VAT: Be your brothers’ keeper, Umahi tells Southern Govs
GOVERNOR Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State has called on his colleagues in the platform of the Southern Governors’ Forum to rescind their resolution on Value Added Tax collection by states.
Umahi, who is the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, made it clear that Ebonyi won’t pursue VAT collection or implement the decision of the Forum made at a meeting in Enugu yesterday.
He spoke today on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ breakfast programme.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal in a ruling on September 10 stopped the collection pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
The Southern Governors’ Forum led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), reading a communiqué at the end of a meeting yesterday had said, “The meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
But speaking on the television programme, Umahi, who was represented at the meeting in Enugu by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, said the resolution of the Forum does not reflect his stand on the issue and urged his colleagues to be their brothers’ keeper.
He said, “In any gathering, the minority will have their say and the majority will have their way. For example, there was an issue that came up. I’m not sure it is clear to some of our colleagues on the issue of VAT but it is very clear to me.
“We (Ebonyi) took a stand as a state with our leaders on the issue of the VAT war that is going and so my deputy carried it on to say that this is what my governor is saying and this is what the state is saying and he went ahead to explain with some other deputies that represented their governors.
“But together they were in the minority and it didn’t stop the majority from coming up with their communiqué. When it comes up to implementation and voicing out, I will continue to say: this is where is I stand; if it is a choice, I will choose what would benefit my state.”
Umahi also said there is no state in the country that is not enjoying the help of other states.
“When they (Southern governors) say that this VAT collection is part of true restructuring, I said I never believe in total restructuring; I believe in administrative restructuring,” he said.
Umahi said a number of states would collapse should VAT collection move from the federal to the subnationals.
He said it was not right that some states would “eat and have so much surplus and then some other states don’t have much to eat.
“We have to be our brothers’ keeper; we have to see how we can grow the economies of the weakest states, otherwise, we will breed insecurity in those states.
“There is no way in a relationship that you will get 100 per cent of what you put in, it doesn’t work that way,” he added.