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Cash crunch: Nigerians to pay more taxes

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  • As FG removes kerosene subsidy

Against the backdrop of the economic crisis plaguing Nigeria amid falling global oil prices, the Federal Government is considering changes to the nation’s tax regime in a bid to shore up dwindling revenue.

There are indications that the government will increase Value Added Tax, as recently suggested by the International Monetary Fund, whose Managing Director, Ms. Christine Lagarde, visited the country early this month. Economic and financial experts have, however, said the move to increase VAT would put further pressure on Nigerians, as it would cause increase in the prices of goods and services, among other implications.

VAT is a consumption tax payable on the goods and service consumed by any person, whether government agencies, business organisations or individuals. It is currently levied at the rate of five per cent in the country.

The sharp drop in crude oil revenues, which provide 95 per cent of the country’s foreign earnings, has led to significant depletion of the nation’s foreign reserves. Oil prices have fallen in the last few days to their lowest levels since 2003, trading about $10 lower than the oil price benchmark of $38 proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari for this year’s budget. Oil prices staged a rebound on Friday, trading around $32 per barrel on Saturday.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has said the Federal Government plans to borrow up to $5bn from multiple sources, including the Eurobond market, to plug its budget deficit. Buhari had in December presented a total budget size of N6.08tn, with a deficit of N2.22tn to be financed by both domestic and foreign borrowings of N1.84tn.

He put the revenue projection for the year at N3.86tn, adding that over the medium-term, the government expected to increase revenues and reduce overheads, to bring the fiscal deficit down to 1.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2018. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who said changes to taxation were being considered, told CNBC in a television interview, “We are looking at increasing our tax coverage.

He added, “VAT, for instance — we have been doing just about 20 per cent coverage. We think that just by increasing coverage, we could do much more, and so we could earn more in terms of local resources,” he said. Increasing VAT from 5 per cent, among the world’s lowest VAT rates, and broadening the tax base were among suggestions put forward by the IMF boss during her visit. During her visit, Lagarde also said the IMF did not support foreign exchange restrictions.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, whose monetary policy committee will meet on Monday and Tuesday, imposed forex restrictions last year aimed at conserving foreign exchange reserves and there have been calls from investors for these to be eased.

“We know that the central bank will just have to do the right thing at this time. The central bank has told us, and it was announced even in the president’s budget speech, that they intend to take a flexible approach and deploy whatever tools are necessary to ensure that we stay competitive,” Osinbajo had said. A Professor of Financial Economics at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Leo Ukpong, described the move to increase taxes as ill-timed, saying any increase in VAT would lead to declines in consumption and investment in the country.

He said, “It is not that it is bad to increase taxes; what is bad is increasing it at the wrong time. When the economy is going through recession; when we are not producing; when unemployment is high, that is not the time to raise any tax.

In fact, the opposite is the case: it is a time you cut taxes so that you can stimulate consumption and investment.

“Increase in VAT is going to destroy the economy more. Consumption of goods and services will drop because you’re taking money away from people, and investment will drop. Overall, it is going to have negative effects on the economy, households and businesses.”

The Head, Investment Research, Afrinvest West Africa Limited, Mr. Ayodeji Ebo, said the government should explore all avenues to ensure compliance as well as improve on its collection mechanism before considering increase in tax rates.

He said, “Raising VAT will lead to increase in the price of goods and services; cost of production will go up as well as cost of goods.

It is going to be telling on Nigerians in the interim. However, if this fund is channelled to proper use, the multiplier effects will cushion the impact of VAT on Nigerians “If we are able to get good roads, rail and power supply, these are some of the things that form the larger part of the cost of production — it is going to be a short-term pain to get a long-term gain.”

Professor Sheriffdeen Tella of the Department of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, said the government might want to consider increasing taxes in some areas and expand the tax net in some other areas to capture more people and organisations.

He said, “There are a lot of people and organisations that are not paying tax, particularly in the informal sector. The government has to work out a way to capture the informal sector taxes.

“It is not as if they want to impose taxes generally. Let us look at VAT, for example; there are some assets that can be regarded as luxury items.

They can increase the tax regime on those assets. People hardly pay tax on wealth in this country. They need to capture those people (the wealthy).” According to Tella, government needs to raise funds to be able to execute projects and tax is a major thing in increasing internal revenue.

“I think it is not tax changes that will further affect the common man. They can also reduce the tax paid by some levels of income-earners,” he added.

A Partner and Head, Tax Regulatory and People Services, KPMG Nigeria, Mr. Victor Onyenkpa, said, “Given that oil is what it is today, tax is crucial in raising money, and the one that they have talked about is VAT, especially so that they want to increase the rate.

The problem is that VAT, as we operate it in Nigeria, is a sale tax. “Increasing VAT, to my mind, is fine, to the extent that it is together with making companies have recoverable input VAT.”

According to Lagarde, the new reality of low oil prices and low oil revenues means that the fiscal challenge facing government is no longer about how to divide the proceeds of Nigeria’s oil wealth, but what needs to be done so that Nigeria can deliver to its people the public services they deserve.

She said, “This means that hard decisions will need to be taken on revenue, expenditure, debt, and investment going forward. My policy refrain is this: Act with resolve — by stepping up revenue mobilisation.”

In the meantime, the Federal Government has officially ended the payment of subsidy on kerosene. Instead of the regulated pump price of N50 per litre, the product will now sell for N83, according to the latest pricing template for House Hold Kerosene released by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency.

The PPPRA is the agency of the Federal Government that fixes and regulates the prices of white products, kerosene and petrol, across the country.

In its latest template released on Saturday, the agency stated that the retail price of kerosene or HHK by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was N83 per litre.

The commodity is believed to be mostly consumed by low income earners in the country.

The new template showed that the retail or pump price of HHK was now N10.72 higher than the Expected Open Market Price of the commodity. The EOMP, according to the new template, is N72.28.

The EOMP is a summation of the landing cost of the commodity with the subtotal margins like bridging fund, transporters’ cost, dealers charge, admin charge, etc.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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