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Asaba Declaration: Ebonyi group tasks Umahi on fiscal federalism

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By Lawrence Nwimo

Oganihu Ebonyi, a socio-political group, has charged Ebonyi state governor, David Umahi, to strengthen campaigns for structural and fiscal restructuring for the progress and development of the state.

The group said this in a statement signed by Dr Laz Ude Eze and other principals of the group, stating that there was no better time to work for an equitable and just federation than now when the matter has been espoused by the leadership of Southern governors’ forum.

The group held that the position of the Southern governors’ forum should be sacrosanct for states to collect VAT, as a matter of constitutionality and subnational jurisdiction. 

The group expressed worry over the governor’s penchant for ambiguous and unpopular opinions on topical national issues, orchestrated to misconstrue and undermine democratic practice and true federalism. They expressed dismay that the governor had the motive to break ranks with his colleagues on the southern governors’ forum on the decision it reached in Asaba.

The statement read in parts: ” On the recent Value Added Tax (VAT) “war” between states and the federal government, we are mindful of sub judice but strongly opposed to the position of Ebonyi state government represented by Governor David Umahi, that the status quo be maintained whereby the FG should continue to collect VAT and share to the states.

“We are worried about governor Umahi’s penchant for ambiguous and unpopular opinions on topical national debates ostensibly orchestrated to misconstrue and undermine democratic practice and true federalism.”

The group regretted that the state government was the first state to oppose the idea of local government autonomy in 2017 on the ground that it would plunge the workers into economic hardship. The group maintained that, instead, such move could have been a major intervention in reviving the already debilitated local government administration in the country.

While acknowledging that the IGR and revenue allocation accruing to the state had grown progressively over the years, the group maintained that the state government still needed some capital to fund social and infrastructural services in the state.

They advised the government to be more circumspect and responsible in resource deployment and utilisation, citing instance of when it recruited 800 political aids to an additional 4,000 appointees in 2019 when other governments are tasked with reducing cost of governance as measures to recover from COVID-19-induced difficulty.

They also implored the governor to rededicate himself to the resolutions and tenets of the Asaba declaration even if it would amount to use of litigations to strengthen campaigns for structural and fiscal restructuring. 

While the statement further warned the governor to abstain from narratives that could truncate plans of the SGF, it urged the governor to avoid casting people of Ebonyi as overzealous elements that do not honour gentleman’s agreements reached on open grazing and collection of VAT by the southern governors.

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