2023: North Rejects Southern Governors Demand For Power Shift

Governors and monarchs from the 19 northern states yesterday kicked against the insistence by governors from the southern part of the country for power shift to the region, describing the demand as unconstitutional.

Akelicious reports that the Southern Governors Forum had in July demanded that power must shift to the south in the interest of equity and fairness.

Last week, the Chairman of the forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Delta 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, 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. 

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“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.”

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“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. 

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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. 

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