The Acting Chairman of the Rivers State Internal Revenue Service (RSIRS), Mr Chibuzor Aholu, has described last Friday’s verdict of the Court of Appeal, ordering the Rivers State Government to suspend the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), as an endorsement of illegality which has been perpetuated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), for a very long time.
But Aholu said unlike the FIRS, Rivers State was governed by a law-abiding government, and would obey the Court of Appeal order.
He, however, said the appropriate law officers of the state government would take necessary judicial steps to address the issue.
Aholu made the position known in an interview with newsmen in Port Harcourt, last Friday.
He said it was shocking that the FIRS had tried to get an endorsement of its illegal collections of VAT from states, through the backdoor, by writing to the National Assembly, seeking the amendment of the nation’s Constitution.
While reacting, however, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, made serious attempt to interpret the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the case involving the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Rivers State Government over who has the right to collect VAT.
The human rights lawyer stated his position on the ruling in a statement he made available to newsmen, last Saturday.
It would be recalled that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had in a judgment in suit number FHC/PH/CS/149/2020, held that the Rivers State Government had the powers to collect VAT within its territory.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike had also assented to the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law 2021 in August, after it was passed by the state House of Assembly.
The FIRS had then gone to the Court of Appeal where Justice Haruna Tsammani, last Friday, told the parties to the dispute to “maintain status quo”.
But according to Ozekhome, the ruling of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, last Friday, meant that the Rivers State Government has the power to collect VAT until the court decides otherwise.
He said in the statement, “Clearly, the status quo ante bellum was before the breakout of the hostilities.
“The hostilities broke out when the FIRS dragged the Rivers State Government to court, arguing that it cannot collect VAT based on its law. The said law was already duly passed and made operational by Rivers State House of Assembly, that it has the constitutional competency under Section 4 of the Constitution to do so.
“The FHC, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had earlier held that it was the Rivers State Government that was competent to collect VAT, not the FIRS.
“The law was already, therefore, in operation before the FIRS challenged the validity of an FHC judgement, PH, that had given the Rivers State Government the power to collect the VAT.
“So, the status quo is that it is the Rivers State Government that has the power to collect VAT, until perhaps, the Court of Appeal rules otherwise and set aside the FHC judgment.”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, yesterday, said that President Muhammadu Buhari would abide by whatever final verdict the judiciary passes on the ongoing Value Added Tax (VAT) legal tussle.
Adesina, who spoke on a live current affairs programme on Arise Television, This Day Live, however, predicted that the matter has the likelihood of ending up at the Supreme Court.
He assured that President Muhammadu Buhari would allow the legal matter run its full course as he is not in the habit of muzzling institutions.
Adesina, who was reacting to a question on the matter, which had generated some heat in the last few days, also took a swipe at critics who would rather pick holes in the announced audited report and profit after tax of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), instead of appreciating a positive happening for the first time.
Giving his personal opinion on the tussle on VAT, the presidential spokesman noted that the tug could be seen in the light of fulfilling some of the several citizens’ demands of all times, which is fiscal federalism.
He, however, noted that achieving fiscal federalism bust must be done within the ambits of the law.
“I think the VAT issue is good because there have been talks about restructuring and fiscal federalism in the country. If states eventually get their demands in respect of VAT, there will be something like fulfilling fiscal federalism. But then, fiscal federalism itself must be done within the ambits of the law.
“That is why this issue may, and will likely, end up in the Supreme Court and when the Supreme Court pronounces, that is what the law says. If it’s in favour of the states, fine. If it’s in favour of the Federal Government, fine. You know that even all these states are not unanimous. You have heard some governors speaking out against the position of certain states who are so militant on this VAT issue.
“So eventually, we will have a legal pronouncement, which may come from the highest court in the land and whatever that court says, then is the law in the country. Knowing the Buhari administration, it will obey the rule of law,” he said.
Earlier, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, had last Friday, ordered the Rivers State Government, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Attorney-General of the Federation, to maintain status quo, pending the hearing and determination of applications before it in respect of the Valued Added Tax (VAT).
The Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, had on August 9, declared that it was the Rivers State Government, and not FIRS that should collect VAT and Personal Income Tax in the state.
The three-man panel of Appeal Court justices led by Justice Hassan Tsammani, ordered all parties to maintain status quo, and refrain from taking any action that would give effect to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.
Justice Tsammani held that since all parties in the matter had submitted themselves before the court, it was proper and the law for the court to preserve the res (subject matter) from being rendered nugatory.
