KADUNA – Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) on Monday condemned the statement by Southern Governors’ Forum that the presidency must go to the South in 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term, saying it is unconstitutional.
In a communiqué signed by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau and Chairman, Northern States Governors’ Forum, after their emergency meeting to deliberate on issues affecting the region, which top on the burner was the issue of insecurity and VAT, in Kaduna, the Forum said the statement was 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 of the states, and in the case of run-up simple majority win the election.
The 19 governors of the northern states also reviewed security updates from the region and observed the need for a 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 the frontline states, assuring of its readiness to work in synergy with the Federal Government in finding lasting solution to the current security challenges.
The Forum 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 to enable the security challenges be permanently addressed in the shortest time.
It also received updates on the renewable/solar energy project and noted that request for land for the project had been submitted and are being processed by the Northern states.
“The committee had commenced negotiations in a public private arrangement and sovereign guarantees to ensure bankability of the project by multilateral financial organisations. The Forum called on states yet to process the request for allocation of land for the project to expedite action.
“The meeting received updates on activities of some committees constituted by the Northern States Governors’ Forum and noted that recommendations contained therein are being considered with a view to coming up with implementation strategies.
“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 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 governors said in the communique.
On the on-going national debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT), the northern governors said, “As responsible leaders while we are constraint by the fact that the matter is sub judice we, however, for the purposes of educating the public make the following observations:
“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, Federal Inlands 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 increases of 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 account 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”.
The Forum also called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the well-established National Livestock Transformation Programme as a spring board in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practised in the North.