The leadership of the Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, debunked views that it was being influenced by the Executive but was rather joining hands with the Chief Nyesom Wike-led administration to provide democracy dividends to citizens of the state.
It, however, congratulated the governor on his victory at the election tribunal on Monday, as the case filed by the candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Engineer Biokpomabo Awara was struck out by the court.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani made the declaration when he addressed newsmen, yesterday, at the Assembly Complex in Port Harcourt.
Ibani said the state Assembly does not believe in antagonising the Executive, as he explained that the principle of separation of powers does not say that the Legislature should attack but rather cooperate and support with the other tiers of government to enhance good governance.
In his words, “We carry out our legislative business as it is supposed to be. We know our beat, and there is no external influence whatsoever.”
Ibani argued that many people believe that the Legislature should be antagonistic, which he observed does not encourage development but stifles the democratic system.
Rather than being antagonistic, he said the state Assembly has always adopted a cooperative stance even though it still asserts itself without confrontation, adding that, “we cooperate where the need arises, and we also carry out oversight functions.”
Congratulating the governor for his victory at the tribunal on Monday, the Speaker averred that flooring the candidate of the AAC was an affirmation that the people voted and supported him.
Ibani said, “The judgment is a victory for democracy and people of Rivers State.”
He pledged that the Assembly was poised to support the governor to succeed in his electoral promises and provide good governance for Rivers people.
In the same vein, the Rivers State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bro Felix Obuah has reiterated that the re-election of Governor Nyesom Wike in the 2019 general election was divine.
This is as Obuah celebrated with the governor on his tribunal victory against the African Action Congress (AAC) and its governorship candidate in the last poll, Engineer Biokpomabo Awara, whose petition was dismissed, last Monday.
The state PDP chairman stated this in a statement issued by his media aide, Jerry Needam and made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The statement recalled that Awara, who had filed a petition at the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Nyesom Wike and the PDP, had his petition thrown out not only for being found incompetent, but also for failing to meet key procedural requirements, including applying for pre-hearing information.
Obuah also noted that the judgement has proved that the mandate of Rivers people to Wike as their governor remained sacrosanct, and could not be reversed or distorted under any guise.
He stated, “When humans and God are of one accord concerning any issue as is the case with the re-election of Governor Wike, it is usually victory all the way for the just and greater fall for the unjust.”
He thanked Rivers people for their steadfastness against the ‘force and fury of hell’ unleashed on them by the undemocratic elements throughout the election period, and enjoined them not to relent or allow enemies of the state any point of entry.
The PDP chairman also reassured the people and residents of the state of the resolve of the PDP-led government to remain on the path of good governance and economic emancipation of the people.
Also reacting to the tribunal judgment, a federal lawmaker and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Chinyere Igwe, said that the affirmation of Governor Nyesom Wike’s victory at the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal shows a reflection of the peoples’ wishes.
Igwe, representing Port Harcourt Federal Constituency 2 at the House of Representatives, stated this during a telephone chat with The Tide, yesterday, adding that the outcome was not a surprise.
The federal lawmaker, who was former commissioner for urban development and later energy commissioner in Rivers State, however, advised the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Engineer Biokpomabo Awara to sheath his sword and close ranks with the governor to move the state forward.
“We are very happy. The tribunal ruling is a reflection of the voice of the people. That is the voice of the people speaking, and the mandate which they freely gave the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike during the last general election.
“Let me also add that the outcome is not surprising because the governor has a huge support in Rivers State. I will advise him (Awara) to sheath his swords and join the governor for the continued development of the state. Rivers State is in dire need of development, and seeing the good works the governor is doing there in terms of development, I think he should support the governor to succeed.
“He should continue with the good works he is doing so that Rivers State will move to the next level. I have no doubt that at the end of his administration, the state will be better than he met it,” Igwe said.
Asked the state of things with the minority leadership of the House, Igwe said that the lower chamber, like the PDP leadership, is handling the matter internally.
Recall that the House witnessed a rowdy session last week when Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila ignored the choice of the PDP which adopted Hon. Kingsley Chinda as its Minority Leader, to announce fellow party member, Ndudi Elumelu to fill the position.
But Igwe said, “Well, it is a House issue, the House is addressing it with its internal mechanism, just like the party (PDP) is on the issue too. It is not a personal issue. So, we don’t need to dwell much on it”
Speaking further on the tribunal verdict, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Engineer Biokpomabo Awara to embrace the inclusive government promised by Governor Nyesom Wike.
