Gas Flaring: How Nigerian Authorities Deceive With Prohibition Bills, Deadlines

Over the years, Nigeria has misled the world with its ineffective gas flaring prohibition bills and deadlines, ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes

Nigeria has been flaring gas since the 1950s in the Niger Delta, where Co2 and several pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere at will by the multinational oil companies. In order to halt the illicit activity, in 2016, the Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill was on the table of the Senate for consideration for possible channel into law. Checks revealed that among other things, the Bill was geared to prohibit gas flaring in any oil and gas production operation, blocks, field, onshore or offshore, and gas facility treatment plant in Nigeria. The source revealed that the Bill was formulated to relate all over Nigeria and by extension to the Exclusive Zone, Free Trade Zones, land in Nigeria, under the territorial waters of Nigeria, amongst others. In March, 2017, the Bill passed second reading at the Senate. By Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the Committee thereafter invited industry stakeholders and the general public to a public hearing.

Not even the increase in gas flare penalty to $2 per 1000scf by October 2, 2018 could deter the multinational oil companies in carrying out this reprehensible act of flaring gas. By January 31, 2018, the FG, through the then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun accused oil companies of not paying stipulated gas flaring penalties, amounting to loss of revenue in billions of dollars into government coffers.  Meanwhile, on November 2, 2018, report in major national newspapers in Nigeria but especially the Vanguard titled Senate ready to pass gas flaring prohibition bill – Lawmaker” had the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, Sen. Bassey Albert as saying that the Senate would pass Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill before the end of that year. According to the source, “Sen. Bassey Albert, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas, on Thursday said that the Senate would pass the Gas Flaring Prohibition Bill before the end of the year.”

Can this statement be relied on as the many prohibition bills earlier put in place did not see the light of the day? While the lawmaker misled Nigerians with that conceited statement that never came to pass in that year, Bassey’s other statement of final stopping of gas flaring by 2020, can also, not be relied on given that authorities in Nigeria have had different deadlines in the past that later became a tall dream. In the subsequent lines that will follow revealed why such statement cannot be relied on. Meanwhile, this is what the report said of Bassey in ending gas flaring by 2020: “Albert expressed the National Assembly’s support for the 2020 final elimination of gas flare.”

#Misleading date to pass gas flaring prohibition bill

The declaration that the gas flaring prohibition bill would be passed before the end of 2018, did not hold in that year till April 17 2019, when the Senate passed the bill to prohibit gas flaring in Nigeria. On the ground to pass the Bill, the lawmakers had inter alia posited, “The bill seeks to ensure that natural gas shall not be flared or vented in any oil and gas production operation, block or field, onshore or onshore, or gas facility which shall commence operations after the commencement of the Act.”

Given the above, it’s a confirmation that the authorities in Nigeria are misleading the citizens (with their Bill to stop gas flaring) who are suffering the brunt of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulphide, as well as carcinogens, like benzapyrene and dioxin that are dangerous chemicals experts say are associated with gas flaring. These chemicals, according to sources, can cause cancer, blood leukemia and other dangerous ailments.

#Many Failed Propositions: Why Gas Flaring Has Not Been Stopped – According To Data

Oil and gas companies in Nigeria have not ended gas-flaring because they see zero per cent gas-flaring as a mirage, given the feeble approach government at all levels had exhibited in tackling the debacle as follows:

  1.  “Looking for a way to curb this menace, in 1969, General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State, allegedly allowed oil operators a five-year ultimatum within which to bring to a halt gas flaring, but never did.”
  2. “The Supreme Court of Nigeria, in 2005, described oil-flaring as illegal, having formally banned it in 1984 and declared it “unconstitutional”. Yet, figures show that companies on the delta did not stop, but have only reduced to flaring 10 per cent since 2007.”
  3. “Expectations by Nigerians were high, but dashed when the December 31st 2012 deadline given to oil exploration companies, by the National Assembly, to end gas- flaring in all the oil fields in Nigeria, was not heeded.”
  4. “But government apologists were either warning that why should there be what they termed “all the noise” about stopping gas flaring in the country, when, according to them, a country like Russia was pinnacling the rest of the world as the highest emitter, upon that she was ranked as a developed country.”

#Eye-service Approach…. Still On Data

  1. “By Friday, March 25, 2011 the Federal Government had set agenda for ending gas-flaring, and unveiled what was regarded as “ambitious $10 billion gas revolution” and to create 500,000 direct and indirect jobs.”

The Federal Government made this disclosure during the formal launching of the Gas Revolution in the country. So they said, “it signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU): one, between Xenel and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and the other among India’s Nagarjuna Fertilisers, NNPC and Chevron; as well as the award of the Akwa Ibom/Calabar area gas central processing facility (CPF), to Agip and Oando in Abuja – winners of the bid.”

As part of its efforts in ending this illegality of gas flaring, media reports of November 1, 2012 believed that the Federal Government might shut oil fields, even if it meant a loss of revenue. A director at the Department of Petroleum Resources, Mr Osten Olorunsola, apparently said then: “One of the things we are doing is to do some analysis for government, to such an extent that it will even mean a proposal to shut down fields to avert huge gas-flaring. We will probably make that position known to government very soon.”

According to a report in the newspapers on Monday, March 4, 2013, the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke had said that the country had a “new target” which was not to bring a total end to gas-flaring, but to meet 22 per cent of gas-flaring reduction by 2017, which was characterised as “on the short-term.” This statement came when a report by the World Bank showed that gas-flaring continued much to aid climate change, among major oil countries.

#Nigeria, Not A Serious Country In Ending Gas Flaring

By December 6, 2017, the Federal Government discovered 178 gas flare sites across Nigeria. According to data, this was against the general speculation of 140 sites. The outcome might not have been made public if not with the efforts of the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and the Canadian government.

A Programme Coordinator of the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in that year, Mr. Justice Derefaka bared his mind in Abuja, at the Gas Buyers’ Forum, organized by the Gas Aggregation Company of Nigeria, stating that at least, the government had received 60 per cent data of survey on gas flaring sites.

Gowon had pointed out in 2011, how Nigeria had lost her leading role in Liquefied Natural Gas production to countries such as Qatar and Australia. “Last year, this country flared over 460 billion standard cubic feet of gas that, if processed and exported, would have fetched the country over $2 billion and minimised the health and environmental impact of gas flares,” Gowon had said.

This claim had the support of a Bureau of Public Enterprises’ study, which estimated Nigeria’s losses to gas flaring at between $500 million and $2.5 billion a year. Gowon noted, “Think of how the oil palm industry left Nigeria for Malaysia. Think of how athletics – we won gold in Sydney (Australia) in 2000 – left Nigeria for Jamaica. And, worst of all, countries we started out with in the LNG business have all left us behind.”

In the period under review, while Qatar’s production had moved from 20 million tonnes to the range of 80 million tonnes and Australia was also targeting 80 million tonnes, Gowon seemingly maintained, Nigeria’s progress was stymied: “All the LNG projects on the drawing board in Nigeria – LNG Train Seven – will only add 30 million tonnes to our national output, which is not that much when compared to Australia, which has only 60 per cent of our reserves.”

Nevertheless, report of May 1 2017, said, “Nigeria loses $850m, 3,500MW of electricity to gas flaring.” By February 12, 2019, the FG was accused of failing to show the necessary commitment needed to end gas flaring in the Nigerian petroleum industry.

According to data, “This was the view of former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Mr. Ransome Owan and other experts at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, NIPS, in Abuja.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, also agreed that there is lack of commitment, but exonerated the Federal Government, while it indicted domestic gas buyers, especially the power sector for the slowdown in deepening gas utilisation in the country.”

#Conclusion: When Will Gas Flaring End In Nigeria?

On November 17, 2016, a Harrison Declan who said he’s a lawyer and Editor, Energy Law Review, from Lagos, published an article titled “What Gas Flaring Prohibition bill will achieve.” Declan pointed out the following in his treatise:

  1. It is worthy of note that this is not the first attempt to legislate on gas flaring in Nigeria. In 1979, the Associated Gas Re-injection Act was enacted. The Act, in the main, prohibited gas flaring and fixed the flare-out deadline for January 1, 1984.
  2. This was not to be, as the deadline was subsequently moved to December 2003, then to 2006, to January 2008 and then December 2008. Also, on July 2, 2009, the Senate passed the Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill 2009 (SB. 126) into law, which fixed the flare-out deadline for December 31, 2010.
  3. The Petroleum Industry Bill fixed it for 2012. The Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill 2016, which is, in many respects, a reproduction of the 2009 bill, has also fixed the flare-out deadline for December 2016…
  4. Finally, while we had hoped for a single piece of legislation for the Nigerian petroleum industry, the lawmakers seem to be thinking differently. First it was the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, and now the Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill. In the end, whatever legislative approach is deemed most suitable is welcomed, provided there are effective mechanisms for enforcing the legislation, because in the end, the efficiency of laws is determined not from their content but from their enforceability.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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“How to Win Friends and Influence People”

By Odimegwu Onwumere

One of the canons my grandparents and the entire Onwumere Dynasty set as a system-of-belief when I was growing was, you must chew your words before using them. Some persons, who do not observe this creed, were said to have unbridled tongue (ona ekwu orighoro onu). They are still around today.

