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Editorial

Amaechi’s Supreme Court Victory And Democracy

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mandate of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, as duly elected candidate of the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the April 2007 Governorship elections.

The crux of the litigation stemmed from a protest by the PDP candidate challenging his substitution by the party’s leadership without cogent and verifiable reasons and to which he was neither allowed fair hearing nor confronted with facts for defense. The questions for determination, from a layman’s perspective, thus became whether or not a party leadership had the power to unilaterally deny a duly elected candidate, his constitutional right to be voted for. Secondly, whether such disqualification was in tandem with party laws, and if not, whether his eventual replacement by Sir Celestine Omehia, who did not contest the party primaries, was proper or not.

Important as these questions were, they, inadvertently challenged the constitutional supremacy of political parties which hitherto enjoyed unbridled and far-reaching powers over their own internal affairs. With that understanding, and based on the familiar conclusion that party primaries were indeed internal affairs of  political parties, hence, not justiceable in conventional courts or risk expulsion, not many legal pundits gave Rt. Hon. Amaechi a chance.

It was even more so, when, following the acceptance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of Amaechi’s eventual replacement, Sir Celestine Omehia contested and won the elections and was later sworn-in as governor.

But in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court literarily averred that by the nation’s choice of a multi-party democracy, the political parties themselves ought to represent the foundation for the building of an enduring democratic culture, based on laws, respect for members’ constitutional rights and above all, defense of equity, fairness and honesty. For, if these values were allowed to suffer, political parties would, rather than be the basis for democratic growth, become machines of lawlessness, autocratic rule and imposition of candidates in elections.

It was in avoidance of that looming state of anarchy that the apex court ruled that the most important constitutional basis for selection of candidates for general elections must first and foremost be the party primaries. And if after wards, any substitution was needfull, such must be based on cogent and verifiable reasons. Unfortunately, since by the estimation of the apex court, the PDP’s excuse for substituting Amaechi failed that preliminary test, it ought to be declared ultra vices, null and void.

Today, The Tide recalls with a rare sense of pride and judicial fulfillment, the rare courage demonstrated by the nation’s Supreme Court, in handing down such landmark judgment, and indeed, against a government in power, whose leader, as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo personally voiced the disqualification of a duly elected party candidate, at a rally in Port Harcourt, with the ‘K-Leg’ theory.

Ordinarily, the Supreme Court could hide behind countless legal loopholes to dismiss the matter in favour of the government and indeed the ruling party, but it must have considered the immense benefits of truly democratic parties as basis for growth of enduring democratic culture, as an imperative for a participatory government grounded in popular will.

By that choice, the Supreme Court did well to restore the fast eroding intra-party democracy and delivered the political party structure from the strangle-hold and dictates of a few self seeking political leaders, against the largest interest of the helpless majority.

Yes, the judgment might have restored Amaechi’s mandate and brought him on the seat of Governor of Rivers State, but what Nigeria annually celebrates is indeed higher than the person and struggle of the serving State Chief Executive. It is indeed a celebration of the victory of truth over falsehood, of light over darkness, of democracy over dictatorship, of the rule of law over constitutional recklessness, of the equity over the culture of impunity and above all else, of the awesome presence of the Hand of God, in the affairs of men.

Surely, wherever these realities are allowed pre-eminence in the affairs of men, speedy growth is equally enhanced, and nation-building made easy. Little wonder, the modest achievements recorded in Rivers State under Governor Amaechi’s watch, after the restoration, indeed attest to these facts which The Tide thinks must be sustained in our political lives, especially by political parties.

As we recall that epochal date exactly five years yesterday, it becomes even more instructive to admonish that political parties be constantly reminded of the essence and immense benefits of intra-party democracy, and also challenge other courts within the judicial realm of an even greater need to draw some inspiration from the kind of lofty redemption, the Supreme Court bequeathed to posterity.

The Tide considers it fit and proper to also congratulate Governor Amaechi, even for the umpteenth time, for his doggedness, resilience, faith in God and the Judiciary, unwavering commitment to and unusual patience in his fight for what he believed in, without which October 25, would have been meaningless.

Essentially, Amaechi had other choices; to obey and endure his party’s order, no matter how unconstitutional he perceived it, and negotiate other juicy appointments or monetary gestures in recompense, or surrender to fear but it was the choice of being steadfast in search of justice that produced the landmark judgment, we today celebrate.

That in truth, is the often over-looked element in the Supreme Court’s historic judgment and the rewards derivable therefrom.

