—Says position of Northern govs, traditional rulers unhelpful to national interests
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—A Professional group from the South-South geopolitical zone has taken a swipe at the position of governors and traditional rulers of the Northern states extraction over their opposition to the presidency going to the Southern part of the country after the eight years reign of President Muhammadu Buhari, describing the position of the northern leaders as unhelpful and negative to national interest.
The South-South group which is made up of core professionals in different walks of life operating under the umbrella of South-South Study Group (3SG) in a statement signed by its Convener, Prince Otoks Dan-Princewill, on Thursday also condemned the position of Northern leaders on the raging controversy on Value Added Tax, VAT collection.
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It will be recalled that the governors from the Southern part of the country under the aegis of Southern Governors Forum, had in its meeting resolved that the next President of the country in 2023 should come from the South after President Buhari, who is from the North must have completed eight years in office.
Besides, some governors especially, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu have taken the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, to court over the collection of VAT, insisting that it is the constitutional responsibility of the states to collect VAT and not the federal government.
However, leaders from the northern states including governors and traditional rulers in their recent meeting in Kaduna State lampooned the Southern governors on their resolution that the office of the president should go to the South in 2023.
The Northern leaders also kicked against the attempt by some governors to take over VAT collection from the federal government, describing the attempt as unconstitutional.
But in a statement titled, “Northern Governors and Traditional leaders position on national issues: A missed opportunity”, 3SG described the response of Northern leaders to the earlier Statements by Southern Governors “as unfortunate, unhelpful and negative to national interests at this juncture of our national history.”
On the constitutionality of power rotation, the group said, “The position of the Northern Governors and traditional leaders that the Nigerian Constitution has no provision on ‘power rotation’ belies the letters and spirit of the Federal Character Clause of S 14 (3) of the 1990 Nigerian Constitution.
“The negative position is diametrically opposed to the Constitutional position that ” the conduct of government affairs shall reflect the federal character of Nigeria and promote national unity, and that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in government or in any of its agencies”.
“In the Report of the APC Governors’ Forum’s Committee on True Federalism at Section 3.11 page 35, it is stated that support for power sharing and rotation are more than those against it and is “overwhelming in the three Northern zones and considerable in the South West and South-South”.
The South-South Study Group further said, “Power rotation between the North and the South is an idea canvassed by prominent Northern leaders in the past as an agreement, a sacrosanct covenant.
“This curious departure from reality is a missed opportunity to affirm the consolidation and sustenance of our segmented Democracy and Nation-Building.”
On open grazing and insecurity, it said, “The control and prohibition of Open Grazing of Livestock in the South is clearly within the Constitutional prerogative of the elected leaders of Southern States. Among several things, including its negative impact on the environment, the security breaches caused by herdsmen, many of whom are armed and dangerous, justify and makes it imperative to ban open grazing in the South.
“Indeed Northern Governors ought to look deeper and take stronger and more effective joint positions to tackle the unfortunate security crises engulfing the whole of the North, which is spreading further South and dangerously destabilizing the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Also reacting to the raging war on VAT, the group said, “The vexatious issue of VAT was addressed in such a cavalier manner, such that the Northern Governors seemed willing to abandon constitutionally entrenched State rights to the Federal Government. In this regard, they did a great disservice to the concept of fiscal federalism and the ability of States to raise essential revenue for their survival.
“Why should states depend on the revenue generated from other states to survive yet arrogant? Why should states that destroy sources of VAT like alcohol benefit from revenues generated from it in other states and even get more? Why should Northern leaders create a dangerous and erroneous impression that they have greater stake in the Nigerian project than the Southern States?
An Unpatriotic Call for a Unitary System of Government
“Why should Northern governors treasonously advocate a return to Unitary System of government in violation of the Constitution?
“The contradictory and self-defeating position of Northern Governors and traditional rulers represents another missed opportunity to narrow the widening areas of national ‘rift and drift’ being experienced in the country.
“The meeting in Kaduna dwelt on negatives, presented no new ideas on how to end terrorism, banditry that ruined their region in particular and the country but merely gathered to exacerbate the conflicts, tensions, divisions and insecurity in the country.
“Accordingly, the South-South Study Group urges Northern leaders, elders and all patriotic Nigerians to wake up to the national reality that sustainable development of the North and indeed the entire nation requires realistic, pragmatic, visionary, resourceful and creative new ways to meet the growing needs of all Nigerians and the challenges of Nation-Building.”