The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has expressed disappointment over the exclusion of Rivers State from states that are to benefit from the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government is seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
This is as he observed that Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He described as a sheer act of discrimination the Federal Government’s exclusion of Rivers State as one of the states that would benefit from projects for which it is seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
The governor made the observation when the Managing Director of Sun Publishing Limited, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present a letter of nomination to him in Port Harcourt on Monday.
He said; “Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank, that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only states that are not benefitting is Rivers State.
“It is the prerogative of Mr. President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state,” he stressed.
The governor observed that there are mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
He decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT is not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators including state executives, rather, they are politicising it and looking at it from the prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Governor Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal and could be likened to robbing from the states.
He said; “You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in items 58 and 59 of the second schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the concurrent list. Therefore, it falls under the residual list. It is not arguable. That yesterday nothing happens does not mean that today nothing will happen, or tomorrow something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop their states. We are in a federal system where we are practicing a unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state?”