Last week Friday, some leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) joined the grumbling voices of the South-East and South-South in protesting what belatedly dawned on them as a government, first for the North and then others later. For fear of any likely reprimand all of those who spoke to the media did so on conditions of anonymity.
What was the uproar about? That President Muhammadu Buhari made another set of appointments which they considered lopsided in favour of the North, especially a favoured few who in every election since 2003, had alone voted for him. If other zones had joined earlier, Buhari would have been president long ago.
In that spirit, Buhari last Thursday appointed, from Adamawa State, Babachir David Lawal as Secretary to the Government of the Federation; from Borno State, Mr Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff and Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali as New Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service, all from the Northern part of the country.
The others are Mr Kure Martins Abeshi Nasarawa State, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Immigration Service and Suleiman Kawu, Kano State, as Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly (NASS) Matters (House of Representatives) also of the Northern parts. The President then ‘balanced’ the ‘five to one’ sharing formula by appointing Senator Ita Enang as SSA, NASS Matters (Senate).
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina who announced the appointments last Thursday, said they would all take immediate effect, ‘in line with Military fashion’ (Emphasis mine).
These would not be the first set of appointments the President would be making. In the initial appointment, eight were also from the North and only one Southerner to balance the initial ‘eight-to-one’ equation.
Northerners earlier appointed into key positions include: Director-General of the State Services, Lawal Daura, Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mrs Anuria Zakari, the Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr. Mordecai Danteni Baba Ladan and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris.
Others were, the President’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), Abdulrahman Mani; Chief of Protocol, Mallam Abdullahi Kazure; Aide-De-Camp, Lt Col Muhammed Abubaka; and the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu. In that case also, only Femi Adesina is of the Southern part of the country.
Quoting three APC leaders last Thursday, the Punch wrote: “Three top National Officers of the APC, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity shortly after the announcements were made, wondered why the President was appointing only Northerners to positions to the detriment of the Southerners”.
“Another APC leader said the party must devise a way of managing the backlash that would follow the appointments.
“He said, ‘Though the President did not get much votes from the South-East, we must not neglect the zone in key appointments”.
That’s the crux of the matter. President Buhari, in course of his US trip, did not mince words when he said attention to zones and states would be based purely on votes he enjoyed in the February 28, 2015 elections. He indeed wondered aloud, how, people who voted for him overwhelmingly would be treated equally with those who didn’t.
In a nutshell, Buhari made it very clear that primary attention would be beamed on the North, where, he got bulk of his votes, before all others in order of performance.
That meant, the South-South and the South-East Zones that voted enmasse for the President’s opponent, then incumbent Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might as well wait till the end of Buhari’s tenure for honorable postings or even development projects. When the lonely voices of these two zones lamented their fate, others within the same APC went ‘hey-wire’ in defence of the President.
Now, they are lamenting. Infact, the Punch quoted another APC leader as grumbling, “Even the South-West that supported and was the backbone of the party, what are we giving the zone in appreciation? We need to be careful before the party is destroyed.
A member of the State Executive of the APC in a South-West State”, according to the paper, said the appointments were lopsided against the South. He said: “When President Olugsegun Obasanjo took over, you saw balance in appointments as he reflected Federal Character, President Goodluck Jonathan too reflected a semblance of balance. Buhari is pursuing a northern agenda. This is the same agenda pursued by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, when everything was pro-north…”
Haba! These are very strong words to be voiced by a state executive of the APC in the South-West. They should give Mr President some credit and allow him present the exact opposite of President Jonathan.
Critics, particularly those of the former President’s Zone, said he operated a policy of Charity beginning abroad.
It was in pursuit of that agenda, that nearly all development projects under his watch were sited in the North: Almajiri schools, New Universities, Federal roads and nearly all juicy appointments and contracts to the neglect of his people.
Now, Buhari says he cannot neglect his people. That rather than abroad, Charity ought to begin at home. And so, key appointments must first be made from the home before venturing abroad. How is this policy difficult to understand?
During the first of nine appointments, Buhari gave the South one, and the North eight. And now out of six he still considered the South worthy of a slot and five for the good old North. Why should anyone complain?
On sidelines of the Annual All Nigerian Editors’ Conference, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Friday, some politicians, and journalists expressed concern over the way things were going, according to them, either by accident or design, all three arms of government, the Executive, the legislative and Judiciary are firmly in the hands of Northerners. In the political front, the Senate President is from the North, just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
This means, President Buhari, Bukola Saraki and Rt Hon. Magari, all Northerners, can, if they so wish, still ensure the passage of the President’s Ministerial list, when ready, whether the appointments follow same lopsided fashion or not.
Truth is, Buhari is only human. If a man contests the Presidential elections three previous times, and unlike other politicians without integrity, did not cross-carpet to stay-alive and yet enjoyed the loyalty and friendship of a few, don’t such followers deserve the President’s trust? What is wrong in appointing such trusted followers into positions of trust, after his success in the fourth attempt? How many truly know what it takes a politician to stay out of the power source for 12 consecutive years, after three consecutive elections?.
From 2003, when he first contested the Presidential elections, to 2011, his third attempt, the bulk of his votes had come from the North. Infact, no President ever defeated Buhari in the North-East and North West Zones of the country. The problem he had was winning at least a few states in the South, to make him President.
That came true in 2015, after three failed attempts, and this time with the support of the South-West and North-Central while majority of those in the South-South and South-East voted for former President Jonathan.
Reading the President’s body language and public comments, he owes no one any apology for rewarding loyalty, true faith and dedication to a cause which many of his appointees demonstrated in his twelve years of political struggle.
At a time, when several would cross-carpet to the PDP, leave and return, after every victory, Buhari’s faithful remained loyal.
The appointments are indeed reward for true loyalty and integrity, which many Nigerian politicians lack.
My Agony is that either by accident or design, not only have 13 or 15 early appointments gone the way of the North, the two chambers of the National Assembly and indeed the three arms of Government: the Executive, the legislative and indeed the Judiciary are also led by Northerners.
So what number of ministers in re-compense can strike the needed balance?
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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