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Nigeria : Taxation In The Midst of Hunger


A one time Governor of Old Bendel state(now Edo state), Samuel Ogbemudia, while commenting on the state of the nation, years back, had said ”I have always argued that man’s original problems are food, shelter and companion. Feed first thy country. Our democracy should start first, from the stomach. Nigerians are hungry. A hungry man is an angry man. An angry man cannot dialogue”.

Interestingly, in spite of the hunger and poverty that pervades the Nigerian soil, the various tax laws in the land have, so to say, allocated to each tier of government, the taxes that are collectable by them. Sadly, however, double taxation is the order of the day.

As monthly allocations to the states dwindle, the obsessive desire to generate more funds become strangulating. This has put the people at the mercy of  various taxes and levies. The means to pay has become the issue in several states that are yet to pay the backlog of  salaries of workers. To this extent, the people have moved very far away from the acceptable line of poverty. Indeed, the people and business concerns are in a great dilemma over which tax to pay and which not to pay.

Of worry, it the fact that the tested principle of taxation, known as the principle of Convenience has been thrown into the refuse dump, as the present tax regime is no longer convenient for the people.

Surprisingly, state governments now use consultants for the collection of levies, rates and tax, while the local governments use touts, protected by law enforcement agents for the same purpose.

The people now hold discussions in groups, on whether they still have rights as tax payers.

The right of tax payers include, the right to pay what is fair and just, `the right to fair hearing and treatment in respect of issues bothering  on the payment of taxes, the right to appeal to the body of Appeal Commissioners to revise an assessment and  the right to sue the Board of Internal Revenue to the court, if the tax payer feels that he has not been treated fairly in respect of his tax assessment.

Sadly, the over riding objective of the government in the present time, is to boost its Internally Generated Revenue(IGR)to an all time high at the expense and detriment of the people. This might not be a responsible and sensible decision, though.

Of Nigerian Tribes And Federal Character

The daily lives of Nigerians are woven around the various tribes and ethnic groups in the country.  Where an individual comes from, largely determines his or her fate on several issues bothering on social, political and  economic prospects.

People of the same tribe have, overtime, established unions that would cater for their interests, wherever they find themselves, outside of  their home communities. These unions are functional in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.  Such unions have for long, embarked on developmental programmes, which originally is the responsibility of the Government. Sadly, Government has failed to live up to the expectations of the people, who are increasingly embarking on self help initiatives, through these unions. Most Nigerians attribute their difficulties in life to the tribal consciousness in all facets of National life.

In an attempt to ensure equity, Government established the Federal Character Commission, to address issues relating to equal representation in federal institutions. Has the Commission been able to achieve its objectives ? The answer to the questiuon could be got from the personalities holding sway, in the Ministries, Parastatals, Departments and  Agencies.  The sceptre of tribalism abounds in every sector, one can think of.

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Dr. Ibe Kachikwu. Reactions  trailed Dr. Kachikwu’s appointment. One of such reaction is from Eze Dr. Alex Anozie, the Head Igbos in Ibadan and Oyo state. Dr. Anozie is from the South East  geo-political zone. ”It is something good, they have done to appoint that  gentleman there, but the impression that he is from the South East is wrong. He is not from the South East, he is an Ibo man quite alright, but he is not from the South East. He is from the South/ South, he is from Delta state.

Indeed, in Nigeria, tribes transcends individuality.

Sadly,  a group, Christian Welfare Initiative describes the pitiable condition of Nigerians this way ”Nigerians are suffering and not smiling”.

Indeed, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have already applied to the Nigeria Police Force, in response to its announcement  of its intention to recruit 10,000 to boost its size.  Would the Federal character reflect in this recruitment ? Nigerians express great doubts.

Nigeria Needs To Be Saved From Nigerians or Their Leaders ?

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With the best opportunity in terms of goodwill  and unprecedented recovery of looted funds, the lives of Nigerians are yet to change for the better. Although the guiding light of the present administration in the country is change.

