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Probe: Buhari Won’t Shield Ministerial Nominees -APC …EFCC Commences Probe Of Nominees, Today

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike (middle), in a handshake with Chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council, Bro Felix Obuah, during a courtesy call by members of IPAC in Government House, Port Harcourt over the weekend

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike (middle), in a handshake with Chairman, Inter Party Advisory Council, Bro Felix Obuah, during a courtesy call by members of IPAC in Government House, Port Harcourt over the weekend

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said that President Muhammadu Buhari will not stop corruption probe against any member of the party, including any of his ministerial nominees, saying the President is a strong believer in the rule of law.
Speaking in an interview with select journalists at the weekend in Abuja, APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawan Shuaibu, said if corruption investigation against any of the nominees lead to conviction in courts, the President will not intervene.
Recall that some former governors, who are being accused of corruption, are among the initial 21 ministerial nominees awaiting confirmation at the National Assembly beginning from tomorrow, Tuesday.
“You see the President has said several times that he believes in the rule of law, that he respects the rule of the law. Anything that is not in line with the Constitution and the extant laws of this country, he won’t go for it. When it comes to the issue of the choice of people who will serve as ministers in his administration, I believe that until one is convicted in the law court, we will be chasing shadows on the basis of suspicions and assumptions.
“I think quite frankly that he is not going to stop any investigations against any member of his cabinet. But should that investigation lead to conviction in courts, I assure you even before President Buhari ask them to resign, such a person would have brought a letter of resignation. The President cannot intervene and I assure you in a matter before the court on behalf anybody including his own child.
On the allegation that the ongoing anti-corruption fight is selective, Shuaibu retorted, “What did you expect the President to do? President Buhari has made it clear, even during his recent interview in New York, he said he would not be interfering with judicial process or procedures and he will wait to see when a court makes a decision on anyone, that is now when he will respect the decision of the court.”
“And when you are talking about people who have contributed to his emergence as President, I do not expect anybody who contributed to the emergence of President Buhari in the last general election to do so because they wanted cover from corruption prosecution. If anybody thinks that way, I want to say that President Buhari is not thinking that way,”
On the expectations of Nigerians now that ministers have been appointed, Shuaibu said, “as soon as the ministers are sworn-in, the business of governance will fully commence in earnest and actual implementation of the programmes of government will start off.”
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will today begin investigations into petitions written against President Muhammadu Buhari’s 21 ministerial nominees.
It was gathered that a decision was taken by the leadership of the anti-graft agency last week to start the process of considering petitions forwarded to the National Assembly against the ministerial nominees.
As at last Friday, 25 petitions had been submitted to the Senate against the nominees.
Copies of such petitions were also said to have been sent to the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
A source privy to the development, said the Senate leadership had contacted the EFCC last week to assist in looking into the petitions written against the ministerial nominees.
The source who is a top official at the EFCC said, “The office would start looking into the petitions written against the ministerial nominees on Monday.
“The National Assembly contacted the commission on the issue and the decision is to start looking at such petitions on Monday.”
Similarly, an operative of the ICPC, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the press on the matter, said on Saturday that the commission was expecting an invitation from the National Assembly leadership to commence investigation into the allegations contained in the petition against the nominees.
The source said it was not possible for the National Assembly to carry out the investigation into the petitions against the nominees without involving the anti-graft agencies.
“It is true that the agency is expecting to be involved in the investigation of the allegations contained in the petitions against the nominees.
“The National Assembly also said it clearly that they were going to involve the anti-graft agencies in the issue of investigating the petition.
“For now, what is not very clear is to what extent they intend to involve the anti-graft agencies.” the source added.
The spokesperson of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said he did not know anything about the commission’s involvement in the screening exercise at the National Assembly.
Also, the Resident Consultant, Media and Events, of the ICPC, Mr. Folu Olamiti, said he would neither confirm nor deny the involvement of the commission in the investigation of the allegations contained in the petitions.
In the same vein, the Code of Conduct Bureau had also said the nominees were bound to declare their assets before the Senate.
