The debate around the zoning of the presidency ahead of the 2023 elections continued Monday with the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) condemning their southern counterparts over their stance on power shift.
The NSGF’s position was reached at the end of its meeting with traditional rulers from the region in Kaduna.
Reading the 11-point resolution at the end of the meeting, NSGF Chairman, Plateau state Governor Simon Bako Lalong said notwithstanding the position of some northern governors on rotational presidency, the action of the southern top politicians was “counter-productive, especially as it negates the position of the constitution.”
“The Forum observed that some Northern State Governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three Geo-Political zones in the South to promote unity and peace in the Nation.
“Notwithstanding their comments, the Forum unanimously condemns the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South.
“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; score at least 25% of the votes cast in 2/3 States of the Federation. In the case of run-up simple majority wins the election,” the governors said.
On the ban on open grazing, the Forum asked the federal government to “expedite action on the well-established National Livestock Transformation Programme as a springboard in transiting from the open grazing system as widely practised in the North.”
On the ongoing Value Added Tax (VAT) debacle, they said: “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 others currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“Rivers and Lagos State Government had enacted their VAT laws and the Southern Governors Forum has expressed support for this course of action.
“VAT is being confused by these state governments as sales tax. If every state enacted its 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 a terminal tax that is paid by the ultimate consumer.
“The reason Lagos accounts for our 50% VAT collection is that most of the telecommunication companies, Banks, manufacturing and other trading activities have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.
“Until and unless the Supreme Court pronounces judgement on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government, the matter is subjudice and the Northern States Governors’ Forum would respect this,” they said.
On security, the Forum observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the federal and northern state governments while noting the success of recent measures.
They commended the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram, especially in the North-east and parts of North-west and the North-central states, and encouraged the Armed Forces and other security agencies to sustain the tempo to bring an end to the menace.
The Forum also decried the “high level of conspiracies” being perpetrated by some judicial officers in releasing/granting bail to arrested criminals,” saying, “such sabotages the fight against criminality, hence, the need to develop ‘good and robust intelligence mechanism’ amongst states was identified as a panacea.”
Position not in national interest
A human rights activist in Ondo state, Barrister Morakinyo Ogele has described the outcome of the northern governors and traditional rulers’ meeting as not for the best interest of the nation.
Ogele posited that the position of the governors and traditional rulers on issues like zoning of presidency, though not totally constitutional, as being stipulated by the forum, would do harm to the complexities of the nation’s challenges, adding that this issue has always been addressed politically and resolved.
While commenting on VAT, Ogele noted that since the matter is before the law court, it is prejudicial discussion on the matter.
Ogele, however, implored the forum to jettison ethnicity and join hands with their counterparts across the country at stamping out insecurity that has now been a nightmare to the citizenry, irrespective of their geo-political zones.