COVID-19: Defense Headquarters Dismisses Torture Video

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has dismissed videos currently circulating in the social media of soldiers torturing civilians for violating the Presidential directive to stay at home over the Coronavirus pandemic as a calculated attempt to blackmail the Military.

It said that the videos are misleading and are not related to the present military engagement of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

According to a statement by the Coordinator Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche,  “the attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to some video clips  trending in the media.

“Consequently, the Armed Forces of Nigeria wishes to state that the videos  were old clips of past incidents that took place in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

“The clips are being used by some mischievous elements to tarnish the image of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Those videos are misleading, as they are not related to the present military engagement of the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards the lockdown on COVID-19”.

It added that “the Nigerian Armed Forces sees those clips as calculated attempts to tarnish its professional integrity by some mischief makers.

“Members of the public are hereby advised to disregard those videos. It is the handwork of false news propagators. The Armed Forces of Nigeria remains undaunted and would not be distracted.

“Furthermore, the Armed Forces of Nigeria is committed to performing its constitutional roles towards ensuring the protection of our territorial integrity and the lives and property of the general public”.

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Buratai Commissions Blocks Of Flat At Ikeja Cantonment

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt Gen Tukur Yusufu Buratai represented by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division Maj Gen Olu Irefin has commissioned two blocks of 39 flats each, totalling 78 flats, at Nigerian Army Cantonment IKEJA, Lagos today the 31st of March 2020.

The commissioning ceremony was the third since the GOC assumed duty in July 2019.

While emphasising how lucky 81 Division is in terms of benefitting from the COAS’ intervention, Maj Gen Irefin noted that the COAS had yet awarded another contract for the renovation of 4 additional blocks of flats for soldiers in the Cantonment.

This he said, signified the COAS’ commitment to the welfare of NA personnel and their families, and demanded nothing less than their unwavering commitment to duty and loyalty to constituted authority.

It is heartwarming to note that the COAS has indeed deployed enormous resources to facilitate the expeditious completion of the project.

This was with a view to ensuring that the erstwhile occupants who had to squat with colleagues to give room for the renovation, return immediately to their newly renovated flats thereby decongesting their temporary refuge in the spirit of the requirement for social distancing in the face of the ravaging COVID-19.

While congratulating the beneficiaries of the beautifully renovated and tastefully furnished apartments, the COAS urged them to ensure the facilities are adequately maintained.

SAGIR MUSA
Colonel
Acting Director Army Public Relations
31 March 2020

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Covid-19: Youth Task Force Begins Sensitisation, Distribution Of Relief Material Nationwide

A group of concerned Nigerian youths under the auspices of Nigerian Youth Task Force on COVID-19 (NYTFC) has said it will explore feasible ways and implement methods of assisting the Nigerian people in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders to contain the spread of COVID-19 and cushion the effect of the StayAtHome directive for the most vulnerable Nigerians. 

The group said it realised this target through a structure it has already set up across the nation.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the national coordinator, who is also a Senior Special Assistant to the President in Youth and Student Affairs, Hon. Nasir Adhama and the convener, Comrade Bello Shagari, said the group  will partner the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) to embark on massive sensitisation and distribution of relieve materials. 

“The Nigerian Youth Task Force on COVID-19 (NYTFC) is ready to deploy its volunteers amongst which are well trained medical personnel with vivid knowledge of the ongoing pandemic and strategies to curb its spread through proper sensitization, dissemination of useful information and combatting fake news. We have also prepared strategies to mobilize relief materials to distribute for the most vulnerable Nigerians who live from hand to mouth in order to enable them survive during the period of isolation.

“We also understand that societal partnership is crucial in combating the spread of Covid-19 in Nigeria, hence it has become imperative for the Nigerian Youths who constitute over 65% of the country’s population to step in and get involved in assisting the Nigerian Government and strategic stakeholders in limiting and eliminating the spread of the virus which does not discriminate based on age, race, ethnicity, religion or status.
“We recognize that the youth have a role to play and the community must come together in vigilante participation against the virus.

“The task force will be engaged in daily planning and discussion with a view to sharing important updates and provide guidance and communication to the members of the public nation-wide on impact of Covid-19.

“We will be in frequent contact with Federal, State and Local Governments alongside  public health agencies, to provide our inputs on policy strategies in the pursuance of our commonly shared objective.”

