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FIRS and Rivers State Government who should now collect VAT?

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By Mike Ozekhome

The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, has just ruled that both parties maintained the status quo in an appeal filed by the FIRS against the judgement of the FHC, Port Harcourt, validating the Rivers State law that empowered Rivers State Government to collect VAT, as against the FIRS that had hitherto collected VAT.
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 have 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 a 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. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that all parties on the matter ( including the FIRS, Attorney General of the Federation and the Lagos State Government that sought to be joined should maintain the status quo, so as to preserve the res and prevent the FHC judgment from being negatively affected.
Consequently, to avoid unnecessary bickerings and needless head-on collision between the Attorney General of the Federation, the Federal Government (which owns the FIRS) and the Rivers State Government in a matter that is already subjudice, I will advise that both the Rivers State Government and the FIRS shoud both cease hostilities for now and maintain the status quo until the Court of Appeal finally pronounces on the matter.

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Opinion

Visiting Governor Of Kogi State; Yahaya Bello, Truancy And The Villa

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In corporate parlance, only a thin line differentiates an absentee leader, from an absent leader. The two can overlap. While the former describes lack of capacity and overdependence on subordinates for the tasks at hand, the later refers to one who oftentimes stay away from his duty post. When and wherever the twin maladies afflict an organization, such will be imperilled to free failure.

As it is in business or corporate organizations, so it is in politics and governance. Beyond the razzmatazz of official perquisites, a public officer is expected to exercise reasonable discretion and tact in the discharge of the mandate, he holds in trust for the masses.

The Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoiza Bello is a man with impressionable credentials. Young, persuasive, confident (almost defiant) and with a commendable media attention. Of course, he is wealthy, powerful and ambitious. In fact, to put it bluntly, he has swagger! But a look at his trajectories in the State exposes him to the charge of absenteeism and absent leadership. That is, crash incompetence and nonchalance.
Bello’s love for outside his state, is only comparable to the first century Roman tyrant and Christians’ persecutor, Emperor Nero who “fiddled” away on a journey while the great fire of 64AD razed Rome.

In the night of Sunday, 12th Sept through the wee hours of Monday when gunmen killed five soldiers, a civilian and set free 240 prisoners from a Correctional facility, in Kabba town, headquarter of Kabba-Bunu Local Government Area, the Governor was nowhere to be seen in the State.

It is shocking that he has not found time or considered it necessary to visit the state, since then, at the time of this report. Like the proverbial cockerel which will never be home, whenever a bad thing happens, Bello has a reputation of alibi, not been home whenever a disaster occurred in his state.

There are several antecedents.

On June 4th, 2020 when gunmen attacked a bank and police station in Isanlu, headquarter of Yagba East LGA, killing 12, the Governor was not at home.

On July 23rd the same year when they struck at Agbudu village in Kotonkarffe area, killing 14 and fatally wounding six people, Bello was not in Kogi.

Very early that year on January 2nd, when gunmen killed more than 20 people, burnt the palace, a church, mosque and other houses in Tawari village of Kogi LGA, the Governor was not at home.

Worse of all, he has not visited any of the scenes of crime, in a rare display of “I don’t care attitude.”

Bello hardly stays at his duty post. Yes, as Chief Executive of a state, he is not compelled to remain at home, always. The demand of his office can and should sometimes take him out of the State. But, a Governor who spends far more time outside his state, leaves much to be desired.

Bello’s unequalled record and notoriety for absconding has earned him a new title, “Visiting Governor.” He was slightly better in his lowly rated first tenure. He became a total truant from the start of his rascally second term.

To be sure, he was inaugurated on 27th January 2020. But barely three months after, his Presidential campaign posters flooded Lokoja. By early April, his media handlers had started responding to enquires about a presidential ambition. Although he denied and disowned the posters at the time, subsequent events have revealed the truth.

Suffice to say that since those posters appeared on the streets of the State capital, the Governor has directed every energy and resource to the prosecution of the Presidential ambition, at the detriment of the Kogi people. He professes more nationalistic opinions on issues, dabbles more into federal matters and locomote about.

