Time Is Running Out For Nigerian Companies To Get Their Tax Houses In Order

Companies should respond by putting in place systems and processes that enable them to report accurately on revenue and expenses and to streamline tax submissions

With Nigerian tax authorities under pressure to find new sources of revenue, companies that do not yet comply with tax regulations must work fast to get their books in order and pay their tax dues.

That’s according to Magnus Nmonwu (Twitter.com/MNmonwu), Regional Director for Sage in West Africa, who says federal and state tax authorities are taking a hard line towards non-compliance as they race to bring in new tax revenues to compensate for falling oil revenues. Companies should respond by putting in place systems and processes that enable them to report accurately on revenue and expenses and to streamline tax submissions.

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) recently said it has been able to add 700,000 companies to the tax base by deploying inspectors armed with notebooks to register businesses and individuals. These companies are then audited to check whether they have paid their taxes. The FIRS has also approved a 45-day tax waiver window on penalty and interest accruing from outstanding tax liabilities for the period, 2013 to 2015.

Those businesses that have not complied to date may benefit from this waiver to get their affairs in order. This means companies would only need to pay the principle amount of tax they owe, which could save them a substantial amount of money.

However, those that don’t comply are bound to face stiff penalties, including fines, punitive interest, and possible criminal prosecution of CEOs and board members, and closure of their offices. “To take advantage of this golden opportunity, many companies will need to put in place systems and processes that enable them to get better visibility into their finances at a fast pace,” says Nmonwu.

Zero tolerance

Nmonwu says that the tough tone from Nigeria’s tax authorities shows that companies can no longer risk non-payment of tax or incorrect remittances of taxes to the relevant government agencies, whether the reason is deliberate evasion or an accidental oversight.

One of the most common reasons for non-compliance is that many organisations don’t have automated systems for accurate recordkeeping, precise calculations and deductions, and preparation and submissions of necessary statutory returns, he adds.

Some examples of employee-related tax obligations Nigerian companies face include the following:

  • Filing annual returns of all remuneration paid to their employees and taxes deducted and remitted to the tax authorities on or before 31 January of every year. Failure to do so carries a maximum penalty of N500, 000 for the employer and N50, 000 for individuals.
  • Remittance of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) tax each month for each employee to the relevant state internal revenue services, on or before the 10th day of the following month.
  • Contributions of 10% and 8%, respectively, of their employees’ monthly remuneration to Nigeria’s contributory Pension Scheme.
  • Statutory payments, such as the Employee Compensation Scheme (formerly known as the Workmen’s Compensation Act), Development Levy, National Housing Fund and  Industrial Training Fund.

Automated solutions make it easy to comply

Against the backdrop of growing regulatory complexity, organisations need to realise that spreadsheets and other manual methods are no longer sufficient to meet their needs. Companies must instead implement solutions that streamline capturing of transactions, automate payroll calculations, processes and put visibility of the business in the hands of managers to enable them comply easily.

Such solutions also make it simpler to keep track of annual changes to tax regulations that impact on payroll tax calculations and various changes in legislation, says Nmonwu. These solutions help organisations to manage other challenges such as reducing the risk of internal fraud and getting better insight into business performance.

What’s more, the ability to generate tax certificates, reports and electronic payslips with the click of a button is a major timesaver. Nmonwu says that Nigeria’s federal and state governments are eager to expand their tax bases, and are investing heavily in modernising and streamlining tax administration.

This will help address some of the complexity Nigerian businesses face in paying tax. Nigeria aims to move from its current position of 181 out of 189 countries to top 50 on the Ease of Paying Taxes World Report which means that we will see a lot of reform of the tax system in the years to come, says Nmonwu.

“Today’s technology gives Nigerian companies the power to control their businesses from the palm of their hand. We connect our customers to accountants and partners with real-time and intuitive information about their business,” he adds. “Using technology streamlines compliance so companies can focus on their core business operations.”

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Leadership In A Time Of Recession By Olusegun Adeniyi

“What will economic policy look like once the global financial crisis is finally over? Will it resume the pre-crisis consensus, or will it be forced to contend with a post-crisis ‘new normal’? Have we made progress in addressing these issues, or does confusion remain? In April of 2015, the International Monetary Fund gathered leading economists, both academics and policymakers, to address the shape of future macroeconomic policy. This book is the result, with prominent figures—including Ben Bernanke, Lawrence Summers, and Paul Volcker—offering essays that address topics that range from the measurement of systemic risk to foreign exchange intervention.

“The chapters address whether we have entered a ‘new normal’ of low growth, negative real rates, and deflationary pressures, with contributors taking opposing views; whether new financial regulation has stemmed systemic risk; the effectiveness of macro prudential tools; monetary policy, the choice of inflation targets, and the responsibilities of central banks; fiscal policy, stimulus, and debt stabilization; the volatility of capital flows; and the international monetary and financial system, including the role of international policy coordination.

“In light of these discussions, is there progress or confusion regarding the future of macroeconomic policy? In the final chapter, volume editor Olivier Blanchard answers: both. Many lessons have been learned; but, as the chapters of the book reveal, there is no clear agreement on several key issues…”
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The foregoing is from the overview to a recently released book, “Progress and Confusion: The State of Microeconomic Policy”. Published by the MIT Press with contributions from 28 world-acclaimed experts in the field of economics, what makes the book unique is that it is not replete with the usual technical jargons such that it is easy to read and digest even by economic illiterates like me. And the conclusions are very disturbing, especially when those to whom we look for solutions for our current woes, including the challenge of deprivation and want that is now a global phenomenon, give the impression that they have little clue.

However, as a Nigerian, what is particularly striking is that in a 302-page book that deals with most of the issues affecting the global economy today, there is not even a single mention of our country. Lawrence Summers in his intervention titled “Rethinking Secular Stagnation after Seventeen Months” mentioned South Africa among the emerging markets while Jonas Vinals, in his “Introduction to the Monetary Policy Section”, also draws some illustrations from South Africa. And yet, as I stated earlier, there is not one reference to Nigeria.

What that says most eloquently is that we are not even part of the global conversation and that should worry the authorities. But perhaps more worrying is that, having last week announced that our country is in “technical recession”, the Federal Government has not communicated to Nigerians what exactly that means as well as their response and the sacrifices that would have to be made by citizens. Unfortunately, while the government is silent on these issues, all manner of economic “experts” are seizing the space.

In a piece being circulated widely online by a Mr. Da Thinker, the writer offers the following weird advice: “In a recession, liquidity is king. Avoid investing in long term projects. Keep your cash under your mattress if need be. The banks cannot be trusted. Have an active passport. Running away is not betrayal; it’s a tactical survivalist maneuver. Take all the loans you can take. It’s better for you to owe than for you to be owed. Do not lend money to no freaking body! They will not pay back. A recession changes people’s characters. That you knew them to be trustworthy before doesn’t mean they are trustworthy now. Recession changes character involuntarily. A recession turns people into liars and a government like ours that has been known to lie without reason will now be built on nothing but only lies. If you must make new investments, make sure it’s in your state of origin. You don’t want your gateman taking over your investments in case of an exodus.”