I grew up with this and people that know me today would attest to this training in my life. Some say that I do not probe into issues affecting me, whether I am right or wrong. Others say that I am a very quiet person. They say a lot of things — a recluse, introvert. In short, they say that books have retarded me.

I have heard a lot of things. But one thing remains sacrosanct with me, I have the inner peace not minding some punches on my mind, on how to be who I have always wanted to be, without knocking on the neighbour’s door for help. Well, onye ka ozuru? the Igbo would ask.

While I endured what was taken then as a harsh training from my grandparents and my people, it is paying off today when I look around, how people behave and talk anyhow, without any form of maturity. The worse is betrayal in the name of politics or another.

People no longer have shame. Remember that it was as a result of the same training like my grandparents’ that made Lieutenant Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (26 June 1926 – 29 July 1966) not to abandon his friend, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who had arrived in Ibadan on July 28, 1966 to address a conference of natural rulers of Western Nigeria but was assassinated by, according to Wikipedia, the revenge seeking counter-coupists led by Major T. Y Danjuma on July 29, 1966.

If it were today, Fajuyi would have abandoned Ironsi on the premise of politics just as a Gbenga Daniel, a Nigerian politician and ex-Governor of Ogun State from 29 May 2003 to 29 May 2011, according to the source, making him the longest-serving governor of the state, has abandoned Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for the lucre of material acquisition.

Daniel was of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Director-General of Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation in the just concluded 2019 presidential election. Today, Daniel has barefacedly genuflected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) without any expression of shame, except his unbridled tongue on how he would pull his supporters to his new party.

My grandparents and their contemporaries did not read “How To Win Friends And Influence People” authored by Dale Carnegie before they inculcated values and integrity in us.

We had a concept which was our way of life before we derailed to believe that one can do whatever that pleases him or her and after, should go on his or her knee and ask for forgiveness. We showed integrity before people in every of our conducts because of the immediate consequences that evolved around us then.

After reading the famous book by Carnegie in 2010 as an adult, I remembered my grandparents for their hyper-sincerity in every of their conducts. They shared whatever that could be shared with their contemporaries without reservation. Gossip was not in their dictionary and they hardly criticize or condemn people. They did everything possible to win the affection of their beloved ones and people from far and near, by showing honest and sincere appreciation and in so doing, people flocked around each other without a blink. There was love!

Today, love is dead. And people do not know how to win people around them anymore, because they are not genuinely interested in other people. They do not value their fellow human beings, even when you are very honest and sincere to them.

Amongst many things that Carnegie taught me is that, I should show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.” How many people care about this in the modern times? We have people who don’t care how they hurt you with their gutter words and statements. Theirs is to open their mouths and see words running out of them.

We have many people who do not admit they are wrong immediately and ardently. They hardly begin a conversation with you in a friendly way and they are not sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires. Carnegie strongly warns against such behaviour.

Have you not read a famous quote by Thomas Carlyle which states, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men”?

To sum this piece up, Carnegie says — On dealing with people — “let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

It is hoped that mankind would learn that, “If there is any one secret of success, says Carnegie, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Let’s learn how to influence people with kind words, right attitude, and eschew pride and vanity that make people talk to people carelessly. I remember my great grandparents a lot!

Odimegwu Onwumere is a multiple-award winning journalist based in Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Nigeria: Girl-child Marriage Spreading Like Wildfire

The commonness of child brides in Nigeria is becoming astronomical with poverty fingered as a factor leading families to give out their girl children to older men for marriage. ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes that 23 million girls are already victims of child marriage in Nigeria and while one in every five girls is married before her 18th birthday, some are kidnapped into marriage, sensitisation campaign to disorientate the practice has however become top priority of some persons and organisations

Child marriage (15-year-old Chinwe sitting on Izuchukwu Igwilo’s laps)

Chinwe, 15, was married to a supposedly 56 year old Mr Izuchukwu Igwilo early this year for the lucre of wealth. Not only was Igwilo old enough not to marry Chinwe, he was also a candidate of special needs.

Their marriage took place at Ozubulu, Anambra State, South-east of Nigeria. The stupendous wealth the Igwilos paraded spurred Chinwe’s family to give her out to Izuchukwu Igwilo.

Chinwe was already a nursing mother of a 6 month baby, an out of wedlock produce. Poverty and her ordeal compounded her situation. Hence, her compellation to marry the older man in order to enjoy the man’s share of the family wealth, since he was mentally sub-normal.

Conjectures were also that, should she give birth for Izuchukwu, his family members would take responsibilities of raising the child, due to their brother’s defectiveness.

Since her parents and she were not well to do financially, she lost her voice in the midst of the conundrum. She rather resorted to enjoy the wealth, even though she could be frowning at the not-too-normal man, who became her husband through persuasive means. She could not even question her fate. She relaxed. The parents’ thought and hers, were conversely not the thought of some persons and individuals in the country.

Voices raised

When Chinwe’s marriage was made public late January this year, the social media was characterised by #RetrieveChinwe. The activism was first noticed on Facebook when a Nigerian entrepreneur, Vivian Queenstine Diora made a post in respect to the marriage on a popular social group known as and called Rant.  The post did not just contain the man’s age and health status, it also pointed out that the man was an alcoholic.

Since Chinwe had lost her voice to speak up, some persons and groups moved in to rescue her thereby defining the country’s Child’s Rights Act detailing that 18 years of age was the minimum age for marriage, even when the Nigerian legal system had different interpretations to the Act.

Our reporter who monitored the outcome of the marriage gathered that Prince Gwamnishu Emefiele Harrison who was based in Awka, Anambra State, where he was perfecting his Human Rights activistivism, moved in to give Chinwe a voice.

“Inter alia, I had an approved petition by the Anambra State Police Command to rescue Chinwe,” said Harrison. “My plan was to pick Chinwe up and hand her to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Anambra State.”

Harrison did not only talk; he kept his promise. Chinwe was rescued from her rather confinement erroneously called marriage on February 2, 2019, with some supports from the Nigeria Police Force, Ministry of Women Affairs, Legal luminaries and unconfirmed voices too numerous to note. Nevertheless, this was not without some members of her family apparently pointing to the contrary.

“When I saw Chinwe’s parents and discussed the issue with them, the mother said that Chinwe was of marriageable age because she (Chinwe’s mother) got married at 13,” Harrison added. “But I proved her wrong and also enlightened her of the price of their actions in the face of law.”

Millions not rescued

Investigations revealed that Chinwe was not the only girl forcefully married to men, but no fewer than 700 million women alive today, were married as children across the globe.

Those who knew better sermonised that Africa boasted of about 17 per cent of them, which meant that 125 million of them, were in Africa.

Incidences of child marriage abounded such that the victims have had sorry tales. Just in 2015, Wasila Tasi’u, 14, forced against being forcefully married to an older man in Kano State, by poisoning her 35-year-old husband and three others. In Niger State, the media were awash when a 70 year old Mr Yakubu Chanji married a girl alleged to be 15.

While this lasted, some editors of national newspapers in the country lamented the health challenges professionals said were associated with girl child marriage, which included Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF). They said that no fewer than 20,000 new cases of VVF were reported annually given child marriage.

“VVF is anomalous fistulous territory that permits the nonstop spontaneous release of urine. Generally, child marriage has been traced to be the cause in some victims of VVF,” as according to the source.

Apprehension on increase

The United Nation Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), was horror-struck that the number of child brides would triple in Nigeria and across Africa by 2050, if salient measures were not put in place to curtail the menace.

The apprehension of the international organisation was that the continent of Africa would overrun South Asia with the hydra-headed number of child brides around the world.

The organisation did not only mention the nuisance of child brides in Nigeria, but also pointed out that the country and component countries in Africa, were still enmeshed with female genital mutilation, and this remained a chief priority of the United Nations.

Upon outlawing child bride

Nigeria outlawed child marriage in 2003. On the contrary, the 2018/2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS, revealed that over 18.5 per cent of girls in the country were still married before age 15.

This was the same way international agreements that comprised the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, prohibited child marriage.

