Over the weekend dhe Presidency broke its silence on the raging controversy over the Value Added Tax (VAT).
It said President Muhammadu Buhari will respect the final verdict on the matter as decided by the Supreme Court.
“Eventually, we will have a legal pronouncement, which may come from the highest court in the land…. Knowing the Buhari administration, it will obey the rule of law,” Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said.
He added: “All these states are not unanimous. You have heard some governors speaking out against the position of certain states which are so militant on this VAT issue.”
According to him, the matter will affect the ongoing conversation on fiscal federalism. He added: “The VAT is good because there have been talks about restructuring and fiscal federalism in the country. If states eventually get their demands in respect of VAT, there will be something like fulfilling fiscal federalism. But then, fiscal federalism itself must be done within the ambits of the law.”
The row over who collects VAT between the Federal Government and the state governments broke out after last month’s verdict by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that Rivers State is legally in order to collect VAT in its domain.
The Rivers State Government quickly enacted a VAT law and commenced the process to start the collection.
But, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) insisted on continuing with the collection.
It has challenged the judgment at the Court of Appeal, which on Friday ordered the maintenance of the status quo until the determination of the appeal.
Lagos State, which generates the highest amount of VAT, has enacted its own law empowering it to collect the consumption tax in its domain.
The presidential spokesman, speaking on Arise TV, also touched on Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) 2020 financial report, and the security situation in the Northwest.
On the NNPC 2020 audited reports and the declared profit after tax of N287 billion, Adesina lashed out at those who always fail to see positive developments, but are always looking for bad in every good being recorded in Nigeria’s recent history.
He described the state of minds of those picking holes in the news of the profit as those that have been accustomed to hearing bad news, adding that they question its authenticity because they never thought that positive things can happen in government.
“Well, we have heard stories in this country before; how Presidents will just give notes to NNPC and their wishes got done without records. There was a lot of impunity in this country, but the NNPC GMD is on record, even the Chief Finance Officer, Umar Ajiya, is on record as saying that President Buhari does not interfere in their operations. It used to happen, but under this administration, it has never happened. That was why you had that declared profit.
“But the surprising thing is that it seems some Nigerians are already so used to bad news, that they have got inured to good news. When that good news came, their first instinct was to pick holes in it because all their lives they are used to bad news.
“When that good news came, they couldn’t imagine it, but it happened. I watched your engagement with the Chief Finance Officer of NNPC, how he explained that profit and anybody who is not cynical, will know that there’s a lot of truth in what the CFO said.
“Yes, I watched the encounter with the CFO, like I said, and he emphasised that one of the things they had to do was to cut costs. Cut costs for operations, cut costs of production, running costs, and it all redounded to the profit that was declared.
“It shows that there was a lot of wastage, a lot of extravagance, a lot of lack of accountability in the previous years and the man also said both the President and the Vice President never interfere in the operations.
“As we said in the beginning, we knew and heard and it was indeed true that presidents and those in the corridors of power used to give directives to NNPC to do certain things, which at the end of the day will erode the profitability of the corporation. That doesn’t happen again and that is why that perfect came”, he said.
Asked if the President would be disposed to speaking to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in a private audience, in order to avert the industrial action they just threatened to embark on, Adesina said “why not? The President will do everything that will contribute to industrial harmony in any part of the country, but I also recall that in 2020, just before the COVID lockdown began, ASUU came to see the President, the President personally received ASUU, I was at that meeting, but ASUU still went on strike that lasted about 10 months or more.
“So, what I’ll like to say is that we shouldn’t have the ‘we against them mentality’ in this country. Nigeria belongs to all of us; it belongs to lecturers, it belongs to ASUU, it belongs to those serving in government, it belongs to the ordinary Nigerians. This ‘we against them mentality’ serves nobody any good purpose. Whatever will account for industrial harmony, including on our campuses, let all sides do”, he said.
On the lingering ban of the international social media platform, Twitter, from Nigeria, and the recent shutdown of telecommunication coverage in Zamfara and parts of Katsina State, the presidential spokesman said they were actions taken in the overall interest of security and peace in the country.
”You talk about the erosion of rights when a country exists, if a country is already dismembered, if it is scattered, if we are all looking for safe havens, do you begin to talk of rights? No, you don’t. Therefore, anything that serves as a threat to the unity, to the cohesion, to the wellbeing, to the peace of Nigeria, must be confronted. Must be confronted and that was what was done with Twitter and it’s being resolved.
“There are talks and the last we heard from the Minister of Information was that the talks have progressed well and that in a matter of time, Nigeria and Twitter will reach amicable resolution.
“Talking of Zamfara and may be, parts of Katsina, the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy also spoke about this after the Federal Executive Council meeting just last Wednesday. He said when security and economy come together like that and they are like on a collision course, we have to look at the welfare and wellbeing and security of the people first, it’s when the country is secure that you can talk of economy.
“So, if communication was shut down in Zamfara because the security people asked for it, nobody should raise an eyebrow on that and, of course, within a week you had seen the result of that shutdown. In the week that ended yesterday you know how the security forces dealt decisively with the bandits. They really put them on the backfoot.
“In fact, they put them to light because when they left Zamfara and wanted to enter Niger State, they ambushed them again and dealt with them. So, that is the way to go. We must first solve the security challenges in the country and thereafter we can fix the economy”, he said.