Being a text of the State wide Broadcast by the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike on Monday, September 6, 2021. Excerpts.
My dear people of Riv
As we all know, following the recent judgement of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which upheld the constitutional right and authority of State Governments to impose, collect and utilize value added taxes (VAT) within their respective territorial jurisdictions, the Rivers State Government enacted the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law 2021 to regulate the effective administration of VAT in Rivers State.
As expected, the Federal Government, through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), disagreed and filed an appeal coupled with a request for stay-of-execution of the judgment before the Federal High Court.
While the appeal was pending and without any stay-of-execution of the subsisting judgement, the FIRS went about to bully corporate bodies and business entities from paying the VAT to the Rivers State Government even when they knew that an appeal does not serve as a stay neither was there anything to stay in a declaratory judgement.
As a mere agency of the Federal Government without any political authority, the effrontery and impunity exhibited by the FIRS against the Rivers State Government was ill-advised and highly provocative.
However, being a government that believes in the rule of law, we decided on our own to suspend the enforcement of the Rivers State VAT Law 2021 pending the outcome of the FIRS’s application for stay-of-execution.
Today, the FIRS has failed in its attempt to frustrate the enforcement of the State’s Law on VAT with the Federal High Court’s dismissal of its application for stay-of-execution of the judgement.
It is important to reiterate the fact that we did no wrong in exercising our legal right under our constitutional democracy to stop the continuing breach, denial and curtailment of the constitutional right of States to lawfully impose and collect value added and other related taxes within jurisdiction to the exclusion of the Federal Government.
And in doing so, our singular and progressive objective was to contribute to the advancement of fiscal federalism by enabling the federating States to explore and exploit their potential and capacity for generating greater internal revenues with which to fund their development goals and reduce the outdated over-reliance on pitiable Federal allocation and other handouts.
Naturally, some States with presently low economic activities and ethically restrictive social policies with economic implications may be adversely affected for now.
But, this is not our own making. Like the right to derivation, this is also a constitutional prescription, which we all swore as political leaders to respect and defend as the supreme law of the land.
Above all, fiscal federalism remains the right path to economic self-reliance and sustainability for all our States and the benefits derivable from this case by all the States in the long run far outweigh the immediate revenue loss that some States may presently suffer.
All that is required is for all of us to wear our thinking caps as elected Governors to collectively fight for the greater devolution of resources, responsibilities and powers to the federating States.
It is therefore very unfortunate that some State Governors led by that of Katsina State are vainly conspiring to truncate this progressive reality in favour of the inequitable status quo so that the Federal Government can continue to rob Peter to pay Paul as the nation’s self-imposed tax master-general.
For us in Rivers State, we will continue to ensure and project our constitutional rights to access all possible resources we can take hold both within and outside our geographical boundaries to advance the progress of our State.
And with today’s judgement, the way is now clear for the administration and enforcement of the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law 2021 across the entire State until otherwise decided and set aside by the Superior Courts.
Consequently, I hereby direct the Rivers State Revenue Service (RSRS) to ensure the full and total implementation and enforcement of this law against all corporate bodies, business entities and individuals with immediate effect.
All corporate bodies, business entities and individuals are advised to willingly, truthfully and promptly comply with their tax obligations under this law to avoid the full weight of the stipulated sanctions, including having their business premises sealed-up.
Let me warn that the Rivers State Government is fully in charge of the State and will not tolerate any further attempt by the FIRS to sabotage or undermine our authority to freely administer our tax and other related laws in our own State. Those who play with fire risk having their fingers burnt. Enough of the shenanigans.
I wish to further assure every resident that we shall as usual make effective use of the expected proceeds from this tax to accelerate the development of our State and improve the wellbeing of everyone.
Fellow citizens, let me also draw your attention to the alarming rate of transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic in our State.
The daily figures released by the NCDC show that both the transmission and death rates in the last two weeks have consistently been on a rising spiral because residents and visitors to the State have largely abandoned their responsibility to comply with the existing COVID-19 Protocols.
Clearly, we are headed for a serious health disaster of profound consequences if residents and visitors continue to behave as if the pandemic no longer exists or impotent in Rivers State.
This is a big lie and we cannot afford to continue to close our eyes to the dangers such irresponsible behaviour poses to the health, lives and livelihood of everyone.
Accordingly, I wish to remind residents of the subsisting protocols on regular washing of hands and use of alcohol-based sanitizer; maintaining social distancing; wearing of face masks at all public places, including transport vehicles and going for immediate testing and treatment whenever you notice any of the symptoms.
Furthermore, it has been proven that vaccinations are saving lives here and across the world and those refusing to take the vaccines for no certified medical reasons should know that they are endangering the rest of the citizens.