The United Nation Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said that 23 million girls were victims of child marriage in Nigeria.

Ms Comfort Lamptey who’s the country representative of the world group stated this on December 2 2018, at a media briefing while observing the 16 days of enlightenment against gender based violence campaign 2018 in Abuja.

Lamptey frowned that one out of five women and girls in Nigeria aged 15-24 were conspicuously victims of molestation and human trafficking. She added that the aftermath of Boko Haram (a dreaded Islamic terrorists group in the country) had resulted to estimated 1.8 million women being called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and camped in deprecating places in the affected states, especially in the North East of Nigeria.

She believed that girls and women who faced violence were not heard and they should be given room to be heard.

“With women and girls bearing the brunt of abduction, forced marriage and being used as human bombs; gender-based violence is evident also in the political realm, where women have reported numerous cases of victimisation, intimidation and harassment, in order to side-line them in the upcoming 2019 General Elections…,” she said.

“Their stories need to be brought to light. This is why the UNiTE Campaign’s global advocacy theme year is: Orange the World: #HearMeToo”.

Child brides in regions

In its 2017 report, UNICEF amplified that 43% of Nigerian girls were married off before their 18th birthday, while 17% were married before they turned 15.

Checks revealed that these percentages varied from one political zone in the country to the other, with the North West recording the highest percentage – 76%, while the South had but 10%, especially in the South Eastern zone.

Against this backdrop, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) 2018 report also revealed that Nigeria ranked number 11, out of 20 countries with prevalence of child marriage, whereas 17 countries were in Africa.

Factors leading to child marriage

There were blights of child marriage in Nigeria which were connected to religious, cultural and traditional rites, including poverty.

In the UN charter, 18 years was officially taken to mean adulthood but this was not the thought of many States in Nigeria. Illiteracy was not exempted from the category of the blights of child marriage in the country.

The Senate held in 2013 that Section 29 (4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) was sacrosanct not minding the examination of its committee on that matter, with a suggestive draft for the removal of Section 29 (4) (b) which demanded that “any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.”

“Nevertheless this segment pacts with the certifying age for repudiation of citizenship, its relationship with child marriage surfaced from the earlier Section 29 (4) (a) which gives room that “full age means the age of eighteen years and above”, said the editors.

Speaking up against child marriage

Just like Harrison went to rescue Chinwe and gave her hope of a brighter future, many notable Nigerians that included Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), lent their voices in condemnation of child marriage no matter the coloration given to the practice. The worse, they lamented, was kidnapping girl children anywhere, for the purpose of forcing them into marriage.

In the same manner, the wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari cried out against the pervasiveness of child marriage in northern Nigeria, where she made case that more than 50 percent of girls in the North were married before the age of 15. She made this known on October 20 2015 in Abuja, at the National Conference on Social Protection for the Girl Child, organised by ActionAid in partnership with Ford foundation, where she was represented by the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo.

At a press conference on March 6 2016, in Lagos, Professor Soyinka sent those who were lacing religion reaction around child marriage to the cleaners. He believed that it was very wrong for anyone to damage a child because of degeneracy, as such, would leave the child with ruinous tendencies that would include trauma.

A scribe with the Ford Foundation, Innocent Chukwuma, at the National Conference on Social Protection for the Girl Child, organised by ActionAid in partnership with Ford foundation, posited that child marriage was against the girls’ human rights as it would likely introduce violent tendencies and obnoxious circumstances, social exclusion and poverty in the child.

Chukwuma added that it was not even good for their educational future and success. This was as he concluded that it would also expose them to larger health hazards such as maternal mortality, maternal disability, infant disability and HIV.

Falana interpreted the law with discontentment at the heightening occurrence of child marriage. He highlighted that it was unlawful to marry a girl without the parents giving their consent; that’s for those who were kidnapping girl children. But the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his presentation at the occasion where Mrs Buhari was represented, was worried that the right of the father to give out her daughter’s hand in marriage without her paying heed to the marriage should not be supported in whatever language used in approving of it. Soyinka therefore, called on the authorities to see child marriage as a crime against the constitution and legal structure that held the citizens.

  • Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com
  • SOURCE: OoReporters

Millions Of Dollars Lost In Nigeria To Tax Evasion Due To Incoherent Policies

The Federal Government is mustering the political will to coerce revenue generation through high-profile individuals, Ministerial Departments and Agencies and others to fittingly submit to the federation account what is due to government. ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE unearths that millions of Dollars have been lost to tax defaulters and the private sector is dogged to say that businesses provide for themselves power, water, roads etc. being the reason taxes are paid upon the many tax policies by the successive governments suggesting the contrary. However, this article traces that Nigerians would be profitably inclined to paying taxes only if the revenues ensuing from such taxes are wisely utilised for socio-economic infrastructure development of the assorted parts of the country

It was a season of fear and desperation as the Federal Government (FG) vowed not to leave any stone hiding tax defaulters unturned, especially among the political class. Hence, the FG mounted its satellite at all corners to apprehend tax violators.

In an effort in making sure that the FG’s promise was kept, the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Tunde Fowler urged the Nigeria Police Force to assist the agency in the battle against tax defaulters.

The livid Fowler was not happy that over 40,000 people or so in the rank and file were yet to pay their tax. He told the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu when the later paid a courtesy visit to the Revenue House in Abuja in February this year that the agency would not allow tax violators to rest till they comply with the directive of the agency.

From its check of tax evaders from 45,000 persons on FIRS record, the heated Fowler said that the sum of N23 billion was realised through a close-up of over N100 million owned by each as turnover in their accounts.

It was grasped that such foray as the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System and Remita put defaulters at a corner when they noticed that the authorities had evidences against them.

Expensive and expansive buildings at choice places across the country were beamed with government’s searchlight. In some states, the FG had the support of governors with state governments reveling building documents of owners. Lagos and Abuja became the first where the FG mounted its battle in the fight for tax compliance.

Heralding Battle

It was less than three weeks in the month of March 2018 to the expiration of Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), a Federal Government amnesty programme keyed in from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 for tax defaulters to voluntarily regularise their tax profiles.

This pet programme was however attended to with pressure from politicians, ex-governors and other dignitaries for the authorities to extend the tax amnesty expiry date.

Before she was disgraced out of office over alleged certificate forgery last year, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun had amplified that defaulters of tax who refused to comply with the amnesty programme would be named, shamed and prosecuted.

They were majority among the political class, research revealed. In the same vein, Fowler had in an interview on February 26, 2018, advised high-flying Nigerians with tax burdens to take lead of the VAIDS, as political, social or economic distinction would not separate them from sanctions for non-compliance.

While at the first annual lecture of the Lagos State Professorial Chair of Tax and Fiscal Matters held at the Ade-Ajayi Auditorium of the University of Lagos, in December 2017, Adeosun said that only 40 million taxable adults in Nigeria pay taxes, out of 70 million. She went further to say that about 13 per cent of Nigerians who were active tax payers only paid given that their taxes were deducted under the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) category.

But in a speech delivered on June 29 2017 by the then Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo,  titled “How tax-paying Nigerian can curb corruption, make govts responsible”, it was a different version to the claim by Adeosun.

Professor Osinbajo said, “According to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the total number of tax payers in Nigeria is just 14 million. Of this number, 96% have their taxes deducted at source from their salaries under the P.A.Y.E system while just 4% comply under Direct Assessment. So the vast majority of Nigerians do not pay taxes.”

There was experts’ opinion revealing that over 180 million Nigerians living in Nigeria, BVN exposed that individual account holders were more than 30.5 million as at January 2018. The National Identity Management Company (NIMC) showed a data base of 22 million Nigerians. According to statistics, it was believed that infinitesimal number out of the working population paid taxes.

This exposition was made through data which was mined. It was further gathered that the government was able to get the assets of many of the high-profile individuals through its data mining programme dubbed ‘Project Lighthouse’. High-profile individuals were not at rest when they observed that government had exhumed their net-worth with proof of where they hid many of their assets. Many tax defaulters were however contacted by the VAIDS office.

The tax war went berserk concerning taxing Nigerians abroad but Adeosun in August 2017, during a Facebook LIVE video chat tagged “Tax Thursday” seemingly cleared air on the Nigerian government’s plan on diaspora taxes.

She said, “It is not (for) every Nigerian; it is for Nigerians resident for tax purposes…If you are a Nigerian resident for tax purposes, it means you live in Nigeria for 195 days of the year.”

The highlight of the double statements from officials was a proof that there were many challenges and prospects in the tax system in Nigeria. Evidence was the lack of statistical data. Experts said that poor tax administration and multiplicity of taxes characterised the system: something that Nigeria inherited from the colonial administration based on 1948 British tax laws.

