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Editorial

Averting JOHESU’s Nationwide Strike

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Again, the health sector is about to be thrown into an industrial dispute owing to a standoff between health workers and the Federal Government. A week ago, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) said it would embark on an indefinite nationwide strike, effective April 18, 2018.
JOHESU’s National President, Comrade Biobele Moye gave the hint last Friday when the union’s national officers visited the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). According to him, the strike will affect all Federal Government-owned medical institutions across the country. Moye and his officers were at UPTH to mobilise and sensitise members of the union on why the strike has become inevitable and imperative.
“JOHESU has been a patient and focused organisation. We are mindful of the role we play in the medical institutions…… We gave a 21-day compliance notice which expired on February 28, and another 30 working days beginning from March 5, which will end on April 17, 2018”, said Moye.
According to him, the Federal Government has failed to comply with salary structure adjustment agreement reached with the union.
We are worried that government has once again allowed labour issues, this time, with the health workers to come to this pass. Why labour matters are always allowed to get to the point of strike action before being addressed by government beats the imagination.
We are at a loss as to why government would reach an agreement signed by the Minister of Health, Minister of Labour, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health; President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and other stakeholders with JOHESU in September, last year only to observe it in the breach. This, we think, shows that either the government is insensitive to the concerns of the union or was not committed to its words ab initio.
While we believe that the strike option should always be the last resort in labour impasse, it is regrettable that the Federal Government has yet to make any move in spite of repeated notices by the union.
Unfortunately, strike, which has become the only option that eventually forces government to the table, has a two-edged sword that coerces government into action but makes victims of the citizenry, especially the masses, who can hardly afford alternatives to government’s institutions.
That is why we call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to avert the impending JOHESU strike, especially at this time when most Nigerians can hardly afford a square meal. This, if allowed to proceed, will certainly deprive the people access to medical facilities and services which will amount to multiple jeopardy, implications of which can only be imagined.
Indeed, Nigerians can ill afford another experience of strike action from the health sector in the face of inadequate, unaffordable medicare in the country.
It is high time, government and its officials began to honour their words and commitments. To enter into agreements only to repudiate them without qualms is the height of insensitivity by government to the welfare and well-being of the people.
Only recently, government’s insensitivity led to strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (NASU) and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), among others. These imbroglio, no doubt, caused the country avoidable socio-economic losses.
We believe that the JOHESU strike is yet another avoidable trauma that Nigerians should be saved from. With political will and commitment, government should be able to avert the imminent quagmires as it is not yet late to revisit the JOHESU’s demands.
However, while we expect the government to do the needful, we urge JOHESU to exercise some restraint in pursuing its demands. The union must be patriotic, show understanding and leave a window open for dialogue.
We say so because it is the vulnerable masses that will be at the receiving end of the strike action, and many may even pay with their lives.

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Editorial

That Desecration Of NDA

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The contumelious assault on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday, August 24, is possibly the most menacing sign that the Federal Government may have lost total control of the ungraceful security predicament faced by Nigerians. With this tragic incident and many others counting, obviously, the North-West may have increasingly evolved into the new terror epicentre, as the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism ostensibly dies down in the North-East.
According to media reports, the gunmen took advantage of a chasm in the NDA’s perimeter fencing and stormed the location along Airport Road, Afaka. They gained access to the residential area where two senior officers (Lieutenant Commander Awolor Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Chinecherem Okoronkwo) were shot dead. They also abducted another officer, Major Christopher Datong. The NDA is just steps away from the Federal Forestry Mechanization College, Afaka, where a gang of bandits kidnapped 39 students last March.
Indeed, the NDA, an institution that engenders young men and women to become gallant military personnel, should not come under an invasion of that dimension so easily. The onslaught was a rude reproach to the military, and by extension Nigeria. The Armed Forces ought to have carefully studied earlier raids and taken steps to safeguard their men and institutions. That this did not happen was indicative of imprudence on their part.
The inability to repel or capture the assailants highlights the shortcomings of our security system and demonstrates how daring terrorists or bandits are. Are there moles inside the Army? How would bandits attack a military institution without any effort or considerable resistance? We are asking because there has always been lingering suspicion that people are undermining the endeavours of our military, particularly in the ongoing anti-insurgency and banditry war.
While we vehemently denounce the incursion and call for the perpetrators to be apprehended and prosecuted, we urge that every effort be made to salvage the kidnapped major in the attack. The military must note that the continuous assaults on their men and formations are not only disconcerting, but hazardous as they erode the confidence of Nigerians in their ability to keep them safe. Something has to be done about that. These relentless attacks should be considered acts of terrorism and properly addressed.
In the aftermath of the NDA ambuscade, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt-Gen Lucky Irabor, assured Nigerians of updates on the search and rescue of the abducted officer, and added that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue operations to ensure that all those involved in the dastardly act are brought to justice”. Much as Irabor’s words may be soothing, we believe more can be done to reassure Nigerians that the military is in firm control.
It was reported that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was investigating the unfortunate attack. It is a step in the right direction. But characteristic of the government, it should not take eternity to conclude. We call for a thorough inquiry and all those found to have pitched in to the success of the onslaught either through their actions or inactions must face the law. Also, the findings should be released to the public to instil trust in the inquisition.
Nigerians have consistently been experiencing fear and anguish. Most people are afraid of the road these days. Anytime they have to travel, their hearts are always tucked in their mouths. It was no surprise that in 2020, our nation was considered the third most terrorized country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Sadly, and most ignominiously, the authorities have never been perturbed by such unenviable rankings.
Millions of scared Nigerians are wondering what truly is going on. What is happening to our once mighty Nigerian Armed Forces, which were able to keep the nation one during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, and return peace to war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mali and even Libya? Why can the once dominant military power in Africa no longer defend itself from ordinary armed thugs on motorbikes that have clearly become a new frontier for terrorism?
Could it be the insatiable greed of the leaders? Could it be that top military officers have been compromised or put in jeopardy and are politicking with issues as sensitive as security? Have our soldiers lost the will to fight gallantly? Or are their weapons obsolete and can no longer withstand the sophisticated projectiles of their enemy? Or could it be that the military is no more as potent as it used to be back in the day? Those critical questions deserve responses.
What is most perplexing is that the security of our country is degenerating vis-a-vis the ever-increasing military allocations. Official figures indicate that more than N5trillion of our annual budgets have been spent on the military for our defence in the past six years. Allocations to the police and other security agencies not inclusive. All seems to have gone down the drain without a corresponding output.
These bandits have to be regarded as terrorists and treated as such. Lately, they have become very unsparing and appear a step ahead of our security agents. Therefore, they should be handled ruthlessly. Those behind the attacks must be fished out. The criminals must be properly defined, chased after, and apprehended, including their patrons. This can be accomplished by the military intelligence.
There is no doubt that the NDA attack is a special message that the bandits are sending to Nigerians to prepare for more deadly onslaughts. So, the security agencies must brace up. This is to say the least, very hair-raising, and the Federal Government must sit up to protect, not only the military establishments, but the country in totality. Hence, there is a pressing need for a change in our security architecture.
All patriotic Nigerians should be troubled by the attacks on the NDA and other military establishments as they undermine the sovereignty of the country. As a result, security agencies are expected to grow with renewed fervour to tackle this failing condition in the nation. Insecurity is the biggest challenge every government has to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Additional tactics must, therefore, be deployed to hammer away terror and banditry in the land.

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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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