This is not the best of times for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as its corporate headquarters located in Port Harcourt has been sealed off by the Rivers State Internal Revenue Services (RIRS) over alleged unpaid withholding tax of N50bn.
But the interventionist agency debunked the claims, insisting that its records had indicated that they were not indebted to the state in unpaid taxes running into the said amount; adding that the sealing of its office last Tuesday did not follow due process.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Chairman of the RIRS, Adoage Norteh, explained that the NDDC premises were sealed off because the commission refused to make their financial records available for audit.
According to Norteh, “The place is sealed off; we got a court order to seal off the place. We had gone to court to say that we are frustrated by the antics of NDDC. They had assessed themselves last year (2018) and admitted that they were indebted to the tune of N671m, but they did not pay.
“When we now sealed the office (last year), they then paid. We told them that we are going to audit their books, but since last year to this time, they (NDDC) have refused to allow us have access to it.
“The N50bn that is being talked about is our best of judgement; that is the amount we assessed because they refused to open their books. That they did not object to it means that it is the amount they owe.
“If they have nothing to hide, why would they not show us their records?
“For many years, these people have refused to open their books,” the RIRS chairman stated.
He, however, noted that the revenue agency had opened talks with the commission with a view to resolving the issues regarding the unpaid tax.
“We are talking with them now; they are asking that we should come and do the audit now and that whatever we come up with, they will pay. I am reluctant because we have gone past that process; we have got a court order.
‘UK-Africa Investment Summit’ll Boost Nigeria’s FDI’
British Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, Ms Harriet Thompson has said the inaugural UK-Africa Investment Summit, which kicked off, yesterday in London, is part of measures to strengthen Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Thompson explained that the summit, organised by United Kingdom government, is designed to create new, long-term partnership that will deliver more investment and jobs in Nigeria and Africa at large.
She noted that the global market for FDI was highly competitive and Nigeria is not where it should be.
According to her, investment in the country is around 12 to 14 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is far below what it is in most developing countries.
Thompson added that the UK has brought an impressive private sector expertise to bear on technology, agriculture, services, manufacturing and other areas, promising that more businesses would be coming over time.
The summit, which will showcase the investment opportunities in Nigeria, will bring together British and African businesses to harness the huge potential of the continent when it comes to trade, deliver more investment, jobs and growth to benefit people and businesses across Africa and the UK.
Thompson noted that Nigeria would play a critical role in the success of the summit as President Muhammadu Buhari will head the Nigerian delegation to the event.
The deputy high commissioner posited that the investment summit was an opportunity for Nigeria to make a speech among the 300 British companies including some other top most 700 companies at the highest level, assuring that it was Nigeria’s chance to show its skill, commercial activities that are out there and its ability to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.
Also, speaking on the summit, Head of Department for International Development in Nigeria (DFID), Chris Pycroft, added that 21 African countries will participate.
“With the bilateral trade between the UK and Nigeria which reached £5.1bn in 2018 (N2.3 trillion), the new investments coming into the country, will boost trade,” he said.
Pycroft noted that Nigeria has a long standing trade relationship with the UK, as many UK businesses successfully operate in Nigeria.
He recalled that the British Airways first flight from the UK to Nigeria was 81 years ago, adding Diageo/Guinness will be 70 in Nigeria this year and that Shell, PZ Cussons and Unilever have strong and long-established operations in Nigeria.
Implementation Of 7.5% VAT Begins, Feb 1
The Federal Government will from February 1 begin the implementation of 7.5 per cent Value Added Tax espoused by the finance law.
The law, according to the government will take effect after all the necessary administrative procedures must have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, confirmed the development in Abuja at the inauguration of the board of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, last Thursday.
She said the February 1 commencement date had put to rest every speculation regarding the take-off date of the new VAT regime.
The minister said once a bill is signed into law, it takes effect immediately, but noted that there were certain administrative procedures and formalities to be finalised before commencement.
The VAT increase which is meant to help government achieve its revenue projections for the 2020 budget is a part of the tax reforms included in the 2019 Finance Act.
She said with the Act, there would be more revenue to finance key government projects especially in the areas of health, education and critical infrastructure.
She said, “The implementation of the Value Added Tax is to take effect from February 1, 2020, after all the necessary administrative procedures have been completed, especially the gazette of the Act by the Federal Ministry of Justice.”
The minister’s remark however, contradicts an earlier claim by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, who said the new VAT increment took effect from January 13 when the 2020 Finance Act was signed.
The minister told the members of the FIRS board that the responsibility bestowed on them was critical to the smooth operation of the various tiers and arms of government in Nigeria and, by implication, the well-being of the Nigerian people.
The newly appointed Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami, vowed to reposition the service for improved performance.
Nami said he would implement policies that would ensure maximum increase in tax revenue.
He said as tax administrators and custodians of the Nigerian tax system, the FIRS had a responsibility to implement all tax policies and laws in a manner that would ensure optimal benefits to the nation.
In achieving these objectives, he said his agenda to reposition the FIRS for better service to taxpayers would be anchored on four cardinal pillars.
These include rebuilding FIRS’ institutional framework by strengthening the capacity of departments and units to deliver on their mandates and robust collaboration with stakeholders to eliminate critical bottlenecks in the tax system.
Others are to build the FIRS into an institution that supports Nigeria’s longing to become an investment destination and to make the FIRS an agency in which its people, processes and technologies are all geared towards a clear goal.
In order to achieve these agenda, he said within the next three months, a lot of initiatives would be implemented.
Nigeria’s Debt Profile Now Hits N26.22trn
The Federal Government and the 36 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory owed a total N26.22tn as of September 30, 2019, the Debt Management Office has disclosed.
The amount indicated that the total public debt rose by 2.02 per cent in the 12 months from September 2018, when the federal government, the states and the FCT owed a total of N25.7tn.
The Director- General of the DMO, Patience Oniha said this at a ‘Presentation on Public Debt to Stakeholders’ in Abuja.
She explained that the figures for December 2019 were not ready, adding that the DMO saw the need to make some clarifications concerning the country’s debt profile.
“There has been so much about debt in the public forum and we want to clarify some of the issues,” Oniha said.
Noting that the National Assembly approved all the borrowings made by the federal government, the DMO boss suggested that all Nigerians were collectively responsible for the debt since they were represented at the National Assembly.
She said, “Borrowing is not approved by one man. It is not determined by one man.
“Borrowing is not ad hoc there are laws and laid down provisions for borrowing.”
She added that the public debt stock was cumulative, involving borrowings made by previous administrations.
According to Oniha, the devaluation of the exchange rate, brought about by the economic downturn, considerably hiked the country’s debt profile.
“Exchange rate devaluation increased external debt stock by over N1tn,” she noted.
Oniha explained that the total public debt as of September 2019 included promisory notes amounting to N821.65bn which had been issued to settle the Federal Government’s arrears to oil marketing companies and state governments.
According to her, the issuance of the promisory notes was in line with the promisory programme approved by the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly.
The DMO boss said out of total new borrowing of N1.61tn provided for in the 2019 Appropriation Act, only the domestic component of N802.82bn was raised due to the late passage of the budget.
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