Power shift: Your position unconstitutional, North governors reply South colleagues

 Back FG on VAT, say Lagos, Rivers misunderstand the tax
• They only exercised their right under freedom of expression, Southern governors chair reacts
• Yoruba group flays NSGF, traditional rulers, says gentleman’s agreement must be respected

In apparent display of fault lines set to define the fierce contest for the 2023 presidential election, the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), yesterday, rose from its emergency meeting held in Kaduna State to carpet the position of their Southern counterparts that power must shift to the south, saying it is against the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

It also said it is sub-judice to act on the controversial Value Added Tax (VAT) while the case between Rivers State and the Federal Government is before the Supreme Court but went ahead to offer its position.

On open grazing, it called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP).

Those in attendance include the governors of Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Borno, Nasarawa, Jigawa and Gombe. The governors of Niger, Kogi, Benue, Zamfara and Taraba states were represented by their deputies.

In The meeting was also attended by chairmen of Northern States Traditional Council, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111.

In his remark, the host governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said the Northern region is facing severe economic and security challenges that require the convening of the emergency meeting between the governors and traditional rulers. And the forum will help chart a way forward to deal with these issues. 

The 11-point resolutions were read by the chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong.

Commenting on the security situation of the region, the forum observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the Federal and Northern states governments.

The meeting also noted with concern the constraint of the security services and urged the armed forces to embark on simultaneous operations.

BUT chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), in a swift reaction last night, said the Northern governors should not be grudged for kicking against power shifting to the South in 2023.

Akeredolu, in a terse response through his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, in Akure said that they have only exercised their right under freedom of expression.

He said: “On the Northern governors’ resolution, they have expressed and indeed exercised their rights under Freedom of Expression,” adding that “no one can stop them from expressing themselves.”

Reading the communiqué on behalf of the 19 Northern governors, Lalong said: “Some Northern States Governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to the three geo-political zones in the South with a view to promoting unity and peace in the nation.

“Notwithstanding their comments, the forum unanimously condemns the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South.

“The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended that the elected President shall: score the majority votes; score at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in 2/3 states of the federation. In the case of run-up, simple majority wins the election.”

On the controversy trailing the collection of VAT on which Lagos and Rivers States have made laws, he said: “As responsible leaders, while we are constrained by the fact that the matter is subjudice, we, however, for the purposes of educating the public make the following observations:

“The judgment of the Federal High Court calls to question the constitutionality of VAT, withholding tax, education tax, Niger Delta Development Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, 13 per cent derivation, National Economic Development Council and many others currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

“Rivers and Lagos State Governments had enacted their own VAT laws and the Southern Governors’ Forum have expressed support for this course of action. VAT is being confused by these state governments as a sales tax. If every state enacted its own VAT law, multiple taxations will result in increases in prices of goods and services and collapse in interstate trade. VAT is not a production tax like excise, but terminal tax, which is paid by the ultimate consumer;

“Another confusion is ignoring the observation above and its ‘overall effect’. The reason Lagos accounts for our 50 per cent VAT collection is that most of the telecommunication companies, banks, manufacturing and other trading activities have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.

“Until and unless the Supreme Court pronounces judgment on the substantive matter between Rivers State and the Federal Government, the matter is subjudice and Northern States Governors Forum would respect this.”

In his address, the Sultan of Sokoto commended the governors for their efforts in combating insecurity.

He said: “The traditional ruler’s councils appreciated the efforts made so far by the NSGF in addressing the key areas of challenges facing Northern states. We expressed our willingness, solidarity and collaboration with the governors in addressing these challenges, particularly the issue of security.”

MEANWHILE, a Southwest group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum has flayed the Northern governors and their traditional rulers for being the exact opposite of truth on matters concerning VAT and rotational presidency agreement between the North and South regions.
 
In a reaction to the meeting of the Northern governors and traditional leaders, the president of Yoruba Ronu, Mr. Akin Malaolu, described the position of the Northern governors as a boldfaced attempt at exercising untoward powers to override the decisions of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court in the judgment given on VAT collection matters.


The forum also flayed the governors for trying to influence through deceit by laying bare their wishes on matters still ongoing at both the Appeal and Supreme courts of the land, while pretending to respect the courts.

The forum said: “On the issue of the rotational presidency, we hope the Northern leaders would take their minds back to 2011 when the same rotational presidency brouhaha emanated after the demise of ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua and the bitter struggle for it without their recourse to any section of the Constitution leaders they are now alluding to. This gentleman’s agreement must not be snubbed. It will have a payback.

