Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi has said his state would not be part of the Southern Governors’ Forum decision on Value Added Tax (VAT) collection.
The Forum led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), had in a communiqué reached at the end of its meeting on Thursday in Enugu State, resolved among other things, “to support the position that the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
At the meeting, Umahi was represented by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe.
The decision of the governors came as Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories.
Recall that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had 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, which held it that states and not the Federal Government, should collect VAT.
However, Umahi, who is the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, speaking on Friday on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ breakfast programme 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.”
The Ebonyi State governor also noted that there is no state in the country that is not enjoying the help of other states, added, “When they say that this VAT collection is part of true restructuring, I said I never believe in total restructuring; I believe in administrative restructuring.”
Speaking further he said, “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.”
Umahi equally expressed fears that
Ebonyi and more than 30 other states would not be viable for VAT collection should the court rule that subnationals have the power to collect VAT within their domains.
He said, “I have said that my state would not be viable and I will continue to say that more than 30 other states would not be viable; we should not break the states.
“Whatever thing we are doing, we have to think about the nation first. Let’s tarry a while and see how we can pass this river and then we can come to the fact of who is right and who is wrong.
“True federalism is not done in a day. If we want to do a restructuring, we have to have a gradual process to do that.”