The Senate has passed for second reading a bill that will alter the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Act to regulate the processes of granting corporate tax holidays, import duty waivers and investment incentives to investors and businesses in Nigeria.
The bill, sponsored by Yahaya Abubakar Abdullahi (PDP, Kebbi North), seeks to whittle down the powers of the federal government to unilaterally grant tax holidays and incentives to businesses.
It seeks to create a new section (9) in the FIRS Act to mandate the Service to secure due legislative approval of the National Assembly in granting of new or renewal of corporate tax incentives and waivers.
It states that for purposes of transparency, efficiency, effective monitoring and fair play, all requests and applications for parliamentary approval shall be referred to the Senate and the House of Representatives for necessary scrutiny.
“Such requests and applications for parliamentary approval shall stipulate clear conditions and justification for granting tax waivers and investment incentives.
“All, or any other enactments specific to cases of granting investment incentives and tax waivers to businesses, institutions and individuals that conflict with the provision of this Act, shall be deemed, not applicable,” he said.
Senator Abdullahi, in his lead debate, said the bill has become imperative due to leakages and loopholes in tax collection and remittances to government amid revenue shortfalls and high debt profile.
He expressed worry that in the last five years, the country has not been able to achieve its revenue targets.
Figures from the Debt Management Office (DMO) showed that N3.9 trillion was realised out of the targeted revenue of N7.2 trillion in 2018.
In 2019, the target was N7 trillion while actual revenue collected was N4.12 trillion.
The sum of N5.4 trillion revenue was targeted in 2020 but N3.9 trillion was received.
In 2021, the target was N6.4 trillion while N4.64 trillion was received.
In 2022, targeted revenue was put at N5.82 trillion while actual revenue received was N3.66 trillion.
The lawmaker expressed concern that debt service is consuming over 90% of the government’s revenues up from 32.7% in 2015.
He said, “If this trend of relentless reliance on increasing public debt to finance the budget continues without corresponding rise in revenues, the country shall slide into distress and insolvency.
“With petroleum revenues dwindling into insignificance, we must rise to rationalize the system of tax administration by blocking loopholes, and tax evasion and ensure utmost efficiency in tax management.
“It is important to note that even while government explores other means of increasing its revenue streams and improve collecting capacity, the National Assembly must act with firmness and determination to ensure that we initiate and pass laws that regulate revenue streams collection and remittance.
“In early 2020, the FIRS reported a loss of N 1.3 trillion to tax waivers, in five years. And this was in just three sectors of the economy. Similarly, in October 2021, losses were put at $2.9 billion yearly, in tax waivers to multinationals.
“It is obvious that there are several other similar cases; and all this happening in the face of government increasing difficulties to fund its various development projects and welfare commitments across the country.
“The overall intendment of this Amendment Bill, therefore, is to ensure that government is able to pool all its collectibles in one coffer, to be able to target its allocations to those areas of priority in the country.
“An effective way to do this is to re-organize the processes of granting tax holidays, investment incentives and waivers to private individuals and corporate entities for effective coordination and transparency.
“We must also ensure that such applications are placed before the National Assembly, in order to ensure that all arms of the government are on the same page on this delicate matter.”
The bill, after scaling second reading was referred to Senate Committee on Trade and Investment for further legislative works.
Senate panel quizzes Bakari as NFIU Boss
The Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes has on Monday quizzed Hafsat Bakari as the Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU).
President Bola Tinubu last week appointed Bakari as the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit, pending her confirmation by the Senate.
By the appointment Bakari is to replace Modibbo Tukur who was relieved of his job by President Tinubu in June 2023.
Bakari is a lawyer and financial intelligence expert with years of experience in anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing, and counter-proliferation financing said she has “enough experience to discharge he duties”
Before her appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the NFIU, she served as Deputy Director at the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, and was at different times the Head of the General Services Unit; Head of the Strategy and Reorientation Unit, and Head of the Board Secretariat of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a chat with newsmen after the screening, the Chairman Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Emmanuel Menga Udende expresses that Ms. Bakare will bring her wealth of experience and expertise to bare in the discharge of her mandate in this critical role, especially in view of the President Bola Tinubu’s war against illicit financial flows and other sharp practices currently prevalent in segments of the nation’s foreign exchange markets”
The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) a creation of the National Assembly is the Nigerian federal agency responsible for collecting and analyzing disclosures from reporting organizations, in order to produce financial intelligence to other agencies combating money laundering, terrorism, and other financial crimes.
The NFIU was established in 2004 as an autonomous unit within the central coordinating body for the country’s Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing, and Counter-Proliferation Financing (AML/CFT/CPF) framework of Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN).
It also operates as part of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Imo North senator advocates for regional Governmment, police
**Wants each regional Government to oversee its development commission
The senator representing Imo North Senatorial District Ndubueze Patrick Chiwuba has advocated for Regional Government and Regional Police Force as against the cloud for State Police.
