The Federal Government has placed 69 persons, who had first contact with the Liberian-born victim of Ebola Virus, Patrick Sawyer, on surveillance, while two persons have been quarantined (isolated), the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has said.
Sawyer died in a Lagos hospital on Friday last week.
Chukwu debunked reports that the government had closed its borders, saying such move might not be taken “except when it becomes necessary.”
According to him, those who came in contact with the late sawyer will be under surveillance for a period of weeks from the date of contact in line with the specifications of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The minister at a joint press briefing with the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, yesterday on the update of the virus, said the Liberian victim, with dual citizenship of Liberia and the United States, was confirmed dead barely four days after arrival in Nigeria.
He said, “We decided on the proper manner on how to dispose his body because the corpse of any victim of Ebola disease is very toxic. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control decontaminated the body. We are tracking all those, who had primary contact with him. As of today, 69 persons have been placed under surveillance while two persons have been quarantined.
“All those in the same aircraft going to attend the meeting with him in Calabar are presently under surveillance. They will remain under this surveillance until a period of three weeks from the date of contact.
“We have a copy of the passengers’ manifest and we discovered that the sitting arrangement was free sitting. We are working with the airlines to track down those other passengers yet to be identified.
“As a Federal Government policy, we have not closed our borders, unless it becomes necessary. But the Aviation Minister is working with us in many aspects to make sure that the virus does not spread.”
Chukwu stated that contrary to some views, the disease “can be contacted on air even while airborne once you contact the droplets.”
The minister said government was engaging the states right from the moment that the disease was first reported in Guinea.
He added, “Our rapid response team is in Lagos. Nigeria has been commended by WHO. Secondary contacts are also important. We are working with the Cross River State Government. We are not going to quarantine them but we have demanded their contact details.”
Chukwu commended the hospital, where the patient was managed, saying, “We commend them for the great job they have done. They did everything to keep the man alive but unfortunately, he passed on. We have ordered the closure of the hospital. The doctors are under surveillance; we are using WHO certified personal protective equipment.
“Doctors are at high risk but Nigerians should not panic,” he said.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organisation and leaders of West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak are to announce a joint $100million (£59million; 75million euro) response plan.
They will meet in Guinea on Friday to launch the initiative aimed at tackling a virus which has claimed 729 lives.
Sierra Leone’s president has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak after 233 people died there.
Ebola spreads through human contact with a sufferer’s bodily fluids.
Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.
Ebola kills up to 90 per cent of those infected with patients having a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Ministry of Health has announced that there are fears in the state that the dreaded Ebola disease may have penetrated the state through a corpse deposited in Apex Mortuary, Nkwelle Ezunaka, Oyi LGA at the weekend.
The State Commissioner for Health, Joe Akabuike, while addressing journalists yesterday said that the development in Anambra is an urgent one, and that the state government, the Ministry of Health in the state and the Federal Ministry of Health were handling the situation with the urgency it requires.
“Why we called you(Journalists) here is because of the dreaded Ebola disease. In the suspected case that happened in Lagos recently, the victim is already gone, and all those who had contact with him have been tested, and they tested negative.
“Here in Anambra, the urgency I told you is that we have the case of a corpse that was brought in from Lagos at the weekend. The deceased was said to have taken ill in Liberia where the virus is known to have already existed, where he died and was deposited in a mortuary.
“We have identified the mortuary where the corpse was deposited, and we have alerted the Federal Ministry to come in and carry out a test. we have sealed off the mortuary, and everyone who is working there, we have ordered that they be quarantined.
“As I speak with you, experts from the Federal Ministry of Health are on their way to Anambra. What we will do is that those people that are quarantined will be screened, and we want to assure Anambra people that we shall be proactive to ensure that the virus does not spread.
“We have also procured the necessary garment for the disease check, and we are training our health workers on how to deal with this because it is new here. We had to invite the Federal Ministry of Health because the equipment for the check are very expensive.
“We are not saying that this corpse has Ebola virus, but the deceased was brought in from Liberia, and deposited in the state, so we have to raise eyebrow about it. All we are doing is to take precaution,” the health Commissioner said.
Akabuike disclosed that the disease wass a big threat because doctors, nurses and relatives of a patient who may touch the victim were liable to contact it, and that when doctors begin to die in droves, it spells doom for a country.
He advised that people must form the habit of washing their hands not only when they want to eat, but after shaking hands or touching surfaces.
Akabuike expressed shock that a corpse could be flown from another country to Nigeria, without being intercepted at the airport for a check. He also disclosed that the state has secured a quarantine site that will help the ministry to seclude suspects from the people until they are checked.
Similarly, the Anambra State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Josephat Akabuike, announced on Thursday that a hospital has been sealed off and its workers and patients quarantined due to Ebola disease scare.
Briefing journalists in Awka, Akabuike said the measure followed information received by the government that a man whose body was brought back from Liberia at the weekend might have died of the killer disease.
He said that information available to the government indicated that the body was brought back from Liberia through Lagos and deposited in the mortuary at Nkwelle-Ezenaka in Oyi Local Government Area of the state.
He said: “Part of the briefing is to tell you what we are doing to make sure we don’t allow the deadly virus to come into the state.
“What actually called for this is that we have a report that a corpse was brought through Lagos and the deceased was said to have been taken from Liberia where of course you know there are cases of the disease.
“The corpse was said to have been brought to Nigeria and deposited somewhere in Nkwelle-Ezunaka and the ministry was alerted and that is why we are taking all these measures.”
The commissioner said that Governor Willie Obiano had already directed the Police Command in the state to cordon off the place until the necessary tests were carried out.
Akabuike further said that Federal Government had also sent medical experts from the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja to Anambra State to carry out the test at the hospital premises.
Meanwhile, Ebola has been blamed for 672 deaths in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organisation.
Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine epicentres of Ebola, joining Liberia in imposing tough controls to curb the worst ever outbreak of the virus amid fears it could spread beyond West Africa.
A Liberian man was confirmed to have died from the virus in Lagos last Friday.
In a measure of rising international concern, Britain on Wednesday held a government meeting on Ebola, which it said was a threat it needed to respond to.
The outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever, for which there is no known cure, began in the forests of remote eastern Guinea in February, but Sierra Leone now has the highest number of cases.
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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