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Private Sector Warns FG as Buhari Signs Finance Bill

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On Monday, the Organised Private Sector warned the government against fleecing the people and endangering productivity.

They spoke in response to the signing of the Finance Bill into law by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in Abuja.

The law heralds a new regime of Value Added Tax rate of 7.5 per cent, up from five per cent.

The Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association warned the government against seeing the private sector as a cash cow in its drive to increase revenue.

On the other hand, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed worry over the increase in VAT; even it said that it was inappropriate to compel loss-making firms to pay tax, no matter how little.

The Director-General, NECA, Dr Timothy Olawale, noted that overburdening the private sector with taxes would further impoverish the citizens Buhari promised to take out of poverty.

He said, “The government should not see the private sector as a ‘cash cow’ in its drive to raise revenue, as it will do more harm to the already burdened private sector and further impoverish citizens that the president promised to take out of poverty.

“The common man will be at the receiving end of the increase in VAT. Even if businesses are taxed more through likely illegal levies and rates outside the provisions of the law, they will naturally pass the cost to the customers whose purchasing power is already at the lowest ebb.

“The government should put mechanisms in place to eliminate leakages as a large chunk of the Internally Generated Revenue realised does not find its way into government coffers.

“They should drastically cut the cost of governance. Several aides kept at prohibitive cost are needless.”

He acknowledged that the government had made provisions in the law that were meant to benefit the masses while reforming the local tax laws in line with global best practices.

The new law amended the Petroleum Profit Tax Act, Customs and Excise Tariff Act, Company Income Tax Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax, Stamp Duties Act and the Capital Gains Tax.

Olawale said, “Apart from the increase in VAT, some other changes would include a situation where Nigerians who want to open or maintain accounts with the deposit money banks will not have to provide their Tax Identification Number to do so, which is commendable.

“Again, the fact that the Federal Government has raised the threshold from which stamp duty will be charged for online transactions from the current N1, 000 to N10,000.”

He recommended aggressive taxpayer enlightenment and expansion of the tax net to capture more citizens as it had been reported that less than 40 per cent of Nigerians were tax compliant.

Director General of the LCCI, Dr Muda Yusuf, said, “The increase in VAT from five per cent to 7.5 per cent amounts to additional burden on investors.

“Already, businesses have been grappling with multiple taxations, high import duty, high regulatory charges, exclusion from the official forex market and high energy cost.

“It is also disturbing that in Nigeria, VAT is not treated as a consumption tax. Most often, it is imposed on the entire value chain of production and investment. This is why investors will worry about the review.”

The LCCI boss urged the government to scale up its commitment to the creation of an enabling environment for investment, adding “this should be from the perspective of policy, regulatory and macroeconomic environment.”

Buhari had announced the signing of the bill through his verified personal twitter handle, @MBuhari.

“I am pleased to announce that this morning, I signed into the law the Finance Bill, 2019,” he tweeted.

The finance bill provides several revenue windows for the Federal Government to source funds, especially for the immediate financing of the 2020 budget.

The country’s budget for the year is N10.59tn, with a massive deficit of over N2tn.

Besides the VAT Act, the new law amended several other existing laws, including the Petroleum Profit Tax Act; Customs and Excise Tariff Act; Company Income Tax Act; Personal Income Tax Act; Stamp Duties Act; and the Capital Gains Tax.

The Federal Executive Council had approved 7.2 per cent new VAT rate on September 10, 2019, while Buhari presented the Finance Bill to the National Assembly on October 8 along with the 2020 Appropriation Bill.

The National Assembly eventually passed an amended version of 7.5 per cent as contained in the finance bill before lawmakers proceeded on the Christmas and New Year break.

Both have now become Acts of the National Assembly, the President has given consent to them.

For the VAT, the Federal Government had explained the urgency to increase it, saying that it would also provide more funds to the 36 states and the 774 local government councils to enable them to meet pressing financial needs, especially the payment of the new minimum wage of N30,000.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, speaking on this, had stated, “We reported to council and council has agreed that we start the process towards the increase of the VAT rate. We are proposing, and the council has agreed, increase in the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.2 per cent.

“This is important because the Federal Government only retains 15 per cent of the VAT; 85 per cent is actually for the states and local governments. The states need additional revenue to be able to meet the obligations of the minimum wage.

“This process involves extensive consultations that need to be made across the country at various levels and also it will involve the review of the VAT Act. So, it is not going to be implemented immediately until the Act is reviewed.”

Another provision of the new law is that the threshold on which stamp duty will be charged on online transactions has been raised to N10, 000 from N1, 000.

Meanwhile, the Presidency, in a statement on Monday, confirmed that Buhari indeed signed the Finance Bill into law.