Sadly, Nigeria a major oil producer, still imports petroleum products, while it grapples with the dynamics of industrialization

The agricultural and aggro-allied sectors are yet to go past the rudimentary stages.

Faced with an underdeveloped agricultural sector, poverty is the sign post in the rural areas, since agriculture is the main economic base at this level.

Of worry is the sickly state of the country’s petroleum refineries, this is further compounded by the sorry state of electricity supply, despite several billions of Naira that have gone down the drain over the years.

With the kidnapping and killing of an Army Colonel in Kaduna, recently, the security situation still remains unpredictable, while  education in the country remains prostate.

Curiously security agencies now act as if the country has already drifted to a state of ”contrary views cannot be tolerated”.

Basic necessities of life are already beyond the reach of helpless and common, working class Nigerians, who have for  several months now, not been paid their salaries, which could best be described as pittance.

Chinua Achebe of blessed memory, a Professor of English, while commenting on the state of the Nation had once said, ”Nigeria is very dangerous. The population is helpless, so Nigeria needs to be saved”.

Nigeria needs to be saved from who ? Nigerians or their leaders ?

Since most Nigerians are impoverished and without hope, they eagerly accept whatever crumbs they can pick, that falls from the tables of men and women, who by whatever means bulldoze their ways into power.

Without doubt, Nigeria as a country is operating on the reverse, most sectors are collapsing, national ethos has collapsed and morality has also collapsed.

Even though the Presidency insists that the situation is improving, what is happening is visible for all and sundry to see.

Nigerians Should Keep Faith In The Banking Industry-Banker


Nigerians have been called upon to reinvigorate their faith in the banking industry, in the face of multi faceted economic challenges in the country.
This call was made by the Managing Director of Apex Micro Finance Bank Limited, Ibadan, Nigeria, Mr. Toyin Olalemi in a chat with Federationews2day.

We want to encourage people to keep faith in the financial industry, it could be turbulent it could be tough, it could be rough, but if people keep faith and then trust, with either our bankers and our customers, then we should have a better tomorrow. And people should be much more transparent in dealing with their bankers, if you have challenges, we know that we are in the business of risk management,if you have challenges make it known to them,instead of running away from them”, Mr. Olalemi stated.

Sadly, the long queues in banking halls across the country, closely trailed by the unabating complaints by bank customers and declining customer service are all issues that have generated unending debates among the citizenry.

This is just as a sizable number of Nigerians are yet to join the banking population, while the people express hopes that bank services will take a turn for the better in the new year.

Ukraine’s ‘Invisible Crisis’: 1.5 Million Who Fled War With Russia

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Pressures Place Welcome at Risk

Viola Gienger

When 5,000 people flooded into a city of 500,000 in one night with little more than the pajamas on their backs, they were greeted by the mayor and an assemblage of churches and civic groups ready to embrace them with shelter, food, clothing and moral support. The scene might sound like something from Europe’s west, where refugees are flooding in from the Middle East and Africa. But this is Ukraine in the midst of a war and an economic crisis, and two years into upheaval, the strain is beginning to show.


In a nation of 44 million people, about 2.6 million Ukrainians have fled the war in the east initiated by Russian-backed separatists, and more than 1.4 million of them are still in the country. About two-thirds find refuge with friends, family or others who’ve been displaced, and humanitarian agencies are bracing for the long haul. Ceasefire terms reached in Minsk, Belarus, in February and September have largely held, but spurts of renewed fighting include a battle that killed six Ukrainian soldiers last weekend. More than 8,000 people have died since the war began in April 2014.

“What does it mean to be internally displaced? For some of the people I met, it meant that they got on a train in Donetsk and they wound up in Mariupol in their pajamas.”

International attention on Ukraine tends to be dominated by talk of whether the U.S. and European Union will extend their sanctions against Russia and whether to step up arms supplies to the Ukrainian government. But meantime, the conditions for the country’s internally displaced people (IDPs) and their host communities have become what former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer calls an “invisible crisis.” Verveer serves as special representative on gender issues for the chairmanship in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is monitoring the ceasefire in Ukraine and coordinates projects such as legal reform.

