisoned water before we hear from the Federal Government?.
“We thought that consistent with our own methods of demand, we have to take a letter of protest to the President and pass it through Your Excellency to him to say that our people need attention.
“We have taken Shell to court abroad and we want to know who are those in the Federal Government delaying these issues.”
Mitee said MOSOP would not hesitate to take necessary actions against those whose inactions had made the Ogonis to continue to suffer.
He said that in spite of an unanimous resolution passed by the National Assembly calling for the implementation of the UNEP report, government had done nothing.
He commended the State Government and the National Assembly for rising to the situation for the first time, on the Ogoni issue, stressing that the protest was timely since by 10th November, the group would be commemorating the 17th anniversary of the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other nine Ogonis hanged in 1995 by the military government.
However, following the continuous non-implementation of the recommendation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report in Ogoniland, MOSOP alleged that more deaths were being recorded in the area yearly following the contamination of their source of drinking water by oil pollution.
Mitee who made the disclosure during the peaceful protest by MOSOP to Government House, Port Harcourt, renewed the call on the Federal Government to expeditiously implement the UNEP report to save the lives of the Ogonis.
He also called for other measures to be put in place to save the people from danger of continuous drinking of polluted water.
The protesters who numbered more than two thousand carried placards some of which read “ Clean Up Ogoniland of Oil Pollution, Clean-Up The Niger Delta, Reward Non-Violence, Save Ogoni From Pollution amongst others.
Receiving the protesters at the Government House, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi said there was need for the Federal Government to expedite action on the implementation of the UNEP report, on the  clean up of the area.

Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Sagir Saleh  (left) condoling Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State  over the death of his Deputy in Gombe,  Sunday.

Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Sagir Saleh (left) condoling Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State over the death of his Deputy in Gombe, Sunday.

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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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