Governors want AGs to intervene in $419m London Paris Club refund, VAT, stamp duties

GOVERNORS, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), on Monday, solicited for the intervention of the 36 attorneys-general and commissioner for justice on the fallout from the London Paris Club refund, culminating in the bid to deprive states of $419 million by the Federal Government. 

They also wanted their interventions on issues of administration of criminal justice system, stamp duties and Value Added Tax (VAT). Chairman of the forum and Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, made the request at the maiden meeting with the attorneys general, as he underscored the need to align the shared goals and address certain legal issues plaguing the states as a collective entity. 

He said, “The decision to convene this meeting is a consequence of the forum’s determination to achieve an alignment of purpose between the activities of the NGF and the work that the Attorneys General are appointed to do.

“As you well know, often in our meetings, there are agenda items, usually national issues which would greatly impact states and requiring our attention as governors. Some of them are sufficiently contentious as to require resolution in court. We have a number of these cases and there is the need to carry you along and seek your input. 

“This is one of the reasons for this gathering and some of the lawyers handling these cases will be here to address you. You are all aware of the controversy occasioned by the question of the autonomy of the judiciary and legislature. 

“The forum has often been in support of autonomy, but we felt that the onus was on the states to determine and implement it. It is, therefore, expedient that as chief law officers, you exercise the right to review and monitor the extent of implementation in your states. 

“The spate of insecurity across many states, political and economic uncertainties in the country and the states have placed the office of the Attorney-General on red alert in ensuring that the state is not ambushed through frivolous cases/court orders that may lead to heavy financial losses and grounding of government business. 

“We have no doubt that this meeting would afford you the opportunity to seek solutions. There are many burning issues before you today, ranging from the administration of our criminal justice system, stamp duties, Value Added Tax, the fallout from the London Paris Club refunds culminating in the criminal bid to deprive states of $419 million. These require your attention and the forum looks forward to your views and advice on the way forward.” 

The NGF Director-General, Asishana Okauru, said, “Over time, the NGF has become influential, especially in protecting the collective interest of its members and would ordinarily prefer to negotiate with stakeholders and other related parties. However, it has found itself going to court to address a number of issues.” 

Speaking earlier, Ekiti State Attorney General, Mr Olawale Fapounda, had disclosed that the South West attorneys-general forum had unanimously contributed towards the development of regional security policy document called Amotekun as well as South West Development Commission bill in the National Assembly. 

He, however, noted that subnational governments do not seem to be making progress about judicial financial autonomy or legislative autonomy. 

In his remarks, NGF’s Head of Legal, Chijoke Chuku, observed that the unit had been handling all the legal needs of the organisation and also responsible for providing legal guidance to the forum in its decision making aimed at reducing the liabilities borne by the states. 

He, however, said owing to gaps in communication, some of the efforts on the part of the forum had been duplicated by the states, leading to avoidable waste of resources, human and material. 

“We accept responsibility for the gap in communication. It is for this reason, amongst others, that this meeting became necessary. The NGF secretariat and the offices of the attorneys-general of the states would, going forward, align their resources, leverage and experience in the interest of the states,” he said. 

Chuku added that, “Currently, the NGF is involved in some suits with huge potential impact on states and our different counsel will brief the meeting on each of these cases. 

“We also look forward to receiving robust contributions from the meeting regarding the way forward for contentions between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) and stamp duties, leveraging the provisions of the constitution

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