Nigeria: How The Lack Of Amenities In the Border Communities Encourage Smuggling As The National Assembly Rubber Stamp Buhari’s Finance Bill

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’’.

Ahmad Lawan: Senate President

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.

Sadiq Suleiman Umar: Senator Representing Kwara North

 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.

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