The political rhetoric in the contest for the presidency ahead of the 2023 election continued yesterday after political and traditional rulers in Northern Nigeria rejected the insistence of Southern governors that the presidency should return to the South after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Northern leaders held that the demand that the North yield the presidency to the South in 2023 negated the 1999 constitution which provides that the winner of the election will emerge by garnering the majority votes in the poll.
The Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) met in Kaduna yesterday with traditional rulers during an emergency meeting to discuss major concerns of the region, and one of the major decisions they reached was to reject the demand of the Southern governors that power must shift to the Southern part of the country in 2023.
Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, had earlier said the 19 governors would discuss some new national issues that had emerged recently with a view to coming up with positions that would enhance the peace, progress and development of the region and the nation as a whole.
He added that collection of Value Added Tax was among the key issues to be discussed.
In a communique read by the chairman of the forum after its closed-door meeting, Governor Lalong said notwithstanding Southern governors comments on power shift, the northern governors unanimously condemned the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South.
Lalong added that Southern governors’ statement was quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), as amended, which states 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-off, simple majority wins the election.”
The Forum also appreciated the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram/ISWAP, 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 to be permanently addressed in the shortest possible time.
On the VAT war, the Northern governors called for caution, stressing that as responsible leaders the forum was constrained by the fact that the matter is sub judice.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Southern Governors Forum (SoGF) had met twice this yeardurjng which they demanded that the next president of Nigeria must come from the South after the two-term tenure of President Buhari in the spirit of equity and fairness. They also banned open grazing of cattle and supported states’ collection of VAT, among others.
Also, a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had on August 9 issued an order restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) from collecting VAT and personal income tax (PIT) in Rivers State, saying the powers to collect the taxes reside with the states and not the federal government.
The court directed the Rivers State government to take charge of the collection.
Lagos State also joined Rivers in the suit on VAT collection but an appeal court ordered a stay of execution following an appeal by the FIRS.
The Northern governors also deplored the ugly trend of drug abuse/consumption among the region’s teeming youth and called on all levels of governments and communities to rise to the occasion by stemming the tide.
They also called on 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 widely practised in the North.
Parts of the communique read: “The Forum reviewed security updates from the region and observed the need for sustained synergy and coordinated 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 frontline states with others in the Region; 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 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 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 sub judice, 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% derivation, National Economic Development Council and many other taxes currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service.
‘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 taxation will result in increased 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% 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.
‘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.’
Meanwhile, 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 and collaboration with the governors’ in addressing these challenges, particularly the issue of security.
The Northern governors equally resolved that perpetrators of crimes should be dealt with irrespective of their status in the society.
The communique added: “The Forum decries 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 mechanisms amongst states was identified as a panacea.”
Earlier, in his welcome address, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai had said that insecurity had destroyed the rural economy of the Northern region.
The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, said the traditional rulers will partner with northern governors in curbing insecurity in the region.
The governors at the meeting are the governors of Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Katsina, Borono States and others.
VAT: We’re Waiting On Supreme Court Verdict – Rivers, Lagos Govts
Meanwhile, the Rivers State government has said it is waiting for the verdict of the Supreme Court to know whether to begin the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) within the state.
This as the Lagos State government also declared that it is not against the legal process instituted by the federal government by going to court over the matter.
However, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Sunday stressed his administration’s commitment toward delivering on his campaign promises, saying Lagos will do more if the state is allowed to collect VAT.
Rivers State government, through its lawyers, had filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against an order of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on the issue of VAT collection.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this in a telephone chat with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt.
He said, “You know the matter has gone to Court and even before the Supreme Court now. So, we can’t talk about a matter that is before the courts.”
The Lagos State commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso affirmed that, “Lagos has a solid case in the ongoing legal dispute as the crux of the disagreement is about equity, justice and fairness. Whichever way it goes, it will also enrich our jurisprudence and enhance the way we see and relate with the Law. No matter what, Lagos will always stand for true fiscal federalism”.
Omotoso explained that the volume of air, sea and road transport activities in Lagos puts pressure on the state’s infrastructure.
He added that additional revenue from VAT will facilitate infrastructure development for faster movement of goods and services as well as economic growth for the benefit of not only Lagos but other states as prices will fall.