The NYTFC revealed  that it has a nationwide spread consisting of volunteers from community to the national level. 

“There are ward, local governments focal persons, state coordinators and zonal supervisors. The secretariat is headed by the National Coordinator and led by the Convener with an operational base in Abuja.”
While Commending the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Ministry of Humanitarian, National Disasters, IDP and Social Development, the entire members of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, the Lagos State Government, the FCT Administration and all the health workers, the youth group also commended all its volunteers nationwide and encourage them to remain on their feet in this fight against COVID -19.

“We also thank His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for taking decisive actions to put a halt to the spread of the virus. We pray to Almighty God to make COVID-19 patients recover quickly. Together, we can achieve a Nigeria that is immune of COVID-19.”

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Ismaeel Ahmed Felicitates With Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu At 68

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investments, Barrister Ismael Ahmed has Felicitated with the National Leader of The All Progressive Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his 68th birthday celebration.

In a congratulatory message signed by him, Ismael described the celebrant as a leader per excellence with a wealth of experience that continues to inspire his personal growth and experience.

He further described the celebrant as a man who always give young people the opportunity to excel and nuture them into becoming leaders in successive years.

While applauding his style of leadership, Barrister Ismaeel recalled the day Asiwaju met and took him in and personally saw to his rise in political circle while treating him with kindness, respect and adoration as if he were his son.

However, Barrister Ismaeel also stated that Asiwaju’s contribution to politics and democracy in Nigeria will continue to have a lasting impact in the years to come emphasizing that he hasn’t just contributed to our political leadership but has also made leaders out of his proteges over the years.

Ismaeel therefore wishes Asiwaju more fulfilling years of peaceful service in good health, happiness and all round wellness while reiterating that the entire nation will always be thankful for his role in our political history.

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GMO: Experts Seek More Safety Response From Government

The Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mr. Nnimmo Bassey has faulted the federal government on the establishment of National Biotechnology Development Agency, before setting up a biosafety agency.

The Federal government had in April 2001 approved the establishment of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA). The Agency was established under the aegis of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to implement the policy that is aimed at promoting, coordinating, and setting research and development priority in biotechnology for Nigeria.

At a stakeholders’ Conference on “Agricultural Technofixes And The State of Biosafety In Nigeria,” in Abuja on Monday, Mr. Bassey argued that the establishment of NABDA before a biosafety agency is a disaster waiting to happen. According to him, NABDA may have been compromised in discharging its duties due to the incessant influx of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) foods in the market.

GMO is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering.

“Nigeria took the wrong step by setting up a biotechnology promoting agency before setting up a biosafety agency. By the reason of the promoter midwifing the biosafety agency and consolidating this scenario by law, separating the two has become a herculean task,” Bassey explained.

He added further that NABDA and the regulatory National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) lack capacity to handle technicalities in both the mainstream and new fields of extreme technofixes. The way forward to making things right in the biosafety field according to him “will be through legislation and through having a biosafety agency that is neutral, regards the opinion of citizens and accepts the basic biosafety plan if precautionary principle.”

Earlier, the Minister of State for Environment, SSharon Ikeazo, in her remarks, noted that the federal government in its effort to ensure international best practices in the application of modern biotechnology has put in place the necessary legal and policy instruments to guide its development and use.

He explained that the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) was established in 2015, to provide regulatory framework for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria with a view to prevent any adverse on human health, animal and the environment.

“Few years after the establishment of NBMA, the agency has issued permits for trials, commercial release and importation for processing of various genetically modified crops, ranging from those modified to confer insect or pest resistance to those modified to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as drought and those bio-fortified with various minerals and vitamins,” the Minister said.

The Minister in his speech pressed on that “each of these permits was issued after carrying out a mandatory environmental impact assessment of the potential risk the GMO poses to human health, animal or the environment in Nigeria.”

However, experts at the conference argued that GMO food is not safe for human consumption and government should look inward and advocate for more organic processed food.

“The manipulation of genetic makeup of living organisms to engineer crops to make them act as pesticides is a call for pandemic like the country is currently experiencing. When toxic herbicides are produced to kill all other crops except the ones genetically engineered to withstand them, nature responds by offering super weeds,” Bassey noted.

