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THE APC TO NIGERIA’S RESCUE? By @raymond_eyo February 24, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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THE APC TO NIGERIA’S RESCUE?
By Raymond Eyo

“The APC is the only promising antidote to the PDP’s venomous bite on Nigerians.” -Shuaibu Mohammed

So much has already been said and written about Nigeria’s new political kid on the block – the merger of progressive opposition parties called the All Progressives’ Congress (APC). By this piece, I am not intending to just add my voice to a myriad of intelligent and objective treatises that have followed the announcement of the formation of the APC. All I will attempt to do is to substantiate the argument that the APC is a major game-changer for Nigeria’s politics and democracy.

First and foremost, it must be understood that this is the very first time a major political party is being born with so much public attention accompanying it. The reasons are not farfetched. At the time the People’s Democratic Party came into being in 1999, very few Nigerians, if at all, had cable television. Even fewer had mobile phones. In fact, today’s social media landscape makes the founding of the APC an entirely different affair from that of the PDP. How relevant is this, you may ask? Well, because there was little mass following of the twists and turns that accompanied the PDP in its early years, it was easy for it to be soon hijacked by a small group of influential politicians and business moguls. The same cannot be said of the APC. Already, there are very positive indications about the great interest many a Nigerian youth, albeit the middle-class social media-inclined, have taken in the APC. It is to be expected that this class of young people will, in the short to medium terms, seek to be counted in the APC’s rank and file and therefore to participate actively in the APC. No APC leadership will undermine this mass, seeing the impact of social media amplification of its formation only.

Secondly, the APC is also a major game-changer for Nigeria’s politics because it clearly represents the first promising and politically-expedient alternative to the PDP. Without any bias, it is a fact that if you give the PDP another chance in power, at the centre, in 2015, Nigeria’s democracy and development will remain encumbered. On the other hand, if you elect the APC at the centre, you will inevitably have rejigged Nigeria’s body politic. With the great interest Nigerians, especially the youth, now have on national issues, the APC will be compelled to act right, if she must retain popular support whilst the PDP will be forced to reform in a bid to win power the next time around.

I am certainly aware that there are many who fear the APC may turn out to be a copycat of the PDP. But those fears are largely unfounded. It must be recognised that even without the backing of federal power on their side, and with less than one-third of the governorships in the country, there are, arguably, more performing governors in the opposition than in the PDP. For all their weaknesses, the likes of Rochas Okorocha, Kayode Fayemi, Adams Oshiomhole, Babatunde Fashola rank much higher than many of their PDP counterparts.

Of course, I am not saying the APC consists of perfect men and women. Far from it! But the very idea behind its founding is not only noble but very commendable. It is up to all who seek change to harness the APC’s platform and make Nigeria much better than it currently is. Anyone who is waiting for a bunch of perfectionists to fall from the sky will do well to wait for eternity. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush!

As publisher and politician, Dele Momodu, said in a February 10 interview, “It’s not in the character of conservative parties [like the PDP] to accommodate, tolerate, encourage and nurture good members,” except of course, political developments, like the formation of a strong opposition party, force them to do so, which I am sure will turn out to be the case. Like in the United States recently, the Republican Party was forced to acquiesce to immigration reform, something they vehemently opposed, even going into the last presidential elections, because of the political reality that Latino-Americans have not only become a major voting bloc, but in one way or the other, contributed significantly to the victory of the Democratic Party.

In all, and like Momodu again said, “I firmly support the present APC merger. Nigeria is in desperate need of a rescue from the prodigal [PDP]… All believers in a better Nigeria must join hands and make [the APC] work.”

Raymond Eyo

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WHAT TIME IS IT ‘TWITTERING COLLECTIVE CHILDREN OF ANGER’ @elrufaionfriday February 22, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in Uncategorized.
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What time is it ‘twittering collective children of anger’?

Our fourth young voice this year is 31 year old Biodun Shaiban, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He is an integrity engineer by training. He has huge interests in the Nigerian polity and understands the need to contribute enormously to help Nigeria truly develop.

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Articles upon articles, day after day; I have read a lot of them and I am beginning to get apathetic. Though, I have found a lot of the articles fascinating and interesting, especially with the fanciful use of words and grammar, I sometimes wonder if they are having the desired effect.

I believe too much time is spent on social media, much more on reading and writing articles because most of the articles harp on the same point – deficiency of competent and upright leadership. These articles appear monotonous, result in reader apathy and only a minute amount of Nigerians end up reading the whole length of articles anyway. I am not sure if any article will be read by more than a hundred thousand people (this is a very generous estimate because only very few political personalities on social media have such a huge followership) out of a population of over 150 million people. That is less than 0.07% of the Nigerian population. You can then begin to appreciate just how many people out there we are reaching with the ‘change’ message.