According to him, the state remains the smallest state in the country, yet carries the burden of so many as several ethnic groups are represented in the state.
‘’Over 80 per cent of goods imported into Nigeria come through Lagos port; over 70 per cent of foreign traffic to Nigeria comes through Lagos while the state also records more than 70 per cent of Nigeria’s vehicular traffic, despite its small landmass,’’ he said.
South East Deserves 2023 Presidency – Igbo youths
Ahead of the 2023 general election, an Igbo group, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL) has said the South East deserves to produce the next president of Nigeria.
The assertion was made in a statement signed by the group’s president general, Hon. Goodluck Egwu Ibem, and made available to newsmen in Owerri, Imo State.
According to him, Nigeria was built on a tripodal arrangement of her three major ethnic groups and nationalities, but he lamented that the South East has never had a chance at the office as executive president.
“The equation remains unbalanced,” he said.
Free And Fair Elections, Catalyst For National Development– Gov Ayade
The Cross River state governor, Sir Ben Ayade yesterday in Calabar described free and fair elections as the catalyst for national unity and an antidote against voter apathy.
Ayade made the assertion while playing host to the new Cross River State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Cyril Omoregbe, at the Conference Hall of the Governor’s Office, Calabar.
The governor urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be wary of desperate lobbyists and politicians and not allow itself to be compromised but remain neutral and committed to his duty.
“We must go through the 2023 elections in peace under your superintendence. You must, therefore, have the moral conscience to do that which is fair as politicians will always seek to lobby and subvert the will of the people,” Ayade maintained
He reminded the new REC that “politics involves lobbying and persuasion for somebody to do your bidding. And persuasion comes in different forms but the moral that guides your conscience and actions should determine how you handle such situation”
The state governor averred that when the outcome of an election is not free and fair, voters tend to feel they wasted their time voting and may not vote next time, adding, “therefore, if there is anything I ask of you, it is just fairness.”
Earlier in his speech, Dr. Omorogbe assured that INEC was committed to free and fair elections and appealed to residents of the state who have attained voting age to come out and register during the second quarter of the continuous voter registration exercise which begins on October 4, 2021 and ends on December 20, 2021.
PDP C’ttee Zones Chairmanship To South, APC Meets This Week
Contrary to claims that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning committee did not conclude its assignment, indications have emerged that the committee concluded on retaining the party’s chairmanship in the South.
A source close to the committee told LEADERSHIP that the zoning panel resolved that its members should go and brief their respective governors in states before making their recommendations public.
This comes as the committee submits its report on Thursday to the party leadership for further deliberation. Also the PDP governors are expected to meet on Wednesday over the matter just as preparations for the October 30 national convention of the party intensifies.
The 44-member PDP zoning committee, led by the Enugu State governor, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, met in Enugu last Thursday to make recommendations on where the party should zone party offices.
LEADERSHIP had reported that the committee split into two camps during the meeting. A group mainly made up of northern bloc and South West leaders insisted on retaining the current zoning arrangement, while the other group, made up of South East leaders with support of some South South leaders, pushed for the next national chairman to come from the North.
However after a vote on the matter, the Northern bloc prevailed.
But speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the source said the committee actually concluded and agreed to zone the chairmanship of the party to the South and retain all the NWC positions in the geo-political zones that they presently reside.
Meanwhile, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will meet this week, LEADERSHIP can authoritatively reveal.
The meeting, according to an impeccable source within the party, is to strategize ahead of its forthcoming State Congresses.
Recall that the party during the month shifted its State Congresses from 2nd to 16th October, 2021.
The national secretary of the party’s CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe said the postponement was based on “the need to honour the country’s 61st Independence anniversary which holds a day before the initial date fixed for the state congresses.
“Governors, ministers, and party members will be involved in the Independence celebrations in their various states. The party decided to reschedule the state congresses to allow all our members to participate in the Independence celebration.”
The meeting, it was gathered, will deliberate and release an updated timetable/schedule of activities and guidelines for the conduct of the State Congresses and release same to the public.
Another highlight of the meeting will be the approval of State Congresses Committee members.
The meeting is also to review the performance of the party in the already held Ward and Local Government Congresses, which had generated some ripples and a number of petitions before the party to resolve.