The Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima has confirmed that 36 of the girls abducted from the school in Chibok, Borno State have been identified in the video released yesterday by Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, even as Chairman of the Chibok Development Association, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, says the terrain where the video showing about 136 of the over 200 abducted girls was shot looks familiar.
Governor Shettima who said he was under pressure not to speak the truth in the abduction saga stated that “ leadership calls for restraint. Believe me, if I should speak the truth, heads will roll”.
Reports from CNN suggests that not all the girls in the video shown by Boko Haram were taken on April 14 because some of the relatives of the missing girls could not identify most of them in the footage while another report from Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana to CNN, suggests only two parents were able to identify their daughters and other girls may have been taken in abductions which occurred years ago.
Boko Haram terrorist group released the video Monday, showing the girls, kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, chanting praises to Allah.
The self-acclaimed Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, announced in the video that the girls have converted to Islam.
There was no indication of where the video was shot but Dr. Bitrus, who is also leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, told newsmen yesterday that the vegetation in the video resembles that in the nearby Sambisa forest reserve.
Sambisa is widely known as the stronghold of Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, a number of parents of the abducted girls have been commenting on the 17-minute video, which shows some 136 girls wearing bulky hijabs and reciting the Holy Q’uran.
As at press time yesterday, some 54 parents had identified their daughters in the video, leaders of the school have confirmed.
Some of the mothers watched the video on television on Monday evening and yesterday and spotted their daughters among dozens of girls sitting on the ground and wearing veils, said Chairman, Parents/Teachers Association, Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Dumoma Mpur.
However, a parent of one of the abducted girls, Mallam Awana Babagana, was quoted as saying that with the release of the video, the parents believe their daughters were still alive.
He called on the Federal Government to do everything possible to secure the safe release of their daughters, saying: “I have seen the video but I couldn’t identify my daughter. I hope they are the ones, we will keep on praying until they are released.”
Another parent, who resides in Maiduguri but declined his identity for security reasons, was quoted as saying that he had the opportunity to watch the video but could not identify any of his missing daughters even as he alleged that the footage showing Shekau as leader of the sect is questionable.
Yet another parent, Lawan Zannah, spoke of how his sisters called him to switch on his television set to view the video, showing the alleged school girls.
According to him, there was no power supply; as such he couldn’t watch the programme.
“I have not watched it, but I hope they are the ones. It gladdened my heart when I heard that they showed the video on the girls, which means they are still alive. I call on the Federal Government to do everything possible to secure their release. We also call on you and other Nigerians to join us in praying for the safe release of our daughters,” Zannah stated.
On his part, another father of one of the kidnapped girls said: “I have not yet seen the video, but I am not really interested in what Boko Haram’s demands are. My daughter is a Christian, she will never change. I would rather she died as a Christian than convert to Islam.”
A prisoner exchange, he warned, would simply encourage more kidnappings, saying: “I don’t want a prisoner exchange either; our daughters are not prisoners, and they should not be exchanged for anyone.
“Let the government try to rescue them. If they have a prisoner exchange, that will look like the government is giving in to Boko Haram, and it will just encourage them to take more hostages. They will never stop.”
Similarly, Lagos-based lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has said that at least, 54 parents of the abducted schools girls have identified their children in the video shown by the Boko Haram leader.
Falana, who spoke when he addressed members of the National Conference Committees on Civil Society, Labour, Youths and Sports in Abuja yesterday, however, criticised the police for disrupting the peaceful protest by Nigerians aimed at forcing government to urgently take actions that could lead to the release of the abducted girls.
He said it was unfortunate that the Federal Government and its officials were unable to do anything to rescue the girls days after they were abducted.
Falana said, “Some parents that we have spoken with said that they have watched the video and have been able to identify their children.
“Others are also doing that now. But it is a shame that we are now calling on foreign countries to do what we ought to have done by ourselves before.
“Some government officials went on air to say no child was missing. Others claimed that they had rescued them. These people deceived Nigerians, the nation and the international community, yet government has not been able to penalise them.”
He warned members of the civil society to be wary of some organisations, who he said were being funded by the government with a plot to destabilise or plan counter protests anytime the genuine members of the society are preparing for theirs.
Falana said these set of civil societies “are not agents of change. Some are set up by the Federal Government to oppose the people.
“Government paid them and after each protest, they fight at Eagles Square, Abuja because of money.”
He said it was wrong to accuse members of the civil society of not doing enough unlike during the military, saying that during the military and colonial era, the enemies were commonly known.
In the meantime, the Plateau State chapter of Nigeria Union Journalists (NUJ), members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday staged a peaceful protest in Jos, Plateau State, to demand the release of the over 200 girls abducted from Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Christian and Muslim women in the state had last Thursday staged a peaceful protest where they walked from the Old Airport junction in the city to the Deputy Governor’s House at Rayfield also demanding for the release of the girls.
Yesterday’s procession, which commenced at about 9am, also had members of the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), who matched to the Plateau State House of Assembly where the crowd was addressed by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Joyce Ramnap.
In the meantime, the United States has begun flying “manned” missions over Nigeria to track down more than 200 abducted schoolgirls as experts pored over a new video seeking clues to where they are being held, reports have confirmed.
The missions, which commenced on Monday, involve the use of aircraft, including drones, to find the abducted teenage girls.
“We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government’s permission,” a senior administration official said, asking not to be named.
It was not immediately clear what kinds of aircraft were being deployed, nor where they had come from.
Also, a new video released by the Boko Haram group purportedly showing about 130 of the girls was being carefully studied by American experts in the hope that it might yield vital clues as to where the girls are being held.
“Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki said.
“We have no reason to question its authenticity,” she added of the video.
Psaki recalled that the US policy was also “to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, including ransoms or concessions.”
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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