These laws were mainly structured on revenue generation and it prompted the income tax management act (ITMA) of 1961, where personal incomes were taxed throughout the country. Since then, many amendments have been made to the 1961 ITIMA Act that yielded little or no result.

Seemingly, the ‘Project Lighthouse’ was able to be successful through data harvested from government agencies such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Nigeria Customs Service and, the Nigerian Communications Commission.

Outcome Of VAIDS

Some politicians complied with the VAIDS; many others were yet to comply. But the outcome of compliers boosted the image of Nigeria in the world tax ranking index. Fowler was also happy with the VAIDS.

The World Bank was first to recognise this when it upgraded the country’s tax collection ranking from number 171 to 157.

Analysts believed that the ranking was the efforts of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari through its reformed National Tax Policy in making sure that Gross Domestic Product gained above six percent from tax revenues.

It was believed that the World Bank supported the country so much in the reform. Our reporter learnt that because of VAIDS, number of tax payers was raised to 42 percent, or from 13 million to 19.2 million in 2017.

This boosted the morale of the FIRS and it geared up to push Nigeria above 14 of its contemporaries; resultant of the ranking from number 171 to number 157.

While Fowler thanked the Nigeria Police Force for the aid they have been rendering so far in the cause to battle tax evaders, he pointed out that the agency collected a total of N5.320 trillion of tax revenue in 2018; being the highest in the history of revenue gathering of the commission.

But in an interview of January 27 2018, Mr. Oseni Elamah, Executive Secretary, Joint Tax Board, had said Nigeria targeted N320bn revenue from VAIDS.  This was against N3, 307 trillion it made in 2016 and N4, 027 trillion it made in 2017.

However, while these huge sums were collected, Fowler showed uneasiness that there was decrease in the percentage of the taxes collected.

For example, it was 2.6% in 2016 as against 2.48% in 2017 and, 2.14% in 2018.

Before Buhari Government

It did not meet the eyes why these huge sums of money were recovered from tax evaders in 2018 and many of the high-profile individuals were yet to comply with the amnesty programme for tax defaulters.

Exactly seven years this year, there was the “new Personal Income Tax (Amendment) Act” that mandated workers that included President, Governors, their Deputies, Ministers and bigwigs in politics to pay taxes out of their incomes.

The then Chairman, Joint Tax Board, Ifueko Omoigui Okauru disclosed this at a media briefing to officially uncover the ‘new Act’ in Abuja.

This patronizing project was aimed at bringing the Personal Income Tax Act to match with the Nigerian economy with regards to understanding how the Act was affecting low and middle income earners.

The then President Goodluck Jonathan was it who signed this into law in June 2017 and also, evaluated income excused from tax to include bonds subjected by government and corporate entities.

Mrs. Omoigui -Okauru, who doubled then as the executive chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), highlighted the amendments were after over 19 years such exercise was conducted which was dubbed “Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) 1993.”

Checks revealed that the ‘new tax’ table buttressed that the primary N300,000 of income garnered would magnetize seven per cent tax rate.

The source went further to say that about 11 per cent was earmarked to be paid as tax on N300,000 preceding the former income.

15 per cent on N500,000; 19 per cent on the next N500,000; 21 per cent on N1.6million and, 24 per cent tax rate on incomes that were more than N3.2million.

Discordant Tunes

In 2011, the Lagos State Government started the implementation of its land use charge law, where landed property owners were forced to pay a percentage of the value of their property to the government yearly, in order to shore up their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). And many states joined Lagos in this chorus.

Everybody, group and could be noticed to be looking for a soft ground or reason to evade or collect tax in the country. On October 28 2018, some stakeholders in the private sector like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry, LCCI, were a thorn in the neck of government not to heed to any advise or call to increase Value Added Tax, VAT. Rather, government should carve a niche for itself to build on tax net and not the other.

These bewildered groups hinged their view on what they described as Nigeria’s weak economy which would not be in tandem for increase in tax rate in whatever language used in doing so.

It was learnt that the stakeholders were bemused when the International Monetary Fund, IMF, lent its voice to the government to review the country’s tax policies.

The call by IMF was that the richest should be taxed three percent of the country’s population, broadening the tax support and supplementing conformity on VAT.

Those who knew better told the authorities that the IMF increase in VAT was a bad advise at a time Nigeria was grappling with economy difficulties.

According to a presentation by the Director General, MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, “Businesses do not like tax given that it is not favourable  to their costs and it devours into their profits. However, the IMF advise came at a wrong time when the country was struggling with flimsy economic growth.”

Ajayi-Kadir went further to state that it’s unfortunate that businesses were already providing for themselves the services the government ought to have given them been the reason taxes were paid. According to him, “Businesses are covering the areas of power, water, roads etc. for themselves being the reason taxes were paid. Therefore, pushing up VAT will be devastating at this period.”

Tax System Hijacked By Politicians

When the Oyo State Government sealed up former President Olusegun Obasanjo farms and over forty other business firms in the state in September 2018, some politicians and political analysts labeled the move as a political witch-hunt.

But the government in a swift reaction through the Chairman, Oyo State Board of Internal Revenue (OYBIR), Mr Bicci Alli said during the OYBIR sensitisation and enlightenment meeting with the members of the Organised Private Sectors and Chambers of Commerce under the aegis of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Oyo State Chapter, at MAN House, Jericho Road, Ibadan, that the move was occasioned by the recalcitrant behaviour of the affected firms to habituate with the tax laws of the state after a resounding long notice were given to them.

By September 11, 2018, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, showed anger that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had not investigated and prosecuted the All Progressives Congress (APC) leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, over allegations of tax fraud amounting to N160 billion taxes by a company linked to him.

According the source, “Nigerians can now see how the same Ibrahim Magu-led EFCC, which rushes to pounce on, arrest and lock up innocent Nigerians, particularly, perceived political opponents of President Buhari, without investigation, has practically gone frozen and toothless because a member of the APC cabal is involved.

“Does it not smack of hypocrisy that President Buhari, who boasted that he was going to jail more looters, has been looking the other way, while Presidency officials suppress investigations since whistle blowers alerted that Alpha Beta, a company linked with his party leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, allegedly swindled Nigerians to the tune of a whopping N160 billion in tax fraud?

“Is it not equally hypocritical that under the same President Buhari’s watch, where the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has threatened to block the bank accounts of tax evaders, a leader of his party had been dragged before the EFCC, yet Mr President is pretending to be unaware?”

Remove Hijackers

In November 2018, while at the signing of memorandum of understanding, MoU with the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), in Lagos, Dr Cyril Ede, president, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) hinged the need to remove hijackers in the tax environment in synergy with other expert financial bodies.

By July 21 2017, Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, in Abuja, had called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to force political parties to include tax agenda in their manifestos ahead of 2019 elections. This was part of an eight-point communiqué, said Rafsanjani, issued at the end of a Stakeholders’ Interface on the National Tax Policy.

“The Federal Government is commended for adopting a consultative approach in the development of the new policy and reflecting inputs from stakeholders, including the National Tax Justice and Governance Platform.

“The review of the National Tax Policy was long overdue considering the challenges identified in the tax system under the previous policy.

“The new policy emphasises the ability to pay principle, focus on progressive tax rates, promoting equality, avoidance of multiple taxation, explicit grievance mechanisms, transparency and accountability frameworks,’’ said Rafsanjani.

On November 6 2017, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and 2019 presidential hopeful, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu in an interview, blamed the federal and state governments of being lame-duck in their approach to revenue generation.

While this lasted, a tax expert, Mr Abulazeez Musa who also heads Public Engagement Department of Oxfam in Nigeria, on May 3, 2018, advised the Federal Government to espouse progressive taxation system to heighten revenue generation for evenhandedness in the country’s fiscal governance system, using VAIDS as a case study.

With the federal government applying to the National Assembly to grant it permission for $5.5 billion in borrowing, Moghalu hinted that it was not farfetched to say that over 60 per cent of revenues earned by Nigeria were already meant for debt servicing.

Why Nigerians Hardly Pay Tax

In a public presentation of March 13, 2018, by a public figure in Nigeria, Reuben Abati, titled, “Lagos state and the politics of taxation”, our reporter traced the cause many Nigerians hardly pay their taxes.

Abati buttressed that given the temerity, nobody enjoys to pay taxes. He went memory lane to point out the many historical and cultural features to this. He gave an instance that the community always frowned at the taxman owing to the fact that he was not a well-known member of the community.

Against this backdrop, investigations showed that many countries of the world had been into wars and revolutions in their attempts to collect or not to pay taxes. Abati voiced that in the Yoruba land for instance, there were wars in the 18th and 19th centuries in rejections of what was known as “isakole” (ground rent to the sovereign), or owo asingba (service to chiefs and kings as a form of tribute).

