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Rivers not fighting FG over tax collection, says Wike

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has said the state is not at war with the Federal Government or any of its components over the dispute over the authority to collect the Value Added Tax (VAT).


However, Wike said the state would continue to pursue what is right and legitimate within the constitution. The governor, who spoke at a public lecture on “Taxing Powers in a Federal System” in Abuja at the weekend, said both Rivers and the Federal Government are co-equal “because they derive their lives from the constitution”. He spoke through the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacheus Adangor (SAN).


Wike said: “I have heard a lot of comments that we are fighting the Federal Government; there is no desire or any intention of the Rivers to fight the Federal Government. But you must remember that in a federal system the states are not houseboys of the Federal Government.


“The principle of co-equality is fundamental to federal arrangement, that principle leads to the principle of autonomy, autonomy leads you to physical autonomy and physical autonomy leads you to physical federalism and when you put all the principles together, what it means is that each level of government, whether federal or state are coequal because none derives its life from the other.


“They both derive their life from the constitution, because they have co-equality. And every level of government is entitled to have access to sufficient revenue
so that it can carry out its responsibilities without subordinating its will to that of a superior authority.


“That is the fundamental aspects of physical federalism and until we get it, we will continue this journey of talking and talking without result but I think that the court has a role to play, the court can lay this crisis and controversy to rest when it makes a pronouncement.


“The taxing system of ours appears to capture is one that will do homogenization and that certainly is not what we agreed upon at the constitutional conference and so when you look at the constitution, and in matters of taxing, there is no grounds for inference, there must be specific donation of legislative power.


“Can we say that the Federal Government has the power to impose and collect those taxes that the court struck down in Port Harcourt?

“Certainly not, and so for me, we need to resolve this issue through the courts and that is what Rivers has opted to do and we encourage as many states as possible to join us in this new revival of the Nigerian federal arrangement so that we can lay some of these issues to rest.”


The guest lecturer, Professor Abiola Sanni appealed to the judiciary to make definitive pronouncement on the controversy surrounding tax collection.


The tax expert also called on the National Assembly to use the ongoing constitution amendment to bring out clear taxing powers among the three tiers of government.


He accused state governments of abusing their powers to deny local governments of statutory powers to collect tax at the level of the government.




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