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Checking Tax Evasion

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The revelation by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Muhammad Nami, that Nigeria lost about N5.4 trillion between 2007 and 2017 through tax evasion by multinational companies operating in the country is sad. It points to the embarrassing level of corruption in the nation. The foreign companies and their Nigerian partner conspirators must not go unpunished.
Nami stated this after a workshop on “Effective Audit of Multinational Corporations for Domestic Revenue Mobilisation in Nigeria,” organised by the Service in conjunction with the Tax Justice Network. He said between 2007 and 2017, “Nigeria was reported to have lost over US$178 billion (about N5.4 trillion) through tax evasion by multinationals” doing business in the country.
The galactic fraud indicates the dearth of due process in tax regime in the country. The action of the multinational firms can only be characterised as an economic crime deserving of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) attention. The sheer divulgence of the offence is not enough, it must be followed by investigations. Those found peccant must be brought to justice to serve as a deterrent to others.
FIRS former boss, MrBabatunde Fowler, had equally hinted that the country lost between $14 and $15 billion to tax evasion annually by multinational firms. The challenge to curb tax eschewal is quite overwhelming. While several information leaks released in the past years had helped in unveiling the depth and breadth of the challenge, the increasing mobility of income and assets has only complicated matters.
A December 2014 report from Global Financial Integrity stated that developing and emerging economies which included Nigeria lost US$6.6 trillion in illicit financial flows from 2003 through 2012, with illicit outflows increasing at a staggering average rate of 9.4 per cent per yearr — roughly twice as fast as global GDP.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) exhibited that the federal government realised N7.8 trillion from Company Income Tax (CIT) from January 2015 till the end of the third quarter of 2020. This was far short of the billowed revenue for the period. Of this amount N4.08 trillion (52 per cent) was received from local firms, while N3.05 trillion (39 per cent) came from the contribution of non-resident companies doing business in the country.         In 2014, then Coordinating Minister of the Economy,  NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, disclosed that 65% of companies in Nigeria had declined to forward their tax returns and an incredible 75% were not in the FIRS tax net. She maintained that the much-vaunted case for economic diversification would gain little traction without a steady pipeline of alternative income sources such as taxation.
Similarly, FIRS disclosed in 2018 that over 6,772 billionaires do not pay tax. This category of individuals have between N1billion and N5 billion in their accounts, but no Tax Identification Number (TIN) with which they can file the statutory percentage of tax returns on their income. In Nigeria, tax elusion has become second nature and the direct implication is that the government is unable to generate enough revenue to fulfil its statutory obligations to the citizenry.
Also in 2019, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) published a report inferring that the failure of the Nigerian government to enforce Capital Gains Tax on over $8 billion oil and gas assets sold to Nigerian entities fuels poverty, underdevelopment and inequality in the country. Unsurprisingly, the nation woke up to a Forbes report the same year which ranked Nigeria the world’s sixth most miserable country.
At a tax forum in 2017, Vice President YemiOsinbajo linked high-wire corruption to tax evasion. This signifies that when citizens pay their taxes, they have the moral right to hold government accountable if social amenities are not made available as and when due. But this is not the case in Nigeria, where citizens are only tax compliant because their taxes are deducted at source under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, while just 4% comply under Direct Assessment.
It was for this reason President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2017, launched the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) in a bid to include more Nigerians in the tax net. The initiative saw the setting up of tax clinics to offer free service, consultation and legal representation for defaulting companies wishing to voluntarily file their tax returns.
By June 2018, the federal government announced that the plan paid off as it had realised a total of N30 billion from the initiative, which spanned July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Fowler said one of the outcomes was the growth of the national taxpayer database from under 14 million before 2016 to over 19 million in 2018.
There is a need for government-citizen engagement to drive a more realistic and sustainable culture of tax compliance in Nigeria. Unfortunately, citizens have a very poor perception of tax accountability by the government which translates to low tax morale, even in the face of very stiff penalties for default.
At this time of acute financial crisis due to revenue shortfalls, everything must be done so quickly to recover the N5.4 trillion lost through tax evasion. Without doubt, taxation is a major revenue source where government gets money to meet some of its developmental objectives. Therefore, the National Assembly and the EFCC should take tax dodge more seriously and put in place necessary measures to make the act a heinous crime with tougher deterring sanctions on the affected companies and their collaborating tax officials.