“President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday in State House, signed the 2020 Finance Bill into law. This is a sequel to its passage by the National Assembly and subsequent forwarding by the legislature to the President for assent”, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said.

The statement recalled Buhari’s presentation to the National Assembly.

It quoted him, “This Finance Bill has five strategic objectives, in terms of achieving incremental, but necessary, changes to our fiscal laws.

“These objectives are promoting fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation; reforming domestic tax laws to align with global best practices; introducing tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and capital markets; supporting Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses and raising revenues for the government.

“The draft Finance Bill proposes an increase of the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent, as such; the 2020 Appropriation Bill is based on this new VAT rate.”

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The Nigeria-Biafra war: Remembering the fearless heroes- photo-Gallery/video by Agu

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The Nigerian-Biafra-war

It was probably 15 years after the Nigerian -Biafran civil war ended that my thought process comprehended the full tragic impact it had on my family. The first time I saw four of my nephews, I wondered why they could not speak my dialect. Also, they had a last name that does not sound anything close to the language that I speak. I became inquisitive and began asking questions. My mother told me how the Nigerian soldiers took over my town and started kidnapping girls from my village. My senior sisters hidden inside the house Chimney were not spared after the soldier’s informant gave them away.
My father could not do anything to stop them. He came close to being killed by the same soldiers. He watched in utter shock how his girls got taken away. After that incident, my father left the village and never came back alive. It hurts to this day that i never get to know my father due to Nigerian-Biafran civil war. Anyway, this part of my story is reserved for another day.
Also, my nephews of Yoruba extract never had a father-son-relationship with their Yoruba fathers. Their lives were equally shattered. The entire Eastern- Nigeria is still a conquered place. Daily, you will think the war is not over.
Today, as we remember those who died during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, let me leave you with this memory. I would also implore you to read this article ‘Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war”.
See the shocking footages and photo gallery,

Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war

A million children starved to death. I’m haunted by the images I saw there – and by the complicity of the Wilson government

t is a good thing to be proud of one’s country, and I am – most of the time. But it would be impossible to scan the centuries of Britain’s history without coming across a few incidents that evoke not pride but shame. Among those I would list are the creation by British officialdom in South Africa of the concentration camp, to persecute the families of Boers. Add to that the Amritsar massacre of 1919 and the Hola camps set up and run during the struggle against Mau Mau.

The northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of Igbo were slaughtered

But there is one truly disgusting policy practised by our officialdom during the lifetime of anyone over 50, and one word will suffice: Biafra.

This referred to the civil war in Nigeria that ended 50 years ago this month. It stemmed from the decision of the people of the eastern region of that already riot-racked country to strike for independence as the Republic of Biafra. As I learned when I got there as a BBC correspondent, the Biafrans, mostly of the Igbo people, had their reasons.

The federal government in Lagos was a brutal military dictatorship that came to power in 1966 in a bloodbath. During and following that coup, the northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of resident Igbo were slaughtered. The federal government lifted not a finger to help. It was led by an affable British-educated colonel, Yakubu Gowon. But he was a puppet. The true rulers were a group of northern Nigerian colonels. The crisis deepened, and in early 1967 eastern Nigeria, harbouring about 1.8 million refugees, sought restitution. A British-organised conference was held in Ghana and a concordat agreed. But Gowon, returning home, was flatly contradicted by the colonels, who tore up his terms and reneged on the lot. In April the Eastern Region formally seceded and on 7 July, the federal government declared war.

Biafra was led by the Eastern Region’s Oxford-educated former military governor, “Emeka” Ojukwu. London, ignoring all evidence that it was Lagos that reneged on the deal, denounced the secession, made no attempt to mediate and declared total support for Nigeria.

I arrived in the Biafra capital of Enugu on the third day of the war. In London I had been copiously briefed by Gerald Watrous, head of the BBC’s West Africa Service. What I did not know was that he was the obedient servant of the government’s Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO), which believed every word of its high commissioner in Lagos, David Hunt. It took two days in Enugu to realise that everything I had been told was utter garbage.

I had been briefed that the brilliant Nigerian army would suppress the rebellion in two weeks, four at the most. Fortunately the deputy high commissioner in Enugu, Jim Parker, told me what was really happening. It became clear that the rubbish believed by the CRO and the BBC stemmed from our high commissioner in Lagos. A racist and a snob, Hunt expected Africans to leap to attention when he entered the room – which Gowon did. At their single prewar meeting Ojukwu did not. Hunt loathed him at once.

