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Economy, Government

President Muhammadu Buhari has authorized ministries, departments, agencies and business enterprises to grant access to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to their systems for the purposes of tax collection nationwide.

President Buhari gave the order on Thursday while delivering his address as the Special Guest of Honour at the First Annual National Tax Dialogue organized by the FIRS at the old Banquet Hall, Aso Rock Villa Abuja. The theme of the dialogue was “Taxation in a post-Covid Economy”

The President also mandated the FIRS to “speedily put all measures in place to fully implement programmes to stamp out Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in all of its ramifications and generally automate its tax processes.”

In addition, President Buhari urged the FIRS to fast-track its digitalization of the tax collection process.

The President said: “I have directed all government agencies and business enterprises to grant FIRS access to their systems for seamless connection. We all are now living in a fast digitalising world. As such, business transactions are continually being migrated from “brick and mortar” locations to digital places or spaces.  It is therefore incumbent upon tax authorities to adopt digital means to efficiently track taxable transactions for the purpose of collecting taxes.  In order to provide the necessary legislative framework for the adoption of technology in tax administration, we also made necessary amendments to the FIRS Establishment Act in the Finance Act 2020.”

Also, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who delivered the keynote address at the Tax Dialogue, gave assurances that the AfDB would support the FIRS to modernise the tax collection processes in Nigeria through capacity building.

In her opening remarks at the Dialogue, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamusuna Ahmed, highlighted some provisions of the Finance Act 2020, stating that a number of these provisions were enshrined in the Act in order to help businesses, especially SMEs, recover from the adverse effects of COVID-19.

 She said tax compliance was key to national prosperity, stressing that government was determined to minimise the incidence of tax dodging through suck leakages as cross-border transactions through maximum use of technology.

The Finance Minister urged the audience to generously contribute their ideas during the dialogue in order to improve the nation’s tax system.

In his Welcome Address at the event, Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, underscored the importance of the dialogue, saying: The universal collapse of traditional government revenue sources and the consequential resort to tax is a testimony.  The well-known arms race among nations is gradually giving way to “tax-race”.  The international struggle for and against digital services tax is just the beginning of the tax race.  It is a race for all nations – developed or developing.  And for Nigeria, it is “a must-win” race.”

Mr. Nami stressed that the FIRS would match on to digitalise the tax process fully and canvassed the cooperation of the three tiers of government, the citizens and corporate organisations in the country for the success of the digitalization drive.

His words: “The FIRS started the journey to automation several years ago when it launched “Project Fact”.  Several other initiatives were launched to further take advantage of evolving technology in taxpayer registration, online payment platforms, remote filing of returns, etc.  However, there was very limited success with the various initiatives due to inadequate statutory framework. 

“A quantum leap was achieved with the 2020 Finance Act which copiously provided legal grounds for deployment of technology in tax administration.  The Service is grateful to the President, the leadership of the National Assembly, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and all other stakeholders that worked together to enact the necessary laws.

“The Service is taking advantage of the new law to embark on studies (with the assistance of friendly tax authorities and international tax organisations) with a view to developing a robust digitalisation roadmap.  The roadmap will enable the Service to digitalise its whole operations (end-to-end) in a systematic, coherent and efficient manner.

“There is so much to look forward to in the coming years.  The FIRS is starting this decade with the resolve to leapfrog tax administration into the digital age. Ladies and gentlemen, we are banking on your continued support as we embark on this onerous journey.”

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Economy, Government, LIFE STYLE

In a renewed attempt at further deepening the reforms of the nation’s business environment, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), has resolved that CEOs and Heads of some Federal Government regulatory agencies be presented with the outcome of a recent survey that exposes major pitfalls in the operations of the agencies.

The Cost of Compliance Report which was presented to the Council at its first virtual meeting of the year on Tuesday revealed persistent corruption, duplicity of functions, poor service orientation, and several anti-business disposition in some of the regulatory agencies.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, who presided over the meeting directed that CEOs and heads of such government regulatory agencies involved should be presented with the outcomes and interaction should take place regarding some of the worrying disclosures in the report of the survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, PwC.

Prof Osinbajo who said the report revealed human issues that are not unavoidable, stressed the important roles regulatory agencies play in ensuring businesses are able to thrive seamlessly without inhibition. He noted that doing otherwise would only jeopardize the government’s efforts in creating a conducive business environment.

He stated that “if the environment on account of regulatory authorities is so difficult or expensive, such that people are discouraged or it doesn’t make sense for people to do business, then we are shooting ourselves in the foot in a manner we can only blame ourselves. These are human issues and we must do something very serious about these issues.”

