NYSC Certificate Forgery: Why We Can’t Arrest Adeosun – Police

The police have stated that they cannot investigate the alleged forgery of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, exemption certificate by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, because there is no formal complaint against her.

The Force spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, told newsmen in Abuja, that the Nigerian Police was not aware of the allegations against the minister, adding that no one had come forward to lodge a complaint against her.

“There must be a complaint, either written or verbal to us. You must write to a divisional police station or the Commissioner of Police or to the Inspector-General of Police; we have not received any complaint, so we can’t investigate it (allegation of forgery),” Moshood, acting Deputy Commissioner of Police stated.

Asked if the media reports of the allegation were not sufficient for the police to initiate a probe, the spokesman stated that police detectives could not initiate an investigation based on newspaper reports.

He insisted on a written or verbal complaint to the police, noting that this was the basis for all police investigations.

“I have not read the report of what you said was published in newspapers. As I said, we can’t investigate the allegations until there is a verbal or written complaint against her (the finance minister),” the police explained.

Two non-governmental organisations had reportedly petitioned the IG to probe the allegations against Adeosun.

Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre, and an anti-corruption group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, had challenged the minister to break her silence and respond to the allegation.

Government to Raise Fiscal Revenues Through Alcohol from Monday

The new excise duty for alcoholic beverages and tobacco earlier approved by President Muhammadu Buhari will take effect from Monday, June 4, 2018, says the Federal Government.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls on Sunday that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, in March announced that the President had granted a grace period of 90 days to manufacturers of the products

Adeosun said the new excise duty rates would spread over a three-year period from 2018 to 2020 in order to moderate the impact on prices of the products.

According to her, the upward review of the excise duty rates for alcoholic beverages and tobacco was to raise the government’s fiscal revenues.

She said that it would also reduce the health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse.

Adeosun said the new duty rate on tobacco was a combination of the existing ad-valorem base rate and specific rate; while the ad-valorem rate was replaced with a specific rate for alcoholic beverages.

She said that under the new rates for tobacco, in addition to the 20 per cent ad-valorem rate, each stick of cigarette will attract one naira specific rate per stick; that is N20 per pack of 20 sticks in 2018.

She said that in 2019, tobacco will attract two naira specific rate per stick or N40 per pack of 20 sticks.

The minister said that by 2020, tobacco would begin to attract N2.90 kobo specific rate per stick or N58 per pack of 20 sticks.

Adeosun explained that Nigeria’s cumulative specific excise duty rate for tobacco was 23.2 per cent of the price of the most sold brand.

This is against the 38.14 per cent in Algeria, 36.52 per cent in South Africa and 30 per cent in Gambia.

She said also that the new specific excise duty rate for alcoholic beverages cuts across beer and stout, wines and spirits for the three years, 2018 to 2020.

Under the new regime, beer and stout will attract 0.30k per centilitre (cl) in 2018 and 0.35k per cl each in 2019 and 2020.

Wines will attract N1.25k per cl in 2018 and N1.50k per cl each in 2019 and 2020, while N1.50k per cl was approved for spirits in 2018, N1.75k per cl in 2019 and N2 per cl in 2020.

The Director-General, Consumer Protection Council, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said the decision to increase the excise duty on these commodities was consistent with prevailing global practices.

He said he was convinced that government’s approach would foster consumer confidence, provide regulatory clarity and prioritise safety, to reinforce the mandate of the council.

The International Monetary Fund, in its 2017 mission, advised Nigeria to raise the excise duty on a stick of cigarette to N5, which is five times the approved amount.

“The low tax level prevails even though Nigeria is the highest alcohol drinking country in Africa and leads the top 10 largest beer drinking countries,” IMF said.

The new rates fall short of the more aggressive recommendations of the World Health Organisation in Article 6 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which suggests 70 per cent excise on tobacco products.


FG To Clear Workers’ Promotion Arrears With N34.2bn – Adeosun

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has revealed that the Federal Government would settle the inherited debts and contractual obligations to local contractors between 2006 and 2015.

Adeosun made this known while appearing before the ad hoc committee of the Senate on Promissory Note Programme and Bond Issuance.

The committee is chaired by the Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Francis Alimikhena.

