Mr. Biggy {Fiction}

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Mama cries each time she is reading the newspapers but we wouldn’t know why she does that. The paradox is that she puts on black clothing, sits at the corner of the parlour with a black pen, and ticks the newspapers. We often ponder to understand why she does that, but the answer keeps eluding us.

Obese man {Culled online}

The significance of the colour – black – in our house is inscrutable. The walls, chairs, floor and almost everything in our house, are painted black. Mama would pause while reading, raise her head and gaze at the ceiling. She stays that way for minutes before returning to read and continue ticking her newspapers.

Whenever she leaves looking at the ceiling, she reads with maximum concentration, like our Muslim neighbour, who was praying one day and his food was burning in the kitchen. He didn’t care to stand up and clean his kitchen of the burning food, upon pandemonium which neighbours stirred to do so, till he was through with his prayers.

This is how dedicated Mama is to her newspapers. She does not even allow any of us to see what it is she ticks. After reading with tears wetting a better portion of the newspapers, she would go to her bedroom and hide the newspapers.

We became worried about Mama’s strange behaviour and complained to Uncle Ibe, her only surviving brother, who resides in the neighbourhood. One hot afternoon, Uncle Ibe visited our house to ask her why she cries when she is reading the newspapers.

Mama never budged to respond to him, even when Uncle Ibe persisted. He is sweating profusely now, perhaps due to mind-numbing hours he has spent questioning Mama, and there is no electricity for the fan and the hope of it is farfetched.

Uncle Ibe resurrects a popular comment always made by people which is, fat people are pronto sweating. He is very fat and anyone who does not take a proper look of him can mistake him for an eight month pregnant woman. For this, his friends and admirers nickname him “Mr. Biggy” (a colloquial word we use in our environs to describe anyone who is excessively fat).

I am in turn referred to as “small biggy” because they say I look very much like him. Uncle Ibe’s bosom friend, Psychologist Nawata, tells people that Mr. Biggy is our uncle’s identity and he relates with it ultimately. Of which he does. But sometime, some persons cajole Uncle Ibe by their connotation in addressing him, yet he does not get angry, but avoids such people with his strength.

Psychologist Nawata makes it known that we all have identities and it is needless to insult each other because of how nature made them. Some have theirs through association, or any other thing, says Psychologist Nawata. He gives an instance that in the USA., where he practiced for three decades before returning home to drag ancestral land, people identify themselves as “Americans”.

“Americans is a collective identity,” he says. “Each of them has their personal identity.”

Psychologist Nawata says that individuals identify themselves as male or female, brother or sister, employee or employer and so on. “Not what you know only qualifies one as having an identity,” he says. “It is also how you know something that qualifies one to have identity and again, identity changes over time.” He advises us that we should not have poor self-esteem, but should be like his good friend who is proud as Mr. Biggy.

For real, Uncle Ibe does not have a poor sense of self-worth. Whether people are persuasive or not at him, he does not care. He plays down to accomplish laughter in people. He is in control of his life, although he eats too much and this habit does not go well with Mama, who always warns him of his asymmetrical eating habit. He persuades Mama to tell him why she cries, but she will not.

When Uncle Ibe saw that Mama was not giving in to his persuasion, he begins to tell us of an epic story. It is a story of how our forebears founded remote hectares of virgin land and established in them hundreds of thousands of years ago, which is the town where we reside today. Our elders have hidden this story from the younger ones for years, because they did not want us to feel bad of our history, for fear of stereotype from people in the surrounding environs.

“It was my mother, in her propitious manner, who told me that we are not aboriginal owners of our town,” Uncle Ibe says. This revelation came at a time migrants were drowning at the Mediterranean Sea and we wonder whether Mama cries because of it.

A woman living in the next flat to ours, Mama Chude, also cries whenever she is reading the newspapers. She is called after her child, Chude. At least, we know why she cries: because of the drowning migrants who are mainly Africans, wanting to cross the sea to Europe. Majority of them are asylum seekers and economic migrants, and they experience unfriendly treatment in many of their host countries.

With this, when Uncle Ibe told us that our forebears were migrants, we unanimously concluded that we are all migrants and this is our identity, no matter the name given to it: be it regular or irregular migrants. We are part and proud of our history.

