VAT Palaver: We Refuse To Be Intimidated, Says Wike
STATEWIDE BROADCAST BY GOVERNOR NYESOM EZENWO WIKE ON 6th SEPTEMBER 2021
My dear people of Rivers State
As we all know, following the recent judgement of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which upheld the constitutional right and authority of State Governments to impose, collect and utilize value added taxes (VAT) within their respective territorial jurisdictions, the Rivers State Government enacted the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law 2021 to regulate the effective administration of VAT in Rivers State.
2. As expected, the Federal Government, through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), disagreed and filed an appeal coupled with a request for stay-of-execution of the judgment before the Federal High Court.
3. While the appeal was pending and without any stay-of-execution of the subsisting judgement, the FIRS went about to bully corporate bodies and business entities from paying the VAT to the Rivers State Government even when they knew that an appeal does not serve as a stay neither was there anything to stay in a declaratory judgement.
4. As a mere agency of the Federal Government without any political authority the effrontery and impunity exhibited by the FIRS against the Rivers State Government was ill-advised and highly provocative.
5. However, being a government that believes in the rule of law we decided on our own to suspend the enforcement of the Rivers State VAT Law 2021 pending the outcome of the FIRS’s application for stay-of-execution.
6. Today, the FIRS has failed in its attempt to frustrate the enforcement of the State’s Law on VAT with the Federal High Court’s dismissal of its application for stay-of-execution of the judgement.
7. It is important to reiterate the fact that we did no wrong in exercising our legal right under our constitutional democracy to stop the continuing breach, denial and curtailment of the constitutional right of States to lawfully impose and collect value added and other related taxes within jurisdiction to the exclusion of the Federal Government.
8. And in doing so our singular and progressive objective was to contribute to the advancement of fiscal federalism by enabling the federating States to explore and exploit their potential and capacity for generating greater internal revenues with which to fund their development goals and reduce the outdated over-reliance on pitiable Federal allocation and other handouts.
9. Naturally, some States with presently low economic activities and ethically restrictive social policies with economic implications may be adversely affected for now.
10. But, this is not our own making. Like the right to derivation, this is also a constitutional prescription, which we all swore as political leaders to respect and defend as the supreme law of the land.
11. Above all, fiscal federalism remains the right path to economic self-reliance and sustainability for all our States and the benefits derivable from this case by all the States in the long run far outweigh the immediate revenue loss that some States may presently suffer.
12. All that is required is for all of us to wear our thinking caps as elected Governors to collectively fight for the greater devolution of resources, responsibilities and powers to the federating States.
12. It is therefore very unfortunate that some State Governors led by that of Katsina State are vainly conspiring to truncate this progressive reality in favour of the inequitable status quo so that the Federal Government can continue to rob Peter to pay Paul as the nation’s self-imposed tax master-general.
13. For us in Rivers State, we will continue to ensure and project our constitutional rights to access all possible resources we can take hold both within and outside our geographical boundaries to advance the progress of our State.
14. And with today’s judgement the way is now clear for the administration and enforcement of the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law 2021 across the entire State until otherwise decided and set aside by the Superior Courts.
15. Consequently, I hereby direct the Rivers State Revenue Service (RSRS) to ensure the full and total implementation and enforcement of this law against all corporate bodies, business entities and individuals with immediate effect.
16. All corporate bodies, business entities and individuals are advised to willingly, truthfully and promptly comply with their tax obligations under this law to avoid the full weight of the stipulated sanctions, including having their business premises sealed-up.
17. Let me warn that the Rivers State Government is fully in charge of the State and will not tolerate any further attempt by the FIRS to sabotage or undermine our authority to freely administer our tax and other related laws in our own State. Those who play with fire risks having their fingers burnt. Enough of the shenanigans.
18. I wish to further assure every resident that we shall as usual make effective use of the expected proceeds from this tax to accelerate the development of our State and improve the wellbeing of everyone.
19. Fellow citizens, let me also draw your attention to the alarming rate of transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic in our State.
20. The daily figures released form the NCDC show that both the transmission and death rates in the last two weeks have consistently been on a rising spiral because residents and visitors to the State have largely abandoned their responsibility to comply with the existing COVID-19 Protocols.
21. Clearly, we are headed for a serious health disaster of profound consequences if residents and visitors continue to behave as if the pandemic no longer exists or impotent in Rivers State.
22. This is a big lie and we cannot afford to continue to close our eyes to the dangers such irresponsible behaviour poses to the health, lives and livelihood of everyone.
23. Accordingly, I wish to remind residents of the subsisting protocols on regular washing of hands and use of alcohol-based sanitizer; maintaining social distancing; wearing of face masks at all public places, including transport vehicles and going for immediate testing and treatment whenever you notice any of the symptoms.
24. Furthermore, it has been proven that vaccinations are saving lives here and across the world and those refusing to take the vaccines for no certified medical reasons should know that they are endangering the rest of the citizens.
25. I therefore appeal to all residents to help protect yourself, your loved ones and the rest of the citizens by getting your jab at the designated health centres in the 23 Local Government Areas of the State as they become available.
26. I also appeal to religious leaders and churches to convince and encourage their followers and members to please go out and take the vaccines and comply with the covid-19 protocols in addition.
27. Although it remains our desire to keep the State open and allow citizens to go about their social, religious and economic activities unimpeded.
28. But we may be constrained to re-imposed the suspended COVID-19 lockdown measures across the State if the transmission of the disease continues to increase beyond tolerable limits.
29. Finally, we wish to reiterate that the ongoing demolition of shanties was borne out of the compelling need to safeguard lives and property across the State.
30. Our objective, which is gradually achieving is to deny the criminals these sanctuaries and hideouts from which they embark on their criminal activities and safely return to.
31. We therefore refuse to be blackmailed by those unpatriotic elements who are trying to stir false ethnic, religious or tribal sentiments around our patriotic commitment to advance the safety and security of residents.
32. Furthermore, we refuse to be intimidated by such baseless pranks. Rather, we will not rest until we clear the State of all shanties wherever they are located and restore sanity to our environment and achieve a better sense of comfort and security for everyone.
33. Once again, thank you all for your support, prayer and understanding as we continue to work together to advance our collective security, peace and progress.
34. Thank you and may God bless Rivers State.