Adeosun, according to a statement issued by her Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde, explained that the debts owed to various classes of contractors, including the terminal benefits of ex-workers of the Nigerian Airways, would be repaid through promissory notes and bonds issuance.

The minister stated that the unpaid Federal Government obligations constituted a drag on economic activities across many sectors, adding that the present administration was determined to address the problem.

She listed the unpaid obligations to include those to pensioners and salary and promotion arrears to civil servants; obligations to contractors and suppliers, who in turn, owed banks, increasing the quantum of non-performing loans; and unpaid electricity bills by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.

Others are exporters’ owed funds under the Export Expansion Grant Scheme and unpaid refunds due to state governments in respect of projects undertaken on behalf of the Federal Government.

Adeosun stated, “The Federal Government is working towards settling these inherited debts. The Small and Medium-scale Enterprises are the lifeline of our nation.

“The Federal Government will be stimulating the economy by paying these legacy debts.”

The government, according to her, has approved the issuance of promissory notes and bonds to settle its contractual obligations, subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

On the ex-Nigerian Airways workers, the minister explained that their terminal benefits were reconciled and agreed at N45bn following verification.

She debunked claims by the ex-workers that there was a presidential approval for the payment of terminal benefits of N45bn to them.

Adeosun added, “There has been a misconception in the media that the President had approved the payment of N45bn terminal benefits to the workers.

“There is no presidential approval and no appropriation yet for the payment of N45bn to the ex-workers.”

Earlier, the representative of the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Usman, had told members of the Senate ad hoc committee that the government paid N34.2bn to clear the promotion arrears of workers in the MDAs.

Usman, who is the Director of Funds in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, added that the payment process was still ongoing.

“These payments were made to the accounts of the beneficiaries in the MDAs after detailed verification of all documents attached as proof of promotion,” he said.



ICAN’s Merit Night Awards Celebrates Adeosun, Fowler, Others

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) on Saturday night honoured the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, with the 2018 Merit Award.

Other high profile personalities also honoured by the Institute were: the Akarigbo of Remo, HRH Oba Babatunde Ajayi; Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Isiaka Abdulrazaq and a Fellow of the Institute, Mrs. Margaret Unubun.

The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and Fate Foundation received the Institute’s Merit Award in the Corporate Category while a Posthumous award was given to Late Alhaji Zubair Abdullah and Late Mrs. Uchenna Ifesinachi Erobu.

The ICAN President, Isma’ila Muhammadu Zakari, speaking on Adeosun’s contribution into the economy said;

“This honour is in recognition of your outstanding contributions to the ideals of our Institute which include: Accountability, Integrity, Honesty, Exemplary Leadership and Nation Building.

“Particularly for your selfless service as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and for your roles in strengthening the Nigerian economy and entrenching accountability through the introduction of 22 Points Fiscal Reform Action Plan and the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme,” the ICAN boss stated.

The Minister has played leading roles in the development of various cost cutting initiatives through the pursuit of carefully thought out policies aimed at promoting transparency in the payment process, drastic reviews of the procurement process, and the sanitisation of the public-sector payroll system which led to the elimination of huge number of ghost workers.

Under her leadership, numerous reforms agenda of the Federal Government had been undertaken such as the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), implementation of Treasury Single Account, implementation of Whistleblower Policy, establishment of an Efficiency Unit, establishment of Development Bank of Nigeria, launch of Asset Tracking and Management Project, and introduction Fiscal Sustainability Plans for States, among others.

The award ceremony was held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos

N647.39 Billion Divided Between Federal, State And Local Governments

The sum of N647.39 billion from the federal account has been divided by all three tiers of the government to enable workers get their salaries before the Easter break.

This was revealed during the FAAC meeting which was presided by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun and attended by a representative of the Permanent Secretary and Director of Home Finance in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Olubunmi Siyanbola; Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris; Chairman of Finance Commissioners’ Forum and Adamawa State Commissioner for Finance, Hon. Mahmoud Yenusa; States’ Commissioners of Finance and Accountant-Generals, and representatives of revenue generating agencies.

The money was the revenue collection for the month of February 2018 which was approved at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting on Wednesday.

Adeosun, who spoke to journalists at the end of the Committee’s meeting, said the N647.39 billion distributed to the three tiers of government was N11.836 billion higher than the N635.554 billion shared in the previous month.