The State Organising Secretary of the PDP, Fyneman Ohaka, made the call while speaking exclusively to The Tide in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Ohaka, who was reacting to the victory of Governor Wike at the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which threw out the petitions of Awara, described the decision of the court as a welcome development and victory for democracy.
According to him, “It is a welcome development and victory for democracy because from the very beginning, his party, and the APC that is supporting him, had nothing to offer. What was he going to the tribunal to do when he lost the election fair and square?
“If I were him, I would not have gone to the tribunal because the position of the law is that you must have something to hold before approaching the tribunal. They say he who goes to equity must do so with clean hands.
“Their hands are not clean. From the very day they decided to file that motion at the tribunal, they knew they had lost the election because he (Awara) is not popular. So, I believe it is victory for democracy. I knew that PDP has no case to answer in that matter”, Ohaka stated.
He further said that he sees the AAC as APC in disguise, pointing out that Awara and his party were hitherto unknown before the elections, even as he noted that the position of the law was very clear, which explains why the motion was thrown out for lack of merit.
“Awara, who is being supported by the APC because I see Awara as an APC candidate since the APC did not field candidate in the ballot. Even if he goes to Appeal Court, he will lose because the position of the law is clear”, he added.
Asked what the PDP will do if the AAC decides to approach the Appeal Court, the PDP organizing secretary said, “They (the AAC) will still lose at the Appeal Court, even if they decide to go to the Supreme Court because the position of the law is clear, it cannot be changed.
“The learned judges who constituted the tribunal were not made judges in vain. They did not just throw out the matter. They did so because it lacks merit. He who asserts must prove. The governor has said he will run an inclusive government. What he and his followers should do is to take advantage of it.
“So, I will advise him (Awara) to forget going to the Appeal Court because he will still loose. If he has ideas, let him bring it to the fore; join the governor to move the state forward. That you are in opposition does not mean that you cannot offer anything good.
“More importantly, if you have a governor like Chief Nyesom Wike that is running an inclusive government, then, the advice from the opposition is needed. So, he should embrace the Olive branch offered by the governor to move the state forward”, Ohaka added.
It would be recalled that the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal, last Monday, dismissed the petition filed by the African Action Congress (AAC) governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Engineer Biokpomabo Awara, against Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The tribunal, presided over by Justice K. A. Orjiakor, dismissed the petition on the ground that it was deemed abandoned on the ground of Paragraph 4 of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act.
According to the tribunal, the petition was deemed to be technically abandoned because the AAC and its candidate failed to meet key procedural requirements as to applying for pre-hearing information.
The three-man panel led by Justice K. A. Ojiakor declared that the petition number EPT/RS/GOV/03/2019 was incompetent, and therefore, dismissed it.
Earlier, the tribunal struck out applications by the AAC governorship candidate, seeking that he be separated from all joint applications previously made with the party.
Recall that the AAC recently adopted Mr Henry Bello to represent it at the tribunal after the former counsel, Tawo Tawo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, withdrew from the matter, with a notice of change of counsel filed before the tribunal.
This application came in after the AAC brought in another counsel to handle its matter at the tribunal.
Meanwhile, the collation agents of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) have told the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal that they did not receive reports from their polling agents that indicated that the 2019 Governorship Election was marred by illegal thumb printing and ballot materials snatching.
The defeated Rivers State Action Democratic Party (ADP) Governorship Candidate, Mr Victor Fingesi, had filed a petition at the tribunal, challenging the victory of Governor Nyesom Wike.
Speaking at the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal under cross examination by lawyers of Governor Nyesom Wike, Chief Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), Okey Wali (SAN) and the PDP, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), the collation agents stated that there was nowhere in their witness statements on oath where they indicated that they received reports that the election was marred by violence and illegal thumb printing.
Kevin Nengia, Dennis Naku
Encourage States To Harness Own Resources For Dev, Wike Tasks FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He also stressed that it was baffling to note that Rivers State was not included among states to benefit from any of the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government was seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
Wike made the observation when the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present letter of nomination to him as the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The Rivers State governor observed that there were mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
The governor decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT was not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators, including state executives, rather, they were politicising it and looking at it from prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal, and could be likened to robbing some states to pay others.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in Items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the Concurrent List. Therefore, it falls under the Residual List. It is not arguable. That yesterday, nothing happened, does not mean that today, nothing will happen or tomorrow, something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop themselves. We are in a federal system where we are practicing unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state.”