For sure, the reversal of the current recession would require a combination of fiscal and monetary creativity. And it would also take strategic communication not only for Nigerians to understand what the current challenges entail but also to know the efforts being made. Meanwhile, the worst thing that could happen in such circumstance is a resort to panic decisions based on some ill-digested ideas which many would take, in the absence of any assurance from government at a most difficult period.

Perhaps to illustrate the fact that there are no longer easy options for Nigeria, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) otherwise known as interest rate to 14 percent (from 12 percent); in a move the Financial Derivatives Company (respected by both local and foreign investors) Bulletin last night aptly summed up as “Hard Choice: Choosing to combat Inflation over Growth”. That the decision was taken by a vote of five to three is also very telling.

Indeed, if there is any virtue that is not golden for a leader in our circumstance today, it is silence. On Tuesday, an office was burgled overnight in Abuja and when the manager went to report at the police station, the officer on duty spoke in a note of both resignation and helplessness. “You are the 21st person that will be here to complain of burglary within the last 24 hours and in many of the arrests we have made, the culprits are basically desperate young people who are being forced into crimes for lack of any means of livelihood”, said the officer who concluded most ominously, “Nigeria is in trouble.”

According to the World Bank, poverty is becoming more entrenched in countries that are either conflict-ridden or overly dependent on commodity exports like Nigeria, notwithstanding the fact that we are still trapped in self-deceit. For instance, a recent publication quoting figures from the African Development Bank http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/why-africas-middle-class-statistics-are-questionable/ raises a poser from the 2010 rebasing of our economy: “How confident can one be about a 7% growth rate in a country like Nigeria when almost half of the economy was missing in the official baseline?”

So much has been said and written about the Asian countries which did not have our kinds of prospects for developments in 1960 but which have lifted their societies by dint of hard work and committed leadership and the example often cited is Singapore. Yet, Lee Kwan Yew could have been speaking about Nigeria when in a January 1972 speech he said: “You must have a structure in your society which makes learning and hard work rewarding…if you have a system where the chap who cuts corners is a man who gets rich and the man who studies hard is the chap who’s a mug, then you will fail. And that’s what is wrong with many countries that have not succeeded.”

That indeed is what is wrong with our country which seems to reward neither industry nor talents but mediocrity. And that also explains why Nigeria is almost always the universal reference point when it comes to squandering opportunities. In the book, “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations”, David S. Landes wrote: “Of all the so-called developing regions, Africa has done worst: gross domestic product per head increasing; statistical tables sprinkled with minus signs; many countries with lower income today than before independence. The failure is the more poignant when one makes the comparison with other parts: in 1965, Nigeria (oil exporter) had higher GDP per capita than Indonesia (another oil exporter); twenty-five years later, Indonesia had three times the Nigerian level.”

I sympathise with President Muhammadu Buhari because he inherited a broken system that is now coming under greater stress with deepening economic crisis; essentially because in the years of plenty, our Pharaohs had no Joseph who could see tomorrow. In the season we are now in, insecurity could worsen as unemployment and job losses lead many idle young hands into crimes of desperation. Labour agitations and strikes by workers will also most likely increase as more states get into trouble with payment of salaries. And for sure, we will see more of separatist tendencies, especially those driven by pecuniary demands as well as blackmail militancy and transactional kidnapping, all of which will stretch the authorities to the limits of their wits.

Therefore, to the extent that we live in an unusual time, there must also be a new approach if we must overcome. What we need now is a coherent response from the federal government in collaboration with the authorities in the 36 states who, by the way, should be told to drop their harebrained idea of a German trip for vocational training. And there must be a clearly articulated economic plan for job-led growth and development. Meanwhile, the hallmark of great leadership is simply to stay engaged with the people, to challenge them to innovate while coming up with policies that would empower them.

Above all, this is a time to reunite the people, not tinker with divisive tactics or dwell on a job that was lost over three decades ago, well before more than 50 percent of the current generation of Nigerians was born!
In a stirring (and very romantic) speech, rich with anecdotes of his relationship with his wife and Democratic party presidential nominee, Hillary, in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, former United States President, Mr. Bill Clinton, reminded those of us “who have more yesterdays than tomorrows” that the preoccupation should be more about the future (of our children and society), not the past.

Times indeed are very tough in our country today and, all factors considered, majority of our people can hardly see any prospects that their material conditions would Change for the better anytime soon. That is why the president cannot continue to stay aloof, distant and silent or keep reminding us of who did what in 1985. His full attention must be on our future. From the creeks of Oporoma in Bayelsa State to the IDP camp in Bama, Borno State, the President must visit to challenge the people to maintain hope beyond their present circumstances with assurances that the difficult times will not last.
That is the kind of leadership needed for a time like this. That is the kind of leadership President Buhari should offer.

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A Nation of Single Stories

While I had in the past read the text of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2009 TED Talks titled “The Danger of a Single Story”, it was only recently that I watched the video clip on Youtube. On one link alone, about 11 million viewers have watched the clip. It is something I strongly recommend to my readers because it speaks to our country in several ways. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story”, said Chimamanda as she delivered in 20 minutes one of most enjoyable yet thought-provoking lectures you can ever watch.

Even though Chimamanda’s thesis in the lecture is to explain how distorted or limited perspectives, especially about the culture and mores of other societies, often lead to wrong judgements, the take-away for me is that any society with a predilection for accepting single stories is seriously endangered. Two incidents in the last one week have led me to the conclusion that Nigeria is perhaps in a deep hole today on several fronts, essentially because our people are ever ready to accept single stories.

First, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, said there is no sufficient evidence to prove that the three members of the House of Representatives accused of sexual misconduct in the United States really committed the crime. According to Onyema, when he demanded from the (now former) United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, concrete evidence to support the allegation, he was provided none. “I was surprised that the alleged complainant (house keeper) refused to testify when approached by her government. He (Entwistle) said the hotel management reported the matter. The ambassador, however, did not present any corroborative evidence to me nor did he, indeed, indicate that they had any corroborative evidence because even the issue of identity, I understand, was based on group pictures,” said Onyema.

Ever since the scandal broke, I have refrained from making any comment, essentially because there were some things that did not add up. Whatever may have been the motivation, the Ambassador could not have done what he did to the lawmakers even to ordinary citizens in his own country; because the American justice system is strict on the dictum that he who asserts must prove. However, knowing Nigeria is a country where people accept hook, line and sinker every single story, the ambassador did not give the lawmakers the benefit of the doubt before sending the damaging letter in such a manner that it would be leaked to the public. And since America knows everything, according to our former president, there were media editorials and condemnations as a result of a single story from an unknown maid in an unknown hotel. And also because of that, the lawmakers stand condemned perhaps forever for an offence they may not have committed.

However, I will not blame the ambassador because he applied the Nigerian standard to deal with the situation. For instance, snippets coming out of the report of the judicial commission of enquiry set up by the Kaduna State Government to probe the killings last December of no fewer than 347 members of the Shi’a Muslim group in Zaria, are very damning. And they point to jungle justice at its most bestial, on account of a single story. While we wait for what the authorities will do on that most tragic incident, it is nonetheless sad that this disposition to acting on the basis of one-sided stories is impacting negatively not only on the rule of law but also to the advancement of our society.