Consequently, the court held that parties should refrain from giving effect to the judgment of the trial court in Port Harcourt, pending the hearing and determination of the application of the FIRS to stay execution of the trial court’s judgment.
Parties are also to maintain status quo pending the hearing of an application by the Attorney-General of Lagos State to be joined as a party in the matter.
Counsel to the appellant/applicant, Mr Mahmud Magaji (SAN), made an oral application for an order that status quo be maintained, pending the hearing and determination of the motion for injunction and stay.
However, Mr Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), counsel to Rivers State Government and Mr Oyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), counsel to Lagos State Government, both opposed the application for status quo.
Mr Tijani Ghazali (SAN), who represented the attorney-general for his part, supported the application for status quo to be maintained.
The applicants have been given two days to file their written addresses in respect to the pending applications, just as the respondents have also been given two days to file, and the applicant has one day to reply on points of law.
The matter has been adjourned until September 16.
PH Law School Campus’ll Be Best, Chiroma Confirms
Director General, Nigerian Law School, Prof Isa Hayatu Chiroma, has expressed optimism that the new Port Harcourt campus of the institution would be the best in the country.
Chiroma made the assertion when he paid a working visit to inspect ongoing civil construction work at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The director general was accompanied the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to assess progress of work at both the Nabo Graham Douglas Campus, Rumueme and staff quarters at New Government Residential Area, Port Harcourt.
He expressed gratitude to the state government for the intervention to build and deliver the Port Harcourt campus in order to help address the challenge of inadequate lecture and accommodation space for the ever-increasing number of students seeking to acquire vocational legal training at the current campuses of the Nigerian Law School in the country.
“The last time we were here was when the ground-breaking ceremony took place, and today, there is massive construction going on, and there is progress. I want to thank the governor and the good people of Rivers State for this progress.”
Chiroma, who observed that the teeming rainy season in Rivers State has slowed down the pace of work, noted that the amazing aspect of the project is that the quality of materials used for the raft foundation at the Nabo Bekinbo Graham-Douglas campus is world class.
“The kind of materials used with what we have seen on ground, it is unimaginable, it is excellent. I can assure you that the problem we will be having is about our students, who will prefer to be posted to this place with what I have seen.
“That is the battle we are going to be faced with. But, I can assure you that all our Law School Campus are the same, but with the development going on here, it is going to be a problem for us to decide who comes to Port Harcourt. From what I have seen it is going to be the best.”
Facilities under construction at the Port Harcourt campus will comprise 14 structures, including 1,500-capacity classroom blocks, hostel blocks, students’ multipurpose hall, 16 units’ 3-bedroom flat staff quarters with swimming pool, gymnasium and lawn tennis court.
Other facilities are, library, moot court/law clinic building, sick bay, administrative block, cafeteria and sporting facilities for students.
Nigeria, Suffering From Leadership Failure, Wike Affirms
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that it was regrettable that 61 years after Independence, Nigeria was still grappling with leadership challenge.
The governor pointed out that because of such leadership failure, Nigeria was now at a point in its history needing God more than ever.
Wike made the assertion at the Interdenominational Church Service organised in commemoration of the 61st Independence Anniversary of Nigeria at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor stated that there was hardly anything for Nigerians to celebrate as the country marks 61st Independence anniversary because its leadership continues to entrench hatred, mediocrity, promote ethnicity and religion.
“This is the time that Nigeria needs God more. The country is gone. Insecurity everywhere! Everyone needs to say God; we need you because man’s leadership has failed this country.”
The governor noted that, perhaps, the only thing Nigerians can boast of celebrating was the existence of the name, Nigeria.
“At 61 years, Nigeria is full of enmity, full of divisions, hatred, and ethnicity: A country that cannot put itself together.
“Everybody has responsibility; so, ask yourself questions, have I done my own part?”
Wike also observed the sorry state of Nigeria, and said at 61, it was far removed from being a country that can compete favourably with prosperous countries of the world, given its abundant resources.
The governor bemoaned what has become of the nation’s Legislature that continues to approve anything for the Presidency, and not minding the consequences.
He also decried how the nation’s Judiciary has succumbed to intimidation because its judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear, and wondered what fate Nigerians would have under such seeming tyrannical atmosphere.
“We cannot do the right things. Other countries are talking about how their elections will be transparent; we are talking about how we will rig the election in 2023.
“Simple thing, transmit election results electronically to show transparency, that really that the person you’re declaring won the election but we are afraid.”
“Where is the Legislature? A Legislature that cannot think, a Legislature, anything they bring is right, a Legislature that cannot say that Nigeria has nothing to regret from conducting free and fair election.
