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2023: Despite pressure, Southern govs insist on power shift

…urge states yet to pass Anti-open Grazing Law to expedite action
…back VAT collection by states

Four months after they resolved to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023, the Southern Governors’ Forum yesterday restated its May 11 position that the next President must come from the Southern part of the country. The governors, who said their position on the 2023 presidency is in line with politics of equity, justice and fairness, in Lagos in July, unanimously agreeed that the presidency be rotated between the South and North. However, it was learnt that the governors were under severe pressure to back down on the power shift clamour.

It was learnt that powerful forces through different mechanisms and platforms pressured some of the governors to either shift grounds or stay indifferent in the rotational presidency campaign. A source privy to the entreaties to the governors said a former civilian president instructed the southern governors not yield to any pressure on the presidency moving to the South in 2023.

The source said, “A few days ago, a former civilian president contacted many of the southern governors after he was briefed on the moves by some interests to ensure that the Thursday’s meeting in Enugu did not move out of its initial resolution.

“The former president told a South-West governor that his party should not expect votes from the zone or displace other parties if they are docile or caved into the pressure.” But rising from a meeting in Enugu, the forum backed the collection of the controversial Value Added Tax (VAT) by state governments, insisting the collection falls within the powers of the state. The meeting was attended by Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), according to New Telegraph checks. Others were Adegboyega Oyetola (Osun), Douye Diri (Bayelsa) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun). Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano was absent from the meeting at Government House. He was not also representated.

Governors of Ebonyi, Ekiti, Oyo, Edo, Cross River, Imo and Abia states were represented by their deputies. T hey are Evara Esu (Cross River), Udo Okochukwu (Abia), Bisi Egbeyemu (Ekiti), Kelechi Igwe (Ebonyi), Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo), Philip Shaibu (Edo) and Placid Njoku (Imo). Akeredolu is the chairman of the forum. In a communiqué read by Akeredolu at the end of the meeting, the governors reaffirmed their commitment to structural and fiscal federalism as demanded at their inaugural meeting on May 11 in Asaba, Delta State. They emphasized the need for the southern Houses of Assembly as well as southerners in the National Assembly to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the ongoing constitutional amendment. The group expressed satisfaction with the rate at which southern states are enacting or amending the anti-open grazing law and encouraged the states yet to enact theirs to do so quickly.

The forum also encouraged full operationalisation of the already agreed regional security outfits, which would meet with, share intelligence and collaborate to ensure the security and safety of the region. The governors expressed satisfaction with the handling of issues around the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and ownership of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by the larger Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). The communiqué said: “We resolved to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the state.

“The meeting reaffirmed its earlier commitments to fiscal federalism and emphasised the need to pursue its inclusion in the Nigerian Constitution through the on going constitutional amendment.” Akeredolu urged states in the south to leverage on the competence of their houses of assembly and representation at the National Assembly to pursue the goal.

He said the meeting reviewed the state of the nation and the progress made in the implementation of the ban on open grazing of cattle in the South. Akeredolu said: “The meeting expressed satisfaction with the rate at which states in the South are amending or enacting the anti-open grazing law. “This aligns with the uniform template and aspiration of governors in the south and we encourage the states that have yet to enact the law to do so expeditiously.

“The meeting agreed to encourage the full operationalisation of the already agreed regional security which will share intelligence and collaborate toward the safety and security of the region.” The forum thanked Ugwuanyi for hosting the meeting and chose Rivers as host of the next meeting in November. The meeting was attended by nine governors and seven deputy governors. Only Anambra state was not represented at the meeting.


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