Nigerian lawmakers have failed to fix a specific date to reconvene from the holidays as generally thought of in view of some pressing state matters.
The news that broke Tuesday did not entirely come as a a surprise. The preceding days had seen members of Nigeria’s National Assembly speaking tongue-in-cheek with respect to returning work.
It’s now official that the upper and lower legislative houses will not be reconvening anytime soon. By refusing to fix a specific date, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, literally shut the doors indefinitely.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the National Assembly leadership stated that the existing conditions were not conducive for them to reconvene and consider the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2019 elections budget request forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 17, 2018.
Amongst others, the lawmakers argued that a procedural hitch existed as the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan must meet as expected, after which both reports would would be ready for presentation to the two chambers.
“…No such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as there is no report to consider.
“Until the Committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj,” the statement said.
Sources familiar with the developments, however, maintain that open threats by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to impeach the Senate President on grounds of having defected to the main opposition and minority party (PDP) are real reason for continued closure of the National Assembly.
This position was reinforced Tuesday as APC dug into the trenches.
“While Saraki and his cohorts continue to postpone their doomsday regarding the imminent Senate leadership change, the yet-to-be considered 2019 budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC is dangerously delayed. Clearly, Saraki’s actions as Senate President now bother on high treason”, Yekini Nabena, APC’s Acting National Publicity Secretary, said in a statement.
The party further alleged plans by PDP to harm its members and also bribe them to give up the plot to remove Saraki.
“We call on security agents to protect APC Senators. If any Senator is harmed, the PDP and Saraki should be held directly responsible. We call on security agencies to also closely monitor the activities of some PDP leaders including Saraki because the plan to attack APC Senators is real and imminent.
“We were informed that the plot was hatched in the private residence of a PDP leader in Maitama-Abuja on Sunday night. The meeting was attended by 15 pro-Saraki Senators including the Senate President himself,” the statement read.
It added, “This revelation has not come to us as a surprise because the Senate President through proxies has made several failed attempts to buy over APC Senators with N100million each.
“As a Party, we don’t believe in inducing lawmakers to achieve our legitimate goal of removing Saraki as Senate President. We will get the support of some PDP Senators to get the required 2/3 vote and impeach Saraki. We are already talking to some of PDP Senators who believe and support the direction of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to achieve our legitimate goal.
“We reiterate our call for Saraki’s immediate resignation as Senate President. He cannot lead the APC majority Senate. But if he fails to resign honourably, we will impeach him. The PDP’s propaganda and threat of violence cannot save him.
“As Chairman of the 8th National Assembly, Saraki’s decision not to reconvene the National Assembly done with the support of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara further buttresses our position that Saraki is ever ready to pursue his selfish interests over National Interest. This is another brazen display of his penchant for abuse of powers and sabotage of government, however the cost and implication.”
While the ruling party alludes to constitutional means of removing Saraki, some analysts claim that the stance amounts to mere posturing as the APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has vigorously warned that the party would do anything to disgrace the Senate President out of office.
“The only way he can avoid impeachment is to either resign or return to the majority party- even then we will not accept him, he should remain where he is.
“No amount of blackmail or sponsored analysts can stop his removal,” Oshiomhole was quoted as saying Tuesday.
One analyst said, “APC’s resort to strong-arm tactics is understandable. If they manage to get rid of Saraki by whatever means, he would have little or no time to fight back as the force of the federal might will be too much to bear.
“In the circumstance, the embattled Senate President is left with no choice but to fight till the end as the APC leadership is allowing no room for compromise or negotiations.
“Remember, this whole fight is about which party takes the Presidency in 2019. With the gale of defections, PDP is sufficiently armed to give APC a good run, and would do anything as well, to prop Saraki and force a stalemate. This is where we are at the moment,” he said.
Nigerian government chases tax dodgers abroad. New policy targets foreign assets
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has unveiled a new system to ensure that all taxes on foreign assets of Nigerians due the federal government are remitted to the government’s coffers.
The move, the government believes, will strengthen efforts against money laundering and tax evasion.
The new system is captured in a new Executive Order tagged, ‘Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS).’
The Executive Order (008) takes effect from October 8, the day it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Buhari’s media aide, Garba Shehu, by the new order, Nigerian taxpayers who hold offshore assets and income are expected to, within a period of 12 months, declare voluntarily those assets and pay taxes on them.
“When they do this, they should expect to derive certain specified benefits,” Shehu said in a statement Wednesday.
He also said that according to the order, “any taxpayer who truthfully and voluntarily complies with the conditions of the scheme, pays a one-time levy of 35 percent on the total offshore assets or pays all outstanding taxes, penalties and interest after forensic audit of their offshore assets and income shall obtain immunity from prosecution for tax offenses and offences related to offshore assets, among others.
“Equally, failure of any defaulting taxpayer to take advantage of this scheme shall, at the expiration of the scheme result in investigation and enforcement procedures concerning offshore assets anywhere in the world pursuant to information now readily available through automatic exchange of information between Nigeria and foreign countries.”
He said in accordance with the new order, the federal government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, will set up a VOARS in Switzerland for all categories of taxpayers who have defaulted in the declaration of their offshore assets, payment of taxes due and collectible subject to the fulfillment of the terms and conditions as stipulated in the order, or any other subsequent complementary regulations that follow.
