…demands explanation on decline in remittances
resident Muhammadu Buhari has summoned the chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, to the Presidential Villa today over discrepancies in tax revenue remittances between 2015 and 2018.
The president, through his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, in a letter dated August 8, 2019, demanded an explanation from the FIRS chairman on the variances that exist between the budgeted collections and the actual collections by the organization for the period 2015/2018.
According to the letter obtained yesterday by our correspondent, Buhari said it was worrisome that actual collections for the period 2015 to 2017 were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014.
Considering the shortfall, President Buhari directed Fowler to appear today at the Villa and explain in detail, the reasons for the poor collections.
The letter, personally signed by the president’s chief of staff, reads in part: “Your attached letter FIRS/EC/CWP/0249/19/027 dated 26 July, 2019 on the above subject matter, refers.
“We observed significant variances between the budgeted collections and the actual collections for the period 2015/2018.
“Accordingly, you are kindly invited to submit a comprehensive variance analysis explaining the reasons for the variances between budgeted and actual collections for each main tax item for each of the years 2015 to 2018.
“Furthermore, we observed that the actual collections for the period 2015 to 2017 were significantly worse than what was collected between 2012 and 2014. Accordingly, you are kindly invited to explain the reasons for the poor collections.
“You are kindly invited to respond by 19 August 2019. Please, accept the assurances of my highest regards.”
A senior aide of the president, who prefers not to be quoted since he was not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the query from Buhari to the FIRS boss.
The Presidency official wondered how the letter from the chief of staff leaked to the public, noting that enemies of the FIRS chairman may have been behind the leak.
He said: “We don’t know how the letter got to the press. Maybe people who don’t like the chairman inside the organization leaked it. But it is true that the letter was indeed written on behalf of the president from the chief of staff.
“As you have seen from the content, it is not a query per se. It is just a request for explanation. The request is itself based on the information supplied to the Presidency by the chairman himself. He was asked to come forward with the revenue collection over a 10-year period.
“From 2010 to 2014, the FIRS surpassed its targets for each year. From 2015 to date, the FIRS failed to meet its targets every year. So, the idea of the letter is for him to explain the situation as raised by the records he presented. It’s for him to speak, not the Presidency,” he stressed.
Efforts to get Fowler and FIRS spokesperson, Mr. Wahab Gbadamosi, to react officially to the memo, was not successful. Text messages sent to them were not replied.
Despite hitting its highest record in 2018, the FIRS has failed to meet revenue targets since President Buhari came into office in 2015
The agency’s total tax collection was put at N5.32 trillion at the end of 2018.
This is the highest revenue the agency will generate in history. A closer figure was recorded in 2012 at N5.07 trillion, but with persistent target shortfalls since 2015.
Fowler said the agency is targeting N8 trillion for 2019.
Kalu lauds Buhari on Economic Advisory Council
Former Governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for inaugurating an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by Prof. Doyin Salami.
Applauding the President’s efforts in fixing the nation’s economy, the lawmaker expressed confidence in the membership of the council.
Kalu noted that the members of the team are people with integrity and vast experience in their respective fields.
While charging the new team to work collectively with the organised private sector (OPS), relevant government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the academia and other stakeholders in a bid to retool the economy, Kalu stressed that government must sustain pragmatic programmes and policies that will enhance the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) in the country.
The former governor, who is a big player in the Nigerian economy, emphasized the imperative of pragmatic monetary and fiscal policies in promoting sustainable development.
In a statement signed by his media office, yesterday, Kalu stated that with the inauguration of the EAC, the President has demonstrated his determination to build a strong and robust economy.
He said: “The constitution of an Economic Advisory Council (EAC) by President Buhari is a welcome and timely development. The EAC will play a crucial role in complementing the efforts of the President in fixing Nigeria’s economy.
“The government must drive policies that will create a conducive business atmosphere for local and foreign investors. The team must review the current economic policies in a bid to stimulate growth and development.”
The former governor, while calling on government to grant concessions in form of tax holidays, import duty waivers and export promotion and expansion grants to the agricultural, manufacturing and industrial sectors, noted that the economic base of the country must be diversified for national well-being.
Kalu, who wished the newly constituted team success in their national assignment, urged the OPS and other stakeholders to support the President in his determination to reposition the country.
