Hard knocks for Northern govs over stand on VAT, power shift

Northern Governors received hard knocks yesterday over their rejection of their Southern counterparts’ call for power-shift to the South in 2023 and opposition to collection of Value Added Tax, VAT, by states.

Rising from an emergency meeting with northern states’ emirs and chiefs, the Northern Governors Forum on Monday, condemned Southern governors’ statement that the presidency must go to the South in 2023 because it contradicts provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

For allegedly contemplating that power should remain in the North after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023, the northern governors came under the hammer of the Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, among others, who threw their weight behind the southern governors’ position..

However, they got the backing of Mr Reno Omokri, a former aide to immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, who said power should remain in the North after President Buhari’s tenure to teach southern politicians a lesson.

This came as former Presidential Candidate, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, cautioned that the controversy over collection of VAT should not be made a North-South war.

They’re seeking break-up of Nigeria —MBF

The MBF blasted the Northern Governors’ Forum, NGF, for suggesting that the North should retain the presidency beyond 2023, describing the clamour as incomprehensible in the face of six years of woeful performance by a Northern president.

Declaring that the Middle Belt people are not part of the North, the MBF said in 2023, the president must be a Middle Belter or Southerner and that anything short of that is unacceptable.

National President of the Forum, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, warned in a statement that the North, which is now throwing decorum into the air and continues to pursue a selfish agenda that could capsize the ship of the Nigerian State should not be allowed to retain the presidency after 2023.

“It is not only immoral but also dubious on the part of these governors who have proven incapable of combating the activities of criminals in their various states to now insist that power rotation is not in line with our nation’s constitution,” the MBF said.

The MBF statement read in part: “The attention of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) has been drawn to the statement credited to the Northern Governors’ Forum and Traditional Rulers on Monday that it was totally opposed to power rotation on account of the fact that the Nigerian constitution does not provide for it.

“Resorting to the constitutional provisions as basis for rejecting power shift, the Northern Governors and Traditional Rulers are simply being clever by half as they are only attempting to hide behind a finger.

“Lest we forget, the reason behind the zoning arrangement that emphasized the need for power rotation between the North and South is to avail all zones a sense of belonging in providing leadership in the country.

“As the umbrella body of all ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt Region, we are surprised that it is now that the NGF whose members are beneficiaries of power rotation are kicking against power shift to the South.

“We are shocked that instead of harping on the bloodshed ripping across the country, the governors and traditional rulers of the so-called North are concerned with which of the zones takes over power in 2023.

“It is not only immoral but also dubious on the part of these governors who have proven incapable of combating the activities of criminals in their various states to now insist that power rotation is not in line with our nation’s constitution.

“As the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the MBF resolved in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, we called for power rotation among three regions of the North, Middle Belt and South. We deplore a situation where the Middle Belt Region is completely excluded in the power sharing arrangement.

“We have been consistent in insisting that for equity and justice to hold sway, power rotation is irrevocable. We have called and demanded that the 2023 Presidency be zoned to the Middle Belt. In the event that such demand is unrealizable, all ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt Region are resolved to support any presidential candidate from the South.

“It’s sad that the Northern Elders’ Forum has turned itself into a forerunner of this treacherous plot against power rotation which has stabilized the political situation and given various parts of the country a sense of belonging.

“We find it strange that the North under whose leadership Nigeria has continued to perform woefully should even contemplate the idea of retaining power in 2023.

“Over six years of Northern leadership has brought Nigerians to a catastrophe that is unprecedented. Not only have the prospects for a bright tomorrow retarded, insecurity, unemployment and other societal vices have taken their toll on national life.

“As a Forum, we find it incomprehensible to understand the basis upon which the North is clamouring for power retention. By 2023, the North should have forfeited all moral rights to retain power in line with the zoning arrangement of political parties.

“The best the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari should do now is to prepare ground for the conduct of transparent polls that would either usher in a presidency to be headed by a Middle Belter or Southerner. Anything short of that is unacceptable to the Middle Belt peoples.”

Nigeria collapsing under Northern leadership —Ohanaeze

Also, the apex Igbo Socio-cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, criticized Northern governors over their opposition to Southern governors’ resolution that power must shift to the South in 2023.

