Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has called on the people of the state not to fear the manipulations of those who have ganged up against the state as he will emerge victorious at the end of this trying period.
Addressing thousands of Christian faithful at the first Rivers State Christmas Carol in Port Harcourt on Saturday, Governor Wike stated that since he started politics, he has never had any victory cheaply, noting that the current challenge would not be different.
According to Governor Wike, “I was the only council chairman in the country whose political litigation got to the Supreme Court during the 1999 electioneering process. I got my victory at the Supreme Court in April 2000.”
The governor said that as Christians, Rivers people should always look unto God for their salvation, pointing out that the machinations of men can never overcome the will of God.
He said, “when God is doing something; He wants you to know that He alone deserves the glory and praise.”
On the First Rivers State Christmas Carol, Governor Wike said the programme was organised to give God the glory for the successful take off of the administration and to pray for the consolidation of development gains already attained.
He explained that the initiation of the Carol programme is not the end of CARNIRIV, noting that the cultural programme will be held in future.
The governor noted that during his campaign consultation with the clergy, he made three promises. To appoint a Special Adviser on Religious Matters, to hold a major Christian programme and to build an Ecumenical Centre for all Christians in the state. Governor Wike said he has already accomplished two, while the Ecumenical Centre will be constructed.
Special Adviser on Religious Matters to the Governor, Bishop Winston Iwo stated that the programme was an inter-denominational thanksgiving to God for ensuring that the state has weathered the storms despite the numerous challenges facing it.
A statement by Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media noted that the explosive praise and worship programme was graced by Rivers State 1000 mass choir, the famous Gospel musician, Chioma Jesus while Adonye Omubo-Pepple conducted the choir.
The programme also attracted top government functionaries and prominent Rivers State Indigenes led by Former Governor Celestine Omehia and PDP Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has declared that Commissioners and Special Advisers in the state who have joined the State Government with the intention of enriching themselves will be utterly disappointed as he runs a focused administration centered on service and project delivery.
Performing the swearing-in ceremony of commissioners and Special Advisers at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday, Governor Wike stated that accountability and responsible application of state resources should guide all commissioners and special advisers.
He said: “Any of you that is here to make money at the expense of service will be disappointed. Do not assault public sensibilities with ostentatious lifestyle that you cannot defend “.
The governor expressed happiness with the quality of the fully constituted State Executive Council describing the team as a: “mix of politicians and technocrats , women and men of good character and excellent experience in diverse endeavours “.
He said that Rivers people expect and deserve nothing less than spectacular performance from the commissioners and special advisers.
Governor Wike said: “We hope and pray that you do not disappoint because to whom much is given, much is expected. Your duty is to serve public interest and accountability is a sacred contract with the people of Rivers State “.
He noted that the inauguration of the 22 commissioners means the State now has the compliment of a full executive council, with four commissioners sworn earlier in the life of the administration.
He explained that the new commissioners are on board to drive the aspirations of the people and assist the government generate necessary policies in line with the New Rivers Development Blueprint.
While thanking the State House of Assembly for the thorough screening and confirmation of the commissioners, the governor called for synergy between all arms of government for the benefit of the state.
Highpoint of the event was the taking of oath by the 22 commissioners and eight special advisers under the watchful eyes of Governor Wike.
In another development, Governor Wike has reiterated his administration’s commitment towards moving Rivers State to the next level.
Speaking on Saturday, at the funeral ceremony of late Mrs. Mercy King, the mother in law to former Federal House of Representative Member, Chief Hon. Jerome Eke, at the St. John’s Autonomous Catholic Church, Umuakirikpo in Omuma Local Government Area of Rivers State, Governor Wike said Rivers State is not where it is supposed to be today.
His words: “ I want to assure you all that we will continue to serve the people of Rivers State and move it forward to its rightful place. Rivers State is not where it is supposed to be today. But I have said I will move it to the next level. “The Governor said.
Governor Wike who acknowledged that Hon. Jerome Ake is a staunch member of his political caucus, said there was a need for him and members of his cabinet to commiserate with him (Jerome Eke) on the loss of his mother –in –law.
Governor Wike who noted that his current political travails were temporary setbacks said that the will and wish of God will ultimately prevail in his favor.
Wike acknowledged that the collective prayers of the clergy and people of Rivers State gave him the opportunity to serve currently as Governor and urged the congregation and people of Rivers not to relent in their prayers for his administration and the state.
The State Chief Executive noted that nobody can question the will of God, because He giveth and taketh, but assured the family of the bereaved that late Mrs. King is resting in the bosom of the lord.
Governor Wike who believed in supporting the work God, donated the sum of N5 million for the growth and expansion of the St. John’s Autonomous Parish of Umuakirikpo.
RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court
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.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
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.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
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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