*Ossai kicks, says bill anti-people
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
An Executive bill seeking an amendment to a set of existing tax laws with the aim of increasing revenue for the government is underway in Nigeria.
The bill yesterday passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
The extant laws affected were the Companies Income Tax Act; Value Added Tax Act; Customs and Excise Tariff ETC (Consolidated) Act and Personal Income Tax Act.
Other included Capital Gains Tax Act; Stamp Duties Act; and Petroleum Profit Tax Act.
If passed into law, the amended Acts would provide for the review of tax provisions and make them more responsive to tax reforms which the federal government seeks to achieve.
The bill tagged “Finance Bill 2019”, from the Executive Arm as learnt by our correspondent has already scaled through second reading in the Senate.
It is being given express attention by both chambers of the National Assembly and may be passed into law soon for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari for presidential assent.
The Bill has a titled: “A bill for an Act to Amend the Companies Income Tax Act; Value Added Tax Act; Customs and Excise Tariff ETC (Consolidated) Act, Personal Income Tax Act; Capital Gains Tax Act; Stamp Duties Act; and Petroleum Profit Tax Act, to Provide for the Review of Tax Provisions and Make them more Responsive to Tax Reforms and For Related Matters , 2019”.
Debated on the floor of the House during the plenary yesterday, a lawmaker from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai from Delta State said that VAT increase was against the people, saying it will impoverish them.
He said that it would lead to an increase in the prices of goods and services making them out of the reach of the common man.
He also called for removal of VAT from local air travel, arguing that local air travel is no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich as hitherto thought by many.
The lawmaker said that the dilapidated condition of Nigerian roads and the attended insecurity had forced almost everyone to air travels.
He submitted that it was more economical for an average income earner to travel by air than to pay a huge ransom to kidnappers who have taken over the high ways.
He argued that a journey from Lagos to Abuja which hitherto took an average of 6 hours now takes between 14 to 15 hours.
But Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila countered Ossai’s position, saying most of his arguments were not reflective of the realities on the ground, describing it as “facts that aren’t true”.
On his part, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase called for consideration to allow the Bill to make it to the Committee, where areas of conflicts could be sorted out.
Also speaking, Hon. Oluwole Oke said there was no better time to review the nation’s tax laws than now.
He said Nigeria doesn’t exist in isolation, as it belongs to various international organizations and has signed different treaties and trade agreements.
“I want to appeal to Hon. Ossai that all over the world, including the US and Europe, taxation is the mainstay of their economies and at the heart of this taxation is the VAT.
“And in the area of CIT, many countries do periodic review of their laws to accommodate emerging realities so as to meet up with the social issues requiring government attention and priority”, he said.
Hon. Onofiok Luke, (PDP, A/Ibom) underscored the need to create alternative sources of income for the country, favoring taxation as one of them.
He, however, warned against multiple taxations which according to stifle businesses, especially the small and medium scale enterprises.
The lawmaker raised concerns over the inadequate and untimely distribution of copies of the bill to members to enable them read and grasp the imports during debates.
Reacting to the concern, Speaker Gbajabiamila ordered the clerk of the House to always ensure that copies of bills were circulated among the members early enough to enable them read ahead of the debates.
The bill eventually passed for second reading.