To avoid the abuse of this process, he said, the federal government makes clear that the “scheme is open to all persons, entities, and their intermediaries holding offshore assets and are in default of their tax obligations in any way, including those who are not already under investigation by law enforcement agencies in Nigeria or any other country and have not been charged with any crimes including theft of public funds or obtaining offshore assets through corrupt practices.”
In signing the order, Shehu said Buhari noted that under Nigerian law, every citizen has the duty to declare his or her income and assets and pay taxes on them but regretted that this, in most instances, had not been the case.
“The sad reality is that efforts to recover these taxes from defaulters through litigation are often frustrated by the complications caused by the change in the character and nature of such assets, insufficient financial intelligence, long delays in courts, among several other reasons,” the presidential aide said.
President Buhari is optimistic that the new scheme will help to facilitate the expedient regularisation of offshore assets connected to Nigeria and lead to “a new expanded tax base for the federal government, and also fund the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund in Switzerland,” he said.
Stealing victory. Cameroon inches toward long-drawn post-election crisis. Who cares?
Cameroon appears headed for a long-drawn crisis with President Paul Biya’s government dismissing an opposition victory claim in the latest presidential elections.
Biya’s governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) has termed the opposition acts as a manoeuvre to compromise peace and tranquillity in the country.
The Cameroon Renaissance Movement’s (CRM) candidate, Prof Maurice Kamto, Monday said he had won the vote, sending his supporters into street celebrations.
“I have received a clear mandate from the Cameroonian people which I will firmly defend right to the end and I want the national and international community to bear witness to this historic event that has ushered in a democratic political change in our country,” Prof Kamto said.
However, CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete told a press conference in Yaoundé late Monday that the party was surprised and worried by the declaration which showed disregard for the rules of democracy and institutions.
“We express our surprise, our indignation and worry in the face of such irresponsible declaration that has no foundation. They are doing this in a bid to cause an uprising of the population to defend an imaginary victory,” he said.
No official results have been released yet from the election, in which eight candidates challenged longtime President Paul Biya.
Nkuete accused Kamto of breaking the law by announcing that he won the election.
Kamto is not the only candidate claiming victory. Cabral Libii of the opposition Universe Party announced he is leading the vote count.
Opposition candidate Garga Haman of the Alliance for Democracy and Development says two candidates want to create social unrest to oust President Paul Biya, who has led Cameroon for 36 years.
“Those two candidates are in a hurry to go to Etoudi [to be president]. Not yet my dear friends, not yet. Let us wait for the decision of the constitutional council. There is no reason to go on to the streets. Do not exploit the mentality of the youths,” he said.
Despite the turmoil, Biya, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders, is expected to win in the face of a deeply divided opposition.
In the midst of the crisis, Cameroon’s long time allies and former colonial master, France, seems comfortable observing from the stands. Many believe the latter’s interests, especially security of the country’s international business concerns, are at the centre of its diplomatic posturing on the matter of the Cameroons.
Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters
The jailed vice president of Rwanda’s opposition FDU-Inkingi party escaped from prison on Sunday, according to the country’s correctional service.
Boniface Twagirimana was missing from a routine headcount at the prison Monday, local media reported, quoting a Rwanda Correctional Service spokesperson. The spokesperson said that Twagirimana and another prisoner had managed to escape by jumping over the complex’s fence and said that an investigation had been launched.
But members of the FDU — an unregistered political party — are calling “foul play” and fear that Twagirimana’s life could be in danger.
In a statement released Monday, the FDU party questioned how Twagirimana could have escaped out of a high security prison he had been transferred to only five days prior and called on the Rwandan government for answers.
“This information…leaves us to believe that there could be foul play by Rwandan security services,” the statement said.
“We call on the Rwandan government to inform the family, the party FDU-Inkingi and the general prison about the circumstances of the disappearance of Twagirimana. Mr Twagirimana was in the custody of the state which is accountable for his safety,” it added.
In September 2017, Twagirimana and eight other FDU party members were arrested on charges of forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government, charges Twagirimana denies.
The FDU members were placed in a Kigali jail where their party leader, Victoire Ingabire, was serving out a sentence for charges related to comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and collaborating with a “terrorist organization.”
Ingabire has long said her sentence was a result of her work as a prominent government critic and that the charges effectively criminalized her freedom of expression. International organizations such as Amnesty International and a 2017 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruling have supported those views.
Last month, Ingabire was granted a presidential pardon by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and was released from jail after serving eight years of her 15-year sentence.
Immediately after she was freed, she called on the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape to the opposition and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Twagirimana and other members of her political party.
On October 3, Twagirimana was moved from Kigali’s Mageragere prison to Mpanga prison, in the country’s southern Nyanza District. The authorities did not inform Twagirimana’s family that he was being transferred or give any explanation for the move, according to Twagirimana’s wife.
Rwanda’s National Police and Rwanda’s Correctional Service have not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Twagirimana is not the first FDU member to go missing.
In May 2017, party member Jean Damascene Habarugira disappeared after he was called to meet an official responsible for the security of his locality. A few days later, Habarugira’s family were called to collect his body from a local hospital.
Twagirimana denounced Habarugira’s murder as an assassination. In a statement, the FDU said that Habarugira was “assassinated in cold blood” because of his opposition to the local authority’s agricultural policies and concerns over police brutality.
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