Nigeria’s current faulty federalism is built on a foundation of injustice and nepotisim. It is for this reason, many have called for the complete restructuring of the country to correct the imbalance, anomaly and years of marginalization that a section of the country and its people have suffered so dearly for, since independence.
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is taking on the audacious challenge of fixing some of those things, especially as it concerns his state. As one of the states with the highest economic potential, it has been cheated for too long and vintage Wike is starting with the issue of Value Added Tax (VAT).
The governor recently dragged the federal government and its revenue collecting agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to court, challenging the authority or legality of the centre taking the revenue being generated from Rivers State and sharing same to other states that do not contribute a kobo to the remittance from VAT. In the argument of the governor, it is sheer wickedness and it is very ludicrous.
Last month, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, upheld the argument of the Wike-led Rivers State Government. The court in the fullness of its statutory legal powers ruled that VAT should be collected by the state. An attempt by the FIRS to upturn the decision was thrown out by the court for lacking in merit.
Ordinarily, if the federal government or the FIRS has any modicum of shame, they will not be challenging a matter that is as open and truthful as it is in all ramifications. The fact that there is an attempt by the FIRS to allegedly coerce the National Assembly to include VAT in the exclusive list so it becomes out of the reach of states, makes it even more annoying and insensitive.
Some states in the country are against the selling of alcoholic beverages and they use their specialized and dogmatic religious security operatives to close down outlets who violate the laws. So, it is unthinkable why such states will share from the VAT accruing from the sale of such products like beer. That is the height of hypocrisy and this is what Wike is simply fighting against. A just fight in every sense.
We commend Governor Wike for the steps he has taking so far just like many senior lawyers, patriotic Nigerians and even the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) have also hailed him. He has ordered construction firms, manufacturers and business owners as well as other firms in the oil-rich state to begin the remittance of their VAT to the state from this month (September). In case some persons have forgotten, Wike has an experience in revenue calculation and collection. He obtained that during his days as chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council. Today, he is bringing same experience to bear.
According to Wike, Rivers State is generating an average of N15 billion VAT to the FIRS monthly, while the Federal Government was only giving the state a paltry 25 percent of the revenue. This is a sad reflection of the lopsided nature of the kind of system of government we are pretending to practise which is at variance with what obtains elsewhere and in other climes with similar system.
Only a fool will underestimate Wike. He may have his own achilles as a politician and human but on this issue of VAT he has shown the political will, displayed courage and the tenacity of a true leader.
It is interesting to know that some states like Lagos and Akwa Ibom, are waking up to the reality of how an inconsistent law has deprived them of solid revenue for the development of their states. It is our hope that other states in the region will follow in that direction. Wike needs all the support and encouragement he can muster in this fight against the rape of the common wealth and resources of his people.
Those who are agitating against the Anti-Open Grazing Law that Southern states are championing for whatever reasons cannot turn around to also kick against VAT collection by states. The country is not owned by a section of people, it is for all. The parasitic affair must end. Like they say in local parlance, “monkey dey work and baboon dey chop”. What an irony of the sordid situation we find ourselves.
We understand that the Federal Government has obtained a temporary relief from the Appeal Court but we urge them to discontinue the case and allow states collect VAT and remit an agreed percentage to the centre.