He seems to get worse per time, going by his itinerary in the last few months. This writer can authoritatively assert that in the last six months, Bello has stayed less than a quarter of the period, inside Kogi, his primary area of jurisdiction. Instead, he hibernates in Abuja, where his commissioners and other aides regularly visit, for files that may require his attention.

Bello did not spend 24 hours in Kogi in the month of April. He left for Abuja on the first day of that month, popularly called April fool. He did not visit Kogi until 3rd May. He attended EXCO meeting on the 5th and departed for Abuja on the 8th after giving audience to the Rector of Kogi State Polytechnic, Dr. Usman Ogbo. He returned for few more functions including wedding of the daughter of House of Assembly Speaker, Mathew Kolawole. Bello was in Kogi from 31st May to 2nd June. After EXCO meeting that day, he went back to Abuja. He would only return to Kogi for his birthday celebration. That was 16th to 19th. Once done with the Natal day bash, he left for Abuja and was not to be seen again in Kogi for the next 30 days, until the Sallah festival of 19th-20th July, which he observed at his country home in Okene. On that visit, he did not make a stop in Lokoja at all. He passed through on the 21st on his return journey to the FCT, where he remained for another month.

As their Governor continues with his quest for the Villa, the poor Kogi masses hang at the receiving end of that ambition. With their Governor working from Abuja, things remain sluggish at home. But the question on the minds of the traumatised populace is with which credentials does Bello hope to govern Nigeria? Yet, the only venture that makes sense to the occupiers of Lugard House, is the GYB to PYB script.

God bless the hapless people of Kogi State.

– Nurudeen Agbabiaka, journalist, political activist, social entrepreneur and public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.

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Opinion

Facts, truths, politics of Ibaji Oil

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By Abel Ada-Musa

The recognition of Kogi State as an oil producing state on a 50-50 basis with Anambra State is a watershed – a milestone, in the history of Nigeria. It makes Kogi State the first oil producing state in the Middle Belt and in the northern part of Nigeria.Personally, I still feel we have been deprived, because the bigger flow of the oil is in Kogi State.

On the other hand, we also need to thank God, because as a state we didn’t play the politics very well. Anambra was more involved than Kogi State. It invested in the struggle to get national attention on all fronts, but I didn’t see Kogi State seriously involved in the agitation, except during the administrations of Prince Abubakar Audu and Captain Idris Wada, respectively.

As we soldiered on in the struggle, Kogi’s voice was nearly drowned at the presidency and the National Assembly. Even the method which the National Boundary Commission (NBC) wanted to employ in delineating the boundary was not favourable to Kogi State, which led to a stalemate.

I use this opportunity to pay tribute to the heroes of Odeke oil struggle, which include the people of Odeke, who lost their lives and got injured while fighting for their land. Several lives were lost on the farms and fishing ponds in Odeke, Ibaji Local Government, where the oil deposit was discovered.

Before the politics of oil wells took the front burner, Odeke and Aguleri in Anambra were good neighbours, who had intermarried and attended social activities freely together on either side. One could hardly differentiate between them, because of the level they interacted socially. They shared markets, farmland and fish ponds.

Those that are claiming credit, celebrating and trumpeting the recognition of the state as oil producing state today did not play any recognizable role in the new limelight. For example, Governor Yahaya Bello as a sitting governor that received the cheery news, and presiding over the celebration, knew little about the journey that brought us to the present level.

However, kudos to critical stakeholders and several Ibaji Local Government chairmen, former governor, late Prince Abubakar Audu, former governor Idris Wada and Senator Isaac Alfa, who worked tirelessly to ensure that Anambra State did not take away what belongs to the state. Some of the key figures in Ibaji that played significant roles in the long-drawn battle were Hon Emmanuel Egwuaba, Engr Dan Omatola, Hon Dav Ogwu, Barr Reuben Egwuaba, Hon Damian Etiukwu, Hon. Abraham Uchola, Chief Abu Bendo, Barr Thomas Acholo, Hon Felix Amajeh, among others. The list is inexhaustible.

