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Jonathan Suspends N5,000 Note Plan … As NBA Calls For Sanusi’s Sack

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R-L: Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi with Managing Director, Oando Plc, Mr. Wale Tinubu, Minister for Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga and the Minister for Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, at the Oando exhibition stand during the 1st Nigeria Oil and Gas Trade and Investment Forum at Onne, Rivers State…Thursday.

President Goodluck Jonathan has
met with Senate President David Mark and House Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on
the decision of the National Assembly to reject the introduction of the N5,000
note by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It was learnt that in the meeting
at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the President expressed worry on plans by the
National Assembly, especially the House, to begin Status Enquiry on Capital
Projects in the 2012 budget.

But Mark and Tambuwal assured him
that the physical tour of projects was not meant to attack the Executive or
initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

The President met Mark and
Tambuwal after the two chambers of the National Assembly opposed the
introduction of the N5,000 note by the CBN.

A source, who pleaded not to be
named because he is not allowed to talk to the media, said the Senate President
and Speaker insisted that the timing of the N5,000 note was not good.

They also conveyed the feelings of
Nigerians that they do not want the denomination, asking President Jonathan not
to run against the wish of the majority of Nigerians.

The source said: “The President
and the National Assembly leaders had mutual discussion on the arguments for
and against the N5,000 note.

“At the end of the day, the
President told the leaders: ‘If that is the popular decision of Nigerians, we
will advise the CBN to have a rethink of the policy. We will not enforce it
because we cannot run against the wish of our people.’

“The President was not too
categorical but his body language at the meeting indicated that he might
consult with the CBN and the Economic Management Team to drop the introduction
of the new note.”

It was gathered that the President
was concerned also about the decision of the National Assembly to embark on
Status Enquiry on Capital Projects in 2012 budget.

According to another source, the
President felt physical verification of capital projects by members of the
National Assembly might still be a carry-over of the row between the Executive
and the Legislature over budget implementation.

But the Speaker explained that the
inspection is designed to assist the Jonathan administration to know the true
position of implementation of capital projects.

“We are not out to undermine your
administration or move against you,” the Speaker was quoted as assuring the
President.

The House also agreed to go ahead
with its planned Status Enquiry on Capital Projects in 2012 budget from next
week.

This decision was reached at an
Executive Session yesterday.

A source said: “As part of our
discovery that budget implementation is low, we will begin inspection of
project sites as from next week.

“This inspection will be solely
financed by the House; we won’t take a penny from the Executive. We want to
know whether these MDAs are working on not.

“After the tour, we will be able
to determine the true position on the implementation of the 2012 Budget and
give Nigerians the accurate percentage of execution.

“We want to ascertain the list of
contracts awarded, status of projects and the extent of cash backing.

“This Status Enquiry will also
assist us in considering the 2013 Budget due for presentation by the end of
this month. The era of abandonment of projects is gone. We will not appropriate
funds for abandoned projects.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Bar
Association (NBA), yesterday in Abuja, continued its criticisms on the proposed
N5,000 and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the Central Bank of
Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and other top management of the
apex bank for their insistence on going ahead to ahead with the controversial
currency reforms.

The NBA also backed the Federal
Government over its stand on the Onshore/Offshore dichotomy noting that the
matter has been settled by the Supreme Court.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and
President of the NBA, Mr. Okey Wali, made the call for Sanusi’s sack at the
association’s Bar Leaders summit and noted that all indices show that Nigerians
do not want the N5, 000 single note.

Wali observed that even if the
leadership of the CBN are right in their postulation on the benefits of the
proposed currency reforms, they are still bound by the wishes of the people or
they should take the honourable path of resignation rather than exhibiting such
unbridled high level of arrogance and rudeness.

“For all the faults that may be
identifiable in President Goodluck Jonathan, arrogance cannot be said to be one
of his attributes. The NBA is therefore amazed that this high level of
megalomania is going on under his watch. We, therefore, call on the President
to please do the needful, initiate the process of the removal from office of
the leadership of the CBN. On our part we will keep our promise to go to court
to challenge the implementation of the policy should the President fail to
reign in the CBN leadership,” he declared.

On the orchestrated campaign by
some northern governors to resurrect the issue of the onshore / offshore
dichotomy to with a view to seeking for an amendment of the law on 13 per cent
derivation, the NBA president, emphasized that the matter has been settled by
the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court in an action instituted by the
Attorney General of Adamawa state and two others against the Attorney General
of the Federation and eight others in 2005.

He reiterated the call on
government to intensify efforts towards enhancing the safety of lives and
properties in the nation, which he noted, is the foremost responsibility of
government to Nigerians.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria,
Chief Afe Babalola, whose paper was read at the event by Prof. Akinsheye George
(SAN), called for the appointment of Judges from the rank of Senior Advocates
of Nigeria to ensure that only the most qualified, experienced and knowledgable
practitioners of law are appointed to the bench to make our jurisprudence
better.

Babalola noted that in the past
that judges were highly respected and were regarded with great awe but not
anymore.

“It is now a common sight to find judges
at social occasions. Due to the economic realities of the time which has
affected even judicial officers, it is not uncommon to find Magistrates riding
in taxis and other forms of public transportation. The point being made here is
not that judges and other judicial officers must live in a state of utopia
irrespective of the realities of the day; the point is that these developments
increasingly expose judicial officers to risks from litigants and even accused
persons standing trial before their courts. Little wonder then that claims of
corruption, bias and judicial high-handedness which hitherto were virtually
unknown or unheard of in the country’s judicial system are now a common
phenomena”.

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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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