Statutory revenue accounted for N557.943 billion of the total revenue distributed on Wednesday while Value Added Tax accounted for the balance of N89.447 billion.

The total revenue distribution in the previous month was made up of statutory revenue of N538.908 billion and Value Added Tax of N96.646 billion.

On the States’ dispute with the revenue paid by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation into the Federation Account, the Minister said the FAAC would reconcile the revenue figures with the top management of the Corporation led by the Group Managing Director, Mr. Maikanti Baru.

“The NNPC is a major channel of our mineral revenue. Some issues have been raised by the States on the revenue paid into the Federation Account by NNPC.

“These are being looked into and within the next 48 hours, we will be a joint meeting with the NNPC Group Managing Director to address the concerns of the States. The reconciliation of the revenue figures is part of a healthy process to ensure transparency and accountability,” Adeosun said.

The Chairman of Finance Commissioners’ Forum, Mahmoud Yenusa, explained that the reconvening of the meeting had become necessary to enable States pay workers their salaries before the Easter break.

“The account submitted by the NNPC is not acceptable to the States but we are willing to jointly reconcile the revenue figure with the leadership of NNPC.

“We agreed last night to reconvene the meeting for the benefits of Nigerian workers at all tiers of government, to enable them receive their salaries,” the Adamawa State Commissioner of Finance said.

Meanwhile, the Accountant General of Federation on Wednesday signed the mandates for the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the approved revenue allocation into the accounts of the Federal, State and Local Governments.

Giving further breakdown of the revenue distribution, the Finance Minister said the Federal Government received N257.927 billion of the net statutory revenue as against the N249.366 billion received in the previous month, while the State and Local Governments’ share of the statutory revenue was N130.824 billion and N100.86 billion, respectively.

The States and Local Governments had last month gotten N126.482 billion and N97.512 billion, respectively.

The 13% derivation accounted for the balance of the statutory revenue of N57.356 billion.

The 36 States received Value Added Tax of N42.935 billion compared with N46.39 billion received in the previous month, while the Federal and Local Governments received VAT of N12.88 billion and N30.054 billion, respectively.

Both Federal and Local Governments had received N13.917 billion and N32.473 billion, respectively, from VAT in February 2018.





Fg To Name And Prosecute Tax Evader From March 31 – Adeosun

The Federal Government  said on Thursday that it would name, shame and prosecute tax evaders who will not take advantage of the amnesty provided by the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme to regularise their tax profiles.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, state  this at a VAIDS stakeholders’ symposium held in Kaduna State.

The sensitisation programme was graced by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Idris Ahmed; Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler; members of the State Executive Council; and business owners.

The minister, according to a statement by her Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde, also said that the Federal Government would strictly adhere to the confidentiality clause in the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in tax matters.

This, she added, was in line with the guidelines of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Adeosun stated that the Federal Government had the political will to prosecute tax evaders once the amnesty programme was over by March 31, 2018.

She said, “The Federal Government has the political will and data to go after tax evaders who fail to take advantage of the tax amnesty programme. Many Nigerians cannot explain their lifestyles or match their lifestyles, assets and incomes with their tax payment.

“We will close the VAIDS at the expiration of the programme on March 31, 2018. And once the programme is closed, we will name and shame, and prosecute tax evaders.”

On data sharing with foreign countries, the minister noted that the information sourced would be strictly used for tax purposes.

“The guidelines require that the automatic exchange of financial account information must be specifically designed with residence jurisdictions’ tax compliance in mind rather than being a by-product of domestic reporting for it to be effective,” Adeosun added.

She noted that the automatic exchange of information had become necessary to combat tax evasion and protect the integrity of tax systems.

The VAIDS, according to her, has been strengthened by the data on financial accounts, property and trusts shared by other countries.

Adeosun advised offshore asset owners to utilise the VAIDS window to regularise their taxes before the end of the amnesty programme.

“The offshore tax shelter system is basically over. Those who have hidden money overseas are being exposed and while Nigerians can legally keep their money anywhere in the world, they must first pay

any taxes due to the Nigerian government so that we can fund the needs of the masses and create jobs and wealth for our people,” she added.

