NIGERIA’S ongoing divisive ethnic spat took a turn for the worse yesterday after the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) issued a communique at the end of their emergency meeting in Kaduna condemning recent steps taken by the southern counterparts.
Over recent weeks, the NSGF and the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) have been at odds over several key issues including open grazing, fiscal federalism and the localisation of value added tax (VAT). In August, matters came to a head after a high court issued an order restraining Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service (Firs) from collecting Vat and personal income tax in Rivers State.
Following the court’s judgement, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State signed the VAT Law No. 4 of 2021 on August 19 into effect. Following suit, Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State also signed a VAT law into effect after it was passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly and now the National Assembly has begun debating a bill to make the development federal.
Alarmed by the development, which could strip northern Nigeria of millions of dollars, the NSGF called an emergency meeting in Kaduna yesterday. Hosted by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, the meeting presided over by the NSGF chairman Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, condemned the recent resolutions by the SGF and also opposed calls for the presidency of Nigeria to move to the south come 2023.
According to the NSGF, although some of them had endorsed the southern governors’ call for power shift to the south, they collectively condemned such a call. They said the statement by their southern counterparts contradicted the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
However, groups including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Afenifere and the Delta State Government said the northern governors’ position was against the unity of the country. Governor Lalong, who read out the communiqué on behalf of his colleagues, also said the issue of the collection of VAT states was before the courts and it would amount to subjudice to take a decision on the matter.
In addition, the northern governors also lauded the current onslaught by the military on bandits and insurgents in the some part of the country. Ohanaeze Ndigbo, however, described the position of the northern governors as unfortunate, pointing out that the north benefited from the Nigerian union more than it contributed to it.