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11 Years Of Unbroken Civil Rule: Gains, Pains, Expectations

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Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (right) conferring with Mrs Helen David Mark, wife of the Senate President at the opening ceremony of the first Commonwealth of Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Conference of West African Sub-region held in the Rivers State House of Assembly complex, Port Harcourt.

Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (right) conferring with Mrs Helen David Mark, wife of the Senate President at the opening ceremony of the first Commonwealth of Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Conference of West African Sub-region held in the Rivers State House of Assembly complex, Port Harcourt.

Nigeria has had a long, tortuous and chequered history of experimentation with democracy, but never quite have it right.

On May 29, 1999, Nigeria transited from military autocracy and absolutism to democracy. Before then, the country had been under firm military rule for all but twelve years since independence in 1960.

Essentially, the militarisation of the Nigeria society and the supplanting of constitutional provisions by decrees of the successive ruling military juntas engendered a culture of lawlessness and fundamental abuses of the citizenry rights.

Nigerians were denied their basic political rights of voting for their preferred leaders under military rule. The economic and social rights of the people were seriously trampled upon by successive military rule through gross mismanagement and looting of state resources without any element of accountability.

However, the military regime of General Abubakar Abdusalami ushered democracy in Nigeria in 1999.

The administration of General Abubakar Abdusalami in preparation for committed and sincere handing over of power established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local government councils, state legislatures and governors, the National Assembly and President.

INEC successfully held these elections on December 5, 1998, January 9, 1999, February 20, and February 27, 1999 respectively.

These elections were indications of the military sincerity of handing over power to democratically elected leaders and return to civil rule.

Nevertheless, for the local government councils election, a total of nine parties were granted provisional registration with three fulfilling the requirements to contest the subsequent elections.

These parties were the Peoples Democratic Party the All Peoples Party (APP) and the predominantly South West Alliance for Democracy (AD). General Olusegun Obasanjo became the Presidential candidate of the PDP and Chief Olu Falae became the joint candidate of APP/AD Alliance.

The PDP candidate Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was subsequently elected and sworn in on May 29, 1999 thus changing the traditional October 1st handing over date in Nigeria.

The departing military authority under the Provisional Ruling Council promulgated a new constitution based largely on the suspended 1979 constitution before the May 29, 1999 inauguration of the new civilian rule.

But the new President took over a country that faced many problems, such as, economic stagnation, collapsed infrastructure, deterioration of most of its democratic institutions and institutionalised corruption coupled with culture of impunity and executive reckless.

Therefore, pertinent questions begging for answer are what have been the gains, losses, hopes and expectations of Nigerians and the international community over these past eleven years of unbroken civil rule in Nigeria?

According to retired Major Ollorowi Ollorowi, Director General of Nigeria Industrial Security Institute, one of the gains of this civil rule was the prompt retirement of political soldiers from the Armed Forces by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Major Ollorowi Ollorowi added that he commended the President for such bold move and step taken then “I personally commended General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President for his bold and courageous step to retire hundreds of military officers who held political positions”.

He further stressed that this move and initiative strengthened Nigeria’s democracy and civil rule in 1999.

Also supporting the fact that Nigeria has gained much under civil rule from 1999 till date, Barrister Naazigha-Lee State chairman, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Rivers State emphasised that “the coming of democratic governance in 1999 actually restored the confidence of Nigerians in participatory democratic governance”,

He stressed that the initial decisions of the government of President Obasanjo to establish the Justice Oputa panel to investigate human rights violations, rescinded a number of questionable licences and contracts of the previous military regimes, and moved to recover millions of dollars in funds secreted in overseas accounts were undertaken to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the civilian rule and promote image of the country in the international community.

It is not gainsaying that the eleven years of unbroken democracy has safeguarded and sustained the consolidation of human rights in Nigeria.

According to the State Chairman, CDHR, Nigeria was at a crossroad with a greater challenge of how to guarantee justice, human dignity and civil liberties before the advent of democratic governance in 1999.

He stated that Nigeria returned to the community of nations with elected government, ensured significant progress to be made in the area of freedom and liberties.

According to Dr. Ishmael Guarama, senior lecturer, Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, the eleven years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria has made it possible for a more open society in which people no longer live in fear of the arbitrariness and intimidation.

