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Alarm as senate passes unseen, unread tax bill

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There was an alarm in the Senate chamber, Wednesday as the upper legislative chamber allegedly passed unread and unseen tax bill.

Many of the lawmakers affirmed that they have not seen and are not fully aware of its content.

The approval to the bill was the second in a series of legislative and executive steps to make the bill become law. The bill was read for the first time at the Senate on Tuesday.

At plenary, at least two senators complained, wondering how they would debate and pass a bill whose content they do not know but Senate President Ahmad Lawan overruled both senators.

The Senate then passed the second reading of the bill that seeks to increase the value-added tax (VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.

No copies of the bill were shared to senators to allow for any meaningful contribution before it was debated and passed.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, in October, presented the bill to a joint session of the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law. He made the presentation of the Finance Bill alongside the 2020 Appropriation Bill.

Before deliberations began on the bill, Binos Yaroe (Adamawa South, PDP), drew the attention of the Senate to its rules which requires that all senators must have a copy of the bill before it is deliberated upon.

He said according to the rules, every senator should have copies of the bill.

“Our rules say that printed copies of the bill shall as soon as possible be sent to every senator. We are at the stage of the second reading of this bill. I don’t know for others but I have not received the bill, I don’t know how we can debate a bill that we have not received,” the Adamawa lawmaker said asking how lawmakers could debate a bill whose content they do not know.

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, noted his point but said the debate would still go on.

“We are at this point going to debate the general principles of the bill and in line with our tradition, convention here, even the Appropriations Bill that we debate, we don’t have the bill normally,” he said.

Not satisfied, Betty Apiafi (Rivers West, PDP), also raised the same concern but Mr Lawan simply said “When the Senate committee on finance reports this, the bills will be made available and we can compare with what we are amending.”

He then ruled Ms Apiafi out of order.

The Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya, who led the debate, said the bill has five strategic objectives.

He said they are to promote fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation; to reform domestic tax laws to align with global best practices and to introduce tax incentives for investment in infrastructure.

Others are to support ongoing ease of doing business reforms and to raise revenues for government including the proposal to increase the value-added tax (VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.

He said the 2020 appropriation bill is based on the provisions of this bill and additional revenues will be used to fund health, education and infrastructure programmes.

But senator Ike Ekweremadu said the states and local governments are allocated 85 per cent of VAT revenues.

He said the bill seeks to amend the following tax provisions and make them more responsive to the policies of the federal government.

(A) The company tax CAP C21 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

(B) To reform VAT CAP 4 2007 – this is in line with global best practices. It seeks to improve the efficiency of the Nigerian VAT system.

(C ) Customs and excise tariff act CAP C49 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 – this bill seeks to subject certain goods to excise duties in similar manner of their local manufactured counterparts.

(D) Reforming personal income tax E8 laws of the Federation of Nigeria – the bill seeks to provide clarity in individual taxes of Nigeria

(E) Capital gains tax act CAP C1 laws of the federation of Nigeria 2007 – this bill seeks and cover taxation of business combinations and seeks to prevent abuse of provisions of the act on group restructuring.

(F) Stock duty act 58 laws of the federation of Nigeria – this bill seeks to increase the duty on electronic stocks and electronic consumption.

(G) Petroleum profit tax – this bill seeks to increase revenue by removing the tax exemption granted for dividends or income derived from companies charges under the act.

Yahaya stated that VAT is a good avenue for generating high revenue for the government. He added that the bill will transform Nigeria’s economic fortunes.

The other lawmakers who made comments hailed the provisions of the bill and urged other colleagues to support its passage. Some of the lawmakers who spoke are Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East, APC), Istifanus Gyang (Plateau North, PDP), Buhari Abdulfatai (Oyo North, APC), George Sekibo (Rivers East, PDP) and Sahabi Yau (Zamfara North, PDP).

None of the lawmakers, across party lines, who supported the bill claimed they had seen a copy of it or were sure of its content. Yet, they supported it.

The bill was thereafter read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary for further legislative work. The committee was asked to report back after two weeks.

The happenings on Wednesday about the tax bill would further fuel speculations among Nigerians that the Senate under Mr Lawan has become a rubber stamp to the dictates of the Executive; something alluded to by a senator, Ike Ekweremadu, during the screening of nominees for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

Earlier, it was reported how the 14 board nominees of the NDDC who appeared before the Senate committee were asked to ‘bow and go’ without facing any serious questions from lawmakers.

Majority of the ministerial nominees by President Buhari were also asked to ‘bow and go,’ with the Senate under Mr Lawan even amending its own rules to increase the number of nominees who would benefit from such grace.

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Change all political leadership – Balarabe Musa

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Former Governor of Kaduna State in the Second Republic, Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa has opined that all political leadership foisted on the nation should be changed as a practical solution to solving the socio-political and economic problems of the country.

He also warned that break up of Nigeria will not bring solutions to the numerous issues bedevilling the country.

He said instead, the regions will also suffer from the same thing they have tried to run away from.

According to the Kaduna-born politician, the solution to this is to change the social, political and economic systems that have thwarted all good developments in the country.

The elder statesman told The Sun that all the political leadership foisted by the system should be changed.

According to him, “[Break up of the country] is another issue for us to ponder over.

“If we break-up, the other units will also suffer from the same thing they have tried to run away from. It is the same thing. It is like running from your shadows.

“The solution to this is change the social, political and economic systems that have thwarted all good developments in the country.

