Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has stated that the historic court struggle between the Rivers State administration and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) over VAT will show whether the country respects the rule of law or not.
The state government’s move to seek judicial interpretation on VAT collection, according to the governor, is aimed at promoting the rule of law and Nigeria’s democracy.
Governor Wike said this on Monday at Government House in Port Harcourt, when the Managing Director of BusinessDay newspaper, Dr. Ogho Okiti, led a team to present him with a letter of nomination for the “BusinessDay Most Impactful Governor Award.”
The governor of Rivers State thanked the newspaper’s management for recognizing the numerous projects his administration has completed since 2015.
He stated that the honor was given to him on behalf of the entire people of Rivers State.
Governor Wike stated that, in addition to the development of physical projects in the state, he is committed to ensuring that the rule of law is recognized and applied throughout the country.
He added that when the legal dispute over VAT collection between the Rivers State government and FIRS arose, some people accused him of attempting to divide the country, despite the fact that they had not bothered to read the 1999 Constitution’s VAT collection provisions.
“I am happy today that the Attorney General (of the Federation) has gone to the Supreme Court to sue Rivers State government over VAT. Now, that Attorney General has gone to court, we are happy. But, nobody wants to talk about him dividing the country. It is only when Rivers State government goes to court that they will say we want to divide the country,” Wike said.
He added that;
“There is nothing wrong in interpreting the law. The judiciary has been given assignment and they took oath of office to interpret the law. If you don’t go to court, how will we know the position of the law. How will democracy thrive? How will we know that this country respects rule of law?”
Senator Ita Enang, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Niger Delta Affairs, was among those who praised him for going to court over the VAT issue, according to the Rivers State governor.
Governor Wike recalled that Senator Enang praised his administration for giving the State judiciary full autonomy during the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual conference.
He found it perplexing, however, that the same presidential aide would accuse him of mistreating judges in the State.
The governor emphasized that the Rivers State government will not submit to any Federal Government-appointed commission on state judiciary autonomy.
According to him, such a body is unnecessary because the judiciary’s independence is specifically guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution.
Governor Wike remarked that while the federal government claims to defend judicial independence, in reality, it has purposefully strangled that branch of government.
“Fake autonomy which they are brandishing for the judiciary is not true. If the judiciary has autonomy, go and check the status of the federal courts. if judiciary has autonomy, would they have invaded the house of a Justice of the Supreme Court?”
The BusinessDay award, according to Rivers State Governor, would motivate his administration to do more for the people of the state. He does not believe that governors should compromise on service performance during their second term.
“So many people talk about when you’re in second tenure, it is a period for you to relax, it is a period for you to take stock. I believe that it is a period for you to do more for your people, for the State.”
Dr. Ogho Okiti, the Managing Director of BusinessDay, said the honor was given to Governor Wike based on the newspaper’s assessment of his accomplishments since taking office in 2015.
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