The senior lecturer stressed that Nigeria remain committed to the idea of one corporate identity despite contending proposals for a new paradigm of governance and relationship between the federating tiers of government.

Dr. Ishmael further added that Nigerians have seen a marked improvement in human rights and democratic practice during this unbroken civil rule. “Today the Nigeria press enjoys greater freedom than under previous military rule.

As part of the gains of democracy during this period the usual conflicts between the Executive and legislative arms of government over major appropriation allocation and other proposed legislations have tended to strengthen Nigeria’s demo

mocracy.

A noticeable gain has been that of growing visibility of state governors and the inherent friction between the Federal Government and the various state Governments over resource allocation and excess crude account funds, all meant for healthy democratic country.

Also, one of the gains of the civil rule from 1999 has been the introduction of GSM communication by the Obasanjo’s administration. Prior to that  period, few Nigerians have access to cellular phones but today, millions of Nigerians have afforded GSM handsets to ease communication. Today, the telecommunication sector is been dominated by MTN, GLO, Zain, and Etisalat, making NITEL a moribund parastatal. 

However with the advent of democracy in 1999 Nigeria has recorded some major losses in the areas of lives and properties through communal crises, and religious mayhem.

In November 1999, the Nigerian Army destroyed the town of Odi Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang.

In the North West State of Kaduna in February 2000, over 1.000 people died in rioting over the introduction of criminal Sharia law in the State.

In Jos, the flash point of inter-religious rioting, hundred had been killed and thousands displaced in communal violence.

In 2002 in Zaki Biam, Benue State thousands were killed and properties worth millions of naira destroyed by rampaging soldiers over soldiers killed by the local gangsters.

One of the critical concern to Nigerians has been billions of naira lost through corruption. Yet no end in sight to such unwanted state plunder of resources.

However, government’s response to nip this trend of communal violence in the bud was the setting up of the National Security Commission to address this issue of re-curring communal violence.

Hopes And Expectations

Nigeria has successfully transited from one civilian government to another. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo successfully served his eight years period of two terms and successfully handed over to the late President Musa Yar’Adua on May 29, 2007.

The late President introduced his Seven Point Agenda as a conceptualised developmental programme for Nigerians. The Seven Point Agenda include Power, Electoral Reforms, Agriculture, Niger Delta, Health Sector Reform, Employment and Education.

According to a political economist and retired Permanent Secretary, Chief Obo-Ngofa, the power and energy crisis in Nigeria needs to be addressed squarely and urgently to arrest the imminent collapse of the economy.

According to him, the energy crisis remains a national embarrassment to the Nigerian Government. He appealed to the President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to seriously tackle the Power crisis to improve the comatose industrial sector.

The Niger Delta crisis actually affected foreign investment arising from the agitations for a meaningful development in the region. Luckily enough, the late President Musa Yar’Adua as part of his Seven-Point Agenda of addressing the sorry state of infrastructure and economic empowerment of the people of the region, granted Amnesty to the men who took to the creeks to drive home the pitiable situation of the underdevelopment in the region.

On the issue of Electoral Reforms, the Government had set up the Justice Muhammed Uwais Committee on the Electoral Reforms. The committee has since submitted its report to government waiting full implementation for credible elections in 2011.

However, it is the hope and expectation of Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan will implement the recommendations of the Justice Uwais report through the appointment of unbias National Chairman for the INEC with significant re-organisation of the Electoral body for credible and acceptable elections in 2011 and beyond.

However, a major monster that has eaten deep into the body fabrics of Nigeria’s society is the high level of state institutionalised corruption.

Despite the establishment of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to checkmate corruption and other related economic crimes, corruption has remained  the bane of Nigeria’s development.

According to Barrister Jas Awanen government needs to strengthen the anti corruption agencies like the ICPC and EFCC to function properly with less relative supervision.

Currently, Nigeria has over 53 political parties, an indication that Democracy in Nigeria is in progress and Nigerians are happy with participatory democracy that allow them to freely chose and elect their leaders.

However, according to Mr. Godknows Asoka, a public affairs analyst, the coming of civil rule in Nigeria from 1999 has strengthened the institution of the Judiciary, adding that under Military rule, our judiciary was very docile but now very proactive to right the wrong of injustice.

He emphasised that civil rule has created democratic consciousness in Nigerians and brought governance closer to the grassroots.