Tutfeng, an expert in the Biosafety sector posited that he current adoption of GMO is causing more havoc in the agricultural sector and exposing farmers to severe health challenge

His words: “The onus rest on the regulators to do the right thing. They need to tell us what they are doing. When it comes to labelling, it is difficult. We need to take some time and read some of these things. For others like beans and other commodities we may have to be more careful when buying them.

We need to keep engaging the farmers on why they should discard GMO. Our laws do not protect us from genetically modified products and we don’t have capacity to contain the unforeseen contingencies that come with it. Some of the GMO promoters are the ones writing our laws.”

A participant at the conference advised that “the first caution is for everyone to make up his or her mind to apply information that are scientifically sound and socially correct. The promoters of GMO do it for financial gain and not in the interest of the society. We should not take everything that comes to us free.”

“Promoters of GMO claim that what they are coming with is scientific and clinically proven which is untrue. You must be very diligent in checking what you eat and in buying your food,” another participant added.

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Insurgents Now Waging War Through Cyber Attacks, Expert Warns

An Israeli cyber security expert based in Nigeria, Ran Feit, has revealed that the cyber space is now the new warfront for Boko Haram and other insurgents all over the world.
Feit, however, urged the Nigerian government to begin to set aside budget to protect it Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) against such attacks.
Speaking with newsmen at the weekend in Abuja, when the Federal University of Technology Minna sent 70 students led by Dr. Idris Ismaila, Head of Department Cyber Security Science, to CyberDome’s Security Operation Center to see in real time how CyberDome Professionals respond to and handle cyber-incidents, Feit who is the head of firm said his organisation has collaborated with Federal University of Technology, Minna to ensure a bridge in the academia-industry gap in the area of cybersecurity.

“The terrorist today are using cyber; the future wars won’t be with weapons but through the cyber. You can see all around the world, energy, water pumps and power plants shutdown suddenly; think about it! If you don’t have water you don’t have energy and you don’t need to fire a bullet to finish a country.
“When we wanted to do something about cyber security in Nigeria a few years ago but they said there was no budget for such or we should do something cheap but we are coming from Israel although most of our employees are brilliant young Nigerian guys and all the time I am amazed at how clever they are.

“In Israel cyber security is something that is deep in our budget and we have invested Billions of dollars to defend ourselves and we thought as Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa and one of the biggest or maybe the biggest in Africa we thought maybe this is something we need to be here.
“More than two years ago when no one talked about cyber in Nigeria, we went to different organizations, we explained to them what is the difference between security and cyber and everybody thinks antivirus and firewall is enough.

“Those tools for security are old and not relevant anymore and new tools have been introduced to the market used for fighting cyber. So we established this centre which we also have academy classes; we saw organisations and explained why we need to let them know the threat and I can tell you in the last year the awareness for cyber is much higher than two years ago here in Nigeria.”
Speaking on the need to raise budget against cyber attack, Feit said: “In Switzerland it is the main yearly economic summit which put cyber as the fifth threat in the world after climate and other things; cyber today is the fifth threats in the world, think about it! Everybody is talking with us but the problem is there is lack of budget which is not prioritized.

“We believe that a small percentage needs to be allocated to what the world and not us said this is one of the major threats.”

When asked to explain how terrorists could possibly attack a Nation through Cyber, Feit said: “This is not my field, we are providing defence but we believe we have seen other places in the world terrorists using social media like ISIS, using the social media in a clever way and they also have smart guys also working for them who know how to do cyberattacks and don’t think that they are not using it.
“It will be unwise to think they are not using it but 90 percent of the threats are economic and I believe everyone sometime suffer some kind of cyberattack through some leakage or through some fishing email to get his/her information from the bank into his/her account or through the cellular or leaks of some sort of private information.

“If you have more than 2,000 details of people in your database you need to carry out some actions to protect those details which you don’t want them to leak and there are so many leaks in Nigeria’s details outside including finance and so on. There is a lot of things to be done.”
Also speaking, a cyber security activist, Ayobami Akanji, urged the government to act act swiftly on cyber security in the country.

“As a matter policy and urgency the government is looking towards digital economy. We have a ministry of digital economy and communications, so it has to be a policy trust of the federal government to ensure that all critical agencies that are holding the pillars of national security infrastructures need to double up on the cyber security investment because the world economic forum noted that cyber security is the fifth most important global threat in the world and Nigeria is fighting insurgency and the insurgents are also very smart.

