Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, has called on ethnic nationalities seeking for the Governorship of the State to liaise with others, rather than take actions that will engender disunity in the state.
He urged the Kalabari Ethnic Nationality and their leaders to be strategic in their quest for Governorship, saying that the resort to needless propaganda will not work in their favour.
Speaking during a solidarity visit on Wednesday by the leaders and people of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike charged them to “have a strategy to get the Governorship Position. Quietly sit down with other ethnic nationalities and work towards the seat.
“The Governorship seat cannot be gotten through the radio. It cannot be gotten through falsehood. There must be a strategy in place. Nobody gives you the Governorship Seat as a gift”, he said.
Noting that if the Governorship seat is gotten as a gift, the people will not appreciate it, the Governor said the Governorship position in Rivers State is difficult to access because Abuja and other key leaders are interested in planting people.
“Abuja is interested; other states are also interested in who becomes the Rivers State Governor. They want to plant a Governor of Rivers State. God will not allow it”, he said.
Governor Wike used the occasion to reiterate that no single ethnic nationality in Rivers State can make a Governor, noting that it takes the cooperation of all ethnic nationalities for a Governor to emerge.
The Governor warned ethnic nationalities against allowing criminals to act as their spokesmen, saying that when criminals assume the position of spokespersons, they only generate crises and threaten violence.
Commenting on Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25, Governor Wike said that the owners of Belema Oil embarked on deliberate falsehood to mislead Kalabari people on the role played by the Rivers State Government to resolve the impasse.
He said that the Chairman of Belema Oil met him and said that the Federal Government has agreed to extend the operating license of OML 25 to him, and that after the license was awarded to Shell, he urged Shell and the host communities to resolve their differences.
Governor Wike urged the Chairman of Belema Oil to work for his people instead of generating tension, saying that the State Government displayed good faith when it handed him Certificate of Occupancy for 15 hectares of land earlier revoked by the immediate past APC Administration in the State.
He urged Belema Oil to use her resources to develop riverine communities where they operate, instead of investing billions of naira in the north.
On OML 11, Governor Wike said the Rivers State Government is working for the interest of Rivers people, saying that the aim is to ensure that the host communities are joint owners of the oil facility.
Governor Wike said contrary to the negative falsehood by some politicians, his administration has executed key projects in Kalabari land, spreading across the three Local Government Areas of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality.
In the same vein, the Governor announced that his administration will commence the first phase of the Trans-Kalabari Road, and also promised the release of financial support for the families of those killed by the Nigerian Army during the Presidential election in Abonnema.
Earlier in an address, the Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba commended the Rivers State Governor for his commitment to state-wide development.
While noting that Rivers people rewarded Governor Wike with a second term because of his outstanding performance during his first term, Alabraba said the visit of the Kalabari leaders was to uphold the Governor’s doggedness towards the good of the State.
“We are here to celebrate your gallantry to uphold the common good of Rivers State. Nobody would have been able to stand the way you did, during the elections”, he said.
He urged the Governor to compensate those negatively affected by the military invasion of Abonnema during the Presidential election.
Chief Alabraba said the performance of Governor Wike led to several awards with the climax last Saturday when the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality honoured him as the “Dike Oha Ikwerre”.
He commended the Governor for working for the peace of Kalabari Ethnic Nationality through his intervention during the crisis of OML 25 and the conflict between Eroton and host communities.
Also speaking, Bishop Ombo Isokariari said Kalabari people voted Governor Wike enmasse because of his commitment to good governance and projects delivery.
He lauded Governor Wike for standing with the Kalabari Ethnic Nationality at all times.
On his part, the Amayanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Bob-Manuel, recalled the visit of Governor Wike to Abonnema a day after the military invaded the area during the Presidential Election, saying that the people appreciate the governor for his show of love and concern.
