Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has raised an alarm saying that on arrival from Dubai, yesterday morning, he was intimidated and searched by state security agents at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Atiku on his Twitter handle said: “I arrived to Abuja this morning to a search by agents of the state, aimed at intimidating me and my staff. ‘I am committed to building a Nigeria where no citizen is intimidated by agents of state who are paid to protect them. ‘Together, #LetsGetNigeriaWorkingAgain’.”
Former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, revealed that a plot to embarrass the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on arrival early hours, yesterday from Dubai was a failure.
Frank said Atiku, who returned to Nigeria around 1am, yesterday morning from his vacation in Dubai was thoroughly searched by a special squad of security men deployed by the Presidency for some hours with recording gadgets on them and in and around Atiku’s aircraft.
“Nothing, was, however, found on him or in his aircraft.”
According to Frank, plan to also drop bags of foreign currencies and other implicating things in Atiku’s aircraft on his arrival was also unsuccessful.
In a statement Timi Frank signed to raise an alarm, yesterday afternoon, he said the special squad of security men who carried out the search confessed that they were directed by the Presidency to embarrass the former vice president.
The squad, Frank revealed were armed with recording gadgets in and out of Atiku’s aircraft “to see if he returned to the country with foreign currencies or any other implicating materials.”
The former APC spokesman said the security men were disappointed when nothing implicating could be found on either Atiku or his aircraft.
While condemning what he tagged President Muhammadu Buhari’s move to desperately nail the PDP presidential candidate, Frank said if the former President Goodluck Jonathan was so harsh on President Buhari in 2015, he couldn’t have occupied the office today.
Frank said since Atiku Abubakar left office as Vice President for eight years, “this is the first time out of desperation to nail him that he has been searched embarrassingly.”
He, however, warned President Buhari to desist from his act of desperation against the PDP presidential candidate.
“Due to information at our disposal, I have been saying it that the PDP presidential candidate is not safe under this administration because the Buhari-led administration is deploying all manners of devilish strategies to nail all the opposition leaders especially, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“We are using this medium to inform the international community to also take note of how the Buhari administration is intimidating the opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who has served Nigeria as Vice President for eight years.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned in strong terms what it called the unleashing of a special security squad of army, police and paramilitary agents to physically harass its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, at the Abuja airport, upon his return from Dubai.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said it was shocking when the “deadly squad, in a gestapo style attack, and acting on orders from the above” rushed Atiku after landing the Abuja airport and attempted to physically manhandle him before “invading his aircraft with dangerous weapons to conduct a violent search.”
The party said, “While they did not find anything incriminating on our presidential candidate, this deadly squad, violently tampered with certain personal documents and gadgets belonging to him, including some of his campaign documents.”
“The PDP completely rejects such violence against the person of our presidential candidate by the Buhari Presidency, which we know has been jittery over Atiku Abubakar’s soaring popularity since his emergence as our candidate.”
“We invite the world to note that having failed to drag down our presidential candidate with spurious allegations and smear campaign, the APC has now resorted to state-backed violence against him and must be held responsible should any harm befall him or any member of his campaign team.”
“The PDP is for peace, but we will not accept this recourse to violence, which we believe is orchestrated to directly harm our Presidential candidate, foist a siege mentality on the system and set the stage for series of coordinated violence, ostensibly to truncate a peaceful conduct of the 2019 general election.”
“The Buhari Presidency and the APC should bear in mind that this is an attack on our democracy and the collective sensibility of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians, across board, who have accepted the choice of Atiku Abubakar as Nigeria’s next President and they will vigorously deploy every means available in a democracy to defend him and our democratic process.”
“Today, Atiku Abubakar, as a Presidential candidate, has the highest demography of supporters and volunteers across our nation and we will not hesitate to call them out in defence of democracy if another such attempt is made against our candidate.”
Also condemning the attack on Atiku, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has reacted to the alleged harassment of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, by security agents.
While condemning the alleged harassment, Fani-Kayode said the act was shameful.
He tweeted, “The attempt to intimidate @atiku with security agents at the airport after his arrival in Abuja this morning is utterly shameful and I totally condemn it.
“It is the desperate act of a vicious, cowardly, weak, paranoid, dying and failed government who know that their time is over.”
Also reacting, former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose condemned the alleged harassment of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, by security agents.
Reacting on Twitter, Fayose said the embarrassment of the PDP presidential candidate by security agents means that the end of dictatorship was close.
He wrote, “When dictatorship is closer to its inglorious end, it employs all tactics including, the most absurd.
“Subjecting a former VP of Nigeria to all manners of embarrassment at the Airport just because he is now the candidate of the @OfficialPDPNig is not unexpected. His time is up!”
Also, Ben Murray-Bruce, the Senator representing Bayelsa East, has condemned the alleged harassment of the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar by security agents.
Ben Bruce condemned the harassment of the Wazirin Adamawa.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to leave Atiku alone and not turn Nigeria to a ‘dictator state’.
The Bayelsa lawmaker wrote: “I totally condemn this reckless harassment of Atiku the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as he landed in Abuja.
“Nigeria is not a fascist state. We will not return to a jackboot dictatorship. This government should face Atiku at the polls, not with force.”
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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