By Suleman Umaru
When President Muhammadu Buhari and the Cabal in the Presidency led by Abba Kyari, Chief Of Staff To the Katsina state born Nigerian President including members of the Federal Executive , FEC, who had worked relentlessly to ensure that Ahmad Lawan, emerge the Senate President and Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of House of Representatives have no reason to regret it. This is because the National Assembly are doing that which they were elected to do : rubber all executive Bills, using their majority in both Chambers of the National Assembly to do so.
The President was said to have made it clear from the onset when the duo emerged to Head the 9th National ASSEMBLY that the era of frosty relationship between the Legislature Chamber and the Executive arm of government was over , nothing that this the time to deliver on his electioneering Campaign promises.
The President may have set the ball rolling that he is ready to carry the Lawmakers along as he holds regular closed doors meetings with the Principal Leadership of the National Assembly , Individually and Collectively before introducing any Executive Bill to the National Assembly . This is evident going by the recent introduction of the Finance Bill to the two Legislative Houses for approval.
At the Senate, members of the Finance Committee , which handled the discussion on the Bill, before referring it to the Committee of the whole Senate it was said to have held a public hearing for the Bill where some relevant persons who were said to be experts on Tax Administration were invited to make their observations and recommendation. They may have organised the public hearing to prove to Nigerians that they are working so that people will not tear the Finance Bill report to pieces on the pages of Newspapers and the Social Media.
The leadership of the National Assembly may have proved bookmakers right as they had rubber stamped the Finance Bill , now awaiting the Presidential assent to come into effect without disapproving the 50% Value Added Tax, VAT , Increase , proposed by the government.
Insiders informed The Value News that the Senate approval of the Finance Bill followed the presentation of the report of the Adeola Solomon led Finance Committee last Thursday. The Opposition People’s Democratic Senators were said to have expressed their reservations about the Bill and ‘’ its effects on the nation and the people’’ but that was how far they could go. The APC Senators had their way.
Indeed, Nigerians may have known that what had happened at the Lawan led Senate may not be different from what would at the House of Representatives under the close watch of Gbajabiamila as the Executive sponsored Finance Bill was passed.
Apart from the proposed increase in VAT rate which had attracted much criticisms from Nigerians and Industrialists as it would translate to increase the cost of production that would be passed on to Consumers , the Finance Bill also seeks to reform the current tax regime of the government. They are the Controversial VAT, Petroleum Profit Tax, PPT, Customs and Exercise Management Act, CEMA, Company Income Tax Act, Stamp Duties Tax Act and Capital Gains Act.
Perhaps, the Lawmakers may have cue into the impression created bythe government tax experts that the amendment of CEMA, of the tax regimes Act, would encourage local production of goods , now that plans are underway to Commence the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area AfCTA.
Recall that Buahari, the Nigerian President and Patrick Talon, his Beninese counterpart had signed the AfCTA, at Niamey , Niger, at the12th Extra Ordinary Meeting of the African Heads of States and Government, last July. Note that the Nigerian President may have signed the AfCTA on the conditions that the ‘’trade must be fair to all’’.
It is not surprising why he is doing everything everything within his powers to get the private sector to cue into the AfCTA programme in order to make a it a huge success.. This may have informed why the Buhari led APC government has moved for the amendment of the country’s tax regimes which had already been approved by the National Assembly to ensure that the manufacturing Companies operating within the confines of the country engage in meaningful production of goods and services that would compete with goods produced in other parts of the world in order reduce people’s taste for foreign manufactured goods.
There is no gain saying the fact that the country had closed its Borders with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin and Niger, particular, for allowing the use their countries as a a base by far flung countries to turn Nigeria as a dumping ground for their party goods. Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture may have alluded to some of these far flung countries, which include the Asian countries of China, India, Thailand, Malaysia and North Korea during the ministerial media Tour of some Border Communities across the country. He had said that ‘’Goods on the government prohibition list such as secondhand clothing, processed vegetable oil, foreign parboiled rice and other manufactured goods which could be produced and traded within the Continent had been re-exported Nigeria through the country’s porous borders.
The Borer closure with the neighbouring Western African countries , on the orders of Buhari,according to Presidency sources was essentially to serve as a warning to the counties that Nigerian will not expect anything less than fairness to all in trade when AfCTA comes into effect.
The National Assembly may have known that the success of AfCTA, depends so much on the security of the Border Communities that it has urged the Buhari led Executive arm of government to increase the funding of the Border Community Development Agency, BCDA. The Lawmakers were said to have mandated the governors of the 21 states of the Federation and the Local government Areas which have Border Communities to ‘’carry out a holistic investigation on the level of Compliance with the Act establishing the agency by the government’’.
Going by the funding arrangement of BCDA, 7.5 % of the entire total allocation due to the Federal government, 15% of monthly statutory allocation due to member states, 55% of the funds accruable to the member states of the agency from the ecological fund and 10% of the monthly statutory allocation to the Border local governments are supposed to be set aside for BCDA and which must be deducted from source by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, RMFC,.
haMany believe that if RMFC, complied with the Act establishing it by deducting these monies from source, it would have made significant impact on member states of the BCDA, Local government Areas and the Border Communities. They stressed that if there have been adequate infrastructural facilities in the Border Communities that could them busy, they may not have been exposed to the handouts from the smugglers to protect their nefarious trade or for the people to see smuggling as a means of survival.
Take for instance, the 84 school children who were said to have drowned in a river from Bukoro , a Border Community in Baruten local government in Kara north, while going to school in a neighbouring Border Community in Benin Republic in 2009.
Sadiq Suleiman Umar, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Kwara North, who could not hide his feelings revealed that the Beninese government responded promptly to the incident and quickly constructed a bridge across the River to win the heart of the people.
An angry Umar lamented that it is unfortunate that neghbouring Border Communities in Nigeria, a country that pride itself as the giant of Africa , are at the mercy of other countries which Border Communities have’’ world class medical and educational facilities’’.
This may have informed why the Kwara state born politician has called on government intervention in providing basic infrastructural and social amenities for the Border Communities in the five geo-political regions across the country to create a sense of belonging among the residents.
The situation in the Kwara North Border Community where school children were drowned may not be different from the situation from most of the Border Communities in the south west geo-political region where there are no motorable roads, schools or medical facilities. The situation at Seme, regarded as the business Border in the west Coast , because of the large quantities of transit cargoes that passes through the Border speaks volume.
For years, transit cargo importers , had lost their imports to thieves due to the bad road . The poor state of the roads in the Border Communities in the Border Communities in the region may have exposed them to smugglers who utilize their services either as informants to monitor the movement of Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and other Security Operatives personnel in the bush and the Creeks in order to guard their nefarious trade.
This is where the government may have to take the suggestions of Senator Umar very serious, to ensure that when AfCTA comes into effect, it would not be sabotaged by the cross-Border smugglers operating within the over 2, 200 Border Communities across the country.