He translated these to mean “symbols of dominance over political authority and/or economic activities, creating a slave/master relationship among dominant/dominated groups.”

Abati gave another instance in the area of what he called “the famous Aba women’s riot of 1929.”

He narrated that the riot was in protestation against what he called “the draconian warrant chiefs” saddled with power by the rapacious colonial administration who were in the habit of direct taxation of market women.

There was the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU) led by Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti in late 1940s that objected to the taxation of women in the Egba Division.

Abati gave instances of the many rebellions against taxation in Nigeria and surmised that the introduction of VAIDS and a new National Tax Policy (NTP) in 2017 by the Buhari administration, many Nigerians would consider the VAIDS, a joke, given the historical and cultural features why Nigerians refused to pay tax.

However, opinion leaders considered the near-failed tax policies in the country as a detestable indictment. They were of the belief that Nigeria had lost focus and was out of touch with reality. They pointed out that Nigeria abandoned common sense to utilise revenue from crude oil when oil was booming. Rather, the country’s spurious leaders allegedly stole billions of dollars that accrued from oil to their foreign bank accounts. They frowned, saying that lawmakers and top civil servants were laws unto themselves unlike in countries like America and Britain where lawmakers paid income tax on their earnings and were ever ready to present any extra income outside their parliamentarian duties. They pointed out that such income was taxed and well documented by their tax authorities.

Nonetheless, the good-looking Moghalu was amazed that the country was becoming heavily indebted, after a former president Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) cleared the inherited debts that the governments before his accumulated.

Moghalu did not believe in the economics which stated that with Nigeria’s debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio at 19 per cent that the country was safe to incessant borrowing. “What matters is the debt service-to-revenue ratio,” he said.

Just like Moghalu, the Chairman of BGL Plc and former Minister of Finance, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu had in August 18, 2010, at the 6th AELEX (Legal practitioners and Arbitrators) Lecture in Lagos, taught that Nigerians would be constructively predisposed to paying taxes if the revenues accruable from such taxes were sensibly utilised for socio-economic infrastructure development of the assorted parts of the country.

  • Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com
  • SOURCE: OoReporters

Nigeria: Illegal Taxation Continues Despite Several Moves By Authorities To Halt Perpetrators

Nigerians in different quarters are crying over what they describe as multiple-taxation from touts and government. ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE unearths that this is giving them concern and they want authorities concerned to look into their ordeal. But their request seems a tall dream given authorities’ promises and measures put in place to rescue them

Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari covers face in shame?

Illegal taxation of the unsuspecting members of the public is not strange to the government and public. What is strange to both is why perpetrators have refused to go out of business.

How to arrest the situation seems a tall dream despite government and public efforts put in place with tax authorities to curb the burden and help organised private sector out of the conundrum.

Nothing seems to have been corrected as the organised private sector is most hit regularly. This sector has been calling on government to aid business environment in the country by mounting its saddle that only legitimate and approved tax collectors are given the power to levy business operators across the country.

The organised private sector wants the subjective introduction of illegal taxes and levies across the country checked. It wants the government to make sure that business operators are safe from unwanted turmoil they are facing in the hands of illegal tax collectors. It believes that this portends danger for the business environment in the country instead of commerce would blossom.

The Clarion Calls

Government has been called upon to harmonise and rationalise the many taxes and levies business operators pay in order to whittle high cost of doing business in the country, but to no avail.

In spite of this, it was not the first time that successive governments in Nigeria were to pledge support to Nigerians and organisations to end illegal-taxation in the country. On January 11 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed the Nigerian government commitment to end the peril.

Buhari made this known when the leadership of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers Association of Nigeria (AUFCDN), led by Alhaji Ali Tahir, paid him a visit at the presidential villa, Abuja.

Received by the Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), Mr. Femi Adesina, President Buhari informed the August visitors his government’s roadmap to terminate illegal taxes in the country.

Hear Buhari, “I am appalled to learn that these illegal tax collections still persist. Bad habits are not easily dropped.

“But let me assure you that relevant security agencies will be reminded of their duties in preventing these bad practices and safeguarding people like you who go about their legitimate businesses.

“I will take up all your appeals and complaints in due course and together with state governments, we will attend to your proposals.’’

However, the General Secretary of the Union, Alhaji Ahmed Alarama declared before the president, saying, ‘‘Roadblocks are mounted by unknown persons on several highways including those in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Abia, Enugu, Anambra, Imo and Bayelsa States and these continue to constitute a hindrance to our businesses.’’

Buhari To AUFCDN: ‘‘Old Habits Die Hard”

Indeed, old habit dies hard, as it was not the first time that organisations were calling on government to come to their liberation in the hands of illegal tax collectors yet their expectations were like water poured on the shell of melon.

The leader of the Association of Waste Paper Dealers Association Onitsha branch, Anambra State, Comrade Samuel Momo bothered the government of the state recently over the issue of multiple-taxation his organisation that came into place since 2002 has been overloaded with.

Momo made his organisation’s voice heard, during their annual get-together in Onitsha. The address to the Anambra Government during the occasion was conveyed by the Pioneer Chairman of the association, Chief Hon. Mike Ibebuiwe, on behalf of Comrade Momo.

It was in December 2018, and Momo disclosed that they saw no reason they should be threateningly disturbed with multiple taxation in a recycling venture that has leveraged the economy by giving employment to the unemployed in the country.

For instance, over 250,000 workers are working in recycling companies, not to talk of over 100,000 working in factories and over 200,000, who are openly or subtly employed in the areas of sourcing or supplying of waste materials to factories, as according to Momo.

Notwithstanding, since 2017, the AUFCDN has been everywhere calling on the government to save its members from multiple-taxation they were suffering in the hands of revenue collectors on Federal highway, yet nothing seemed forthwith to address their predicament.

The National President of the Union, Alhaji Muhammadu Tahir, also made their plight in the hands of tax collectors known in 2017, and asked the government to help them out. But if government was lackadaisical to come to their recue, they would have no option than to take measures to help their members.

“If government didn’t take action, actually we are going to take action against this illegality because we are all Nigerians, we agree to pay revenue but in a legal way at the point of loading and at the point of offloading, which is where law allows us to pay revenue,” said the General Secretary of the Union, Ahammed Allahramma, during the year in quote.

Checks revealed that the union has been paying through its nostrils in the hands of the revenue collectors who mount the highway as early as 2am with dangerous weapons collecting money from the members of the union and others.

Allahramma divulged that a truck load of cattle from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, was being charged about N250,000  by these revenue collectors.

According to Allahramma, “It has been long our members have been suffering from this multiple taxation, if you carry cow from Maiduguri or Adamawa, before you reach Port Harcourt, in a truck, you are going to spend about N250,000 just because of multiple taxation. This taxation is not vehicle taxation or animal taxation, but it is money collected illegally from our members.”

On The Part Of Government

Dr. Obi Nwakanma was not happy with the way government was imposing tax on the citizens, especially in Imo State.

Scrutinising the Governor of Imo State, Anayo Rochas Okorocha, Dr. Nwakanma wondered why the former should impose what he described as “a local tax of N3000 per adult in Imo State” in 2018. Nwakanma said that the announcement to this effect was made by the commissioner for Community government, Culture and Traditional Affairs, Mr. Louis Duru.

It was learnt that Okorocha christened the alleged taxation of his wards “Community levy.” Nwakanma said that while he was in support of any genuine taxation, but this was not of Okorocha’s type.

In his words, “Okorocha’s tax is the tax of the Caesars. It is forced and compulsory levy, and as Louis Duru puts it, every adult in all the Communities in Imo state have been “ordered” to pay it!”

Likewise, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, Anambra, in December 2014 decried imposition of taxes on workers by some state governments and educational institutions.

Some Nigerian lottery operators on August 19, 2018,  at the one-day Public Forum on the Operations of Lottery Industry in Nigeria held in Abuja, Mr. Chima Onwuka, Chairman, Lottery Operators Forum, called on the National Lottery Regulatory Commission for amendment to the National Lottery Regulation Act, decrying multiple taxation and incursion of the industry by unlicensed operators.

According to the Representative of People Empowerment Lottery Operator, Mr. Mobolaji Johnson, double taxation was a major challenge to lottery operators in the country.

For instance, “In UK there is no Value Added Tax on lottery business; recently in Ghana they declared amnesty on tax and one of the key things on the amnesty is that you don’t pay ‘Withholding Tax’,” Johnson informed.