El-Rufai, who disclosed that he declared his assets in 2017, commended the collaboration between the federal and state governments on tax matters.

He pledged to provide land ownership data to tax authorities at the federal and state levels as part of measures to bring more income earners and asset owners into the tax net.

The governor gave an assurance that revenue from taxes would be judiciously used in improving the lives of residents of the state through investment in infrastructure, primary health care and education.

Fowler, on his part, emphasised the need for Nigerians to join hands with the federal and state governments to improve the standard of living through compliance with tax payment.

Four Million New Taxpayers Targeted By Fg Through VAIDS – Adeosun

The Federal Government is targeting to bring a total of four million fresh taxpayers into the tax net through the implementation of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme,

The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, at the United Nations in New York gave the number at the ongoing Platform for Collaboration on Tax Conference.

The VAIDs programme offers a grace period from July 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, for tax defaulters to freely pay back to government what they owe.

In exchange for full and honest declaration, the government promises to waive penalties that should have been levied and also waive the interest that should have been paid on overdue tax.

Also, those who declared their tax obligation honestly would not be subjected to any investigation or tax audit after the nine month grace period.

Adeosun explained that the VAIDS tax amnesty program was targeted at increasing the tax payer base, raising revenue and regularising the tax status of many Nigerians.

She noted that the scheme was aimed at raising at least $1bn for the government, adding that more Nigerians have indicated interest in taking  advantage of the opportunity.

She said, “We are using technology to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the programme. Project Light House is using advanced data mining and data analytics techniques to identify tax defaulters, establish their tax liabilities and send notifications.

“The system-wide computer software, which drives Project Lighthouse, aggregates data from multiple sources such as bank accounts, land registry records, company registration data, tax filings, customs’ records, asset ownership records, among others, to identify, profile and track tax evaders.

In a statement on Friday from the minister’s Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde, she said the Federal Government had engaged a leading international Asset Tracing and Investigation Agency (Kroll), to trace and track illicit flows and assets.

In addition, she said Nigeria had signed the Multilateral Competent Authority on Common Reporting Standards, which allows for exchange of financial account information.

The country, according to her, is expected to effect the first exchange by 2019 as soon as the domestic legal framework was completed.

Bank Account Data Will Be Used To Expose Tax Debtors..Adeosun

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has implored wealthy Nigerians to take advantage of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme to regularise their tax status and escape unsavoury consequences.

She said this in Enugu State when the state government hosted officials of VAIDS.

Data on property, bank accounts, shareholdings and other income sources of individuals and corporate entities has been compiled by the federal government she also said.

According to her, VAIDS was conceived to allow Nigerian companies and individuals to do what is right for the country, Enugu State and the citizens.

Adeosun said, “From our records, there seems to be a few big men and big women from this part of the country, who may need to think very carefully about making a VAIDS declaration.

“We have been compiling data on property, bank accounts, shareholdings and other sources that suggest that many people have not been paying the right taxes. VAIDS is an opportunity to regularise.”

The minister added that huge sums of money had been moved out of Nigeria without the owners paying a kobo in tax.

The event was attended by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, members of the state’s executive council, legislature and traditional rulers.

The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Tunde Fowler, was represented at the event by the Executive Secretary of the Joint Tax Board, Oseni Elamah.

Also present were representatives of the business community in the state. They included the Enugu Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture; Nsukka Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture; bank executives; lawyers; market traders; electronic dealers; hospital owners; school owners and transport owners associations.

Meanwhile, the process of participation in the VAIDS has been made easier for new taxpayers as well as existing ones, who have not been paying appropriate taxes.

According to the VAIDS Office in the Federal Ministry of Finance, the first step for new taxpayers is to apply for a Tax Identification Number, which will be fast-tracked.

Whistle -Blowing: Two Officials Suspended, others Probed By The FG

The Federal Government on stated it had started investigation into over 200 whistle-blowing tips on tax officials and taxpayers for under-declaration of taxes as well as demand and receipt of gratification by tax officials.

It was disclosed on Sunday by the Minister Of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun in Abuja while presiding over the meeting of the Whistle-blower Unit in the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit.

She also affirmed the suspension of two senior tax officials in Delta and Benue states based on verified tips from whistle-blowers had been requested and secured by the ministry

Adeosun said the government through the ministry had also commenced the process of sanitising the tax administration and revenue collection system of dishonest operatives.