“The insurgents are using technology to advance their causes, so government as a matter of priority for national security should invest seriously into these sub-sectors.
“I think last year the federal government launched national security strategy and amongst the infrastructures we have someone from cyber security and as minister of digital communication who is very committed in the person of Dr. Ali Isa Pantami. We expect him to double his effort and ensure that the government and critical sub unit of government will invest into this sector.”

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Six Top Quotes From Muhammad Nami’s Speech At The 2020 FIRS Corporate Retreat

The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Alh. Muhammad Nami is presiding over the 2020 FIRS Corporate Plan Retreat at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja with participants and guests from all works of the Nigerian society.

The discussions here will weigh on the importance and role of the FIRS in fulfilling their mandate and achieving a prosperous Nigeria.

While speaking at the retreat, Muhammad Nami highlighted the plans of the FIRS in the coming year, the new administration and its commitment to the service and also how it intends to reach its N8.5Trillion target

Here are 6 quotes from the points made by the FIRS Executive Chairman, Muhammad Nami:

1 – “Since I assumed office as the Executive Chairman, we have revised the organizational structure of the Service to reflect Management aspirations, reviewed TCC’s administration process and issuance programme to general public, reviewed and redesigned tax audit and investigation functions. Currently, we are reviewing all lien cases with a view to closing them and introducing new enforcement strategies.”

2 – “ “FIRS plays a strategic role in the nation’s political economy, including supporting the actualization of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s commitment of moving the country up on the Ease of Doing Business Ranking, taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the next 10 years and rebuilding Nigeria’s critical infrastructure by generating sufficient revenue through expanding the tax net and efficient service delivery.”

3 – “The repositioning of the Service would be anchored on four cardinal pillars:
– Rebuilding FIRS’ Institutional Framework
– Robust Collaboration with Stakeholders
– Building a Customer (Taxpayer)-Centric Institution
– Data-Centric Institution.”

4 – “We have initiated several reform projects with a view to reversing our current under- performance level to a more acceptable one. We have agreed with my team that in the next four years we will improve our performance on a long term and sustainable basis. We have given ourselves a minimum target of $5million staff-to-revenue ratio and 10% tax-to-GDP ratio over the next four years.”

5 – “For the year 2020, we have a target of =N=8.5trillion which is slightly lower than the 2019 target by =N=300billion. … Looking at our performance in the recent past, one may look at the 2020 target as ambitious, but I can assure you that it is achievable especially with the ongoing reforms and business process re-engineering that are taking place in the Service.”

6 – “… if we are able to detect and block tax avoidance schemes by Multinational Corporations, that will also go a long way to improve our tax revenue collection..”

Many who are attending the 3 Day retreat – from policy makers, journalists, legislators, Finance sector experts among others – have described both Nami and the new FIRS as apt, delivery focused, vibrant, and dependable.

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USAID, United Bank For Africa Sign Memorandum Of Understanding

U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Prosper Africa initiative is partnering with the United Bank for Africa (UBA) to increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and the nations of Africa.   This partnership ensures businesses are equipped with the technical and financial tools they need to enter into new trading and investment relationships in Africa and the United States.  

USAID will provide technical assistance and advisory services to prospective businesses through its Trade and Investment Hubs, and will connect UBA with African Diaspora business groups working across the United States.  The MOU enables UBA, the only sub-Saharan African bank licensed to operate in the United States, to expand access its reach and extend financing to American companies in the United States looking to do business with African nations.

Recognizing tremendous growth opportunities, USAID and UBA are collaborating to advance Prosper Africa’s goal of substantially increasing two-way trade between Africa and the United States. By working together, they will extend financing and technical assistance to businesses that will strengthen the American economy, grow African economies, and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

The two institutions entered into this agreement as part of the opening ceremony of the Tunisia Prosper Africa Conference, co-organized by the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the American Chamber of Commerce of Tunisia. The event facilitated U.S. and African business-to-business connections and featured remarks by key representatives from the U.S. Government and the U.S. and African private sector.

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Polaris Bank Commences Agency Banking Solution…Unveils “SurePadi”

As part of its digital banking strategy, Polaris Bank recently introduced its Agency Banking Solution to serve as a vehicle to reach the unbanked and underbanked, as well as deepen financial inclusion across Nigeria.

