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Wike’s 100 Days: Bountiful Harvest

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Former Governor
Chibuike Amaechi had few days before his exit declared that the incoming administration led by Barrister Nyesom Wike would face challenges in carrying out developmental projects due to the decline and dwindling fortunes in the state revenue.
The ex-governor was speaking at a special thanksgiving service organized by the Greater Together Campaign Organisation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at Dr Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt.
He blamed the dwindling economy and quest to pay off debts owed by the government as responsible for the delay in the payment of workers salary in the state.
In the words of the former governor “…We have no money anywhere. In Rivers State, there is no money. I appreciate that Nyesom Wike is coming and we are waiting. You will look for money to pay salaries and there is none. We are bearing these pains now because we have to pay all our loans. We have paid our loans if not all, but when the next administration finishes paying salaries, we will see if any of them will be able to do what we did.”
It was not surprising therefore,  that when Governor Wike came on board, no fund was left in the state coffers against the claim of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress(APC)  that the former governor left N7billion behind ,
“The Accountant-General is here and we know that we didn’t meet any money in the treasury. The only money that we met was the internally generated revenue that Skye Bank had but they had collected part of it, over one billion, so nobody left one naira”Wike declared.
But the governor did not let the situation to deter him.  swung  into action immediately  after he was sworn –in, even though many people showed little hope in his administration   to perform.
According to the Caretaker Chairman of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Torukwein Odimabo, “nobody gave Wike the chance but he has surprised everybody and even surpassed expectations.”
Indeed, Wike in the past 100 days, has turned the state into a huge construction site. Shortly after been sworn-in, the governor flagged off the “Operation “No Pothole In Port Harcourt”.  The programme which aims at ridding the state of potholes set the tone for the administration.
One will recall that almost all parts of the city’s roads and alleys were in decrepit state. The situation was made worse with heaps of refuse littering every part of the city. One of the things he did in the first week was to clear the streets and roads of refuse.
Shortly after a meeting with tank owners and tanker drivers in Government House, the governor visited the Iriebe Tankers Parking Complex and directed the immediate relocation and loading from the terminal which had been abandoned. The tankers had become a nuisance and were causing heavy traffic snarl along the Azikiwe Road and UTC Junction. He also met with waste managers and promised to offset over three months debts owed them by the previous administration.
In the first week, he also signed a memorandum of understanding with two construction giants to wit: Julius Beger Plc and Chinese firm, CCECC on road rehabilitation and repairs. He had sought the State Assembly which was opened few days after inauguration to approve the loan of N10billion to drive the scheme.
On the choice of the two firms, he said, “We don’t want to play politics with our roads and that is why we engaged these companies. While Julius Berger is expected to rehabilitate areas covering Silverbird Galleria road, parts of Ogbunabali, Tombia Extension, Evo Road, Woji Road in GRA and Azikiwe/UTC Junction, all through old Port Harcourt Township, CCECC is expected to cover all roads in Diobu axis, including drainage and other works.
When Governor Wike visited the premises of the Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta two weeks after he was inaugurated, many hailed him for his move to rehabilitate abandoned government schools. The governor was miffed with the decrepit state of facilities in the school.
He said, “ This shows that in the past for eight years, government did not think this school exist. There is no way in eight years of an administration, a school in a city yet government cannot renovate it.”
The same scenario played out at Comprehensive Secondary School, Borokiri, where neighbours have started encroaching into the school’s property. Already Governor Wike has set up a committee on the rehabilitation of government schools across the state. The committee is to provide template of costs and bill of quantities for the project.
Aside touching secondary education, Wike has in the past 100 days, touched tertiary education.  Both the state owned University of Science and Technology and College of Arts and Science no have new administrative heads. The revamped Law Faculty building in the State university is now adjudged to be the best with the Moot Court building  and library completed. The project was abandoned until Wike visited the school in June and promise to upgrade its facilities.
Similarly, the governor had visited several abandoned hospitals.  Amongst those visited are those in Bori, Isiokpo and Abonnema, as he promised to commence rehabilitation works on all dilapidated general hospitals across the state. The governor believes that this will bring health care closer to the people and at the same time reduce the pressure on tertiary health facilities like the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital and the state owned Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMSH).