On Tuesday, I posted to an online group a story I also picked online on how a businessman who was reportedly seeking money-making rituals found death in the hands of an herbalist who confessed to hiring two boys to behead him. But shortly after I posted the story, someone responded: “This is a totally inaccurate account. The victim was the youngest brother of a very close friend of mine.”

With the report already out there in the public domain, based essentially on a single uncorroborated story of a herbalist in police detention, the family of the deceased would not only have to cope with the grief of his loss but a damaged reputation at a time he cannot defend himself. And that is the danger of our criminal justice system which relies on confessional statements, most often obtained under duress, from single sources.
The moral: Next time you hear a story, please wait for the other side!

Abuja Teens Career Conference

My church is organizing a career conference for teenagers in Abuja with the theme “Your Life, Your Future, Not a Laughing Matter” on 13th August. While attendance is free of charge and there will be food and music, all intending participants are required to register online. Seats are limited so once the maximum number is attained, the registration portal,http://www.rccgteaptens.org/ will be closed.

The speakers include the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; the former Chairperson, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and current chair of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru; the Director General of PenCom, Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu; ace comedian, Mr. Atunyota Alleluya Akporobomerere (aka Ali Baba) and Pastor Eva Azodoh, a medical doctor (consultant urologist) and retired colonel of the Nigerian Army.

The objectives of the conference are to teach the teenagers to take responsibility for their future; have their imaginations fired through interaction with accomplished professionals; make them realise that no matter the odds, they can reach their goals and getting them to understand that God still intervenes in the affairs of men.

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The Time Has Come To Open Up Our Railway Sector To Private Sector Participation – Senator Ashafa

Senator Gbenga B. Ashafa representing Lagos East Senatorial District at the 8th Senate, is the Chairman Senate Committee on Land Transport. Through this feature, he renders his opinion on how to transform the Nigerian Railway Sector and a report on the efforts of the Senate Committee on Land Transport towards ensuring a transformed railway Sector beneficial to all Nigerians. 

“The Nigerian Railway Corporation traces its history to the year 1898, when the first railroad in Nigeria was constructed by the British colonial government. On October 3, 1912 the Lagos Government Railway and the Baro-Kano Railway were amalgamated, starting nationwide rail service under the name Government Department of Railways. With the passing of the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act of 1955, the company gained its current name as well as the exclusive legal right to construct and operate rail service in Nigeria. The rail network reached its maximum extent shortly after Nigerian independence, in 1964. Shortly after that, the NRC entered a long period of decline, inept management, and eventually a complete lack of maintenance of rail and locomotive assets. In 1988, NRC declared bankruptcy, and all rail traffic stopped for six months. After that, trains resumed, where the tracks were usable. By 2002, passenger service was again discontinued altogether. Starting in 2006, plans were made to restore the rail lines and add new locomotives with foreign assistance. In December 2012 regular, scheduled passenger service was restored on the Lagos to Kano line.”– Wikepedia

I have chosen to start this article with the foregoing quote from Wikepedia to give you all a background of the history of the Nigerian Railway Corporation and by extension the Nigerian Rail Sector. This quote will also put in proper perspective the urgent need to open up our railway sector to Public/Private Sector Participation.

In the recent past, Nigeria particularly has learnt that private participation drives effectiveness and Accountability in most service/utility sectors. We have learnt that the Government cannot carry the burden of delivering every service or utility. Successive governments in Nigeria have over the years burdened itself with the task of providing power, water, a National Carrier, Telecommunications, Railways etc.

What we have experienced till recently has been a steady decline in the functionality of Government-run social utility services. This has led to the change in disposition of Government towards extending a hand of partnership to the private sector to come and invest in some of these sectors. Sectors that have benefitted from the Private Sector Participation in Government Business include the Telecommunications Sector and the Power Sector.

Since the introduction of private sector participation in the Telecommunications Sector, the service has become more affordable, effective and accessible to every single Nigerian. The Telecommunications value chain also employs Millions of Nigerians with investment in the Sector set at about $32 Billion as at the first quarter of 2016.

Till the Telecoms sector was opened up in 2001, it was an untapped gold mine with unfathomable potential. It is this same quantum of potential that we seek to replicate by introducing the requisite CHANGE into the Nigerian Railway Sector.

Now, to achieve this change in disposition of any critical sector, there has to be a critical change in the Legislation that drives the Sector. Legislation forms the fulcrum of human, government and business interrelationship in every society. Hence what we need to and seek to do is to drastically change the legislation that guides the Nigerian Rail Sector to ensure that we maximize the full yet untapped potential inherent therein. For the sake of emphasis, the legislation that guides the Nigerian Railway Corporation was promulgated in 1955 (61 years ago).

Till now, you will agree with me that the country has focused primarily on road transportation in ferrying persons, goods and services from one point to the other. What this has led to over the years has been an influx of cars, congested roads, over-burdened road infrastructure, loss of lives to accidents and reduction in the productivity of manpower due to unending hours spent in traffic jams.

Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects. The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars. This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation.

Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city. It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time. It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.

You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail. This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.

In the light of the foregoing, When I was appointed the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, my humble self and committee members held interactive sessions with the Ministry of Transport and the Nigerian Railway Corporation to listen to the challenges facing the rail sector. We also at other different fora interfaced with stakeholders in the Rail Sector to feel their pulse on what needs to change to enable the Sector thrive. Our intention was to ascertaining how we as legislators could be of assistance to the Federal Government and fellow Nigerians through creating an enabling environment to revamp the rail sector through the instrumentality of legislation.

Upon our interaction with the Stakeholders, we discovered that there is an urgent need to open up the Sector to active private participation, predicated upon both State and Private Sector Participation on a level playing field.  To achieve this, we zeroed-in an urgent need to amend or repeal the existing Nigerian Railway Corporation Act, 1955, which does not contemplate private participation in the rail sector. I am therefore convinced that the time has come for us to open up our railway sector to private sector participation.

Just in good time, the Senate at Plenary forwarded the Nigerian Railway Corporation Repeal and Reenactment Bill 2015, sponsored by Distinguished Senator Andy Uba to the Senate Committee on Land Transport. Shortly after that, the National Transport commission Bill 2016 was equally forwarded to the Committee on Land Transport.

With regard to the Nigerian Railway Corporation Repeal and Reenactment bill, the Senate Committee on Land Transport successfully held a public hearing, which had in attendance all the important stakeholders in the sector. This culminated in the setting up of a technical committee made up of stakeholders with the legal and technical expertise to further advise the Senate committee on the desirable disposition of the proposed legislation. On Wednesday, 24th May, 2015, the report of the technical committee was submitted to us and I had the privilege of presenting the said report to His Excellency, the President of the 8th Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki on the same date.

Based on the recommendation of both the Senate Committee on Land Transport and the Technical Committee on the Nigerian Railway Corporation Act Repeal and Reenactment Bill 2015, it was agreed that due to the extensive recommended changes, the tittle of the Bill should be changed to the Nigerian Railway bill, 2016.