Hours have gone by he has been questioning Mama and he is unsuitable for her now. She left for her room. We are amazed as she left, because we had thought that it was only Uncle Ibe, whom Mama would listen to. Disappointingly, she did not. What formed our opinion was that he is her only surviving brother out of four that had passed away as a result of sickle cell anemia at a tender age. Uncle Ibe was expected to die at nineteen: the age his brothers died. But he is forty-seven now with a wife and four children. His children are not sicklers. Conversely, people know their father and they are addressed as “Mr. Biggy’s Children”.

As Mama refused to tell Uncle Ibe why she cries always when she is reading the newspapers, he left in anger. We are not happy as well given that we wanted to understand the reason Mama cries. While we are brooding, echo of “Mr. Biggy! Mr. Biggy!!!” rent the atmosphere of the neighbourhood. We hear Uncle Ibe’s voice reciprocating to their thunderous ovation for him. He usually thumbs up at his callers and says, “I’m Biggy, you are smally!”

Children like him so much for this and follow him up and down anywhere he went. Uncle Ibe’s body frame makes him lose his privacy. He does not walk the street without being noticed. If one person sees him and shouts “Mr. Biggy!” the whole street will be aflame with “Mr. Biggyyyyyyyy!”

Mama is sleeping in her room and did not lock the door. I sneaked in to check where she hid the newspapers. My mind skips anytime she turns or makes some chirpy sounds. I searched for the newspapers from one of her box to another, they are not there. I gave up the search and was about to leave when I saw a heap at an edge covered with rug. I went straight for it, lo and behold, there are the newspapers. I flip through one, two and many others. I found out that Mama ticked issues pertaining to obesity and fat people. I did not need a soothsayer to tell me that Mama is crying because of her brother and the identity tag from people. Now, Mama rolls from one side of the bed to the other, and I stealthily left.

When Mama wakes up and notices that her newspapers had been tampered with. She summons all to the parlour. Not bright looking, she asks, “Who went to my newspapers and what did the person see?” The identity in our house is that we do not lie. When Mama repeated her statement the second time, I own up. “I’m the one, Mama,” I say. “I saw that you marked obesity related stories and I am wondering.”

Mama’s look is horrific, askance. She gazes into the thin ceiling, returns her gaze and asks us to listen attentively. “We have a history of sickle cell,” Mama says. “Ibe is not my only brother; those before him died as a result of sickle cell anemia and the only surviving brother is obese.” This is the reason Mama marks obesity related stories in the newspapers with curiosity, we guess.

Mama says that her fears are that obesity is taking over smoking and around the neighbourhood, there are severely obese children and the number is on the increase. She is shedding tears now when we heard “Mr. Biggy” renting the air outside. We know that Uncle Ibe is coming. Mama wipes her tears with the back of her left hand. She pretends as if nothing happened even though we can read the pains long years of her thinking about obesity, her brothers, has caused her. As Uncle Ibe comes in, we greet him. I look at him and myself and it dawns on me that I will be like Uncle Ibe when I am of his age but can only survive if I listen to what Psychologist Nawata teaches.

Psychologist Nawata teaches that obese people can combat the problem if we look at our mental and physical health to avoid depression, watch what we eat and exercise. This can benefit posterity. At this point, Uncle Ibe asks Mama why she cries whenever she is reading the newspapers; she did not say a word but enters her room. Uncle Ibe left our house in anger and vows never to come to Mama for this again. I bend down in rumination of my life, hoping that I will follow the rules outlined by Psychologist Nawata, in order to evade future tears from Mama.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. He founded ooreporters.com

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Nigerian Junk Houses Recurrent Collapse

Houses collapse in Nigeria without a gap of time leaving many killed and others with degrees of injuries, and government policies on this are better not imagined let alone hoped on, ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes

Building collapse has become a frequent occurrence in Nigeria with authorities paying lip service to arrest the situation. There had never been stringent punitive measures and policies that could spur building engineers and regulatory bodies to wake up from their aged-long slumber. The successive governments in Nigeria are best known for setting up Commission of Inquiry to look into the root cause of the collapse, which dies immediately it’s set up. Statement that could follow such make-believe commission would be, “Federal and state agencies are investigating the cause of the collapse of the building”.