We have been made to understand that oil has ever been in Odeke and environs. We have been told that exploration of the oil actually started in 1952, in Ibaji villages like, Ihile, Odeke, Ikah, Ujeh, Echeno, Anocha/Uchuchu, Omabo and Iregwu. That time, oil wells were not yet an issue, because 13 percent derivation, which gives oil producing states financial edge, in monthly allocations had not taken effect.

I think the major problem started when the federal government started paying 13 percent derivation to oil producing states from the federation account. The oil producing states are like kings during the monthly sharing of national booty. Kogi will soon join the league of such states, when full exploration of Odeke Oil begins.

Let the truth be told; Anambra state was smarter than Kogi State. Kogi State displayed non-committal attitude for too long in the matter. By the time the state government started showing genuine interest; Anambra state had made practical commitments in the disputed area. At least, so it claimed. It claimed that it had spent about N4 billion in developing the area. How? This cannot be verified!

Odds were in fact against Kogi state from the beginning. Odeke was under Anambra basin. This gave them the wrong conception that the place belonged to Anambra state. All explorations in geological terms, in that area were done under the Anambra basin. So, it was easy for them to erroneously claim that the portion belonged to them.

It was said that between 1952 and 1986, three companies namely; Shell BP (now SPDC), Elf (now Total Fina Elf) and AGIP Energy drilled 25 exploration wells, 2 appraisal wells and 8-core drill wells in the entire Basin, out of which majority of the wells were in the present day Kogi State”.

“The NNPC/NPDC which carried out seismic activities in the Anambra Basin in which Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi East was largely involved between 1976 and 1983, affirmed that “oil and gas was found to be in commercial quantity in Kogi State.”

Records have also shown that during the exploration activities, compensations were paid to the people of Odeke, Ikah, Anocha, Echeno, Ihile, Ujeh, Omabo and Iregwu all in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State respectively, for damages caused on their farmlands, economic trees, fishing ponds and even shrines buttressing the claim of ownership of the land.

Throughout the fight for the ownership of the oil wells, Kogi State actually looked like an underdog. In 2001, the then governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu showed up on the scene. When the exploration that was going on was stopped, he wrote to the Group Managing Director of NNPC to remind him of the need to continue, stressing that there was oil in commercial quantity in Odeke, Echeno and Anocha. Shortly after his letter, exploration resumed, on 25th July 2001.

Serious commitment was also made by the administration of Captain Idris Wada, who hoped that the status of oil producing state could be achieved in his time, in office.

Sequel to Prince Audu’s letter, a team of geo-scientist/engineers was drafted to Ibaji to carry out a preliminary investigation on the claims of Kogi State Government. The investigation paid off as an indigenous Orient Petroleum Resources was granted an Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 915 and 916, in 2012. The percentages of crude oil in the OPL 915 among the three contesting states are as follows; Kogi State- 53%, Anambra- 23%, Enugu- 17% and Edo-3%.

The management team of the oil exploration company that was involved in the activity of exploration in the area is from Anambra state, and this has led to the erroneous belief that the oil belongs to Anambra State.

What added insult to injury was the declaration of Anambra state as oil producing area by President Goodluck Jonathan, in 2012, when the dispute was yet to be resolved. Jonathan had, on August 30 2012, while inaugurating Orient Petroleum’s Anambra River Production Facility in Aguleri, declared Anambra State the 10th oil bearing state in the country.

However, on 6 December 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to determine, within six months, who between Kogi and Anambra states should be considered an oil producing state. The NBC failed to do this. Unfortunately, NBC hardly resolves boundary crises. It compounds them.

Part of the crisis was the claim that Anambra State invested N4 billion into the exploration of Ibaji oil. But the true position is that the investment was by Orient Petroleum, a private company in Anambra State, not the state government.

A major drawback to the crisis was the involvement of National Boundary Commission (NBC), which could not determine the method for measuring the ownership of the land. Kogi State government totally faulted the yardstick the NBC was going to use in delimiting the land; which led to stalemate.

The decision to make it 50-50 for Kogi and Anambra is quite unfair, because 53 percent of the oil wells are on Kogi land. It is because of the inability of the NBC to resolve the dispute that the federal government in its wisdom had to share the oil ownership into two equal halfs.

