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Ekweremadu cautions National Assembly against legislating on VAT collection

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[FILE PHOTO] Senator Ike Ekweremadu

Wants judiciary to resolve raging rift

Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has advised the National Assembly not to embark on any legislation relating to the contentious collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) and stamp duty, noting that allowing ongoing litigation to run the full course could be a major step towards strengthening the nation’s federalism.

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Ekweremadu, who recalled that he has for over a decade been warning the country against what he since termed a “feeding bottle federalism” in which states depend on redistributed resources of other federating units for survival, held that any constitutional amendment to transfer VAT collection to the exclusive legislative list, as reportedly requested by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), would amount to changing the goal post in the middle of a game.

In a statement issued yesterday by his media adviser, Uche Anichukwu, the lawmaker, who presided over the Senate Committee on Constitution Review for 12 consecutive years, stressed that since past legislative efforts to get things right failed, it was natural to allow the judiciary to play its role in shaping Nigeria’s federalism.

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He said: “I commend Governors Nyesom Wike and Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as well as the Rivers and Lagos Houses of Assembly for their courageous moves. It is by so doing that our Constitution or laws can be tested and our federalism strengthened.

“In April 2012, I delivered a lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Canada, entitled ‘Nigerian Federalism: A Case for a Review’ wherein I forewarned that Nigeria would surely run into stormy economic weather unless we reinvented our federalism, steering the country away from a military-imposed ‘feeding bottle federalism’ to one predicated on self-reliance, hard work, enterprise, and resourcefulness to catalyse national development and economic prosperity. Many others have also made related calls. Unfortunately, few people were interested in what we were talking about.

“Although we achieved a number of successes, perhaps my worst experience at the helms of the constitutional amendment process was in the Seventh Assembly. We recorded the most elaborate amendments to our Constitution, including the rearrangement of the legislative lists to devolve more powers to the sub-national governments by moving certain items like aviation, railway, power, and stamp duty, among others to the Concurrent Legislative List. Unfortunately, the amendments were denied assent by the President.”

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