The Southsouth Governors’ Forum (SGF) has joined the move for states to collect Value-Added Tax (VAT).
It, therefore, promised that the six states in the zone would also join Rivers State’s lawsuit seeking the Supreme Court to win a Court of Appeal’s stay of execution order given in favour of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
FIRS had gone to the Court of Appeal in Abuja to oppose a Federal High Court verdict that affirmed the right of states to collect VAT in their states.
Lagos, which like Rivers regulated a VAT law that enables its revenue service to begin VAT collection, is a joiner to the Rivers’ case before the apex court. Oyo State last week had said that it was going to be a part of the VAT tussle in the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, at the meeting in Rivers State the Southsouth governors said that they were also in support of states collecting VAT as acceded to by the Southern Governors’ Forum in Enugu last month.
The Southsouth governors met under the BRACE (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, and Edo) Governors’ Council to approve regional security architecture for the region. They declared that the framework would be launched soon.
The governors also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to abide by the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by constituting its board.
Besides, they requested for Buhari and the Federal Government to make public the forensic audit report of the NDDC and deal fairly with the report to reposition the commission to meet its duties to the people.
Chairman of the forum and Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, read the statement released after the meeting.
He said: “The council unequivocally supports the decisions of states to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) and resolved to join the suit at the Supreme Court.
“Bearing in mind that most of the Brace states have established their state security organs, we approved the regional security architecture which will be launched very soon.
“Council calls upon the President and the Federal Government to uphold the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission by appropriately constituting its board.
“In addition, we express the hope that the Federal Government will make the forensic audit report public and deal justly and fairly with the report with a view to strengthening the capacity of NDDC to meet its obligations to the people of the region”.
Furthermore, the governors appealed to Buhari to take measures to evaluate some unjust areas of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to ensure fairness and equity.
They said such corrections should include a clear definition of host communities and a clause for member states to appoint the trustees.
The governors lamented the failure of the Federal Government to consider some of the demands made by the region during a meeting with the special federal delegation led by the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
They reminded that eminent among the requests were the relocations of the subsidiaries of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and headquarters of the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to the Niger Delta and completion of a number of federal projects in the region.
”Council urged the President and the National Assembly to take some measures to review some unfair aspects of the recently signed Petroleum Industry Bill now Act to ensure fairness and equity,” the governors added.
They advised that the amendment should contain a clear definition of host communities and that the trustees should be elected by state governments.
“Council regretted that the President and the Federal Government have entirely failed to give considerations to requests made by the region during the dialogue with a special Federal delegation led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of staff to the President.
“Notable among the requests were the relocations of NNPC subsidiaries and IOC headquarters to the region and the completion of a number of federal projects in the region notably roads.
“At the end of the deliberations, Council expressed its appreciation to the host governor for his warm hospitality and the success of the region. We commended the Director-General of the BRACE commission for his commitment to the region’s aspirations”.
Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade was absent from the meeting.