Recalling the gentleman’s power-rotation agreement between northern and southern leaders in 1998, Ohanaeze said the North has had its fair share, and should be grateful to the South.

It also said that the North would have been the Netherlands of Africa if holding presidential power is the only thing needed to excel, and lamented that the country is collapsing under the leadership of the North.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze, which threw its weight behind the Southern Governors, berated the PDP for taking steps to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the North.

The statement read in part: “The remarks by the leaders of the North indicate a bleak future for Nigeria. It is most regrettable that the North is undisturbed that Nigeria is fast collapsing under its leadership. The Forum failed to recognize that at the moment, Nigeria is confronted with the most precarious omens full of uncertainty, doubts, insecurity and bloodshed.

“The Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, Governor Simon Lalong can attest that the people of Plateau State had never in history witnessed the number of deaths as has taken place under his watch as governor. The banditry in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa States is terrifying. Benue State has turned into a killing field. The states of Yobe and Borno are worst hit by the menace of Boko Haram; etc. Several schools in the North could not open because of kidnappers and millions of children are on the street as beggars. The Nigerian currency has lost its value. Unemployment has skyrocketed; and Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world…..and the Northern Governors, the Sultan and the emirs instead of seeking solution to Nigerian problems were busy strategizing on how to retain power in 2023. This is most unconscionable, to say the least.

“Let it be made abundantly clear that if the Presidency is a panacea to people’s problems, the North would have become the Netherlands of Africa. This is because the North had Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Musa Yar’Adua, Muhammadu Buhari, yet the problems of the North are on the increase.

“It is most worrisome that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alh. Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims, one of the most respected Sultans in recent history and the living conscience of the North, took part in such subversion. For the avoidance of doubt, there is peace in progressive societies because men of conscience are more in number. On the other hand, the crises in Nigeria is a product of greed, injustice, religion without sacrifice and impunity.

The position of the Southern Governors is simply restating the obvious. A gentleman agreement was reached at the NUC Conference Centre, Abuja in 1998 between the North and the South. The late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo spoke for the entire South and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, also of blessed memory spoke for the North. It was agreed that after Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar as the Head of State, that the presidency should shift to the South. That accounted for the emergence of the presidential flag bearers of the mainstream political parties from the South-West. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo respected the agreement and handed over to the North in the person of Musa Yar’Adua. Again, Goodluck Jonathan, a Southerner, respected the gentleman agreement and handed over to the North in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari. “Therefore, the least that is expected from the North is a show of profound gratitude to the entire South for their large heart, equanimity and sportsmanship. Furthermore, it is in the interest of every Nigerian that there should be a paradigm shift to governance techniques.

“Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide unequivocally stands with the 17 Southern Governors and any black leg among them will incur the wrath of history.

“Nigeria has two major groups of people. Those that cherish the corporate existence of Nigeria on one hand and those that do not value the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria on the other. The latter indulge in reckless nepotism, ethnocentrism, avarice, supremacist mentality, hollow expansionism and poor judgment of history. It is the law of nature that light illuminates and that in religion, both the Lord Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed stood for truth.

“Ohanaeze uses this singular opportunity to express disappointment over the unholy maneuvers and alliances by members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to zone the presidential seat for the 2023 general election to Northern Nigeria. The exponents of this agenda, in their jaundiced calculations, believe that it is a sure way of regaining power from the All Peoples Congress (APC). Experience would have taught them that to zone their presidential position to the North is an orchestrated requiem for the party; because more PDP governors and grassroots will surely desert them.”

Northern governors are hypocrites —PANDEF

The PANDEF described the position of northern governors to power shift to the South in 2023 as most ridiculous and hypocritical.

Reacting, National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, recalled that the South in 2015 and 2019 supported President Buhari to be president, questioning why the northern governors did not object to rotation.

Robinson said: “The Northern governors’ opposition to power shift to the South is most ridiculous, cowardly and irresponsible. Their opinion on the issue of Southern Presidency is preposterous and parochial; they enjoyed massive support from the South for President Buhari to attain power.

“It exposes them as hypocrites and cowards. That is what they are and they should be told clearly. No sane person would say power should not rotate after eight years of a northern presidency.

“Buhari was supported by Southern Nigeria to become President.

