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‘Stop Being Tribalistic’ – Presidency Knocks Wike Over Comment On VAT Saga

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The Presidency has attacked the Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike.

The presidency dragged Wike over his comment on the Value Added Tax (VAT) saga in the country, urging him to stop being tribalistic.

Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt while delivering judgment last month in a suit marked FHC/PH/CS/149/2020 ruled that the Rivers State Government had the powers to collect VAT within its territory.

Shortly after the ruling, Wike had accused the Federal Government of taking the money made in the oil-rich Niger Delta to the North, adding that Rivers money is not for Abuja people.

The Rivers governor declared that he would not hesitate to shout down the office of any oil company or other business outfit that continues to pay VAT to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) from September.

But in an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ on Monday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Ajuri Ngelale, accused Wike of being tribalistic, political and aggressive with his comments.

The presidential aide denied the claim made by the governor that the Federal Government has been taking the money made in the South-South to the North.

Ngelale also said that the government makes contributions to VAT generated in the country, noting that the 36 states do not generate VAT all by themselves.

He said: “The VAT issue has been heavily politicised, also some of the utterances, unfortunately, that have come from my state (Rivers State) along ethnic lines etc and political posturing ahead of the next election.

“I really don’t want to repeat some of the stuffs we’ve heard from the Rivers State Governor that we (FG) want to take Niger-Delta money to the north and all this ethnic sabre-rattling. That is what I am talking about when I say politics.

“I do disagree on the notion that states are by themselves generating VAT en masse and the Federal Government is trying to hijack (it).

“In 2020, the nation generated about N1.5trn in VAT. We have about 60 per cent of VAT coming from imports at the ports. As we know, ports infrastructure in the country is not controlled by the state governments, so they cannot say that it is their revenue; it is controlled by the Federal Government, it is federal revenue.

“Aside from the fact that we have a book coming from imports, we also have that second to Lagos is Abuja with about N202bn collected and the reason why is because Abuja is the site of federal ministries, departments and agencies and a huge bulk of that collection in the country was coming from VAT collected on contracts.

“So, when we create the impression that states collect these VATs and the Federal Government is hijacking it and trying to share it when in fact, it only (belongs to) Lagos or Rivers, I think it is a gross over-simplification.”

He also took a veiled swipe at Wike for collecting N78bn spent on federal projects in the state from the Federal Government.

Ngelale said he was not sure the projects were constructed by Wike, asking the governor to stop playing politics with the VAT saga.

“There are those who despite collecting tens of billions of naira from this administration in form of refund for federal roads that they did not even construct in their states and you still have these claims coming out trying to abuse the Federal Government because of political reasons,” Ngelale said.

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