Governors and monarchs from the 19 northern states Monday kicked against the insistence by governors from the southern part of the country for power shift to the region, describing the demand as unconstitutional.
Daily Trust reports that the Southern Governors Forum had in July demanded that power must shift to the south in the interest of equity and fairness.
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Last week, the Chairman of the forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, insisted that the southern governors would not support any political party that fielded a northerner as a presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections.
However, arising from an emergency closed-door meeting between the governor and chairmen of Traditional Councils from the 19 northern states led by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad III, at the Council Chamber of Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, the northern leaders described the position of the southern governors as contradictory to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
Flanked by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, the Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong, said though some northern states governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to the three geopolitical zones in the South with a view to promoting unity and peace, 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, secure at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in 2/3 states of the federation. In the case of run-up, simple majority wins the election” the communique read in part.
The leaders also said the position of the Southern Governors Forum on the controversy surrounding the Port Harcourt court judgement on Value Added Tax (VAT) shows that the governors are confusing VAT with sales tax.
“VAT is being confused by these State Governments as a sales tax. If every state enacted its own VAT Law, multiple taxations will result in increases in 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 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,” Lalong said.
He, however, said as responsible leaders, while the Forum is constraint by the fact that the matter is sub judice, it must state for the purposes of educating the public that 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 through the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
According to the communique, even though Rivers and Lagos State Government had enacted their own VAT laws and the Southern Governors Forum has expressed support for this course of action, until the Supreme Court pronounces judgement on the substantive matter between Rivers State and the federal government, the matter is sub judice and Northern States Governors Forum would circumspect it.
The meeting, which reviewed security updates from the region 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.
It however observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the federal and northern states governments while expressing concern over the constraint of the security services and urged the Armed Forces to embark on simultaneous operations.
The meeting also noted that various reports commissioned by the Northern Governors Forum in the development of the region were being studied for implementation.
Afenifere, PANDEF berates stance, govs keep mum
Reacting to the northern leaders’ position, the National Publicity of the pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi said that the position of the Northern Governors demonstrated the “Insincerity on the part of many of our rulers”.
On the issue of the VAT that the governors referred to, Ajayi said the matter was sub-judice. He however maintained that there was the need to have a dialogue so as to smoothen the rough edges on the issue.
The Afenifere spokesman asserted that restructuring should take place before the 2023 elections.
“If this happens, most of what is causing brouhaha now would be a thing of the past. Things such as presidency, fiscal federalism, Value Added Tax, insecurity, etc,” he said.
According to Ajayi, six governors from the North had earlier expressed support that the next president should come from the South.
He named governors as Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Professor Zulum of Borno State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Bello Masari of Katsina State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and Abdullah Sule of Nasarawa State.
“This new position by the said governors indicated that the issue of forging unity in the country is only on their lips and not in their hearts. It is true that zoning is not in the 1999 Constitution.
“So are many other things that are done politically in the form of convention.
“For example, it is not in the constitution that in a state with adherents of Muslims and Christians, the governor and his or her deputy should ideally be Christian and Muslim or vice versa.
“It is also a matter of convention that two occupants of the said offices should not come from the same local government or senatorial zone.
“These are conventions and not necessarily constitutional matters. Such a convention is entrenched to forge unity and a sense of belonging,” he said.
He added that while Afenifere concedes that 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 eight years by 2023.
The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) described those opposed to rotational presidency as “enemies of Nigeria”.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said “It’s most ungrateful that the southern states having supported Buhari to emerge as president the North will turn back to say that rotational presidency is no longer feasible”.
He insisted that the presidency should come back to the South irrespective of the geopolitical zone that will clinch the ticket.
On VAT, PANDEF Spokesman said the states should be allowed to collect 60% of VAT or be allowed to take it all.
A top aide to the governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, said the forum would react appropriately.
“Their resolutions are not directed at Governor Akeredolu but the Southern Governors Forum, which will react at the appropriate time,” he said.
However, Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, said the Northern governors and their traditional rulers have exercised their rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
“They have expressed and indeed exercised their rights under Freedom of Expression. No one can stop them from expressing themselves,” he said.
From Lami Sadiq (Kaduna), Abiodun Alade (Lagos), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt) & Bola Ojuola, Akure