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Innocent Of Death …Unraveling Killing Of Aluu Four

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Prof Ajienka And Abubakar

Gory sight, is an understatement. Barbaric, an attempt to
justify inadvertently, a mis-step into the forbidden inheritance of stale
years, when, might was right. And to describe as chilling, the  butchering of four young men in search of
tertiary education at the University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Rivers State,
simply, a foiled attempt at boring poetry. So what better words?

Who feels it knows it best. In this case, the dead four, who
were first, dehumanised, later maimed and then slaughtered. Not done, the
killers then played God. Judged their victims, found them guilty and sentenced
them to hell by roasting, one fueled by used tyres and other combustibles. And
the under-graduates, all Nigerians, were roasted to death, at peace time and
therefore, cannot be depended upon to choose the right adjectives to describe
the gory pains of their last hours. And their voices also died.

 

Whatever is now coughed in condemnation therefore, is merely
the product of humanity’s awe, disbelief, shock and indeed empathy. How, could
fellow humans, in the 21st century, be so inhuman to their kind, and cause such
shameful drama to be posted on the world wide web, and with such impunity?

Why such killing? Who authorised such barbarism in a state,
where the administration has repeatedly preached against violence and cult
related breach of the peace?

Where were they when less heinous threats to peace cost
settlers of the Abonnema Wharf, what once served as their homes? Why should a
community allow a few to assume the right to usurp the powers of the security
structures and courts in the land and impose death sentence on others? Which
reasonable village-head would authorise the killing of strangers, particularly
students living in his community, at peace time?

What indeed was the crime of the Aluu four? Whatever it was,
by their killing, such alleged sins have been wiped clean, for, such is the
innocence of death. And nothing can justify such crass demonstration of moral
depravity grounded in cannibalistic grand standing.

As would be expected, there has been a benumbing outpouring
of emotions, in condemnations and calls for justice, the kind of justice,
denied the dead.

Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was visibly
grieved and shocked at the manner of the killing and had since ordered
full-scale investigation. Some arrests have also been made and on the last
count, some, even set to be charged. So what manner of justice is society
haggling for? One that brings back the dead to life? One that would ensure the
completion of the years in search of higher education? One that fulfils the
hopes and dreams of their parents, themselves parents of the future, as would
any good child in adulthood? What hope is now left for the parents for replacement?
Will this wound ever heal? When? How?

Perhaps, the more annoying aspect of the jungle justice of
Aluu, is the claim that the dead four allegedly stole laptops and cell phones.
Assuming, but not conceding that its true, does such crime rise to justify
capital sentence of the barbaric kind meted to the dead? He who goes by the
sword dies by it, so the sages often say, so is the killing of the Aluu four,
over allegations of theft a sound judgement? What  of the killers, if found?

Nothing can justify such barbarism in a clime of laws. The
right thing was for the Aluu village-head to insist on handing over the four to
the law enforcement authorities, and if over-powered by the mob, invite the
Police to save himself the bloody end society today condemns. Did the
village-head do that?

Why didn’t he, if he didn’t? Where does that inaction place
him? But why such inhumanity to fellow humans at this time? No answer can
make-good the early hell the youngsters were sentenced to. This is perhaps why
nearly all are united in condemnation, of the senseless killing.

In a joint statement, last Friday, chairman of Ikwerre Local
Government Area, Hon Welendu Chijemezu-Amadi and the House of Assembly member
representing Ikwerre constituency, Hon Azubike Wanjoku sympathised with
families of the victims, the university of Port Harcourt community and the
entire people of Rivers State over the gruesome killing of the four students of
the University of Port Harcourt in Aluu community.

‘Our attention has been drawn to publications in various
media that the students were killed by a vigilante group in Aluu community’,
the statement said and went on to ‘state categorically that there is no
vigilante group in Aluu community known to or approved by Ikwerre Local
Government Area and any allusion to the killing being perpetrated by a
vigilante group is unfounded”.

