Some economic experts have expressed concern over the Federal Government’s decision to base the estimated revenue from Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2020 on 7.5 per cent instead of five per cent.
Dr Patricia Auta, an Economic Analyst, while reacting to the N10.33 trillion budget submitted to the National Assembly yesterday in Abuja said that the government had acted prematurely in using 7.5 per cent instead of five per cent.
He told our correspondent that the proposed hike in VAT would have to be approve by the National Assembly before it comes into effect, adding that it had not been done.
According to him, the government should not have used it in calculating its revenue estimates.
“It’s my opinion that the government cannot just assume that the National Assembly will approve the VAT increment from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.
“As much as it’s important for the government to increase its tax revenue, increasing VAT is not the right way to go.
“VAT is a multi-level tax on consumption and the burden rest on the final consumer and not the business so the people are the ones who will bear the brunt of the increase.
“Government needs to pay attention to expanding the tax net and ensure that businesses pay tax, especially those multinational companies. That’s where the money is,” she said.
Another expert, Mr. Jibrin Ibrahim said that the government was overly optimistic in their revenue targets, which includes the VAT component.
He said that as much as increasing revenue was important, it should not be done at the expense of the people.
Ibrahim also expressed his concern over the sum allocated to education and health compared to other sectors.
He said with the infrastructure gap in the education and health sectors, it was surprising that only N48 billion was budgeted for Education and N46 billion for Health, out of the N2.46 trillion earmarked for Capital Expenditure.
Ibrahim urged the National Assembly to examine the major components of the budget for the benefit and development of the nation.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday presented a budget proposal of N10.33 trillion to a joint session of the National Assembly.
Buhari puts the Federal Government’s estimated revenue in 2020 at N8.155 trillion, comprising oil revenue of N2.64 trillion, non-oil tax revenues of N1.81 trillion and other revenue of N3.7 trillion.
President Buhari said debt servicing in the 2020 budget will gulp N2.45trn, out of which local debts would take N296bn.
Overhead cost will be N426.6bn, he said.
Other estimates are N556.7 billion for statutory transfers; N2.45 trillion for debt servicing and provision of N296 billion as sinking fund.
The 2020 budget is based on an oil production estimate of 2.18 million barrels per day, oil price benchmark of 57 dollars per barrel and an exchange rate of N305 to a dollar.
Other benchmarks are: real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), growth rate of 2.93 per cent while inflation rate “is expected to remain slightly above single digits in 2020’’.
Mr. President during the declaration said that N125 billion was allocated to the National Assembly while N110 billion was allocated to the Judiciary.
For allocations to ministries, the president affirmed the following allocations to respective ministries.
Works and Housing – N262 billion, Transportation – N123 billion, UBEC – N112 billion, Defence – N100 billion, Agriculture – N83 billion, Water Resources – N82 billion, Education – N48 billion, Health – N46 billion, North East Development Commission – N38 billion, SIPs – N30 billion, FCT – N28 billion and Niger Delta – N24 billion.
However, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan in his speech charged all government ministries, departments and agencies to defend their proposals before lawmakers before the end of October.
He also said the lawmakers should ensure the budget got passed before the end of the year.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in its reaction yesterday, said the N10.7trillion 2020 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly would further impoverish Nigerians and mortgage the future of the nation and its citizens.
This is even as the party urged the legislature to redirect the fiscal proposal to serve the interest of the vast majority of Nigerians.
A statement issued by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the appropriation bill as “hazy, showing streaks of padding, fraudulent duplication, replete with false performance indices, deceptive projections and inexplicable expenditure assertions which create openings for continued looting of our national patrimony by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and persons close to the Presidency.”
It read in part: “The PDP insists that it is inexcusable that despite the huge natural resources at President Buhari’s reach, he articulated an N10.7trillion budget that is completely lacking in concrete wealth creation strategy but relies on further squeezing of Nigerians through excruciating taxes, levies and agonizing tolls.
“The party described as unacceptable that the budget is skewed to serve the interest of the opulent, as projects that have a direct bearing on the wellbeing of the masses were not substantially accommodated in the overall expenditure profile.
The party also criticized the Buhari-led administration for “not being transparent in the mammoth allocations for alleged vague projects, particularly the Ministries of Works and Housing as well as Transportation, where allegations of diversion of public funds were endemic in the last budget.
“Standing with millions of Nigerian youths and women, our party rejects the paltry budgets of N48billion for Education and N46billion for Health, and urges the National Assembly to review the allocations in the interest of Nigerians.