Consideration of the report of the Senate committee on Land Transport with regard to the said Bill has equally commenced before the Senate at plenary. The Third and Final Reading of the Bill, which will include the line-by-line consideration of the committee recommendations with regard to the Bill will be completed upon the resumption of the Senate from its recess. With regard to the National Transport Commission Bill, preparations are currently in full gear to hold a public hearing as well.

It is very important to note that up until 1993, the British also ran a state model of ownership and operation of the Railways and they faced similar challenges in funding and efficiency of the service. In a speech titled Rail growth through competition: the success of the UK model delivered by The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP on 12 November 2013 at the European Rail Congress, McLoughling pointed out as follows: “In fact the Railways Act came into effect on November 5 1993, breaking up the state-run British Rail, and transforming the face of our railway for ever. Nobody back then could have predicted the extraordinary changes that have taken place over the subsequent 2 decades.”

McLoughling stated further that “Rail travel had dwindled to such an extent that most people thought the private train operators would manage a decline in both passenger and freight traffic. How wrong they were. Privatisation sparked a railway renaissance. Since 1993, passenger journeys have doubled in the UK to a level not seen since the 1920s. On a network roughly the same size as 15 years ago, today our railway is running 4,000 more services a day. And rail freight has grown by 60%. Revenue is up more than £3 billion since privatisation, almost all of it due to higher passenger numbers rather than fare rises Safety levels are at an all time high. Punctuality is at near record levels. And passenger satisfaction is up by 10% over the past decade. None of this would have happened without privatization, without competition, without franchises investing in better services. Without an industry structure promoting accountability and incentivising growth.”

What we seek to achieve by these legislations is to replicate in Nigeria what started in the United Kingdom a bit over 20 years ago and as succinctly captured by the quotes from McLoughlin MP, just above.

This radical departure from the norm will make the sector more attractive to investors, by separating the roles of the operators and the regulator. A whole lot of investors have over time complained about the role of the Nigerian Railway Corporation as both the operator and the regulator in the sector. With the upcoming legislation, we expect to see a completely re-positioned Rail Transport Sector, open to private sector participation.

Once the rail sector is opened up to Private Sector Participation, we would have achieved two principal things, which are; Creation of Millions of jobs on one hand and also we would have successfully solved the challenge of inter/intra city mass transit.

Further more, in respect to Public Private Partnerships in the Rail Sector, the World Bank Group’s Public-Private-Partnership in Infrastructure Resource Center has also recommended the shared infrastructure model, which the upcoming legislation proposes when it stated that, “PPPs in railways can bring opportunities for investment, operating efficiency and modern and clean technology. PPP railway projects providing for shared use of rail tracks may lead to efficiency gains?and an increased revenue basis for states”

Having said these, I must thoroughly commend the effort of the Muhammadu Buhari led APC Government through the Ministry of Transportation headed by H.E Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi in consolidating the infrastructure relevant to drive our renewed rail sector, the Senate President who ab-initio showed interest in this vital sector by convening the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable for the first time. I also commend the various states that have begun laudable intra-city rail lines, of particular note is the Government of Lagos State ably led by H.E Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The Nigerian Railway Bill 2016 will essentially become the Bill that will bring all these brilliant initiatives by the Federal government and soon- to- be investors together to ease the Mass Transportation challenges across the Nation and as such help to increase the collective productivity of our work force.

In the same vein, I would like to seize this opportunity to commend all those who have worked tirelessly and pro-bono with the Senate Committee on Land transport, particularly the members of the Technical Committee on the Railway bill, ably chaired by Engineer C.C Okoye, the Chairman Body of Fellows, Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Infrastructure Advisory Fund, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Ministry of Transport, Office of the Senate President, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and all those who time and space would not allow me to mention here. We are indeed grateful.

It is our earnest hope, that these laws garner support across board and that upon the passage of these new legislations by this 8th National Assembly, we would have contributed in no small measure in opening up the rail sector, thereby attracting both Local and Foreign investments, creating millions of jobs and also establish a beneficial platform for the transportation of humans, goods and services alike.

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It’s Time To Move On, Atiku Tells Tinubu, Other APC leaders

A former Vice President and chieftain of APC, Atiku Abubakar, has urged leaders of the All Progressives Congress to shift from “extreme positions to a centrist one for the interest of democracy and the party, the new administration and the country at large”.

The former Vice President made the call Thursday against the backdrop of the APC NEC meeting in Abuja.

A statement released by his media office in Abuja on Thursday, quoted the former Vice President as calling for the concentration of positive energies on building unity, cohesion and harmony among party leaders and other stakeholders.

“We can resolve our differences when our leaders individually and collectively shift ground from extreme positions and move to the centre in the interest of our party and our country.”

Atiku, who was outside the country to perform Lesser Hajj (Umrah) in Saudi Arabia, said that he was deeply concerned that, soon after capturing power, the APC is torn apart at a time more energy is needed to attend to the objectives of the change agenda for which it was voted into power.

The APC has been rocked by crisis over the election of National Assembly leaders.

Atiku is believed to supports the emergence of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the wish of the party’s leaders, including the chairman, John Oyegun, and a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.

The former Vice President said it was high time the party overcame its current crisis of confidence arising from the National Assembly election of principal officers.

He said the current blame games targeted at individuals was an unnecessary diversion of energies at the expense of the urgency of the mission of the party to make life better for Nigerians.

According to the former Vice President, the vilification of individual party leaders and members in the face of challenges facing the country was painful to him, adding that the party should learn the lessons and move ahead.

While restating his commitment to the party and its change agenda, the former Vice President advised the party leaders not to allow people of bad faith to fuel division and acrimony among the party, adding that all positive energies should be directed towards sustaining the morale of the voters who look forward to the APC to make their lives better.

He reminded party leaders that any division could be exploited at the expense of the party. He extended his goodwill to the party for successful deliberations and assured the party of continued support and loyalty at all times.

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Can APC Be The Father Christmas Of Our Time? By Shomoye Abiodun

One of the unforgettable periods as a living human remains my days as a primary school student. Definitely this remarkable period isn’t the examination time, neither is it pre-or-post examination period nor holiday period (I know you’re wondering when it is). While it was fun to me, to some of my school mates then, this period is usually the scariest days in their lives, a period when parents are seen as “rebels”, you know why?! This is the period parents will willingly hand over their wards to a “masquerade” with big belly but lots of give away at disposal.

What we as infants saw as a masquerade back then is a generous mankind (with profit at his back of mind) generally known as father Christmas who only show up during the Christmas season to put smile on the faces of people but not as his/her detriment because you must pay before you enter.

I sincerely doubt if there is still much celebration of Father Christmas in today’s Nigeria compare to what I experienced in the mid-2000. Mid 2000 to present day is more than a decade and I ask; was my remembrance of Father Christmas after 10 years a natural occurrence? Absolutely, No! Something must trigger an action, APC’s social welfare package actually triggered my remembrance of Father Christmas, the smart prodigal son.

