Protesters under the “Bring Back Our Girls” banner, have raised ten questions to the Federal Government relating to the resolution of the Chibok girls abduction saga.
Posing the questions to a delegation of more than 10 ministers and many Presidential Advisers who received them at the Federal Secretariat Abuja,on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, the protesters among other issues, tasked government to establish the authenticity of the abduction.
They also tasked the Federal Government on the need for regular update on the rescue process. The group also asked questions on the actions taken after the president returned from France, the effectiveness of the state of emergency and whether government would negotiate with Boko Haram.
The group requested to know the level of collaboration between the Federal and state governments in the rescue efforts and what government was doing to protect schools from attacks.
However, receiving he protesters, President Goodluck Jonathan admonished them not to politicise their protests in the country.
The protesters, numbering about 150 and led by a former Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, were demanding the release of the abducted school girls in Chibok, Borno State.
Jonathan was represented by a delegation of Ministers and Presidential Advisers led by Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
In the address read by Olajumoke Akinjide, the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Jonathan said the campaign was just and government identified with it.
Jonathan said that because he identified with the protest, he had sent such a delegation of more than 10 ministers and many presidential advisers to receive the protesters.
He, however, cautioned against the possibility of hijacking such protests for political and selfish motives.
The President added that protests on terrorism should be directed at the terrorists and should not be used as a blame game.
He emphasised that there must be a united movement for the release of the girls, which should be turned to a united action against terrorism.
He said: “We appeal to your group and others that your genuine patriotic zeal is matched with the realistic understanding of the situation in expressing concerns and sentiments on this matter and other matters of terrorism.
“Government believes that we must all come together to fight terrorism and that protest should be directed at the terrorists who have abducted our daughters and deprived them of a place at the fountain of freedom in our country.
“When terrorists see Nigerians turned on each other in blame, it gives them a huge morale boost.
“We must never lose sight of the fact that the terrorists are the real enemies.
“We must not politicise the protests.
“When a bomb detonates in Baghdad, Kabul, Afghanistan, the people there do not blame the government, they blame the terrorists.
“When a bomb blows up in Nigeria, we must all unite to fight the terrorists.
“This is the task of this generation.”
Jonathan said contrary to perception in certain quarters, his administration responded swiftly to the kidnap of the girls by the immediate deployment of security after the abductors.
He said: “Government has mobilised resources, military and diplomatic, in the search for the girls who had suffered so much trauma in captivity.
“Government took action the very day the kidnapping occurred by deploying security services to go after the abductors.
“The president meets with the security chiefs almost daily and it is in constant consultation with regional and global partners on the kidnap.”
Jonathan also underscored the need for Nigerians to encourage the military and stop castigating them.
He said: “Our security forces are among the best trained in Africa and they are making so mush sacrifices in the fight against terror.
“As we sleep daily, they are in the field confronting the enemy.
“They need our support, not attacks and discouragement.
“They are also losing their lives for us.”
Jonathan encouraged civil society groups to use their influence to encourage Nigerians to supply useful information to security services using the emergency number 112.
The President appreciated the orderly manner they organised the protest and thanked all local and international groups that had protested the senseless abduction.
He noted that with the protest, the right of assembly had not been violated but protected.
Earlier, one of the leaders of the protest and wife of former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Maryam Uwais, had read a letter dated May 11 and directed to the President.
In the letter, they underscored the need for government to double its efforts at rescuing the girls and made proposal on solution to terrorism.
The letter was handed over to the SGF for onward delivery to the president.
The protesters also took turns to ask 10 questions from the delegation.
In a related development, Rivers State Governor ,Chibuike Amaechi has said that the continued stay of the abducted school girls in the hands of their abductors one month after, has become a national embarrassment.
The governor stated this yesterday in Port Harcourt, when members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) lead a protest to Government House, Port Harcourt to register their grievance over the abducted school girls.
The governor who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Government House, Mr Fortune Oguru urged the teachers to be patient as he assured them that the kidnapped Chibok girls would soon regain their freedom.
Amaechi expressed sympathy with families and teachers over the abduction said, “ my heart goes to the parents and I know how they would be feeling now. I know how I would have felt if my daughter was involved.”
Since the matter has become an international issue with the support and intervention of world powers like the USA, France and China, he expressed optimism that terrorism will be adequately tackled,”
We are hoping that in the next few days solutions will be found to this tragedy. It’s a national embarrassment and we don’t know what to say …Please, take heart, we know how the teachers are feeling.”
He lauded the union for showing concern, and urged to remain law abiding.
On his part, Chairman of NUT in the state, Comrade Wogu Geofrey said the union wants to use the protest to agitate for their over 173 colleagues, who lost their lives in the terror unleashed in the North-East part of the country.
He called on the government to compensate those families of teachers who died in course of duty while urging both the national and international community to do everything possible to get the abducted girls out from the hands of their abductors.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) had on Wednesday directed its various chapters nationwide to carry out protest over the abducted Chibok school girls.
At a press conference in Abuja, the President of NUT, Comrade Micheal Olukoya, stated that the union had resolved to hold #BringBackOurGirls rallies, simultaneously, across the 36 Nigerian States of the federation and in Abuja.
According to Mr Olukoya, all schools nationwide shall be closed, as the day will be NUT’s day of protesting the abduction of the girls, as well as the heartless murder of 173 teachers.
Olukoya said that even they mourn the death of colleagues, they will start and continue with the protest until our girls are brought back safe and alive. “The perpetrators of the heinous crime are brought to book,” he added passionately.
Lamenting the killing of 173 teachers from both Borno and Yobe States, he implored the government to show concern to the plight of the deceased teachers by compensating their families.
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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