Southern Governors met in Enugu, yesterday, and declared their support for Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, insisting that it is within their purview to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).
This is coming amid row between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Government, a case that is now subject of litigation.
The governors also reaffirmed their stand on open-grazing ban, urging every state in the region to quickly pass a law to that regards.
The resolution by the Southern Governors Forum is part of the six-point communique reached at its meeting at the Government House, Enugu, Enugu State, and read by Chairman of the Forum and Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
The meeting of the Southern Governors Forum, which reviewed the state of the nation and the progress of the implementation of the decisions reached in its previous meetings, expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in Southern Nigeria were enacting and amending the anti-open grazing laws which allowed a uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors, and encouraged the states that were yet to enact the law to do so expeditiously.
Reading the communique after the closed door meeting to journalists, Akeredolu said that the meeting reiterated its earlier position that the next President of Nigeria most come from the southern part of Nigeria, in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
According to the communique, the Southern Governors agreed to encourage the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfit which will meet, share intelligence and collaborate to ensure the security and safety of the region.
Akeredolu opined that the meeting also reaffirmed its earlier commitment to stick to fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasize the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective state Houses of Assembly, as well as representation in the National Assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution, through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
The communiqué, according to the forum’s chairman, expressed satisfaction with the array of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of NNPC by the larger Nigerian Governors Forum.
The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors Forum meeting in November, 2021.
Present at the meeting were Rivers StateGovernor, Chief NyesomWike; Delta StateGovernor, Dr.IfeanyiOkowa;AkwaIbom StateGovernor, Chief Emmanuel Udom; and Osun StateGovernor, IsiakaAdegboyegaOyetola.
Others were Enugu StateGovernor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi;Bayelsa StateGovernor, Senator DuoyeDiri;Lagos State Governor,BabajideSanwo-Olu; and Ogun State Governor,EngrOluwaseyiAbiodun.
The governors of Oyo, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Abia, and Ebonyistates were represented by their deputies.
The communiqué read in full, “The Nigerian Southern Governors’ Forum at its meeting of Thursday, September 16, 2021 held in the Government House, Enuqu, Enugu State, reviewed the state or the nation and the progress of implementation of the decisions reached in her previous meetings and further resolved as follows:
“Expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in the Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti-Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors and encouraged the states that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.
“Encouraged the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfits; which would meet, share intelligence and collaborate, to ensure the security and safety of the region.
“Reaffirmed its earlier commitment to structural and fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the Forum held on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at Asaba, Delta State, and emphasized the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly as well as representation in the National assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
“Following from paragraph 3 above, the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.
“Expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
“Reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigeria in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
“The forum thanked the host Governor, IfeanyiUgwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in November, 2021″.
However, the Court of Appeal, yesterday, declined to accede to the request of Rivers and Lagos states for the appointment of Receiver or Manager for the purpose of collecting and keeping Value Added Taxes (VAT) in place of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) pending the resolution of all legal disputes in the matter.
The two states separately canvassed that the order of status quo ante bellum granted on September 10 in favour of FIRS to continue the collection be put on hold given the appeal already lodged at the Supreme Court against the order.
Counsel to Rivers State, IfedayoAdedipe, SAN, in his oral application, pleaded with the appellate body to exercise its power under Order 4 Rule 6 of the Court of Appeal to appoint a Receiver or Manager to take custody of the VAT in the interest of justice to parties in the matter.
The Attorney General of Lagos State, Mr MoyosoreOnigbanjo, SAN, who stood for his state, toed the path of Rivers in canvassing that the court be fair and just in the pending appeal.
Onigbanjo specifically asked the Appeal Court to restrain FIRS from further collecting the tax and replace it with a Receiver or Manager that would act for parties that are locked in the legal battle.
The Lagos Attorney General predicated his expressed fear of unjust treatment on the fact that FIRS apart from collecting the tax has been sharing it among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) despite the pendency of the legal tussle.
“I think it is also necessary to restrain the FIRS, because they collect the VAT, distribute to all the states and keeps their own 4 per cent.
“If, at the end of the day, the court agrees with the judgment of the Federal High Court, how do we retrieve the funds that have been shared?”,Onigbanjo added.
The appeal by the FIRS is against August 9, 2021 judgment by Justice Steven Pam of the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, voiding the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act and holding that states could collect VAT.
Justice Haruna Simon Tsanami, who led a three-member panel, directed them to make the application formal by providing the necessary facts, including ascertaining the amount being collected as VAT.
Other members of the panel are Justices BatureGafai and Peter Affen.
Meanwhile, the court has reserved ruling on an application by Lagos State to be made a respondent in the appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
The court, after listening to arguments by lawyers to parties, yesterday, said they would be informed when the ruling was ready.
In arguing Lagos’ application, Onigbanjo (SAN) said his client was a necessary party as it would be affected by the outcome of the case.
He noted that, as a federating unit/state in Nigeria, Lagos was entitled to collect VAT by virtue of the judgment of the Federal High Court that annulled VAT Act.
Onigbanjo argued that even the appellant (the FIRS) recognised that Lagos State has an interest in the case, which he said, was evident in the affidavit it filed, wherein copious reference was made to the Lagos State Government.
He further argued that since FIRS, in an affidavit supporting its application for stay of the judgment, recognised the interest of the Lagos State Government in the case, “it cannot now turn around to say the Lagos State Government has no interest in this case and should not be joined. It cannot blow hot and cold or speak from both sides of its mouth.”
Onigbanjo also contended that it was unfair for the FIRS to oppose Lagos’ request to be heard in the case after making allegations against the state.
He added that even the court recognised the interest of Lagos State in the case when it extended its order on maintenance of status quo to Lagos State, which was not yet a party in the case.
Onigbanjo prayed the court to join his client as a respondent.
Adedipe adopted Onigbaajo’s argument, and urged the court to allow the application by Lagos State.
Following the observation by Onigbanjo that the written address filed by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) was incompetent, the lawyer representing the AGF, TijaniGazali (SAN), withdrew the address, subsequent upon which the court struck it out.
Lawyer to FIRS, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), objected to the joinder application filed by Lagos State, arguing, among others, that the state was not a necessary party.
Magaji faulted the competence of the application, and urged the court to discountenance it.
On second thought, Magaji said if the court was willing to join Lagos; it should extend such indulgence to the other states of the federation.
Justice Mary Odili Saved My Political Career -Wike
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.”
Gunmen Kill Two Police Officers, Three Civilians, Injure Others In Bayelsa
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.
Police Hold Medical Screening For 10,000 New Recruits, ’Morrow
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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