By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau
As the battle over who controls the Value Added Tax (VAT) between federal and state governments rages on, political activist, Abubakar Billy Tafawa Balewa Jnr. has berated Nigerian Governors for depending solely on monthly federal allocations to run their states.
Tafawa Balewa Jnr. who spoke on Channels Television breakfast programme Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, also admonished the Southern Governors’ Forum that rather than demand for power-shift to the Southern part of Nigeria in 2023, they should reach out to their Northern counterparts for a political solution to the impasse.
According to him, the furore over VAT collection is unnecessary just as he argued that if the state Governors are alive to their constitutional responsibilities they will not have time to be chasing after VAT.
Said he: “I am not a lawyer but I know that everywhere in the world VAT is collected by the central government. It should be like that in Nigeria. I think the 5th Schedule of the Constitution gave the federal government the power to collect VAT centrally to distribute accordingly.
“Rivers state government started by arguing that Kano state got exactly what it collected as VAT but what of Bayelsa state that received more than what it collected as VAT too. The whole thing is complicated more so when most of the state Governors depend solely on monthly allocations from Abuja”.
Reminded that some legal luminaries have argued that the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria Section 40 gave state governments the power to collect VAT as it’s in the Residual list, the Activist chided some Governors for not doing enough to lift their states.
Said he: “But if you ask me, I will say that most of the states are not viable to survive on their own because there are no industries in their domain.
Also, most Governors are lazy. Some are not fit to hold office or to be Governors. They can’t think out of the box. They wait for federal allocations. It is that bad”.
On the stand of the Northern Governors Forum that power-shift is not constitutional, Tafawa Balewa Jnr who is the son of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, said he supports their position but with a caveat.
According to him: “I am pained that the Southern Governors’ Forum is using strong word like must. Power must not be given on a platter of gold but I will like to see a Nigerian President who can fix the economy, fight insecurity and preach reconciliation. Our country is bleeding right now.
“I know that the South has capable people who can be the next President but I want to see someone who knows Maiduguri to Bayelsa, Taraba to Abeokuta who will call somebody in Adamawa and he will know that he is there for him”.
He also said “Nigeria needs a leader who will unite a fragmented Nigeria. I am afraid if we fail to get it right in 2023 General Elections, things will not be the same and Nigeria will be worse for it”.