Speaking further about holding those responsible for the major lapses to account, the Vice President said, “I am in full support of holding our CEOs to account because they, in turn, must hold their staff to account. If there is systemic corruption, bribery and extortion, and nobody is held to account, there is a problem.”

According to Prof Osinbajo, the plans of the Federal Government in growing the economy and changing the lives and livelihood of Nigerians for the better is largely dependent on the business environment in which they operate.

“Every one of our plans around sustaining economic growth, improving job creation and opportunities, whatever it is that we plan to do to make life better for the citizens, depends entirely on the environment in which people have to do business.

“It determines whether they will invest their resources, expand their businesses, and it just determines practically everything.”

Others present at the PEBEC meeting yesterday include the Ministers of Industry Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the Vice Chairman of PEBEC; Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi; Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Budget and National Planning (State), Clem Abga; Special Adviser on Ease of Doing Business, Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, and Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed, representing the National Assembly among other top government officials and representatives from PwC.

Members of PEBEC also condoled with Dr. Oduwole on the death of her father, former Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University, Prof. Afolabi Olumide who passed away recently. Otunba Adebayo who spoke on behalf of PEBEC prayed that God will grant the Council Secretary and the entire family the fortitude to bear the loss.

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Economy, Finance

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) generated a total sum of N4.9 trillion of tax revenue in the year 2020, a landmark achievement that represents approximately 98% of the national tax target of N5.076 trillion set for the FIRS by the Federal Government.

This was disclosed by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Muhammad Nami during a press conference in his office.

While briefing the press, Mr Nami pointed out that this near 100% collection feat was all the more remarkable when placed against the backdrop  of the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy; the all-time low price of crude oil in the international market; business disruptions and lootings during the #EndSars protests; generous tax waivers granted by the FIRS to ease the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown; additional tax exemptions granted to small companies in the 2019 Finance Act; and  insecurity in some parts of the country.

Throwing more light on the significance of the 2020 performance, he further noted that the FIRS recorded this feat at a time when the price of oil hit an all-time low. In other words, oil which used to contribute over 50% in tax returns through the Petroleum Profits Tax in previous years, accounted for only 30.6% contribution to the tax revenue generated in 2020. He also added that the non-oil tax collection was 109% in 2020, which is 9% higher than the previous year. 

Mr. Nami attributed the FIRS revenue generation success in 2020 to a number of reforms initiated by the Board and Management of the Service under his leadership. The reforms included capacity building for members of the staff; improved staff welfare package; promotion and proper placement of staff; deployment of appropriate technology for tax operations; segmentation of taxpayers to ease tax compliance; and continuous collaboration with relevant stakeholders, among others.

 Mr. Nami commended “the conscientious taxpayers in the country and dedicated members of staff of the FIRS nationwide for their support and devotion to work which made this performance possible despite the numerous obstacles encountered by the Service in 2020”.

He added, “The FIRS is optimistic this current fiscal year 2021 will be better than 2020. We shall perform exceedingly well given that our Service reforms are expected to yield greater dividends, especially as different parts of tax administration are being automated. We are also optimistic that exploration activities will improve in the oil sector and increase the prospect of higher tax revenue from the sector. Similarly, the ongoing reforms by the Service together with increased stakeholder collaborations will brighten the prospect of improved voluntary compliance and consequently higher tax revenue generation for the country this year and beyond.” 

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Agriculture, Economy

Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Friday launched a 10-year Agricultural Transformation Plan, which is designed to ensure food security, generate employment opportunities, and reduce poverty rate.

The plan is hinged in six pillars of crop production, finance, livestock, access to market, value chain, and cross-cutting programmes, the Governor said at the launch of the document in Ilorin, the state capital.

AbdulRazaq said the document comes with measurable milestones to ensure faithful implementations by all the stakeholders involved.

“It is a 10-year plan which is based on verifiable data gathered from field research and extensive consultations with various stakeholders and experts in the sector. The plan spells out the opportunities and challenges in the agricultural sector in the state, and identifies six pillars that are critical to the success of the plan,” AbdulRazaq at the launch attended by several stakeholders in agriculture virtually.

“These pillars are crop production, Finance, Livestock, access to market, value chain, and cross-cutting programmes. The document explains each of these pillars and the milestones to be reached in the course of its implementation,” he said.

AbdulRazaq explained that the plan also comes with detailed monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to constantly interrogate the journey while attention is also paid to sustainability.

