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Fuel Scarcity Bites Harder …As TUC Accuses Tanker Owners Of Sabotage

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Rivers State Governor,  Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (left), congratulating  Barrister Harvey Ideozu, after being sworn-in as Special Adviser to the Governor in Government House, Port Harcourt, recently.

Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (left), congratulating Barrister Harvey Ideozu, after being sworn-in as Special Adviser to the Governor in Government House, Port Harcourt, recently.

Fuel scarcity situation is getting to its crescendo across the country with most filling stations in the oil-rich Rivers State being shut down for lack of products.
Our Correspondent who monitored the development reports that in the few stations selling, long fuel queues have become the order of the day.
At Oando Petrol Station in Mile 111, Port Harcourt, attendants shut their gates from motorists only selling to jerry-can carrying black marketers.
One of the marketers told The Tide that before they sell to us, we pay N4,000 per 20 litre jerry-can.
Chibor Onwuamaegbu, a bus driver said, “I have been here for the past two hours but they wouldn’t sell to us. They sell only to the black marketers who re-sell to us at the cost of N250 per litre”.
The scarcity could be said to be ravaging across the country today, but the case of Rivers State started about three weeks ago when NUPENG and PENGASSAN embarked on a state wide strike following an industrial dispute between oil workers and the management of WEATHER FORD Nigeria Limited.
Though the State government intervened and got the strike suspended pending the outcome of a negotiation between the company and leadership of the two oil unions, the tanker drivers, national Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) commenced nationwide strike over the deplorable condition of refinery roads across Nigeria.
To worsen the situation, private tank owners have been accused of by Marketers of hoarding and selling above official price thereby causing artificial scarcity across the nation.
Motorists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital spend several hours on the long queues struggling to buy petrol due to scarcity of the product allegedly caused by marketers who hoard petrol over non-payment of subsidy funds.
Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mr. Sunny Nkpe said the association was yet to feel the impact of the recent payment of N413 billion outstanding money to depot owners by the Federal Government.
Nkpe however, said the union has commenced the implementation of an intervention measure to cushion the impact of the current scarcity of the products in the state.
Meanwhile the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Rivers State, expressed serious worry over the continued determination of the private depot owners to starve Rivers people of petroleum products, and worsen the hardship faced by the people.
In a statement in Port Harcourt, Saturday the state Chairman, TUC, Comrade Chika Onuegbu alleged that “currently, they have shut their depots and only sell at nights at exorbitant prices.”
The statement, a copy of which was made available to The Tide, called “on the DPR, law enforcement agencies and the Rivers State Government to enforce the law by ensuring that the depots are open and that the available products are released to petroleum marketers, including IPMAN since President Buhari has approved about N413billion subsidy payment backlog.
“It is, indeed, shameful that this cartel will subject Nigerians and Rivers people to excruciating pains just because they want to make super profit despite government’s intervention,” Onuegbu stated.
The on-going scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit also known as petrol is biting harder in the country as users are forced to pay far above the recommended price of N87 per litre in most of the filling stations that sell the product, our correspondent has learnt.
Investigations  also revealed that petrol now sells in some states as high as N400 per litre while in others it goes for between N110 and N200.
However, some filling stations as at press time on Saturday, according to our correspondents, still sold the product at the official price of N87 per litre. These filling stations, findings showed, were, however, few and inundated with long queues of motorists, motorcyclists and other users.
In Cross River State, a litre of petrol was sold for as high as N400 in Calabar and environs on Saturday morning.
Tanker drivers across the state and beyond had on Monday refused to load the product from the Calabar Depot in protest of the deplorable situation of federal roads in the state.
As at the time of filing this report, most service stations had yet to commence the sale of the product to the public. Black marketers had continued to have a field day.
Many petrol stations in Akwa Ibom State, particularly those in Ibesikpo/Asutan, Eket, and Itu Local Government Areas on Saturday sold petrol at N200 per litre.
In Uyo, the State capital, while the price fluctuated between N170 and N180 per litre, motorists said many of the filling stations had adjusted their metres regardless of the amount they pay for buying fuel.
In Ondo State, long queues of vehicles persisted in many filling stations in many towns on Saturday even as many of them sold petrol at N120 per litre.
In Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, there were long queues at filling stations on Saturday especially those owned by major marketers.
A litre of petrol was being sold between N100 and N110 depending on the distance of the area to the state capital.
In Enugu State, petrol was sold between N130 and N150 per litre. Our correspondent, who bought the commodity at the cost of N140 per litre in the state capital on Saturday, learnt that the product was being offered to motorists for N150 in other filling stations.
In Oyo State, fuel scarcity reached a height as few vehicles plied the roads.
More than 85 per cent of major oil marketers were not selling the product while a few independent oil marketers sold for between N110 and N120 per litre.
The queues by motorists for petrol continued on Saturday in some filling stations in Abuja and Nasarawa State.
All petrol stations visited in Abuja on Saturday sold at the regulated price, but most were not open for business as they claimed not to have products.
In Benue State, the NNPC Mega filling station along Oturkpo road where the queue for the product was over four kilometres long. It was the only fuel station selling at the official pump price of N87 per litre.
Meanwhile, black marketers have taken over the town as they sold at N200 and N250 per litre.
Investigations by our correspondent, who went round some parts of Nassarawa State, observed that it was only the NNPC mega station that sold at N87 per litre while others sold at N160 per.
In Bayelsa State, particularly Yenagoa, the state capital, a few filling stations that were selling the product on Saturday sold a litre of petrol between N130 and N150.
The NNPC mega filling stations in the Yenagoa metropolis were the only ones selling at the government regulated price of N87 but the queues were very long.
A litre of PMS was sold for N100 in many filling stations in Ogun State except NNPC stations and those of major marketers on Saturday.
In Osogbo, the Osun State capital and other parts of the state, petrol was sold at N110 per litre.
In Lagos, our correspondent learnt on Saturday that while the NNPC and major marketers sold at N87, black marketers sold five litres of petrol at N600.

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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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