During a recent visit to Ukraine, Verveer said, officials clearly were overwhelmed by the massive and unfamiliar demands for assistance and coordination, though the government in Kyiv remains the largest single provider of aid to the displaced. The impact of the war and displacements are profound, said Verveer and Natalia Karbowska, chairman of the board of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, an organization that provides grants to women’s organizations in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova and is affiliated with the Global Fund for Women.

The two spoke at an event at USIP on Nov. 19 that explored how Ukraine’s civil society networks and the goodwill shown amid the humanitarian crisis might provide a foundation for social understanding and reconciliation, and how those displaced could find a voice and connections to political and economic life.

The discussion occurred just days before the second anniversary of the day protests began on Nov. 23, 2013, in Kyiv’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan. They were spurred by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection, under Russian pressure, of a planned association agreement with the European Union. The demonstrations, also known as the “Revolution of Dignity,” ultimately broadened to reflect public outrage over corruption and ineffective governance. Yanukovych fled the country and Russia soon swept into Ukraine to occupy the Crimean Peninsula and send fighters and weapons to back separatists in the eastern Donbas region.

“The Revolution of Dignity won, but we knew at that time that the change that we all campaigned for will not come immediately,” Karbowska said. Still, neither the demonstrators in the Maidan, nor the military were prepared for the Russian armed incursions. And the country’s institutions had no experience in dealing with the floods of displaced people fleeing the war zone.

Welcomes From Volunteers

So volunteers stepped into the breach. They mobilized to support the army and those displaced by the fighting, raising millions of dollars for aid in a country with no culture of philanthropy, Karbowska said. They have successfully lobbied for national and local measures to reform corrupt governing structures, though the pace of change has been sluggish. Advocates have pushed for laws to ban discrimination against displaced Ukrainians and to give them priority for places in kindergartens, the equivalent of day care in a country where parents desperately need jobs and can’t afford child care on their own.

“For me, this is a real indication of civil society in Ukraine – people mobilizing to achieve results, people mobilizing to change policies in their country,” she said.

Volunteers in the eastern city of Kharkiv make a point of expressing strong words of welcome to people fleeing the war-torn region nearby. And it was the city of Mariupol to the south where the mayor turned out to greet 5,000 displaced people who arrived by train one night.

“What does it mean to be internally displaced?” said Dawn Calabia, honorary advisor at Refugees International, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization. She visited Ukraine in August. “For some of the people I met, it meant that they got on a train in Donetsk and they wound up in Mariupol in their pajamas because the shelling had started at night and they had fled.”

“The deputy mayor said to us, `What do you do when 5,000 people come on a train in the middle of the night? So we called the people we knew, and people came out to respond to the needs,’” Calabia said in the USIP discussion.

Verveer, who also is executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security in Washington D.C., said she saw “vibrant civil society leadership” in Ukraine, with a non-profit sector that has knowledge and capabilities but suffers from too little support from the international community.

The U.S. Congress currently is in negotiations over the final budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Those talks include an aid package for Ukraine that contains economic support, military equipment and humanitarian assistance. Verveer and William B. Taylor, USIP’s executive vice president and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said it’s important to maintain vigorous support for Ukraine.

‘We Need to Do More’

The United Nations refugee agency reported in October that it has been able to raise only 56 percent of the $41.5 million it says is needed to serve Ukraine’s 1.5 million internally displaced people. Overall, 5 million people need $316 million of humanitarian aid, and only 45 percent of that has been funded or pledged.

“This is a critical time for our own country” in relation to support for Ukraine, Verveer said. “We need to do more.”  Verveer emphasized a comment from the audience that the problems of Ukraine aren’t intractable but rather that it’s entirely possible for Ukraine, with its vibrant civil society and the resilience of its local communities, to fully address its issues with sufficient international assistance.