The National Boundary Commission (NBC) had insisted that they would use the legal instrument of 1954 as the instrument by which they would delimit the boundary between Kogi and Anambra state. The 1954 legal framework as proposed by NBC did not favour Kogi State. Kogi state had argued for “ground-to-paper instrument” as the best approach, which embodied ethnographic survey. By this method you interview the indigenous people of the area, whereby they will be called upon to point out both the natural and physical features of the boundary lines between them.

Half bread, they say, is better than none. The percent given to Kogi State is unfair. The right thing to do was to give Kogi State 75 percent and Anambra state 25 percent. This is arguably a product of low level politics in the state. Our presence is minimal at the national level. We don’t have people that can speak for us. We can only fight one another at home.

Politics of deception, ethnic bigotry and pull-him-down syndrome has killed the state. Our National Assembly members are like mummies and zombies. Yesterday, I read that some of them from the state went to EFCC office to tell them that Governor Yahaya Bello was innocent of the allegation of diversion of money leveled against him.

What a shame!

Are they not aware that the case is already in Court? Don’t they know that it is beyond their limits? It’s sheer display of illiteracy, naivety, sycophancy, and foolishness for so called Honourable members of National Assembly to push a case that is not ordinarily on their table to legislate or adjudicate.

And that is why we are where we are!

Abel Ada-Musa, a Public Affairs analyst writes from Kogi State.

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PDP’s tag of defectors to APC as corrupt

