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Making Mockery Of Ogoni Clean-Up

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President Muhammadu Buhari, while presenting the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly on November 7, announced the allocation of an estimated N27.369billion to the Federal Ministry of Environment for its recurrent and capital expenditures. Out of this figure, an estimated N9.524billion was set aside for capital projects, N11.6 billion for contractors’ debt servicing, while a whooping N250 million was allocated for the ministry officials’ travel expenses.
Sadly, the Federal Government shamelessly allocated a paltry N20.226million for the all-important Ogoni clean-up, despite all the years of empty promises of commitment to addressing the agitations of beleaguered Niger Delta people.
The Tide considers the paltry sum allocated for Ogoni clean-up as an insult on not only the Ogonis, but the entire Niger Delta people. It is a sharp contrast to the President’s promises that, “We are working hard on the Ogoniland clean-up project, and have engaged eight international and local firms proposing different technologies for the mandate.”
We recall that part of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report specifically recommended that “an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland should be set up with an initial capital injection of $1billion contributed by the oil industry and the government.”
We are also aware that the UNEP report clearly recommended specific responsibilities for the government, the oil companies and the Ogoni communities in the clean-up and remediation processes, “projected to last between 25 and 30 years”. In this regard, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria has domiciled $10million (approximately N3.598billion) as its funding obligation towards the commencement of the clean-up exercise.
While we agree that $10million is a far cry from Shell’s share of the $1billion recommended as initial commencement sum over the first five years, we cannot fathom the embarrassing allocation of N20.226million in the 2018 budget by the Federal Government for the so-called ‘oversight and governance’ mechanisms of the Ogoni clean-up exercise. We cannot also understand the government’s reluctance to accept responsibility for the devastation and its refusal to commit funds commensurate with its 55 per cent stake in the Ogoni clean-up.
We are gravely disappointed that the Federal Government, which pocketed the huge revenue earnings from its 55 per cent stake in the joint venture operation, would turn around in 2017 to shirk its core responsibility of leading the way in the funding of efforts to restore the environment crassly degraded and polluted by several years of oil exploration and production activities in the Niger Delta.
The Federal Government’s posture, to say the least, amounts to an abdication of key social responsibility to remedy environmental degradation in Ogoniland for over 40 years. It also smacks of brazen insensitivity and callousness to the plight of the Ogoni people in particular and the entire Niger Delta in general.
Given the sharp contrast between the mouth-watering promises by the Federal Government to remediate Ogoni environment and the paltry sum committed to the project, we are constrained to think that the Buhari administration is only using sustained propaganda around the Ogoni clean-up exercise to gain cheap political mileage ahead of the 2019 general elections. Otherwise, how could a government which dissipated so much energy and resources on a presidential flag-off of such a sensitive project more than a year ago, turn around and renege on its statutory funding obligation of the same project?
We, therefore, urge the political leaders in the Niger Delta, especially members of the National Assembly, to reject the paltry allocation for the Ogoni clean-up. The National Assembly should be fair and just in their debates over the paltry allocation, and ensure honest review that should up the ante for the clean-up exercise.
Meanwhile, we task President Buhari to gallantly shove away the shame of this dismal allocation by proposing a supplementary appropriation to fund the government’s huge responsibilities in the Ogoni clean-up process, bearing in mind that 55 per cent of the $2billion clean-up cost over the first two years must be borne by government.

