*Accuses them of dishonesty, says their body language shows party not interested in power shift
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State yesterday mocked governors of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southern Governors’ Forum who joined in adopting the resolution for power shift to the South, saying their body language shows the party won’t zone the Presidency to the South.
The Southern governors, led by Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, had in a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting in Enugu State on Thursday insisted on power shift to the South.
Umahi, who spoke on a television programme yesterday, alleged the PDP governors at the meeting in Enugu were being dishonest with their claim that they are keen about the 2023 presidency going to the South.
He said: “One or two governors that own PDP, their body language suggests that are against zoning and I can tell you from reliable source that they are thinking just for their own interest.
“The truth remains that a number of us – the Southern Governors – that were in that meeting; that did say that Presidency must come to South, especially PDP, are not being honest. Let’s see what they (PDP) come up with in their zoning in the next few weeks.
“There are a couple of decisions taken at the Southern Governors’ meeting that I know that together, there is sincerity of purpose in them. But when it comes to politics, I see the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.”
The Ebonyi State Governor warned that the alleged dishonesty of the PDP governors in the Forum might threaten the unity of the Southern governors.
Umahi also opposed the resolution of the Southern Governors’ Forum supporting the collection of the Value Added Tax by states.
He knocked his colleagues on the platform for being “selfish”, adding that he won’t pursue VAT collection or implement the decision of the Forum on the issue.
Umahi said the resolution of the Forum on VAT did not reflect his stand.
The Ebonyi State Governor, who was represented at the Enugu Southern governors’ meeting by his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, 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 on VAT; I’m not sure it is clear to some of our colleagues 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 ongoing 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 I stand’, if it is a choice, I will choose what would benefit my state.”
Umahi continues: “There is no state in the country that is not enjoying the help of other states. When they (Southern governors) said this VAT collection is part of true restructuring, I said I never believe in total restructuring; I believe in administrative restructuring.”
Umahi said a number of states would collapse should VAT collection move from the federal to the sub-nationals.
He said it was not right that some states would “eat and have so much surplus and then some other states don’t have much to eat.”
Umahi said: “We have to be our brother’s 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.”
When asked whether Ebonyi State would be viable for VAT collection, should the court rule that sub-nationals have the power to collect VAT within their domains, Umahi 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.”
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered. It is charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal 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 favoured collection of VAT by states.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.