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Editorial

Enough Of Killings In Anambra

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Tragedy struck again in Anambra State just at a time the people of the state were hilariously heaving a sigh of relief that normalcy was gradually returning after over one year of living in deep-seated fear, following the activities of “unknown gunmen” that killed and maimed several people.
This time around, the victims were Senator Ifeanyi Ubah representing Anambra South Senatorial Zone in the country’s upper legislative chambers and his aides, who were returning to the Senator’s hometown, Nnewi, from a function. The September 11 assault on the convoy of Senator Ubah in Enugu-Ukwu, Anambra State, draws attention to the dire security situation in the South East.
Two police officers, two Ubah’s aides and a Department of State Services (DSS) operative were among the dead. Also among the dead was a businessman from Nri, Anaocha Local Government Area. It was reported that the businessman was based in Lagos but relocated to his hometown, following alleged attempts on his life after a failed business deal. The attackers were after him, only for the Senator’s convoy to arrive at the scene when the gunmen had ambushed their target.
Another version indicated that it was a targeted assassination attempt on Ubah. According to reports, the foray on the Senator had a link with the sacked Chairman of Nnewi North Local Government Council, whose wife died mysteriously. It was gathered that the man was Ubah’s boy, whom the Senator brought to political limelight. The source added that another businessman allegedly having issues with Ubah influenced the man’s political predicament.
Recall that some parts of the South-East, especially Imo State and Anambra State, have been reeling from incessant attacks by “unknown gunmen”. The situation worsened following the April 5, 2021 blitzkrieg on the Imo police headquarters and the correctional centre. About 1,844 inmates were freed, some of them hardened criminals. Since then, police stations have been assailed and arms carted away.
Ahead of the attack on Ubah and his convoy, prominent South Easterners had been gruesomely murdered in the region. Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili, was killed along with eight others at Nkpor in the Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra. Director-General, Scientific Equipment Development Institute (SEDI), Enugu, Prof Samuel Ndubuisi, and a police officer attached to him were shot dead in Enugu.
Also, the member representing Aguata State Constituency in the Anambra State House of Assembly, Okechukwu Okoye, and a former member of the State House of Assembly, Nelson Achukwu, were beheaded by unknown persons. Traditional rulers and religious leaders were equally not left out. Some were kidnapped and never seen again. Many security operatives, remarkably policemen at checkpoints, have been brutally murdered in the region.
Most villagers have fled their homes, while those living in cities have ceased from travelling home. Many who journey home hardly use their vehicles for fear of being identified, abducted or even killed. Although security agents may be doing their best to bring the violence to a halt, they have also been accused of engaging in extrajudicial activities. Some, especially young men, have had to flee for fear of arrest and detention.
The recent bloody incident in Anambra is deeply regrettable. It is wicked, barbaric, senseless and knavish. We condemn the savage attacks on Ubah and his aides and call for the strengthening and overhauling of the security architecture of the state in particular and the nation at large. Law enforcement agents should work harder to fish out the perpetrators and prosecute them. It should matter less what organisation such criminals are representing.
One worrisome development for us is the continuous attacks despite repeated government assurances to address the ubiquitous security crisis. But even more discommoding is the fact that the perpetrators remain unknown, while their grouse and motive are unspecified. The Federal Government should intervene urgently, failure of which the heinous and barbaric killings may continue unabated, subjecting Anambra people to untold apprehension and suffering.
We think that the failed assassination attempt on Ubah and the killing of others, just like many other attacks across the South-East geopolitical zone, are perpetrated by implacable enemies of Ndigbo. We maintain that the provocative action signposts the collapse of the country’s security architecture, which, in turn, has rubbed off on the capacity of security operatives to tackle crime and criminality frontally.
The apparent dilemma in the South-East is an obvious pointer that the elite and political leaders have completely lost touch with the people. The widening gap between the rich and the aggrieved poor in the country is rearing its ugly head in the type of violence that society is exposed to in recent times. Therefore, political leaders have to rise above mischief and find a way to calm down the youths.
Leadership in the embattled zone has taken a nosedive and the people are more divided than ever. The governors, including Soludo, need immediate assistance and full support from traditional rulers and other stakeholders to stop the violence in the region. It is not enough for both the state and central governments to express alarms about the killings or offer a huge amount of money to unravel the killers. They must find a lasting solution and end the appalling massacres.
The Anambra people want to see what the government is doing to arrest the lingering insecurity before the situation gets out of hand. It is all about the safety and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government. The “unknown gunmen” should not be more powerful than the state apparatus.

