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Reading political meaning in Lagos’ passage of VAT, anti-open grazing bills

Beyond just passage of the anti-open grazing by some Southern state Houses of Assembly and the signing into law of same by their governors, these actions speak volumes politically.

What seems to make the already serious matter more serious is the signing into law of the Value Added Tax (VAT) bills by Rivers and Lagos States.

The developments seem to have sent some political signals to Abuja that times have changed so much that those who used to look at the body language of the Presidency before taking any decision may be changing their mind.

When a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2004 ordered the stoppage of statutory allocation to states that have created new local governments, Lagos State, under the leadership of Ahmed Bola Tinubu as governor, was the hardest hit.

All the states that had done so reverted to the old councils for their allocations to be restored, but Lagos State stuck to its guns.

It was not difficult to read political meaning into the standoff between Abuja and Lagos. Whereas the Federal Government was under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos State was under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Read also: States VAT collection charts path to Nigeria’s fiscal federalism

But things have since changed. The political equation changed in 2015, putting the PDP in opposition while the party that was midwifed by Tinubu is in the driver’s seat of Nigeria’s leadership.

Given the godfather role that Tinubu has continued to play in Lagos, no governor since he exited office in 2003 has done anything outside his instructions.

The state House of Assembly up till date is peopled by his political sons and daughters, who kill or make alive any bill depending on Tinubu’s interest in such a bill.

It is an open secret as people usually say that “woe betide any speaker” in Lagos that passes a bill that goes contrary to Tinubu’s interest.

For these reasons, many Nigerians can rightly tell which issues Lagos State government- Executive, judiciary and legislature- will pursue or otherwise when such an issue has something to do with Abuja.

When the issue of Amotekun, a uniform security outfit for South-West geo-political zone, was being considered, and the Presidency was not comfortable with it and openly spoke against it, many Nigerians had watched with interest to see what Lagos was going to do.

Many people had insinuated that the seeming foot-dragging by Lagos over Amotekun had to do with angry frown from Abuja, and how adoption of such an anti-Presidency policy would rub off on the Jagaban and his future political ambition.

When issues of some wanton killings in the South West were happening and people expected hard action from Lagos, but they did not get it.

But it would seem that Lagos is developing a thick skin and is mustering the political will and courage to challenge the status quo.

If the audacious passage of the acrimonious VAT and anti-open grazing bills Thursday by the Lagos State House of Assembly was a landmark development, the brazen signing into law Friday of Governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu of the VAT bill was a masterstroke that seems to show that Lagos may have determined to go for a broke.

What is difficult to deny is that had Tinubu resisted the passage, it would not have seen the light of day. This has since raise some questions in some quarters about what is going on between Aso Rock and bourdillon?

Commending his colleagues after the passage of the twin bills, said: “I thank you all for this historic exercise,” Obasa said.

Also confirming the signing into law of the VAT bill, Gbenga Omotoso, commissioner, Information and Strategy, in a statement said: “The bill for a law to impose and charge VAT on certain goods and services,” was signed at about 11.45 am today (Friday), after returning from an official trip to Abuja.

Political watchers can also attest that the outcome of the recently conducted ward and local government APC congresses in Lagos has since become acrimonious. Some loyalists of the national leader of the party are already seeking total cancellation of whatever result that came out from those exercises.

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