It goes without saying that there is nothing a desperate government won’t do to jeopardize the good fortune of its people. The path currently being toed by states and the federal government (FG) is one heading in the wrong direction.
Word out is that come this June, states might not have the usual monthly remittance from the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) tasked with distributing funds across strata of government because of the oil price crash and the coronavirus. The usual reason of ‘lack of funds’ is already being mooted; and so states may be left to fend for their needs until things are back to normal.
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As if that was not bad enough, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) boldly approached corporate bodies to pay their taxes upfront so that the government can be financially solvent. Under normal circumstances, a proper government which is hoping to extend palliatives to these corporate bodies which employ a large number of Nigerians should be looking at giving tax breaks already.
It is not rocket science; it is being done even in other African nations such as South Africa and Ghana. But with companies closing down and the resulting economic downturn from the coronavirus, how are these companies supposed to be able to pay taxes? That the FIRS is even making tax collection a focal point of FG’s revenue drive at this dire time continues to signal the lack of coherent strategy in tackling the after-effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 2nd, a now deleted tweet from the Ministry of Finance was publicly begging for ventilators from the billionaire owner of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk. Nigerians criticized the move so much that the ministry later apologized for their lack of shame.
Could it also be the current broke state of the nation that caused the FG to direct the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to share seized bags of rice which it once claimed were expired? It was a totally embarrassing development as states – Oyo, Ondo, and even Lagos – have either returned the bags of rice to the FG or complained that some of the bags were spoilt.
What is the FIRS, and the government at large, going to do with whatever funds corporate bodies may have contributed or paid as Tax Advance? Will it end up being justly used for the good of all Nigerians or squandered same way our commonwealth is often wasted?
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It behoves government of all strata to ask for help when needed, but this request better not be anything financial because that will amount to ripping off and finally killing an already disadvantaged population. Nigerians have been gracefully absorbing the heavy toll of the coronavirus, otherwise called COVID-19; while the political elite remain insulated by their official privileges.
The government must use this opportunity as a means to reform the gaping holes which has always plagued the polity rather than descending low into begging.
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