Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has insisted that the country’s current president Muhammadu Buhari must be voted out when the West African nation goes to poll in 2019.
Obasanjo, who supported Buhari in 2015 against Goodluck Jonathan, said in a statement yesterday that his former ally had done almost nothing to reposition the country.
Buhari rode into power in 2015 on the wings of populist promises of remodelling the economy, fighting biting insecurity, especially in northeast Nigeria and rein in the reign of corruption that has blighted the country for decades.
But critics like the former president said Buhari’s government has performed way below expectations.
In January, the former President accused Buhari of being nepotistic and said the president was lacking in the requisite capacity to make Nigeria better.
Obasanjo acknowledged his complicity in making a man who he said “is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy” the president. He said he thought that Buhari could make “use of good Nigerians in that area.”
“The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today,” Obasanjo said in a 13-page statement titled ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement’ at the beginning of the year.
He doubled down on those claims in the Sunday statement issued by his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi.
Akinyemi said his principal believes that “only a fool will sit on the fence or be neutral when his or her country is being destroyed with incompetence, corruption, lack of focus, insecurity, nepotism, brazen impunity and denial of the obvious.”
Yesterday’s statement came after our correspondent report that Obasanjo had chosen to be a neutral participant as Africa’s most populous nation prepares for general elections.
The report noted that Obasanjo had shifted “gear to neutral, from outright partisanship and endorsement of the opposition candidate.”
“It is disingenuous, if not malicious, for anyone to suggest that Chief Obasanjo was being neutral when he chose not to use the Owu Convention as a platform for political campaign but instead adopt a communal and familial approach in talking to members of his Owu family,” Akinyemi said.
“For the records, and as accurately reported by some media organisations, what the former president said at the convention in Iwo was that while he would not impress any candidates on them, Nigerians should vote for credible candidates who will drive growth and development and make their lives better than it is now.”
‘While Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is in Cairo to attend the maiden edition of the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), of which he is Chairman of the Advisory Council, his attention has been drawn to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria with the headline “Atiku: Obasanjo Shifts Political Gear to Neutral.”
The former president, who already declared his support for opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, said he would not sit on the fence when he needs to be out and active for people to know where he stands in the best interest of Nigeria.
He urged Nigerians to stop complaining about their current situation and advised that they should and go out to get “beneficial change,” stating that, “they must know that such change will not come if they remain inactive just complaining and complacent and they allow themselves to be deceived by sycophants and enemies of Nigeria.”
“If they do not become active and get much needed change of the current administration to a government that will improve the economy, regain the confidence of investors and generally drive growth, development and economic progress with security, what is coming will be much worse than what Nigerians currently suffer.”.
The presidency has however repeatedly asked Nigerians to ignore Chief Obasanjo, saying President Buhari’s performance in office was enough to earn him re-election.
President Buhari also accused Chief Obasanjo of corruption while in office.
Meanwhile,barely three months to next year’s elections, some northern leaders say they will not support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.
They, however, shied away from announcing their preferred presidential candidate in the elections, insisting that the candidate to support remained one of their own from the list of the 71 presidential hopeful cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the 2019 elections.
The only other high profile candidate in the 2019 presidential election is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Convener of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Professor Ango Abdullahi, spoke the mind of the northern leaders in Kaduna. However, three key officials of NEF immediately distanced themselves from Abdullahi’s position, saying they were solidly behind Buhari and will do everything possible to get him re-elected next year.
The trio – Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura – said in a statement that Buhari deserved re-election because of his excellent performance and the fact that replacing him would turn the hand of development backward.
According to Abdullahi, a former Ahmadu Bello University Vice Chancellor, the Northern Elders arrived at the decision to dump Buhari for another northern presidential candidate because of his failure to fulfil the basic conditions they handed to him in 2015 when they rejected then – President Goodluck Jonathan and elected him.
“Two of the conditions we gave Buhari upon his assumption of office were that he should take concrete steps to address the abject poverty and underdevelopment in the North and he has woefully failed to marginally address any of them,” he said.
The NEF leader also accused the President of bringing strange elements into government, thereby adding no value to governance and “we are vindicated on this score because his wife, Aisha, has confirmed that this week”. He went on:
“Assuming that things are working in the North or in Nigeria as a whole, we would have taken a different position but everyone can see that things are not working under this government. Perhaps, as a prelude to where this government has taken this country, Buhari wasted six months before being able to set up his cabinet.
“And when he eventually formed the cabinet, he brought in persons who had not added any value to governance and his wife has vindicated us on this. “As things stand today, we in the NEF do not believe that Nigeria’s cause will be helped by Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
That is why we have decided to pick one of the other presidential candidates from the North for next year’s contest.
“It would be futile for anyone to blame anybody for the decision of the NEF against Buhari because his own wife has openly alluded to our position that some persons, who do not have the interest of Nigeria at heart, are running the Buhari administration without adding real value to the governance of Nigeria”.
Abdullahi, who served as former President Obasanjo’s Special Adviser on Food Security, pointed out that Buhari was the architect of his own misfortune, having repeatedly rebuffed all entreaties by northern leaders to meet with him and address the issues raised against him.
How Buhari is making things easy for Atiku – Essien Performance The professor of agronomy explained that the position of his group was informed by the outcome of an enlarged meeting of 18 northern groups in March which reviewed his performance and its impact on the region’s economy and security.
“Apart from his poor performance to the dissatisfaction of those who made him President, Buhari has deliberately rebuffed all attempts by the Northern Elders Forum to meet with him and discuss issues pertaining to the region and Nigeria”, he said.
“This is the reason we meticulous screened over 13 persons from the Nnorth and finally picked four out of the large number and our choice has also been endorsed by leaders of Southern Nigeria including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Middle Belt leaders.
“We believe that there is no need for us to be talking to Buhari again about what he needs since that will not change anything. We have moved and our votes will not be based on sentiment of tribe or religion but strictly on performance”.
The NEF leader said he was pained by the behaviour of the President, having taken the risk to be at the forefront of his election in 2015 on account of which he was called unprintable names by those in the Jonathan administration.
According to him, the North rejected former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 not because he was a southerner and a Christian but because he blatantly reneged on the agreement to complete former President Yar’Adua’s tenure by doing one term and handing over power to the North to do eight years as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did.
However, the decision by the NEF to dump Buhari in 2019 has not gone down well with some members of the NEF who openly disagreed with the leadership.
‘There was no time NEF decided to reject Buhari’ Three men, who are foundation members of NEF- Maj. Gen. Paul Tarfa, Capt. Basir Sodangi and Sani Daura – said there was no justification for the North to reject Buhari in 2019, given the fact that he had taken the country to the next level, having taken over the reins of power at a time there was widespread insecurity, corruption and economic decay.
The trio said in a statement: “No one can deny the reality that the country was reaching a breaking point. With a committed leadership and sincerity, President Buhari has achieved immeasurable success in all fronts during the last three years.
“We sincerely believe that the Buhari administration is doing well and should be re-elected to consolidate on the foundation of progress which has been laid by it. President Buhari is on record as the leader who has taken the fight to the criminals.
For the fight to continue to victory, President Buhari should be encouraged by all well-meaning Nigerians to stamp out the monster of corruption.
“In view of the foregoing, the members of the NEF reiterate our solid support for the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari in the interest of peaceful co-existence, honest leadership, progress and continuity, come 2019 and beyond”.
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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