The Polaris Agency banking solution known as “SurePadi” is designed to provide convenient and easy access to funds and other banking services in far-flung neighbourhoods, through partnerships with existing and new retail outlets. Research shows that lack of accessible financial service points is a key factor responsible for Nigeria’s high financial exclusion rate.

According to the Chief Digital Officer of Polaris Bank, Mr. Dele Adeyinka, “The introduction of SurePadi is in line with our plan to deepen financial inclusion by serving the huge unbanked and underbanked population especially in locations where basic banking services are far from reach.”

Mr. Adeyinka further stated that: “With Nigeria’s financial exclusion rate currently at 36.8 percent according to CBN, the goal of achieving 20 percent this year to close the exclusion gap of 16.8 percent is also a factor driving our SurePadi Banking Solution.”

“The SurePadi banking solution is also one of the ways we are helping to reduce unemployment in the country because when you sign up an agent, one of the benefits is that it provides a means of earning additional disposable income,” he added.

Agency banking service is a convenient way of providing limited banking services to customers through the use of Agents who usually are non-traditional bankers or banking businesses.

Services offered by SurePadi include; account opening, funds transfer, deposit funds; cash withdrawals, bills payment, airtime top up amongst other services. SurePadi Agents earn additional income in addition to improved status in the community through brand affiliation with Polaris Bank.

Customers on the other hand will enjoy the convenience and ease that comes with the service, plus low cost of transacting as they are able to save the cost of transportation to banks; they are also able to  access funds  anytime of the day, beyond banking hours (weekends and public holidays).

A SurePadi Agent can be a registered business such as Limited Liability Company, sole proprietorship, partnership, cooperative society, a large retail distribution network, petrol filling stations (Preferably one with a Supermarket or Store) and dealers in FMCG. In addition, unregistered businesses or individuals including supermarkets, retail outlets, and distributors of mobile network operators, business centers, boutiques, provision shops, and sport viewing centers also qualify to be a SurePadi Agents.

Customers wishing to become Polaris SurePadi Agents, are advised to visit the nearest Polaris Bank branch with a passport photograph and a valid means of identification: driver’s license; national identity card, International passport or voters’ card and utility bill (Not less than three (3) months from time of presentation).

Polaris Bank is a future-determining Bank committed to the delivery of industry-defining products, and services, across all the sectors of the Nigerian economy.

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Aisha Buhari opens Abuja 2020 Para Powerlifting World Cup

First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari has drawn attention to the plight of retired para powerlifters and other athletes in Nigeria, many of whom retire into hardship after having served their country superlatively. She made this call during the opening ceremony of the Abuja 2020 Para Powerlifting World Cup, on Tuesday, 4th February, 2020 at the International Conference Center.

Mrs. Buhari said, “I have since observed the contribution of these athletes in reshaping the image of Nigeria with immense significance and the Country owes them a debt of gratitude. She called on the nation to start repaying this debt by ensuring they are well taken care of in their time of need.
“It is in this light, that my foundation, the Aisha Buhari Foundation and other developmental partners will soon unveil a program that will aim to make retired athletes welfare a great priority. I also believe that it was these athletes dedication to hardwork and discipline that won the Country the hosting rights for this competition, being a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games” She said.

Speaking on her involvement, the First Lady said her interest in the wellbeing of the underprivileged led to establishing the Aisha Buhari Foundation and Future Assured and her acceptance to be grand patron of the event.

She congratulated the organizers of the event and called on Nigerians to support team Nigeria, otherwise known as “the unstoppables”. She also welcomed teams from other countries and encouraged them to enjoy their stay in Nigeria.

Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Hon. Cecelia Ezeilo, said she had always been a sports enthusiast and that is why she accepted to be the grant matron of the Para Powerlifting Team and felt a sense of duty to organize a fund raising for the event, which turned out successful. She called on the organizers to ensure successful conduct of the event.

Hon. Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Akin Dare said the Para Powerlifting World Cup is significant to Nigeria as it provided the opportunity to implement several related events including a referee training, coaches training, loaders course and anti-doping seminar. He wished the athletes success in the competition. He thanked the first lady for the show of support to the competition, and extraordinary passion for sports in general.
Hon. Minister of State, FCT, who was represented by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Chijeaka Ohaa reiterated the commitment of the FCT Administration towards the successful hosting of the world cup as it provides an opportunity to showcase the tourism potential of the Country.
Others who spoke at the occasion include the President, Nigeria Para Powerlifting Federation, Mrs. Queen Uboh Idris, who welcomed members of the international Paralympic Committee and all the countries contingents. She stated that Nigeria was ready for the competition and will not only host but will host well. She also expressed gratitude to the first lady for all the support she has given as grand patron to the competition and as a Mother of the Nation.
Part of the highlights of the event was the presentation of sporting kits to team Nigeria by the Executive Secretary, National Lottery Trust Fund, Dr. Bello Maigari.