I therefore appeal to all residents to help protect yourself, your loved ones and the rest of the citizens by getting your jab at the designated health centres in the 23 Local Government Areas of the State as they become available.
I also appeal to religious leaders and churches to convince and encourage their followers and members to please go out and take the vaccines and comply with the covid-19 protocols in addition.
Although it remains our desire to keep the State open and allow citizens to go about their social, religious and economic activities unimpeded.
But we may be constrained to re-impose the suspended COVID-19 lockdown measures across the State if the transmission of the disease continues to increase beyond tolerable limits.
Finally, we wish to reiterate that the ongoing demolition of shanties was borne out of the compelling need to safeguard lives and property across the State.
Our objective, which is gradually achieving is to deny the criminals these sanctuaries and hideouts from which they embark on their criminal activities and safely return to.
We therefore refuse to be blackmailed by those unpatriotic elements who are trying to stir false ethnic, religious or tribal sentiments around our patriotic commitment to advance the safety and security of residents.
Furthermore, we refuse to be intimidated by such baseless pranks. Rather, we will not rest until we clear the State of all shanties wherever they are located and restore sanity to our environment and achieve a better sense of comfort and security for everyone.
Once again, thank you all for your support, prayer and understanding as we continue to work together to advance our collective security, peace and progress.
Thank you and may God bless Rivers State.
PH Law School Campus Ready For Commissioning …As Wike Hands Over C Of O To Ngige …Says Institution’ll Be Self-Sustaining
To achieve that mandate, Wike, last Monday, handed over the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of adjoining property to the campus acquired by the Rivers State Government to the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN.
The presentation was made when Wike conducted the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, together with the Director General of Nigeria Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma, SAN, and other dignitaries round structures within the law campus that were completed and ready for formal handover.
Wike said the acquisition of the adjoining property to the campus would enable the operators of the campus to use them for sundry commercial and revenue generating activities in order to meet the financial needs of the law school in Port Harcourt.
“We are using this opportunity to present the Certificate of Occupancy of the property we have acquired and paid for by the Rivers State Government for the Nigerian Law School, Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas, Port Harcourt Campus to you (chairman).
“We are giving the property to you for the purpose of making some revenue to run this campus. Whatever revenue derived is to be utilised for this campus alone.
“Very soon, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and the Director General will meet to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). It will ensure that you won’t take revenue from here to subsidise for other campuses. Any money you make here; put it here in this campus.”
Wike also told them that with the construction work on all the structures in the campus now completed, the state government awaits the Council of Legal Education to choose a date when they desire the campus to be formally handed over to them.
In his response, Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, noted that they were on inspection of the facility, and were amazed at what they have seen.
“17th July, 2021 was when we came for the foundation laying ceremony, and the governor promised that this project will be delivered in one-year. Behold, today is June 27th, not up to July yet, and he had delivered.
“Recall that when we were doing the ground breaking ceremony, the governor promised that every month, he will give this campus N10million for four years, and will be given in advance, that is about N480million to run this institution.
“When I learnt that he had acquired adjoining property: houses, shopping malls and other business facilities for the law school to rent out to raise revenue to run this institution, I can tell you, it is unparalleled,” Ngige said.
On his part, the Director General of Nigerian Law School, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma, described the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Campus in Port Harcourt as the best and mother of all law campuses in Nigeria.
“On behalf of the council, we are very grateful for a promise made and promise kept. This is the turning point in the history of legal education in Nigeria”, Chiroma said.
During the inspection of the lecturers’ quarters in New Government Residential Area in Port Harcourt, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze C. J. Okocha, SAN, said Wike was a performer, who keeps promises and has delivered the Dr. Nabo Graham-Douglas Port Harcourt Campus that was tastefully constructed and furnished before the record time he set for himself.
Also speaking, another former President of the NBA, Okey Wali, SAN, noted that Wike had done this to show that he was a lover of democracy and for promotion of the judicial system in Nigeria.
The Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, SAN, described the project as historic and iconic because there was nothing like it across the country.
He said Wike has provided it as a commitment to advancing legal education in the country.
Again, INEC Extends CVR For Nigerians …Warns Against Political Campaigns
This is even as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned political parties and their proxies against hiding under the excuse of the ongoing voters’ registration exercise to engage in any form of politicking or campaigns.
The commission made this position known in a statement signed by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye Esq, in Abuja, yesterday.
The statement read: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today, (Thursday, 30th June, 2022) and deliberated on a number of issues, including the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, the issuance of Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents and the commencement of the Uploading of the List and Personal Particulars of Governorship and State Assembly Candidates.
