Enugu meeting: Southern Governors insist on  2023 Presidency

From left: Deputy Governors – Prof. Ivara Esu (Cross Rivers); Engr. Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo); Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu (Abia); Prof. Placid Njoku (Imo); Governors - Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos); Mr. Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN (Ondo); Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Mr. Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom); Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun); Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Sen. Douye Diri (Bayelsa) during the Southern Governors’ Forum in Enugu, on Thursday, September 16, 2021. Others are Deputy Governors of Edo, Ekiti and Ebonyi States, Mr. Philip Shaibu, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi and Dr. Eric Igwe respectively.

…Declare support for collection of VAT by States

…Commend enactment of anti-open grazing law across region

By Uthman Salami

The Governors in the southern region of Nigeria have once again insisted that the 2023 presidency should be zoned to the region in line with the politics of equity, justice and fairness.

The Governors also threw their weight in support of State governments to begin the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) as opposed the continuous collection of VAT by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The Governors of the Southern region made their decisions known on Thursday after a meeting by the Forum which was held at the Lion Building, Government House Enugu

The Chairman of the Forum who is also the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, disclosed the decision of the Governors in a communique issued at the end of the meeting.

According to Rotimi Akeredolu, all the Governors and representatives of the States in the Southern region at the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the state.

At the end of the meeting, they wholly reaffirmed their commitment to fiscal federalism, stressing the need for the southern states to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution, via the ongoing constitutional amendment.

They further advised the states to leverage the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly, as well as their representatives in the National Assembly to achieve this

With reference to the 2023 presidential election, the governors insisted that the next Nigerian leader must come from the zone.

The Governors further commended the rate at which members were enacting the law prohibiting the open grazing of cattle in line with the uniform template and called on others yet to do so to follow suit.

Similarly, the governors lauded the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for its handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

At the meeting, they called for the total functioning of the agreed regional security outfits to ensure the security of lives and properties of the people of the region.

The statement of the Governors after the meeting partly read: “The Nigerian Southern Governors Forum at its meeting of today, Thursday, 16tm September 2021 held in the Government House, Enugu, Enugu State reviewed the state of the nation and the progress of implementation of the decisions reached in her previous meetings and further resolved as follows:

“Expressed satisfaction with the rate at which the states in Southern Nigeria are enacting or amending the Anti-Open Grazing Laws which align with the uniform template and aspiration of Southern Governors and encouraged the States that are yet to enact this law to do so expeditiously.

“Encouraged the full operationalization of already agreed regional security outfits, which would meet, share intelligence and collaborate, to ensure the security and safety of the region.

“Reaffirmed its earlier commitment to fiscal federalism as resolved at the inaugural meeting of the Forum held on Tuesday, 11 May 2021 at Asaba, Delta State and emphasised the need for the Southern States to leverage the legislative competence of their respective State Houses of Assembly as well as representation in the National assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment.

“Following from paragraph 3 above, the meeting resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the States.

“Expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors Forum.

“Reiterated their earlier position that the next President of Nigeria must come from the Southern part of Nigerian line with politics of equity, justice, and fairness.

“The Forum thanked the host Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and chose Rivers State as the next host for the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in November 2021.”

Recall that the earlier stand of the Forum received a backlash from prominent Northern leaders who believed the Southern Governors could not unilaterally decide for the whole country.

Prominent amongst them was the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) who had outrightly rejected the position of the Southern Governors over the zoning of 2023 presidency to the region, maintaining that the presidency is a democratic office and not a rotational position.

They also maintained that the North would not be threatened, intimidated or blackmailed into giving up its right to a democratic office, as the region should not be compelled to give up a democratically elected office that can be sought by any person irrespective of where he comes from.