*Say Southern govs’ insistence on power shift unconstitutional
*’VAT collection by states will increase prices of goods, collapse interstate trade’
*Northern govs only exercised their right under freedom of expression ― Southern govs
ldibia Gabriel, Kaduna
Governors of states in the North, under the aegis of Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), on Monday, condemned the position of their counterparts in the South that the next president of the country must come from the south, saying such contradicts the provisions of the constitution.
The Forum also stated that until and unless the Supreme Court pronounced judgement on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government on who has jurisdiction to collect Value Added Tax (VAT), the matter is sub judice and Northern States Governors Forum would respect this.
The forum disclosed this in a resolution of its emergency meeting with Northern states Emirs and Chiefs held in Kaduna on Monday.
The resolution signed by Chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, maintained that the Southern Governor’s statement “is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
“Notwithstanding their comments, the Forum unanimously condemn the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South”, it stated.
NSGF also stated that the elected President shall score the majority of votes, “score at least 25% of the votes cast in 2/3 States of the Federation. In the case of a run-up, a simple majority wins the election”, the forum added.
The Northern Governors Forum also considered the on-going National debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT)”, adding that “As responsible leaders, while we are constrained by the fact that the matter is sub judice, we however, for the purposes of educating the public make five point observations.
According to the forum, the judgement 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% derivation, National Economic Development Council and many other currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“Rivers and Lagos State Government had enacted their own VAT laws and the Southern Governors Forum have expressed support for this course of action;
“VAT is being confused by the State Governments as a sales tax. If every State enacted its own VAT Law, multiple taxation will result in increases of 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”, they stated.
“Another confusion is ignoring observation above and its “overall effect”, they stated, saying “The reason Lagos account for our 50% VAT collection is because most of the telecommunication companies, Banks, manufacturing and other trading activities that have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.
“Until and unless the Supreme Court pronounces judgement on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government, the matter is sub judice and Northern States Governors Forum would respect this”, it added.
On their parts, the Traditional Rulers Councils appreciated the efforts made so far by the NSGF in addressing the key areas of challenges facing the Northern States, and expressed their willingness, solidarity to collaborate with the Governors’ in addressing these challenges particularly the issue of security.
The forum equally resolved that perpetrators of crimes should be dealt with irrespective of their status in the 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 mechanism amongst States was identified as a panacea”, they said.
The Forum equally called on agencies to leave up to their responsibility, Traditional rulers 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 amongst the teeming youth and therefore, called on all levels of Governments and communities to rise to the occasion by stemming the tide.
The Forum also called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the well-established National Livestock Transformation Programme as a spring board in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practiced in the North.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, has said that northern governors should not be grudged for kicking against power shifting to the south in 2023.
Akeredolu, who is the governor of Ondo State, in a terse response through his Information and Orientation commissioner in Ondo State, Donald Ojogo, in Akure, said that northern governors 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.”
The Ondo governor added that “no one can stop them from expressing themselves.”