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Those Needless Quarrels …Of IBB,Clark Public Outbursts

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Gen Babangida And Edwin Clark

After reading a joint-statement issued by two former
Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) on Monday,
July 30, 2012, which among others prescribed the use of clerics as
inter-mediaries in the face-off between Boko Haram and the Federal Government,
I was minded to ask why Now? But both are statesmen and former
Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and should know better, when
to attack and when to retreat in battle.

Also, by their pedigrees in National politics and leadership
of the army, they are in a better standing than most to analyse government’s
approach to tackling the menace of the Islamist extremist group and proffer
timely advise on form of engagement. More importantly, as influential members
of the Council of State, they enjoy unimpeded access to government and should
wield unimaginable influence in the running of the Nigerian state.

This means, they could, from time to time, advise the
serving President and Commander-in-Chief on alternative ways of addressing the
Iingering insecurity in parts of the North and also help reach out to key
figures, including Islamic clerics and the Christian clergy and preach the need
for tolerance, peaceful co-existence and national unity.

Both Obasanjo and IBB had risked their lives in battle to
defend the Unity of Nigeria so, it would be foolhardy on their part to sit idly
by and watch the systemic destruction of the same values that highlight the
beauty of the country’s diversity: Mutual respect, right to religion, national
Unity, Peace, Justice and indeed an egalitarian society where every citizen or
group enjoys the right of protest in a non-violent manner.

Instead, it should remain a lifelong duty to forge
dependable, potent and enduring common grounds that momentarily remind the
citizenry of the true value of our Unity,
as other former Heads of government do, in other lands. This is why the
content of their well-worded statement on the state of insecurity in the land
came across to me as  a viable project of
the patriots, that should not be delegated.

The fulcum of the leaders’ treatise was the need for
dialogue, using clerics as intermediaries to properly engage “all armed
belligerents,” as a means of checking the spate of insecurity in the land, with
the suggestion that a grassroots approach be adopted, if the nation was to make
any headway.

Both leaders decried the increasing loss of human lives, on
account of the terror attacks by the Boko Haram and other criminals and called
on all tiers of government beginning with the 774 local government councils, to
comprehensively engage their communities at the various levels including;
elders, youth organisations, trade unions and associations, women bodies, the
clergy and other community stakeholders.

By its nature, the joint statement is effective but it would
have been more proactively so, if its content had been encapsulated into a
joint-project by the two former Heads of government to complement efforts of
the Federal Government. It would have been most appropriate if that effort had
taken off far far earlier than now, a reason that whittles down its essence as
a face-saving measure or after-thought.

It is true that when the disturbances got to a disturbing
pedestal in Maiduguri, Borno State, former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited
the terror-torn areas and pledged to intervene and did. He visited bereaved
families, empathised with the aggrieved and later called for peace which was
required to properly address the issues. Perhaps, only perhaps, all the
killings would have abated if IBB, considering his influence, had joined
Obasanjo or ventured an independent trip.

Capitalising on that seeming negligence, one-time Minister
of Information and prominent Ijaw-Leader, Chief Edwin Clark threw what IBB
considered a fatal jab on his person and integrity. Clark who was guest
lecturer  at a symposium organised by the
Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Abuja, August 1, 2012 had said
that the silence of IBB and former Military Head of State, Major-General
Mohammadu Buhari’s silence on the Boko Haram crisis was not golden and amounted
to tacit support for the group.

 

“IBB should have spoken on the Boko Haram issue long before
now, why has he been silent all this while? Former President Obasanjo had
visited Maiduguri, why have  IBB and
General Buhari not visited the place? “He asked.

Unfortunately, Clark’s opinion was voiced barely a day after
the joint statement by IBB and Obasanjo which inadvertently questioned the
former’s real intent in co-releasing that joint public document. And did an
angry IBB pour his venom on good old Clark.

 

Babangida in a statement released on his behalf by his media
aide, Kassim Afegbua, described Clark as a loose cannon in public discourse,
who deserves pity, and his views, as not only misguided but senseless. With no
urgent intent to touch the accusation of ‘long silence,’ IBB’s response veered
into self-praise and proper dusting of his military pedigree and love for
Nigeria’s unity.

“The Former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed
Forces and civil war hero does not and will not have a hand in anything
untoward against the unity and stability of the Nigerian state.

“Having seen it all in life, and now enjoying his retirement
in Minna, Niger State, General Ibrahim Babangida has paid his dues by serving
fatherland to the best of his ability at various times in the history of the
Nigerian state.

“Having invested so much in the unity and stability of the
country, to the extent of fighting in the civil war to keep the country
together, it is out of place for anyone, least of all an old man of Edwin
Clark’s nomenclature, to input directly or indirectly that the great IBB should
prove his innocence on the Boko Haram menace,” the statement further said,
adding, rather than crucify him (IBB) Clark should advise President Goodluck
Jonathan (his Ijaw kinsman) to undertake more consultations with former
presidents, opinion moulders and leaders of thoughts nationwide to find lasting
and integrated solutions to the nation’s problems. That’s it.

Should it take Clark’s seemingly unsavoury comments on his
person, for IBB to advise Jonathan on the essence of wide consultations? Was
IBB’s silence, as pointed out by Clark, informed by the absence of such
consultation by Jonathan?

As former Head of State doesn’t  IBB attend meetings of the Council of State?
Has the security situation never been discussed or such discussions were never
addressed while the patriotic general from Minna was in attendance? If
consultation was an issue, who consulted IBB
and Obasanjo to issue that wonderful joint statement? And more
importantly, had his comfortable Minna-home been touched by the lingering Boko
Haram menace as did other public places and homes of other top government
officials, would IBB require presidential consultation before searching for
solutions?

It is a popular Igbo saying, that one whose house is on fire
does not go chasing rats, which is why I consider it unstatesmanly for
accomplished national leaders like IBB and Clark to be busy chasing rats when
the Nation they claim to love is on fire.

Clark on the one hand did not need the podium of an
anniversary lecture, even if it offers literary privilege, to be as honest as
he could, to challenge IBB to put his vast military experience, high level
patriotism as demonstrated during the civil war and indeed his limitless
knowledge in handling security matters to bear on the Boko Haram menace. On the
other hand, IBB need not see Clark’s position as the right opportunity to
identify lack of adequate consultation with former Heads of State or Presidents
to tinker a way forward as reason for the Iingering insecurity.

Afterall, was it not said that an aged woman does not look
the other way when a pregnant goat delivers in its tethers.

Rather than use the pages of newspapers to chronicle past
heroic exploits or blame one another for the poor state of security in the
land, couldn’t these elder statesmen forge a non-ethnic, non-religious but
purely national front and pursue the engagement of all stake-holders in support
of the Federal Government? Or is it now Jonathan’s government?

It is never too late but late, only  when some issues are over-looked much longer
than necessary they risk being late. Such indeed was the time-frame of silence
between when Boko Haram’s senseless killings started nearly two years ago and
when, IBB and Obasanjo finally made a joint statement. On the other hand, if
Clark appreciated both Buhari and IBB’s pedigree and influence in taming the
Boko Haram, why did he not approach both leaders for such intervention, for
love of the country?

My Agony is that the insecurity in the land is being reduced
to a Jonathan’s  personal problem that
must be tackled as such. It has, accordingly divided the leadership into those
who like or dislike the serving President.

The sad irony is that what is being ignored based on
considerations founded along pro and anti Jonathan divides will some day,
consume all concerned, hence, the need for all to proffer honest solutions and
not waste ample time on ego trips and name calling. That will not do.

 

Soye Wilson Jamabo

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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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