The Senate President, David Mark, yesterday in Abuja, urged the Federal Government to declare full scale military operation against insurgents in the North East.
Mark made the call in an address to welcome senators back from Easter recess.
He said the heightened spate of terrorist attacks and killings carried out by insurgents in the North East amounted to a declaration of war against the country.
He noted that in view of the fact that the insurgents had rejected calls for dialogue, the government should embark on comprehensive military onslaught to stamp out the menace.
“There is no doubt that our nation is at war. The enemy has clearly and unequivocally served the nation notice of its vile intentions.
“It is obvious that we are dealing with insurgents and well-funded nihilists who are determined to violently trample upon the secularity of the Nigerian state and destroy the country.
Mark also urged the Federal Government to deploy all available resources to not only combat the forces of destruction, but also unmask and punish the sponsors of terrorist groups plundering the country.
He said the campaign would be realised when local communities and other sections of Nigerians gave adequate support to the armed forces in their quest to contain the insurgency.
Mark pledged the determination of the National Assembly to sustain its partnership with all arms of government and Nigerians to bring insurgency to an end.
He warned politicians to desist from making statements capable of undermining the efforts of the members of the armed forces.
He, however, noted that the door should be left open to any effort to employ dialogue as means of finding a lasting solution to terrorism and insurgency in the country.
The House of Representatives have summoned service chiefs to brief members on actions taken so far to free the 230 school girls abducted in Borno State by Boko Haram members.
They included the Chief of Defence State; Chief of Army Staff; Chief of Naval Staff; and the Chief of Air Staff.
The lawmakers, who resumed sitting in Abuja after a three-week Easter break, condemned the abduction of the girls, and berated the armed forces for their slow efforts to secure their release.
But, it was also a dramatic session, where one member from Kano State, Mr. Shehu Galandachi, came out clearly to say that so long as political power at the centre was not returned to the North, there would be no solution to insurgency.
A member representing Chibok/Damboa/Gosa Federal Constituency of Borno State, Mr. Peter Biye-Gumta, who moved a motion on the abduction, recalled that “over two weeks” after the girls were abducted, their whereabouts remained unknown.
Biye-Gumta told theý House that the parents of the children were traumatized, and appealed to the military to “expedite action” in securing freedom for the girls.
He also solicited the intervention of the National Emergency Management ýAgency, to send relief materials to the communities affected by the invasion of the insurgents on the day the girls were abducted.
“Some of the parents of these abducted girls are right now lying on the road to the National Assembly, demanding urgent intervention by the government”, he added.
Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ms. Nnena Ukeje, called for foreign assistance to support the Federal Government in the anti-terrorism war.
In his contribution to the debate, a former chairman, Committee on Education, Mr. Farouk Lawan, said the girls went to write examinations when the abduction took place.
Lawan, who became emotional as he spoke, asked members to imagine for 30 seconds that their daughters were among the girlsý.
“We are all parents here. Just imagine for 30 seconds that your daughter is one of them.
“Very little, if anything at all, is being done to secure the release of these girls”, Lawan stated.
Several lawmakers blamed the inability of the military to free the girls on failure of government.
This view was spearheaded by the House Minority Whip, Mr. Sampson Osagie ý,who argued that “never before” had the security and welfare of the citizenry been compromised in Nigeria like in the last five to six years.
However, Galandachi brought a different dimension to the debate when he blamed insurgency on political domination at the centre by the South since ý1999.
The Kano lawmaker was emphatic in his argument, gesticulating angrily as he spoke.
He told the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, that Nigeria had been avoiding the real cause of the insurgency.
According to him, so long as “one zone of the country” continues to control power at the centre, insurgency will not end.
The unperturbed Galadanchi still insisted that the solution to insurgency was the point he just raised.
Although the debate continued, his point did not seem to have been lost on members.
The House later adopted the motion, in addition to calling for a national day of prayers ýfor the release of the girls.
The session coincided with protests by women at the gates to the legislative building, who were demanding urgent actions to secure the release of the girls.
In another development, scores of bewildered parents of female students of the Federal Government Girls College, Chibok in Borno State, who were abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents two weeks ago from their hostels, yesterday, staged a protest at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Dressed in black, the women armed with placards containing emotional-laden inscriptions, lamented the continued hostage of their innocent precious damsels by the insurgents even as they expressed fears that they might have been subjected to one form of molestation or the other.
