Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has declared that Federal Government is treating his state as if it is not part of Nigeria.
Wike expressed this when he received the Management team of the Sun Publishing Limited, led by the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, for the official presentation of a letter of nomination for The Sun Man of the Year 2020 award to the governor, at Government House, Port Harcourt, Monday.
Governor Wike said it was an injustice by the Federal Government to exclude Rivers from the states to benefit from the proposed loan from the World Bank.
He described it as hatred against the state, emphasising that Rivers is a major state servicing the national economy.
Governor Wike said: ‘Look at the hatred; that you collect money from World Bank and Rivers State is excluded.
‘If fiscal federalism does not start today, it will start tomorrow. That is not the essence of governance. Give me what belongs to my state to develop my state.’
The governor said he was baffled by the way things are done in Nigeria, condemning the politicisation of the government’s good policies.
On the controversial collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) by states, the governor said he had no objection to being a ‘brother’s keeper’, so long as things were done legally.
‘Let me say clearly, it is unfortunate what we have in this country today. Ordinarily, I shouldn’t have said this. But, what I don’t understand in this today, is how everything is being politicised to ethnicity and religion,’ he said.
‘I have not seen a country that will never come out to say this is the right thing we are doing and this is the wrong thing we are doing, we need to correct it.
‘When you raise an issue everybody knows that this is wrong, instead of people to see it from that perceptive that this is wrong, we see it from the perspective of ethnicity. We see it from the perspective of religion.
‘I have never seen a country like this in my life; where something that is black and white, we begin to look at it well, are you sure it does not look like dark, blue.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in item 58 or 59 on second schedule 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.’
He called on the Federal Government to encourage states to develop their areas instead of depending on the monthly federal allocation.
‘Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop their states. We are in a federal system where we are practising a unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month would rush to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think about how to develop his state,’ Wike stated.
‘The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State alone. It started in Lagos State, where Lagos challenged it in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, Supreme Court said, look, you wouldn’t have sued the Federal Government, what you should have done is to sue the agency.
‘We (Rivers) came up to sue the agency that you are not entitled to the VAT. It is we. And it looks like we are doing something to cause a crisis in the country.
‘Shamelessly to some states, who believe that would only at the end of the month, go to Abuja to collect whatever that is in the federal pool. Shamelessly.
‘Some people say, be your brother’s keeper. I have no problem being my brother’s keeper. But, I will not be my brother’s keeper when I know that my brother is an armed robber. I can’t do that. Why not come out to say look, let’s tell ourselves the simple truth. You cannot expect me to be my brother’s keeper when you are doing an illegal thing. Somebody is joining FIRS doing illegal things and you are saying I should be my brother’s keeper, and you are doing what the law says you should not do. I won’t do it. I will be a brother’s keeper when you are doing the right thing.
‘So, if as a state you have difficulty, I have said it before that there is no place in the world where states are equal. Every state has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is the ability to be creative, to know how to turn your own disadvantage into something that will help your people. We are using the instrumentation of the law to say what you are doing is wrong. And instead of them to encourage us, they are using religion, ethnicity.’