The opening ceremony was attended by Ghana, Cote d’ivoire, Mali, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Egypt, Italy, Libya, Brazil, Georgia, Kenya, Benin Republic, and Nigeria.
The First Lady was accompanied to the opening ceremony by Wife of the Vice President, Her Excellency, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo and several wives of the State Governors among others.

Aliyu Abdullah
Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
(Office of the First Lady)
January 5th, 2020

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Buhari: Pastor Andimi’s Faith Should Inspire All Nigerians

President of Nigeria eulogizes Brethren leader executed by Boko Haram, and criticizes terrorist efforts to divide Christians and Muslims in Africa’s most populous state.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI
Nigerians everywhere, those of belief and those of none, are mourning the death of pastor Lawan Andimi, taken from us by Boko Haram for his refusal to denounce his Christian faith.

I did not know Pastor Andimi personally. Yet Nigerians and I both know him and his church by their works: healing, caring, feeding and educating, particularly in the northeastern regions of my country—in those areas threatened for too long by terrorists. Every day, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) places itself there bravely where the brotherhood of man is most in need of sustenance.

Pastor Andimi’s ministry was located only 60 miles from the town of Chibok, from where in 2014 the world witnessed the shocking kidnapping of 267 schoolgirls. That even one individual—this time a man of the church—could still be taken by the terror group seven years later might be viewed as evidence the terrorists are fully functional, and undefeated. But it is not.

Since I was first elected to office in 2015, 107 of the Chibok girls have been freed. Today we seek the others. Boko Haram are no longer one, unified threat, but fractured into several rivals. These splinters are themselves degraded: reduced to criminal acts which—nonetheless no less cruel—target smaller and smaller numbers of the innocent. We owe thanks to the Nigerian defense forces, bolstered by our partnership with the British, American militaries and other countries that we are winning this struggle in the field.

But we may not, yet, be completely winning the battle for the truth. Christianity in Nigeria is not—as some seem intent on believing—contracting under pressure, but expanding and growing in numbers approaching half of our population today. Nor is it the case that Boko Haram is primarily targeting Christians: not all of the Chibok schoolgirls were Christians; some were Muslims, and were so at the point at which they were taken by the terrorists. Indeed, it is the reality that some 90 per cent of all Boko Haram’s victims have been Muslims: they include a copycat abduction of over 100 Muslim schoolgirls, along with their single Christian classmate; shootings inside mosques; and the murder of two prominent imams. Perhaps it makes for a better story should these truths, and more, be ignored in the telling.

It is a simple fact that these now-failing terrorists have targeted the vulnerable, the religious, the non-religious, the young, and the old without discrimination. And at this point, when they are fractured, we cannot allow them to divide good Christians and good Muslims from those things that bind us all in the sight of God: faith, family, forgiveness, fidelity, and friendship to each other.

Yet sadly, there is a tiny, if vocal, minority of religious leaders—both Muslim and Christian—who appear more than prepared to take their bait and blame the opposite religious side. The terrorists today attempt to build invisible walls between us. They have failed in their territorial ambitions, so now instead they seek to divide our state of mind, by prying us from one from another—to set one religion seemingly implacably against the other.

Translated into English, Boko Haram means “Western teachings are sinful.” They claim as “proof” passages of the Quran which state that Muslims should fight “pagans” to be justification for attacks on Christians and those Muslims who hold no truck with them. They are debased by their wilful misreading of scripture—at least those of them who are able to read at all.

Of course, there is much of Christianity and Islam—both in teaching and practice—that are not the same. Were that not so, there would be no need for the separateness of the two religions. Yet though these unread terrorists seem not to know it, there is much between our two faiths—both the word and the scripture—that run in parallel.

For the Bible teaches, “Each one must give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7), while the Quran states: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Similarly, the Bible states:

“For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror” (James 1:23). The Quran concurs: “Those who believe and do good works, theirs will be forgiveness and a great reward” (35:7).