There appears to be a consensus opinion on the return to civil rule that democracy remains the best form of Government in any society.

A foremost member of the House of Representatives and chairman, Committee on Legislature Complaince, Hon. Daemi Kunaiyi-Akpanah believes that the nation has fared well although not without pains and sacrifices.

He told The Tide in his office in Abuja that the learning process began eleven years ago, although the nation had not reached the destination point. “Well I think democracy is working in Nigeria and there is progress. I don’t believe it’s the destination (yet for Nigeria): It is an ongoing journey.”

Mr. Kunaiyi-Akpanah contended that “the only thing that makes our democratic government  work is the prevalence of the rule of law and freedom of speech and religion.

The Coordinator of Egbeda Progressive Forum, Endurance Akpeli Esq, who spake with The Weekend Tide, in Port Harcourt, Thursday hailed the charisma of President Jonathan’s administration and urged him to continue his good work.

Mr. Akpelu enjoined all to support Jonathan’s administration and noted that it was divinely inspired.

He asserted that the incumbent president had done a lot to justify his election in 2011 and described Jonathan as the David of our time.

The coordinator remarked that the president came into power through a divine arrangement and warned that nobody should alter the arrangement.

Also speaking, Mr John Worah, an officer with the Nigeria police, said there was remarkable improvement in the provision of democratic dividends. He remarked that as a Niger Delta man, Jonathan had maintained stable oil price since he assumed office.

He said the fuel scarcity that marked previous administrations in the country had gone with those past administrations.

The police officer noted that the issue of where Jonathan came from should not be primary focus of Nigerians and noted that what should concern the people now was what he had to offer.

“From all indications, I am convinced that Jonathan will be bringing a lot of reforms to the nation,” he said.

We should encourage Jonathan to vie for the presidency because we believe in what he is doing and will continue to support him to deliver the dividends of democracy. Good leaders are hard to find, when we see them, we must appreciate them,” he pointed out.

Another person, who spoke with our correspondent, Mr. Andy Ihuenyi said that Jonathan should vie for the presidency in 2011 given the level of achievements he had so far recorded.

“President Goodluck Jonathan is a symbol of goodluck. We cannot afford to shun goodluck. His assumption of office is noteworthy. It is by an act of God,” he pointed out.

Mr. Ihuenyi, who is an environmentalist, said “the election of Goodluck Jonathan would pacify the neglected people of the Niger Delta. But first and foremost his track record has shown that he has all it takes to pilot the affairs of this nation.”

He regretted that the zoning system was the machination of the enemies of the Nigerian nation.

He, however, stated only those who were qualified and experienced should be entrusted with leadership, so that they would remain accountable to the people.

 

Philip-Wuwu Okparaji, Chidi Enyie, Justus Awaji,

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$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others

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The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.

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Disregard Sentiment On More Law School Campuses, Wike Urges