My brief was to report the all-conquering march of the Nigerian army. It did not happen. Naively, I filed this. When my report was broadcast our high commissioner complained to the CRO in London, who passed it on to the BBC – which accused me of pro-rebel bias and recalled me to London. Six months later, in February 1968, fed up with the slavishness of the BBC to Whitehall, I walked out and flew back to west Africa. Ojukwu roared with laughter and allowed me to stay. My condition was that, having rejected British propaganda, I would not publish his either. He agreed.

But things had changed. British covert interference had become huge. Weapons and ammunition poured in quietly as Whitehall and the Harold Wilson government lied and denied it all. Much enlarged, with fresh weapons and secret advisory teams, the Nigerian army inched across Biafra as the defenders tried to fight back with a few bullets a day. Soviet Ilyushin bombers ranged overhead, dropping 1,000lb bombs on straw villages. But the transformation came in July.

Missionaries had noticed mothers emerging from the deep bush carrying children reduced to living skeletons yet with bloated bellies. Catholic priests recognised the symptoms – kwashiorkor or acute protein deficiency.

That same July the Daily Express cameraman David Cairns ran off a score of rolls of film and took them to London. Back then, the British public had never seen such heartrending images of starved and dying children. When the pictures hit the newsstands the story exploded. There were headlines, questions in the House of Commons, demonstrations, marches.

As the resident guide for foreign news teams I became somewhat overwhelmed. But at last the full secret involvement of the British government started to be exposed and the lies revealed. Wilson came under attack. The story swept Europe then the US.

Donations flooded in. The money could buy food – but how to get it there? Around year’s end the extraordinary Joint Church Aid was born.

The World Council of Churches helped to buy some clapped-out freighter aircraft and gained permission from Portugal to use the offshore island São Tomé as a base. Scandinavian pilots and crew, mostly airline pilots, offered to fly without pay. Joint Church Aid was quickly nicknamed Jesus Christ Airlines. And thus came into being the world’s only illegal mercy air bridge.

On a visit to London in spring 1969 I learned the efforts the British establishment will take to cover up its tracks. Every reporter, peer or parliamentarian who had visited Biafra and reported on what he had seen was smeared as a stooge of Biafra – even the utterly honourable John Hunt, leader of the Everest expedition.

Throughout 1969 the relief planes flew through the night, dodging Nigerian MiG fighters, to deliver their life-giving cargoes of reinforced milk powder to a jungle airstrip. From there trucks took the sacks to the missions, the nuns boiled up the nutriments and kept thousands of children alive.

Karl Jaggi, head of the Red Cross, estimated that up to a million children died, but that at least half a million were saved. As for me, sometimes in the wee small hours I see the stick-like children with the dull eyes and lolling heads, and hear their wails of hunger and the low moans as they died.

What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-riven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgmental screw-up. And, worse: with neutrality and diplomacy from London it could all have been avoided.

Biafra is little discussed in the UK these days – a conflict overshadowed geopolitically by the Vietnam war, which raged at the same time. Yet the sheer nastiness of the British establishment during those three years remains a source of deep shame that we should never forget.

Frederick Forsyth is a former war correspondent and an author

Guardian Service

Execution of Mathias Kanu, A Biafran by Nigeria Army
Execution of Mathias Kanu, A Biafran by Nigeria Army.mp4
Nigeria-Biafra War | Road to Umuahia | British TV Reporter Peter Sissons Shot & injured | Oct. 1968.mp4

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FG Directs NAFDAC to Evaluate Local COVID-19 Cures

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On Thursday, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 Chairman, Mustapha,  said the PTF would continue to support efforts to invent a local cure for coronavirus,  adding that the ministry of health had started evaluating some claims.

He stated, “For some time now, there have been claims of inventions and cures related to COVID-19. The PTF, as part of its mandate, remains supportive of and receptive to outcomes of the research. It, however, finds it imperative to reiterate its position on the need for such discoveries to undergo the scientific validation processes.

“The PTF is aware that the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Department of the Federal Ministry of Health has been evaluating such claims and forwarded some that have met the preliminary requirements to the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control to carry out the necessary procedures for listing.”

Also, the ministry of health in its letter to the NAFDAC DG noted there was no definite treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

It stated, “This has necessitated countries to look for solutions from within, and Nigeria is no exception. It is worthy to note that Nigeria is blessed with medicinal plants which could be exploited.

“It is heartwarming to note that the Department of the  TCAM has taken the pains to research into scientific materials to come up with a formulation intended for the management of cough in COVID-19 and other cough-related infections.”

According to the ministry, the formulation is a Cov-herbal cough mixture.

It said, “Interestingly, all the ingredients that make up the formulations are medicinal plants that are widely used as food materials and medicines.

