Vice President Yemi Osinbajo observed yesterday that the country’s fiscal challenges are tied to inadequate revenue, especially in the face of dwindling oil proceeds.
Against this background, he emphasised the need for the prompt payment of taxes by citizens to enable governments at all levels to address the country’s various challenges.
Osinbajo spoke in Jos, the Plateau State capital, during the graduation ceremony for 85 participants of Senior Executive Course, SEC 43, 2021, at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru.
He identified providence and good policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as the factors that enabled the country to cope with economic pressure, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He challenged participants of SEC 43Jos to be at the frontline of promoting the nation’s unity.
He said, “There are possibilities; we are not facing an uncertain future. Generalized restrictions on trade are counterproductive, especially when they impede the ability of local industries to procure inputs.
“Our focus would be on allowing import of goods to which value can be added for domestic consumption and exportation; for example, importing cotton for garment making.
“Someone may argue that we should ensure that we grow all our cotton but the issue is that where the jobs are created is in value addition. Bangladesh, for example, only grows two per cent of their annual cotton requirement but it is the largest garment exporter in the world. It imported $11.8billion of textile and apparel, while it exported $31billion worth of garments in 2019, much higher than what it imported.
“The fiscal challenge facing Nigeria is inadequate revenue, especially in the face of lower oil revenue and your research pointed that out. It is, therefore, essential to improve tax administration for the vigorous collection of revenue due to the federal government from all its Ministries, Departments and Agencies and bring all high earning agencies into the federal budget.
“In Nigeria, we have about 142 million people, individuals who pay a self-assessed tax of more than N10million. I am not talking about companies; I am talking about individuals. 90 per cent of them are from Lagos State. So, in this whole country, people with Rolls Royce, big cars and all sorts – only that tiny fraction – pay that N10million in self-assessed tax. Everybody else claims to earn never enough to be able to pay that kind of money.
“So, we need to be more aggressive about tax collection, excessive tax collection from those who certainly have the resources. Concurrently, we must lower customs duties and tariffs on raw materials and intermediate goods used in manufacturing while giving reciprocal non-tariff-based support like procurement subsidy and tax rates to priority sectors”.
In his remarks, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, pledged the support of the state government to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), as it continues to churn out policies for the peace and development of the nation.
According to him, Plateau State remains excited to host the Institute which has been producing many research findings and outstanding personalities that have shaped policies of various administrations in Nigeria.
He said most of the participants at the Institute are not only great assets for the nation, but Ambassadors of Plateau State who, on posting for the course, are reluctant in coming out of fear of the unknown but, on completion of studies, find it difficult to leave Jos.
He noted that many of them have built houses in Jos and have settled down, thereby, correcting the wrong narratives of crises and chaos wrongly attached to the state.
Earlier in his welcome address, the acting director-general of the Institute, Brig. Gen Udaya (rtd), said the Executive Course 43 participants went through rigorous research that took them to many states in Nigeria as well as countries in Africa and other parts of the world.
He stated that they have since submitted their report to the president for consideration and implementation
Osinbajo Laments Lack Of Integrity, Slow Pace Of Judicial Process
In another development, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the Nigerian judiciary, a matter of urgency, must address the issue of delays in processing cases through the courts.
Osinbajo who had addressed the issue on previous occasions restated his position again at the weekend when he chaired the Wole Olanipekun & Co. (WOC) Justice Summit on Justice Sector Reforms in celebration of the 70th birthday of a learned silk, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), in Lagos.
Describing the issue of delays in the judicial process as the ‘elephant in the room’, the VP wondered what would happen to the country’s legal profession in “another 50 years given the gridlock in processing cases through the courts and the question of the integrity of the legal process, or better still, the integrity of actors in the legal process in Nigeria.”
Highlighting delays in Nigerian courts, the vice president recalled “how the UK Court of Appeal had occasion to comment in the case of (IPCO v. NNPC  EWCA Civ 1144) where a challenge to the enforcement of a Nigerian seated arbitration tribunal award came before the English Court of Appeal.”
The VP explained that “the court referred to the delays in the parallel proceedings before a Nigerian court as catastrophic and that it could take a further 30 years to resolve.”
“Incidentally, the expert witness who testified on delays in the Nigerian Courts was a former Justice of the Supreme Court who testified that a case could take 20 to 30 years to resolve in a Nigerian Court,” a statement by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, quoted the VP as stating.
Osinbajo called for further engagements by stakeholders on the integrity of the legal process and its key actors, particularly judges and lawyers, towards proffering solutions to the challenge of delay in court processes.
“I look forward to the conversations we will have today, and may I suggest as rules of the house that we focus on practical and implementable ideas, not a rehash of the problems. We are all experts at knowing the problem,” he said.
The vice president described the celebrant, Chief Olanipekun, “as one of the most consequential and influential lawyers in the commonwealth”, adding that beyond his accolades and achievements, he has impacted many lives through his kindness, philanthropy and faith.
Thanking God for giving the legal luminary “an ever-youthful physique and disposition, Osinbajo said, “Chief Olanipekun’s great intellect, mastery of the law, its substance and its technicalities, his incredible ability to get to the heart of the matter and to let whole panels of judges see his sometimes daring points, his disarming wit and humour, his sometimes lyrical and poetic submissions, quoting from the classics and the Scriptures, make him easily one of the most outstanding minds in the legal profession in this or any other generation.
“But I am sure that what must give him as much, if not more, satisfaction as his accomplishments in the legal profession is how he has affected the lives of hundreds, who cannot repay him for his kindness, his many charities and philanthropies and his several contributions to the growth and reach of the gospel.”
On his part, the celebrant, Chief Olanipekun, said the Justice Summit organized by his law firm is among his modest contributions to the advancement of the justice delivery system in Nigeria, noting that the thorny issue of integrity and the urgent need for reforms in the sector remain worrisome and should be of concern to stakeholders.
He urged speakers and participants at the event not to relent in their efforts in ensuring reform of the judiciary, maintaining that the progress sought by society is largely tied to justice and equity.