Sunday, September 12, 2021 5:00 am
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Governor Nyesome Wike talks in a gruff manner, instilling fear into whoever meets him for the first time. That is how he speaks and, given his pronouncement on the Value Added Tax (VAT) controversy, he does not only proclaim his tigritude, he acts!
Last week, he told everyone who cared to listen, especially from the northern part of Nigeria: “You can’t destroy beer in your state in the name of sharia, yet share from VAT on beer from other states. It is hypocrisy.
Free money has promoted laziness. If you want to be a governor grow your state’s economy.
You can’t contribute humongous numbers during elections that can’t translate to tax earnings for your state. If they can vote they should be able to work and pay tax.”
He added: “States have been turned to beggars. Hardly will any day pass that you won’t see one state or the other going to Abuja to beg for one fund or the other. In this (Rivers) state, we awarded contracts to companies and within the last month we paid over N30 billion to the contractors and 7.5% will now be deducted from that and to be given to FIRS. Now, look at 7.5% of N30 billion of contracts we awarded to companies in Rivers State, you will be talking about almost N3 billion only from that source. Now, at the end of the month, (the) Rivers State government has never received more than N2 billion from VAT. So, I have contributed more through the award of contract and you are giving me less. What’s the justification for it?”
In the north, especially a state like Kano, Hisbah, the shariah cops are always after beer sellers and drinkers, even destroying their battles as they try to enforce the religious law of abstinence from alcohol. Yet, they benefit from taxes that come from liquor, because it is the federal government that collects and distributes it.
Thus, what is happening in the Shariah north can be compared to the bird referred to by Ayi Kwehi Armah, author of the Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born. He says: “The chichidodo is a bird. She hates excrement with all its soul. But the chichidodo only feeds on maggots, and you know the maggots grow best inside the lavatory.”
Now, not a few northern governors have started begging that Rivers and even Lagod States should show mercy! To them, this is not the time to talk tough but plead from the condition of economic vulnerability. This has always been the case from the days of amalgamation-that proceeds from the south are made to sustain the north.
Before the 1 January 1914 amalgamation, Lord Frederick Lugard wrote a letter to the British government explaining: “What we often call the Northern Protectorate of Nigeria today can be better described as the poor husband whilst its southern counterpart can be fairly described as the rich wife or the woman of substance and means. A forced union of marriage between the two will undoubtedly result in peace, prosperity and marital bliss for both husband and wife for many years to come. It is my prayer that that union w