THE communiqué reads in full: “The forum discussed issues of peace, progress, development and wellbeing of the Northern states. The forum took stock of progress made in handling challenges of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and insurgency. After extensive deliberations, the following resolutions were arrived at:
“The forum reviewed security updates from the region and observed the need for a sustained synergy and coordinated efforts between the Federal and Northern states governments while noting the success of recent measures.
“The meeting also noted with concern the constraint of the security services and urged the armed forces to embark on simultaneous operations and resolve to share the plans of the frontline states in common with other regions, and assured of its readiness to work in synergy with the Federal Government of Nigeria in finding a lasting solution to the current security challenges.
“The forum appreciated the ongoing onslaught against banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram, especially, in the Northeast and parts of Northwest and North Central states and encouraged the armed forces and other security agencies to sustain the tempo to enable the security challenges to be permanently addressed in the shortest time.
“The forum received updates on the renewable/solar energy project and noted that request for land for the project had been submitted and are being processed by the Northern states. The committee had commenced negotiations in a public-private arrangement and sovereign guarantees to ensure bankability of the project by multilateral financial organisations. The forum called on states yet to process the request for allocation of land for the project to expedite action.
“The meeting received updates on activities of some committees constituted by the Northern States Governors’ Forum and noted that recommendations contained therein are being considered with a view to coming up with implementation strategies.
“The forum observed that some Northern States governors had earlier expressed views for a power-shift to three geo-political zones in the South with a view to promoting unity and peace in the nation. Notwithstanding their comments, the forum unanimously condemns the statement by the Southern Governors Forum that the Presidency must go to the South. The statement is quite contradictory with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.
“The Northern State Governors’ Forum considered the ongoing national debate on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT). As responsible leaders, while we are constrained by the fact that the matter is subjudice, we, however, for the purposes of educating the public make the following observations:
“(a) the judgment of the Federal High Court calls to question the constitutionality of VAT, withholding tax, education tax, Niger Delta Development Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, 13 per cent derivation, National Economic Development Council and many others currently levied and collected by the Federal Government of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“(b) Rivers and Lagos State Governments had enacted their own VAT laws and the Southern Governors’ Forum have expressed support for this course of action.
“(c) VAT is being confused by these state governments as a sales tax. If every state enacted its own VAT law, multiple taxations will result in increases in prices of goods and services and collapsed in interstate trade. VAT is not a production tax like excise, but a terminal tax, which is paid by the ultimate consumer.
“(d) Another confusion is ignoring the observation above and its “overall effect”. The reason Lagos accounts for our 50 per cent VAT collection is that most of the telecommunication companies, banks, manufacturing and other trading activities have their headquarters in Lagos with the resultant and wrongful attribution of VAT.
“(e) Until and unless the Supreme Court pronounces judgment on the substantive matter between Rivers State and Federal Government, the matter is subjudice and Northern States Governors’ Forum would respect this.
“The Traditional Rulers Councils appreciated the efforts made so far by the NSGF in addressing the key areas of challenges facing the Northern states, they expressed their willingness, solidarity and collaboration with the Governors in addressing these challenges, particularly the issue of security. It was equally resolved that perpetrators of crimes should be dealt with irrespective of their status in society.
“The Forum decried the high level of conspiracies being perpetrated by some judicial officers in releasing/granting bail to arrested criminals. This attitude sabotages the fight against criminality, therefore, there is the need to develop good and robust intelligence mechanisms amongst states was identified as a panacea.
“The forum calls on agencies to leave up to their responsibility, traditional rulers are to equally mobilise their various communities in checkmating the ugly trend of criminality in their domains.
“The forum noted the ugly trend in the spread of drugs and consumption among the teeming youth and therefore, calls on all levels of governments and communities to rise to the occasion by stemming the tide.
“The forum also call the Federal Government to expedite action on the well-established National Livestock Transformation Programme as a springboard in transiting from the open grazing system as wide practice in the North.”
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