“Also the political leadership foisted by the system should be changed. Both the political leadership and the system are based on self-interest first, public-interest second.

“That is how Nigeria is running on. You cannot do anything about this because this system has produced a leadership that is not concerned with the welfare of the people.

“It is concerned only with perpetuation of power and deepening of the problems it created. It is a system that serves its interest only.

“Everybody is after money only, so as to get money – power. The pursuit and ugly use of money have arrested the brains of people and development.

“The only way out is to change the system and the political leadership it produced.

“The reality in Nigeria today is that we will not abandon this decadent system and pursue socialist system that will bring about social development.

“That is the reality. We need to be aware of this that it is only a change from the capitalist system to a socialist system that will make a change of direction in the nation’s affairs.

“The more we tend to run away from it, the more we stay at the crossroads. We should allow it to play a leading role in the economy to ensure justice, social order, dignity of the human person, and development all over the country.

“That is the answer. It is the only thing. That is the solution which is near, but which we have refused to grab. That is the only answer.

“America, Britain, Germany, China, Russia, they did it and became the most powerful people and countries in the world. We can also do it.

“They placed humanity above other considerations in their march to freedom. They are now the most advanced nations in the world today. They placed public-interest first.

“Enlightened self-interest has no place in the development and advancement of nations. We are going through what other people had gone through and emerged stronger because of the system they put in place.

“For instance, for how long have we been fighting those we elected to power? For how long have we been fighting to bring about free and compulsory primary and secondary education in Nigeria?

“And if it is possible also, have a free post-secondary education in Nigeria, because when you have an educated citizenry, it will be easy to put in place a system that will ensure progress and development in all ramifications.

“All we are interested in is money-power. Nothing has been achieved; no progress at all. Since the leadership in Nigeria, starting from 1966, or even 1960, it has always been a march backwards instead of a march forward, and when you make one step forward and three steps backward, you can’t progress.

“That is the truth many people don’t want to hear. Where is justice in Nigeria? I can’t find it.

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Army truck rams on tricycle, killed operator, two passengers in Damaturu

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It was a dark Sunday day for many residents of Damaturu, Yobe State capital, after a military truck driving at a high speed crushed a taxi tricycle and killed two passengers

One of the victims was Hussaina Baffa-Bello, 19-year-old female student of Federal Polytechnic, Damaturu.

Witnesses said the armored gun truck driver did not obey the red traffic light when the Keke-Napep rider was crossing the highway.

“The army truck did not stop at the traffic light-controlled junction while the Keke-Napep rider who had a right of way was crossing, and that was how the truck ran over them,” said a witness who identified himself as Muhammed.

Multiple residents in Damaturu said that since the installation of the traffic lights last year, most military and police vehicles usually disobey them.

“Even if they met other civilian vehicle waiting and obeying the traffic light, they would be blaring their horns and causing confusion,” said Bashir Sani, a civil servant said.

The Sunday crash occurred at a spot called Gwange Junction along Damaturu-Gashua Road.

Witnesses said the Keke-Napep, coming from the Gwange axis, was attempting to cross over to use the right lane of the highway going to the city center, while the truck which was coming from an opposite left lane caught the Keke-Napep midway.

The ghastly crash generated angry reactions from residents of Damaturu.

The executive director of the umbrella Civil Society Organisations in Yobe State, Abubakar Shehu, said the CSO will make an official statement in due course.

Amidst rising anger over the sad incident, the state governor visited the scene of the accident and went to condole the bereaved families of the victims.

Though the military has not issued any statement to that effect, a statement issued by the governor’s spokesman, Abdullah Bego, indicated that top officers of the military command in Damaturu had gone to commiserate with the families of the victims.

One of the victims was Hussaina Baffa-Bello, 19-year-old female student of Federal Polytechnic, Damaturu.

Bego said, “Governor Mai Mala Buni has been briefed about an incident in Damaturu yesterday in which a KEKE NAPEP rider with passengers was crushed by a military vehicle in an accident which claimed the lives of two persons.”

“Already, the Brigade Commander 27 Task Force Brigade, the Commanding Officer 233 Tank Battalion and officials of the State Government have visited and commiserated with the families of the victims,” the statement said.

“His Excellency has learned that one of the victims, Hussaina Baffa Bello was a pre-ND student of the Federal polytechnic Damaturu while the other fatality was a toddler.

“Governor Buni’s thoughts, sympathies, and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives and with the victims who sustained injuries.

“The governor prays Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant repose to the souls of those who died, fast recovery to those who sustained injuries and fortitude to bear the loss for families of the victims.”

Bego said the governor had directed the office of the acting Secretary to the State Government to liaise with the military in order “to have a full investigation and ascertain how the accident happened and how much could be avoided in the future.”

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BREAKING: No surety to take Sowore on bail – DSS

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The Department of State Services, DSS, Friday declared that it has confirmed receipt of the court order for the release of Omoyele Sowore.

It also affirmed that nobody ever since has come take him on bail.

DSS Public Relations officer, Peter Afunanya said this in a statement to TIMELY POST in Abuja.

He said, “It is important that the public notes that since the receipt of the Order, no person has turned up at the DSS to take delivery of him. This becomes imperative for reasons of accountability.

“However, the Court has been properly briefed on this development and the steps being taken to ensure compliance with its Order.

“The Service, under the leadership of Yusuf Magaji Bichi (fwc), as the Director General, is not a lawless organization and will never obstruct justice or disobey Court Orders. It, therefore, affirms that it will do all that is needful once the appropriate processes have been concluded”.

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