FG committed to improved standard of living for Nigerians –Osinbajo
The Federal Government has assured that beyond the high macroeconomics returns being envisaged, the government is committed to improving the standard of living of Nigerians compared to what obtains in developed economies.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja, while declaring open the 60th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Economic Society with the theme “Economic Policies and the Quality of Life in Africa.”
Osinbajo said that the theme of the Conference was apt and consistent with Nigeria’s national development priorities, coming especially on the heels of the country’s determination to address the economic and social challenges facing the country.
He further stated that the conference could not have come at a better time than now when the current administration was in the process of developing Successor Long Term as well as the Medium Term Development Plans for the country.
“Conference such as this, therefore, provides the opportunity for exchange of ideas and charting the course for improving the overall economic management both at the federal and state levels.
“It will be recalled that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) was developed in response to the economic challenges at the beginning of this administration, specifically to address these challenges and ensure inclusiveness,” Osinbanjo reiterated.
According to the vice president, in order to create a more inclusive society that enhances the quality of life, government had continued to implement the Social Investment Programme (SIP), adding that the sum of N500 billion had been appropriated for the scheme since 2016, an action which reflected the continued determination of government to pursue an inclusive society and achieve a pro-poor growth.
He posited that government policies such as the N-Power scheme, have seen 500,000 graduates and 26,000 non-graduates engaged.
“The National Home Grown Feeding programme, as at March 2019, is feeding over 9.5 million school children across 30 states, with over 101,913 cooks empowered.
“The government enterprise and empowerment programme have seen to the disbursement of 1.71 million loans to small businesses and farmers across the 36 states and the FCT. 297, 973 households in 26 states across the country are benefiting from the conditional cash transfer programme,” he said.
He stated that government was also making effort at revitalizing the textile industry in the country, with Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment working closely with relevant stakeholders to commence a data gathering process in that regard.
He commended the Nigerian Economic Society for organising the conference. “The progress we seek in our lives could only be achieved when anchored on credible economic development agenda at all levels of government,” he said.
FGN to NIMC: Protect people’s identification against hackers
The Federal Government yesterday charged the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to protect the identification of people against hackers.
The government, which gave the charge at the celebration of International Identity day, also asserted that the National Identification Number (NIN) should be the fastest way to check ghost workers.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who made the observations, called on the NIMC management to go beyond issuing slips, to issuing the biometric identity cards.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary Political, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Mr. Gabriel Aduda, the SGF said that a proper identification of the citizen would put a rest to bad planning.
He said:”Identity is a requisite for the country’s economic, social and political progress. The digital identity ecosystem project is an undertaking which the Federal Government of Nigeria fully committed to its actualisation and utilization for governance and delivery of important government services.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, called on NIMC to up their technology to assist other government agencies to fighting crimes that have to do with identification.
According to him, businesses and commerce, international and domestic travels, security management, health insurance, among others necessitate National Institutions such as NIMC to rise to the challenge of digital identification and management.
This can only be done properly when NIMC leverages on technology and innovations in a fast-changing world.
The Minister emphasized that, growing sophistication of terror groups, the innovative creativity of internet fraudsters, group identity agitations, etc, require prompt, effective and harmonization of identity management in the country.
He said: “NIMC should move beyond photo and biometric data capture in support of Nigerian Immigration Service and financial institutions- it ought to, and should be a one-stop shop in forensic analysis of data and should interface with Nigerian Biotechnology Agency to develop DNA replication and encoding Laboratories to support security agencies in detection, arrest and prosecution of criminals in the country.’’
In his remarks earlier, the Acting Chairman of the NIMC, Mallam Ibrahim Gwandu, said the choice of the National Identity Day was in recognition of Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030.
According to him, the goal of NIMC management is to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by the year 2030.
2020 budget: We won’t adjust oil benchmark – FG
Nigerian government is not in a hurry to review upward the $55 per barrel crude oil benchmark it adopted last week for her 2020 fiscal budget as the price of crude oil climbed to a high of $71 per barrel yesterday.
That is on the heels of coordinated attacks on oil installations of Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
On Sunday night, rebels from Yemen blew up Saudi Arabia’s oil installations, causing the country a massive loss said to be in the region of five million barrels per day.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajya Zainab Ahmed and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba, confirmed government’s position yesterday during question and answer session that preceded media briefing for upcoming Nigeria Economic Summit (NES#25) holding in Abuja next month.