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Editorial

That Desecration Of NDA

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The contumelious assault on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday, August 24, is possibly the most menacing sign that the Federal Government may have lost total control of the ungraceful security predicament faced by Nigerians. With this tragic incident and many others counting, obviously, the North-West may have increasingly evolved into the new terror epicentre, as the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism ostensibly dies down in the North-East.
According to media reports, the gunmen took advantage of a chasm in the NDA’s perimeter fencing and stormed the location along Airport Road, Afaka. They gained access to the residential area where two senior officers (Lieutenant Commander Awolor Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Chinecherem Okoronkwo) were shot dead. They also abducted another officer, Major Christopher Datong. The NDA is just steps away from the Federal Forestry Mechanization College, Afaka, where a gang of bandits kidnapped 39 students last March.
Indeed, the NDA, an institution that engenders young men and women to become gallant military personnel, should not come under an invasion of that dimension so easily. The onslaught was a rude reproach to the military, and by extension Nigeria. The Armed Forces ought to have carefully studied earlier raids and taken steps to safeguard their men and institutions. That this did not happen was indicative of imprudence on their part.
The inability to repel or capture the assailants highlights the shortcomings of our security system and demonstrates how daring terrorists or bandits are. Are there moles inside the Army? How would bandits attack a military institution without any effort or considerable resistance? We are asking because there has always been lingering suspicion that people are undermining the endeavours of our military, particularly in the ongoing anti-insurgency and banditry war.
While we vehemently denounce the incursion and call for the perpetrators to be apprehended and prosecuted, we urge that every effort be made to salvage the kidnapped major in the attack. The military must note that the continuous assaults on their men and formations are not only disconcerting, but hazardous as they erode the confidence of Nigerians in their ability to keep them safe. Something has to be done about that. These relentless attacks should be considered acts of terrorism and properly addressed.
In the aftermath of the NDA ambuscade, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt-Gen Lucky Irabor, assured Nigerians of updates on the search and rescue of the abducted officer, and added that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue operations to ensure that all those involved in the dastardly act are brought to justice”. Much as Irabor’s words may be soothing, we believe more can be done to reassure Nigerians that the military is in firm control.
It was reported that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was investigating the unfortunate attack. It is a step in the right direction. But characteristic of the government, it should not take eternity to conclude. We call for a thorough inquiry and all those found to have pitched in to the success of the onslaught either through their actions or inactions must face the law. Also, the findings should be released to the public to instil trust in the inquisition.
Nigerians have consistently been experiencing fear and anguish. Most people are afraid of the road these days. Anytime they have to travel, their hearts are always tucked in their mouths. It was no surprise that in 2020, our nation was considered the third most terrorized country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Sadly, and most ignominiously, the authorities have never been perturbed by such unenviable rankings.
Millions of scared Nigerians are wondering what truly is going on. What is happening to our once mighty Nigerian Armed Forces, which were able to keep the nation one during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, and return peace to war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mali and even Libya? Why can the once dominant military power in Africa no longer defend itself from ordinary armed thugs on motorbikes that have clearly become a new frontier for terrorism?
Could it be the insatiable greed of the leaders? Could it be that top military officers have been compromised or put in jeopardy and are politicking with issues as sensitive as security? Have our soldiers lost the will to fight gallantly? Or are their weapons obsolete and can no longer withstand the sophisticated projectiles of their enemy? Or could it be that the military is no more as potent as it used to be back in the day? Those critical questions deserve responses.
What is most perplexing is that the security of our country is degenerating vis-a-vis the ever-increasing military allocations. Official figures indicate that more than N5trillion of our annual budgets have been spent on the military for our defence in the past six years. Allocations to the police and other security agencies not inclusive. All seems to have gone down the drain without a corresponding output.
These bandits have to be regarded as terrorists and treated as such. Lately, they have become very unsparing and appear a step ahead of our security agents. Therefore, they should be handled ruthlessly. Those behind the attacks must be fished out. The criminals must be properly defined, chased after, and apprehended, including their patrons. This can be accomplished by the military intelligence.
There is no doubt that the NDA attack is a special message that the bandits are sending to Nigerians to prepare for more deadly onslaughts. So, the security agencies must brace up. This is to say the least, very hair-raising, and the Federal Government must sit up to protect, not only the military establishments, but the country in totality. Hence, there is a pressing need for a change in our security architecture.
All patriotic Nigerians should be troubled by the attacks on the NDA and other military establishments as they undermine the sovereignty of the country. As a result, security agencies are expected to grow with renewed fervour to tackle this failing condition in the nation. Insecurity is the biggest challenge every government has to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Additional tactics must, therefore, be deployed to hammer away terror and banditry in the land.

