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Union Cautions FG On VAT Hike

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Nigeria’s influential employers union has warned the Federal Government not to go ahead with a proposal to increase the Value-Added Tax (VAT) charged in the country.
On March 19, the Federal Inland Revenue Service hinted that it might increase VAT to achieve its revenue target.
Speaking at an employers’ forum yesterday in Ikeja, Director-General of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr Timothy Olawale warned that increasing VAT after approving a new wage would have far-reaching implications for the economy.
Olawale argued that apart from weakening the purchasing power of workers, an increased VAT would impact negatively on manufacturers and businesses, which he said, were currently struggling for capacity utilisation.
“The planned increase will erode the gains of the minimum wage for low-income earners and further weaken their purchasing power, among others.”
He said that increasing VAT should not be the only option open to government to fund the payment of the new wage.
Olawale argued further that increasing VAT would wipe whatever gains workers would derive from the new wage, expected to be signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NECA chief said that increasing VAT would also have implications for manufacturers, businesses and consumers in a nation where manufacturers and businesses had been saddled with infrastructure decay and power challenges.
Olawale lamented that some companies were already closing shops, due to worsening operational challenges while others were struggling to stay afloat.
“The proposed increase in VAT will lead to an increase in the cost of doing business which will likely be passed to the consumers. VAT increase is not desirable at this time.
“Government does not have to increase VAT in order to enable it pay a new wage.
“However, in the event that government must increase VAT against the will of the people, it should be limited to luxury or ostentatious goods only.”
Olawale faulted the comparison by some bureaucrats of Nigeria’s VAT rates with other countries as being irrelevant, pointing out that the business climate in other climes were more conducive than what obtained in Nigeria.
He, however, aligned with the position canvassed by the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Babatunde Fowler, that there should be more individual and corporate entities captured in the tax net paying VAT.
According to Olawale, government should reduce its recurrent expenditure, cost of governance, widen the tax net in its bid to generate more revenue and ensure effective collection of taxes from non-compliant citizens or defaulters.
He told the government not to burden businesses with taxes but that it should create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and continue to contribute to the growth of the nation.

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FG Launches Blueprint For Africa’s Digital Trade

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has launched a comprehensive strategy to spearhead Africa’s digital trade revolution, aligning with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) framework.
The initiative, a key component of President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, is aimed at leveraging trade as a driver of economic growth and continental unity in accordance with AfCFTA’s objectives.
According to Vice President Kashim Shettima, in his X handle (formerly twitter), “Nigeria is in a unique position to spearhead the continent’s technological transformation”.
He said the strategy includes implementing AfCFTA’s Digital Trade Protocol, developing technical talent hubs, enhancing digital infrastructure investments, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Shettima stated this while delivering a keynote address during a stakeholders’ summit with the theme, “Digital Trade in Africa: The Renewed Hope Strategy”, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Vice President emphasised the need for public-private sector synergy and assured continued government investment in digital infrastructure and human capital development.
On his part, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijjani, highlighted the Tinubu administration’s substantial investments in all aspects of the digital trade protocol, aiming at harnessing opportunities both in Nigeria and across the continent.
He stated that innovative policies and programmes, such as the Three Million Technical Talent programme, the data protection policy, and increased investments in digital infrastructure, were equipping Nigeria’s young population for current and future opportunities.
Tijjani stressed the critical role of technology in facilitating trade across Africa, noting that the unprecedented opportunities within the single market area could be best leveraged through effective collaboration and networking enabled by digital technology.

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Oil Bearing Communities Okay Exploration In Ogoni Adopt Indigenous Company

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A body under the auspices of Ogoni Oil Bearing Communities has resolved that oil exploration should commence in Ogoni.
The body also adopted an indigenous company, Ogoni Royal Resources and Energy Limited, to operate the Ogoni oil fields located within the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11.
The adoption followed a motion moved by a prominent community leader in the area, Chief Sylvester Kogbara, during a meeting of Ogoni oil producing communities, at Kpite, in Tai Local Government Area of the State.
The decision of the body to adopt an Ogoni indigenous company to explore oil in Ogoni was  taken by the stakeholders after a motion by Chief Sylvester Kogbara from Bodo Community, based on the provisions of the Local Content Act which empowers indigenous firms to participate in oil exploration activities.
Kogbara said: “That the Ogoni Royal Resources and Energy Limited has been adopted as the only indigenous company to mine, process, export and extract oil and gas from Ogoniland. I so move”.
In his address at the meeting, President of Ogoni Oil Bearing Communities (OOBC), Chief Donald Gberesuu, described as unfortunate, the plights and act of marginalisation of the oil bearing communities in the area in the scheme of things perpetrated by certain Ogonis he described as “greedy”, and the Nigerian government.
Gberesuu said: “The plights and act of marginalisation of the Ogoni Oil Bearing Communities in the scheme of things by certain greedy Ogonis and the Nigerian State, is quite unfortunate.
“The oil bearing communities are not subservient and shall not relegate our responsibilities to middlemen and interrupters who are fronting greed and usurpation of common opportunities.
“The Ogoni oil bearing communities hold title to our lands as individuals and as community who should decide the usage of their land, in respect of the oil beneat”.
The body cautioned against division in the rank and file of Ogoni and called for unity of purpose among the people to actualise the objectives of the Ogoni struggle.
Earlier in his remark, the host of the meeting, HRM, King  Samuel Nnee, had declared that the meeting was for the Oil bearing communities to deliberate on issues of development concern, especially on oil exploration resumption in Ogoni.

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Customs Alerts Nigerians On Online Auction, Recruitment Fraudsters 

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The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has warned the public to be wary of  fraudsters using the name of the Service to perpetrate illegal activities on the social media.
Speaking against the background of advertorials on the social media by some unknown persons indicating that the NCS is currently auctioning some seized items, including vehicles and essential items.
In a statement by the National Public Relations Officer, Abdullahi Maiwada, the NCS said the fraudsters have been exploiting public trust and ignorance to promote fictitious auctions and sham recruitment exercises supposedly endorsed by the Service.
It stated that, “The attention of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has been brought to the escalating activities of fraudulent entities preying on unsuspecting individuals through social media platforms, falsely claiming association with the Service for purposes of auctions and recruitment.
“These individuals exploit public trust and ignorance, promoting fictitious auctions and sham recruitment drives supposedly endorsed by the our service.
“The Service wishes to clarify that auctions of seized/overtime goods are never conducted via social media platforms.
“Any such claims on social media should be treated as fraudulent and promptly reported. All seized/overtime goods have a laid-down Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, for disposal in line with the Nigeria Customs Service Act  2023.
“It is pertinent to state that the only portal for e-auction in NCS is http://auction.nigeriatradehub.gov.ng.
“For authentic updates about the operations of NCS, we strongly encourage the public to verify information exclusively through the NCS website, www.customs.gov.ng.
“Our commitment remains unwavering in protecting the public from fraudulent activities. We implore all Nigerians to exercise vigilance and prudence when approached with unverified offers or announcements as  regards NCS auctions or recruitment”.

“Any suspicious activities should be reported to any nearby customs formations”.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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