The principal reason why Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is locked in an epic Value Added Tax (VAT) collection battle with Abuja has been made public by the state’s Information and Communications Commissioner, Paulinus Nsirim, a pastor.
Already, Southern Governors Forum (SGF) has resolved to support the position that VAT collection, falls within the powers of the states. This position is part of the 6 point communique of the Forum that met in Enugu State Government House, Enugu on Thursday.
The Forum met to review the state of the nation and the progress of implementation of the decisions reached in her previous meetings.
Reading the communiqué to journalists after the closed door meeting, Ondo State Governor and Forum’s Chairman, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said the meeting reaffirmed the Southern Governors commitment to fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the forum held on Tuesday 11 May, 2021 at Asaba, Delta State.
According to him, the Forum emphasized the need for the Southern States to leverage on the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly, as well as representation in the National Assembly to pursue the inclusion of fiscal federalism in the Nigerian constitution, through the ongoing constitutional amendment.
“The meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the States.”
Akeredolu said the forum expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the States in the Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti- Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of the Southern Governors and encouraged the States that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.
The governors, according to him, reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of the country in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness.
He stated that the forum resolved to encourage the full operationalisation of already agreed regional security outfits; which would meet, share intelligence and collaborate, to ensure the security and safety of the Southern region of Nigeria.
On the Petroleum Industry ACT (PIA), the chairman said the forum expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the PIA and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
The forum thanked the host Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for the successful meeting and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors Forum meeting in November, 2021.
Present at the meeting were the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike; Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Chief Emmanuel Udom, Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Governor of Osun State, Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola.
Others were the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Governor of Bayelsa State, Duoye Diri; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and Governor Oluwaseyi Abiodun of Ogun State.
Oyo, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi States were represented by their Deputy Governors.
However, according to Nsirim, “what you have seen with the VAT issue just clearly shows that we have a man at this time in history who has taken it upon himself to right the wrongs and place Nigeria on the path of true federalism.”
Nsirim has also described his principal, Governor Wike as a man whose vision is to place Nigeria on the path of true federalism.
The commissioner was speaking as a guest to a radio programme in Port Harcourt today, the state capital, as part of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ second phase advocacy campaign programme tagged OurStateOurResponsibility.
While emphasising that Governor Wike has remained the face of democracy in Nigeria today, he adds, “the point I would want every Rivers person to understand first is, today we have a Governor Wike, a visionary leader beyond Rivers and beyond the shores of Nigeria.’’
Nsirim said the second phase of the campaign will encompass issues evolving around the developmental strides of Governor Wike’s administration in the areas of infrastructure, healthcare delivery, education, agriculture, rehabilitation of the less privileged, security architecture and Sports.
“Remember, and I like making this point because people need to know where we are coming from. In 2015 this man was told they would see where he would see money to pay salaries and do projects.
“He inherited four months unpaid salaries. He inherited five months pension arrears. This was the only administration in Nigeria that did not get a handover note from the previous administration, but look at where we are. We are in a place of glory.
“Development here has entered a golden era. I also make the point that because Governor Wike is a people oriented Governor, even the less privileged feels the impact of his administration. The rehabilitation centre we have at Iriebe today is the best in the country”, he said.
Continuing, he said that the governor will always welcome constructive criticism from the public and would treat them legitimately but regretted that some of the criticisms which he said emanate from the vocal minority were armchair criticism.
He emphasised that the ultimate desire of Governor Wike is to make Rivers the destination of choice, pointing out that the second phase of the OurStateOurResponsibility campaign would therefore, focus on enlisting citizens participation in the policies and programmes of government.
“The second phase is now citizens participation. We have done advocacy, let us feel the pulse of the people. How much have they internalised the message. So, we are starting first with essay competition and the target group is between 16 and 25 years.
“We really want to feel the pulse of the younger people because those are the leaders of tomorrow. Then we have a team song competition. We want to develop a team song for the campaign and the the skit competition. That too we want to use to get everybody involved. The grand finale will be the film competition”, Nsirim said.
According to him, winners of the competitions would have prizes, consolation prizes and will be celebrated as the face of the Ministry’s OurStateOurResponsibility campaign, adding that the competition will also be used to set the right values in place for people to begin to showcase merit, hardwork and integrity in society.