“Anybody, no matter how highly or lowly placed, that says that there should be no power rotation in 2023 does not love Nigeria. Those people do not want Nigeria to progress and to be united; they do not want peace in Nigeria.

“Let it be known to the Northern governors and indeed the Northern community that there can be no peace without justice, and saying that there should be no power rotation is an act of injustice against southern Nigeria.

“On VAT, PANDEF wholly supports the position of Rivers, Lagos and the Southern governors that states should collect VAT.”

They’re not sincere—Afenifere

In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said that the position of the Northern Governors’ Forum demonstrated their insincerity.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said: “As far back as February 2020, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State said openly that there was nothing wrong in the presidency returning to the South in 2023. In July 2021, he not only reiterated this position, he said that fairness and justice demand that the southern part of the country should produce the president in 2023.

“Five other governors from the same northern zone supported el-Rufai’s position on this matter. They were Professor Zulum of Borno State, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State. This much was attested to by the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Lalong.

“This new position by the said governors indicated that they were not sincere when they expressed their opinion earlier on.

“Thus, while we, as Afenifere, concede that a presidential material can come from any part of the country, equity, fairness and justice demand that the next occupant of the exalted office must come from the South since the North would have occupied that office for unbroken eight years by 2023. It is by so doing that unity and sense of belonging the country needs would be fostered.”

On the issue of VAT, Afenifere said: “We support the collection of tax by the state governments. There is, however, the need to have a dialogue and streamlining of constitutional engineering on smooth collection and distribution of VAT.”

Northern govs not properly guided —Adegboruwa

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, also criticized the northern governors, saying their comment indicated that they were not properly guided.

Adegboruwa said apart from the Nigeria constitution that supported power rotation, the constitution of various political parties also encouraged it. “The position of Northern Governors is very unfortunate and this may be due to improper legal counsel,” he averred.

He explained that the section of the constitution the governors were referring to only talks about how someone can be elected as president of Nigeria which is to secure 25 percent and have majority vote.

“I think they overlooked certain provisions of the Nigeria constitution and that of political parties that they belong to before making categorical statement that zoning and rotation of power is illegal. When you examine various sections of our 1999 constitution, it is clearly written in several portions especially Chapter two.

“A lot of provisions have been made in the constitution to accommodate cohesion and carry everybody along in governance to ensure unity, equality and justice. Section 14 (3) talks about the need for spread in distribution of offices in such a way that no ethnic group or tribe will have dominance in terms of sharing power.

“So when the Northern Governors were reading out their position that rotation is contrary to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the section they referred to in particular only talks about mode of election, how someone can be elected as President of Nigeria which is to secure 25 per cent and also have majority vote.”

Adegboruwa disclosed that agitation for power rotation and retaining of power from both southern and northern parts of the country are fueled by elites and mode of governance in the country.

“If we all ensure good governance as a nation, nobody will actually care about where the President comes from. But for us in Nigeria, with the situation we are in, it will be insensitive for Northern governors to insist that power will not shift.

“It will be recalled that in 2006, the same place where Northern governors held their meeting on Monday, a meeting was held then and chaired by then governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu and they insisted on power shift from South to North in which virtually all political entities supported them because it would have been insensitive for the South to produce Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years and also expected to retain power for another eight years.”

Adegboruwa who spoke on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, however, insisted that despite his support for power rotation, good governance and competence must play dominant roles.

Reno Omokri backs Northern govs

However, Reno Omokri has thrown his weight behind the Northern Governors’ opposition to power shift to the South to teach Southerners the power of unity.

He said: “I support Northern Governors Forum’s rejection of power shift to the South. Let power remain in the North after 2023 to teach Southerners the power of unity. Southerners united with Northerners to betray an innocent Southerner in 2015 and you expect Northerners to trust them?”

VAT shouldn’t be North-South war, says Olawepo-Hashim

Meanwhile, Former Presidential candidate and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, has cautioned that the current controversy and debate on the Value Added Tax, VAT, should not be reduced to an ethnic and propaganda war between Northern and Southern Nigeria.

Rather, he said the debates should be more of “economic history and analyzing economic data instead of being turned to a South versus North thing.”