Sincerely, I think it is time for us to be truthful to ourselves, the fact that APC inherited a well planted disaster should not be subjected to further arguments, what we should be arguing on is; how APC won’t add more salts to the wound.

The Nigeria that was handed over to APC was a sick one that requires serious medical, psychological and in fact metaphysical approaches to cure. With the decisions so far, especially the social welfare package, from my perspective, APC seems to be suggesting subsiding drugs (whose after effect might add more to our problems) to our country’s illnesses and not the much needed cure.

One of the sadly numerous illnesses Nigeria is seriously battling with currently is mass unemployment which painfully leaves no age bracket behind. This definitely must be top priority of any sensible and rational government. Happily APC looks sensible but to what extent are they?

The idea of the social welfare package looks like a profligate decision from the government to the masses. Federal government is simply saying; “dear masses, there is a five hundred billion naira we are not using, accept our kind gesture and register for your share”. Apparently, Nigeria is now like the big bellied Father Christmas but something differentiates them; Nigeria’s belly is filled with challenges that needs funds to solve and can’t afford to spend without calculation. Though, Nigeria is currently on the mission to begin her own “giveaway” but she seems to have forgotten Father Christmas never did his own giveaway at his detriment.

The social welfare package patent belongs to APC, a good idea to some populace but before we celebrate this approach beyond rational reasoning, let me ask; have we forgotten Nigeria runs a democratic system? Have we also forgotten APC won’t be there forever? What will then happen if a new political party takes over the space and decides to say no to social welfare package?

Pathetically, at the moment, the best relieving approach to unemployment from APC is social welfare package and I sincerely doubt if the party really studied the causes of mass unemployment in the land before taking such Paleolithic decision. The social welfare currently targets majorly the extremely poor Nigerians, a study population no agency can give a close to accurate statistics about. I actually hope when the disbursement starts, the already wealthy Nigerians in position of power won’t hijack it. Be as it may, the fact that APC saw no reason to invest such huge amount in making agriculture or other sector attractive shows how outdated the ruling party is. A forward looking government would never have preferred giving her populace fishes to eat ahead of cleaning the ocean to enable the populace fish for themselves. Unfortunately, our ruling party is running on the outdated version of socialism software, hence they must embrace Fayose’s stomach infrastructure. The only difference is; president Buhari can’t cover Nigeria to share food items and to substitute that is disbursement of cash equivalent, what a pity for my dear country.

Below is my presumed excerpt of conversation between APC decision maker and an out of school Nigerian kid:

APC: hey kid, why are you not in school?

Kid: I haven’t eaten, no books, no chairs and tables and the school is leaking.

APC: Don’t worry, we will give you free food in schools, now you can go to school.

From the conversation above, APC addressed the food aspect but left out the much needed infrastructure to make learning conducive and attractive to students. Kaduna state government being an APC led state, has launched her own free mill program in public schools and it has become a mockery as students are said to be returning back to their homes after taking the free meal. Now that Federal APC is yet to fully implement the free meal package, I hope steps will be taking to avoid “eat and go home”. In an approach to avoid that, Federal government should equip schools with latest textbooks, rehabilitate dilapidated schools and if possible provide media learning approach, even if it will be at the detriment of free meal package.

Governing is not a rocket science, if APC really wants the party’s era to be written in the book of positive history, I advise the party to focus mainly on establishing structures and institutions. Structures and institutions lasts, appointing 500,000 teachers without structures and institutions to accommodate them will later amount to underutilization of labors which we can directly understand its effect if we take a vivid look at our local government sectariats and ministries. God bless Nigeria!!!

 

Shomoye Abiodun

@MrShomoye on twitter.

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Buhari Is The Kind Of Leader Nigeria Needs At This Time- VP Osinbajo

…Says President is honest & straight forward, “we work together very well.”

Nigeria has as its President at this time the kind of leader the nation needs: honest, straightforward and operating from a genuine heart, says Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

According to Prof. Osinbajo, though some people say President Muhammadu Buhari is strict because of his forthrightness, “he is the kind of leader we need now, a president who will not cut deals and who is only interested in moving Nigeria forward.”

“We are very happy that we have a President who is honest, a President who is straight forward, a President who is operating from the genuineness of his heart, this is the kind of leader that we need now,” the VP declared.

Vice President Osinbajo spoke today during a courtesy visit by a delegation from the Deeper Christian Life Church, led by Pastor W. F. Kumuyi at the Presidential Villa, adding, regarding the president and himself, “we have worked together very, very well.”

While acknowledging the economic situation in the country, the VP noted that the current administration did not create the conditions, “but we are here at this time.”

Continuing, he said “the reason (we are here at this time,) is known to the Lord Himself. Everyday I wake up knowing there is a cause for being here and it is to move the country forward.”

Interacting with Pastor Kumuyi on the Ogoni clean-up and Niger Delta, the VP said “the clean-up of Ogoni is very important,  the situation is very bad, I have been in the area a few times, but we need peace in the area to be able to carry on with the clean-up exercise.” He also said the clean-up exercise will take decades but with the phased implementation people can gradually return to fishing and farming.

On the power sector, Prof. Osinbajo said by February this year the country was doing 5000MW of electricity for the first time in history, and then the militants’ attacks on the pipelines has made things bad not only regarding electricity, but also cutting the oil revenues of the nation.  He however assured that government is working diligently on effective solutions to those challenges.

He was clear that God has a purpose for choosing the President and himself to serve at this time, saying “this is the doing of the Lord.”

Earlier, Pastor Kumuyi said he is in the Federal Capital Territory for a crusade and thought to pay a visit to the Vice President.  He thanked God for the progress made so far by the Administration, adding that “God will fulfill the purpose for which He brought you at a time like this.” The Vice President thanked Pastor Kumuyi for coming, noting that “your visit is a wonderful gift.”

While inviting the Vice President to the crusade, Pastor Kumuyi pledged his contributions and prayers for the Buhari administration, and also for the progress of the country.

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Ganduje 1st Year: Dividends At A Time Of Recession By Salihu Tanko Yakasai