This was the same way members of NASU in West African Examinations Council, WAEC/Libraries and other trade group councils at their 2nd regular meeting in the Anambra state, also cast off “the purported abrogation of an existing agreement between WAEC management and NASU on deployment of serving officers of the union.”

Nwakanma later pointed out, “This failure of public governance in Imo State has created “Emperor Okorocha”, who can now “order” Imo people to pay tax or what he calls “community levies” without the backing of an appropriate act of the Imo State legislature to give force and legitimacy to citizens’ taxation.

“Taxation of citizens is founded on a state tax law, and the current laws in Imo State do not grant the government of the state the power to impose arbitrary taxes until such a mandate has been framed by the House of Assembly whose powers and essential duties is to determine the tax regime for Imo State, and provide the basis for its collection by the agency of the state empowered to collect tax, the Treasury department, or the Ministry of Finance as we know it.”

He went further, “On what basis, by which laws, and to what end therefore is the “order” by Mr. Okorocha to Imo citizens to pay a forced and illegal levy? There are three tax collecting levels of government in Nigeria: the federal government: the State, and the Local governments. Okorocha has virtually imposed an autocracy on Imo State by illegally appropriating the powers of local government without sanction or consequence, and in collusion with the Imo state House of Assembly…”

Representatives And Govts At Rescue?

Like a virus, the residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, were not singing Hosanna in the Highest; they were singing “God fight our battle” in the hands of tax collectors as they paid through their nostrils.

In November 2016, the House of Representatives was drawn to the plight of the residents and there was a swift reaction to their ordeal: a motion was adopted after it was moved by Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev.

This was the same way on August 19, 2009, the Lagos State Government was set with an enforcement team to eradicate and arrest touts who were moving about collecting tax from unsuspecting members of the public and acting as tax agents in the state.

This dubious behaviour was rampant at the local government level. The then Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue to Governor Babatunde Fashola manned by Mr. Ade Ipaye was not pleased with the nuisance of illegal taxation in the state.

Ipaye bared the government’s plan at revenue illumination seminar organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, in Alausa, saying that a Bill had been presented to the state House of Assembly.

The Bill was expected to cage and regulate levies collected by local government councils when passed into law. Yet, all the efforts could not control touts having a field in illegal-taxation in the state.

The Reps asked residents to stop forthwith paying any tax or tenement levies till the issues were thoroughly put through.  The Minister of FCT, Mallam Mohammed Bello was mandated by the House to handle the situation without reservation as the issue of multiple-taxation called for national emergency.

In the same vein, the then Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State in March 2014, suspended ad infinitum two commissioners for purportedly breaching government’s instruction against double taxation and extortion of money from people of the state.

In a statement by the then Commissioner for Information and Strategy of Abia State, Mr. Eze Chikamnayo, the commissioners’ names were given as Chief Chisom Nwamuo, Commerce and Industry; and Mr. Ikechukwu Emesiombum, Transport.

The heated governor went further to seal off the premises of Aba area office of the Ministry of Works, suspected to be the safe ground where the alleged extortionists perfect their acts christened illegal revenue collection.

Hence, Orji was bound for suspending all the unapproved revenue collections pending when his government harmonisation of taxes payable in the state would be completed.

The Reps also mandated its committee on FCT to investigate the illegal activities and determine why the perpetrators have been having field day, saying, “investigate this activity and determine why this has been illegally going on with the aim of bringing perpetrators to book and report back to the House within two weeks.”

This was even as the  Federal Government on January 24, 2015 promised to amend the Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection of Taxes and Levies) Cap T2 LTN, 2004 in a bid to harmonise taxes and abolish multiple taxation of citizens across the country. It also directed the Inspector General of Police as at the time to dismantle all road blocks “mounted on the highways for revenue collection as they are illegal.”

The move was sequel to the complaints by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, followed by a report by Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.

Anambra, Lagos and Rivers were amongst the states outlined as where residents were over taxed through duplication of taxes or levies on the same item or services.

“Although only 20 forms of levies or taxes were approved by the Taxes and Levies Act, there were multiple-taxation of citizens in most of the states across the country with Rivers, Lagos and Anambra topping the 17 states and Abuja, which were listed,” said the report.

As if that was not enough, on April 16, 2012, Fashola was represented by the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Tax and Revenue, Mr. Abimbola Shodipo.

Fashola thrilled members of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) on professionalism in an array to curtail the illegal collection of taxes from residents of the state.

The then Governor of Lagos state made this known at the Investiture Ceremony of Mr. Samuel Olusola Agbeluyi as the 5th Executive Chairman of Ikeja District Society of CITN.

Hear Fashola, “Tax is the heart of every government. It is the main source of generating revenue for state or local government. I will also like to note that the kind of quality transition that took place today should transpire the policy for the betterment of the society”.

It was learnt that the reason for the illegal-taxation in Abuja was because the FCT Inland Revenue Service Board that was empowered to collect taxes in the FCT after it resolved this issue with the House, was lame-duck, a situation that threw the House in sad mood.

According to a source, “Taxes and tenement rates have been authorised by Acts of the National Assembly, that is, the taxes (approved list for collection) Act and the FCT Internal Revenue Services Act, 2015.” But this seemed not working.

Against this backdrop, Hon. Orker-Jev while moving his motion frowned that some elements in the society took advantage of this to defraud the citizens in the name of tax collections through forceful and arbitrary means by forging government documents and molesting their victims with the promise that defaulters would be thrown into prison.

However, while speaking in October 2016 in Washington, at the end of the World Bank/IMF meetings, the then Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in a joint press briefing, said that $1trillion taxes illegally taken out of Nigeria to be repatriated given the agreement reached by a Nigerian team with the UK’s Dept for International Development, the US Treasury Department and others.

Illegal Revenue Roadblocks Dismantled

The Honourable member of the House, however, articulated apprehension, saying, “This act portends an affront to the FCT Inland Revenue Service Act and Tax Laws of the Federation and is aimed at defrauding the unsuspecting members of the public in these days of recession.”

But just when the Reps were unease of what the Abuja residents were passing through in the hands of supposed illegal tax collectors, Benue State Government reportedly dismantled over 159 illegal revenue roadblocks.

The story was not different in Ebonyi as government was urged on September 12, 2018, by some organisations like the Movement for Greater Ebonyi led by Mr. Silas Nworie, to prosecute illegal tax collectors.

Hear Nworie, “Before the suspension of the illegal levies, many prominent Ebonyi indigenes had begged the state government to stop the activities of those extorting money from innocent Ebonyi residents in the appearance of taxes and levies. But all pleas fell on deaf ears.”

It was in September 2018, and the Benue State Internal Revenue Services, (BIRS), discovered that millions of naira had been lost to perpetrators of the illegal revenue road blocks.

Meanwhile, on May 16 2015, the Chairman, Edo State Internal Revenue Service (EIRS), Sir Oseni Elemah, while at the Annual Tax Conference (ATC) organised by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CITN) in Abuja, said 80 per cent of taxable Nigerians had not yet keyed into Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) developed to boost the Nigeria’s tax system.

The Chairman, Benue State Internal Revenue Service, Terzukwe Atser, was worried that upon the dismantling of the illegal road blocks, operators flaunt the order using the night as cover.

Nworie continued, “It is shameful that the government could be condescending. Ebonyi people cannot be deceived. What should be done now is to urgently arrest and prosecute those who extort money from people.

“We learned that the perpetrators were carrying out the instruction of higher authorities. People were forced to buy what they called environmental basket for N8,000, without considering whether they had the money or not.”

Notwithstanding, Atser added that what the government had done, yet some of the people were operating in the night and they were always on the run because security agencies were after them.

Hear Atser, “In taxation, we work according to the laws and obey the law. You have to be just and fair. Therefore, in Benue State, we want to now build efficient tax administration that would rise to become the best in Nigeria and in achieving this, we need to train and retrain the tax managers so that they can translate the knowledge to other staff.”

The Rivers State Internally Generated Revenue Service, RIRS, on November 13, 2018 boasted through its Chairman of RIRS, Mr. ThankGod Norteh, that it has got a technology that would dismantle the illegal collection of taxes in the state, adding that the technology which would be put into use in January 2019, would serve the purpose.

Yet, the news of illegal taxation in the state and across the country has not stopped. The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), had on May 19, 2010, proposed for a fresh stakeholders meeting of tax authorities in the country (Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), States tax authorities, and the Organised Private Sector to address multiple taxation issues.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

{Press Release} Don’t Belittle Igbo Traditional Red Cap, Diehard Igbo Believer Warns Socio-eco-pol Organisations

Don’t Belittle Igbo Traditional Red Cap, Diehard Igbo Believer Warns Socio-eco-pol Organisations

The Senate president, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki on Thursday Jan. 31 2019 tweeted on his Verified account @bukolasaraki that they had arrived Delta State for the PDP presidential rally ongoing for the 2019 elections. He pitched his post with some faces of bigwigs in the party wearing the Igbo Traditional Red Cap with a barge of PDP’s logo –  umbrella – laced on it.