Asked if government would adjust its oil benchmark price from $55 in the face of rising oil prices caused by attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Agba said government was watching closely the situation.
“Considering the recent event that happened in the Middle-East and the soaring oil prices, like you know, for now it’s a one off event. So, we will be monitoring the situation. If it becomes sustainable, then there might be need to adjust. But for now, we will maintain the benchmark rate that we have established as the budget proposal for 2020,” he said.
In her response, Ahmed said government isn’t in a hurry to adjust her oil benchmark price.
“We should not be in a practice of rejoicing over the misfortune of others. If Saudi Arabia with very sophisticated security system is affected in this manner, it means we are also vulnerable. So, let us not be in a hurry to celebrate. Like the Minister of state said, we are not in a hurry to adjust our revenue,” Ahmed said.
The Minister also clarified that, the proposed increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent was a brainchild of Bismarck Rewane’s committee on minimum wage salary.
“In the last couple of months, we have been in intensive discussion with labour on increase in the minimum wage. As a result, Mr President set up a minimum wage negotiations committee which agreed that the minimum wage should be adjusted to N30, 000. We are currently negotiating the consequential adjustments to other public servants to make sure there is parity between the minimum wage and other cadres. Mr President subsequently set up a special high powered committee chaired by a renowned economist, Bismarck Rewane, with several heads of agencies with Private participants to look for ways this government could raise money to be able to meet this new obligation that has crystallized in the increase of the minimum wage. One of the recommendations was the increase of Vat from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.
Let me say that only 15 per cent of the VAT accrues to the government. 85 per cent is
to the states and local governments. Recall that the minimum wage is implementable nationwide. The increase in VAT was one of the conditions for the adoption of the minimum wage.”
“Let me also say that VAT is a consumption tax. If you decide to go to the market and buy your foodstuffs and cook, you are not paying VAT. But if you decide to go to the restaurant and have a meal, you will pay VAT because the restaurant owner has added value by cooking the food and presenting in a manner that you like. If you decide to transport yourself by train, you are not paying VAT. But if you have the
resources to use the airline, the airline ticket has VAT”, she explained.
On preparation for Nigeria Econmic Summit (NES#25 ) fixed for October
7 and 8 in Abuja, Ahmed said the summit theme “: “Nigeria 2050: Shifting Gears” was apt and imperative.
In a remark earlier, NESG Chairman Mr. Asue Ighadalo, said NES summit has become a formidable platform for exchange of ideas between public and private sector.
US, Nigeria seek protection of intellectual property rights
The United States Mission in Nigeria and the American Business Council, in affiliation with the Federal Government of Nigeria has set up a regional work group taskforce against counterfeit pharmaceuticals, regional cybercrime, cyber-security, and internet piracy.
The resolution was part of the highlights of the two-day Intellectual Property (IP) Symposium held in Lagos at the instance of the US Mission Nigeria with the theme “The Bane of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals and Piracy.” The event came to a close yesterday.
Present at the symposium were a broad range of stakeholders, including senior officials from Federal ministries, departments and agencies, legislators, lawyers, business, and technology leaders.
Delivering remarks on the importance of intellectual property rights protection, U.S. Embassy Chargé d’affaires, Kathleen FitzGibbon, said intellectual property rights protection enables the innovation and creativity needed to bolster economic growth.
FitzGibbon said: “This is not just an American issue. This is a global issue and as Nigeria moves ahead with goals of diversifying and shifting to a knowledge-based economy, a strong intellectual property rights regime will help attract investment and protect Nigerian ideas and Nigerian businesses.”
She noted further that strong intellectual property rights protection was essential to creating jobs and opening new markets for goods and services.
FitzGibbon urged stakeholders––government, consumers, and businesses to join forces in ensuring the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Other speakers at the opening of the symposium were Robert Bowman from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training as well as Professor Adebambo Adewopo, a leading intellectual property scholar and the IP Chair at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
In addition, the opening day of the symposium featured panel discussions, exhibitions, and the screening of the documentary “Fishbone.” The Nollywood-produced film highlights the menace of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and their effect on both Nigeria citizens and the local economy.