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Editorial

Slaughter Market Demolition: Kudos To RSG

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On Thursday, September 1, the Government of Rivers State commenced the demolition of Oginigba Slaughter Market along Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The demolition came exactly one month after the State government permanently shut the slaughter and the market on account of the health hazards it posed to the people and residents of the state as well as the security and social menace it also posed to the people.
Governor NyesomWike maintained that besides the demolished slaughter being a haven for criminal elements, its location at the Trans-Amadi Industrial Area is now considered inappropriate in terms of the State government’s urban renewal policy.
The Governor only said the obvious as the area around the slaughter has become a death and drug zone. The base of the adjoining bridge not only served as a home to all sorts of criminals, the area indeed had become the drug capital of the state.
Indeed, as Governor Wike explained, over the years, the area had come to be identified as a very dangerous place, where large cache of weapons were harboured and used at will to terrorise innocent people.
To have such a slaughter located in the industrial hub of the state definitely runs counter to the urban renewal programme of government and efforts to return Port Harcourt to its Garden City status.
We therefore see no ethnic, religious or other divisive and less altruistic sentiments attached to the decision to relocate the slaughter to a more spacious and modern facility by the State Government.
This is moreso as the State Government has already commenced the construction of a modern abattoir, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment with capacity for the slaughtering of 400 cattle as well as 1,500 goats and sheep per day at Mgbuosimini, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, where butchers and other related businesses would be accommodated to engage in their activities in a more decent, healthy and conducive environment.
We believe that the action of Government will check the incessant cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and other violent crimes perpetrated daily within the precinct of the Oginigba slaughter market.
Also, with the clearing of the area of shanties that doubled as stalls and criminal covens, residents of Oginigba and commuters through the area will heave a sigh of relief from activities of the men of the underworld that had made life a living hell for them.
We are further gladdened that Governor Wike has said the demolished site would not be left fallow but will house another befitting project that will not only occupy the same land but that will be in tune with the urban renewal effort of the present administration.
The governor has earned the reputation and trust of the people that he keeps to his words as exemplified in the number of projects littered all over the 23 local government areas of the state. That is why The Tide aligns with his assertion that, “Anybody bringing religion or ethnic colouration doesnot mean well for the people of the state and the country. And I am not going to be perturbed; I am not going to be cowed; and also, I am not going to be blackmailed by anybody.”
We believe that no government worth its time in office will stand by and watch miscreants and criminals turn any part of its jurisdiction, let alone a choice area of its capital city, into an enclave where lawlessness reigns, criminals rule and safety and security of lives and property of innocent and law abiding citizens cannot be guaranteed.
We are also encouraged that Governor Wike has taken the war against shanties in the state capital and its environs to every nook and cranny of the state. Evidently, the recent demolition of illegal structures around the Eastern Bypass, Ikoku and other areas within the metropolis and other parts of the state have not only chased criminals away but has tremendously enhanced the beauty of the state capital. We also salute the Governor’s recent order for the demolition of shanties where counterfeit bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are produced side by side some other criminal and illegal activities at Nkpogu area in Port Harcourt.
This is why The Tide salutes the courage, determination and zeal of Governor Wike for standing up to the challenge of ridding the Oginigba area of the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout of the criminal elements, giving the residents a new lease of life and bringing restoration to the area by the plan to site a trademark quality project in keeping with his revolutionary urban renewal agenda.
As in many other areas where successive administrations had failed or feared to tread, Wike deserves nothing but acknowledgement, appreciation, support and encouragement from every well-meaning Rivers indigene and lovers of the state in what he has been able to do at the Oginigba Slaughter Market and other parts of the state as part of a comprehensive effort at identifying and demolishing all criminal hideouts across the state and making the state safe for residents and legitimate business activities.
The Government needs the support of all people and residents of the state. Indeed, only people who do not mean well for the state and its people will complain about efforts to restore sanity to our polity.
All hands of Rivers people and residents of the state should be on deck to realise the vision of Governor Wike to recreate Rivers State as a business destination of choice and a safe, secure and peaceful habitation of note for all law abiding Nigerians and others across the world.

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Editorial

VAT Judgment: FG May Lose N92bn To States

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If the judgement of the Federal High Court asking state governments to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) in their domain is upheld by the Appeal Court, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)  will lose about N92 billion which it is expected to earn as cost of collection.
The law setting up the FIRS allows the agency to a percentage, as determined by the National Assembly, as its cost of revenue collection from non-oil taxes before remitting same into the Federation Account.
A report on FIRS official website revealed that the service collects four per cent as cost of collection for non-oil revenue collected.
In the 2016 fiscal period, the FIRS received the sum of N85.99 billion as cost of revenue collection, while it got N100.3 billion as the cost of revenue collection in 2017.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the service got N114.1billion as the cost of revenue collection out of the N5.32 trillion actual revenue it generated for that year.
According to documents obtained from the Budget Office, the FIRS received an estimate of N112 billion and N121 billion as cost of revenue collected in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
With a projected VAT pool of N1.3 trillion in 2021, the FIRS is expected to earn N68 billion in the 2021 fiscal period based on the cost of collection rule.
Based on the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper 2022-2024, the Federal Government is proposing to generate the sum of N2.3 trillion from VAT in 2022.
With the FIRS entitled to four per cent as cost of collection, it implies that the service is expected to earn N92 billion in 2022 as cost of revenue collection.
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had dismissed an application by the FIRS, seeking to stop the state governments from commencing collection of VAT in the state.
Consequent upon the court ruling last Monday, Governor Nyesom Wike, had directed the Rivers State Revenue Service, to immediately commence collection of VAT from corporate bodies and businesses in the state.
Already, the dispute between the FIRS and Rivers State over the collection of VAT has inspired some more states such as Lagos, Ogun and Akwa Ibom States, to enact laws that will enable them to collect the tax in their states.
It was learnt that stripping the FIRS of the power to collect VAT would reduce the commission the agency will be receiving.
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Muhammad Nami, had penultimate week, told the Senate Joint Committees working on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, that the agency would soon approach the nation’s legislature with a bill to amend the Finance Act 2021.
The amendment, according to Nami, will centre basically on the issue of Stamp Duty and how to drag those transacting businesses on the social media to the tax net.

