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I Was Dead For Seven Days, But… -Patience Jonathan



First Lady, Patience Jonathan, yesterday opened up on her controversial medical trip last year, admitting for the first time she ailed terribly and was close to dying. Mrs. Jonathan, who spoke at a special thanksgiving service at the Aso Rock Chapel where the first family worships, said she underwent multiple surgical operations and at some point her doctors lost hope after she “passed out for more than a week.” “It was not an easy experience for me,” Mrs. Jonathan told the congregation which included senior government officials.

“I actually died. I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened.” “I am not Lazarus but my experience was similar to his. My doctors said all hope was lost. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I will return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days,” she narrated. Mrs. Jonathan’s remarks at the church service, was the first time the presidency would admit the First Lady was seriously sick as widely speculated in 2012. Mrs. Jonathan was on admission at the Horst Schmidt Klinik in Germany for an undisclosed ailment although multiple reports suggested she was treated for lungs and abdominal problems.

While the news circulated, the presidency ensured an anxious public remained in the dark about her condition, repeatedly insisting Mrs. Jonathan travelled for a “deserved rest”. The thanksgiving service was delayed for two months, after the initial schedule was moved due to the helicopter crash which claimed the lives of former Governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa, and the former National Security Adviser, Owoeye Azazi. President Goodluck Jonathan, ministers and top government functionaries attended the event on Sunday. During a stirring session, the First Lady narrated how she went through “hell” while in hospital and said she had dedicated her life to serving the needy.

“It is the Lord’s doing that I returned alive,” she said. “When God says yes, nobody can say no. People are always afraid of operation (surgery). But in my own case, while my travail lasted, I was begging for it after the third operation because I was going to the theatre every day. It was God who saw me through. I did eight or nine operations within one month.” While she lay dying in Germany, friends and associates who hoped she would not be making it back to Nigeria with life, scrambled for her properties, selling those they could,” Mrs. Jonathan said. She accused some of those she trusted of leaking information to the public that she had passed on.

“I know that some people somehow leaked the information that I was dead. They are people that I trust and rely on. To them, I was dead and I would never return to the country alive,” she said. “Some of them even sold my things off. “I won’t say everything here.” She said she believed she had not completed her assignment on earth, which was why God spared her. “It was not an easy one. The day I came back, I said God I have nothing to say, I offer myself to you. I will be doing things that will touch the lives of the less privileged. God gave me a second chance because I reached there. He knew I had not completed the assignments He gave me that was why I was sent back,” the First Lady said.

About 5000 guests, including 18 state governors, had overrun Abuja for a lavish thanksgiving party thrown for Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan, at a cost of N500 million.

Although she had previously denied being in hospital in Germany, Mrs. Jonathan opened up yesterday at a special service at the Aso Rock Chapel, stunning worshippers with the admission her medical condition had been very serious.

“I actually died,” Premium Times quoted her as testifying. “I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened.”

She said her doctors had actually given up hope, although she did not specify her diagnosis. “It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I will return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days.”

During her six weeks away from Nigeria last year, the presidency refused to say anything to the country about her condition. Upon her return to Abuja on October 17, Mrs. Jonathan denied having been in any hospital. “I don’t even know that hospital they are talking about…” she said on that occasion. “I do not have any terminal illness or cosmetic surgery.”

For today’s thanksgiving merriment, an organising committee chaired by Mr. John Kennedy Okpara raised over N500m, which would most likely be presented to Mrs. Jonathan as a gift, as the presidency is bankrolling the event.

The thanksgiving, which is being broadcast live on the National Television Authority’s (NTA) local and international channels, has such dignitaries as President Goodluck Jonathan; Vice President Namadi Sambo and his wife, Haj Amina; former Ghana President John Agyekum Kufour; former Nigeria Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; and Aisha Babangida, who is representing her ailing father and former military president, General Ibrahim Bademasi Babangida.

Also in attendance are members of the Federal Executive Council; wives of state governors; the wife of Senate President; the Deputy Senate President; Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha; members of the National Assembly; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; the Head of the Federal Civil Service, Alhaji Bello Sali; the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria; and several members of the international community.

The function, which commenced at 3p.m. Nigerian time, is expected to go on into the late evening.

There were early invitations for 3,000 people, but the Banquet Hall of State House was quickly filled to capacity, with several guests unable to find a place to sit down.

Several trucks bearing gifts from government officials and contractors lined the streets of the presidential villa waiting to deliver gifts to the First Lady.

Our reporter said luxury official cars parked everywhere around the Presidential Villa, from the Supreme Court to the Villa in Asokoro area of Abuja. Many of the guests parked their cars at the Eagle Square, where buses were provided to convey them to the venue of the event.

In 2012, Mrs. Jonathan suddenly became ill and was evacuated in a medical emergency to Germany.

The presidency neither confirmed nor denied any of the reports, until Mrs. Jonathan, upon her return, issued her own denial.

In a November 2012 Media Chat, President Jonathan told reporters his wife had been ill and needed treatment.

Four weeks ago, , Mrs. Jonathan was again flown out to Germany on another emergency

A scheduled appearance at a presidential event for foreign ambassadors was cancelled.

In her church testimony yesterday, an apparently humbled Mrs. Jonathan revealed the extent of her suffering, including having “eight or nine operations” within a period of one month.

Of the future, she said, “I will be doing things that will touch the lives of the less privileged. God gave me a second chance because I reached there. He knew I had not completed the assignments He gave me that was why I was sent back.”

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan says the recovery of his wife, Patience from a life-threatening illness ends the mystery of death of a leader or spouse at the Presidential Villa.

Jonathan, said that the insinuation of the mystery of death at the seat of power in Aso Rock was rife during his wife’s illness.

He expressed gratitude to God for keeping the life of his wife, saying, “If anything had happened, there would have been different stories from different people, false prophets and many other things would have followed.

“You all know I came to the state house through providence and divine arrangement but because of past ugly coincidences, people said one of us will go. None of us will die.

“We all know we will die someday but the best time to die is not when you are serving your nation.

“Today is a special day for me, all I can say is a special song in my local dialect, that’s the only expression I have, the first two lines of the song interprets “God I thank you, for all you have done,’’ Jonathan said.

He further predicted that the year would be a good one which had already began with the recent performance of the Super Eagles at the AFCON tournament.

In her address, the First Lady, who said she was confident that it was the various intercessory prayers by some Nigerians on her behalf that worked effectively for her, said that Nigerians should learn to lift their leaders in prayers always so that things would go according to God’s plan for everyone.

“We must continue to regard Aso Rock Villa properly as our nation’s centre of power and authority and not the devil’s playground. It is our spiritual duty to sanctify and declare it the city of God where only the will of God will prevail.’’

Quoting the scriptures from 1st Corinthians 13, which says “where there is love, everything is possible’’, she appealed to all Nigerians to “show love to one another and continually preach the gospel of love, this is because in an atmosphere of love, there will be peace and progress.’’

L-R: Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi and his Deputy, Engr Tele Ikuru, at the stakeholders meeting held at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Civic Centre for the Good Governance Team, last Saturday.

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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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