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

Barely 24 hours after defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party came out swinging at former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Senate Minority Leader and PDP’s staunch member, Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), appearing on Arise TV on September 17, 2021, referenced former President Olusegun Obasanjo as saying that, “Fani-Kayode will always go to where there is ‘food’.”
On the decamping of Fani-Kayode, Abaribe said: “I do not want to dwell on his issue. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said it all before, (that) ‘Femi Fani-Kayode is my boy. Provide him food, he will eat and then sing for you. He’s a smart boy’.”
While the PDP is swift in attacking Fani-Kayode, watchers of the polity have waited, for months, for it to go after businessman-turned politician, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, for joining the APC.
As its pastime, the PDP would assail any politician, and particularly members of the PDP, for daring to switch camps to the APC, which the PDP monikers as a cesspool of corruption.
Chief Olawepo-Hashim, a human rights activist, and founding member of the PDP, decamped from the party prior to the 2019 elections, and ran for president under the Peoples Trust.
Rather than return to the PDP, Olewapo-Hashim has joined the APC, and surprisingly, the PDP has looked the other way. Why? Is it because the party is “carrying an elephant of a crisis,” and can’t afford to dig for crickets with its toes? Not likely!
An Esan adage says: “A dog that encounters ‘terrible’ feces can’t bark.” The PDP has faced a dreadful ‘dung’ in Olawepo-Hashim that it’s gone AWOL or to Afghanistan, as the self-made politician, in a reversal of roles, turned the corruption tables on the PDP.*
In his decamping speech, he said he’s drawn to the APC because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s “passion and determination to tackle corruption in Nigeria despite dubious attempts by his critics to belittle the effectiveness of his anti-corruption crusade.”
Without mentioning its name, Olawepo-Hashim, a former student activist, detained by the Police in April 1989 after an anti-apartheid protest, went for the PDP jugular, noting that, “ironically, the other party does not even care a whim about curbing corruption.”
“Regrettably, its (PDP) members celebrate their newly-adopted legacy of graft and display of criminal opulence,” he said, adding, “the other party is a far cry from the community of honourable men and women that it was in 1998 when we launched it.”
If any other decamping politician had praised Buhari’s fiercely “vilified” anti-corruption crusade, the PDP, through its megaphone, Kola Ologbondiyan, would’ve hit the roof nailing the “affront.”*
But not so when it comes to Olawepo-Hashim, who, as a former stalwart and financier of the PDP, knows about the corruption perception that attended the 16-year rule of the party.*
The PDP warped logic, as the APC numbers swell, is its tendency to want to have it both ways by labelling defectors to the APC as “corrupt politicians” fleeing to avoid the anti-graft searchlight.
Why is it that when in the PDP, you’re “squeaky clean,” but immediately you cross over to the APC, you become “a crook and looter” to be loathed and hounded by the opposition?*
Amusingly, before quitting, the PDP bigwigs would be on their knees, pleading with the “defectors” not to flee the “sinking ship” or the “tattered umbrella,” as the APC is wont to describe its rival!*
Other recent defectors are: Governors Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Ben Ayade (Cross River) and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara); former Governor Gbenga Daniel (Ogun); former Speakers, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi) and Dimeji Bankole (Ogun); PDP’s BoT member and former Senator, Joy Emordi (Anambra); former Aviation Minister and Senator, Stella Oduah (Anambra North); and many members of the National and State Houses of Assembly.
Away back, the PDP bragged about these personalities, describing them as leading lights, performers and deliverers of “democratic dividend” that their APC counterparts couldn’t deliver.
What happens when they exit the PDP? The “praise singers” would become the defectors’ tormentors-in-chief, tarring them black with corruption, as they’ve done to members of the APC.
But when political chieftains defect from the APC to the PDP, the PDP hegemons would embrace and hail them as “saints” doing a “Ben Johnson” from the alleged coven of sleaze.*
Recall the 2020 poll in Edo State in which Governor Godwin Obaseki, prior to defecting from the APC, was pilloried by the PDP as corrupt, but praised as scrupulous after he joined the PDP!
This is despite Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike’s description of the stakeholders shepherding Obaseki into the PDP as “tax collectors” (bribe-takers) wanting to “shave Obaseki’s hair” before giving him the ticket to run at the poll.*
Imagine Obaseki going back to the APC, and PDP leaders would rush to knock him as corrupt! It appears the PDP relishes bandying the toxic word to tarnish friends-today-enemies-tomorrow for their “brashness” in decamping to the APC, its current nightmare.
Could any of the PDP “purists” thump their chests and proclaim themselves free from looting the public purse that has left Nigeria prostrate, and behind in most indices of development?*
The PDP chieftains’ nick-naming of former “colleagues” as corrupt will not do the magic of stopping the inevitable exodus from its platform, but will encourage more to seek refuge in the APC.
The PDP needs an unbiased introspection on why its leaders and members leave in droves, and not recourse to the arcane charge of defectors joining the APC to avoid the anti-graft dragnet.*
It’s not enough for the PDP to identify and blame those wanting a change of its leadership as striving to destabilise the party; there must be genuine conversation on the underlying grievances, for the attainment of true reconciliation.
The PDP should use the opportunity of its current crisis to do the soul-searching, and arrive at implementable recommendations that would produce an acceptable leadership at the party convention in October 2021, to enhance its chances in the 2023 polls.
Obviously, the crisis in the PDP (with a similar manifestation in the APC) is grounded in ambition for the high office of President of Nigeria, with tens of powerful members angling for the single slot.*
Look at the speculated list of aspirants – and still counting – for the presidency in 2023, and one would realize why there’re differing tendencies tugging at the soul of the PDP.* The aspirants include:
Former Vice President/Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar (Adamawa); former Vice President, Namadi Sambo (Kaduna); former Governor/Vice Presidential candidate, Peter Obi (Anambra); former Governor/Senate President, Bukola Saraki (Kwara); and former Reps Speaker/Governor, Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto).
Others are: former Governor/Senator, Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); former Governor/Senator, Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna); Governor Wike (Rivers); Governor Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Governor Seyi Makinde (Oyo); and former Governor Sule Lamido (Jigawa).
By mimicking APC’s reported consensus presidential pick, can the PDP manage its titans’ ambitions or flunk the process and turn around to blame the APC for “rigging” its (PDP) primary?
Getting it right isn’t about PDP’s wish for APC’s demise, sack of its Caretaker Committee chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), or naming APC as a den of the corrupt and poll riggers, but ensuring a transparent choice of its presidential candidate, to avoid endless gnashing of teeth beyond 2023. The PDP better be wise!

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