According to him, “whatever formula that will be worked out in future must be with the objective of bringing benefits to all Nigerians in all states and challenging states to make industrialization their priority as well as agricultural production and processing.”

Olawepo Hashim noted that the raging controversy over who should collect VAT between states and Federal Government is heating up the polity further, what the country needs now is a VAT collection and distribution system that will benefit all.

According to him, those who have “managed the information about the VAT wars have created the impression that the present distribution benefits the Northern states more than the Southern states. They try to make it look like the VAT is part of the “hegemonic domination” of the North. Many commentators hardly look at the data before they hit their keyboards online. Many swallowed hook line and sinker very obvious lies.”

Citing data published in Vanguard Newspaper of September 18, 2021, Olawepo-Hashim argued that apart from Lagos, Rivers and Abuja who benefit from the fact that they host the headquarters of major economic, political and oil related institutions, most states apart from Oyo m are doing badly in VAT generation and a lot of Southern states are woeful.

“Most states, whether they are in the North or South are doing badly in production of goods and services except for Lagos, Rivers, Oyo, Kano and Kaduna states. The present centrally collected VAT which is then distributed subsidizes everybody,” he noted.

He maintained that in comparison to Eastern states, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina are doing better than Abia, Anambra, Imo, and Enugu, adding that based on available data in the past eight months, total VAT generated in Abia was N2.290b, Anambra -N5.938b, Imo -N1.941 compared to Kaduna -N18.262b and Kano -N24.492b.

“Conversely, when it came to distribution, Nnamdi Kanu’s Abia State got N20.020b for generating N2billion, yet he wants to leave Nigeria that is “oppressing” him. Abia got 10 times what it contributed whereas Kaduna and Kano did not get as much as twice what they contributed. Lagos, Rivers and Oyo got lower.

“Interestingly, Ebonyi where the Governor is more supportive of national integration is in fact the state that generated more VAT in the South-East, possibly owing to the activities of mining related industries,” the politician said.

He continued: “A major fact showing in the data is also that regions who have been fortunate to benefit from the industrialization policies of fore-sighted leaders during the period of independence tend to do well today in VAT collection and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

There’s need for accountability, by LCCI

Speaking on the VAT collection debate, Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Chinyere Alumona, said: “Whatever happens, there is need for more accountability and more judicious use of tax revenues at the federal, state, and local government levels. Also, we need to deploy enhanced technology in tax administration to guarantee proper accountability, monitoring, and evaluation. LCCI also expects that the collection agency empowered by the law should assume the responsibility of investing in critical infrastructure that would support a conducive business environment.”

States’ collection might result to multiple taxes—Kurfi

Analyst and Managing Director, APT Securities and Funds Limited, Mallam Garba Kurfi said: “VAT is very effective in complementing states’ revenue but how certain is it for the state to be able to effectively collect it and equally distribute same to local governments? Will that not be multiple taxes if collected by states as we witness in the telephone and other businesses?

“If VAT is collected by FIRS and when a product is produced in Lagos and sold in Abuja, consumers will pay only once but with states collecting VAT, in Lagos it will collect VAT by the time the good was sold but Lagos is not final consumer; in Abuja where the goods would finally be sold to consumers, FCT will collect VAT. How do you recollect the VAT already collected by Lagos State? But if VAT is collected by FIRS it is very simple to net up the VAT because the same agent collect it. The same applies to the Northern part of the country that provides raw materials to industry in Lagos.”

Who collects VAT is of less concern —Omordion

Analyst and Chief Operating Officer, InvestData and Consulting Limited, Ambrose Omordion, said: “To me I don’t have problem with who is collecting the VAT but how these taxes are becoming disincentive to businesses as a result of multiple taxation prevailing in the nation today. The three tiers of government are collecting almost same and different taxes from one business and operating environment is harsh. What matters here is if the governments are using these taxes to better the business environment. If this will boost state revenue and it’s used to develop infrastructures to drive businesses in the states no problem.”

VAT collection by FG at variance with federalism —Oni

Reacting as well, chartered stockbroker and Chief Executive, Sofunix Investment and Communications, Sola Oni said: “VAT collection by the Federal Government is at variance with true federalism. For instance, VAT on consumption should be collected at the very place where the action takes place.”

(VANGUARD)