In the words of Saraki, “We just arrived in Delta State, the Big Heart of the nation where our Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, will be speaking about their plans for a #BetterNigeria. #PDPDeltaRally.”

I want to call on the general public not to denigrate the Igbo Traditional Red Cap in whatever guise. It is sacred and should not by any means be desecrated for social, economic or political lucre.

Putting on the Igbo “red cap” is not for everybody, let alone, using it for political rally; something that cannot be attempted in other traditions across the country. The Igbo ‘red cap’ is for a particular people in the Igbo cosmos and not worn by Tom, Dick and Harry. It is a sign of authority and culture and power in Igbo land. It is not for beer parlour outing!

Whether the Igbo “red cap” it is worn with eagle feather or not, its significance of leadership in the Igbo nomenclature cannot be overemphasized. The Igbo Nze na Ozo, might not be laughing when a non-initiate in the Igbo tradition is putting on the “red cap” talk of affixing a political emblem on it in the name of electioneering campaign. This is an insult to entire Igbo traditional institutions and the aberrants have no reason not to apologize.

While I am not against the PDP or its agents in whatever way, (I’m openly saying that I’m not in support of President Muhammadu Buhari, but not APC) it is very offensive to use our revered Igbo Traditional Red Cap for political rally with PDP logo attached on it or any other logo.

I would not want to say that those who did this to our esteemed Igbo “red cap” have no value for the Igbo traditions and cultures but the customary rulers in Igbo land who allowed the downgrading of the Igbo “red cap” for political rally or any other are bogus.

I therefore call on all Igbo traditional institutions to reject this aberration with all their weight and might and call on abusers to retrace their steps.

Let these atypical offenders heal the wound they have inflicted on the Igbo tradition by apologising for their unmerited and unwanted act. This cannot be done on the Fulani/Hausa chieftaincy turban. Proverbially, “It hurts the most when the person that made you feel so special yesterday, make you feel so unwanted today.” One of one own is wearing the “disgraced red cap” without calling for a shift. This is one electioneering campaign gone wrong.

Signed:

Odimegwu Onwumere (Nze Obimgbegbuo),

a writer based in Rivers State and diehard believer of everything aboriginal practice of Ndigbo; their cultures, traditions and spirituality. {None of these should be desecrated.}

Date: Jan. 31 2019.

Tel: 08057778358

Fertility Challenge: Families And Experts Lament On Stigma, Joys Of IVF

Some people are today proud parents with the help of IVF but their children and them are facing stigma upon acceptance sensitization groups are building around IVF. The cost of IVF might not be for the poverty-stricken, but experts’ opinion is that people should speak out if they achieve a successful pregnancy through IVF, Odimegwu Onwumere writes

Couples in Nigeria who have tried to conceive naturally but failed are opting in numbers for In-Vitro Fertilization, popularly called IVF.

With stigma that women with challenges of fertility are enduring in the country, fertility specialists are not sleeping on their oars to encourage couples to go for IVF to restore or boost fertility, because research has shown that IVF is a successful way for conceiving and also, treating for men and women similarly.

IVF has brought excitement on the face of a 34yr old lady who preferred not to be mentioned in the media, after she was delivered of her baby. This was subsequent to 10yrs of childlessness in marriage.

Her body language suggested she was invariably avoiding stigma, after the delivery, due to her conception methodology.

However, the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, UPTH, and its environs were agog on January 12 2019, as the news of her successful delivery filtered in the air.

Some couples that were expecting fruit of the womb wished they were her. At least, have a child of theirs and avert insults people rain on them, because of childlessness. Others might not want to be her, given the process of her conception.

The significance of her glorious delivery was that she was the first to break the jinx of IVF, at the UPTH, two years after the hospital instituted the expertise.

Those in the Gynaecology Department headed by Dr. Preys Fiebai and the Assistant Conception Unit, headed by Prof. John Ikmalo, were all jubilant.

The Chief Medical Director of UPTH, Prof. Henry Ugboma was not left out, as he sermonized that the fruition of her delivery was the ebullient efforts of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Departments and Conception Unit.

Prof. Ugboma nonetheless asked those having challenges of fertility to come forward as there are many women who are now pregnant through the IVF process. Hence, Prof. Ugboma told our reporter, “Everybody must not go through the natural way of conception.”

Breaking Barrier Of Infertility

While the lady who was delivered of her baby at the UPTH was not ready for identity divulgement, Halima Danladi was all out to tell her story.

Danladi’s story was a sorry tale owing to the fact that she was barely 25 when she got married. Before then, her expectation was that it was only aged people that had problem of taking in. But fate had a different lesson to teach her.

The husband who was 28 and she, did all they could to have a child, naturally.

Her clock was ticking at this point, betraying her already prediction that by 40, she must have finished having her children.

Mrs. Danladi had a dream of having four children. But as much as she tried to conceive, her monthly menstruation would return. In some months, she would Google to understand what early pregnancy signs were. This could not help, occasioned by her menstruation that always returned. Books on a woman’s fertility signs she read seemed not working, either.

Poverty could not be held responsible for her ordeal, as her husband and she were doing very well. She was a banker and her husband, a lawyer. She was always thinking what the problem with pregnancy not coming her way was.

As they expected pregnancy, she was already 28 and her husband, 31. Five years down the line they were married, there was no child. Family members and friends cajoled them and many said that Halima preferred her career to raising children.

Much as her beloved ones’ words were piercing her, she was hopeful but only started avoiding those making caricature of her. But when she looked around, some couples who were yet to think of marriage when she married her husband, had children. She was dumbfounded and broke down in several occasions. One day, her husband and she considered IVF treatment.

UK Trip That Opened The Eyes

When Halima traveled to the UK as she always did, the myth she had grown up to believe which was that only aged ladies find it hard to conceive, was broken. On discovering this, she did not know what to make of the advise from her doctors in Nigeria, which was that her husband and she were young couple and should not tremble over infertility.

Halima was shocked in the UK when she discovered that under 37 women, made two-thirds on the line of women receiving IVF treatment. It was like a mud on her face – a reality, to also discover that women who were aged between 18 and 34 comprised about 44 per cent of IVF patients. She said that women aged 40 only occupied 20 percent of women seeking for IVF. She was worried of what her husband and her problems were.

Series of tests were conducted on Halima and her husband right there in the UK. It was later discovered that her husband had “anti-sperm antibodies”. This was not explained to them all the while they were junketing from one hospital to another. At this point, Danladi was already 34. Still young to perform as man if all had been well.

Danladi was having obstacle of blood and semen flowing properly that could make her wife pregnant, according to explanation by an expert. It was suggested that this could be as a result of injury he sustained in the cause of doing a hard job or illness that resulted to attack on his semen.

Problem Not Always From Women

Consequently, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, the Medical Director/CEO, Nordica Lagos, Abuja and Asaba, said in his numerous open presentations on fertility test, that men should always go for medical checks, just as their wives do and should not, apportion blame on their wives for challenges of fertility in marriage, because results had proved that problems also come from men.

In his words, “In Nigeria and perhaps much of Africa, the common thought regarding infertility is that the problem lies within the woman’s physiology. This is because a woman’s reproductive organs can be more easily damaged than a man’s.”

Well, when Danladi’s infertility predicament was unveiled, intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was introduced to Halima and Danladi. They went through the processes prescribed to them by their doctors and today, they have a child – Tamani. The couple love their daughter as if they are going to die today.

{Dr. Abayomi Ajayi}

Myths Around IVF Babies

While many women are proud mothers today through the help of IVF, there are persons who think IVF babies are not normal, being the reason the 34yr old lady didn’t disclose her identity to the media. She would not want further stigma, having suffered much, during the years of her holocaust.

According to Dr. Ajayi on the stigma against IVF babies, “Some say there is nothing, some say they may inherit their parents’ infertility, of course that may not be farfetched because many causes of infertility are inherited.

“So it is possible for that one to happen…Some talk about their intelligence but nothing unusual has been found on that aspect; these are just anecdotal. As far these things go, IVF babies are normal babes.

“From what I have seen, children conceived through IVF tend to be precocious. But this is not backed up with scientific fact. I have seen at least 1,000 of these babies and there hasn’t been any fact to suggest a risk.

“Few may have skeletal abnormalities but these things come from the pregnancy. In summary, certainly do not have any fears about babies born through IVF.”

