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Tax evaders have two months left to pay through VAIDS or risk severe punishment – FG

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The Federal Government launched the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) on June 29, 2017 to address the problem of low tax compliance in the country and to generate the much-needed revenue for public expenditure.

The launch was greeted with mixed feelings, with some people questioning the rationale behind granting amnesty to tax evaders, while others considered the initial nine-month deadline for compliance too long. The scheme outlined government’s plan to grant tax payers a time-limited opportunity to regularise their status without penalty.

The plan, being executed in collaboration with state governments, concentrates on the national duty of all Nigerian companies and citizens to pay their taxes, wherever their income is earned, wherever they reside and no matter how rich they are.

It was predicated on a low six per cent tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, considered one of the lowest globally.  It has been designed to raise the ratio to about 15 per cent by 2020, just two years from now. Another basis for the scheme is that tax evasion leaves an unfair burden of payment on those who can afford it least – Nigeria’s poorest people.

Taxation is generally considered a fair means of wealth redistribution as high net worth individuals pay higher than low-income earners. VAIDS provides a one-off opportunity for evaders to avoid the wrath of the law. Between July 1 and December 31, 2017, evaders were encouraged to regularise their tax status in exchange for immunity from prosecution, tax audit and be absolved from penalty charges and interest.

Evaders who delayed participation beyond December 31, 2017 were projected to pay interest on overdue tax balances. Those willing to participate could enter into an arrangement to pay in instalments of several tranches. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, explaining the scheme, noted that the behaviour of some of the nation’s richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria, who seemed to consider paying tax to be optional, could no longer be tolerated.

No hiding place

The Federal Government has, meanwhile, signed data exchange agreements with several countries including the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Switzerland, Mauritius, Panama and Bahamas.

These are some of the countries that some wealthy Nigerians are said to have both cash and houses hidden. Under the agreements, there is an exchange of banking information on cash and assets such as landed properties owned by Nigerians in those countries. This strategy has created a “no hiding place” challenge for tax evaders residing in Nigeria or abroad.

The Federal Government has also put in place a data mining mechanism to fish them out. It is expected that at least US$1 billion (about N360 billion) could be raised from the scheme which will reduce Nigeria’s borrowing needs, allow investment in vital infrastructure and spur development.

Speaking at its launch, the Minister of Finance, had said, “During the last eight years, Nigeria has failed to reduce its debt levels despite high oil prices and nominal GDP growth. We have inherited a situation where our debt and underdevelopment is getting worse, not better.

This cannot continue. “Neither can the behaviour of some of our richest citizens and multinationals operating in Nigeria – who seem to consider paying tax to be optional. From 2018, international law will make it easier than ever to track these evaders down and punish them. “

This scheme is in line with similar initiatives launched in 2016 in India, Indonesia and South Africa. We know they work, we know it’s the right thing to do and the Treasury desperately needs the money.”

In a recent address, Mrs. Adeosun said, “The unique cooperation between the various arms of the Federal Government and foreign governments has provided an unprecedented level of data that allows the Nigerian government to profile taxpayers accurately and identify those whose lifestyle and assets are not consistent with their declared income.

“A lot of data mining is going on daily, both locally and internationally, on property ownership and other items. Data is an extremely powerful tool that is now being utilized. For instance, we have reviewed all companies that received major payments from the Federal Government in the last five years and found that even those who made money from government under-declared.

“On personal income taxes, we reviewed property and company ownership as well as registration of high value assets and foreign exchange allocations, which gives us a sense of the lifestyles of the persons.

“But again, we found major non-compliance. In some cases, people declared as little as N10 million as income but purchased expensive property overseas and in Nigeria, registered high specification vehicles and funded luxurious personal events costing multiples of the declared income”.

Looming prosecution/severe punishment

Those who ignore VAIDS risk criminal prosecution as from July 1, 2018. Severe punishment is planned for tax evaders at the end of the amnesty period as they face imprisonment of up to five years, severe extra penalties – up to 100% of the outstanding tax due – compound interest at 21% per annum as well as forfeiture of assets Mrs. Adeosun told journalists, penultimate Friday, that government officials had been working assiduously, preparing cases against tax evaders which would begin in July. (Vanguard)

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Why Buhari did not attend presidential debate – Spokesperson

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The campaign office of President Mohammadu Buhari has explained why the president was absent for the debate slated to hold on Saturday evening.

According to a statement credited to the campaign spokesperson, Festus Keyamo SAN, FCIArb (UK), the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is also the APC Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming Presidential Election, President Muhammadu Buhari, could not attend the Presidential Debate organised by the Nigeria Election Debate Group and the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria which held today, Saturday, January 19, 2019 for the following reasons:

Firstly, out of several opportunities afforded our candidate to interact with the Nigerian people directly by different organisations, our presidential candidate has taken full advantage of another town-hall meeting organized by another group which held on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. He was also joined at that town-hall meeting by our Vice-Presidential candidate who is also the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN. Nigerians from all walks of life who were physically present and through on-line platforms asked uncensored questions which were adequately answered. It was also transmitted live by various broadcast networks in Nigeria.

