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VAT: A’Court Order Against RSG, Endorsement Of Illegality, RSIRS Laments …Status Quo Means Rivers Should Collect Tax -Ozekhome …FG’ll Obey Court’s Final Verdict On VAT -Adesina

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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.

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Justice Mary Odili Saved My Political Career -Wike

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said that he would remain grateful to Justice Mary Odili for her timely intervention that saved his political career in 2004.
Wike revealed this at the 70th birthday and retirement thanksgiving mass of Justice Mary Odili as Justice of the Supreme Court, held at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chaplaincy, Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The Rivers State governor recalled how he cried to Justice Mary Odili when he got hint that his name was not included among those cleared to contest either as first term or second term chairmen of local government councils in the state
According to Wike, Justice Mary Odili listened to him, and took the complaint to her husband, Dr Peter Odili, who was the governor of Rivers State then.
Wike explained that the manner Justice Mary Odili presented the matter got her husband acting on it immediately.
He said, first, Dr Peter Odili invited the then Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, to confirm the observation, and thereafter, put a call across to the then National Secretary of the PDP, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor.
“In 2004, that time her husband was the governor, so, she was going to Bori Camp for women empowerment scheme. I was to run for second tenure as chairman of my local government (Obio-Akpor).
“Now, they were having lunch with her husband and the state party chairman then, Prince Uche Secondus. And, I was told that my name had been removed in the list. So, I ran down to Government House.
“She had finished her own lunch, left her husband and was entering the vehicle. I said ‘mummy I’m finished’. She asked: what happened? I said they’ve removed my name.
“She ran back straight to her husband and informed him. Her husband asked who removed his name. At that time, Secondus had left. The husband then called the security at the gate; they stopped Secondus, and ask him to come back.”
He further added: “That was how I went back as second term chairman. For me, I can’t talk about my growth without mentioning her. If she was not around that day, to see the governor, you know is not an easy thing. Her being around that particular day saved my career in politics. And so, that was how I grew from there to become what I am today.”
Wike noted a vital lesson of life he learnt from Justice Odili, which is the determination to build the capacity to be successful in one’s career while not ignoring giving requisite attention to the family.
For Justice Mary Odili, Wike stated that there was a good balance she maintained that made her to succeed both in her career as a legal practitioner, a mother and wife in the family.
Wike said Justice Mary Odili had remained an embodiment of care and compassion because without relenting she treated everybody with dignity that they deserved.
“I have seen somebody who is very compassionate, and very caring. The moment you’re around her husband, she takes care of you. She sees you as her husband’s person and so she will always relate with you. Some of us are direct beneficiaries of the care through our relationship with the husband.”
Wike commended Justice Mary Odili for the 44 years of meritorious public service, which he described as no mean feat.
In his homily, the Chaplain of the Chaplaincy at CIWA, Monsignor Pius Kii, exhorted on the physical and eternal benefits Christians derive when they love God, one another and their enemies.
Kii emphasised that living a life of love demonstrates faithful discipleship, obedience to God, and secures daily victory in life’s endeavours.
Giving her speech, Justice Mary Odili described the joy she felt as unspeakable and a thing of honour to have Wike, as a sitting governor, doing a vote of thanks in her honour.
According to her, she and her spouse, Dr. Peter Odili have lots of things to always thank God, and will remain grateful to him because he gave them countless triumphs despite the challenges that they have encountered.
“The good Lord knows that Peter and I don’t know how to properly thank God. Our journey in life has been such that the good Lord has always been there. There have been challenges, no doubt, but the good Lord did not promise us that we will not have challenges, tribulations or difficulties. But the good Lord has always stood by us and made us prevail in all those trials and tribulations.”

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Gunmen Kill Two Police Officers, Three Civilians, Injure Others In Bayelsa

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Gunmen, on Saturday morning, attacked and killed two policemen, three civilians, and left several others injured in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
It was gathered that a vehicle conveying the police officers and some civilians were attacked by yet to be identified gunmen while coming from a colleague’s burial.
In a statement, signed and sent to newsmen, yesterday, through the State’s Police Public Relations Officer, SP Asinim Butswat, he stated that “On May14, 2022, at about 0745 hours, gunmen ambushed policemen serving at Rivers State Command, at Idema- Otuabagi Road, Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, while returning from burial of a colleague, late ASP Gilbert Sampson, at Imago Kugbo, Rivers State.”
The statement continued that, “the suspected gunmen opened fire at the vehicle conveying the police officers and other civilians. In the process PC Asuo Osuani ‘m’ and Special Constabulary Odeoye Sampson ‘m’, Mr Terry Lucky ‘m’, Jennifer Adejo ‘f’ and Asueroh Tobins ‘f’ were fatally shot and later died, while Inspector Urere Edwin, Rejoice Sampson ‘f’ and Reward Sampson ‘f’ sustained bullets injuries and are responding to treatment”.
He said the Commissioner of Police, Bayelsa State Command, Ben Nebolisa Okolo, had ordered a manhunt for the gunmen who perpetrated the dastardly act.

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Police Hold Medical Screening For 10,000 New Recruits, ’Morrow

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The Rivers State Police Command has concluded plans to begin medical screening of successful candidates for recruitment into the force as constables.
The successful candidates are expected to form part of the 10, 000 new constables approved by the police authorities to be recruited to boost manpower requirements for enhanced policing in the country.
A statement signed in Port Harcourt, yesterday, by the Ag, Police Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Police Command, DSP Grace Iringe-Koko, said that the screening exercise would run for four days from May 17 through May 20.
The statement read, “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to inform the general public, particularly indigenes of the state, who were successful in the recently conducted Computer Based Test (CBT) which took place on April 20, 2022 at Archdeacon Brown Education Centre Woji, Port Harcourt in the ongoing 2021 police recruitment exercise, that the next stage of the exercise which is the medical screening for successful candidates is slated to hold from Tuesday, May 17 to Thursday, May 20, 2022.
“Venue: Police Clinic Yenaqoa, Bayelsa State. Time: 0800hrs daily.
“Candidates who participated in the recruitment screening CBT are to check their application status on the recruitment portal, www.policerecruitment.gov.ngand print out their medical screening slip bearing their respective date and time of the screening, if qualified.
“Consequently, qualified candidates are mandated to come along with the medical screening slip, NIN Slip and must appear in white T-shirt on white shorts at the venue of the exercise.
“The Commissioner of Police, Friday Eboka, has congratulated qualified candidates of this penultimate stage of the recruitment process, while wishing them success in the screening exercise.
“He further warns them to conduct themselves in an orderly manner to avoid acts capable of undermine the exercise, noting that the exercise is absolutely free as directed by the Police High Command.
“They are also enjoined to call 08100004507 for further enquiries”, the statement added.

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