Speaking on the heels of the passage of the bill for the establishment of the South East Development Commission senator Chiwuba described the politics of Regional Development commissions that has become a cash cow for some Nigerians as a welcome development as it will soon lead him to sponsor a bill for Regional Government
According him when each region is given its own Developmwnt Commission, it is another form of restructuring
“I’ll be happy, I’m supporting that 100%. After that I can bring up my bill.
“You know when people talk of restructuring, people see it in a different way. You understand? God can bless Nigeria from different angles.
“Let us have regional governments to superintend over all these commissions so that nobody will now go and appropriate it to himself.
“So what am I looking for? The restructuring has gotten it. So it is a very wonderful work. For me, when I saw the other regional commissions, I started preparing my bill for regional government.
“So what I’m trying to say is, it is a good omen. Every region should have it. And you are deriving money from the federal. Now, if you derive from the federal, those places where people can augment their own commission, they will go and augment and move ahead. “Others may copy them. And as such, what do we do there will be regional competition so that States do not need to go cap in hand to the Federal Government to share allocation
“So, my next bill, after we have gotten the commissions, will be a bill for us to adopt regional government. And the regional government will superintend over the commissions.
“If any, somebody can be held responsible by the people of the area. But when the chairman of the board is appointed from the federal level, he is not accountable to the area, the region, because he is not appointed by the people. The people don’t have authority to remove them or to replace them.
“So they behave like emperors because it’s only the federal that can call them to order. You understand? And if the federal wants to call them to order, their relations will go to plead on their behalf
“But when the regional government superintend over such and they are elected, you know what it means? So once you are doing bad either they recall you, or they remove you, or they make sure that your tenure is not renewed.
Also speaking on the issue of the state police he said he is not an apostle of state police but Regional.
He said the regional police will not be accountable to any particular governor. No person will use the regional police to fight his enemy, political enemy.
But state police, people can use it to fight their enemy, but regional, nobody can, because the governors of the region will come together to provide funding
When it comes to regional police, it will derive its power from the region there, no single person can use them.
For now, the appointments, both the board and others are coming from the federal. And when they are appointed, they will recognize every state. That’s one. Two, the chairman and the executive members will be rotated from time to time.
On whether President Tinubu will assent to the South East Development Commission bill he said, “&I ’m not seeing any hindrance. Rather, it’s going to improve our politics in a better sense. What we need is development. What we need is freedom to operate. And that’s what the South is asking for – freedom to operate.
“Once we have freedom to operate, the sky is the beginning, it’s not our limit. And every other part of the nation will benefit.
“If you go down the history, you know when we had regional governments? The South East was rated as the fastest growing economy in the world. Go and Google. During the regional government headed by Michael Okpara, the South East was rated as the fastest growing economy in the whole world. Now, since after the civil war, the South East had been abandoned. That’s why you see people crying of marginalization.
“First of all, we thank God for a day like this, that we can be happy, joyful, and glorify Him for the passage of this bill. And we thank the National Assembly for passing the bill as well.
“We are thanking Mr. President in advance for assenting to this Bill, because I know he will assent to the Bill. So it’s a good thing, it’s a good omen, not just for the South East, but for the nation Nigeria.
Beam searchlights on FG over $3.4b COVID 19 loan, subsidy savings, CSOs Charges NASS
The National Assembly has been charged to probe the $3.4billion loan collected by the Federal Government from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in April 2020 without proof of expenditure on anything, Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has charged
They also faulted unending requests for loans by the Federal Government and expeditious approvals given by the National Assembly with little or nothing to point at, as what the loans were used for.
They added that, savings made by the government from fuel subsidy removal from May last year till date, have not been accounted for by the government as Nigerians are watching and suffering .
The Nine CSOs led by the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, at a media briefing, alleged that the incessant loan collections by the FG, made the debt profile of the country to hit N87.9tr mark which is equivalent to $114.3b
“The escalating debt burden has profound implications for the well – being of Nigerian citizens , and failure to act quickly could result in an additional 23million Nigerians living in poverty and 80milliion working – age citizens without a full time job by 2030.
“These concerning trends underscore the need for the National Assembly to urgently do the needful by among others, investigate the movement and spending of loans received by the Federal Government in the past and present administrations , including but not limited to the $3.4billion loan obtained from IMF as reported in the 2020 annual audited report published by the Auditor – General of the Federation .
“Stopping borrowing for recurrent expenditure ( personnel and overheads ) and dilatory capital expenditure that adds no value to economic growth, wealth creation and development.
‘Demanding accountability for petrol subsidy savings and sincerity of purpose in fulfilling the government ‘s ‘ promises of renewed hope ‘ to the millions of Nigerians who no longer have belts to tighten”.
Other CSOs represented at the media briefing by their Executive Directors, were Centre for Democracy and Development,
International Budget Partnership, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative,
Oxfam, Social Action, Christian Aid, Action Aid
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