After more than 18 months after its last meeting, South-South governors under the aegies of the BRACED Commission, yesterday met in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital with a resolution to join Rivers State in its suit against the federal government at the Supreme Court over the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
The closed-door meeting, which was held at Government House, Port Harcourt, was attended by Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Douye Diri of Bayelsa and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State as well as the host and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
Cross Rivers State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade was conspicuously absent from the meeting, which lasted for more than five hours.
Briefing journalists shortly after the meeting, Chairman of the Forum and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said the governors also resolved to set a regional security architecture, which will be launched soon.
Okowa said: “After an extensive deliberation, the Council resolved that bearing in mind that most of the BRACED states have established their security organs, we approved the regional security architecture which will be launched soon.
“To equivocally support the decision of states to collect the Value Added Tax by states, we resolved join th suit at the Supreme Court.”
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to amend some aspects of the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to include clear definition of most communities as well as allow state governments to appoint trustees.
Okowa said: “Council urged the President and the National Assembly to take necessary measures to revisit some unfair aspects of the recently signed Petroleum Industry Bill now Act, to ensure fairness and equity. We urge that the amendment should include clear definition of host communities and that the trustees should be appointed by the state government.
“Council called on the President and the federal government to uphold the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by appropriately constituting its board.
“In addition, we express the hope that the federal government will make the forensic audit report public and do justly and fairly with the report with a view to strengthening the capacity of NDDC to meet its obligations to the people of the region.”
The Delta State Governor expressed regret that the federal government failed to give consideration to requests made by the people of the Niger Delta region during a dialogue with the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, when he led a special delegation to the region.
He said: “Council regretted that the President and the federal government entirely failed to give reasonable consideration to requests made by the region during the dialogue with the special delegation led by Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President.
“Notable among the requests was the relocation of NNPC subsidiaries and IOCs headquarters to Niger Delta and the completion of a number of projects in the region, notably roads.”