Notwithstanding, while those who held negative opinion on IVF babies might not expunge their conundrum, in August 2015, Nigeria first IVF baby, Hannatu Kupchi secured admission into European Varsity.

Kupchi was born at Nisa Premier Hospital in Abuja, precisely on February 11 1998.

On the occasion marking his send forth in 2015, Dr. Ibrahim Wada, the medical director of Nisa Premier Hospital that guided the supposedly first IVF experiment in Nigeria said, “It is very difficult to make a statement on a day like this.”

He continued, “When I was out of this country, I knew there were people who wanted babies. I made the decision to come back to Nigeria to help people.

“It happened on the 11th of February 1998, when this historic event occurred at this hospital. The baby of that historic day is going to become a doctor. Because the parents stood firm, we were able to help others.”

Nordica’s IVF babies

Proud Of IVF Babies

There are persons and organizations on rampage such as the Fertility Advocate Awareness Initiative, FAAI, sensitizing people on what they should understand about fertility including the use of IVF.

During one of their outings in Lagos, the President of FAAI, Mr. Omoi Evborokhai frowned at the stigmatization and discrimination that some persons trade around IVF children.

Evborokhai said, “I can boast of my child because my child is expensive, very expensive. I have spent money and earned every kobo spent on the child, so my head should be high up there and not bowed down. That should not arise anyhow.

“We are proud of our babies, they bring joy to us, they complete our families and we are proud to talk about fertility treatment at anywhere and anytime.

“IVF babies are not inferior because IVF is special and brings joy to the families. IVF babies are normal; my baby walked when all children her age started school and is doing fantastically.”

IVF Babies Are Normal…This Is How  

Professor Oladapo Ashiru, Medical Director, Medical ART Centre, Lagos, highlighted the processes of IVF and concluded that the children are carried in the womb nine months like those conceived naturally.

“In the IVF conception, the egg is removed from the mother and mixed with the sperm in the laboratory dish or tube.

“Then the embryo is now placed into the mother’s womb two or three days after developing in the incubator in the laboratory.

“Basically the IVF baby stays in the womb for nine months; less three days.”

Whether such children are intelligent or not, the professor added, “IVF babies have grown to be very intelligent, normal and smart just as babies from normal conception…

“I truly do not have any concern about IVF babies. Those that can have issues are those with multiple conceptions such as twins, triplets or quadruplets. In these cases once they are exposed to good antenatal care they should be fine.”

Dr. Ajayi added a voice in confirmation to the professor’s stance, saying that children born through IVF are just like any other human being.

“If you interact with them, you will agree,” Dr Ajayi advocated. He went down memory lane and said, “Known then as “test-tube babies”, Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first baby to be conceived outside her mother’s womb.

“We have over 1,500 babies that were born at our Nordica centres and we want more people to join them so we can go on to propagate this gospel.”

As if that was not enough, checks revealed that outside Nigeria, a former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, exposed that she and her husband, ex-President Barack Obama, had their two children – Malia and Sasha – through IVF.

The first daughter Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998; while Natasha (aka Sasha), was born on June 10, 2001, according to the family’s Wiki entry.

Why Some IVF Treatments Don’t Yield Result

What could be misleading couples not to gain pregnancy through this process was that they go for just a cycle of IVF treatment and do not return if this failed.

Dr. Ajayi at the Failed IVF Cycle Open Forum organized by his medical centres in 2018 emphasized the need couples should go for multiple cycles.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), also clamorded that women below 35 with challenges of fertility could go for, at least, two IVF cycles.

This is because research has prevailed to expose that women are likely to achieve their desired result with multiple cycles than those with first cycle.

For instance, a Medical Journal of Australia released a study where success rates of women over the age of 40, having a live baby, climbed from 10 per cent at the primary cycle of IVF, to around 40 per cent at the end of the seventh cycle.

Fertility treatment and IVF Cost

Cost Of IVF In Nigeria

IVF is not conducted on a platter of gold and seems, it is not for the poor.

This was the story of Tade Alalade and her husband who until they had their twins on November 22 2018 after 11yrs in marriage, they had spent 11 million Naira in IVF treatment.

What pushed them to IVF was that they realized after getting married that they were AS, a condition that could make them breed a child or children who might be patients of sickle cell anemia or SS carrier. Apart from this, it was noted that Tade had several miscarriages.

Investigation revealed that one factor that could affect the cost of IVF treatment was age. Younger couple was positioned to have success quick than the aged. According to experts’ analysis, it was learnt that the IVF success rate for couples below 35 years was 40-45%; and 30 to 35% for couples between 35 to 39 years, correspondingly.

Our reporter learnt from the editor of Nigerian Price (NP), a forum that is bent on health issues, that IVF has financial prices to it. However, experts opined that a typical IVF treatment takes between 4 to 8 weeks depending on the fad of the case and most time there’s usually no need for admission.

“If the egg or sperm isn’t as viable as it ought to be due to age, the couple will have to buy the egg or sperm from donors which tends to increase the overall IVF treatment cost,” as according to experts.

“Egg donation can cost up to N500, 000 while sperm can cost up to N120, 000, but you can get a family member or close friend to donate the egg or sperm to you. This will reduce the cost dramatically.”

In a public presentation on 5th January 2019, the NP elaborated the different costs of IVF as they pertain to the Nigerian audience. It was an effort to create awareness on the intending IVF patients of what they should expect.

“The cost of the procedure usually ranges from as N800, 000 to as much as N1, 900, 000. It could be more or less depending on the centre and the treatment plan,” said NP.

It was noted that this money can be paid by bits depending the agreement reached by those involved.

“In some cases, you can pay 50 to 75% prior to starting the treatment,” said the source. “Then you can pay the balance when the treatment is completed.

The source enthused further, “The number of cycles is another vital factor that should be considered when calculating the cost of your IVF treatment.

“For example, at Nordica, a reputable IVF centre in the country, the cost ranges from N870, 000 to N1, 760, 000 depending on the number of cycle.”

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode

Curtailing Quackery In IVF

Across the country, fertility centres are sprouting in the modern times but government is disturbed. It does not want the name of the country to be thrown into the mud; hence it has geared up to checkmate their activities.

For instance, the Lagos State Government and the Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health, AFRH, have been working hand in hand to curb the state of the menace of quackery.

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode was in the forefront of this battle. In October 2018, he was represented by the Special Adviser on Primary Health Care, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga at the 8th Annual International Conference of the AFRH, dubbed, “New Frontiers in Assisted Reproductive Technology, ART”.

Ambode told the masses that the government would not leave anything unturned in its efforts to give every helping hand to AFRH to establish a safe environment for couples in need of infertility treatment. The governor does not want anyone to be hoodwinked while seeking for help on his or her fertility challenges.

He was looking at the importance child bearing is in the Nigerian communities and by extension, across Africa. He warned quacks to go out of business because without the Assisted Reproductive Technology today, many couples would be bereft of children.

“As a responsible government, we are willing to collaborate and partner with AFRH to ensure enforcement of the law against fake and unprofessional practitioners. This is a duty to us as a state,” Ambode said.

He continued, “Child bearing in this part of the world is considered one of the most important parameters in accessing successful marriage. This technology has put smiles on the face of couples and helped to hold many marriages that would have been truncated by challenges.

“I am happy to note that as a government we have recorded some progress in this regard through the Institute of Fertility Medicine in partnership with Bridge Clinic, which was designed to make ART services available at affordable rates for indigent couples, and has resulted in successful delivery of 74 babies to couples.”

Ambode was keen to seeing that ethical standard and affordability for couples were of utmost priority to the services rendered by professionals across the 43 IVF Centers that operate nationwide of which 35 being privately owned.

President of the AFRH, Dr. Faye Iketubosin supported Ambode, saying, “The rapidly unfolding development of Assisted Reproductive Technology practice calls for coming together of all Centers in Nigeria as we have done at this meeting, to discuss important issues with a view to check unethical practices and abuse of those seeking our services while obtaining the minimum standard for establishing IVF clinics.”

It has become obvious that many couples are fulfilling their parenting dream through IVF therefore defying negative impression once created around this process of conceiving, no matter the cost attached to it.

The Keynote Speaker at the AFRH conference, Joyce Harper, a professor of Human Genetics and Embryology at the Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, asked the authorities to egg on people who had their babies through IVF to tell their story given that in United Kingdom, there is no negative concern shown about IVF.

A fertility specialist and Medical Director, Lifeshore Fertility Clinic, Lagos, Dr. Taiwo Orebamj also advised those having fertility problem not to keep to themselves, but seek for help in the hands of medical experts. And if they are able to conceive through IVF, they should not allow stigma to erode them, but should speak out.

  • Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com