“Furthermore, the PDP notes, as unacceptable that President Buhari, in his budget speech, could not give an account of his handling of the 2019 budget and had to resort to lame excuses and unsupported figures, particularly on the various unimplemented subheads in critical sectors of the economy.
“Moreover, Mr President failed to explain why his administration has remained hugely corrupt and how his Presidency depleted our foreign reserves to an all-time low of $41,852billion accumulated huge foreign and domestic debts and kept the naira at its knees at about N360 to $1 under his watch.”
The party also challenged the Presidency to make public the details of the Presidency allocation for Nigerians to “see the billion being spent to finance the opulent lifestyle of the Buhari Presidency, despite Mr President’s claims of prudence and sacrifice.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also urged the National Assembly (NASS) to redirect the 2020 budget to areas that would better serve the interest of majority of Nigerians.
Ologbondiyan said that the budget as it is would further impoverish Nigerians and mortgage the future of the nation.
These, according to him, would create openings for diversion of public funds.
Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has described the 2020 Budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari as heavy buy lacking substance.
This came as it announced that it was heading for the court to challenge the planned increment in the Value Added Tax (VAT), by the Federal Government.
CUPP particularly said the budget was similar to a heavy travelling bag that has no substance in it.
In a statement issued by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinye, yesterday, the opposition political group, said it regretted to announce to the nation that with the budget presented by the president,” the days of the nation’s suffering are not any way close to an end.”
The statement reads, “The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), having listened critically to President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2020 Appropriation Bill as presented to the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, regrets to inform Nigerians that the days of the nation’s suffering are not any way close to an end.
“The president has by today’s budget presentation shown that he has no formula to save the nation’s economy from the impending final ruins that his mismanagement has caused.
“Opposition parties see this fiscal document as an empty document that is not worth the paper on which it was written. It is full of rhetoric; Buhari’s appropriation bill can best be described as a heavy travel bag that is empty in substance or value.
“The CUPP notes that this document is a final weapon to consolidate Buhari’s next level of economic ruins, poverty, looting and visionlessness. It is a come and chop document meant to further impoverish many and prosper the privileged few.
”The ppposition rejects the inclusion of the illegal proposed increment in VAT as part of the 2020 budget expected source of funding. This has shown that the budget is built in the sky with no serious source of funding except taxing the people to death.
“The opposition coalition has therefore resolved to head to court this week to stop the planned insensitive move to tax the suffering citizens of Nigeria to death with the proposed increment in VAT from 5% to over 7%.
“The president should not force the suffering citizens to bear the consequences of his leadership failures.”
Buhari Orders Forensic Audit Of NDDC …Slashes Ministers’ Foreign Trips, Estacodes To Cut Cost
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2001 to 2019.
Buhari, in statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, said the action was taken out of worry over criticisms of the operations of the commission, and after he received governors of nine states that make up the commission, who had called for the repositioning of the NDDC.
The delegation was led by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State,
According to the President, what is presently on the ground in the South-South region does not justify the huge resources that have been made available to the organisation.
He said, “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions, especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.
“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent.
“The President admitted that developing the Niger Delta area required enormous resources compared to other parts of the country with firmer lands”.
He said, “I am acutely aware, with my experience, that projects in your area are very expensive; that is why if any job is given, we must make sure that the company is competent and has the capacity to do it well with experienced consultants.”
He, however, said that he would wait for the report of the audit before deciding on the next line of action regarding the NDDC.
Dickson had earlier expressed the disappointment of other governors with the operations of the NDDC, which they said was characterised by poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of the required support for the efforts of the states and local government administration in the region covered by the organisation.
He called for the repositioning of the NDDC in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up. Briefing journalists after the meeting, Dickson, who is also chairman of the South-South Governors Forum, listed the NDDC states as Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Cross River, Bayelsa, Abia, Imo and Ondo.
He said, “Our concern has to do with the stability and development of the Niger Delta. We had a robust discussion with Mr. President who fully understands the challenges that come with development, and he promised to look into the challenges which he’s aware of and we all agreed to work together”.
Present at the meeting were Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa); Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Minister of State for Niger Delta, Senator Tayo Alasoadura; among others.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has reduced the number and duration of foreign trips for ministers and other categories of government officials in a move described as cost-saving measure to achieve fiscal prudence.
In a statement signed by the Director of Information at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey, the President also removed travelling financial benefit known as estacode allowance and cut down the number of persons permitted to travel with the ministers and other government officials for official trips.