“However, we are not carried away by these nasty trick of words on both issues, but, we urge the Southern governors to keep it calmly and enact laws for VAT collections for their states. VAT is a consumption tax and the populace that made the consumption and paid the taxes should be the beneficiaries. That is equity, no more no less, and also the position of the law.

“On matters of insecurity, we do hope leaders that gathered in Kaduna State, yesterday, also took cognisance of the extremely poor conditions of their helpless millions of people in their respective states. It is a stark reality that low quality education or lack of it, corruption and illicit acquisition of wealth, as well as near-slavery methods of governance, are the clear aberrations inimical for human capacity development. The communiqué they read, took no decision on the generally poor conditions of the hapless and helpless millions of our Northern populace. This to us is unhealthy both for Nigerians and Nigeria.”

FULL COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE NORTHERN GOVERNORS’ FORUM
THE communiqué reads in full: “The forum discussed issues of peace, progress, development and wellbeing of the Northern states. The forum took stock of progress made in handling challenges of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and insurgency. After extensive deliberations, the following resolutions were arrived at:

“The forum reviewed security updates from the region and observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the Federal and Northern states governments while noting the success of recent measures.  

“The meeting also noted with concern the constraint of the security services and urged the armed forces to embark on simultaneous operations and resolve to share the plans of the frontline states in common with other regions, and assured of its readiness to work in synergy with the Federal Government of Nigeria in finding a lasting solution to the current security challenges.

“The forum appreciated the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram, especially, in the Northeast and parts of Northwest and North Central states and encouraged the armed forces and other security agencies to sustain the tempo to enable the security challenges to be permanently addressed in the shortest time.

“The forum received updates on the renewable/solar energy project and noted that request for land for the project had been submitted and are being processed by the Northern states. The committee had commenced negotiations in a public-private arrangement and sovereign guarantees to ensure bankability of the project by multilateral financial organisations. The forum called on states yet to process the request for allocation of land for the project to expedite action.

“The meeting received updates on activities of some committees constituted by the Northern States Governors’ Forum and noted that recommendations contained therein are being considered with a view to coming up with implementation strategies.

“The forum observed that some Northern States governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three geo-political zones in the South with a view to promoting unity and peace in the nation. Notwithstanding their comments, the forum unanimously condemns the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South. The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.

“The Northern State Governors’ Forum considered the ongoing national debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT). As responsible leaders, while we are constrained by the fact that the matter is subjudice, we, however, for the purposes of educating the public make the following observations:

“(a) the judgment of the Federal High Court calls to question the constitutionality of VAT, withholding tax, education tax, Niger Delta Development Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, 13 per cent derivation, National Economic Development Council and many others currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service.

“(b) Rivers and Lagos State Governments had enacted their own VAT laws and the Southern Governors’ Forum have expressed support for this course of action.

“(c) VAT is being confused by these state governments as a sales tax. If every state enacted its own VAT law, multiple taxations will result in increases in prices of goods and services and collapsed in interstate trade. VAT is not a production tax like excise, but a terminal tax, which is paid by the ultimate consumer.

“(d) Another confusion is ignoring the observation above and its “overall effect”. The reason Lagos accounts for our 50 per cent VAT collection is that most of the telecommunication companies, banks, manufacturing and other trading activities have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.

“(e) Until and unless the Supreme Court pronounces judgment on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government, the matter is subjudice and Northern States Governors’ Forum would respect this.

“The Traditional Rulers Councils appreciated the efforts made so far by the NSGF in addressing the key areas of challenges facing the Northern states, they expressed their willingness, solidarity and collaboration with the Governors in addressing these challenges, particularly the issue of security. It was equally resolved that perpetrators of crimes should be dealt with irrespective of their status in society.

“The Forum decried the high level of conspiracies being perpetrated by some judicial officers in releasing/granting bail to arrested criminals. This attitude sabotages the fight against criminality, therefore, there is the need to develop good and robust intelligence mechanisms amongst states was identified as a panacea.

“The forum calls on agencies to leave up to their responsibility, traditional rulers are to equally mobilise their various communities in checkmating the ugly trend of criminality in their domains.

“The forum noted the ugly trend in the spread of drugs and consumption among the teeming youth and therefore, calls on all levels of governments and communities to rise to the occasion by stemming the tide.

“The forum also call the Federal Government to expedite action on the well-established National Livestock Transformation Programme as a springboard in transiting from the open grazing system as wide practice in the North.”

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