It is almost a trite now to talk about how those managing governments at all level are in a nightmarish situation owing to slim resources and dwindling revenue. The Nigerian economy has gotten the bite of the resource curse bug and since last year many states have found it increasingly hard to even meet up with basic responsibilities, namely payment of salary. It is a different story in Kano.
In this bleak situation, keeping up with regular payment of salary is celebrated to high heavens in certain places. In Kano, under the state governor Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, no civil servant is owed by the government. But no one trumpets that because there are a thousand and one things achieved by the Ganduje administration within this year that call for greater garlands, especially giving the austere position of government finances.
But, first thing first. What is the root of the success of the Ganduje administration? Reforms! The Kano state government was the first in this dispensation to introduce cutting edge fiscal and administrative reforms to contain the foreseeable fiscal crisis, as at this time last year. As an experienced administrator (both by training and practice) Governor Ganduje foresaw a challenge in continuing with the status quo thus he came up with sharp reforms that are dual age; slash the cost of governance and explore the untapped alternative sources of revenue.
Governor Ganduje was the first in Nigeria to slash the number government ministries by reducing the inherited 24 ministries to 19. He it was also that fist announced slashing of the emoluments of public office holders by 50 percent. It was after him that some state governments and even the federal government adopted such standpoints as measures of reducing the over bloated wage bills and overhead costs.
The next step was to reform the state’s Board of Internal Revenue. From early in the day, the Ganduje administration initiated overhauling of the State Board of Internal Revenue and commissioning of highly experienced consultancy firms as part of far-reaching and creative measures towards boosting the internally generated revenue which include developing alternative revenue sources.
With these restrictions on government’s spending on recurrent matters and its deliberate revenue harnessing policy, Governor Ganduje made pro-people policies the cornerstone of his administration. The idea is for the poor at the grassroots to have the full benefits of their resources whether it is that which was collected from the national basket or the one sourced from them.
And in executing whatever development project that the government deemed needed or essential, Governor Ganduje has a clear focus and direction which he recently succinctly restated on the occasion of his one year in office.
“The direction of our administration is predicated on continuation, consolidation, fine tuning of on-going critical infrastructural projects embarked upon by the previous administrations and initiation of more people oriented policies and programs for the overall development of our dear state,” in the words of the governor.
This pronouncement is important and very radical position. Over the years, governance has been turned into a narcissistic venture where no one wants to complete a project started by a previous government, no matter how important, thereby leaving the land dotted with several uncompleted projects with the public coffers the one to pay for the wastefulness.
With this unambiguous navigation compass, Governor Ganduje went all out to finish up all that was started by the two immediate past administrations of the state, especially those ambitious projects embarked upon by his predecessor, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
In the last 365 days, Governor Ganduje has withered the storms to complete projects ranging from road construction, schools and hospital renovations, among others. Among the seven inherited road projects completed by the Ganduje administration include the Lagos Street, Post Office Road, Airport Road– Ahmadiyya/Kwanar Jaba road, among others. Similarly, the government has completed the Tsanyawa water works and completed the laying of pipelines along Zaria and Maiduguri roads which has made inhabitants of Hotoro and environs to witness sharp rise in water supply.
Work was also continued on many other important projects initiated by the previous administration including infrastructure at Amana, Bandirawo and Kwankwasiya cities as well as the 5-kilometer roads project in the 44 local governments, all in the overall spirit of governance as a continuous process.
The Ganduje administration is not only continuing with other projects but also initiating other laudable projects for urban renewal and rural development, as well as holistic development of Kano State and its people. About a dozen roads have been constructed/rehabilitated by this administration, from the scratch.
Under Ganduje, the state government has constructed a third underpass in Kano at the Panshekara/Sabon Titi intersection, easing off a traffic gridlock that was a commuter’s nightmare. This is in addition to other municipal and rural roads completed in this year under review.
Central as it is to the development of any society, education was also received serious attention from the Ganduje administration. A princely sum of N14.4billion has been allocated for 104 on-going projects and N3.6billion for new projects. Some of these projects include continuation of construction works at the permanent site of North West University and Kano University of Science and Technology, Wudil.
A large number of classrooms is also being constructed, complete with furniture in effort to ginger up foundational level of education.
In a country where diversification is the new mantra, the Kano State government has taken it beyond the lip service by heavily investing in agriculture, which had been the mainstay of Kano’s economy from the days of the legendry groundnut pyramid. Apart from its own direct investment, notable among which is the revival of the comatose state-owned fertilizer blending company, KASCO, the state government has facilitated a federal government N1 billion loan for rice farmers that is aimed at revamping rice farming.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as it is practically impossible to itemise the many strides achieved by Governor Ganduje in this rather short piece.
In final analysis, in his first one, Governor Ganduje has silently laid down salient foundations for the growth and progress of Kano state. He has also proved to be a visionary leader looking at his priorities and key policy decisions. At this rate, it is safe to say Kano is in safe hands and in three years it will be placed on real path to eternal progress.
*Yakasai is the DG Media and Communications to the Executive Governor of Kano State?
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The Right Or Wrong Time? By A M. Modibbo

For a nation that has not had any serious attempt at development on the part of the government and the citizenry, the country has long turned into a jungle where only the fittest survive. Everybody is just out to make money at all cost and all we know is how to protect our own interest at whatever cost; so long as we get some naira into our pockets or bank accounts we hardly care. The public sector turns out to be much more corrupt than the private sector, negligence is written all over public officers simply because they do not care whether the system works or fail because to them it is not their own business. Private organisations and businesses thrive more because they are more serious and mistakes will not be tolerated but in the public sector you can get away with almost everything so long as you do not step on the wrong toes. For example it is only in Nigeria that privately owned communication companies operating on Nitel trunk end up earning huge profits while Nitel continuously struggles.

Corruption started in this country from negligence and sabotage of government institutions for private gains from stealing public funds- even though it is said that stealing is not corruption. These “stealings” were initially covered up in office expenses because there was still sanity then but that sanity is so kicked out that it got to a level where public funds were transferred straight to private accounts because those involved believe they are so powerful that nobody can do anything. They erroneously believe they own this country and are only doing others a favour running it. My secondary school history teacher Mr. Dzeremo will say they run the country as if it is their privately owned company. Now corruption graduated from ordinary level of stealing millions and advanced to billions not only in our local naira but also in dollars while the country was gradually crumbling to its knees without them even lifting an eye brow. The stupidity is that they take away the monies leaving their people in abject poverty and the country underdeveloped. The ill-gotten wealth is taken to other countries to grow their economies and better the lives of the citizenry there while the relatives and fellow country people of the Nigerian looters are dying of hunger and minor diseases that we should have forgotten by now.

Let me say without a doubt that Nigeria is one of the most blessed countries on the face of the earth when it comes to wealth because to the best of my knowledge and I stand to be corrected there is hardly any natural resource that God created on earth that we don’t have in Nigeria. Unfortunately, we still remain one of the most cursed nations when it comes to leadership. Our leadership problem has eaten so deep that at all levels of leadership in this blessed country of ours the leaders only care to benefit themselves and their families at the expense of the followership. This is the situation across our institutions such as schools, community associations, and traditional organisations, religious, private and public institutions. Consequently, at a point in time this country was virtually shutting down, communication companies had no diesel to power their masts to provide their services; a total filling station manager told me they had no diesel to power their generator to sell fuel so they will have to wait for PHCN to supply power which is very unreliable.

While we were still battling with corruption and yet keeping quiet because Nigerians are very patient people, came in terrorism, cattle rustling, and kidnapping. The entire North Eastern part of this country was taken hostage, people were killed like animals, from killing 2 to 5 to 10 to 50 and it got to hundreds before the insurgents started taking down villages and later towns. In one single attack Boko Haram took over 16 towns and villages, children were orphaned, wives widowed, families lost, towns ceased to exist, businesses crumbled, girls were turned into sex slaves and yet while all these was going on some few people dined, wined, sang, danced and stole public funds that were supposed to be used to stop these atrocities. I just can’t help but wonder if they have conscience at all. I seriously thank God that there will be judgement day and we will all account for our actions. However, I wonder if at all our corrupt leaders believe God exists even though you see them in front rows in mosques and churches.

