By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah and Francis Okoye |
The federal government has approved Finance Bill 2020 designed to engender incremental changes in the nation’s tax laws and support the 2021 fiscal year.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this to State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari insisted that Value Added Taxes (VAT) will not be increased.
The minister further explained that the new bill seeks to make incremental changes to tax laws relating to Customs and Excise as well as other fiscal laws to support the implementation of the annual budget.
She said, “When the President presented the 2021 budget to the parliament, he did direct that the 2020 Finance Bill will also follow to support the budget proposals.”
She said the government was working on implementing current fiscal reforms in line with the Multi-year Medium Term framework and over time, even as she expressed hope that the Finance Bill will reform the fiscal space on an incremental basis.
She said, “So, this Finance Bill for 2020 was developed as a result of a very large multi-stakeholder effort under Fiscal Policy Reform Committee that has several ministries, departments and agencies as members as well as the private sector, experienced tax practitioners and academics.
“During the process, we received a lot of suggestions from different stakeholders but we had to limit what we could take because we are by three principles – to adopt appropriate counter fiscal measures to manage the economic slowdown, incrementally reforming the fiscal incentive policies of government and ensuring closer coordination between the monetary trade as well as fiscal authorities.
“A few of the provisions of the 2020 Finance Bill: the broad principle is to consider how we will have adequate macroeconomic strategies to attract investment, to be able to grow the economy on a sustainable basis but also to create jobs as the immediate fiscal strategies to put in place accelerate domestic revenue mobilization in response to COVID-19 pandemic and the recent decline in the economy.
“In producing this bill, what we were inadvertently doing was amending provisions in 13 different taxes which include the Capital Gains Tax Act, Companies Income Tax Act (CITA), Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) Act (IIDITRA), Personal Income Tax Act (PITA), Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act, Customs & Excise Tariff (Consolidation) Act, Value Added Tax Act (VATA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Public Procurement Act.”
Ahmed listed some highlights of these provisions to include: “amendments that we have had to make to provide incremental changes to tax laws”.
She said, “These amendments include providing fiscal relief for corporate tax payers, for instance by reducing the applicable minimum tax rate for two consecutive years.
“These reforms will commence and will also be closely followed by the cessation rules for small businesses as well as providing incentive for mass transits by reducing import duties and the levies for large tractors, buses and other motor vehicles. The reason for us is to reduce the cost of transportation which is a major driver of inflation especially food production.
To Adopt Geospatial Technology For IGR
Meanwhile, the federal government has said it has plans to adopt geospatial technology for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the country towards diversifying the economy.
Surveyor-general of the Federation, Mr Samuel Adeniran, said this at the 2020 Geospatial Information System (GIS) Day celebration organised by the Geospatial Society of Nigeria (GEOSON) in Abuja, yesterday.
The theme of the celebration was “Driving Internally Generated Revenue with Geospatial Technology”.
Adeniran said, “Human beings can only manage effectively their present and future when they can predict phenomena with substantial data of happenings in their environment.
“Since money is an important factor for formulation, planning and execution of nearly all human endeavours, the issue of IGR has become fundamental in the modern world.
“With the rising cost of governance and demands of various sectors of the economy on the government, there is need to continue to explore every means of enhancing our financial base.
“Although surveying and mapping, GIS and remote sensing are not end themselves, the nation cannot continue to subsist in self-deception of making meaningful progress without geospatial knowledge and application.
“The government is now focusing on the diversification of the economy to lessen dependence on the downstream sector and the use of geospatial technology to harness resources in mining, tourism, agriculture, transportation, land and housing among other engagements.”
Also, GEOSON president, Dr Matthew Adepoju, said geospatial technology has been deployed in many climes by the media to handle COVID-19 pandemic and recently the U.S presidential election.
He emphasised that geospatial technology was among the top 10 fields projected to become centre of emerging technologies’ development and among the 20 highest paid professions globally, hence the need for practitioners to upgrade themselves.
Chairman, GEOSON Board of Trustee, Prof Joseph Akinyede, said that the realisation of a country’s sustainable socio-economic development depended on availability of geospatial information.
He said, “Geospatial technology must be part of a nation’s infrastructure such as in transportation, healthcare, telecommunications and accorded same level of support and priority because it provides geographic information of the country in terms of asset and potential.
According to him, geospatial technology experts complement other professionals, so there is need to work in synergy to develop the country.
Acting-director of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Francis Chizea, said geospatial technology will be useless without strong reliable dataset.
Chizea, represented by Dr Godstime James, said, “The agency is championing the GRID3 programme to provide demographic, geographic and settlement data of the country.
“The agency is pushing for the revatilisation of National Geospatial Data Infrastructure to have uniform fundamental dataset which we can build geospatial data required for IGR.”
FG Outlines Interventions For Affordable Housing Units
Meanwhile, the federal government has outlined various interventions it has made in the housing sector, which it said are aimed at making the process of owning houses easy for citizens.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who disclosed this to State House correspondents after the federal executive council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, said he presented over a 280-page report to the council on the ministry’s interventions in the housing sector so far.
Fashola said various housing projects are ongoing in different parts of the country with 186 housing units already completed, while 2,300 others are still under construction.
The minister who also said the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) had since inception delivered 45,000 housing units in 81 estates across the country, added that the agency delivers no fewer than 1,000 housing units every year.
According to him, any worker who contributes to National Housing Fund (NHF) domiciled in the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria for six months is qualified to access the fund to buy houses of their choice.
The minister who said the ministry had also made the process of obtaining certificate of occupancy (c of o) easier for those who prefer to build their own houses, disclosed that a total of 3,290 C of Os have been given out in recent times.
He said for those who want to obtain loan to build their houses, it is very important that their landed property must have titles.
He also said a major reason physical assets are not allowed as collateral for accessing loan to buy or build houses is because anyone who desires to access the NHF must be a certified contributor to the housing fund.
He also said the process of accessing the loan is a little but difficult, resulting in delay for some months, because some investigations need to be carried out after applications have been submitted to ensure that claims made by applicants are genuine.
Releases N3.5bn For Construction Of 10,000 Housing Units For IDPs
In a related development, the federal government has released the sum of N3.5 billion for the construction of first phase of housing units for the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
This followed an earlier request by the Borno State government for the construction of housing units for them and the subsequent approval by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, also released the sum of N1.3 billion for construction of ruga farms in Borno State.
This was disclosed yesterday by Borno State governor, Prof Babagana Umara Zulum, while inspecting a 1000 housing unit under construction at Dalori community in Konduga local government area of the state.
Zulum added that the administration of President Buhari has as well, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, released the sum of N352million with a view to providing means of livelihood to the returning communities.
The governor said, “Last year, the government of Borno State requested for construction of housing estates in the State with a view to resettling back the IDPs. The President has graciously approved the construction of 10,000 affordable housing units in Borno State.
“Fortunately enough, the president has released fund to undertake the construction process. So what you are seeing now is an intervention from the federal government.
“Because of the integrity of this government, the federal government has released the fund to the State government to undertake the project. The federal government has released N3.5 billion to start the first phase of the 10,000 housing units.
“Here in Dalori, the 1000 housing unit is approaching completion; another one in Kaleri is also about 70 percent completion. We are here to monitor the ongoing projects and let the world know the giant stride of the federal government.”