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Return Ikoyi $43m Or Risk Legal Action – RSG …SERAP Urges Buhari To Clarify Identity Of Owners

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has given the Federal Government seven days ultimatum to return the $43million found in a luxury apartment on Osborne Road, Ikoyi, to the Rivers State Government.
The governor warned that failure to return to money would force the state government to take legal measures to ensure that it gets back her stolen resources.
Wike further declared that the $43million found in the luxury apartment in Ikoyi belongs to the Rivers State Government.
He said that investigations by the Rivers State Government revealed that the money was proceed from the sale of gas turbines by the immediate past Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Addressing journalists at the Government House, Port Harcourt, last Friday, Wike said: “The money in question belongs to the former Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. We want to confirm that the houses in Ikoyi also belong to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
“If you recollect in 2015, we said that gas turbines built by former governor, Dr Peter Odili, were sold to Sahara Energy, business partners of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi at $319million.
“That money was used to sponsor the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2015 general elections. From the date of sale of the gas turbines to May 29, 2015, the money depleted from $319million to $204,000. What was stashed at the Ikoyi residence was part of that fund”.
He said: “We have facts to prove that the said money belongs to the Rivers State Government. The Federal Government must return our money”.
Wike said all the stories being peddled about the money belonging to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) are false and mere face-saving measures by the embattled APC-led Federal Government.
He said: “As I speak to you, the Federal Government is so embarrassed that this has happened. All the stories that the money belongs to the NIA are fake”.
Wike challenged the Federal Government to set up a panel of inquiry, which will sit publicly to investigate the money, if it doubted the claim of the Rivers State Government.
He stated that the Rivers State Government needs the money to complete an array of projects, insisting that on no account would this criminal activity be swept under the carpet.
The governor said as long as the Federal Government continues to disturb the progress of Rivers State, so long will God throw the Federal Government into confusion.
“We are giving them seven days to return our money. Otherwise, we would take legal action to recover our money. $43million will help us complete several projects. We need that money for projects”, he added.
It would be recalled that a former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, had also claimed that the money belongs to Amaechi.
Fani-Kayode, who wrote this on his Twitter page, also dismissed reports that the money belonged to the NIA.
He insisted that the minister of transportation owns the flat where the money was found.
“The $43million is Rotimi Amaechi’s. He owns the flat it was found in too. NIA’s story is fake news! NIA does not keep cash in any minister’s flats!”, Fani-Kayode tweeted.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding the ownership of the N13billion ($43.4million, N23million and £27,000) found by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently address the country on the matter so as to clarify the issue, and resolve lingering doubts among Nigerians regarding the real owner(s) of the cash.”
The organization also called on the president to “ensure legal backing for his government’s whistle-blowing policy by vigorously pursuing the passing by the National Assembly of the Whistle-blower Bills.”
It would be recalled that both Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), last week, reportedly claimed ownership of the cash, casting doubts on the ‘real claimants.’
A statement, yesterday, by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said that, “The government’s increasing reliance on whistle-blowers’ tips to fight corruption has to be backed by some level of transparency and accountability on the real identities of those claiming recovered cash.
“Clearing the doubts surrounding the real identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul would demonstrate that the president values transparency over secrecy, provide further encouragement to blow the whistle on corruption in government, and enhance the public’s right to know,” SERAP said.
According to the organization, “Democracy abhors secrecy, and for Nigerians to be able to hold elected leaders accountable, they must have access to information such as on the real identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul. This transparency is fundamental to the operation of the government’s whistle-blower policy, and inextricably rooted in the notions of good governance and the rule of law under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The statement read in part: “No good comes from secrecy in governance, as officials who have become accustomed to operating without accountability are loath to relinquish the power that comes from conducting their business without public scrutiny. When public authorities resist efforts to shine a light on their activities, it gives the impression that there is something to hide. It’s counter-productive to overstate national security based on secrecy needs, as secrecy encourages poorly informed and under-vetted decision-making.
“Public scrutiny is a prerequisite for changing harmful, entrenched practices. Rather than operating the whistle-blower policy as hidden, mysterious mechanism at the far edge of democracy, this government should make the operation of the policy more transparent and accessible to the public. Both transparency and accountability are necessary to uphold the rights of victims of corruption and ensure that suspected perpetrators are held to account. The ‘sky will not fall’ if the true identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul are revealed,” SERAP argued.
“It’s clear that as the EFCC continues to uncover more suspected looted or ill-gotten cash, those blowing the whistle will need greater level of protection. But without outlawing retaliation and attacks against whistle-blowers, and taking a firm stance on protecting them, the incentive of bounty rewards would be negated, as potential whistle-blowers may be discouraged from performing invaluable public interest service.
“The policy of giving whistle-blowers some percentage of recovered loot would seem to be a game changer in the fight against corruption but this government now has to squarely address the significant risks that those who blow the whistle face by urgently working with the National Assembly to ensure the necessary legal backing that would ensure protection against reprisals and attacks.
“The government should ensure that the National Assembly expedites the process of passing the Whistle-Blower Bill, as ensuring that the bill is passed without further delay would recognize the necessity of whistleblowers and the value they add to the anti-corruption fight by reporting otherwise unknown corruption-related information. It would also ensure that whistle-blowers are fully protected from any retaliation and attacks they may experience, and that the government fully appreciates the information they provide.