Corruption has been around since the second republic but only reached its climax during the last administration without a doubt and then came in a man that whether you like it or not, take it or leave it is known for his utmost integrity, honesty and selfless service, the one man that has no criminal record in his entire civil service career, the one man that never embezzled a single kobo. In neighboring Niger republic a presidential candidate uses his poster to campaign. This is someone that shed tears for the masses because for him he has everything he needs in this world. A contented person, someone we all know will not steal a single kobo from our treasury yet struggled for 12 solid years to get the chance to set our beloved country straight instead of enjoying his retirement.

It is just so unfortunate for him to be president at this very hard time in our national history but so fortunate for Nigeria and Nigerians to have him at this time for if not by now this country would have been history or in serious disaster. I am sure i would have crossed to neighbouring Niger republic or one of our neighboring countries and so will a lot of other Nigerians because this country will just be too hot for us. Thankfully, such a nasty scenario has been averted and Nigeria has now regained its respect in the comity of nations. First class presidents now listen with keen interest when our president talks; and Nigeria now gets a standing ovation.

The primary and most important purpose of every government is security and it is gradually being restored. Last week El-kanemi warriors played a football match at Maiduguri stadium something that has not happened in years. Boko haram is now on the defensive side, most of them running for their lives.

Even though we know change always comes at a cost the suffering is actually getting unbearable. This is evident in the long and unending fuel queues with people leaving their vehicles in queues for days in anticipation that fuel is on the way. In kaduna a litre was at a time sold for 500 naira by black marketers. The exorbitant rise in prices of everything in this country even sachet water, high rate of kidnappings and so many other things all indicate the sufferings Nigerians are going through with patience. Baba its high time you spend a little time at home and solve some issues even though we know all your travellings are work related but Nigerians are tired of you jetting out. It has gotten to a time that people are beginning to lose faith in you and the ones that still believe in you have no words to defend you, the opposition is gradually taking over the discussions with little or no response from those that believe in you simply because they have nothing to say. What am saying here is at least let us see you in action and have something to say. Its been a year and we are still only hoping and praying that you don’t fail. Baba survival of this nation solely depends on you now so it’s better you deal with all these saboteurs in whatever way and give us results, please. When you send a child to school you don’t expect him to tell you that the environment is not conducive for learning if his or her result is not good you just want a good result. Baba, Nigerians elected you the hard way, some put their precious lives on the line and some lost theirs. All we ask is don’t let us regret it, let us know it was worth it.  Imperfection is part of human nature and so nobody is perfect and even the great PMB has his flaws but has proven that he is the best among us. We should understand that the problems and solutions of this great nation does not start and end with Muhammadu Buhari alone but rather they start and end with us all. Everybody has a role to play, we must change our ways and attitudes, we should try and be selfless, always look at the greater good, put Nigeria first, fight corruption collectively and most importantly always pray for this country and may be, just may be the suffering and cries will end with us while the future generation will enjoy it.

 

A M. Modibbo

@Ammmodibbo on Twitter

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Open Reply To Charles Ibekwe- Time For NCC To Grow Spine, By Dayo Akinpelumi

It will please you to know that, the meeting involved all stakeholders, which involved the 3 tiers in the sector: NCC, the Telco’s and the VASP (Value Added Service Providers)

VAS Services are not carried out by the Telco’s, they are carried out by Value added Service Providers whom are Licensed by the NCC, you need to get your facts right, reading down the line it is obvious you do not know that this tier exist in the Telecom Sector.

Service providers are licensed by the NCC and routine check on this service providers are made from time to time to make sure the are functioning within their jurisdiction/Licensed framework.

Various avenues have been put in place by the NCC to checkmate unsolicited SMS, such as the double-opt-in implementation on all services before a subscriber is plugged into a service, the NCC toll free number (622) for complaints and the mandate from NCC to all Telco’s to start blacklisting of numbers, as soon as a subscriber expresses his/her displeasure to any service he has opted into as well as the ban on auto-renewal of a subscriber without notice, this brought about a mechanism where 2 days before auto-renewal, an opt-out option is sent to the subscriber, giving him liberty to opt out of a service before he is charged again for the next rental period.

A lot of sensitization has been going on to let fellow Nigerian know that they can report straight to the NCC if they receive any unsolicited message or are plugged into any unwanted ring back tune.

Thousands of jobs have been created by the two hundred and fourteen (214) VAS companies licensed by the NCC to act as the intermediary between owners of intellectual property and the Telco’s.This job descriptions range from business developers, IT specialists, accountants, lawyers, Telecom Engineers and the list goes on.

“The VAS value chain, as envisaged should include service and content developers, service hosting and service providers – the aggregators, as well as the network operators. Network operators at the moment hijacked the three tiers. Because they have a kind of monopoly of these services, which they should not be offering in the first place, they are also involved in what amounts to price fixing that allows them to charge exorbitantly” –Charles Ibekwe

The above statement is highly unprofessional and has a tone of ignorance embedded in it, if you have vast knowledge in the industry as claimed, you would have come to realize that the 3 tier exists and all perform functions within their jurisdiction.

“For instance, have you ever imagined that SMS are supposed to be free of charge (or part of the package for subscribing and paying to a particular Telco); yet Nigerians were once paying N15 per SMS? How was it possible for the network operators to offer promos in which they can give 1000 free SMS and then go back to continue charging for the same service they should have offered for free?” –Charles Ibekwe

If this is offered for free, how then are they supposed to maintain infrastructure that offer these service, how then are they supposed to pay staff, how will the government generate the revenue it ought to? As evidently seen, the NCC regulated this price to as low as N4 per SMS across all networks, safe guarding the interest of Nigerians

Intellectual property owners – musicians, comedians, authors and owners of various literary works, etc. do no deal with the Telco’s directly apart from being ambassadors, their creative materials, contents and intellectual property are handled by the VAS companies whom are the intermediary to the Telco’s.

“Without a formally licensed aggregator or middleman, the Telco’s have become something akin to record label or movie producers/companies. They can decide to, for instance, offer any artiste a paltry percentage of the total profit derivable from his/her intellectual property. Since this segment of the business is not regulated or liberalized, it is a zero-some, winner-takes-all market space for the Telco’s” –Charles Ibekwe

This statement is erroneous and only sabotages the obligations being carried out by the Telco’s.

A lump some of cash flow is being generated from locally produced content, and it is evident in the continued improvement in the quality of works produced in the industry.

Do you know how many billion is being generated by the telecommunication industry yearly? and in particular from VAS Companies? In form of withholding taxes, company income tax, Value added tax on every service offered to the Telco’s? The employee taxes being generated after these companies have paid their staff, the 1% remittance of Annual staff salary to the industrial training fund? All and these constitute a substantial amount not forgetting the Annual Operation Levy to the Commission, and so many others

I will want to believe your statement “The VAS platform is reported to be worth at least over N300billion yearly but there is no record of government making corresponding benefit from it by way of additional tax remittances. Let us not forget that the additional thousands of employments that VAS would generate will translate into more PAYE tax for the government to finance public infrastructure” is an assumption by you, for if you have done your research appropriately, you would have come across the existence of VAS Companies as well as the heavy amount of taxes levied on these companies.

