The Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, has lampooned his colleagues agitating for collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) by individual states, describing the move as a joke.
Rivers and Lagos states governors, Nyesom Wike and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently set in motion, plans to collect VAT directly from companies domiciled in their states.
But the move by Rivers has been halted by a Court of Appeal. However, the state government has appealed the ruling at the Supreme Court.
At a meeting on Thursday, other governors from the region adopted the position of the two states by endorsing VAT collection at the state level. But Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, on Friday, denounced the position contained in the communiqué issued by southern governors as he kicked against decentralised VAT collection.
Masari said both Rivers and Lagos were reliant on population from other parts of the country to sustain their economy, expressing surprise that the governments of the two states would seek to exclude the rest of the country.
The Katsina governor who spoke in interview said : “First of all, this issue is before the Court of Appeal for determination, so I will not comment directly on it, but I will give you a scenario.
“What is Lagos without the rest of Nigeria? The market Lagos is boasting of is dependent on the larger part of the country. Benin Republic has a port, Togo has a port; do they have the population to back up the ports? Without us providing the demand part, what will be Lagos?” Masari said.
He said all states benefitted from each other in the revenue equation and no one should look down on another because of those configurations.
“VAT serves them and us. We provide the bulk of the market because without the rest of the states, what is Lagos or Port Harcourt?
“Any state that thinks it can survive in isolation is joking. We provide the demand that makes Lagos what it is.”
Masari, however, expressed support for devolution of power to allow states take the lead on issues of security and determine other fiscal issues according to their individual strengths.
The governor said the devolution of power should factor areas of responsibility of states but should be mindful of exclusive roles of the federal government.
“If you devolve, in the real term of devolving, I want to be able to fix the salaries of governors, professionals, civil servants. As a governor, I should not expect to earn as much as the Kano State governor, not to talk of Lagos, because their bases of revenue are not like mine. But that does not take away my authority as governor in Katsina, likewise a councillor in any of our local governments.
“Do you expect me to compare myself with a state that generates over N450billion internally when the best I have is between N12bn and N15bn?”