I call on Nigeria’s faith leaders, and Nigerians everywhere, to take these words of concord—and the many more that exist—to their hearts and their deeds. Just as my government, and our international partners, quicken our campaign to defeat Boko Haram within and without our borders, we must turn our minds to the future. There is no place in Nigeria for those who seek to divide us by religion, who compel others to change their faith forcibly, or try to convince others that by so doing, they are doing good.

Rather, we might all learn from the faith and works of Pastor Andimi. There seems little doubt he acted selflessly in so many regards—giving alms and prayers to both Christians and Muslims who suffered at the hands of the terrorists. And he passed from us, rightly refusing to renounce his faith that was not for his captors to take, any more than his life. His belief and his deeds are a lesson and an inspiration to all of us.

Muhammadu Buhari is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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If Africa Is To Reduce Budget Deficits, We Must Increase Revenue Mobilization – Nami, Executive Chairman FIRS

For African countries to reduce their budget deficits, they must work on widening their tax bases, the Executive Chairman of the FIRS, Muhammad Nami has stated.

In a speech delivered during the opening ceremony of the 9th Country Correspondents Meeting and ATAF 1st Experts Meeting on Taxation of the Informal Sector, the Executive Chairman of the FIRS who also doubles as the African Tax Administration Forum’s Chairman,  explained that African countries must find ways to expand their tax base to fund budget deficits. 

In his remarks, he noted that the informal sector in Africa today constitutes between 21 to 70 percent of the GDP of African countries and accounts for between 30 to 90 percent of employment in the region.

He went further to state that despite the large size of the informal sector, it remains one of the most difficult sectors to tax.

“… the sector remains one of the most difficult sectors to tax, with most of the businesses operating in the sector concealing their activities from the Tax Authorities. Such businesses also operate on a cash basis and maintain poor or no accounting records. Most of the businesses in the sector are also small and fragmented making it inefficient for the revenue administrations to enforce compliance. “ he stated. 

He also noted that it was not politically popular to tax the informal sector.

“Taxing the informal sector is viewed as politically unpopular and politicians are unwilling to risk losing the high number of votes represented in the sector. This is because politicians usually promise informal workers protection from taxation in exchange for their votes.” The Executive Chairman noted. 

Nami also noted that though it may be argued that the informal sector may yield low returns in the short run, the benefits were worth the effort. He further noted that taxing the informal sector may also be a way of promoting good governance and accountability of the State.

“Taxing the informal sector may also be a way of promoting good governance and political accountability of the State because tax strengthens the social contract between the citizens and the government. Thus, informal businesses that contribute to tax revenues are likely to assert their rights to receive certain services from government, thereby ensuring national development and  accountability. The chairman noted. 

Read the full excerpt of his speech here: 

BEING  AN ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN, ATAF, Mr. Muhammed Nami, AT THE OPENING OF THE 9th COUNTRY CORRESPONDENTS MEETING AND ATAF 1ST EXPERTS MEETING ON TAXATION OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR

ON 4th FEBRUARY 2020 IN ABUJA, NIGERIA

PROTOCOL

  • Board Members of the Federal Inland Revenue Service
  • The Executive Secretary of ATAF, Mr Logan Wort,
  • Coordinating Directors, Directors and Staff of FIRS
  • Directors and Members of staff of ATAF 
  • ATAF Country Correspondents and Experts in Taxation of the Informal sector 
  • Distinguished Guest Speakers
  • Our development partners, the African Development Bank
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

1. I warmly welcome you to this important meeting between the ATAF country correspondents and experts on taxation of the informal sector. I am highly delighted to receive you all to Abuja, the serene capital city of Nigeria. Indeed, this is important to me as it is my very first official assignment as the new Chairman of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF).I therefore thank you all for responding positively to the invitation to share your time and expertise with us to help solve one of the major challenges facing revenue mobilization on the continent. Your presence is invaluable to us. 

2. The theme of this year’s Country Correspondents Conference is “The Taxation of the Informal Sector in Africa”. This annual gathering of ATAF’s focal persons in members administration affords participants the opportunity to reflect, and exchange views, on the year that has passed and to discuss the activities that form part of the ATAF Workplan for 2020. As a link between Revenue authorities and the Secretariat, ATAF’s Country Correspondents play a crucial role in ensuring that ATAF’s programmes continue to respond to members’ needs. During this meeting, ATAF, in partnership with the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), will jointly hold the 1st ATAF Experts Meeting on Taxation of the Informal Sector in Africa. 