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PDP Inaugurates 15 Convention Sub-Committees –

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Wike Chairs Special Duties Committee
6,000 Delegates Expected To Attend

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention Committee, yesterday, in Abuja inaugurated 15 sub-committees for its national convention scheduled for October 30.
The sub-committees as read by the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Duoye Diri, include the National Convention Organizing Committee, chaired by Adamawa State Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri.
Others are Constitutional Amendment Committee, chaired by Akwa lbom Governor, Udom Emmanuel; Zoning Committee chaired by Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Screening Committee, chaired by former Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
Sub-committees and their chairmen also inaugurated were Screening Appeal Committee chaired by Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Special Duties Committee chaired by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Accreditation Committee chaired by Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; and Security Committee chaired by former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase.
The Electoral (Statutory) Committee, with Adamawa Governor, Hon Ahmadu Fintiri as the chairman; Publicity Committee chaired by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; and Venue Committee, chaired by Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed are also among them.
Others include: Welfare and Entertainment Committee with Mariya Waziri as chairperson; Transportation Committee, with Ibrahim Dankwambo as chairman; and Contact and Mobilization Committee with Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku as chairman.
The rest are, Protocol Committee with Sen. Biodun Olujimi as chairperson; Medical Committee — Nuhu Zagbayi; and Secretariat Committee — Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri.
Inaugurating the sub-committees, Fintiri expressed belief that the October convention would be successful and lead PDP to victory in 2023.
Fintiri said that the leaders and members of the sub-committees were carefully selected to organize a credible convention for the party.
The Adamawa governor urged them to make the necessary sacrifices to deliver the best convention to the party.
Fintiri, fielding questions from newsmen after the inauguration, said that by PDP’s new constitution, over 6,000 delegates were expected at the convention.
“We are fully prepared for that. We are expecting everybody in every ward that is a delegate to attend the convention.”
He said that the sub-committees had been given directions and they were expected to go back, adequately prepare and submit their report to the main committee for approval.
On which part of the party’s Constitution would be amended, Fintiri said he could not pre-empt the Constitution Sub-Committee, but allow them do their job.
On how far the zoning committee had gone after the one-week appeal he gave them, last week, Fintiri said the committee was in a meeting in Enugu carrying out its responsibilities.
“You can see the party is working, and it is a turning point for all of us,” Fintiri said.
According to him, the leadership tussle in the party has largely been addressed even as he came short of saying the PDP has moved on from the crisis.
He said, “We are moving on. I am the chairman of the convention committee and you can see that we are doing our work. Everybody is happy and participating. I don’t see any crisis in this party.”
The party’s national elective convention is slated for October 30 and 31 this year in Abuja.

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RSG Recommits To Building Agric Sector