Nigeria is a country where common sense is not so common. That is why you see most spiritual leaders live in opulence and extravagance and still continue to be supported and worshipped by their congregation even though majority of the worshippers are struggling financially. That is why you see a community consisting of men and women engaging in extra-judicial killings in broad daylight. It is also why the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is prevalent here too. Yes, most people will sing and dance to praises of our past and present rulers. I still wonder till this day how on earth our president got to garner so much support and votes during the 2011 elections especially in the south of the country given the knowledge of his poor charisma in the public domain.

His refusal to participate in a debate with other presidential aspirants said it all. Besides, here is a man who always carried on with business as usual when he was deputy governor, governor, vice president and acting president before he became Nigeria’s number one citizen. He was in the public eye for most of the time, but the electorate still could not properly vet him. This is a man who had been tested several times and whose performances have been abysmal and a joke at best.

How on earth did you expect him to change overnight once he won a fresh term? Nigerians chorused: ‘We voted for Jonathan and not the PDP’. But since Nigeria practices what could pass for a democracy, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable the system may seem, whoever gets the majority vote becomes the leader, or so we were taught in high school.

This is a sad fact the enlightened minority has to deal with. Which is why the onus is on the few enlightened ones to work tirelessly to show most of the populace ‘the light’; otherwise Nigeria may never get the change she needs. The minority will go about this by reaching out to other Nigerians outside the social media stratosphere, especially those at the grassroots (the bus drivers, keke napep drivers, okada men, cab drivers, market men and women, welders, vulcanizers, farmers, carpenters, tailors, cattle rearers, teachers, lecturers, students, traders, barbers, petty goods sellers etc in all the nooks and crannies of the nation).

Most of the people at the grassroots are not on social media and unfortunately they are the majority. Most of them do not even read newspapers because they cannot afford to. A few listen to radio and sometimes watch TV depending on factors such as electricity and affordability. Therefore, the masses need to be reached physically on the streets, rural areas, work places, farms, motor parks etc. I will admit that reaching out to them will not be an easy task especially because it involves huge funds, but that is what needs to be done: advertising, personal selling, direct marketing and public relations.

There is a need for effective communication between the politicians/activists and the grassroots (who are the majority). The message must not necessarily involve a lot of noise. There is too much noise on social and print media already! Majority of Nigerians are almost always on the go and battling with the necessities of life and don’t have the patience to read articles with hundreds or thousands of words. The messages have to be tailored to each target market, audience or area. All regions need to be reached out to by the opposition parties. I am not sure if CPC or Buhari set foot or significantly reached out to the south-south during the last presidential elections. I am not sure if that can be justified.

The people should be galvanized and forged into a major force for election purposes because the enlightened ones amongst us all agree that for Nigeria to be much more progressive there should be a change of the party calling the shots at the Federal Level. If anyone thinks the PDP will ever change its selfish and sinister ways, the person needs to get his/her head examined. I also believe that the opposition parties, especially the ACN and CPC have a lot of shortcomings they need to work on. At least one of them should nevertheless be better than the PDP.

The opposition should learn to turn problems into opportunities. Since most Nigerians are sentimental or emotional, that could be an opportunity. If most Nigerians are yearning for any particular religion, tribe or ethnicity, why not encourage people from such backgrounds to vie at the party primaries and let there be true internal democracy and no imposition of candidates?

I am not sure if the opposition parties can figure out by now that Jonathan will definitely impose himself on his party in 2015 and run in the presidential elections. If they are not looking at mirroring his candidacy by now, I mean finding ‘credible’ people from the south or even the south-south to contest at their presidential primaries; they may as well be ready to stay in the opposition till 2019. As it stands, with some manipulations of votes in the North and most votes in the south, you can be sure Jonathan will win the elections.

Due to our unnecessary sentimental and emotional attachments, you will frequently and still hear ‘just leave him alone’, ‘he is our son’, ‘it is our turn’ etc. A lot of people in the south still believe power has stayed too long in the north, and they will never reason that it is better for a credible person from the north to take over from Jonathan especially when he is yet to complete his ‘8 year tenure birthright’. For those thinking there would be no manipulations of votes because of the recent Edo and Ondo elections, I think they are deluded. It is easy for the opposition to deploy their resources and monitor one single state election in a single day but the presidential elections will hold simultaneously in all states on the same day. In this case, I am not sure if the opposition has the human and financial resources to monitor and checkmate the PDP in all 36 states and the FCT on Election Day. Reports have it that even opposition party officials, including CPC took money from PDP officials to look the other way round during the 2011 presidential elections. A single election day would be overwhelming for the opposition.

