The Governors of the States in the South-South Geo-Political zone of Nigeria has resolved to join the Supreme Court suit by the Rivers State Government demanding that states and not the Federal Government, should collect Value Added Tax (VAT).
The South-South Governors Forum made this declaration in a crucial meeting under the BRACED Commission held in Port Harcourt on Monday, attended by all the Governors in the zone except Cross Rivers State’s Prof Ben Ayade. It was presided over by the forum’s Chairman, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa with Chief Nyesom Wike as host and the Director-General, BRACED Commission, Joe Keshi, also present.
The battle for the control of VAT has been heating up in recent times, and Rivers State has already seen Lagos State join it in the suit before the Supreme court. Oyo state has also indicated that it will be following Lagos State in joining Rivers State in the suit. There were indications in September that Ondo State may also be joining Rivers and Lagos States.
A bill seeking to establish a law to impose and charge value-added tax (VAT) on certain goods and services in Ogun state has since scaled the second reading at the state house of assembly. This will pave the way for Ogun state to join Rivers and Lagos states on the list of states that have enacted laws for collecting VAT from businesses, and likely to see the state match to the courts alongside its Southern neigbhours.
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The Guardian reported on Monday, 4th October that indications emerged on Sunday that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the governments of Adamawa, Plateau and Kaduna states will join the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) in its appeal against the judgement of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that had empowered Rivers to collect the tax.
The VAT wars is clearly dividing Nigeria into two sections, with the Southern States poised to wrestle the collection of VAT from the FIRS, while the Northern States are lining up in the other corner.
The BRACED commission comprising the six South-South states of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta, is an initiative to foster integration, socio-economic and infrastructural development of the region.
In a communique read by Okowa, the region’s governors among other pressing issues also said they would soon unveil a joint security outfit while calling on federal government to publish the report of the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission and urgently appoint a substantive board for the commission.
Okowa read that, “Bearing in mind that most of the BRACED states have established their states’ security organ, we approve a regional security architecture which will be launched very soon.
“We Unequivocally support the decision for states to collect value added tax, and resolved to join the suit before the Supreme court.
“Council urges the President and National Assembly to take necessary measures to review some unfair aspects of recently signed Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to ensure fairness and equity.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur