From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Pan-yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has said attempt by the Federal Government to establish farm estates across the country was another way of bringing back the rejected cattle colony and RUGA.
This was contained in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Jare Ajayi.
“To us in Afenifere, the attempt by the Federal Government to establish so-called Farm Estates in 108 senatorial districts is another way of imposing the rejected cattle colony and RUGA on Nigerians. It is also another way of defying the federal spirit of the constitution as lands are vested in the state governors.
“If the governors granted the lands being asked for, cattle colonies would be established in these estates as revealed in the view expressed by Prince Paul Ikonne, the Executive Secretary of the National Agriculture Land Development Agency (NALDA).
“States should reject this attempt, particularly since the farm estates NALDA is using as an excuse to grab lands for the FG “are familiar territory for many states, especially in the South West that inherited farm estates from the defunct Regional Government of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.”
Afenifere told the Federal Government to stop its actions and policies that are impeding the practice of true federalism in the country, adding that the Rivers State Government has further enhanced the practice of true federalism bases on the litigation it initiated against the Federal Government on Value Added Tax (VAT).
According to Afenifere, the rulings by Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on August 9 and on September 6, have earned the judiciary an epaulet as an institution that is not only capable of ensuring justice but is actually working on deepening federalism in the country.
Justice Pam had while delivering judgments on August 9 in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/149/2020, filed by the Attorney-General for Rivers State (plaintiff), against the Federal Inland Revenue Service (first defendant) and the Attorney General of the Federation (second defendant) had said that allowing the Federal Government, through FIRS, to continue to collect VAT would negate the spirit of the federal system of government that Nigeria is supposed to run. The judge reiterated the position, while ruling on Tuesday, September 7, the case brought by the FIRS.
Afenifere called on the state governments to use the opportunity provided by the landmark judgments to explore other areas that the constitution empowers them to assert themselves as federalists, saying they should step up actions that would liberate the states from the stronghold of the Federal Government that has “turned Nigeria into a unitary state, in contradiction to the federal spirit prescribes by the constitution. They should be rest assured of Afenifere support as they give vent to power devolution and entrenchment of true federalism in Nigeria.
“Areas in which the states need to assert themselves include agriculture, health, education, electricity, physical planning, title registration, registration and production of vehicle number plates and casino licensing, as Lagos State Government did in the past.”
Afenifere suggested that a roundtable discussion could be held between states and Federal Government to clear the fear on possible multiple taxation. The group also advised FIRS to resist the temptation to keep appealing the judgment that empowers states to collect local taxes, saying “such a step is another assault on the federal system that we are supposed to be running.”