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Navy Nabs 15 Russians: For Illegal Arms Smuggling …As Gunmen Abduct Turk In Rivers



The Nigerian Navy has confirmed the arrest of “MV Myre Seadiver”, a Russian vessel, on suspicion of carrying arms and ammunition at the Lagos roadstead.

Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear-Adm Ameen Ikioda, told newsmen in Lagos that the vessel was arrested on Saturday by naval patrol boats.

According to him, 15 crew members of the vessel, mostly Russians, were arrested on board the ship which was flying Dutch Island flag.

Ikioda alleged that some of the arms recovered were assorted 14 AK 47 rifles with 3,643 ammunition; 22 barrel rifles, with 4,955 ammunition and an arm, called Benelli MR1, with 20 rifles.

“We discovered that the vessel came into our waters without due notification and has some weapons inside which is an infringement on the laws of Nigeria,’’ he said.

The Navy said it found several guns and about 8,500 rounds of ammunition on the boat on Nigerian waters.

The vessel was intercepted over the weekend in Lagos, Navy spokesman, Commodore Aliyu Kabiru said by telephone.

It belongs to the Moran Security Group, based in Moscow, he added.

There was no immediate comment from Moran.

“The vessel was carrying 8,598 ammunition and different rifles. Investigations are still ongoing,” he said. He gave no further details.

Meanwhile, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, has emphasised Navy’s commitment to eradicating illegal bunkering and oil theft.

Ezeoba, who was on two-day official visit to naval formations in Lagos, said the Naval High Command was ready to move the Nigerian Navy forward.

He said that the Navy would as from the next two weeks focus on areas such as infrastructure and capacity building.

A Navy source, who could not be named, said 22 Benelli MR1 rifles and several other automatic weapons were found.

Arms smuggling is a flourishing enterprise in Nigeria, which is battling an Islamist insurgency in the North, organised armed robbery and kidnapping gangs in the South South, and oil thieves and pirates in the South South.

The country is also sometimes used as a conduit for shipping arms into other parts of West Africa or the world.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy, NNS Pathfinder has handed over four persons suspected to be crude oil thieves to the officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.

The suspects were accused of their involvement in illegal oil activities at Ererekiri creek in Bonny Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The commanding Officer, NNS Pathfinder in Rumuolumeni, Rivers State Vincent Fabi while handing over the suspects, said they were caught after their vessel caught fire at the scene of the crime.

He also said the suspects were traced and arrested through one of the bunkerers who was injured by the fire that engulfed the vessel at the bunkering scene on September 30, 2012.

At about 0120 hours while siphoning the crude, the vessel caught fire, the inferno that ensured killed  some of the perpetrators while one sustained about 30 per cent burn, but however, the number of people that were affected in the inferno could not be ascertained.

An officer in Bonny was informed that there was a burnt injury patient in the channel clinic who was admitted. Upon further investigations, four persons suspected to be linked with the fire incident were arrested and brought to NNS Pathfinder for investigation hence Pathfinder subjected the four suspects to interrogation to ascertain their level of involvement in connection with the crude oil theft at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) well in Ererekiri Creek in Bonny Island, he said.

Meanwhile, the Joint Military Taskforce in the Niger Delta says 16 crew members arrested on board two vessels on the coast of Bonny, Rivers State, for illegal oil bunkering activities are now facing interrogation.

The commanding officer of the JTF, Operation Pulo Shield, Brig-Gen Tukur Buratai said the vessels, MT Theresa Lagos containing 60,000 metric tonnes of diesel valued at N11.294 million and MT Pecos Peters Lagos were intercepted while trying to load substances  suspected to be illegally processed crude oil.

Brig-Gen Buratai, represented by the Chief of Staff, 2 Bridge Nigerian Army, Col Gold Ndubuisi told newsmen that the two vessels were arrested on the 17th and 18th of this month.

The Tide learnt that all the 16 crew members in the two vessels are Nigerians.

The JTF said it is taking appropriate investigations to see that anyone involved in encouraging oil theft is arrested and made to account for their actions, and called on the public to report anyone involved in oil theft and illegal refining of crude oil to security agencies in the state.

Capt Christian Okupe, who led soldiers during the operation, said the vessels were arrested because they did not have permit to transport petroleum products.

In another deveopment, a Turkish expatriate who is an earth moving supervisor with Rivigo JVC Nigerian Limited, the contracting firm handling the Ogoni-Opobo-Andoni Unity Road, was at the early hours of yesterday (Tuesday) abducted by unknown gunmen.

Mr Baran Karakus was abducted along the Nkoro axis of the Unity Road while on duty.

According to sources, Mr Karakus was in the company’s Hilux car when the gunmen in a 190 Mercedes Benz car, attacked and whisked him away to an unknown destination.

Meanwhile, the two chairmen of Opobo/Nkoro and Andoni local government areas yesterday visited the company’s camp situated along the on-going Unity Road.

In their separate speeches at the company, the council chairmen assured that they would put all security apparatus in place to ensure early release of the  abducted expatriate.

According to them, the authorities of the two local government councils will spread their tentacles and beef up security to ensure early release of Karakus, calling on the staffers of the company to go about their normal duties as a searchlight has been put on ground to bring the perpetrators to book.

Describing the action as the handiwork of enemies of progress, who do not like development of the areas, they said , “ as much as we condemn the barbaric act, more security will be put in place to fish out the hooligans behind the kidnap while concerted efforts will be made to release Mr Karakus as quickly as possible”.

Responding, the Assistant Project Manager of the company, Engr Fidelis Esemene expressed gratitude to the council bosses for their concern, appealing to them to do everything at their disposal to ensure the early release of their staff as well as  forestall future occurrence.


Shedie Okpara

Minister of Sports, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi (right), with the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the Presidential Sports Sector Retreat in Abuja, on Monday

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RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court



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



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



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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