He explained that the contest against the collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) was started by Lagos State, which had sued the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
According to him, Rivers State only avoided their pitfall by suing the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is an agency of the Federal Government that was illegally collecting the tax in the state.
“The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State. It started in Lagos State when Lagos State challenged it in Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court said you (Lagos) shouldn’t have sued the Federal Government. All you would have done was to sue the agency.”
The governor observed that rather than commend Rivers State Government for seeking to entrench fiscal federalism and constitutionalism, a particular state governor had threatened that the judgement of the court that declared that states, and not FIRS, are entitled to collect VAT within their jurisdiction, will not stand.
He urged those demanding for a brothers’ keeper consideration to first, appreciate the position of the law and situate it rightly.
“Some people say, ‘be your brother’s keeper’. I have no problem in being my brother’s keeper, but why not come out and say, let us tell ourselves the simple truth: as it is provided in the law, who is the person responsible to collect the VAT?
“When you agree to that, that it is the state, then, we can sit down to look at the different problems of states. And not to say ‘be your brother’s keeper’ while you’re doing an illegal thing, in disobeying what the law says you should not do.”
Wike stated that it was sheer act of discrimination for the Federal Government not to include Rivers State as one of the states that will benefit from projects for which it was seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
“Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only state that is not benefitting is Rivers State”.
He further noted, “It is the prerogative of Mr President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that beyond the provision of infrastructure, his administration was seeking a law that would provide comfortable accommodation for judicial officers on retirement.
The reason, he said, was to ensure that, while in service, the judicial officers can concentrate on their jobs without cutting corners, and avoid corrupt practices.
In his remarks, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, said the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award was the flagship of award the company.
According to him, Wike was unanimously selected for his remarkable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and promotion of fiscal federalism with his position on VAT, which would help in the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Today, His Excellency has guided Nigeria to true federalism with the issue of VAT. Knowing what fiscal federalism should be, His Excellency went to court to challenge the collection of VAT, and the court stated that actually the states should collect VAT. And that is laying the foundation for true federalism and fiscal federalism”, he said.
Ukeh commended Wike for his sterling performance in office and infrastructural revolution taking place in Rivers State.
Buhari Seeks NASS’ Amendment Of PIA …Wants NNPC, EFCC Boards’ Confirmation
President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Senate, seeking an amendment to the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
President Muhammadu Buhari also sought the House of Representatives’ amendments to the Petroleum Industry Act, including removal of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the boards of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
In the letter, Buhari wants an amendment to the new Act to allow for the removal of the Ministers of Petroleum and Finance from the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), saying that they can continue to perform their functions without necessarily being members of the board.
In the letter read, yesterday, during plenary by the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Buhari is also seeking for the amendment to allow the Non-Executive Members to be increased from two to six in the national interest.
The President, in three other letters to the Senate, asked for the confirmation of nominees into the boards of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three confirmation letters from the President were read in yesterday’s plenary by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan.
In a letter dated September 16, 2021, Buhari stated that the request to confirm the chairman, chief executive and executive directors for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was being made in accordance with the provision of Section 34(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The nominees for confirmation into the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Board are: Idaere Gogo Ogan (chairman); Engr. Sarki Auwalu (chief executive); Abiodun A. Adeniji (executive director, Finance and Accounts); and Ogbugo Ukoha (executive director, Distributions Systems, Storage and Retail Infrastructure).
In another letter also dated September 16, 2021, the President while relying on the provision of Section 11(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of four nominees as chairman, chief executive and executive commissioners to the Board of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
The nominees are: Isa Ibrahim Modibo (chairman); Engr. Gbenga Komolafe (chief executive); Hassan Gambo (executive commissioner, Finance and Accounts); and Ms Rose Ndong (executive commissioner, Exploration and Acreage Management).
According to the President, requests for the confirmation of the board’s membership were made “in order to fast track the process for the establishment of the commission”.
In the third letter dated September 17, 2021, Buhari requested the upper legislative chamber to confirm the appointment of the secretary and board members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He explained that the request for the confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provision of Section 2(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
Those to be confirmed include George Abbah Ekpungu, secretary (Cross River); Luqman Muhammed (Edo); Anumba Adaeze (Enugu); Alhaji Kola Raheem Adesina (Kwara); and Alhaji Yahaya Muhammad (Yobe).