As it is, Ukraine’s extended political, military, economic and social crisis is straining the country’s social fabric, Karbowska and others said in the USIP discussion. Soldiers coming home to an economy with no jobs are lashing out at their families. Local residents resent the priority given displaced Ukrainians for the precious kindergarten spaces. And then there’s the backdrop of tensions between the east and west that contributed sparks to the war in the first place.

Karbowska noted a growing lack of tolerance in communities amid the new competition for resources. That creates tensions between those displaced and local residents.

Ukraine is, in some ways, at a tipping point, said Lauren Van Metre, USIP’s acting vice president for applied research on conflict.

The significant support of the central government despite its strained coffers and the leadership that civil society “allows us to imagine very important possibilities for Ukraine,” Van Metre said. “Could this goodwill and community openness contribute to internal reconciliation?”

“Could this change perceptions of Kyiv by populations from the east?” Van Metre said.  “While the potential for constructive engagement…does exist, winter is also near and local economies are constrained.”

Oksana Shulyar, a political affairs counselor at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington D.C., notes that Ukrainians staying in the country alleviates the risk of adding to the flow of refugees entering western Europe. About 1.12 million have fled Ukraine, most to Russia, according to U.N. figures.

“The winter is coming and we urgently need additional assistance for rebuilding infrastructure in the conflict-affected areas,” said Shulyar, who attended the USIP event.  “The solution to the IDP problem in Ukraine is an inclusive combination of larger financial support, Ukraine’s further reforms efforts and continued pressure on Russia until the Minsk agreements are implemented in full.”

‘The Ground Truth’

Women particularly are critical to addressing the plight of internally displaced people, pressing for government reform and shepherding any reconciliation efforts that might emerge, said Karbowska and Verveer. Fully two-thirds of those displaced in Ukraine are women, and the economic crisis has thwarted their ability to get jobs to earn a living if they are the only source of income while men are deployed.

“Women are critical agents of change,” Verveer said. “They have the ground truth.”

Women’s non-government organizations have provided emergency aid, jobs skills training and initiatives to prevent domestic and community violence. They also are trying to advance women’s participation in decision-making and dialogue to defuse conflict.
“We see that society is really ready for new faces in politics, for new values in politics,” Karbowska said. “And we do think that women could bring these values.”

Verveer said women in parliament – they make up 11 percent of the members — are working together across party lines to address the country’s crisis, even traveling to the East in groups to assess conditions. They expressed a serious need for information from other places that have experienced similar situations, to learn about practices and policies that work, she said.

With Ukraine considering decentralization of authority to address grievances in the east by distributing more government revenue to the local level, citizens need training in how to analyze policies and lobby for change, Karbowska said.
“There is also a need for initiatives to build tolerance in communities,” Karbowska said.

Building the capacity of local civic organizations to provide humanitarian assistance also strengthens civil society in transitional countries by connecting it to official structures still struggling to break their top-down habits. And it can prepare citizens for more active roles when they return home.

USIP and the Ukrainian Women’s Fund will conduct a needs assessment to determine what skills and resources IDPs require, beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, so that they can advocate for their rights, and perhaps catalyze future reconciliation and war recovery efforts.

“We as peacebuilders know that successful IDP resettlements secure durable peace processes,” Van Metre said. “We know that giving IDPs a voice introduces critical local knowledge into policy discussions.”

In the meantime, Karbowska urged the U.S. and others in the international community to keep up the pressure on the Ukrainian government to implement the reforms they have promised and to improve conditions for citizens, including those displaced by the war.

“It is important for us that you all do not give up on Ukraine,” Karbowska said.  “I know there are many terrible events happening in the world these days, but I do think that they are connected. After the Paris [attacks] last week, pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine became more active.”

She said more people are being killed again and there is a danger that the ceasefire will be broken by the end of the year. She hearkened back to the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, recalling that Ukrainians sympathized but “thought it was far away.”

“But now we know it is not,” Karbowska said. “We all live in the same reality…the problem of one country might become a global problem in just one day.”

Viola Gienger is a senior editor and writer at USIP.

Source : USIP