Now, only myopic people/parties will have their views fixated on only one candidate and will say he is the only one who can ‘fix’ Nigeria. There are other ‘credible’ people from all parts of the country. I use the word ‘credible’ because the reality is that there is no successful politician anywhere in the world who is completely honest and not tainted. That is just one of the numerous facts we need to deal with.

As mentioned earlier, I do not expect majority of Nigerians who are pivotal to the outcome of the 2015 elections to read this article because of course it is too long and will only find its way into social and print media—channels only a handful of rural folks have access to. I think it is time for the ‘twittering collective children of anger’ to leave the comfort of their offices, homes, cars and reach out to the grassroots if they desire genuine change. I expect the opposition politicians and activists to prepare adequately ahead of the 2015 elections. We have very little time on our hands to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.

You can engage the writer on twitter via his handle @beeshaiban

TAXATION: IGNORED SECOND FIDDLE TO ‘EASY’ OIL MONEY By Nasir @elrufai February 15, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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3 comments

The Federal Government earned N2.2trillion as opposed to N1.9trillion it targeted in 2009; N2.9trillion as against N2.5trillion in 2010; N4.7trillion in 2011 as opposed to N3.6trillion and N5trillion generated in 2012 as opposed to N3.6trillion. No, these are not foreign exchange earnings or even the Jonathan administration’s spurious borrowings.

These are the sums generated by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in the last five years.With these figures, borrowing to fund our budget deficits which grew from N161.1billion in the third quarter of 2011 to N459.1 billion in the third quarter 2012 are unjustifiable. Despite claims of deficit reduction by the Finance Minister, the projected deficit for 2013 is N1.039trillion.

When we consider that these deficits further compound our national debt which is around N6.9trillion ($44billion) we begin to see where the transformation agenda of this administration is taking Nigeria – long term sovereign insolvency!The FIRS has undergone quiet and true transformation since Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru was hired by the Obasanjo administration from the private sector to lead it.
Not only has the FIRS been able to draft an updated legal framework for taxation, it was able to expand our existing tax brackets, introduce re-organization policies and saw to the passage of about 4 Acts, including ones for FIRS Establishment, Value Added Tax Amendment, Companies Income Tax Amendment, and the Petroleum Profit Tax Amendment. Yet, the N5trillion record achievement is only a scratch on the surface of Nigeria’s tax generation potentials.

Nigeria can easily generate taxes equivalent to just the global average of 25% of GDP (which will be in excess of least N10trillion) if we can get our act together.Oil taxes revenue contributed N3.2 trillion; representing 64% of the entire 2012 collections as against the 2011 figures of N3 trillion. Interestingly, another major feat of the FIRS has been its ability to bring a significant swathe of the non-oil sector into the tax bracket.

The contribution of non-oil taxes increased from N1.5 trillion or 33.65% in 2011 to N1.8 trillion or 36% in 2012, from much lower numbers in 2003.Why has taxation, which is potentially Nigeria’s largest source of revenues, still been neglected in favor of ‘cheap’ oil money? Is it because of the fear that a tax paying citizenry would not allow their taxes to be looted as happens with oil revenues which are sometimes diverted by officials and spent even before reaching our shores? What is the story of taxation in Nigeria?

In 1943, the Nigerian Federal Inland Revenue Service was carved out of the former Inland Revenue Department (IRD) that covered what was then the Anglophone West Africa (including Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone) during the colonial era.

In 1958 the Federal Board of Inland Revenue (FBIR) was established under the Income Tax Ordinance of 1958. After various transformations in 1961 and 1993, on 16th April 2007, the FIRS (Establishment) Act 13 of 2007 was passed, and the operational arm of the FBIR, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) secured its autonomy.

State Assemblies were also expected to pass laws facilitating the autonomy of their Internal Revenue Services. Now 6 years later, only Lagos and Adamawa States have granted their IRS autonomy, while Ogun, Ekiti and Bauchi states are in the process of doing so. A look at how Lagos state utilizes its taxpayer’s money underscores the importance of autonomy for state IRS.The FIRS is charged primarily with the responsibility of accessing, collecting and accounting for the various taxes to the governments of the federation.

