Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has said states opposed to the sale and consumption of alcohol have no business should not benefit from tax paid on alcohol.
He also said the country does not need more states because existing states are too weak and unviable to be federating units.
Atiku spoke at the public presentation of a book, “Nigerian Federalism: Continuing Quest for Stability and Nation-Building”, produced by the African Policy Research Institute.
The former Vice President, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), also said: “We must acknowledge that in federal systems that work, federating units cede certain powers to the centre. In our strange federal contraption, it is the centre that is creating federating units, giving them money and monopolising most power and resources. Thus our state governments are no longer performing as federating units. Rather they currently seem like dependent provinces of the central government in Abuja.
“Think about this: sales taxes ought to be collected and used by states and local governments. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong in a federal sales tax but states must agree with the federal government what items should be taxed, at what rate and how the proceeds are to be shared. They ought to be uniform.
“If a state is opposed to cattle tax or bicycle tax or alcohol tax, or pollution tax, for instance, it should not expect to share in the tax proceeds from those items. That is called fairness.
“In fact, states should be the ones collecting those taxes on behalf of the federal government and get compensated for their work, through an agreed sharing formula, rather than duplicating the cost of collection. Federal intrusion makes it more difficult for a state to collect taxes from items that may be peculiar to it, thereby narrowing the tax base. And it makes enforcement even more difficult.“
On local government autonomy, Atiku said: “Even our state governments are nearly dependent on the Federal Government, meaning they do not even have the autonomy that we are trying to give to the local government that are below them.
“In our strange federal contraption, it is the centre that is creating federating units, giving them money and monopolising most power and resources. Thus, our state governments are no longer performing as federating units. Rather, they currently seem like dependent provinces of the central government in Abuja.
“We are all witnesses to the agitations and complaints by different sections of the country at different times about being marginalized or shortchanged in fiscal allocation and the distribution of such other public resources such political positions, jobs, school admissions, provision of infrastructure, and even social honour.
“In response many Nigerians have been calling for some form of restructuring of our federal system, while some small fringe groups insist on their part of the country separating from the federation all together.
“What I find odd and somewhat unhelpful is the argument of those who say that we cannot renegotiate our union and who proceed from there to equate every demand for restructuring with attempts to break up the country.
“I believe that every form of human relationships is negotiable. Every political relationship is open for negotiations, without pre-set outcomes.
“As a democrat and businessman, I do not fear negotiations. That is what reasonable human beings do. This is even more important if a stubborn resistance against negotiations can lead to unsavoury outcomes.”
The former Vice President added that: “We must acknowledge that what got us to our current over-centralised, and centre-dominated federal system is political expediency and fear, and bolstered by the command and control character of military regimes.” (The Nation)