The Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) has condemned statements by their Southern Governors Forum (SGF) that the Presidency must go to the South in 2023.
In a communique issued at the end of their joint meeting with Northern Traditional Rulers on Monday in Kaduna, the governors also spoke on the on-going controversy over the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), declaring that it is “being confused by Rivers and Lagos state governments as a sales tax.”
The communique which was read by the chairman of the forum and governor of Plateau state, Mr. Simon Lalong, also said the position of the Southern governors on power shift “is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
“The Forum observed that some Northern States Governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three Geo-Political Zone 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 communique said.
According to the NSGF, the statement by the Southern Governors “is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended that an elected President shall: score the majority votes; score at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in two-third of the states of the federation.”
The communique said the meeting considered the on-going national debate on the collection of VAT, stating however that: “as responsible leaders while we are constraint by the fact that the matter is sub judice we however for the purposes of educating the public make the following observations: 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.
“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 these state governments as a sales tax ”
The governors argued further that, “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.”
According to the governors, “Another confusion is ignoring observation above and its ‘overall effect’. The reason Lagos account for 50% VAT collection is because most of the telecommunication companies, banks, manufacturing and other trading activities have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.”
The communique said, “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 governors also decried what they described as “the high level of conspiracies being perpetrated by some judicial officers in releasing or granting bail to arrested criminals, maintaining that “this attitude sabotages the fight against criminality.”
The governors reviewed security situation in the north and called for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the federal and the Northern States governments to tackle the situation.
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 come up with and assured of their readiness to work in synergy with the Federal Government in finding lasting solution to the current security challenges.
The governors commended the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram especially in the North East and parts of North West and North Central state States and urged the Armed forces and other security agencies to sustain the tempo.
The governors called on agencies to leave up to their responsibility and urged traditional rulers to mobilize their various communities in checkmating the ugly trend of criminality in their domains.
The governors also lamented the ugly trend in the spread of drugs and consumption amongst the teeming youth and called on governments and communities to raise to the occasion by stemming the tide.
The communique urged the federal government to expedite action on the well establish National Livestock Transformation Programme as a springboard in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practice in the North.
The meeting was attended by the governors of Plateau, Kaduna, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Borno, Jigawa, Gombe and the deputy governor of Kano state.
Also at the meeting was the Chairman of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the emir’s of Zazzau, Bauchi and Kano among others.
John Shiklam in Kaduna