Voice and data is the only obligation being carried out by the Telco’s in Nigeria as exists in other markets/countries.

Telco’s only legal affiliation to aggregators/content providers/VAS providers is the provision of content to subscribers by leveraging on the Telco’s infrastructure.

In summary the above write-up lacks merit and it’s an unfounded accusation to the NCC as well as the Telco’s, I consider this an act to sabotage the efforts being put in place by the various stakeholders of the industry to strengthen the Telecommunication sector.

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In My Time in Office, Ajaokuta Steel Company Will Be Revitalised – Gov. Bello

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Time For NCC To Grow A Spine; By Charles Ibekwe?

Nigeria’s telecom subscribers are being ripped off daily and the only organization empowered to stop it, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) is set to allow that continue into the foreseeable future except something gives. The network operators are the ones regulating NCC. It is their puppet that jerks in whatever direction they pull the strings to.

NCC did not leave anyone in doubt that this is what is happening as it recently cemented its position as a collaborator with the network operators as opposed to that of a regulator that the public expect it to be. The shambolic outing at a forum couple of weeks ago in Lagos to explore the draft regulatory framework on Value Added Service (VAS) prepared by the NCC confirmed what has always been known by subscribers, the regulator answers to the operators it was meant to oversight.

What happened at the consultative forum, paradoxically organized by the NCC, was nothing short of the big telecom companies (telecoms) giving the commission the middle finger and they were not remorseful about doing so openly for all Nigerians to see. Reduced to layman terms, the telecoms are adamant in their resolve to continue holding Nigerians hostage with their exploitative offerings while at the same time holding back the growth of the industry and preventing its expansion to create jobs for Nigerians and revenue for the government.

At the core of what transpired at the consultative forum was the Value Added Service (VAS) which the draft regulations described as “…any telecom network-based service that offers more value than the ordinary voice conversation service, usually at a higher price than normal voice charges OR a service offered over the public voice or data network which by using computer-based processing allows the caller to access, download or modify information stored in remote locations.”

So all those information services and content such like news, updates, data, quiz, games, ringtones, video streaming, alerts, product information, call centre and database access etc. are what constitute VAS since these are not the functionalities that the telecom providers were originally licenced to serve. These services are currently unregulated and the draft framework is meant to provide regulation that includes licencing those that provide them, different from the telecom operators. The lack of regulation is of course responsible for those annoyingly irritating intrusion into one’s privacy and quiet moments by constant harassment from unsolicited SMS, robot call and offers for caller tunes. Those that have approached NCC to stop the bombardment from these services will understand the degree of helplessness the Commission currently faces since it does not have the framework in place to regulate them as it were.

It must be noted that all subsisting directives to bring the telecoms to heel have only been minimally successful because as things stand the big companies are the accused, judge and jury. They will continue to exploit subscribers for as long as the current arrangement continues.

But if citizens and subscribers think unwanted services are irritating – and they are irritating to the extent that those currently shunting them to the public have no competence to deliver in ways that truly make them Value Added Services – the greater import of the telecoms holding unto VAS should get every single person massing at the NCC national headquarters demanding that the right thing be done.

First, the jobs that were widely promised to come with growth in the sectors have been stolen or killed because the diversity that should come with different firms handling different components of VAS has not been allowed to blossom. The VAS value chain, as envisaged should include service and content developers, service hosting and service providers – the aggregators, as well as the network operators. Network operators at the moment hijacked the three tiers. Because they have a kind of monopoly of these services, which they should not be offering in the first place, they are also involved in what amounts to price fixing that allows them to charge exorbitantly. For instance, have you ever imagined that SMS are supposed to be free of charge (or part of the package for subscribing and paying to a particular telco); yet Nigerians were once paying N15 per SMS? How was it possible for the network operators to offer promos in which they can give 1000 free SMS and then go back to continue charging for the same service they should have offered for free? We don’t have to delve into the extortion by the banks in charging for every activity on customers’ accounts through sending frivolous and often unnecessary SMS.

Secondly, the owners of the content deployed on VAS platform, especially the intellectual property owners – musicians, comedians, authors and owners of various literary works, etc. are recklessly short-changed by the big telecoms. Without a formally licensed aggregator or middleman, the telecoms have become something akin to record label or movie producers/companies. They can decide to, for instance, offer any artiste a paltry percentage of the total profit derivable from his/her intellectual property. Since this segment of the business is not regulated or liberalized, it is a zero-some, winner-takes-all market space for the telecoms. This stifles creative energy and has contributed immensely to the inability of the creative and entertainment industry to grow above sustenance level.

Thirdly, on the government (revenue) side, the network operators are engaged in systematic taxes evasion as they do not pay additional or commensurate taxes for the revenues derived from the activities of the other segments they have hijacked. The VAS platform is reported to be worth at least over N300billion yearly but there is no record of government making corresponding benefit from it by way of additional tax remittances. Let us not forget that the additional thousands of employments that VAS would generate will translate into more PAYE tax for the government to finance public infrastructure. This was the way the telecommunications sector was envisaged when the industry was liberalized. So why has the NCC allowed a few big wigs to revert it into a patently manifest inefficient monopoly?

Furthermore, the refusal of the telecom operators to stick to their mandate areas – voice and data – is impacting the quality of service they deliver. This is happening because they spread their available resources so thin instead of allowing competent firms to be properly licenced by the NCC to take over VAS as applicable in other markets. Their insistence on operating on the current model is particularly baffling since they will still make money from the other segments providing VAS. To the extent that their economic interests would not be hurt in any way, one must thus ask why the NCC is resolute on remaining the protectionist regime for the network operators instead of stepping up to its functions as provided in the extant law.

It is common knowledge that the telecoms have their own aggregators – which they actually control to short-change both the consumers and the government in terms of quality and value-added services and tax evasion respectively as itemized above. They have no business owning aggregators, whether as subsidiaries or as affiliates. The industry is not structured to function that way and it is only an anomaly birthed from the unholy alliance between the NCC and the network operators. Each subscriber must therefore pose the relevant question to the NCC to explain why it has over the years stayed hands akimbo while the operators generate or control the generation of content and sell to the people in clear violation of the class of license issued to them.

There is a reason the industry has diverse roles for developers, aggregators, and network providers. The network providers are already doing their job and compromising, if not brazenly hijacking a chunk of business that are beyond their patent functions as provided by the law. If the industry is allowed to thrive the way is meant to be, content and service developers will for instance ensure they are pushing out standard services that are relevant to their customers as opposed to the junk-ware that now dominates the mobile platform. A properly licensed aggregator would ensure that the relevant content is screened, deemed appropriate and delivered only to those subscribed to them and not infuriate our lives as is the case presently.

The NCC must tell us why it is allowing the on-going criminality of telecom companies to go on under its watch as the regulator. We continue to receive all manners of shorts code messages and oftentimes ring back tones we never subscribed to but still charged for even when they have no reflection whatsoever on our taste and choices.

Charles Ibekwe is a Public Affairs commentator writes from Enugu State, email: challybecks@gmail.com

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