The Chairman, Rivers State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Bro Felix Obuah, says there is nothing wrong with the January 27, 2016, judgment delivered unanimously by the seven Supreme Court’s jurists led by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mahmud Muhammed.
Obuah explained, in a statement issued by his media aide, Jerry Needam, that the PDP was not pleased with the comments emanating from the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie–Oyegun, that there was something fundamentally wrong with the judicial arm of government over the Supreme Court’s judgment in favour of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, saying that that was not a view expected of a statesman he ought to be.
The PDP chairman described Oyegun’s position as not only disrespectful to the eminent Justices, the judiciary and the apex court in the land but a dangerous threat to the survival of the hard-earned democracy in the nation, adding that it was most unfortunate and disappointing that such statement could come from a senior citizen like Odigie-Oyegun.
He noted that rather than commend the Justices of the Supreme Court for taking action to maintain the independence and unbiased position of the judiciary by declaring sound judgments as in the case of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Abia and Ebonyi states, Oyegun preferred to make such derogatory and unpatriotic statements about the judiciary.
“One thing is certain, and that is the fact that the Supreme Court Justices toed the path of honour and dignity by not yielding to the pressure and influence of the APC-led Federal Government, demanding the nullification of the elections of the affected PDP state governors; a commendable feat by the Supreme Court’s Justices.
“Another truth revealed to us in Oyegun’s statements is the fact that the APC leadership is not interested in the development and welfare of the people or simply put, good governance, but obviously interested in the economic resources of the States,” Obuah said.
It would be recalled that Oyegun had, in the statement, said: “we (APC) have lost every important resource-rich state to the PDP. No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country.”
PDP said the statement clearly exposes the selfish and economic interest of the APC, rather than genuine quest for the development of the states.
Obuah said other issues of serious concern include the desperate declaration to the Rivers APC delegation that the national leadership of the party will give necessary support to ensure success in subsequent elections in Rivers State, while responding to an earlier request by the leader of the delegation, Dr Dakuku Peterside, for the Federal Government and the APC national leadership to “do all that it takes to win all 12 House of Representatives seats, three Senate seats and 22 seats in the state House of Assembly, that will enable us produce the Speaker of the House.
“Our view of this position is that even if it requires setting the state ablaze just for the APC to secure all these seats in the elections, it is of no consequence to the APC. This must not be allowed to be witnessed in our state, especially when everyone has his or her fundamental rights to vote for candidates of his or her choice.
“It is, therefore, important that we remind the APC leadership that we are in a democracy where the three arms of government must be made to function independently, with checks and balances; where people should be allowed to take decision based on their conviction and choice.
“It is only in a dictatorial regime that Oyegun’s policies and principles can thrive. The people have spoken and God has heard the voices of the people through the decision of the Supreme Court. Only Odigie-Oyegun and the APC leadership know what they mean by investigating the judgment of the Apex Court.”
PDP called on all Nigerians to be on the alert on what the APC-led government wants to turn the judiciary and the entire country into.
“We also call on the international community to prevail on the APC national leadership to respect the Constitution of the land, and subject themselves to the rule of law as it is only through this that the rights of individuals and institutions can be guaranteed, thereby paving the way for meaningful development and peace in the country,” Obuah charged.
Meanwhile, a group, under the aegis of Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC), has faulted a recent statement credited to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun over the judgment of the Supreme Court on the Rivers governorship election.
The party leader had in a statement faulted the judgment of the court, which upheld the election of Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party as the governor of the state.
He said the apex court and its judges should be probed for delivering judgment in favour of the PDP.
Reacting to Oyegun’s submission, the group said his statement was an affront to the independent of the judiciary.
FHRACC in a statement by its president, Alaowei Cleric Esq., the group warned the party chieftain to stop heating up the polity with his sentimental statement.
“The statement accredited to the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun in some national dailies on the 4th of February, 2016 where he was quoted to have said that the Supreme Court Judges should be probed for delivering judgment in favour of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. The said statement which was not only made in bad light, it was made to denigrate the sanctity of the judiciary. “His careless and irresponsible statement which is lacking in substance in our view exposes the failed plan of the APC led-Government to turn the judiciary to an agency of the executive arm in order to serve its whims and caprices.
“If a person of Oyegun’s repute can make such incongruous statement, ostensibly to serve his party’s interest as against national interest, then our democracy is in great danger. No wonder President Buhari said the judiciary is his biggest headache. Oyegun who was gloating over the contradictory and conflicting judgments the lower courts were given in the same election matters in favour of his party did not deemed it proper to call for probe of those judges now calling for the probe of the Supreme Court Justices because the judicial pendulum swing against his party? What a shame?
In an in-depth look at the wordings of the APC Chairman, we can safely inferred that the ruling government has set in motion, a machinery to cage the judiciary thereby turning the country into a tyrannical conclave where it can rule the country by blood and iron. This is a dangerous tendency to our body polity. Nigerians should be vigilant to resist this despotic approach of governance. We therefore call on the National Assembly to be alive to resist the APC’s tyrannical approach to kill our fledging democracy.”
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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