The Senate had stated that as part of its guidelines for screening the ministerial nominees due to commence tomorrow, each of the nominees would be required to produce evidence of assets declaration to the bureau.
The Chairman of the CCB, Mr. Sam Saba, in his response to our correspondent’s enquiry through a text message on Saturday, said the ministerial nominees were required under Section 149 of the Constitution to declare their assets before being screened.
He said, “it is the usual procedure — or as you put it, the convention — for ministerial nominees to declare their assets before senate screening; and not only ministers but any would-be public officer, whether appointed or elected, so long as he or she requires screening by the Senate.
“Section 149 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides that ‘the Minister of the Government of the Federation shall not enter upon the duties of his office, unless he has declared his assets as prescribed in the Constitution’.”
Saba could not confirm whether any of the nominees had initiated steps to declare their assets before the close of work on Friday, but he hinted that in the past, the Presidential Liaison Officer would usually collect the assets declaration forms from the bureau in bulk and distribute to the nominees.
He said, “The bureau would attend to the ministerial nominees on demand of the Form CCB1 from any of our offices in the 36 states plus the office in the Federal Capital Territory and in the Headquarters, Abuja. The forms are however submitted at the headquarters Abuja.
“In the recent, Presidential Liaison Officers collected the forms for such nominees; that is to say, request is made in bulk by the PLO for the forms and issued out individually to each ministerial nominee.”
When contacted, the Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang said, “I did not collect forms on behalf of anyone. The fact that your name is submitted (as a nominee) does not mean you are appointed.”
The leadership of the Senate will meet on Monday to review the modalities and procedures for the three-day screening of ministerial nominees scheduled to begin tomorrow.
Part of the conditions earlier agreed upon by the Senate in a closed-session on Thursday, included, among others, the submission of assets declaration proofs; approval of nominations by at least two senators from nominee’s states; while those who have petitions against them must have a clean bill of health from the Senate’s public petitions committee.
Our correspondent learnt on Saturday that the criticisms that greeted the Senate’s procedure for the screening made it to start making moves to review the modalities.
A principal officer of the Senate, said that wide consultations had been carried out among various segments of the society to get their input on how best the Senate can carry out the assignment.
He explained that the various inputs by Nigerians would be collated latest on Monday morning and presented before the leadership of the Senate, who would review it and make their final decision known to their colleagues before the screening would start on Tuesday.
The source said, “We are not claiming that we know it all in the Senate. Although we are the representatives of the people, we should not impose our decisions on people without finding out their opinions.
“The leadership of the Eighth Senate had vowed to carry everybody along in its decision-making (process) and that is why we have consulting widely because we would not want to be accused of witch-hunting any nominee or that we are using the screening to hit back at the presidency.”
The Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said that the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, had been seeking the views of Nigerians, especially the media and other pressure groups, on the screening modalities adopted by the red chamber.
Olaniyonu said, “The media, the civil society organisations and other pressure groups are very critical to national development. Their views are therefore needed as a necessary guide to assist the Senate in the discharge of its responsibility, especially as far as the screening of ministerial nominees is concerned. “
The Special Assistant to the Senate President on New Media, Mr. Bankole Omishore, in a statement on Saturday, also confirmed that the screening and confirmation process of the first batch of ministerial nominees would be streamed live on the National Assembly website.
According to him, the websites, www.nass.gov.ng and www.senate.gov.ng, could be used by Nigerians to send in questions they would like to ask nominees by forwarding same to their respective senators using the hashtag #MinisterialScreening.
Omishore added that all questions must be received before 5pm today.
The statement read in parts, “The @NGRSenate Twitter handle will also be providing live tweets throughout the screening process.
“Nigerians would recall that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, took office amidst a pledge to reform the Senate and make its processes more transparent, inclusive and visible by employing e-Parliamentary technology in the Upper Chambers.
“Since then, the Senate President has tasked the Committee on Rules and Business to develop an e-Parliamentary system that can be employed at Senate Plenary sessions.
“This screening will create an avenue for Nigerians from all works of life to partake in governance, as the bridge between representatives and constituents will be bridged; with senators asking questions sourced from Nigerians on Social Media.”
In addition, Omishore explained that the submitted resumes of candidates will be made available in the public space for Nigerians to examine.

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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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