Governor Nyesom Wike has accused the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari of openly showing hatred for Rivers State and its people.
He also accused the central government of denying the state of resources it rightfully needs to prosecute developmental projects.
Wike said this on Monday when he played host to the Management team of the Sun Publishing Limited, led by the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Onuoha Ukeh.
He said some of the injustice meted to Rivers State by the federal government is the exclusion from a World Bank loan facility.
He 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 added that his state was generating revenue and resources that the nation and some other states of the federation are benefitting from but the federal government decides to play politics with giving Rivers its necessary due.
Speaking specifically on the controversial issue of collecting Valued Added Tax (VAT) which has pitched some states including Rivers against the federal government, Wike said it is rather unfortunate that the issue is being politicized.
He argued that the federal government doesn’t want to practice true fiscal federalism but is now playing the cards of ethnicity, religion, and politics.
‘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 said instead of dragging the VAT payment issue, the federal government should challenge the state to be viable and self-sustaining.
Wike further revealed that it was Lagos State that started the agitation for VAT collection by states but the Supreme Court picked a hole in the case instituted by Lagos which is why Rivers continued and revived the case which it believes is just.
‘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 submitted.
‘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.
He argued that it’s easier to be your brother’s keeper when everyone is also pulling their weight and doing the right thing.
‘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.’