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Editorial

Enforcing Rivers’ Anti-Open Grazing Law

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Many states in the South of the country did not meet the September 1, 2021 deadline agreed upon by their governors to enact anti-open grazing laws in their respective states. This has drastically decompressed the urgency of the legal instrument which the governors accepted to employ to protect their people, their livelihood and make the entire region safer.
The governors of the 17 states in the Southern region of the country had set a deadline during their July 5 meeting in Lagos that followed the announcement of a full ban on open grazing at the previous May 12 meeting in Asaba, the capital of Delta State. This decision was deemed necessary after several unsuccessful attempts to address the threat of outdoor grazing in the South and the insecurity it generates.
In a resolution after the governors’ meeting, the forum explained the rationale behind the ban on open grazing, and stated that, “development and population growth have put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South, including cattle movement to the South by foot.”
Unfortunately, at the end of the September 1 deadline, only Bayelsa, Ondo, and Rivers States enacted anti-open grazing laws. During the tenure of AyodeleFayose, its immediate past governor, Ekiti State had already promulgated a law banning open cattle grazing. A similar law was legislated in Oyo State shortly after SeyiMakinde became governor. Other states may have sent the bill without corresponding follow-up.
Governors who have not enacted the law must act quickly as it is the surest means to protect their people from rampaging herdsmen. Rhetoric and grandstanding cannot prevent these killer-herders whose wanton campaigns of destruction of farms and kidnappings across the Southern states are without bounds.
Herdsmen have been on rampage, destroying and killing people in many states. Following this precarious situation, there has been a burning question as to whether or not the menace of the herdsmen can be classified as terrorism.
However, herders have been named the fourth deadliest known terrorist group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic.
Herders’ violence was rated six times more deadly than the Boko Haram insurgency. The destruction and bloodshed have been going on for a long time, and the governors have the responsibility to find emergency solutions since they always swiftly maintain their status as the chief security officers of their respective states.
These terrorist organisations continue to gain a foothold in the South by forming evil alliances with murderous herders, resulting in a high degree of insecurity, particularly in the South-West. Killer-herdsmen live in government forest reserves without authorisation, and criminals use them as hiding places to commit crimes, especially murder and kidnappings for ransom.
Acting to check the trend in line with his constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property and in keeping with the resolution reached by the Southern governors to enact anti-open grazing laws in their states by September 1, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, on August 19, signed the Open Rearing and Grazing Prohibition Law No. 5 of 2021 of Rivers State. This meant the activation of enforcement of the state ban on open grazing.
Signing the bill into law, the governor said it was inimical to development and peace for any state to condone open grazing of cattle. “It is no longer a story. All of us know what our people have suffered in terms of this open grazing. Today, all Nigerians have come to accept the reality that open grazing is no longer fashionable. Even our brothers in the North have agreed that it is no longer fashionable,” Wike emphasised.
The law is divided into four parts. The first part deals with its objectives; that is what the law intends to achieve. The second part is about the establishment of ranches and issuance of ranching permit. The third is on the prohibition of open rearing and grazing of livestock offences and penalties, while the final part has miscellaneous provisions, including power to arrest, detain and impound trespassing livestock and the jurisdiction of the court to try offenders.
In summary, the law stipulates that no person is allowed to openly graze livestock in Rivers State, except within the confines of a ranch. And to establish a ranch, such a person must apply to the state committee for approval. And that committee having regard to the guidelines it is going to issue, may or may not issue approval to establish a ranch.
With the law now in force, open rearing or grazing of livestock in Rivers State is prohibited and criminalised. Therefore, there is an urgent need to meet with herders in the state to sensitise them on the new law to forestall likely claims of ignorance of it. Anyone seen violating the law after the enlightenment should be immediately apprehended and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.
It should, however, not be only about promulgating a law to establish order, but for the Rivers State Government to rigorously enforce it to curtail the excesses of the marauding herders. Governor Wike should empower security agencies in the state and possibly set up a task force to enforce this law to the letter. It must not be reduced to a mere paper tiger based on their lethargy. The ordinance demands a resolute political will to be effective.
Rivers people, including the traditional institution in the state must complement government’s efforts by watching out for violators, especially those who would place their personal or political ambitions above the dignity and safety of their people by paying lip service to the realisation of this law. Southern leaders must take all legal measures to protect the integrity of the land and the lives and property of the people.
This is the only way to tame the menace of arm-bearing herders and their likes, whose stock in trade has been to constitute nuisance on roads and streets, and deprive farmers the joy of their hard labour and contributions to ensure food sufficiency and security in their communities, states and the entire country. All hands must be on deck to support the government’s efforts to protect our people in the communities from invading herders.

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