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Confab Approves Creation Of 19 States, Rotational Presidency

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Amidst shouts of “yes”, the delegates to the National Conference yesterday approved the creation of 18 more states, which would be shared among the six geo-political zones.
However, the conference approved the creation of one more state for the South-East, which is going to be different from the 18 new states.
The new state for the South-East was based on the fact that out of the six zones in the country, only the zone has five states while others, except North-West, which has seven states, have six states.
It was agreed that the new 18 states would be shared in such a way among the six zones that no zone would have more state than the other.
The proposed states are Aba, from the present Abia State, Katagum from Bauchi State, Ijebu from Ogun State, Amana from former Sardauna Province, Apa from Benue State, Anioma State from Delta State, Savannah from Borno, Etiti from South-East, Njaba/Anim from Anambra and Imo States, Gurara from Kaduna, Ghari from Kano State, Adada, New Oyo from Oyo State, Orachi from Rivers State, Ogoja from Cross River State and Kanji from Kebbi and Niger States.
It was agreed that the two states from both the South-South and South-West would be determined later.
They rejected a motion that the number of states in Nigeria should not be more than 55.
However, a delegate to the conference who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana condemned the decision to create more states.
He said the action was at variance with the decisions and resolutions earlier taken by the conference on the need by government to cut cost.
“Having regard to the several resolutions of the national conference on the need to reduce the costs of governance I found the recommendation for the creation of additional 18 states rather contradictory,” Falana said.
On states that want to merge, the conference said that a referendum should be conducted in each of the states that wants to merge with 65 per cent of the eligible voters in each of those states approving merger and that the National Assembly by resolutions passed by a single majority of membership, approves of the merger.
On the running of local government, the delegates said that states were free to create or reduce local governments.
It was agreed that all government officials must use made in Nigeria cars.
The National Conference also yesterday voted that the presidency shall rotate among the six geo-political zones of the country.
They also said the rotation should be between the northern and southern regions.
This was one of the decisions taken by the delegates at their plenary while considering reports of the Committee on Political Restructuring and Forms of Government.
But the conference failed to list the order through which the office would rotate.
The delegates also said the six geo-political zones be constitutionalised.
Though it was also agreed that the states were free to have their constitutions, but the request to change the name of Adamawa State to Gongola State, was overwhelmingly rejected by the delegates.
It was also agreed by the delegates that in the case of the death, or impeachment of the President or he becomes incapacitated, his deputy would no longer assume office automatically.
Rather, they said that, the Vice President shall only act as President for a period of 90 days within which election will hold.
“In the absence of the death of the president, the Vice President shall act as president for a period of 90 days within which an election to the office of the President shall be held,” the conference said.
They argued that since the office of the President would be rotated among the six geo-political zones, it would be unfair to allow the Vice President to take the turn of other zones by automatically assuming power.
It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010.
Some prominent northerners said it was wrong for Jonathan to have again run for the office of the president since Yar’Adua did not complete the expected eight year tenure allocated for the northern part of the country.
The delegates rejected that the President should run for a single term of six years, and favoured the present arrangement of two terms of four years.
It was also agreed that the President and his deputy should run on a joint ticket, thereby rejecting the recommendation that the President should pick his deputy among the members of the National Assembly after he must have won.
The conference also supported the unicameral form of government. This implies that there would still be the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It was also agreed that the office of the Governor shall rotate among the three senatorial districts in the state while the office of the chairman of a local government council shall rotate within the local government areas.
The conference also suggested that that the Independent National Electoral Commission should divide the council to two or three equal parts as the case maybe for the purpose of electing the local government chairman.

L-R: Ministerial nominees, Dr Abdul Bulama, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, and Dr Steve Oru,  before their screening by the Senate in Abuja, last Wednesday

L-R: Ministerial nominees, Dr Abdul Bulama, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, and Dr Steve Oru, before their screening by the Senate in Abuja, last Wednesday

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RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court

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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

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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

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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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