The Governor of River State, Nyesom Wike stated that the historic legal battle between the Rivers State Government and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with respect to Value Added Tax (VAT) will establish how much Nigeria respect the rule of law.

The governor made this statement when the Managing Director of BusinessDay Newspaper, Dr. Ogho Okiti, led a delegation to present a letter of nomination to him as the ‘BusinessDay Most Impactful Governor’ at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday.

According the governor, the decision of the state government to seek judicial interpretation on VAT collect was aimed at strengthening the rule of law and Nigeria’s democracy.

In a statement issued by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, the governor said the award conferred on him was for the entire people of Rivers State.

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The governor also stated that when the legal issue on VAT collection between the Rivers State Government and FIRS came up, some people had accused him of trying to divide the country, even when they had not bothered to take a look at the 1999 constitutional provisions regarding the collection of VAT.

He said, “I am happy today that the Attorney General (of the Federation) has gone to the Supreme Court to sue Rivers State Government over VAT. Now, that Attorney General has gone to court, we are happy.

“But, nobody wants to talk about him dividing the country. It is only when Rivers State government goes to court that they will say we want to divide the country.

“There is nothing wrong in interpreting the law. The judiciary has been given assignment and they took oath of office to interpret the law.

“If you don’t go to court, how will we know the position of the law?  How will democracy thrive? How will we know that this country respects rule of law?”

The governor considered it baffling that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Ita Enang who was among those that commended him for approaching the court over VAT matter and also commended his administration during the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association annual conference. for implementing full autonomy for the state judiciary again turned round to accuse him of treating judges badly.

Governor Wike reiterated that the Rivers State government would not succumb to any committee set up by the Federal Government on autonomy of state judiciary.

According to him, such committee is unnecessary since the 1999 Constitution explicitly guarantees the independence of the judiciary.

The governor was optimistic that the award would spur his administration to do more for the people of Rivers State.