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Editorial

For Sustainable Global Peace

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In recent times, world peace has come under distinct threats of natural disaster, war, poverty and hunger, un
evenness and climate change, among others. These perils have been the norm in some parts of the world. Other areas of the world have discovered diverse ways to co-exist despite the raging challenges. To live above the global vicious realities faced by many, the United Nations in September 1981 proclaimed that September 21 every year be set aside to celebrate International Day of Peace.
The International Day of Peace aims at facilitating global peace among countries and combating hostility and all forms of threats to peace. It encircles a broad range of issues including poverty, health, education, climate change, hunger, gender equality, water, sanitation, environment, racism and social justice. Its objective is to provide globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all dissimilarities and to contribute to building a culture of peace.
Each event has a different theme. For example, in 2020, the theme was ‘Shaping Peace Together’, while in 2021, it was ‘Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World’. For this year, the theme is ‘End Racism. Build Peace’. The UN has earmarked today to strengthen the ideals of peace through a non-violent permanent cease-fire. It also aims to address hate speech and violence against racial minorities through anti-racism messages and education.
The central theme is imperative as the time to end racism is now. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterrez, declares that, “Racism continues to poison institutions, social structures, and everyday life in every society. It continues to be a driver of persistent inequality. And it continues to deny people their fundamental human rights. It destabilises societies, undermines democracies, erodes the legitimacy of governments, and … the linkages between racism and gender inequality are unmistakable.”
Peace, an integral portion of human daily life, is not only germane to growth but also serves as the bedrock upon which development and other strides, tailored for humanity, are hinged. This informs why it has always been a major subject of discourse across regional, national and international bodies such as the African Union, European Union and other blocs. These coalitions have expended so much of their budgets to ensure that peace is imbibed across religious, cultural, ethnic and political divides globally.
But achieving true peace entails much more than laying down arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel that they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which all are treated equally, regardless of their race. The 16th edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report, the world’s leading measure of peacefulness, reveals that the average level of global peacefulness eroded by 0.3 per cent in 2021. This is the 11th deterioration in peacefulness in the last 14 years, highlighting that countries degenerate much faster than they improve.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the Index by New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria. For the fifth consecutive year, Afghanistan is the least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia, and South Sudan. Two of the five countries with the largest deterioration in peacefulness were Russia and Ukraine. They were joined by Guinea, Burkina Faso and Haiti. All this deterioration was due to ongoing conflicts.
As 2022 drags to an exhausting end, the international strategic outlook remains bleak. Authoritarian regimes are threatening conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The pivotal democracies look distracted, internally riven and unwilling to defend the global order they originally designed. It was not meant to be this way. The formal dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991 was supposed to usher in an era where liberal democracies would flourish. Instead, this year faces its toughest test.
About seven months into the Russian war against Ukraine, there seems to be no end in sight and Russia’s most recent actions even point to an intensification of the fight. The world must compel President Vladimir Putin to terminate the aggression and reconsider the unacceptable path he has chosen. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a threat to global peace and a just world order. It contradicts the core principles of international coexistence as reflected in the UN Charter.
Continued fighting in some countries jeopardizes world peace. The Syrian civil war, regarded as the second-deadliest in the 21st century, is still ongoing. Since 2014, Yemen has been going through a civil war that claimed over 20,000 deaths in 2019 alone. Somalia remains at war since the 1980s while Libya has been unstable since 2011 when its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed. The recent escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan has the potential to further destabilise the region. The UN has to perform its task of maintaining peace in these countries and others experiencing fighting.
It is time all nations and people lived up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity, equality and inalienable rights of all members of humanity. This year’s celebration inevitably presupposes that the UN frowns on all forms of racial and inhuman treatment and as such member-states should replicate and imbibe this campaign.
Today, Africa is laced with some of the most obstinate conflicts, most of them constructed from disagreements in religious and ethnic identities. Religious and ethnic nationalism has led to unnecessary conflicts about control of state power, unequal allocation of resources, citizenship issues, state collapse, economic decline and ethno-religious clashes. Nigeria is known for such intense divisions which cause major gaps along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
In defiance of the current realities in the country which include calls and agitations for secession, communal clashes, Fulani-herder crises, terrorism, perceived superiority of one ethnic group against another, banditry, kidnapping, sexual violence, among other heinous crimes against humanity, Nigerians have to unite to build a strong and inclusive nation.
We hope that the government will utilise the occasion to deal with the many salient challenges confronting the country, as peace cannot be substituted with any other variables. This is quite pertinent because for decades the nation has had a large spectrum of repulsive events, making peace an illusion. Peace is crucial, as practically no part of the country is completely free from ethnic or religious feuds, endangering and setting most of the people against themselves.
Nigerians have to shun divisive comments and embrace stability for the country’s progress. We must jettison violence and conflict for dialogue and harmony. The Peace Day is a reminder to governments at all levels to put more efforts into battling insecurity and creating enabling environments through good governance for socio-economic growth, economic opportunities and poverty alleviation. This will ensure a lasting cordiality and peaceful cohabitation among all tribes in the country.