Housing is one area that did not receive adequate attention in the last dispensation and which Wike is already giving attention. Currently, housing availability has become difficult with attendant high cost of rent. Challenged by the pains of the citizenry, the Wike administration kick-started 50 mixed flats housing units at Iriebe in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Welfare of civil servants and pensioners have received adequate attention in the past 100 days. One month after  he took over the sadde of the state, the governor cleared the three months backlog of arrears owed civil servants by the former administration, including that of pensioners and sports men.
Asked of his view of the administration, President of Obio/Akpor Nuhu Rebisi, Amgbom Onuoha remarked, “ Wike administration from my own point of view has done well.”
“In the area of road network, he has done marvelously well and you can see for yourself. Look at Rumuolemeni Road. Look at Elioparanwo Road down to Diobu areas, he has done marvelously well in that area.”
The legal practitioner was impressed over the way the governor resolved the protracted crisis that shut down the courts for more than nine months,
“The courts were shut down for almost a year and was opened immediately he assumed office. The legislature is fully in charge and working in the Assembly complex. You don’t have a situation where activities of the legislature were done in Government House,” he noted.
For Caretaker Chairman of Akuku –Toru Local Government Area,   Torukwein Odimabo, what excites him about the Wike administration is the gusto with which he tackles challenges.
“He is a governor we need to follow. He is a governor we need to trust; whatever thing he has promised, he has fulfilled. Now, look at the road, (Abonnema/Obonoma Link Road), he even did it beyond the way we expected it. He did not only construct the bridge, he extended the length of the road for us,” he said.
Lawmaker representing Akuku-Toru Constituency 1 in the State House of Assembly, Major Jack said he cannot express his appreciation enough over how the governor has touched the lives of the people in his constituency in just 100 days.
The Alice Okolo Bridge, he noted, will boost economic life of the people, as he recalled the hardship faced by residents of the area before the project was completed.
On his assessment of  Governor Wike’s administration in the past 100 days, Hon Jack retorted, “ what you are seeing today is change in all ramifications. From infrastructure to roads, just barely three months, Rivers State is changing and my constituency and my local government are beneficiaries and happy.”
Another Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart from Opobo/Nkoro, Senibo Boma Brown, observed that Wike unlike other governors took time to understudy the needs of the common people. Brown stated that he is not surprised that the governor is  performing beyond expectation.
“ The way he is going about governance and doing everything possible to make life of the people better through roads, housing and other things is commendable,” he stated Wike’s policy statements on land reforms and housing have equally attracted accolades from former National Publicity Secretary of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers(NIESV),Mr Emmanuel Mark.
Mark said “ these are sure policy statements on fast tracking title documents in five weeks. For me, that is quantum leap. It will build confidence because people can now invest and use their titles to access loans”.
Meanwhile,   citizens have called on the governor to sustain the tempo and ensure that other areas of development are given attention. For Boma Brown, the governor needs to give attention to the Ogoni/Andoni/Opobo Unity Road.
“That word, ‘unity road implies that the road will create unity amongst the communities and it will engender development because the cost of building in the riverine areas is stupendous,” he said
Governor Wike has also visited the multi-billion naira project started by the Odili administration and continued by the Amaechi led administration in early part of August. He promised that by September next year, Opobo people will ride to their homes, as he blamed the past administration for discontinuing the project.
Mr. Mark however, tasked the governor on engaging professionals in manning the housing and lands ministries to inject efficiency.
“ I believe that it’s not enough to make pronouncements, once they appoint commissioners, then things will take shape”, he stated
A similar view was canvassed by the President of Obio/Akpor Nuhu Rebisi, Mr Onuoha. According to him, “ let him  the governor look in the area of land administration so that people can get their land tittles as soon as possible. Apart from the revenue it will bring, it will also help people in security to procure loans from the banks.”
Akuku –Toru CTC Chairman called on Governor Wike to ensure sustainability of the projects. He argued that once that is done, then projects will stand the test of time. Citing the Abonnema/Obonoma Bridge,” he said they need to pile the foot of that bridge, so it does not collapse or pose danger to the people.”FRED070915 F01

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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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