The leader of the obviously traumatised parents, Mrs. Duomi Mukhtar, said the essence of their visit to the National Assembly was to further draw global attention to their predicament.
She called on the leadership of both chambers of NASS to show sympathy for their plights by asking the Federal Government and the military authorities to ensure the immediate release of their daughters.
Four senators, Hellen Esuene; Zainab Kure; Barnabas Gemade and Ali Ndume, addressed the protesters on behalf of Senate President, David Mark.
The senators assured the women of their support and determination to throw their full weight behind efforts by the Federal Government to ensure the safe release of the girls.
Ndume, who is also from Borno State said, “Our thoughts and prayers go to all of you because we are one of you. We stand united in grief with you in your hour of pain, agony and anxiety. We will do everything possible to make sure that the kidnappers release our daughters immediately, unconditionally.”
Also, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Zainab Maina, who also addressed the women, urged them to remain prayerful as the Federal Government and the military authorities would ensure that the innocent girls are reconciled with their parents.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday urged the Federal Government to seek the assistance of the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to urgently rescue 234 girls abducted by the Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok, Borno State.
The Senate also unanimously resolved to confer with President Goodluck Jonathan to seek ways of curtailing the spread of insurgency in the country.
These resolutions followed a motion entitled: “Abduction of School girls in Chibok, Borno State,” sponsored by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba and 107 other Senators.
Some Senators in their contribution blamed the degenerating insurgency on sabotage and collaboration by insiders in the military.
Others wondered why the President has not deemed it fit to visit Borno State to commiserate with the people and boost the morale of the troops on ground.
A Senator from the area gave a graphic account of how the terrorists have been moving the girls from camp to camp in the forest since the day they were abducted.
He named the specific locations where the girls are being camped at the moment.
He lamented that the military did not act on the intelligence he placed at their disposal that could have facilitated early rescue of the girls.
In his lead debate, Ndoma-Egba urged the Senate to note with grief the inhuman abduction of Secondary School girls in Chibok, Borno State by alleged Boko Haram terrorists.
He informed the upper chamber just resumed from its two-week Easter recess that the incident occurred just when the country was nursing its grief caused by the rush hour bombing of a bus park in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
He said when the nation was trying to come to grips with the bombing that claimed over 75 people and wounded dozens more, the country was struck yet with another devastating blow: the abduction of about 234 girls from their school in Chibok on April 15.
He observed that the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State was attacked when militants broke into the school, shot the guards and abducted a large number of students into trucks before carrying them to Sambisa forest, a known hideout for the Boko Haram sect.
There are reports that 200 of the school girls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents have been sighted in southern Borno in seven buses awaiting movement to an unknown destination.
Residents of Borno revealed that the girls were sighted in the Gwoza-Bama axis.
Confirming this development to journalists in Maiduguri, a civil rights activist, Dr. Peregrino Brimah said residents of the border town between Nigeria and Cameroon involved in the search for the girls confirmed seeing the school girls huddled together inside seven buses awaiting movement to an unknown destination.
The activist called on the security agencies to go in pursuit of the insurgents before the girls were taken out of the country.
He also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately approve the formal request of thousands of youths in the area to carry arms to confront the insurgents.
Our correspondent also gathered that some of the school girls abducted from Government Girls’ Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State, have been ferried around Lake Chad basin by their abductors.
A Chibok youth leader, Dr Pogu Bitrus, who stated this during an interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), yesterday, said there was a report that the girls were hustled to the neighbouring country.
Bitrus has accused the government of not doing anything possible to rescue the final-year students of GGSS, Chibok, adding that even if the government is doing anything possible to rescue the girls, it is not being revealed to anybody.
The search for the missing girls was then left in the hands of their hapless parents who rented 150 commercial motorcyclists, got some volunteers with cutlasses and bows and arrows and went into the forest determined to rescue their wards or die trying.
In the end, even they were forced to abandon the search when a warning came from the terrorists that if they didn’t stop, they and their children would be killed.
Earlier, Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun, Lagos, has cautioned the military against an all out attack on the sect to free the abducted girls.
He said this was necessary to prevent the girls from being harmed.
The popular cleric on Sunday during his sermon, urged the security agents to take it easy and abstain from deploying full force in their attempt to rescue the girls.
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.
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.”
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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