“The essence of this document is to ensure food security, attract investments to the sector, create jobs, reduce poverty, and create inclusive growth by giving equal opportunities for women and girls to also benefit from everything that this plan has to offer,” he said.

“This week is one of the most exciting weeks because I met the French Ambassador to Nigeria who has agreed to send a team to Kwara State. He is particularly interested in agricultural sector, most especially the livestock sector.”

The Governor said he is also working to ink an agreement with the Lagos State Government on food production, adding that Kwara would be investing some N2bn in the agricultural sector in partnership with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), a platform of the African Union to advance economic growth on the continent.

“This will be anchored by a department at Kwara State University, Malete which will be at Ilesha Baruba. This administration will conclude the construction of that campus. The campus has extensive land which I have visited. So, NEPAD is investing in Kwara. I am also the chairman of the programme’s steering committee. It will make Kwara agriculture programme a huge success,” he added.

“I thank all the stakeholders, our partners and our team for the success of this work. However, the most challenging part is ensuring successful implementation of the plan to make Kwara food sufficient by 2030. This is achievable if everyone plays their part. As an administration, we will mobilise every resources in support of this dream.”

Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Yakubu Danladi Salihu said the administration of AbdulRazaq is making frantic efforts to improve rural road infrastructure for easy movement of farm produce.

“This plan, when well implemented, will improve the state’s internally generated revenue, which is very important. With the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP), about 700kms will be taken care of and the Agricultural Transformation Plan will be a plus to us all in the state,” he said.

Technical Assistant to the Governor on Agriculture AbdulQowiy Olododo, for his part, explained that the plan is unique and comprehensive as it captures both the enormous potentials in the agricultural sector in Kwara and the actionable steps that would be taken to harness such potentials and turn them into tangible benefits for all.

“In line with the vision of the Governor, this Transformation Plan has been designed to deliver unending benefits to the people of Kwara State. The benefits include but are not limited to massive decent job creation for women and youths, improved nutrition, availability and affordability of quality food, rural infrastructure development, improved living standard and economic growth,” he said.

The state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria Hon. Umar Muhammad Aboki commended the present administration for consulting with and involving farmers in the plan and for developing the sector to attain food security.

“(AbdulRazaq’s) words can be taken to the bank. We have absolute confidence in your leadership because of what you have demonstrated not only in agriculture but virtually all spheres of the economy. All farmers are following the trends of events and are very happy with your laudable programmes and projects,” he added.

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Economy, Government

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo has inaugurated a steering committee for the implementation of the Export Expansion Facility (EEF) to boost non-oil exports.

Adebayo on Thursday, at the virtual inauguration of the committee warned that the economy would remain vulnerable to external shocks with attendant effects of devaluation, inflation and unemployment, if the country did not grow its non-oil exports.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Ifedayo Sayo, the minister said  export growth was at the centre of the strategy for diversifying Nigeria’s sources of foreign exchange.

According to him, it would reduce the vulnerability of the economy to external shocks.

“We have witnessed the devastating impact of events outside our control can have on our livelihoods due to our reliance on a primary source of foreign exchange.

“The coronavirus pandemic further amplified these vulnerabilities and reminded us that if we do not grow non-oil exports, our economy remains vulnerable to external shocks and their ripple effects of devaluation, inflation and unemployment.

“However, I believe we are on the right path in addressing these concerns and have chosen the right partners for the journey,” he said.

He noted that the EEF is aimed at protecting export businesses from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, safeguarding jobs and de-risk the economy from shocks like COVID-19.

According to him, its primary goal is to increase Nigeria’s export capacity in the near term and its export volumes in the medium term.

The minister added that it represented a huge financial commitment from the government and demonstrated President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to export diversification.

He listed the duties of the steering committee to include ensuring timely implementation of the programme in line with the Federal Government’s objectives and for the benefit of its intended beneficiaries.

According to him, it also includes approval of the Programme Implementation Plan and Budget in accordance with agreed priorities and approval of implementation strategy of EEF’s projects and target beneficiaries for each project, where applicable.

He added that the committee would ensure approval of disbursements to beneficiaries, vendors and implementation partners and review of the periodic performance reports and resolve implementation challenges.

Members of the committee headed by Adebayo as Chairman, include Mr Nnamdi Okonkwo, former Managing Director, Fidelity Bank as the Vice Chairman and Mr Olusegun Awolowo, Executive Director, Nigeria Export Promotion Council.

Others include Mr Mansur Ahmed, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Suleiman Audu, Director, Commodities and Export Department of the ministry and Mrs Suratu Umar; Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Aisston Consulting, among others.

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