The President, however, approved the use of business class for ministers and economy class for lower categories of government officials.
However, approval for such trips must be sought through the office of the SGF or Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the statement added.
The statement read, “In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved, for immediate implementation, additional cost-saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.
“Henceforth, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are required to submit their yearly travel plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.
“For class of air travels, the President has approved that ministers, permanent secretaries, special advisers, senior special assistants to the President, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments and chief executive officers of parastatals, who are entitled will continue to fly business class while other categories of public officers are to travel on economy class.
“Travel days will no longer attract payment of estacode allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding.”
The statement added that only trips that would benefit the country must be embarked upon by the affected officials, noting also that ministers and other categories of government officials must not travel more than twice within a quarter of a year except with the permission of the President.
It noted, “On the nature and frequency of travels, all public funded travels (local and foreign), must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence. In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country.
“Except with the express approval of Mr President, ministers, permanent secretaries, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments, chief executive officers and directors are restricted to not more than two foreign travels in a quarter. The Auditor-General of the Federation has been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible.”
Reacting, a financial expert, Mr Momoh Aliyu, has urged state governors to emulate the Federal Government by cutting down their travelling expenses and utilise it for development projects.
Aliyu gave the advice in an interview with newsmen, in Abuja, yesterday.
The expert was reacting to directive by the Federal Government that henceforth there would be slash in travelling expenses of its officials.
Aliyu, who is also the managing director of Cyber1 Systems Network International, explained that the development was a wake-up call to governors, and indeed, all other governments’ agencies in the country.
He said overhead cost of travelling in the budget was alarming and taking chunks of the vote heads.
“The action by the president is an act of setting the pace to other parastatals, ministries and states governments,’’ he said.
The expert said that the Nigerian Government had over the years been criticised of wasting and mismanaging the scarce resources.
He described the development as the right step in the right direction.
“The ministers and other government functionaries should understand the need to be on seat to attend to pressing issues.’’
Aliyu also acknowledged the efforts of the ministry of technology in ensuring e-government systems.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, reacted after President Muhammadu Buhari restricted foreign travels to two per quarter for heads of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
The government also cancelled first-class air tickets for some category of officials.
However, PDP challenged Buhari to “lead by example by ending the profligacy that pervades his Presidency in order to give validity to his directives to ministers and other functionaries.”
In a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, the former ruling party berated the President for approving the appointment of two aides for his wife, Aisha.
The party charged the Buhari Buhari Presidency to explain the “basis and source of Presidential support for the Office of the First Lady, including the appointment of aides, contrary to his promise not to run that office.
Monkeypox Hits Rivers, 12 Others As NCDC Records 81 Cases In Nine Months
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has revealed that Rivers State is among 12 others hit by fresh cases of monkeypox in the country.
Expectedly, Lagos State leads cases of monkeypox viral disease in the country.
Experts state that monkeypox is a viral disease related to smallpox and transmitted to humans through fluid exchange by rodents and primates.
In its latest report on the disease, NCDC states that overall, Nigeria has 81 total reported cases of the disease, with 39 confirmed cases spread across 13 states comprising Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, and Enugu.
Others are: Cross River, Oyo, FCT, Bauchi, Zamfara, Borno and Plateau states.
The NCDC latest report, which detailed the monkeypox case distribution by states spanning January to September, 2019, and titled, ‘Nigeria Monkeypox Monthly Situation Report,’ with Serial Number 9, and released for the month of September, stated that there were 15 new suspected cases for the month under review, and five new confirmed cases.
It, however, said there was no reported death in all of the cases.
The report indicates that Lagos currently has the highest number of monkeypox disease with 29 total reported cases and 11 confirmed cases over the period.
Delta follows, with 14 reported cases and 10 confirmed cases.
Rivers State has 15 reported cases and seven confirmed; while Bayelsa has nine reported cases with six confirmed.
In the epidemiological summary, the NCDC states: “Nigeria continues to report sporadic cases of monkeypox after the index case was reported two years ago (September, 2017).
“In the reporting month (September, 2019), 15 new suspected monkeypox cases were reported from five states — Lagos (5), Rivers (2), Akwa Ibom (3), Zamfara (1), Delta (1), Imo (2) and the Federal Capital Territory (1).
“Five of the 15 suspected cases were confirmed positive for monkeypox in three states — Lagos (3), Rivers (1) and Akwa Ibom (1).
“Five of the suspected cases tested positive for chickenpox, while others are for further evaluation. No death recorded in the reporting month.”
