The clamour is to fairly collect and share value-added tax (VAT). But it might well all end in value-added trouble (VAT). Pray, which of the two VATs are you pushing?
Already, from the South West end, there are talks of a common regional stand on VAT. In other words, the imperative of an Amotekun equivalent of VAT. As Amotekun was sold (as a South West-exclusive plank) instead of a commonsense tool (a security initiative intimate with its locale, so a win-win nationwide) VAT, in the emotion of the moment, appears going that same direction.
But after all the flurry, how’s the Amotekun doing today? It does its best, to be sure. But it’s definitely very far from the starry-eyed heights of its idealists and ideologues.
By the way, it was rather nice seeing the Amotekun and federal security agencies partner to spring nine victims, travelling to Lagos in a public bus, from kidnappers’ den, in the Akoko area of Ondo State. The moral? VAT or Amotekun, you’ll still need parallel partnerships, for either to succeed.
That brings the matter to the technical part of VAT. Beyond the simplistic, all-size-fits-all, emotive din of “true federalism”, “fiscal federalism”, et al, some experts are insisting .
VAT is best collected by the centre, so that it doesn’t result in the other VAT — value-added trouble — in multiple taxation; since the VAT concept is both paying tax on goods you buy and charging tax on goods you sell.
Since Nigeria is a vast market, they argue, every state collecting VAT could subject businesses to multiple VAT, as goods move from state to state. That alone could drive up inflation. Also, that upward spiral could be worsened by multiple VAT administrative costs, now enjoying an economy of scale in a central basket — value-added trouble!
Then, the legality of it all. What profits a state to rush out a VAT law, only for such to be shot down by the apex court? Lesson? Wait for a definitive verdict from the Supreme Court, before rushing out law that may eventually prove futile.
That possibility appears not lost on Ondo Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, (by the way, an unfazed Amotekun champion), who has opted to wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the matter before taking any further action.
The popular press, in tribute to the giant strides of the late Gani Fawehinmi the Great, inimitable senior advocate of the masses (SAM), would roar: “Gani wins round 1!”, even if it was just an ex parte order! But between round 1 and round 12 in a boxing bout, is quite a travel — and so it is in a judicial process.
Let’s fight the perceived injustice and inequities in value-added tax administration and sharing. But it wouldn’t be worth anyone’s while if the ultimate gain were to be value-added trouble.
That’s why South West legislatures’ open grandstanding of a common VAT regional approach should freeze. Law-making is too serious and too costly a process to become banalized as tool of hurried advocacy, for a fuzzy goal.