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The Rivers State Government has said that it was committed to building the agricultural sector and utilise the huge potentials the state has for the benefit of Rivers people.
The state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, stated this while speaking at a seminar of the Norwegian Seafood Council at Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Wike said, “In the face of dwindling oil prices, and the need to diversify the economy, we see a lot of potentials in the seafood industry especially post Covid-19. This is an important industry for creating employment opportunities, generate revenue and boost economic activities in our area”.
Wike, who said that Rivers State was one of the coastal states in the Niger Delta endowed with valuable seafood resources, revealed that Norway and Nigeria have had a long history of relationship and trade.
According to the governor, “Rivers State, known as the oil and gas hub of Nigeria, is open to do business in all sectors including maritime and welcome more partnerships and investments from stakeholders who wish to do business in the state”.
Wike further said, “In the effort to grow our economy, the Government of Rivers State supports making laws that work for us all, by putting laws in place to improve society’s efficiency. Hence, the assent and signing of the VAT law”.
The Rivers State chief executive, who commended the Norwegian Seafood Council for conducting the seminar in the state, stressed that stock fish was enjoyed across Rivers State by all groups, including low and high earners, while both men and women are involved in the sales in our markets.
“I believe this seminar will examine the many advantages and gains of seafood as well as anticipated support from the Norwegian Embassy in the areas of encouraging deep sea fishing, trawlers, good storage for sea products, training to grow and nurture fish production standard, fish ponds and open fish farms, use of technology and encouragement, support to artisan farmers.
“We believe that the gains for removing stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the FX windows far outweigh the losses if any.
“For all the reasons stated above and many more, we anticipate Federal Government and the CBN’s removal of stock fish and stock fish heads from the list of items not valid for the Central Bank of Nigeria FX window”, Wike further stressed.
In his remarks, the Ambassador Royal Norwegian Embassy, Knut Lein, who described the history of stock fish in Nigeria and Norway as fascinating, said it creates a bond between both countries, and expressed the desire to foster increased cooperation, build on bilateral relations and inform the government of Norway about the opportunities in the country.
He said, “together we could create lots of jobs”, insisting that “doing what we can to promote stock fish trade was a win-win for all of us”.
Highlights of the occasion were the presentation of papers by the Director Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, Mr. Trond Kostveit, and other stakeholders.
The Norwegian Ambassador, Mr. Knut Lein, had earlier paid a courtesy call on Governor Nyesom Wike, at the Government House in Port Harcourt, where the state chief executive expressed the state government’s desire to continue to partner with the Norwegian Embassy to facilitate economy growth and development of both countries, and the state in particular.

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Encourage States To Harness Own Resources For Dev, Wike Tasks FG

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He also stressed that it was baffling to note that Rivers State was not included among states to benefit from any of the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government was seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
Wike made the observation when the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present letter of nomination to him as the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The Rivers State governor observed that there were mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
The governor decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT was not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators, including state executives, rather, they were politicising it and looking at it from prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal, and could be likened to robbing some states to pay others.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in Items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the Concurrent List. Therefore, it falls under the Residual List. It is not arguable. That yesterday, nothing happened, does not mean that today, nothing will happen or tomorrow, something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop themselves. We are in a federal system where we are practicing unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state.”
He explained that the contest against the collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) was started by Lagos State, which had sued the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
According to him, Rivers State only avoided their pitfall by suing the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is an agency of the Federal Government that was illegally collecting the tax in the state.
“The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State. It started in Lagos State when Lagos State challenged it in Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court said you (Lagos) shouldn’t have sued the Federal Government. All you would have done was to sue the agency.”
The governor observed that rather than commend Rivers State Government for seeking to entrench fiscal federalism and constitutionalism, a particular state governor had threatened that the judgement of the court that declared that states, and not FIRS, are entitled to collect VAT within their jurisdiction, will not stand.
He urged those demanding for a brothers’ keeper consideration to first, appreciate the position of the law and situate it rightly.
“Some people say, ‘be your brother’s keeper’. I have no problem in being my brother’s keeper, but why not come out and say, let us tell ourselves the simple truth: as it is provided in the law, who is the person responsible to collect the VAT?
“When you agree to that, that it is the state, then, we can sit down to look at the different problems of states. And not to say ‘be your brother’s keeper’ while you’re doing an illegal thing, in disobeying what the law says you should not do.”
Wike stated that it was sheer act of discrimination for the Federal Government not to include Rivers State as one of the states that will benefit from projects for which it was seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
“Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only state that is not benefitting is Rivers State”.
He further noted, “It is the prerogative of Mr President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that beyond the provision of infrastructure, his administration was seeking a law that would provide comfortable accommodation for judicial officers on retirement.
The reason, he said, was to ensure that, while in service, the judicial officers can concentrate on their jobs without cutting corners, and avoid corrupt practices.
In his remarks, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, said the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award was the flagship of award the company.
According to him, Wike was unanimously selected for his remarkable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and promotion of fiscal federalism with his position on VAT, which would help in the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Today, His Excellency has guided Nigeria to true federalism with the issue of VAT. Knowing what fiscal federalism should be, His Excellency went to court to challenge the collection of VAT, and the court stated that actually the states should collect VAT. And that is laying the foundation for true federalism and fiscal federalism”, he said.
Ukeh commended Wike for his sterling performance in office and infrastructural revolution taking place in Rivers State.

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