Speaking further, Governor Wike used the opportunity to call on Kalabari Leaders to prevail on the Amanyanabo of Kalabari, King Theophilus J.T. Princewill, not to allow himself to be used by external forces to create disunity in the State.
The Governor expressed regret that the Amanyanabo of Kalabari deliberately allowed the outgoing Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, to use him to promote divisiveness.
He said: “I want to publicly lay a complain on the action of Amanyanabo of Kalabari. The next time it happens, I will act as a Governor.
“The Amanyanabo of Abonnema didn’t do it; he called me on phone when the Governor of Bayelsa, Dickson tried to create problems in Rivers State.”
Governor Wike said the outgoing Bayelsa State Governor visited the state, without getting in touch with the relevant authorities, under the guise of coming to see Ijaw people.
“He said he was coming to see Ijaw people in Rivers State and he would be hosted by the Amanyanabo of Kalabari and Amanyanabo of Abonnema.
“The Amayanabo of Abonnema called me and said how can that be? The Rivers State Governor did not call me. The Amanyanabo of Kalabari did not call me. What he did was to roll out drums to receive the Bayelsa State Governor “, Governor Wike said.
The Rivers State Governor informed the Kalabari Delegation, that should the Amanyanabo of Kalabari take such illegal action in future, he will face sanctions.
“That day I would have removed him, but I held myself. What they would do is to go to Radio and abuse me. But I am used to insults. I am trying to complain to you people.
“You can see how people are trying to divide a State. A fellow Governor would come from somewhere to create Division.”
He said the outgoing Bayelsa State Governor professes love for Ijaw people in Rivers State, but is busy working to take the State’s oil resources in Soku and Kula.
“Already, we have gone back to Court in relation to Soku oil wells. This is the man who is claiming Kula oil wells and Soku.
“I have gone back to court and we will reclaim the Soku Oil Wells for Rivers State. This is the same man you claim loves you and you roll out drums against Protocol”, he said.
He reiterated that the Amanyanabo of Kalabari will face sanctions if he continues acts of Division.
“If any of such things happen again, I will take the necessary action. I will not listen to any further excuse. That is why I am saying this publicly. Tell him to respect constituted authority.
“It is not good for anyone to come and divide Rivers State, because the state is one. It is unfortunate what my colleague did. I handed him over to God and prayed for God to do his will”, he said.
The Governor commended the peace initiative of the Amanyanabo of Abonnema and urged other Traditional Rulers to emulate him.
He said: “I thank the Amanyanabo of Abonnema for his peace initiative. I urge other Traditional Rulers to emulate him. Work towards peace amongst your people. You cannot live where there is no peace.
“It is impossible to have governance without peace. So you need peace in your domain.”
The Governor, on behalf of the State Government, also offered to bury the late
prominent Kalabari son and philanthropist, High Chief O.B. Lulu Briggs, whose burial has been prolonged for close to a year over family feud.
Stating that the Rivers State Government is interested in according the late Philanthropist the respect he deserves, the Governor said, “I even told them (family) to let the Rivers State Government be responsible for the burial.
“Let the State Government take the corpse. Government will hold the corpse and give him a befitting burial. All I want is peace.
“How can a prominent son of Kalabari Land stay in the mortuary for one year and we are all here. Nobody can speak the truth.
Governor Wike called on the Kalabari leaders to set aside their differences and intervene to ensure that Chief O. B. Lulu Briggs is buried.
“They have divided themselves. You collect money here, you collect money there and you cannot speak the truth.
“I have intervened more than three to four times. Having meetings, but was disappointed by the wife. I have to say clearly to all of you. I have never received insult like that in my life”, he said.
He stated that he told Chief Dumo Lulu Briggs and the widow of the late philanthropist to allow the love they have for Chief O.B Lulu Briggs influence them into allowing him to be buried, and they can continue the struggle for his property.
Governor Wike appealed to the Amanyanabo of Abonnema, King Disrael Bob-Manuel, and other leaders of the area to directly intervene to resolve the matter.
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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