As the All Progressives Congress(APC) continues to celebrate its successful national convention at the weekend, facts have emerged that Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi played strong role for the emergence of a consensus candidate from the South-South to clinch the party’s national chairmanship.
Former Edo State governor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was declared the chairman after the likes of Amaechi and other top party bigwigs prevailed on Dr Sam Sam Jaja and former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva to step down.
Just few minutes to voting, Amaechi rose and urged party men and women to lay down their personal interests and ambitions in the ultimate interest of the country. It was a long speech that lasted for about six and half minutes.
He said : …My leaders, Nigerians are out there looking up to us to help salvage the country. We can not achieve that with everybody holding unto his interests. We must make sacrifices if we must change our country for better, and whether we will achieve that depends on our actions and inactions this night. Nigerians are outside waiting. For us in Rivers State, give us five minutes to confer with our brother, Sam Sam-Jaja”.
It was learnt that the emergence of Odigie-Oyegun as the consensus candidate for the post was an arrangement perfected by the leadership and executed by the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led election sub-committee of the first National Convention Planning Committee at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
One of the contestants, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, told reporters at the convention venue that contestants and leaders of the party from the South-South geo-political zone “agreed to zone the position to Edo State.”
This, he said, reduced the number of strong contenders to two instead of the initial four, which included him and the former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva.
He, however, declined further comments on what else transpired after that.
A few hours to the convention, a former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tom Ikimi, was the only remaining contestant who could not be prevailed upon to step down for Oyegun.
In line with an agreement brokered by the party leaders who met at the Sokoto State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro for several hours, the candidate of the APC Governors Forum, who is also a former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva, Chief Sam Jaja announced their decision to step down for Oyegun.
This decision sealed the fate of Ikimi as Oyegun was announced as the sole candidates for the position.
A former governor of Ekiti State, who recently defected from the PDP, Mr. Segun Oni, emerged as deputy national chairman (South), while a former national secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lawal Shuaibu, was also returned unopposed as deputy national chairman (North).
The delegates also elected the interim National Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Bala Gubi, as the substantive national secretary following the withdrawal of Alhaji Kashim Imam from the race, while the Interim Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was returned unopposed to retain his position.
Addressing party members earlier, the newly elected chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Oyegun had said that Nigerians will finally have a chance to kick out the ruling Peoples Democratic Party during the 2015 elections.
He said “If we failed in our task due to disunity and acrimony, it is not only ourselves we would have let down. We would have betrayed the hopes and aspirations of long-suffering Nigerians. And we must never lose sight of the fact that the collective destiny of Nigerians is far more important than our individual or group interests, ambitions or grievances.
“Because the road ahead of us is long and hard, we must heed the wise advice of our esteemed Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, that we must set forth at dawn. And so, whereas tonight we party to celebrate the successful conclusion of the National Convention of our party, early tomorrow morning, we must rise with the dawn and set forth on our patriotic mission to set Nigerians free, and usher in the New Nigeria of our dreams.
“Your prayers have not been in vain. Help is on the way. The APC is here! In 2015 Nigerians will finally have the opportunity to kick out the ruling party.
“In 2015, the All Progressives Congress will provide Nigerians with a visionary, dedicated and people-oriented leadership that will liberate the nation from PDP’s rule of poverty and oppression. Under the stewardship of the APC, Nigeria will progress and Nigerians will thrive. This is our sacred pledge to Nigerians tonight,” he promised.
“We must learn to let go of past grudges and previous grievances and move forward together as members of the same family. And so tonight, I call for the healing of rifts and the smoothening of cracks. I call for forgiveness of offences and injuries,” the new party chairman said.
On his election as the chairman, he said: “With extreme humility, I accept this responsibility that you have entrusted to me, to lead our party to the next phase of its evolution and onwards to the fulfilment of its destined mission as the liberator of the Nigerian people.
“This is a heavy responsibility, but I assure you it is a responsibility I will not take lightly.”
Meanwhile, former Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area and Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Hon Oji Ngofa has been elected as the national assistant secretary of the party
The position is one of the slots zoned to the South by the party.
Convention: APC Thanks Nigerians For Congratulatory Messages
The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday thanked Nigerians for their congratulatory messages and words of encouragement, following its successful inaugural national convention.
The convention, which held in Abuja from Friday to Saturday, resulted in the election of the party’s National Executive Committee led by Chief John Oyegun.
‘’We are encouraged and gratified by the goodwill messages from a cross section of Nigerians, many of them from outside our party, especially on the openness and transparency of our convention.
‘’This massive support from Nigerians has strengthened our resolve to continue with our efforts to move our country forward,’’ the party said in a statement issued in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The party said that in the days ahead, it would provide more details of its Road Map that would help change the face of the country for the benefit of all her people.
It said that the agenda it had made public to showcase its determination to change the face of the country included job creation, war against corruption, free, relevant quality education and security among others.
The party said that based on the nationwide scientific poll it conducted across the 36 states and the federal capital, it had identified job creation, war against corruption and security as sectors that needed special attention.
It repeated its call on the Federal Government to do everything humanly possible to secure the release of the over 200 school girls who were abducted by Boko Haram on April 14.
‘’We hereby reiterate our support and cooperation for all the efforts that could reunite these girls with their families,’’ it said.
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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