Through economic diplomacy overseas, the United States encourages host-nation governments to establish predictable legal regimes to ensure intellectual property rights can be secured.
As a follow-up to the IP symposium, the regional taskforce against counterfeit pharmaceuticals and health-related safety will hold their first roundtable meeting between September 18-20, while the regional cybercrime, cyber security, and internet piracy workshop will take place on September 23-27, 2019.
Housing: FG to fund FHF for five years
As part of efforts to address deficit in housing sector, the Federal Government has agreed to provide enough funding for the execution of the Family Homes Funds for the next five years.
To this end, it has given a nod to the board and management of Family Homes Fund to source for more funds from third party institutions like development finance institutions and the capital market.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, gave the board of Family Homes Fund the nod yesterday in Abuja at the inauguration of the Board of Family Homes Funds.
“The present administration is committed to the implementation of this Housing Policy through the provision of enough funds for its sustainability in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the next five years. The government established the Family Homes Funds for the provision of affordable homes for 500,000 Low income Nigerians and the creation of 1.5 million jobs. This is in realization of the President
Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s goal of bridging the housing needs gap with the aim of promptly addressing the numerous demands for government interventions in the housing sector”, she said.
She added that given the huge financial commitment involved, the board members of the company is expected to use unusual commitment, experience and determination to succeed.
“Family Homes Fund will receive significant amounts of public money, in addition to other capital from development finance institutions and the capital market. It must, therefore, be a reliable steward of
resource on your part”, said the Minister.
The housing programme envisaged under the Family Homes Scheme, Ahmed said, “is the largest in the history of our nation and if successfully delivered, it has the potential, not to change lives but also to boost Nigeria’s economy.”
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Muhammed Dikwa, represented by Mr. Dennis Chukwu, said the inauguration of the board of the Family Homes Fund would help bridge the housing needs in Nigeria.
Chairman of the board and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Suleiman Barau, pledged the commitment of the board and management of the Fund to providing leadership given the quality of expertise at the disposal of the team.
Disconnection: 6.8m telecoms subscribers escape sanction
- Minister issues Sept 25 deadline for pre-registered SIMs
Within the space of one week, 6.8 million telecommunications subscribers have registered their lines properly, thereby escaping the impending disconnection. Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, disclosed this yesterday while inaugurating the Governing Board of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Abuja.
Recall that the minister had, last week, ordered NCC to disconnect a total of 9.2 million lines discovered to have been improperly registered, citing security risks.
However, speaking at the inauguration, Pantami said the number of improperly registered Subscribers Identity Module (SIMs) had reduced from 9.2 million to 2.4 million within one week, indicating that 6.8 million subscribers had regularised their registration within the period.
“As at last week, we had 9.2 million pre-registered or partially registered SIM cards in Nigeria, based on the directives I gave to NCC. I am pleased to inform you that as at today, the figure has dropped to 2.4 million.
“I have further directed NCC to ensure that by 25th September 2019, no pre-registered or partially registered SIM cards are in circulation,” Pantami said.
The minister, while reacting to NCC’s report on the figure of improperly registered SIMs, had expressed concern over the security implication of this discovery and further directed that the telecoms regulator should, with immediate effect, ensure that all improperly registered numbers are duly reregistered.
He noted that the security implication of the irregularity is too grave to ignore, adding that the ministry would not tolerate any actions or inactions that would compromise the nation’s security.
Prior to the NCC’s audit, the mobile network operators had, in August, embarked on another round of ‘Know Your Customer (KYC)’ exercise, which was aimed at correcting any irregularity on their SIM registration database.
The exercise saw large crowd of subscribers storming the operators’ stores for re-registration to avoid disconnection.
N470m debt: NECO withholds over 30,000 results in Niger
The National Examination Council (NECO) has withheld the results of over 30,000 public school students due to debts owed by the Niger State government to it.
The development has led to their failure to attend post-UTME screenings of the universities of their choice.
That was as the Niger State government has admitted that they are owing the examination body N470 million, adding that they have managed to pay N150 million.
Findings have it that the students could not access their May/June SSCE results and are currently unable to, asking the government to intervene.
It would be recalled that the NECO May/June SSCE results were released on August 27, 2019.
When our Correspondent spoke to some of the affected students, they bemoaned their inability to access their results, so as to attend post UTME screenings of universities.
