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FG Votes N17.6bn For Flood Victims: Tasks Govs, LGs On SWF,Unity …Jonathan Presents 2013 Budget, ’Morrow

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Head of Service, Barr Samuel LongJohn (middle), Permanent Secretary Service Welfare, Mr Lambert Ekwueme (left) and Director of Admin, Mrs Josephine Chukuigwe, during a meeting with staff of the department, recently

President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the establishment
of a 34-man National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation to raise
funds in support of government’s efforts to provide urgent relief for victims
of recent floods across the country.

The president announced the establishment of the committee
during a nationwide broadcast yesterday.

“Over the past few weeks, unprecedented floods have ravaged
many parts of our country, rendering tens of thousands of fellow Nigerians
homeless, and causing massive destruction of property, farmlands and
infrastructure,” he said in a televised address.

“I want to reassure all Nigerians that the Federal
Government is prepared to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of this
natural disaster,” he added.

The committee, which includes members of international
agencies, religious organisations, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs),
will be co-chaired by Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Mr. Aliko Dangote.

According to him, the committee has been given the mandate
to raise funds to complement government’s resources for the provision of relief
to flood victims across the country and the post-impact rehabilitation of
affected persons and communities.

The committee has been given a 12-month time-frame to
complete its duties and report back to the president.

The Federal Government, through the office of the Secretary
of the Government of the Federation, will also provide an operational base for
the committee as well as logistics that will aid the smooth operation of the
committee.

President Jonathan also said the Technical Committee on
Flood Impact Assessment has submitted its interim report, which contains
recommendations, to key stakeholders and the leadership of the National
Assembly and governors of the affected states.

The Tide reports that images of stranded villagers perched
on roof tops, buses overturned in flash floods and people traversing
waterlogged farmland by canoe have dotted the media in the last couple of
weeks.

At least, 148 people have been killed around Nigeria and
tens of thousands have abandoned their homes since the beginning of July, with
the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) calling it the worst flooding
in 50 years.

Jonathan recounted the damage the flood has done and will do
to the national treasury saying “the National Emergency Management Agency
(NEMA) has so far spent N1.314 billion to provide immediate relief materials.
The minister of works has spent N556 million in the repair of collapsed bridges
and the construction of by-passes while the minister of environment has spent
N95 million on sundry relief measures”.

He also approved the sum of N17.6 billion to be distributed
to states affected by the flood according to the level of the damages suffered.

He said “the states will receive a total of N13.3 billion
while the government agencies will receive N4.3 billion.”

The states according to the president have been categorized
into four; A, B, C and D.

Category A states which include Oyo, Kogi, Benue, Plateau,
Adamawa, Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra will receive N500 million each.

The B category comprising of Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna,
Niger, Nasarawa, Cross River, Taraba, Imo, Lagos and Edo will receive N400
million each.

The C category which has Kwara, Katsina, Gombe, Ogun, Ondo,
Ebonyi, Abia and Rivers will receive the sum of N300 million each.

The last category, which is D, with Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara,
Yobe, Enugu, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom Borno, Osun states and the Federal Capital
Territory will receive N250 million.

The ministries of Environment and Works, NEMA, National
Commission for Refugees, Technical Committee on Flood Impact Assessment have
been pin pointed by the president as the government agencies that will use the
remaining N4.3 billion to mitigate the impact of the flood around the country.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday appealed to
states governors and local government chairmen to cooperate with the Federal
Government in the implementation of policies aimed at preserving the nation’s
commonwealth.

Jonathan made the appeal on the occasion of the inauguration
of the Board of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) at the State
House, Abuja.

The authority is statutorily charged with the
responsibilities of managing the Sovereign Wealth Fund and administering the
accruing resources for the benefit of present and future generations of
Nigerians.

Jonathan noted that members of the committee, which is being
chaired by one time Deputy Governor of CBN, Mr Mahey Rasheed, were carefully
selected after a rigorous process.

He said the establishment of the Board affirmed the
seriousness of government in pursuing the central tenets of the Fund.

The president said the Sovereign Wealth Fund would, among
others, help to build a savings base for future generation of Nigerians.

He said the Fund would also enhance the development of the
country’s infrastructure and promote fiscal stability in times of economic
stress.

He thanked the Executive Nomination Committee chaired by the
Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for a thorough job in the vetting
and selection process.

Earlier, Okonjo-Iweala had assured the President that the
members of the Board were carefully selected and would make the nation proud.

Our correspondent
recalls that the Sovereign Wealth Fund was statutorily established to
replace the Excess Crude Account.

The Fund, with an initial seed of 1 billion dollars, was set
aside to provide a strong, transparent and effective tool for the management of
the nation’s petroleum wealth for the benefit of Nigerians.

The Tide  also recalls
that state governors, who are averse to the creation of the Fund, have called
for its suspension over alleged grey areas in its implementation.

A suit they filed challenging the implementation of the Fund
is pending before the Supreme Court.

In another development, President Goodluck Jonathan will on
today present the 2013 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly
(NASS).

The President in a letter addressed to Senate President,
David Mark, yesterday in Abuja, which was read out to the senators, urged the
NASS to allow him to present the budget

The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, moved a motion, which
was unanimously adopted, that the senators move to the House of Representatives
Chamber today to receive the document.

The senators, however, resolved to hold plenary session by
9:am today to enable them quickly deliberate on some issues before the budget
presentation.

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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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