From Sola Ojo, Lagos
The Northern States Governors’ Forum on Monday rose from its one-day emergency meeting with the Northern States Traditional Council Chairmen in Kaduna to unanimously condemned the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must shift to the South come 2023.
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Plateau State Simon Bako Lalong, in an 11-point resolution of the meeting, said, even though some Northern governors have earlier spoken in favour of the rotational presidency, the action of the southern top politicians are counter-productive especially as it negates the position of the constitution.
‘The Forum observed that some Northern State Governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three Geo-Political Zone in the South to promote 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 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; score at least 25% of the votes cast in 2/3 States of the Federation. In the case of run-up simple majority win the election,’ the Forum highlighted.
On the ban on open grazing, the Forum asked 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
On the ongoing debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), the forum claimed to have been constraint because the matter is in court, but, went ahead to present the position of those who attended the meeting.
According to the Forum, ‘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.
‘Rivers and Lagos State Government had enacted their VAT laws and the Southern Governors Forum have expressed support for this course of action.
‘VAT is being confused by these states governments as a sales tax. If every state enacted its 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 a terminal tax that is paid by the ultimate consumer.
‘The reason Lagos account for our 50% Vat collection is that 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 the Northern States Governors’ Forum would respect this,’ they agreed.
On the security, the Forum observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the Federal and Northern States Governments while noting the success of recent measures.
The Forum appreciated the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram especially in the North East and parts of North West and the 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 time.
The Forum also decried the ‘high level of conspiracies’ being perpetrated by some judicial officers in releasing/granting bail to arrested criminals saying, such sabotages the fight against criminality, hence, the need to develop ‘good and robust intelligence mechanism’ amongst states was identified as a panacea.