The Permanent Secretary of the Niger State Ministry of Education, Abubakar Aliyu, who spoke to Journalists, admitted that they are owning the examination body but appealed for consideration to enable the students access their results, especially those due for port UTME screenings.
“The state government has been paying NECO and WAEC for its students from the previous government and the arrangement has always been that when the government has funds, we pay in installments.
“NECO is owed N400 million this year and the government has commenced the payment. Last week Friday, we remitted N150 million to them and we are still negotiating with them to release the result but they have not. Hopefully, they may release it today (Monday).”
Aliyu declared that the government does not have enough money to give to NECO at once but promised that they will pay whenever there are available funds.
Furthermore, he said: “For us, as a government, we do not have money to release at once but as a responsive government, we have a clear picture of what we want to do. Once we get money, we will make release to them. Within the availability of resources, we have given what we have and we will continue to give them what we have until we clear the accumulated debts.”
He, however, stated that if the results were not released before the end of Monday, “we will look for ways of sourcing for money to pay the debts. One of the Directors in the Ministry is still in a meeting with NECO.”
The Information Officer, Mallam Azeez Sani, could not be reached as at the time of filing this report.
Insecurity: FCT not under siege – IGP
In the face of rising crime in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has assured residents that the city was not under siege.
There had been incidents of armed robbery, kidnapping, “one chance” and other violent crimes within and around Abuja, with residents raising the alarm of possible security threats.
The fear was heightened with the kidnap of at least three persons a few days ago by yet-to-be identified gunmen.
According to a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, the IGP insisted that the FCT has a “robust” security architecture in place, to deal with threats to lives and property of residents.
“The Inspector General of Police…has stated unequivocally that the Federal Capital Territory is safe, secure and not under any form of siege”, Mba said.
According to him:”This assertion comes against the backdrop of recent speculations in some sections of the media, particularly the Social Media, of an upsurge in crime rate within and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
“While observing that, like other climes across the World, the country has its security challenges, the IGP however noted that a comprehensive analysis of crime statistics on major cities across the world would reveal that Abuja has one of the lowest crime rates and remains indisputably one of the safest capital cities in the world.
“The IGP further observes that the Federal Capital Territory Police Command has a robust anti-crime architecture which is continually rejigged to effectively tackle prevailing and emerging crimes. He however enjoins all law-abiding citizens and visitors alike to go about their lawful endeavours without any fear or apprehension”.
Paracetamol in pregnancy could lead to hyperactivity in children
Researchers in the United Kingdom (UK) have found an association between paracetamol intake during pregnancy and the development of hyperactivity and attention problems in the offsprings produced from such pregnancies.
The researchers published their findings yesterday in ‘Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology’ journal, which examined whether there were any effects of taking paracetamol in mid-pregnancy and the behaviour of the offspring between the ages of six months and 11 years, with memory and intelligent quotient (IQ) tested up until the age of 17.
However, this was no longer the case by the time the children reached the end of primary school, the ‘Science Daily’ reported.
On the contrary, boys appeared to be more susceptible than girls to the possible behavioural effects of the drug.
The study reinforced the advice that women should be cautious when taking medication during pregnancy and should seek medical advice where necessary.
The study was led by Professor Jean Golding OBE who also founded the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s study.
According to the study lead, the research findings added to a series of results concerning evidence of the possible adverse effects of taking paracetamol during pregnancy such as issues with asthma or behaviour in the offspring.
Paracetamol is a commonly prescribed and over-the-count used analgesic drug. Safety concerns have however been raised about the safety of taking this medication indiscriminately. Even taking one or two more tablets than recommended could cause serious liver damage and possibly death. Paracetamol overdose is one of the leading causes of liver failure.
Using questionnaire and school information from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study researchers examined 14,000 children. When they were seven months pregnant 43 per cent of their mothers said they had taken paracetamol ‘sometimes’ or more often during the previous three months.
Researchers examined results of the children’s memory, intelligent quotient (IQ) and pre-school development tests, temperament and behaviour measures.
She said, “It is important that our findings are tested in other studies—we were not in a position to show a causal link, rather an association between two outcomes.
“It would also be useful now to assess whether older children and adults are free of difficult behavioural problems if their mother had taken paracetamol.’’-
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