Both Ikwerre political leaders, used the platform to “appeal
to the general public, particularly students of the University of Port Harcourt
to remain calm and be law abiding as security agencies are working round the
clock to bring the perpetrators of the dastardly act to book”.

In an apparent attempt to restore hope, the duo, condemned
in strong terms, the act of violence as barbaric and vexatious.

“It is an utter mockery of democratic civilisation. This act
sets our dear and peace-loving state back to the bloody era of the stone age
when life was nasty, short and brutish,” the statement said, adding “this is an
act worth condemning not only in the privacy of our houses, but also in the
open”.

In like manner, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic
Party (PDP), described the recent killing of the four undergraduates at Aluu in
Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state by yet-to-be-identified persons, as
‘most barbaric, chilling and unexplainable’.

In a statement, chairman of the party, Chief Godspower Ake
lamented the wild display of hatred shown by those who killed the young men and
in a bizarre manner they did.

“That act is an anti-thesis to the efforts at value re-orientation
being championed by the administration in the state”, the PDP stated.

Many others, including the Senate, the Presidency and indeed
Okrika chiefs have also condemned the act with calls on the security agencies
to do a thorough job which alone can assuage tempers and restore hope  for a peaceful future.

However, no act of violence in reprisal can be justified as
two wrongs do not and can never make a right. All, who are aggrieved, and by
the nature of condemnations, most of humanity, though in varied degrees, need
to exercise caution and avoid inflammatory statements capable of aggravating an
already tense situation.

The security agencies must be allowed to do a thorough  job in spite of skepticism being expressed in
some quarters and leave the rest to the courts. All must understand that the
unfortunate incident is a dent on the security record of the state, whose
governor has done everything to restore the state from the insecurity he
inherited and had done a good job of it.

The relative peace enjoyed, the restoration of nightlife, an
improved investment climate and above all, burstling Garden City are only few
of the many rewards of the Governor’s doggedness in his crusade to fight
insecurity whereever it rears its head. The Aluu madness, isolated as it is, is
only a temporary distraction which should not be allowed to escalate beyond the
alleged burning of three houses in Aluu by protesting students.

The killings are condemnable and any reprisal, no less so.
Families and communities that lost loved
ones should leave their pains to their Maker, who alone gives and takes.
They must agree that humanity lacks the power to restore life and should submit
to the court of the all-knowing God.

At times like this, there is the tendency among fifth
columnists to play the ethnic card and attempt to engineer inter-communal
strife and disturbances. This is not only unnecessary but wrong because even
the Ikwerre Local Government Area, under whose authority Aluu, sits, has
frontally condemned the acts of violence as did Okrika chiefs, whose two sons
were victims.

Already, some are imputing such animosities  which should be dismissed as baseless. What
happened in Aluu cannot be an Ikwerre aggression against Okrika sons, but
simply a regrettable mob action which is as ill-advised as it is condemnable.
In fact, all affected communities should see it as a joint assault on the
relative peace and good-neighbourliness thus far enjoyed in recent times.

More importantly, the state government has shown true
commitment to efforts geared towards finding the killers by ordering the
immediate arrest of the village-head and others suspected to know anything
about the incident. Not only that, government has repeatedly urged the security
agencies to not only do a thorough investigation but also a timely one, as
justice delayed often amounts to justice denied.

Now therefore, is the time for all well-meaning Nigerians,
especially, indigenes of the state to remain united against that singular act
that attempted to sentence the state to the stone ages, when, might was right
and when human life had no value any more than those of rodents. To ensure
that, anyone with useful information that could help Police investigation
should volunteer same for the peaceful co-existence of all peoples of the
state.

My Agony is that some mischief makers have started seeking
undeserved relevance through inciting statements and threats intended to paint
an inter-communal colouration of an otherwise unfortunate, unplanned and
spur-of-the-moment madness by an ill-advised few.

Methinks all affected community leaders must close ranks,
open potent channels of communication and express sincere empathy with families
of the victims, and that way, render irrelevant those violent jobbers who may
seek from the incident their own shameless relevance.

 

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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