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Editorial

Slaughter Market Demolition: Kudos To RSG

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On Thursday, September 1, the Government of Rivers State commenced the demolition of Oginigba Slaughter Market along Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The demolition came exactly one month after the State government permanently shut the slaughter and the market on account of the health hazards it posed to the people and residents of the state as well as the security and social menace it also posed to the people.
Governor NyesomWike maintained that besides the demolished slaughter being a haven for criminal elements, its location at the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area is now considered inappropriate in terms of the State government’s urban renewal policy.
The Governor only said the obvious as the area around the slaughter has become a death and drug zone. The base of the adjoining bridge not only served as a home to all sorts of criminals, the area indeed had become the drug capital of the state.
Indeed, as Governor Wike explained, over the years, the area had come to be identified as a very dangerous place, where large cache of weapons were harboured and used at will to terrorise innocent people.
To have such a slaughter located in the industrial hub of the state definitely runs counter to the urban renewal programme of government and efforts to return Port Harcourt to its Garden City status.
We therefore see no ethnic, religious or other divisive and less altruistic sentiments attached to the decision to relocate the slaughter to a more spacious and modern facility by the State Government.
This is moreso as the State Government has already commenced the construction of a modern abattoir, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment with capacity for the slaughtering of 400 cattle as well as 1,500 goats and sheep per day at Mgbuosimini, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, where butchers and other related businesses would be accommodated to engage in their activities in a more decent, healthy and conducive environment.
We believe that the action of Government will check the incessant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and other violent crimes perpetrated daily within the precinct of the Oginigba slaughter market.
Also, with the clearing of the area of shanties that doubled as stalls and criminal covens, residents of Oginigba and commuters through the area will heave a sigh of relief from activities of the men of the underworld that had made life a living hell for them.
We are further gladdened that Governor Wike has said the demolished site would not be left fallow but will house another befitting project that will not only occupy the same land but that will be in tune with the urban renewal effort of the present administration.
The governor has earned the reputation and trust of the people that he keeps to his words as exemplified in the number of projects littered all over the 23 local government areas of the state. That is why The Tide aligns with his assertion that, “Anybody bringing religion or ethnic colouration doesnot mean well for the people of the state and the country. And I am not going to be perturbed; I am not going to be cowed; and also, I am not going to be blackmailed by anybody.”
We believe that no government worth its time in office will stand by and watch miscreants and criminals turn any part of its jurisdiction, let alone a choice area of its capital city, into an enclave where lawlessness reigns, criminals rule and safety and security of lives and property of innocent and law abiding citizens cannot be guaranteed.
We are also encouraged that Governor Wike has taken the war against shanties in the state capital and its environs to every nook and cranny of the state. Evidently, the recent demolition of illegal structures around the Eastern Bypass, Ikoku and other areas within the metropolis and other parts of the state have not only chased criminals away but has tremendously enhanced the beauty of the state capital. We also salute the Governor’s recent order for the demolition of shanties where counterfeit bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are produced side by side some other criminal and illegal activities at Nkpogu area in Port Harcourt.
This is why The Tide salutes the courage, determination and zeal of Governor Wike for standing up to the challenge of ridding the Oginigba area of the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout of the criminal elements, giving the residents a new lease of life and bringing restoration to the area by the plan to site a trademark quality project in keeping with his revolutionary urban renewal agenda.
As in many other areas where successive administrations had failed or feared to tread, Wike deserves nothing but acknowledgement, appreciation, support and encouragement from every well-meaning Rivers indigene and lovers of the state in what he has been able to do at the Oginigba Slaughter Market and other parts of the state as part of a comprehensive effort at identifying and demolishing all criminal hideouts across the state and making the state safe for residents and legitimate business activities.
The Government needs the support of all people and residents of the state. Indeed, only people who do not mean well for the state and its people will complain about efforts to restore sanity to our polity.
All hands of Rivers people and residents of the state should be on deck to realise the vision of Governor Wike to recreate Rivers State as a business destination of choice and a safe, secure and peaceful habitation of note for all law abiding Nigerians and others across the world.

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Editorial

VAT Judgment: FG May Lose N92bn To States

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If the judgement of the Federal High Court asking state governments to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) in their domain is upheld by the Appeal Court, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)  will lose about N92 billion which it is expected to earn as cost of collection.
The law setting up the FIRS allows the agency to a percentage, as determined by the National Assembly, as its cost of revenue collection from non-oil taxes before remitting same into the Federation Account.
A report on FIRS official website revealed that the service collects four per cent as cost of collection for non-oil revenue collected.
In the 2016 fiscal period, the FIRS received the sum of N85.99 billion as cost of revenue collection, while it got N100.3 billion as the cost of revenue collection in 2017.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the service got N114.1billion as the cost of revenue collection out of the N5.32 trillion actual revenue it generated for that year.
According to documents obtained from the Budget Office, the FIRS received an estimate of N112 billion and N121 billion as cost of revenue collected in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
With a projected VAT pool of N1.3 trillion in 2021, the FIRS is expected to earn N68 billion in the 2021 fiscal period based on the cost of collection rule.
Based on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper 2022-2024, the Federal Government is proposing to generate the sum of N2.3 trillion from VAT in 2022.
With the FIRS entitled to four per cent as cost of collection, it implies that the service is expected to earn N92 billion in 2022 as cost of revenue collection.
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had dismissed an application by the FIRS, seeking to stop the state governments from commencing collection of VAT in the state.
Consequent upon the court ruling last Monday, Governor Nyesom Wike, had directed the Rivers State Revenue Service, to immediately commence collection of VAT from corporate bodies and businesses in the state.
Already, the dispute between the FIRS and Rivers State over the collection of VAT has inspired some more states such as Lagos, Ogun and Akwa Ibom States, to enact laws that will enable them to collect the tax in their states.
It was learnt that stripping the FIRS of the power to collect VAT would reduce the commission the agency will be receiving.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami, had penultimate week, told the Senate Joint Committees working on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, that the agency would soon approach the nation’s legislature with a bill to amend the Finance Act 2021.
The amendment, according to Nami, will centre basically on the issue of Stamp Duty and how to drag those transacting businesses on the social media to the tax net.

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