However, many Nigerians have seen this as a big loophole to the Establishment Act, leaving some to wonder why this body that collects public funds is responsible to the government, and not to the people. After the funds are remitted to the federal government, what accountability measures are put in place? How does the average Nigerian who pays his taxes diligently know that his taxes are not just moved into offshore and local accounts that benefit only the corrupt few?

In Price Water House Cooper’s (PwC) 2012 ease of paying taxes ranking, Nigeria was ranked 138 out of 183 economies. According to the same report, the average tax compliance time in Nigeria is 936 hours as opposed to a 318 hour benchmark for Sub-Saharan Africa and 186 hours for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. During 2010/2011 period covered by the 2012 study, 33 economies were said to have improved in the ease of tax payments.

A common feature amongst these 33 economies was the introduction of electronic systems that make tax compliance easier.The mistrust in the system is one of the reasons why the country has not been able to harness the full benefit of taxes compared to other countries. Many people, who pay taxes, do it reluctantly because infrastructure that should be maintained by tax funds suffer neglect; public utilities do not function, educational and health facilities decrepit, and roads are now considered by most as death traps.

In most countries, tax legislation is used to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and in 2011, Nigeria assented to the Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 2011 (PITAM 2011) in a bid to move in this direction. The PITAM 2011 consolidated all personal income tax reliefs and allowances into a single Consolidated Tax Relief Allowance (CTRA) of N200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira) or a minimum of 1% of a person’s annual gross income, whichever is higher of the two, plus 20% of the individual’s annual gross income as CTRA.

The remainder of income was liable to Personal Income Tax at an average graduating rate of between 7% to 24% of the individual’s annual income; thus, a higher PIT Tax rate is reserved for people earning above N1.6Million and N3.2Million per annum after making provision for CTRA. Ordinarily, this should fulfill the tax objective of income redistribution. The problem was and is that tax evasion or avoidance is done mostly at the top levels of government and amongst the richest in society, year in year out, we hear of tax evasions by government agencies.  

Furthermore, our informal is estimated to be at least three times the formal economy, and these incomes are hardly ever captured for taxation.Tax evasion in the formal sector occurs due to weak enforcement, corruption and impunity. For instance, in the period of 2004 to 2012 alone, the FIRS stated that 100 organizations including MDA’s owed N169billion in tax arrears.

This is quite apart from the corruption inherent in normal tax administration and collection. Most tax collectors and officials conspire with tax payers; negotiate some sort of bribe with individuals or companies for a reduction or total avoidance of their tax burdens.  The various structures which are required to work together to make tax evasions difficult are not properly coordinated.

Enforcement of tax compliance should be given adequate attention and various government agencies should collaborate to share information to reduce tax evasion or avoidance.Even for diligent Nigerians who voluntarily go to make tax remittances, they are often met with bureaucracy that leads to time wastage and sharp practices. For instance, you need a Tax Identification Number (TIN) for tax payments, these TIN numbers cannot be generated online, an individual has to go to a tax office, fill a form and wait for paper work before the TIN is generated which would typically take between a day or two. It is also tedious that whenever taxes are paid, the individual has to go to the tax office to collect his tax payment receipts after making payment in banks.

A more simplified system needs to be put in place.Perhaps the biggest problem to Nigeria’s tax administration is the absence of a comprehensive tax payer’s database. The absence or inefficiency in this area undermines tax systems. The accelerated completion of the National ID project with biometric capture incorporating TINs will go a long way in enhancing tax administration, collection and accountability.

For the FIRS to go beyond its present capacities, it must be free of the present internal conflicts plaguing the system, it must win public confidence by creating an accountability framework, and it must adopt a technology-driven approach as opposed to the largely bureaucratic manual tax administration system currently in place throughout most of the country.

If online accounts, where filing, tax payment, tax records, receipt printing and certificate generation can be done are created for individual tax payers and tied to their TIN numbers for login, would this reduce compliance time and the associated costs? Would this encourage voluntary tax compliance? What about abolition all income taxes and introducing sales taxes at state and LG levels, while raising the VAT rate from 5% to a higher number?

These are all policy and fiscal choices that need to be debated and considered going forward.While our tax fortunes may appear to continue to increase, the reality on ground is that with appropriate policies, technological and operational reforms, collections, expanding the tax bracket and monitoring made more effective, we can raise more revenues than we currently earn from non-renewable natural resources like oil and gas.

The danger of course, is that like the huge oil revenues and consistent domestic and foreign borrowing by this government, more revenues may only add to the pool of funds from which money is stolen or wasted on non-viable projects that neither create jobs for the millions that are jobless, nor improve the quality of life for Nigerians. We must refocus our energies on citizens’ taxation so that accountability demands on our leaders will also intensify.

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