“They include Allium Sativa (garlic); Allium cepa (onions); Zingiber officinale (ginger): Piper guineense (West African Black Pepper); and Adansonia digitata (baobab fruit). The innovation here is the composition of the formulation.

“These medicinal plants have documented scientific evidence of long use for the management of cough and other respiratory infections, with medicinal properties of mucoiytic, antitussive, expectorant, soothing, demulcent, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects.”

The ministry stated that it was determined to “walk the talk” in the promotion and integration of herbal medicine into the health care delivery system.

“In view of the foregoing and the desire of the ministry to showcase to the public a product that is 100 per cent sourced locally, you are requested to carry out the necessary procedures for listing.”

On Thursday, NAFDAC Director of Public Affairs, Dr Abubakar Jimoh,  explained herbal drugs were listed after it had been confirmed that they were not toxic.

He, however, said that such listed drugs were not usually given full registration.

In a  related development, the leadership of NAFDAC  met with 35 players in the herbal and alternative medicine sector as part of efforts to find a treatment to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual meeting, which was convened by the Director-General of NAFDAC,  had in attendance over 35  players in the herbal medicine sector including two professors of Pharmacognosis,  Maurice Iwu and Anthony Elujoba, who was once an acting Vice-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

Some others at the meeting were Prof. Martins Emeje of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development; the Managing Director, Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc, Matthew Azoji; and Prof. McDonald Edu of the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Benin.

Others are Executive Director, Yemkem International Group, Mr Akinyemi Ayeni; and Dr. Oluwatobi Abiola, Managing Director of Ablat Nigeria Limited, manufacturers of Yoyo Bitters.

The meeting also had in attendance representatives of the Ministry of Trade and Investment as well as the Department of Traditional and Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the Ministry of Health.

The meeting was the third edition of the Nigerian Herbal Medicine Product Committee symposium which seeks to explore herbal solutions to health challenges in the country

However, the NAFDAC DG said only one firm had so far approached the agency for approval, and it was for the treatment of the symptoms of COVID-19, not the virus itself.

Adeyeye said all claims must go through necessary testing before clinical trials can commence.

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Kogi is under pressure to announce false COVID-19 case — Dr. Saka Haruna

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On Thursday, the Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Haruna, claimed in a statement that the state is under pressure to declare that it has COVID-19 cases where there is none.

He, however, said the state would not succumb to the pressure.

The statement followed a report, which claimed that four persons suspected to be COVID-19 patients had died at the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja in the last one week.

He said that as the state commissioner for health, a member of the Governing Board of the FMC Lokoja, and also the incident manager for COVID-19 in the state, he had yet to be informed of any claimed cases.

“There is also a representative of the FMC Lokoja in the state’s squadron against COVID-19 /Lassa fever and never for once was any such case raised in our meetings.

The commissioner alleged that the aim of those putting pressure on the state was to politicise the situation as they are not happy that the current administration has been scored high by local and international observers on health care.

He added, “First and foremost, it is imperative that the public realise that there is no state government that can deliberately put her people in harm’s way for whatever political reason and the current administration has been scored high by local and international observers on health. We have and will continue to put the health of our people as first priority.

“We have been in an annual fight against Lassa fever as the state is located in the Lassa fever belt, recording several cases with regrettable losses. We were first to establish a Biosafety Laboratory for Lassa fever in Nigeria, and this year alone, we have confirmed 30 cases of Lassa fever that was duly announced. To accuse the state of a cover-up of COVID-19 cases is mischievous and at best politically inclined.”

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Banditry is more Pressing than COVID-19 in Katsina – Masari

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On Wednesday via Twitter, the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, disclosed how pressing an issue armed banditry in the state is over COVID-19.

He said over 50 persons had been killed by gunmen in the last two weeks.

Masari said, “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the security agencies in the fight against banditry, but we must also state that the situation has become so overwhelming. We are running out of words to convince our people that we are on top of the problem.

“They are, by the days, losing confidence in us as their leaders, saddled with the responsibility of securing their lives and properties.

“I am so saddened with the situation we are in now, because to most of our people in the troubled areas, COVID-19 is not even an issue. It may have taken over the world and the news about it but not here.

“Attacks by armed bandits have become a daily affair. In about two weeks, we have lost more than 50 people.

“At our end and within the resources available, we have provided support to the security agencies. We even brokered peace through an Amnesty and reconciliatory drive. Some of the bandits repented and joined us in the fight. They were, however, overpowered by the unrepentant ones who are more sophisticated.”

The governor urged the leadership of security agencies in the country to up their ante in combatting the activities of gunmen in the state.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control as of Wednesday night, the state has recorded 95 coronavirus infections with eight recoveries and eight deaths.

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