Despite his sometimes seemingly loud interventions with one project or the other, Governor Nyesom Wike is appearing to be a master in using the law to upturn permutations.
Few would remember how in 2013, Wike using the seeming gaffes in the operational guidelines of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was able to take control of the party’s structure in Rivers State from Rotimi Amaechi.
After the PDP had organized its congresses in Rivers State that year, the Amaechi camp had taken it for granted that it was business as usual and that everything would be settled as usual at the post congress interaction with the PDP monitoring team.
However, that year, there were of course extraneous issues involved, one notable one being the interest of Madam Patience Jonathan who had picked up a quarrel with Amaechi.
Whereas it was almost the norm for the governors to have their way in such issues, in the Wike group, Amaechi met a match.
With the evidence from the PDP monitoring team that the Amaechi group did not conduct the congresses as dictated by the PDP guidelines, the party structure was removed from Amaechi and handed over to the Wike group.
So, began the rebellion of some PDP governors that significantly helped the surge of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC to power in 2015.
The same disinterest shown by Amaechi was also what happened in Cross River State that saw Ben Ayade pay insufficient interest in the PDP congresses in Cross River State leading to his loss of influence and forced exit to the APC.
It is against this background of the use of operational guidelines of the law that the nation is now paying attention to the unfolding revolution in the polity fanned by developments in Rivers State.
The landmark court judgment vesting the right on the Rivers State Government to collect its Value Added Tax, VAT initially did not make much impact on the polity.
When Governor Wike signed the bill to regulate the implementation of the VAT law in Rivers State, GreenWhiteGreen GWG had in a story reported it as “Big Lift For Resource Control As Wike Signs Rivers VAT Law https://gwg.ng/2021/08/19/big-lift-for-resource-control-as-wike-signs-rivers-vat-law/.
It is now emerging it is more than a big lift. It is a bang.
It is interesting that the judgment giving vent to the new law was passed by the Federal High Court, a body normally not within the grasp of the governor.
It is interesting that given the reality of what is about to happen that a senior official of the Gombe State Government appealed to the authorities in Rivers State to reconsider their action, saying that they should learn to be thy brother’s keeper. It is a call on Governor Wike to consider his neighbours in his projects.
It was, however, more than the culture of being your brother’s keeper that has seen the disproportionate distribution of VAT proceeds under the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.
It was perhaps the culture of servitude that saw to it that in June 2021 that Rivers State generated N15 billion in VAT but got N4.7 billion representing 31%.
In the same period, Kano which generated N2.8 billion got N2.8 billion representing 100%.
You could see the pain in Wike as he reeled out the figure.
But his pain was perhaps not as touching as that of those in Lagos who got N9.3 billion out of the N46 billion generated as VAT. What Lagos got is a miserly 20% of what it generated.
So, in what is supposed to be an equitable society, the question many are asking is, who is the one getting the balance?
It is an explanation that is urgently needed to soothe the wounds over what many have described as a feeding bottle federalism drifting into an apartheid system.
The pain in Lagos may have been the stimulus that led the Lagos State House of Assembly to push through a VAT Bill similar to the one passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The urgency in that bill was seen in the fact that it passed through first reading and second reading on Monday; and passed Third reading on Thursday.
The passage of the VAT Law by the Lagos State House of Assembly is also of great significance. If Rivers showed the way, Lagos which contributes almost half of the total VAT revenue, pulling out would inevitably pull down the house.
While Wike has said that he does not mind heaven falling on account of this, many may not be as well prepared to go that route as the Rivers State governor.
As has now been referenced by many, what Wike and the legislators in Rivers State have done is a quiet march for Resource Control using the instrumentality of the law.
For a man who has been hailed by many as Mr. Projects, it may well turn out that the greatest project that Nyesom Wike may have constructed is the restructuring of Nigeria into a more viable project through the ongoing developments.
Not surprisingly, the project is being received with mixed feelings in different sections of the country. For some it is a wicked move. For many others, it is the air of freedom they have long desired in a choking federation.