The position of the Lagos State Government is that only the Supreme Court has the power to settle the question of whether states or the Federal Government should collect the Value Added Tax.
This position was unveiled by the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, Tuesday, in a swift reaction to the statement credited to the Northern States’ Governors Forum, rejecting the collection of VAT by states.
He said, “I think what the Northern Governors are trying to do is to confuse administrative convenience with constitutionality. First, let me say that they have a right to their opinion; it is all a matter of free speech. But beyond the debate, there is the constitutionality of it which the Supreme Court is being asked to make a pronouncement on.
“No matter the sentiment that anybody may have, the question remains – and this is what the Supreme Court is being asked to look into – who has the authority to collect VAT, the Value-Added Tax; is it the Federal Government or the state? And until there is a pronouncement on that, it is wrong for anybody to just give his administrative convenience for constitutionality.
“In other words, the Supreme Court only has the right to settle the question of who should collect the VAT. The question is not whether it is convenient or not; because if something is not convenient, that should not take away the constitutionality of it, and it is this constitutionality that the Supreme Court is asked to pronounce on.
“And it is not a matter of sentiment; it is a matter of legality, the law and justice. The law is not interested in sympathy; it is only interested in the law. So what are the provisions of the law in regards to collection of VAT? That is what the Supreme Court has to pronounce on.
“Whenever we are talking about collection of VAT, whether it is convenient for states or not, when they get to that bridge, they will cross it. The question remains who has the right to collect it.”