In addition, the busy and hectic official and campaign schedules of Mr. President clashed with this programme. Today, Mr. President commissioned the Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State and campaigned in Niger and Plateau States where his time was over-stretched by the tumultuous and mammoth crowds in both States, (as seen by Nigerians on live television) and only returned to Abuja late this evening.

Whilst we thank the organisers for the invitation, we want to assure Nigerians that we shall continue to hold these debate groups and Nigerians in high esteem which our candidate has demonstrated during past election debates when he honoured similar invitations. Nigerians will also recall that a few weeks ago, our Vice-Presidential candidate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also attended the debate organized by the same organisations.

Lastly, we note the statement of the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who actually came for the event and left the venue when he did not see Mr. President, who is our candidate. According to him, he would not want to “attack” Mr. President in his absence.

It should now be obvious to Nigerians that for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, this election is all about attacking the person and programmes of Mr. President and not about proffering their own solutions to the problems they created during their sixteen years of misrule, maladministration and looting of the nation’s resources. When they cannot see President Buhari to attack, the content of their campaign becomes hollow, empty and “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. Now that Atiku Abubakar had a unique opportunity to explain to Nigerians his own vision and mission without a President Buhari in the picture, he ran away. Afterall, he has his own eight years of crass and grand corruption as Vice President to defend before the Nigerian people.

On February 16, 2019 we urge Nigerians to demonstrate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, through their votes, how empty indeed their campaign has always been and to vote massively for President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN who have started the rebuilding process of our great nation.

Thank you.

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Irregularities mar Paralympics Committee election – Obuh

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The Tuesday, 15th January 2019 Presidential election of Paralympic Committee of Nigeria has been dubbed fraudulent, full of irregularities and outcome totally rejected by the President of Para-powerlifting Federation of Nigeria, Queen Obuh.
Rejecting the election in its entirety, Queen Obuh told newsmen that the process of the election subverts the constitution and guidelines for election into the body.
The Para-powerlifting Federation of Nigeria President, Obuh who is one of the presidential candidates said delegates for the election were handpicked within the National Stadium venue of the election instead of from federations across the six geopolitical zones of the country as stipulated by the constitution of PCN.
She said: “One of the zonal representatives claimed Para Tennis but to my amazement Kano State Director of Sports said they don’t do such sport in Kano.
 “The elections lacked merit in all ramifications and the evidences are there. Most of the zonal representatives were not eligible to vote. Most of them were hand-picked by the officials of the Sports Ministry on the Election Day.
According to PCN election guideline, “The elections will be conducted by the electoral committee which shall comprise not more than (5) five persons and not less than (3) three persons or members.
“The Elections shall be monitored by the representatives of Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and members of the Nigerian Olympic Committee.”
Furthermore, it was clearly stated in the Conduct of Election in the Guideline for the election that “The chairman of states Para Sports Associations or The Director of state sports council/Commission shall Authenticate the zonal candidates letter for the zonal election, but all these were fragrantly flaunted.
The most shocking according to Obuh is why the election should be conducted by the Ministry instead of playing observatory role as the constitution stipulates.
Recounting her experience, Lucy Ejike, the team captain of Para-powerlifting of Nigeria said she stood for Athletes Representative election on the 10th of January against Flora Ugonwa which was declared inconclusive but to her dismay, at the PCN presidential election yesterday, Flora Ugunnwa was called to vote as Athletes Representative
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Why I’ll privatise NNPC if elected president – Atiku

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The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, said on Wednesday that he would privatise the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation if elected, describing the state-owned oil firm as a “mafia organisation.”

Atiku was quoted by TheCable as saying at an interactive session with the business community in Lagos that he would take the step even if doing so would cost him his life.

He explained that he sold the idea to President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he worked with as a deputy between 1999 and 2007 but that the former president did not approve of it.

Atiku said he was convinced that the NNPC would run better if not managed by the government.

He said, “Let me go back to my experience. When we got into office, I walked up to my boss and said, “Sir, there are two mafia organisations in government: one is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation while the other one is the National Electricity Power Authority.

“I said unless we dismantle these mafia organisations, we cannot make progress. Let’s privatise them… the long and short of this is that I am committed to privatisation as I have said. I swear even if they are going to kill me, I will do it (privatise NNPC).”

Atiku also spoke on how an expert in the petroleum sector influenced his stance on the privatisation of the NNPC.

The former Vice President said, “I asked a Nigerian professor based in America; I said, ‘Prof, do you have a ministry of petroleum in America?’ He said no. I said, ‘Do you have an organisation like the NNPC over there?’ He said no. And America produces oil more than any country? He said yes.

“So I asked him, ‘How do they do it in America?’ and he said taxation, and I decided that I will go by taxation too.”

Atiku criticised the current administration for the delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.

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