Adeosun, according to a statement issued by her Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Mr. Oluyinka Akintunde, said the sanitisation of the tax administration and revenue collection system was part of the government’s efforts at enhancing the willingness of the citizens to pay their taxes.

The minister stated, “The ministry is currently analysing over 200 additional whistle-blowing tips, including recordings between tax officials and potential taxpayers in which various practices designed to reduce tax payable were detailed.

“These practices include demands for personal gratification by tax officers, promises to procure backdated tax clearance certificates, and offers to conspire to reduce taxes payable.”

In order to deal with the influx of the whistle-blowing tips, the minister, the statement noted, had directed the reorganisation of the Whistle-blower Unit to fast-track reports relating to those in the revenue-generating agencies.

She said, “Encouraging our citizens to pay taxes is a matter of law but it is also a matter of trust. Those who work in our tax offices must, therefore, demonstrate the highest level of integrity. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari understands that to reduce our reliance on oil means every citizen must pay their taxes as and when due.

“However, people will not be encouraged to pay if they believe that those involved in the assessment are not transparent or are dishonest. We will continue to sanitise the system and also improve our controls.”

Adeosun gave an assurance that the ministry would continue to root out fraudsters who compromised the integrity of the tax administration and revenue collection system.

She lauded members of the public for volunteering valuable information, including voice recordings and other evidences, to the Whistle-blower Unit in the ministry.

Adeosun enjoined members of the public to desist from the procurement of tax certificates that were not consistent with their true incomes.

She warned against reliance on such documents and advised those who might have procured such tax certificates in the past to take advantage of the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme to regularise their tax profiles.

She added, “We have cases of procurement of tax clearance certificates with no corresponding records or assessments in the tax offices. In such cases, although payments have been made, but there are no underlying assessment. So automatically, we will flag such companies for investigation.

“The data analysis being undertaken within the Federal Ministry of Finance is readily exposing those who have obtained tax clearance certificates that are either forged or are not consistent with their true income levels.”

Officers Of Nigerian Customs Service To Get Salary Increment

The Officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) have been promised a salary increment by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.

Adeosun promised the workers at the celebration of International Customs Day at the Customs Command and Staff College Gwagwalada, FCT on Friday in Abuja.

The theme of the event was “A secure business environment for economic development’’.

The minister was represented by the Ministry’s Director of Finance, Mrs Oladudumi Biosola.

Adeosun urged officers of the NCS to put in more efforts to rise above target in revenue drive.

She said that security of trade environment was central for business to proper, adding that security aspect of Customs role was as important as its revenue role.

“The theme of this year Customs day coincides with the current ease of doing business initiative of the Federal Government.

“We understand that the initiative is already yielding dividends based on the fact that we have improved by 24 points in the World Bank ranking system,’’ Adeosun said.

She commended the NCS for its remarkable success in ensuring national security in the past years.

According to her, seizure of arms .and ammunitions at the seaports were the possible indications that the Service is alive to its responsibilities.

The minister also pledged to give the NCS the required support to succeed.

The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, said that the Service had made steady progress in automation of its processes.

The Comptroller-General said in addition to these were other reforms aimed at ensuring a secured business environment.

Ali said that other ongoing reforms in the Service were repositioning it through strategic deployment, training and automation of Customs processes.

He said that clearance process through Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR), fast track facility for compliant traders and the post clearance audit were aimed at reducing clearance time and cost.

“The minister has been working diligently on how to see the welfare of the NCS improves.

“We are presently working on the computation of figures and she is waiting for that figure.

“As soon that is made available, then, the decision between her and Mr President will determine what Customs gets.

“I assure all Customs officers that between the minister and the President, both are all ready to see that there is an improvement in welfare of NCS,’’ Ali said.

The Customs boss urged Nigerians to support indigenous businesses by patronising made in Nigeria goods to encourage local production and boost industrial base.