At the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, read the cover letter attached to an executive bill presented to the House by Buhari at the opening of plenary, yesterday.
The proposals also include the appointment of non-executive board members; removal of the ministries from the boards of the two institutions; and appointment of executive directors to the boards.
The President’s requests to the House of Representatives are a rehearsal of the same demands he made to the Senate.
It would be recalled that the joint National Assembly committees that worked on the PIB had proposed five per cent equity share for the development of the host communities but the Senate-led the campaign for its reduction to three per cent while the House of Representatives approved the panel’s recommendation.
The conference committee set up by the presiding officers of both chambers in their recommendation, fixed the equity share at three per cent and was invariably approved by the National Assembly.
The development generated into controversy with senators from the South-South geopolitical zone kicking against it and asked Buhari to resolve the impasse by seeking amendment to increase the equity share to five per cent.
However, the new amendments proposed by the President did not address the concerns of the South-South stakeholders.
Rather, Buhari’s fresh request centred basically on the need to review the administrative structure of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Buhari is seeking the senators’ approval to increase the numbers of the non-executive board members of each of the regulatory agencies from two to six, in order to capture the six geopolitical zones.
He said, “The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 provided for the appointment of two non-executive members for the board of the two regulatory institutions.
“I am of the view that this membership limitation has not addressed the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country.
“Therefore, I pray for the intervention of the 9th Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of our national unity.
“Needless to add that this amendment will provide a sense of participation and inclusion to almost every section of the country in the decision making of strategic institutions such as oil industry.
“If this amendment is approved, it will now increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six that is one person from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country”.
The President also removed the Ministers of Finance and Petroleum Resources from the board of the two agencies.
He said the two ministers already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations.
He said, “They can continue to perform such roles without being in the board.
“It is also important to note that administratively, the representatives of the ministries in the board will be directors – being the same rank with the directors in the institution
“This may bring some complications in some decision making, especially on issues of staff related matters.”
Buhari added that the appointments of the executive directors who would be in charge of the seven departments in the NMDPRA should not be subjected to Senate confirmation since they are civil servants who were promoted in the course of their career.
He said, “The Act has made provision for seven departmental heads in the Authority to be known as executive directors.
“Their appointment (according to the PIA) will also be subjected to Senate confirmation. These category of officers are civil servants and not political appointees.
“The Senate is invited to note the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments.
“This will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the authority.
“In the future, these positions will obviously be filled by the workers in the authority.
Buhari said the proposed amendment would also increase the membership of the board from nine to 13 members that is representing 44 per cent expansion of the board site.
He said, “This composition would strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread and also achieve the expected policy contributions”.
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
Emohua, Three Kalabari LGAs Partner On Joint Security
The Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area, Dr Chidi Lloyd, has met with his counterparts from the three Kalabari-speaking local government areas; Degema, Asari-Toru and Akuku-Toru, to review the security situation along the Emohua-Kalabari Road, and plan strategies for a joint network to checkmate any infractions in the security of the LGs.
The meeting, which was held at the instance of Lloyd at the headquarters of Emohua Local Government Area, followed the recent abduction of an expatriate attached to Lubrik Construction Company; the contractor handling the construction of Trans-Kalabari Road by yet to be identified gunmen.
The chairmen of Akuku-Toru, Degema, and Asari-Toru LGAs, Hon Roland Sekibo, Hon Michael John Williams, and Hon Onengiyeofori George; respectively, in their separate remarks, commended Lloyd for initiating the process for a partnership to improve the security of lives and property along the Emohua-Kalabari Road, which presently calls for concern.
Speaking after a closed-door meeting which lasted for hours, Lloyd said the meeting condemned the abduction of the expatriate staff, who was supervising the construction work being executed by the Rivers State Government on Trans-Kalabari Road.
The council chairmen also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate by his abductors, as well as the apprehension of the masterminds of the reprehensible act by security agencies.
The meeting further agreed to set up a local security outfit with members drawn from the four local government areas to support the security agencies in providing effective security along the Emohua-Kalabari Road.
Lloyd said the meeting was also expected to be hosted concurrently amongst the four local government areas, with a view to strengthening the relationship between the LGAs as well as the promotion of the socio-economic development of the area.
The chairmen also appointed Hon Lolo Ibiene to serve as their rapporteur.
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