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UNEP Report: Shell Begins Clean Up Of Ogoniland

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Barely three weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari restated the commitment of the Federal Government to implement recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland, with specific measures already in place, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), has expressed excitement that the government was now determined more than ever before to implement all outstanding recommendations.
General Manager, External Relations, SPDC, Igo Weli, who expressed the firm’s position during a special training session for select bureau chiefs and editors in Rivers State at the Ernest Ikoli Press Centre, Port Harcourt, last Thursday, said that although SPDC has not produced oil or gas from any field in Ogoniland since 1993, the company has continued to invest in programmes to impact lives in the area in line with its corporate social responsibilities, just as it has taken initiatives to implement company-specific recommendations in the UNEP Report.
Weli stated that the UNEP report, published August 4, 2011, made recommendations to the government, the oil and gas industry, and communities, to begin a comprehensive clean-up of Ogoniland, restore polluted environments and put an end to all forms of on-going oil contamination in the region, and assured that SPDC was ready to partner government to implement recommendations requiring specific multi-stakeholder inputs.
According to him, “in a swift response, SPDC JV set up the Ogoni Restoration Project Team as a direct response to the UNEP report release, working with government on emergency measures and all actions directed at it”.
The general manager noted that “SPDC has initiated action to implement all the 22 actions directed to it by the UNEP report”, explaining that “16 recommended actions have been completed”.
He said that five actions are currently on-going, including relocation of Right-of-Way (RoW) encroachers; and decommissioning plan, adding that SPDC was set to release its contribution to the $1billion Ogoni Restoration Fund, once the Federal Government has perfected the set-up and made its contribution to the fund.
On remediation of impacted sites, Weli stressed that of the 470 incidents documented along SPDC JV RoW in Ogoniland, SPDC has remediated 368, while 32 are at various stages of completion, adding of the 70 outstanding, 40 are in Bodo area.
He explained that, “SPDC has completed the physical verification of assets in Ogoniland covering delivery and flowlines, manifolds, flow stations, compressor stations, gas plants and burrow pits.”
“Two weeks after the UNEP report was published, SPDC, in partnership with the Rivers State Government, immediately began work to provide 250,000 litres a day of potable water to those communities whose water was found to be contaminated. We also embarked on a project to construct permanent piped water distribution facilities. The Eleme Regional Water Supply Project, a 450,000 litre capacity facility with potential to serve an estimated 30,000 people a day, was completed and commissioned in August 2013,” he said.
“We conducted primary healthcare outreach to the communities through SPDC’s Health-In-Motion programme; and about 35,000 adults and 15,000 children benefitted from the outreach”, Weli said, adding that SPDC also engaged 105 Ogoni youth in LiveWIRE alternative livelihood programme; and provided start-up grants to the trainees, most of whom have started businesses.
He stated that the company has “championed grassroots environmental campaign in partnership with the Rivers State Ministry of Environment, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and NGOs to deepen awareness on the ills of illegal bunkering and oil theft,” adding that since 2014, “12 town-hall sessions have been held across the four Ogoni local government areas yearly, with about 11,000 indigenes participating to date.
“SPDC welcomes the leadership shown by President Buhari in setting up governance structures for implementation of the UNEP report. We are greatly encouraged by the positive and constructive response from representatives of the community, Niger Delta NGOs and civil society. This is an important step forward and SPDC is determined to play its part in maintaining the momentum,” Weli said.
“However, as the UNEP report stated, treating the problem of environmental contamination within Ogoniland merely as a technical clean-up exercise will ultimately lead to failure. Ensuring long-term sustainability is a much bigger challenge – one that will require coordinated and collaborative action from all stakeholders.
“This must include putting an end to the widespread pipeline sabotage, crude oil theft and illegal refining that are the main causes of environmental damage in Ogoniland and the wider Niger Delta today. Shell Companies in Nigeria will continue to be at the forefront engaging interested stakeholders and seeking sustainable innovative ways to resolve the problem,” he added.
The Tide recalls that SPDC began exploration and production operations in Ogoniland in the 1950s, suspended operations in 1993 following a rise in violence, threats to staff and attacks on facilities, and has not produced oil or gas in Ogoniland since then.
One of SPDC’s main pipelines in the Niger Delta – the Trans-Niger Pipeline (TNP) – traverses Ogoniland, where it also has five non-producing fields and a network of about 100 wells and associated infrastructure.
In 2007, the Federal Government commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland as part of a wider reconciliation process, but implementation of the full recommendations directed at government have yet to commence, four years after, leaving most Ogoni stakeholders agitated.

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

L-R:Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Banigo, National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus and Rivers State Speaker of House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikunyi Owaji Ibani, singing praises during the interdenominational church service to mark Governor Wike's 100 days in office at Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt, yesterday.

L-R:Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Deputy Governor, Dr Ipalibo Banigo, National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus and Rivers State Speaker of House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikunyi Owaji Ibani, singing praises during the interdenominational church service to mark Governor Wike’s 100 days in office at Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt, yesterday.

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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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