“A Legislature that you’ll close your eyes, anything they bring, about borrowing, you say borrow. A Legislature that cannot say that this money we are borrowing, where is it? Where are you applying it? You have no confidence to ask questions.
“The courts have been intimidated. The judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear. You’re seeing something that is wrong, but because you will be summoned in the night, you abandoned your responsibility.”
Wike also blamed the woes the country has suffered on all Nigerians who have refused to do the right things, but rather allowed the wrong things to be perpetrated in all facets of the society.
He noted how ascendancy to leadership was no longer by merit but by ethnic affinity and religious consideration, even when such persons do not have the capacity required to function in such offices.
Speaking further, Wike berated the church leadership over the inordinate dressing of a young man that he saw in the church, and attributed such sight to lack of enforcement of discipline in the church.
In his sermon, Bishop of the Diocese of Niger Delta North, Rt. Rev. Wisdom Ihunwo, noted that only foolish people despise God and attribute their successes in life to personal efforts and ingenuity.
Ihunwo said such foolish people abound in Nigeria because they have hearts of corruption, treat humanity with disdain and delight in doing abominable things and divert public funds for personal use.
According to Ihunwo, it was baffling that despite having leadership over the country, there was unabated spree of killings, a seemingly thriving kidnapping business with some officers of the military killed without drastic measures taken to return Nigeria to the path of sanity.
While charging the church to rise to speak courageously against wickedness in the land, Ihunwo declared the judgement of God upon the sponsors of such killings and kidnapping that have put Nigeria in a pitiable state that its people cannot celebrate independence of the country at 61 years.
Special prayers were said at the service for God’s favour and grace upon Nigeria and its leaders, Rivers State Executive Council, Judiciary and the Legislature, for the governor and his family, as well as the church and its leaders.
Dreams To Achieve Peace, Dev In N’Delta Achieved, FG Boasts
The Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Col. Milland Dixon Dikio, has said that the Federal Government has achieved its dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development.
Dikio said this, last weekend, when an ex-militant, High Chief Biobopere Ajube, was conferred with a chieftaincy title in Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Beleukoriwei (Pathfinder) by the Paramount Ruler of the kingdom, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, in his palace in Arogbo, Ondo State.
According to him, the present administration has succeeded in curtailing the restiveness in the region through engagements with the ex-militants.
He assured them that government would not renege in its promises to ensure that the region and its people are developed.
Dikio called on ex-agitators to emulate the disposition of Ajube in peace and entrepreneurship.
He lauded Ajube for leading the charge for a peaceful and prosperous Niger Delta, noting that he was the face of what can happen in the region.
According to him, “with the likes of Ajube, who had undertaken the task of having 400 ex-agitators trained in his Bradama facility under the PAP’s Train, Employ and Mentor (TEM) model, the dream of moving the Niger Delta from incessant protest to peace and development is achievable.
“We’re here to tell this community and indeed the world what Ajube means to us. He is very special and we’re excited that he bought into our vision in PAP which is tailored to change the narrative in the region.
“He took the lead of our Train, Employ and Mentor initiative and has pledged to have 400 of our people trained in his facility.
“He is the face of what can happen in the region and there is no doubt that with people like him, the Niger Delta can truly be the place to live and do business”
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who was represented by his Deputy, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa, described Ajube as a proud son of Ondo, who had made a tremendous impact in the lives of his people.
He said the honour was a testament of all he had been doing for his people, and urged him not to relent but extend similar gestures to other parts of the state.
“We’re gathered here to celebrate a man who through self-development and engagement is where he is today. We’re proud of him as a true son of Ondo State. All he thinks about is development, peace and empowerment which is a good thing”.
Also speaking, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Timi Alaibe said Ajube, during the height of militancy in the Niger Delta, was grossly misunderstood by the Federal Government but as head of the Amnesty Programme, he stood firmly by his side, to explain that he meant well.
He said, “This honour is well deserved. The story and struggle of the emancipation and dealing with the issues in the Niger Delta will not be complete without the mention of High Chief Bibopere Ajube. The story is deep for some of us.
“So, I’m proud that we’re gathered here to celebrate peace, excellence, leadership, strive for sustainable development, honest, and sincere man that loves his God. I know him when he had nothing. He is a man that has the interest of his people in his heart”.
The Traditional Ruler of Arogbo Ijaw Ibe, Pere Zaccheaus Doubara Ebgunu, said it was not a mistake that Ajube was honoured with the highest title, noting that the kingdom has been blessed by him and decided to display that by conferring the prestigious title on him.
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