Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has declared that the State Government’s investment in Oil Mining Licence (OML) 11 is aimed at promoting the interest of host stakeholder communities, and ensure peace for the operation of the oil facility.
Speaking during a solidarity visit by the Ogbakor Etche yesterday at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Governor Wike said the efforts of the State Government are geared towards ensuring that the communities get the best from the acquisition of OML 11.
“What Rivers State Government wants is for the interest of our state to be protected. Whoever that is coming to take over will have the interest of the communities protected.
“When the communities are part owners of OML11, there will be peace. But some people sit down and engage in unnecessary propaganda”, he said.
Governor Wike stated that the acquisition of OML 11 is the height of resource control struggle, and urged the people of Ogoni to appreciate the efforts of the Rivers State Government in this regard.
“When you talk about resource control, this is resource control. Instead of Ogoni people to thank us, they are allowing criminals and charlatans to go on radio and talk, with their leaders pretending not to be aware, when they know.
“They talk as if OML 11 belongs to them alone, which is not correct. Etche, Bonny, Oyigbo, Ogu/Bolo and Okrika are part of OML 11”, he said.
The Governor took time to explain the process that led to the acquisition of OML 11, saying that the Rivers State Government stepped in after the High Court ordered the sale of Shell’s stakes already attached as part of the enforcement of the court’s judgment initiated by the Ebubu Community.
On the OML 25, which was eventually given to Shell Petroleum Development Company by the Federal Government, Governor Wike stated that a fraudulent businessman claimed that the Federal Government would grant him the license of the facility.
He noted that when it turned out that the man was lying, the State Government worked with stakeholder communities to ensure that their interests were protected.
Governor Wike said it turned out that the businessman, who sponsored falsehood on OML 25, was merely seeking surveillance and labour supply contracts from Shell Petroleum Development Company.
The Governor assured Etche people that his Administration would always invest in the development of the area, while outlining the projects that will be commissioned in Etche land during the first year of his second term.
He informed the Etche delegation that his administration will revive the Delta Rubber Company through Public Private Partnership, adding that by May 2020, the Rivers State Government will commission the Cassava Plant.
He said with the commissioning of the Cassava Plant, the Rivers State Government will purchase cassava from farmers at prevailing market prices for processing.
“That way, the farmers will be empowered to remain in business”, he said.
Earlier, the President-General of Ogbakor Etche, Sir Machy Nwodim commended the Rivers State Government for acquiring the oil facility. He said as part owners of OML 11, Etche Ethnic Nationality views the action as a welcome development.
He used the opportunity to appeal to the Governor to take a similar action on OML 17, where the bulk of Etche oil is found.
While congratulating the Rivers State Governor on his electoral victory, he called for electronic voting to ensure credible violence free elections in 2023.
The President-General of Ogbakor Etche urged the Rivers State Governor to sustain his developmental projects in Etche land and initiate new projects.
It would be recalled that the Rivers State Government fully acquired Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) 45% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 of the State following its auction by the High Court.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that with elections effectively over across the country, the focus should be on governance for the good of Nigerians.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim at the Government House, Port Harcourt last Monday, Governor Wike said politics should be de-emphasised at this time.
“We are here to assist. We are not fighting with anybody. We are here to complement the efforts of Government.
“Politics has come and politics has gone. We have won the election here, they have lost. But they have won in other places. Politics has ended and we are now talking about governance”, he said.
The Governor decried situations in which corps members devise different schemes to ensure that they are posted back to their home state, saying “We should try and discourage the idea that you must serve in your state. That is the essence of the NYSC scheme.”
He assured that the Rivers State Government will continue to promote the welfare of corps members serving in the state.
“The corps members posted here serves our state. So, it is our responsibility to take care of their welfare. They are working for the benefit of Rivers State “, he said.
Governor Wike further said the State Government is still willing to assist the family of the Late Corps Member killed during the rerun elections.
He assured that the Rivers State Government will deliver the auditorium at the Permanent Orientation Camp and other projects during the first year of his second term.
Earlier, the NYSC Director General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim thanked the Rivers State Governor for what he called his outstanding contributions to the development of facilities at the permanent Orientation Camp of the NYSC.
He commended the Rivers State Governor for the payment of allowances to Rivers Corps Members and the construction of a 5000 sitter auditorium at the Orientation Camp.
He described Governor Wike as an NYSC friendly Governor who has encouraged Corps Members to give their best.
“I thank you most sincerely. Others are watching. I encourage them to emulate the Rivers State Governor “, he said.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt on Monday upheld the re-election of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike as they struck out the appeal filed by the defeated Governorship Candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Victor Fingesi.
Fingesi had approached the Court of Appeal after the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal on October 5, 2019 dismissed his petition challenging the re-election of Governor Wike, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship candidate during the 2019 Election.
The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment struck out the Appeal by Mr. Victor Fingesi of ADP for lacking in merit. The Tribunal also said that the appeal was incompetent.
In a lead judgment, Justice H.N Ogunwimiji declared that the ADP Governorship Candidate failed to prove that the election was marred by irregularities.
Justice Ogunwimiji stated that the ADP Governorship Candidate couldn’t adduce evidence that would invalidate the election of Governor Wike.
The Court of Appeal stated that he or anyone who asserts must present relevant evidence to prove such allegations.
The Court also declared that INEC has the power to take action on elections when emergencies arise. The Appeal Court noted that INEC derived such powers from Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act.
It also held that the petitioner lacked the locus standi to file the petition as earlier ruled by the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal.
The presiding Judges, Justice T.N Orji Ababua, Justice U. Omyenenn, Justice H.A Barka, and Justice I.B Idiris, agreed with the lead judgment.
INEC’s Counsel, Dr Garba Tetengi (SAN), on his part, said the appeal was struck out for incompetence.
Counsel to the Rivers State Governor, Ike Udenna, said the Court of Appeal came to the conclusion that the Tribunal was right to uphold the election of Governor Wike.
It will be recalled that the Rivers State Governorship Election Tribunal declared that the petitioner (ADP Governorship Candidate) failed woefully to prove that Governor Wike did not score the highest number of lawful votes during the March 9, 2019 Governorship election. The Tribunal declared that the petitioner’s complaint is vague and merely speculative.
The Appeal Court further described ADP’S Petition as “An Adventure to discover the Non-Existent “.
INEC on April 3, 2019 declared Governor Wike re-elected after he polled 886,264 votes, while his closest challenger of African Alliance Congress (AAC), Biokpomabo Awara, scored 173,859 votes.
Victor Fingesi of the ADP polled a paltry 1860 votes during the 2019 Rivers State Governorship Election.
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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