All Change!!! Nigeria Is Not An Oil Economy

By Kemi Adeosun

Descriptions of Nigeria’s economy often include such phrases as ‘Africa’s largest oil producer’ and ‘the oil-rich African nation’ but oil economies are typically characterized by low population densities and abundant oil resources. Saudi Arabia with 10 million barrels of oil per day and 30 million people, Kuwait with 2.7 million barrels of oil per day and four million people and Qatar with 1.5 million barrels of oil per day and 2.5 million people are typical of such.
These economies pursued an economic model that was built around a large government dependent almost entirely on oil revenue for funding. Such economies could afford to have low or in some cases no domestic revenue mobilization, in the form of taxes. Tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratios of less than 10 per cent against the OECD average of 34.6 per cent could be justified especially in the era of high oil prices.

For over three decades, Nigeria pursued this model. But things are changing, with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, who was propelled into office under the mantra of ‘change’. That clamor for change, in the areas of governance, security and economy, coincided with the collapse of global oil prices and a consequent huge deficit in government revenues. These circumstances provided the ingredients for an overhaul of the entire economic model.

The first and rather numbing conclusion of that exercise was that Nigeria is not actually an ‘oil economy’. With just 2 million barrels of oil per day and over 180 million people, simple mathematics tells us that 90 Nigerians share a barrel of oil compared to 3 Saudis, 1.44 Kuwaitis and 1.69 Qataris. With oil at just 10 per cent of GDP, Nigeria simply does not fit into the mold of the traditional oil economies.

Interestingly, even nations who did legitimately fit into this narrow mold of high oil revenues and low populations, are abandoning what is now considered to be a flawed model. Thus, the imperative for Nigeria was even more urgent. Nigeria recalibrated its target peer group from the oil economies to the ‘oil plus’ economies such as Mexico and Egypt. This new peer group has diversified economies and tax to GDP ratios of 20 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, compared to Nigeria’s 6 per cent. Consequently, the change mantra had to be urgently applied to revenue mobilization.

Analysis of the data suggests that revenue mobilization is potentially the master key to unlocking Nigeria’s huge growth potential by funding its ailing infrastructure including roads, power, and rail. A cursory look at the effective tax rates paid by the huge multinational and local operators, as well as the data on illicit financial flows, indicates a pattern of systematic tax evasion at all levels. Recent statistics released by the Federal Ministry of Finance showed that Nigeria has just 14 million active taxpayers from an economically active base of 70 million. Over 95 per cent of these are salary earners in the formal sector, just 241 persons paid personal income taxes of N20 million (US$65,573.77) in 2016.

Taxing the high net worth and Nigeria’s huge community of entrepreneurs constitutes a critical but yet attainable target. The statistics for corporate tax payment shows the debilitating effects of base erosion and profit shifting as well as abuse of an overly generous tax incentive and duty waiver system. The historical government apathy towards revenue mobilization is one of the effects of the mistaken identity that saw Nigeria perceive itself as an oil economy. This Administration is determined to correct this identity crisis and all its concomitant effects.

In that spirit, we launched an ongoing and well received, tax amnesty, ‘The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme’ (VAIDS) is affording a nine-month window for Nigerian tax payer’s, both corporate and individual, to regularise their tax status in exchange for a guarantee of no interest, penalties, tax investigation or further audit. This amnesty follows successful initiatives in a number of countries, where tax evasion is a problem, such as Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa and India. It has been programmed to end just as the Automatic Exchange of Information, which will provide Nigerian tax authorities with unprecedented levels of information on offshore assets, becomes effective.

The initial signs suggest that Nigerians are responding positively to the new revenue narrative. Despite the emergence from a recession, tax revenues are showing early signs of growth. VAT shows 18.97 per cent year on year improvement. Over 800,000 companies, including some Government contractors, that have never paid taxes have already been identified and are being audited. This is an unprecedented initiative that entails cooperation between Federal and State Governments. The Federal Ministry of Finance has also commenced a database project that combines data from the various arms of government including bank records, property and company ownership, and customs records to create accurate profiles of those liable to pay taxes. The Ministry has also placed one of the world’s premier private investigation agencies on retainership to trace overseas assets.

Changing the Nigerian economic psyche is not an easy task. By its nature, tax mobilization risks the popularity of any Government, but the present Administration understands that the short-term lure of political expediency must give way to the long-term best interests of Africa’s largest economy. Her energetic, young and growing population are deserving of the chance to experience a truly transformed, sustainable and growing economy.