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NEC Assures FG’s Bailout For More States …As ECA Rakes In $2.5bn

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 President Muhammadu Buhari (left), being welcomed by President Francoise Hollande of Franc at the Elysee Palace in Paris recently.

President Muhammadu Buhari (left), being welcomed by President Francoise Hollande of Franc at the Elysee Palace in Paris recently.

As more States of the federation begin receiving bailout fund from the Special Intervention Fund aspect of the presidential relief package earlier approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Economic Council has assured that more states will soon receive theirs.
This was disclosed yesterday at the National Economic Council (NEC), meeting held at the State House and presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
While briefing the council, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),  Mr. Godwin Emefiele said 18 States had been able to draw from the Fund, as at yesterday, while a number of other states were currently being processed for the soft loan facility.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity in the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, explained that this is part of President Buhari’s relief package designed to help States pay backlog of salaries and also ease their financial challenges caused by the drop in federal allocation.
In a similar vein, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office, DMO, Mr. Abraham Nwankwo, also informed the NEC that the second phase of the debt restructuring offered to the States is now in effect with 13 new states now being considered, with 12 banks involved.
This is in addition to 11 states whose debts were restructured last month, according to Nwankwo who also told the council that 23 states are now involved in the restructuring.
While a total of over N322billion of states loans were restructured last month, about N252billion have been restructured this month.
It would be recalled that the presidential relief package has three core elements.
These include the sharing of about $2.1billion in fresh allocation between the states and the Federal Government. The money was sourced from recent LNG proceeds to the federation account, and its release okayed by the president leading to the sharing of federal allocation twice for the  month of June.
Others include a CBN-packaged special intervention fund that will offer financing to the states, to the range of about  N300billion.
A debt relief programme designed by the Debt Management Office (DMO), which is now helping the states restructure their commercial loans put at over N660billion, and extend the life span of such loans while reducing their debt-servicing expenditures.
Yesterday, the NEC also received an ongoing report from its ad-hoc committee of five governors on the management of the Excess Crude Account and related Federation Account issues.
The committee briefed the council that it has observed a lack of transparency and accountability in the operation of the Federation Account, adding that there were no checks and balances in the running of the ECA in the recent past.
It informed the council that the ECA had accrued $2.5billion as at September 15, 2015.
The five governors on the Ad-Hoc Committee are the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo; Kaduna State Governor, Mallam El Rufai; (who presented the report to council yesterday), Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Udom and Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
The council also received a report on the issue of refund of about N522billion owed states which repaired federal roads under the past administration.
A briefing by both the Federal Ministry of Works and the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation disclosed that 13 states have fully complied with the reimbursement requirements, eight states partially complied and 21 states with no compliance with federal reimbursement requirements.
The Buhari administration will be exploring options to address the problem.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture also briefed the council on its policy direction so far.
The council which meets monthly was attended by state governors and several top officials from the federal and state governments.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has promised to work in concert with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to monitor the disbursement and use of the N337billion bailout funds which the Federal Government released to about 27 states of the federation.
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja yesterday noted that the congress has directed all state councils in the benefiting states to serve as whistle blowers on any criminal diversion of the bailout funds.
The NLC applauded the ICPC for ensuring the return of about N1billion being public funds criminally diverted by some corrupt officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Federal Pay Office.
Wabba disclosed that the organized labour was in agreement with the anti-graft agency that the painful days of the public “running after funds after appropriation” are over for the good of all Nigerians including workers.
According to the statement, states that benefited from the bailout funds are – Abia (N14.152billion), Adamawa (N2.378billion), Bauchi (N8.60billion), Bayelsa (N1.285billion), Benue (N28.013billion), Borno (N7.680billion), Cross River (N7.856billion), Delta (N10.036billion), Ebonyi (N4.063billion), Edo (N3.167billion), Ekiti (N9.604billion) and Enugu (N4.207billion).
Others are – Gombe (N16.459billion) , Imo (N26.806billion), Kastina (N3.304billion), Kebbi (N0.690billion), Kogi (N50.842billion), Kwara (N4.320billion), Nasarawa (N8.317billion), Niger (N4.306billion), Ogun (N20.00billion), Ondo (N14.686billion), Osun(N34.988billion), Oyo( N26.606bilion), Plateau (N5.357billion), Sokoto (N10.093billion) and Zamfara (N10.020billin).
The NLC President, who saluted the renewed effort and commitment of ICPC to recover looted public funds and other proceeds of corruption, stressed that in so doing, ICPC is commendably living up to its mission statement which is “to rid Nigeria of corruption through lawful enforcement and preventive measures.”

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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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