3. The meeting is expected to bring together officials from Treasury and Revenue Authorities as well as experts from across Africa to share experiences on practical and effective ways of taxing the informal sector. The objective of the meeting is to assist the ATAF Secretariat to develop, among other products, a comprehensive handbook with practical guidelines to ATAF member countries on how to tax the informal sector. 

5. As at 2017, Africa’s Tax to GDP ratio averaged around 17%. This marks an improvement over time. However this ratio is the lowest in the world and it has resulted in budgetary deficits in most countries in Africa.  It is therefore necessary to reduce and eventually eliminate these deficits if Africa is to meet its development needs.  The low tax to GDP ratio has been attributed to, among other things, low tax capacities and tax inefficiencies. This is made worse by tax avoidance, tax evasion and a large informal sector. 

6. It is estimated that the informal sector in Africa constitutes between 21% – 70% of the GDP of African countries and accounts for between 30-90% of employment in the region. Yet despite its large size, the sector remains one of the most difficult sectors to tax, with most of the businesses operating in the sector concealing their activities from the Tax Authorities. Such businesses also operate on a cash basis and maintain poor or no accounting records. Most of the businesses in the sector are also small and fragmented making it inefficient for the revenue administrations to enforce compliance. Taxing the informal sector is viewed as politically unpopular and politicians are unwilling to risk losing the high number of votes represented in the sector. This is because politicians usually promise informal workers protection from taxation in exchange for their votes.  In Malawi, for instance, the law provides for withholding tax on imported goods at a rate of 3% but the tax is yet to be implemented due to perceived political consequences (AfDB, 2018).

7. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it may be argued that taxing the informal sector may yield low returns in the short run. However, the benefits are worth the effort. Bringing the businesses into the tax net will instil a tax- paying culture in the businesses, thereby ensuring tax compliance when the businesses expand. Taxing the informal sector is also critical because it will ensure that there is a perception of fairness in the tax system. Those who operate in the formal sector deem it unfair to have to pay taxes while those in the informal sector do not. This impacts their tax morale and can result in low tax compliance among those in the formal sector. Furthermore, in some instances, enterprises within the informal sector create unfair competition for those operating in the formal sector. As a result, this reduces the income generated by the formal firms and also reduces the taxes paid.

8. Taxing the informal sector may also be a way of promoting good governance and political accountability of the State because tax strengthens the social contract between the citizens and the government. Thus, informal businesses that contribute to tax revenues are likely to assert their rights to receive certain services from government, thereby ensuring national development and  accountability. Paying taxes is likely to promote responsiveness by the state to the needs of the informal sector in a bid to encourage voluntary compliance. It is also likely to encourage collective action, collective political engagement and bargaining by the informal sector.

If Africa is to reduce its budget deficits and increase revenue mobilization, it must widen its tax base and the informal sector provides an opportunity to do so. That is why recently, the President of Nigeria, Muhammed Buhari, signed the 2019  Finance Act.  The 2019 Finance Act seeks to create an environment for ease of doing business in Nigeria especially for the small scale businesses in the country. The Act exempts businesses with annual turnover of 25 million naira and below from charging Value Added Tax (VAT) which has now been increased from 5% to 7.5%. However, these businesses would eventually enter the tax net through continuous assessments. This Act is expected to impact positively on the small businesses as well as the  Nigeria economy, in the long run.

9. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is from this background that ATAF seeks to use this event to create a platform for discussion across Africa, as we seek effective ways of taxing the informal sector.Given the diverse skills and experiences represented in this room I cannot imagine a better audience to come up with solutions to the challenges. I am therefore, confident that the discussions that would be held during this workshop will result in solutions as to tax the informal sector in order to build an African model of informal sector taxation.   

10.As you brainstorm over this important tax matter, I will not neglect to urge you all to also make out time to visit the several places of interest which Abuja offers and enjoy the warm hospitality for which Nigeria is renowned. It is now my privilege to declare the 2020 ATAF Country Correspondents Conference and the Informal Sector Workshop open.   I wish you all successful and fruitful discussions. 

11. God bless you all.

Muhammad Nami

Executive Chairman FIRS, Nigeria

ATAF Chairman.

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