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said approval for any new campus of the Nigerian Law School in the country should be based on needs assessment and not on political sentiment.
He noted that with the paucity of funds being allocated to the Nigerian Law School by the Federal Government, states with capacity to build brand new campuses of the institution should be encouraged to do so based on the model provided by the Council of Legal Education.
Wike stated this when members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by its Chairman, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, paid him a courtesy call at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
This is as members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters have endorsed the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt, and declared that it has come to stay.
The Rivers State governor observed that due to the current insufficient carrying capacity of the Nigerian Law School, there has been clamour for proliferation of more campuses across the country.
He, however, cautioned that this must not be done on the basis of political sentiment.
“Most of us attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, and even at that time, it was not easy to have accommodation within the school. But, at least, we were able to attend classes. So, it is reasonable for everybody to say there is need to increase the carrying capacity. But that must be done with objectivity; that must be done with facts that must not be done by sentiment.”
He explained that two years ago when he attended the call to bar ceremony at the Abuja campus of the Nigerian Law School, he was appalled by the decrepit infrastructure in the school.
According to him, this was what spurred the Rivers State Government to build 900 bed space hostels and 1,500 capacity auditorium for students in Yenagoa campus, and then, the subsequent construction of a brand new campus in Port Harcourt.
“From the record I’ve checked, they’ve (Nigerian Law School) never gotten more than N61million to fund the law school yearly. And I made a special appeal to support to Council of Legal Education to rehabilitate the campus in Abuja, and the Director General said no, we have more problem in Yenagoa, leave Abuja.
“You’ll never allow your slave to attend the campus in Yenagoa. And I want to thank the DG for being a true Nigerian. As I speak to you today, Rivers State Government is investing not less than N5.1billion in Yenagoa campus. What is our interest? Our interest is to contribute to the development of legal education in Nigeria.”
Wike said based on the Federal Government’s inability to sufficiently fund the Nigerian Law School, any state government that desires to have a campus should approach the Council of Legal Education for approval.
“I will appeal, in solving this carrying capacity problem, let’s not also create other problems. It is a professional school and so we must be guided. If any state wants to have a law school there must be a model.”
The governor explained that the construction of Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt will cost the Rivers State government N16billion.
According to him, every thing that is supposed to be in a law school would be found in the Port Harcourt campus when it is completed early next year.
“We are not just merely building a law school; we have acquired investment to handover to the law school to use to sustain the school here. This is a model that a law school should be.”
The governor also disclosed once the project is completed and handed over to the Council of Legal Education, the state government would also provide subvention to the council to run the campus for the next four years.
In his remarks, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, said they were in the state to assess the progress of work at the Port Harcourt Campus of the Nigerian Law School.
“Your Excellency, when we were all privileged to study law in this country and just as we are doing graduation, the Nigerian Law School was waiting to absorb us. We have children in this country who graduated some two, three, four years ago and they are still waiting to be absorbed into the Nigerian Law School.
“Was it based on the refusal by the Nigerian Law School to so admit them, no. But based simply on the fact that the Nigerian Law School, as presently constituted and as funded, is lacking the capacity to be able to respond to the corresponding needs of the Nigerian public, given the number of universities that turned out law graduates every year.”
He commended the governor for his intervention to build a befitting campus of the Nigerian Law School in Rivers State.
However, members of the Nigerian Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters have endorsed the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus of the Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt and declared that it has come to stay.
The committee members gave the endorsement shortly after inspecting ongoing civil construction work at the campus as part of their oversight function in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
They were conducted round the project sites by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, first to the staff quarters beside the Hotel Presidential and then to the law school campus at Rumueme, Port Harcourt.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele said they were, no doubt, impressed with what they have seen in Port Harcourt.
According to him, their colleagues in the Senate, including the leadership of the Senate who have invested so much trust and put them in charge of the committee were waiting to hear from them.
But, he emphasised, that what they have seen was consistent with global best practice standard when it comes to providing legal education.
“And we are really excited about this for the future of the legal profession which is our own primary constituency, because ours is a committee where virtually, all members are lawyers and members of this profession.
“It was important for us to come here because we are not going to just write any report and take any decision based on sentiment. I mean, this is a nonpartisan legislative action.”
Bamidele noted that Rivers State is boldly setting a standard for legal education in the country and it does appear to be a high one.
“After inspecting the ongoing works, the governor also took us to inspect existing property that have been acquired for the purpose of surrendering these same property to the law school to use as a source of revenue. That’s why I’m saying there’s a Rivers standard.
“And of course, when you now come to the quality of what is on ground, more than any of the law schools that have existed before the creation of this, we have seen quality here that will distinctly place this on the world map when you’re talking about law school campuses that can stand the test of time.”
Bamidele explained that having come to determine what actually is on ground and also to see the quality of work, they are fascinated to see about 750 workers on the construction site.
According to him, that is something that gladdens their hearts because at a time like this, the Rivers State Government was able to provide such number of jobs to its people.
“There is a need for us to engage in activities that will create employment opportunities for our people. We have seen a lot of artisans here at work, contractors are here at work.
“A lot of building materials are being brought to this site and the economic implication of these are far reaching for Rivers State and on the long run for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We do not take that for granted. Beyond the employment opportunities that this is creating temporarily, we also know that an additional campus of the Nigerian Law School taking off in Port Harcourt would also mean a long term career job opportunities for people who will also work here as administrative staff.
“The number of lecturers that will increase, as career people. We feel that’s another reason why this deserve to be celebrated.”
Bamidele said except the Lagos campus of the Nigerian Law School that was created by an operation of law in 1962, the other five campuses were created by administrative action like the campus in Port Harcourt because it was approved by the President of the country.

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RSG, Not FIRS, Entitled To Collect VAT, Related Taxes In Rivers -Court

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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.

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