The report added that a total of 81 suspected cases have been reported so far in 2019, of which 39 confirmed cases were recorded in nine states (Bayelsa, Lagos, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Anambra, Cross River, and Oyo); and one death.
Teachers’ Professional Exams
The idea of subjecting teachers in the service of the Federal Government to write a professional examination is generating some controversies. It may be considered as a damage-control strategy, because, if the right thing had been done, then, there would be no need to invite a fire brigade. Establishment of a Teachers Registration Council was meant to professionalise the job of teaching, which is an international practice. In some countries, a teacher, including proselytists, must have a licence before undertaking such activities.
The necessity for regulation of various professional or career practices is quite important. In the case of the education sector, the need is even greater because of the wide implication involved in mind-control activities.
Mind-Control activities include teaching, proselytism, writing to inform, educate and influence the perception of the masses, etc. Hypnosis must be excluded, even though it is a wide-spread malpractice, perhaps, not quite recognised by the relevant authorities.
A situation where those who teach, including some professors, can afford to speak such grammar as “those of us who teaches…” indicates the existence of fundamental inconsistencies somewhere. The inconsistencies arise from the absence of justice, selectiveness in terms of merits lack of vigour and discipline in recruitment, appointment and promotion of staff in public establishments. Damages crated at such grassroots levels result in the use of fire-brigade strategies when the effects begin to fester.
Without going into the damages which application of “Quota System” in appointments and promotions in Nigeria, public services had caused, we see the unpleasant results everywhere now. Neither would conducting of examinations for teachers and other civil servants solve the problems. A situation where people can be appointed and promoted without regard to merit and competence, and then placed in strategic and sensitive positions, what comes about cannot be anything to wonder about.
Anybody who knows the true situations in Nigerian public services, especially after the Civil War (1970), would be surprised at the resilience and ability of the nation to absorb shocks and jolts. The damage-control measure of administering examinations to teachers should not stop with teachers alone, but must be holistic and comprehensive, if it must yield positive results. If the exercise is done with sincerity and justice, what would emerge is that incompetent persons have been shielded for too long in the public services. No sector is free from the virus.
Having been an external examiner, one is aware that the shielding process of incompetent persons by god-fathers is widespread even in universities. Are we not aware that some powerful persons make phone calls to shield, protect or give undue advantages to candidates whom they sponsor? Sponsored social mobility is known to undermine merit and justice.
A healthy appointments and promotions process should be able to throw up the best and most competent candidates, rather than the use of sponsorship to install incompetent persons in public establishments. As it is in the public services so also it is in elective and political processes. It is a situation where people who place emphasis and value on merit and justice have lost confidence in what goes on under the pretext of “screening process”.
Whatever errors and injustices there may have been in the past, we can still have a turn-around for the better. The first lesson in that process is the application of the doctrine of positive discrimination, which is a process of bias-free identification and classification of people, ability-wise. What is known as occupational misfit arises from a mis-match between personal ability and competence vis-à-vis position occupied in an economy. The value of guidance/counselling in an economy lies in bias-free process of identification of personal abilities. Wheat must be separated from chaff!
A second lesson worthy of application in getting the best out of human abilities is current training programme which can simply be called knowledge update. No professional is so competent that regular knowledge up-date would not be necessary. Being an organist as an adolescent, and several years away from the music hobby, one finds it difficult now to know a quaver from a minim; neither can the fingers do what they knew best in the past.
The joy of knowledge or professional competence lies in its regular application and up-date. One there is laxity or relenting of efforts and continuity, these must always be a decline in competence and performance. No individual, organisation or nation has progressed by standing still or placing incompetent hands in strategic and sensitive positions. Similarly, wherever emphasis is placed on certificate rather than practical and visible competence, decline would follow. Nigerians have been known to fake certificates which they cannot make.
Of more importance in the case of declining productivity in Nigeria, is the complacent attitude of the elite class. Watch and observe what members of the elite class say and do in their leisure hours and what excites them most. The emptiness and oppressively narrow sphere of interest and superficiality of their value orientation would be found to be quite pathetic. A society where wealth replaces eternal values and where immediate personal gains replace joyful services and productive labour decline comes soon.
Similarly, a situation where pity wears the garb of meretricious self-righteousness, education would wear a similar garb of window-dressing. Nigerians would do better investing in a process of conscientization rather than setting examination for teachers. Would there not be any malpractice in such examination? Would the examiners not sell scores and grades for something else? We should know where the shoes are pinching.
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