The House of Representatives, yesterday, began investigation into the one billion dollars appropriated for procurement of arms and equipment in the fight against Boko Haram in the North East.
The lawmakers also demanded that the Nigerian Army should, after due consultations with families of soldiers killed in the November 18, insurgents’ attack in Metele village in Borno, release all their names.
The resolution was sequel to a motion by Rep Chukwuka Onyema (PDP-Anambra) at the plenary presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara in Abuja.
Our Correspondent reports that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of 1 billion dollars for the procurement of security equipment to be used in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
Moving the motion, Onyema, who is the Deputy Minority Leader, noted that many Nigerian soldiers of the 157 battalion were massacred by Boko Haram insurgents, who now called themselves Islamic State West Africa, in Metele in Borno State.
According to him, the initial figures of the casualty put the death toll at 44 but as more details emerged, it is now confirmed that many more soldiers and officers were killed together with their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ibrahim Sakaba, while others are still missing.
“The House notes that according to reports, the insurgents carted away large consignment of weapons from the Melete army base which security experts say would embolden them and pose great danger.
“The House observed that while the news of the attack and death toll continued to increase, neither the President nor the Minister of Defense or the army authorities said anything about the report as there was silence for more than five days.
“The House notes that the President and C-In-C finally broke his silence six days after the attack in a statement issued on his behalf,” he said.
The lawmaker said it was unfortunate that in the last one year, no fewer than 600 Nigerian soldiers were killed by insurgents, mostly in Borno State around the fringes of the Lake Chad.
He enumerated instances of attacks launched by Boko Haram against Nigerian soldiers within the year under review.
Onyema, who expressed regret that while the executive continued to insist that the insurgents had been technically defeated, he said they seemed to be waxing stronger on a daily basis.
“The House recalls that twice in three years, the Commander-In-Chief gave directives to service chiefs to permanently relocate to the Theatre Command Centre in Maiduguri until Boko Haram is defeated,” he said.
He said it was disheartening that with the recent happenings in the North, all the successes and gains made against the insurgents had been reversed.
Contributing, Rep Nnenna Ukeje (PDP-Abia) said it was high time Nigeria began to change tactics in order to checkmate the audacity of the insurgents.
She urged the Federal Government to take a cue from Pakistan and review the curriculum of its military.
Rep Aminu Shagari (PDP-Sokoto), who queried how the recently appropriated money was used, described the attack as sad.
Rep Beni Lar (PDP-Plateau) called for the sack of the service chiefs.
On his part, Rep Idris Ease (APC-Plateau) called on the House to treat the matter dispassionately and not to be affected by political sentiment.
Rep Rimande Shawulu (PDP-Taraba) recalled that last year, there were reports that about 6, 000 members of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) found their ways to the sub-Saharan Africa.
According to him, some of the things we are seeing now are not unexpected.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has described the effort by the APC to justify President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the nation’s troops, in the wake of the killing of over 100 soldiers by insurgents last week in Borno state as abhorrent, reprehensible and a slap on the sensibility of Nigerians. National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus and President Muhammadu Buhari
The PDP said by its stand, the APC, as a party, has fully demonstrated that it is an organisation that attaches no value to the lives of our soldiers or other Nigerians, but more interested in seeing funeral ceremonies and gloating over the graves of its victims.
In a statement issued yesterday by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party berated the APC for allegedly trying to twist information in the public domain concerning the senseless massacre of the soldiers.
The statement read in part: “Why would the APC attempt to wave off revelations, which are already in the public domain, that officials of the Presidency are diverting funds meant for military equipment and welfare of our soldiers to finance Mr. president’s re-election campaign?
“If the APC were not jittery over revelations that it is a core beneficiary of this evil racket, why is it rushing to defend the Minister of Defence on findings that he diverted military funds to produce campaign materials for the APC including an electronic momento, with APC logo boldly inscribed on them?
“We challenge the APC to explain to Nigerians why it took President Buhari, as Commander-in-Chief, a whole week to express ‘shock’ over the killing of over 100 of our soldiers?
“What has the APC to say to the fact that instead of being at the forefront of investigations, our Minister of Defence was busy using military funds to produce campaign souvenirs for President Buhari and the APC?
“It is therefore an unpardonable assault on the sensibility of Nigerians for the APC to, in anyway, attempt to justify President Buhari’s negligence and inaction toward the welfare of our soldiers as well as the diversion of military fund for Mr. President re-election campaign at the expense of the lives of Nigerians.
“If the APC is not complicit in this heinous crime against our nation, we challenge it to join the PDP in demanding for a National Assembly inquest into the killing and the handling of anti-insurgency funds under President Buhari, instead of this resort to wicked hypocritical posturing.”
Also yesterday, The Senate suspended confirmation of Barrister Olanipekun Olukoyede as Secretary to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The development followed a report by the Chairman of the Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, stating that the nominee appeared for screening on 24th October, 2018 and performed satisfactorily.
Utazi stated that the nominee had educational qualifications, and he hailed from Ikere-Ekiti, South-West Nigeria, adding that there was no objection to his nomination from any quarter.
However, Senator Hamman Isah Misau, representing Bauchi Central Senatorial district who is a member of the Committee, objected to the report, stating that he did not append his signature.
He said he was never invited to the screening exercise, adding that the Committee clerk must not release reports that were not consented to by lawmakers.
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I am a member of this Committee and I was not invited to the screening.
“I am calling on you, Mr. President to step down this confirmation because, I remember I raised objection in one of the meetings and this one is very sensitive.”
Reacting, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki suggested that the confirmation be suspended until when all members would have met on the matter again.
Although the Committee Chairman, Senator Utazi insisted that Isah Misau was invited, Saraki adopted the motion that the confirmation be suspended for today.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in an executive communication dated 17th October, 2018, forwarded the Ekiti-born lawyer to the Senate for confirmation.
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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