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FG Asks Lagos to Refund Billions of Naira Collected in Wharf Landing Fees

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  • FG Asks Lagos to Refund Billions of Naira Collected in Wharf Landing Fees

The federal government has asked the Supreme Court to declare the Lagos State Wharf Landing Fees Law No 5 of 2009 unconstitutional and to order the state to refund all the monies collected through the law.

The law was passed in 2009 when Babatunde Fashola, now the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, was the state governor. It imposes levies which vary from N1,000 to N3,000 on consignments transported from Lagos ports into the local government areas of the state.

In an originating summons filed on behalf of the federal government by Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation asked the court to declare that the state has no power to make law on any maritime, shipping and navigation matter including ‘Wharf Landing’ which are exclusively reserved for the federal government in item 36 of the Exclusive Legislative List, Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution.

The federal government also asked for an order directing Lagos State to account, refund and pay to it all the sums it has charged, received and collected pursuant to the implementation of the Wharf Landing Fees Law. It put the refunds at billions of naira.

The federal government also wants the apex court to authorise it to deduct the accounted sum from the statutory allocation due to the state from the Federation Account.

In a brief filed in support of the originating summons, Agbakoba argued that the intent and purpose of the Wharf Landing Fees Law, “is very clear from the nature of the law itself; which is to levy taxes and tariffs on goods and consignment imported from overseas through the sea ports in the state.”

According to him, the law encroaches on the powers of the federal government to collect import duties and customs duties.

The case was filed during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan and it will come up today at the Supreme Court for hearing. Giving the relationship between the present leadership of the federal government and the state government, it is not clear yet if the case will go ahead or be discontinued.

However, in a counter-affidavit deposed to by Olanrewaju Akinsola who was then the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Lagos State on Justice Sector Reform, Lagos said it had the power to authorise relevant local government councils to collect the fees in areas outside the jurisdiction of the ports authority, pursuant to Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.

The state also said the law was aimed at stopping the incidence of multiple and illegal taxes in Lagos, adding that prior to the enactment of the law, several local government areas engaged in indiscriminate imposition of levies on vehicles carrying goods and equipment in a bid to ameliorate the damage caused to their infrastructure by heavy traffics, especially those coming from the ports.

It stated that the Joint Tax Board approved the collection of the fees by Apapa Local Government Area of the state from 2002, and exhibited the letter of approval in its defence.

The state also said: “The Federal Ministry of Finance, by its letter dated 16 January, 2002 also approved the recommendation of the Joint Tax Board empowering Apapa Local Government to change and administer wharf landing fees.” It also attached a copy of the approval letter from the finance ministry.

In a letter to the then AGF, Mr, Bello Adoke (SAN), Lagos State explained that the law did not seek to regulate any activity within federal ports.

The letter which was written by Olasupo Shasore (SAN), who was then the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, read in part: “The Wharf Landing Fee was enacted pursuant to paragraphs 9-10 of the Concurrent Legislative List, Part II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution.

“Apart from the issue of constitutionality, it is also important to draw your attention to the inappropriateness of your solicitors, Olisa Agbakoba and Associates acting as counsel to the AGF in the matter at the Supreme Court. The law firm is a counsel to Hermonfield Limited, a sub-contractor of the collecting agent appointed by the state government to collect wharf landing fees. The bona fide of the law firm is suspect as this case appears to have been filed after failure of an attempt to foist the sub-contractor on the state government.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.

But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.

Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”

Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.

The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.

INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.

INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.

Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.

“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.

“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”

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No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari

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AFRICOM HQ

The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.

King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.

She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

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China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week

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China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.

“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”

China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”

“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.

“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.

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