…Northern govs say states enacting VAT laws’ll cause multiple taxation
…Add: Power rotation unconstitutional
…Explain why Lagos accounts for 50% of VAT
…Seek urgent action on NLTP to speed up transition away from open-grazing
…Urge security agencies to sustain battle against bandits, kidnappers, B-Haram
…Sultan decries non-implementation of policies
…Northern govs only exercised their right to free speech — Southern govs
By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West & Clifford Ndujihe
Governors of the 19 northern states yesterday rejected their Southern counterparts’ call that the next president must come from the South and practically drew the battle line for 2023 contest.
They also kicked against collection of Value Added Tax, VAT, by states, saying it would not only lead to multiple taxation, but also scuttle interstate trade.
However, their resolutions were noted by their Southern counter-parts, whose chairman, last night, said the northern governors should not be blamed for kicking against power shift.
‘Constitutionality of taxes in question’
According to the northern governors, “the judgement of the Federal High Court (upholding collection of VAT by states) calls to question the constitutionality of VAT, Withholding tax, Education Tax, Niger Delta Development Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, 13% derivation,” among others.
They commended that the armed forces and security agencies for their onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram in the North and urged them to sustain the tempo.
On open-grazing, the governors urged the Federal Government to expedite action on the National Livestock Transformation Programme, NLTP, “as a springboard in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practiced in the North.”
The governors spoke after an emergency meeting with northern states’ emirs and chiefs at the Council Chamber, Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, yesterday, as part of “continuous efforts to address the challenges bedeviling the northern states.”
The meeting, which was also attended by chairmen of Northern States Traditional Council led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, also discussed issues of peace, progress, development and well-being of the Northern states. The Forum took stock of progress made in handling challenges of Banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and insurgency.
Southern governors had after their meeting in Enugu, on September 16, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 must come from the South and backed moves initiated by Rivers and Lagos state governments for states to collect VAT for which both states have enacted laws.
Currently, the two major political parties – ruling All Progressives Congress, APC; and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are pressured by moves and counter-moves for power-shift. No firm decision has been taken yet but the PDP appears set to produce a southern national chairman; and the APC a nothern national chairman.
The region that produces the chairman has a slimmer chance of producing the presidential candidate going by established tradition in party affairs in Nigeria.
Northern govs condemn power shift demand by Southern govs
“The Forum (northern governors) 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 condemn 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% of the votes cast in 2/3 states of the federation.
‘’In the case of run-up, simple majority wins the election,’’ they said in an 11-point resolution of the meeting signed by the Chairman, Northern States Governors’ Forum and governor of Plateau State, Barr. Simon Bako Lalong.
They continued: “The Northern State Governors Forum considered the on-going national debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT). 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 the following observations:
(a) 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 Inlands 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 taxation will result in increases of prices of goods and services and collapse in inter-state trade. VAT is not a production tax like excise, but terminal tax which is paid by the ultimate consumer;
(d) Another confusion is ignoring observation above and its “overall effect”. The reason Lagos accounts for over 50% 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 judgement on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government, the matter is sub-judice and Northern States Governors Forum would respect this.”
The resolutions read in part: “The Forum reviewed security updates from the region and observed the need for a sustained synergy and co-ordinated efforts between the Federal and Northern states governments while noting 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 resolved to share the plans of the frontline states common with other regions; and assured of its readiness to work in synergy with the Federal Government of Nigeria in finding lasting solution to the current security challenges.
Onslaught against B-Haram, bandits, others
“The Forum appreciated the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram, especially in the North-East and parts of North-West and North-Central states and encouraged the Armed forces and other security agencies to sustain the tempo to enable the security challenges 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 organizations. 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 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 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, the need to develop good and robust intelligence mechanism among states was identified as a panacea.
“The Forum calls on agencies to leave up to their responsibility, traditional rulers are to equally mobilize 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 youths and, therefore, calls on all levels of governments and communities to rise to the occasion by stemming the tide.
“The Forum also calls on the Federal Government to expedite action on the National Livestock Transformation Programme, NLTP, as a spring board in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practiced in the North.”
Sultan laments non- implemen-tation of policies
Earlier In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto and chairman of Northern Council of Traditional Rulers, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, decried the lack of implementation of policies after resolutions had been reached in various meetings.
He noted that when an important issue was discussed, there was need to fix a time limit for proper implementation of the resolution.
“Last February, we had a similar meeting; I want us to assess how far we have gone in implementing those resolutions so reached at that meeting,” he said.
Abubakar expressed readiness to always provide support that would assist in developing the region.
He said that attendance of the traditional leaders at the meeting was a clear testimony of their commitment, adding that they were always ready to render support on common issues affecting the region.
They expressed their rights to free speech — Southern govs
Reacting to the Northern governors last night, Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, who is also Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said the northern governors should not be grudged for kicking against power shift to the south in 2023.
Akeredolu, who spoke through his Information and Orientation Commissioner, Donald Ojogo, said the governors only exercised their rights under freedom of expression.
He said: “On the northern governors’ resolutions, they have expressed and indeed exercised their rights under freedom of expression. No one can stop them from expressing themselves.”