“The Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) will continue nationwide, and all the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Electoral Officers have been directed to continue with the exercise pending further directives from the commission.
“The commission has consistently reiterated its resolve to continue to provide electoral services commission has yet again deployed additional machines to areas of pressure and will continue to serve the people of Nigeria.
“Furthermore, the case at the Federal High Court relating to the terminal date of the CVR came up yesterday Wednesday, 29th June, 2022, and based on the request of the Commission, the Court granted an accelerated hearing and adjourned the matter to Monday 4th July 2022 for hearing of the substantive matter. The commission will give an update after court hearing next week.
“The Commission has been inundated with applications for CTCs of various documents. So far, 186 requests for CTCs, some running into hundreds of pages, have been processed. The Commission is working round the clock, including weekends, to attend to all such requests. We wish to assure political parties, aspirants, candidates, and all applicants for CTCs of documents that their applications will be treated expeditiously and will be issued in earnest.
“By the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the commission, Political Parties that conducted valid Governorship and State Assembly primaries shall upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates between 1st and 15th July, 2022.
“We urge political parties to scrutinise the list and personal particulars of the candidates they propose to sponsor at the election to avoid any mix-up and duplication of names. Political parties are advised not to wait until the last day before uploading the list and personal particulars of their candidates.
“The Candidates Nomination Portal will shut down at 6pm on 15th July, 2022. Political parties that have challenges with uploading documents should contact the commission’s Help – Desk, through the dedicated telephone lines or contact the candidate nomination centre at the commission’s headquarters”, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned political parties and their proxies against hiding under the excuse of the ongoing voters’ registration exercise to engage in any form of politicking or campaign.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Kano State INEC, Risqua Shehu, issued the warning at a press conference in his office in Kano, yesterday, saying that that any political party that was found wanting in this regard would face the law.
Risqua, a professor, reminded the political parties that doing such was against the dictates of the Electoral Act, which has since set forth a time frame for campaigns for the governorship and presidential elections.
“The commission monitors and would need to establish full proof cases and then allow prosecution to take place. We do not prosecute, but we gather evidences against any defaulting political party and I assure you that that would be done”, he stated.
While applauding the upsurge in the number of registrants in the state, he, however, lamented the huge cases of illegal and double registrations, saying that over 40percent of registrants in Kano State were found to have registered before.
Risqua explained that INEC has been making concerted efforts to educate the people that the PVCs issued by the commission do not expire; hence there was no need for anybody to register twice.
He cautioned that, “When one is found guilty, he is liable to a fine or an imprisonment or both. There is a provision for a fine of N100, 000 or one year imprisonment or both.
“But at the moment, I am not in the position to establish what the commission would do to those with double registration, considering the huge number of offenders across the country”, he said.
“The beautiful thing is this. We have made adequate arrangements in our robust system to be able to identify and eliminate all those who have registered twice and cancel their new registration and retain only the old information that is there. That is what the commission is doing now”.
While appreciating all stakeholders that have been sensitising and supporting eligible Nigerians on the registration exercise, he stressed that under no condition should any individual, cyber -café, civil society or group extort or collect money from any registrant for that exercise.
Reps Plan Separate Contributory Pension Scheme For NASS
The House is to create a separate body to administer matters relating to pensions for workers in the federal parliament.
At the plenary, yesterday, the House passed for second reading, the legislation titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Pension Reform Act, 2014 to Exclude/Exempt the National Assembly Service from the Contributory Pension Scheme and Establish the National Assembly Service Pension Board.’
Chairman of the House Committee on National Planning and Economic Development, Hon Olododo Cook, who sponsored the bill, said the proposal was to exempt the personnel of the National Assembly from the Contributory Pension Scheme and to establish a National Assembly Service Pensions Board “to be charged with the responsibility of administering the pension scheme for personnel of the service.”
Cook stated, “This bill is in consequence of the exit of the service from the application of the contributory pension scheme under the Pensions Reform Act, 2014.”
The bill seeks to amend Section 5(1)(a) of the Act by inserting the words ‘the National Assembly service’ to read thus: “The categories of persons exempted from the Contributory Pension are (a) the categories of persons mentioned in Section 291 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), members of the intelligence community and the National Assembly service personnel.”
Clause 2(1) of the bill also proposes that, “There is established a pension board which shall be charged with the responsibility of managing payment of pensions and gratuities to all personnel of the service.
“Application of the bill to personnel who retired before the commencement of this bill: (2) This bill shall apply to all personnel of the service, including those who had retired before the commencement of this bill. (3) The retirement benefits of personnel referred to in Subsection (2) above shall be adjusted to be commensurate with the provisions of this bill.”
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