Such lackadaisical policies that the Nigerian Government operates had held it back not to prod into action and demolish a three storey building housing a school, at Itafaji, Lagos Island that was marked for demolition since 2014, till it killed over 20 pupils on March 23 2019, with over 100 trapped. Moved by the tragedy, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), a regulatory body in the state where the incident occurred, stirred to demolish 180 affected buildings around the area. The body barefacedly traded blame that they would not understand why property owners were unconcern to bring down their marked houses, having been served notice to do so, dating back to 2013.

It did not meet the eyes why authorities could not go after such building having found them ineffective. On Monday, March 25 2019, barely two weeks for the bubbles of the collapsed school building to settle, a two-storey edifice collapsed in the middle of the day at the same Lagos Island. Another side to the story was that no one died given that occupants of the building had noticed its junk nature and exited their apartments. This building had also, been marked for demolition by the Lagos State building control agency, few days before it collapsed.

While no death was recorded in the two-storey building collapse, no fewer than 34 people were killed on 8 March 2016, when a five-storey building under construction in Lekki District, Lagos, collapsed.  Death was also the fate of 115 people, when a guesthouse that was situated inside the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) property in Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos State, collapsed on 12 September 2014. It was noted that the National Emergency Management Agency (NAMA), supposedly withheld information pertaining to the incident but this singular act, earned them condemnation from the citizens.

Without a doubt, junk houses sprinkle Nigeria but they are majorly in Lagos, the country’s former seat of power. This trend of building collapse started happening like every day event, after the country got its independence from Britain in 1960. Notwithstanding, reports from the authorities suggested that many of the buildings exceeded the number of allowed floors, but property owners connived with corrupt government officials and exceeded approved plan. Some government agencies like the Nigeria Building And Road Research Institute (NBBRI), the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), and the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), had warned against inadequacies in building construction.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. He founded ooreporters.com

What laws would Lawan promote as President of 9th Senate?

By Odimegwu Onwumere

As the Yobe North lawmaker, Senator Ahmed Lawan has emerged President of the 9th Senate, crossing the margin of 54 votes needed to win the election today, June 11 2019, there are little things we need to look into.

Senator Ahmad Lawan {President of 9th senate}

It’s not about defeating Senator Ali Ndume of Borno-South senatorial district who polled less than 28 votes, with 109 Senate seats but only 107 were present at the inauguration. It’s not about the jubilation by APC senators, as Lawan garnered 79 votes.

While this treatise was not meant to debase the success of Lawan or uphold the failure of Ndume, one thing we should consider is whether the senate would be independent referring to the three tiers of my elementary study of government: Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

I’m not sure why some people were jubilating that the emergence of Lawan would become the death of Biafra, PDP, but “Up, Up, Up for Buhari”. Whatever this means. Some believed that with Lawan’s win some anti-corruption laws can be passed.

Some of the people who believed in this were of the view that the senate which Dr. Bukola Saraki was its president carpeted such laws. How true is this notion? Remember that Saraki separated the senate from the executive and this does not mean that he was opposed to Rule of Law. No.

I think Saraki wanted a senate where Due Process was supposed to be sacrosanct, and not buying into Buhari’s fascism in a democracy. Or, as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo once put it when he held sway as President of Nigeria — “Do or Die” politics.

While congratulations were renting the air for Senator Lawan, we must not fail to congratulate with Senator Ndume for his autonomous mind.

Ndume was stoical and never allowed himself to be pushed around. He was accommodating not to be a ‘yes boy’ in the house. The later is where the fear lies with the emergence of Lawan as senate president. Is he going to be a ‘yes boy’ or independent minded like many have given the later to Ndume?

 Let us believe that Lawan will keep to his campaign promises that the budget would be passed within 3 months in each year. He also promised that the budget would run from January to December in each calendar year. Lawan also promised that he would promote anti-corruption, anti-unemployment and restore the economy laws.

Nigerians have heard of such promises in the past that later turned bogus. It is not about this win but about the senate becoming independent which was how it should be. Let us pray that the laws Lawan will be interested in passing not be those of Fulani herdsmen and the Miyetti Allah’s move to recolonise Nigeria by planting Fulani across the country. In a nutshell, let’s pray that the Senate under Lawan will not be an additional-room of the Buhari presidency, which was not what the senate under Saraki represented.

*Odimegwu Onwumere*

June 11 2019.

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

“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