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Editorial

Policing Emohua–Kalabari Road

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The sudden resurgence of kidnapping-for-ransom incidents targeted at commuters along the Kalabari–Emohua Road is, to say the least, disquieting. No less than a few persons have fallen victim to the nefarious act. Immediate steps must be taken to curb this growing trend. Last April, some passengers travelling to the coastal communities along the road in a commercial bus were abducted and held in captivity in the kidnappers’ den.
In May, this year, the Rivers State Police Command confirmed the kidnap of two occupants of a commercial vehicle transiting along the Emohua– Kalabari Road. The state Acting Police Public Relations Officer, Grace Iringe-Koko, confirmed the incident, stating that it occurred at the same spot where a similar kidnap ensued a fortnight ago. Despite realising the consistency of the crime, the police are unable to thwart it.
Recently, a bus driver identified as Salvation Taylor Harry was gruesomely murdered, while eight passengers were abducted in an attack on a commercial bus by baleful gunmen along the same Emohua–Kalabari Road. According to reports, the bus driver had taken off from Mile One park in Port Harcourt with the passengers on a trip to Buguma when the gunmen ambushed them.
Furthermore, early this year, unknown gunmen attacked soldiers reported to be on duty on the Emohua-Kalabari Road axis, killing one soldier and injuring two others. Informed sources said the incident happened early hours of the day at the boundary bridge between Asari-Toru and Emohua. It was also learned that the gunmen ambuscaded the victims. Soon after the event, the military authorities withdrew the soldiers on security duties at that location.
Several failed attempts have been made at abducting commuters on that road. Commercial vehicle drivers navigating the route claim that the terrible state of the Emohua-Kalabari Road facilitates the operations of the kidnappers. The drivers further assert that the road has wholly lost its integrity. Since the highway is owned by the Federal Government, it must act quickly to fix the bad portions to prevent the lawlessness in the area.
Following the incessant attacks, commercial drivers plying Port Harcourt to Degema/Abonnema and Buguma at the Abali Park in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area and Choba Park in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area made good their earlier threat to catalyze non-violent action against the persistent criminality on the Emohua–Kalabari– Road.
The drivers stalled movements from Port Harcourt to communities in Degema, Asari-Toru and Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas linked by the road.  Residents of communities in the three local government areas who were to travel to Port Harcourt that day were also unfortunate, as they were caught in the protest with no vehicles to convey them. Some commercial drivers tried to disrupt the demonstration by returning to the road, but their vehicles were impounded.
People have always expressed fears about the absence of security on the Emohua–Kalabari Road, so much so that drivers at Port Harcourt, Choba, Abonnema and Buguma parks dread driving on the road late evenings, unlike in the past when the highway was always busy, sometimes until the next day, especially on weekends that witnessed beehives of activities.
The Emohua–Kalabari Road covers four local government areas namely; Emohua, Degema, Asari-Toru and Akuku-Toru. These four council chairmen should be able to liaise with security agencies on how to end the ugly situation. The chairmen of Degema, Asari -Toru and Akuku-Toru Local Government Areas in particular, whose people are worst hit by the activities of the hoodlums, should step up efforts to end insecurity in the affected area. They should emulate Governor Nyesom Wike who has shown capacity in that regard.
Although Nigeria’s local government council chairmen have no control over the security agencies in their territories, they head the Local Government Security Council, which is made up of all security agencies that operate within the councils. The law recognises local government chairmen as chief security officers of their localities, hence, are entitled to unaccountable monthly security votes. The four council chairmen must collaborate to end the menace.
The Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr Eboka Friday, must intervene now as the victims are law-abiding citizens who deserve protection from the government and law enforcement agents. Besides, they earn their legitimate earnings by making regular journeys on that route. We condemn the lackadaisical attitude of the police officers posted to provide security on the road. Rather than perform their duties, many of them extort money from commercial drivers, letting the criminals terrorising the area to operate unhindered.
These consistent kidnap occurrences on the Emohua–Kalabari Road may cause political fear mongering that perhaps may bring about poor participation in the processes leading up to the 2023 general election. In every sane clime, security has always been everyone’s responsibility. Therefore, we must all give maximum support and cooperation to the government and security agents to succeed in the endeavour. The military authorities have to reconsider their decision to permanently withdraw soldiers from the troubled spots.
The failure of security agents to respond promptly to kidnapping incidents on that road will continue to raise suspicion about their active involvement in this billion-dollar criminal enterprise. A fully equipped security outfit comprising people from the four affected councils must be established. This is more so as the Emohua campus of Rivers State University is situated along that road. There is a need for the students to be given a broad sense of safety and security while on campus to enable them to concentrate on their studies.
The Kalabari branch of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) should mobilise youths of the region to be involved in security obligations on the road in synergy with the Nigeria security operatives. They should be provided with the needed tools and logistics to secure that dangerous road. Politicians in the affected local government areas should empower the youths, bring them out of the creeks and engage them in the morally worthy cause of protecting their people.

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