BARELY two weeks after the Federal Inland Revenue Service, through her Director, Communications and Liaison Department, Abdullahi Ahmad announced a six per cent stamp duty on all tenancy and lease agreements, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), equally announced outrageous new fees for courier and logistics licensing. The licensing fees of each of the six categories include; category A (International), N20million, category B (national) N10million, category C (regional) N5million, category D (state)N2million, category E (municipal) N1million and category F (special SMEs) N250,000. Each of these categories comes with a renewal rate of 40 per cent each.
This unhealthy policy is to be initiated at a time when many Nigerians and several businesses are still struggling with the newly increased Value Added Tax (VAT) of 7.5 per cent and at a time when the newly-proposed electricity tariff was postponed to the second quarter of the year, 2021, after it had received a backlash from the majority of the public opinion. For the umpteenth time and in the usual character of Nigerian politicians, the Minister for Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, refuted having the knowledge of a crucial policy of one of the agencies under his supervision. This brings forth once more, the kind of leadership which has held us to ransom over the years.
The Nigerian Postal Service was founded in 1987, by the Nigerian government with the primary aim of providing courier and logistics services. Bedeviled by her inefficiency, ineffectiveness, lack of innovation in carrying out her day to day economic activities in an ever evolving capitalist system, the agency has since been relegated to the backdrop in the scheme of events. Despite so much yearly budgets, she fizzled out and failed as she couldn’t deliver and as such, was left with regularising and licensing private-owned courier and logistics services, which she still struggles to keep the government owned corporation afloat. In other to remain relevant in the Nigerian market, many businesses restrategised in courier and logistics in the ever-growing demand for their services.
Without mincing words, it seems that most economic policies of the government are made to target and annihilate both the small scale and medium scale enterprises. It is a known fact that small and medium scale enterprises are the bedrocks of any nation’s economy. Year to year, because of bad economic policies by administrators and politicians, small and medium enterprises wind up while enterprises who possess the financial power move to African countries like Ghana and Rwanda, where economic growth and development are sustained with much stability. This has also encouraged brain-drain in this part of the globe, which has in turn, resulted in human capital and economic deficiency.
In Nigeria, the ordinary citizens are at the mercy of the government as they pay through their noses in the government’s tariffs and revenue collection. From the local to state and the central government, most revenue collections are duplicated and yet nothing is shown for it.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian state had already contracted recession. While the government refuted this claim, the signs were there for all to see as the naira continues to struggle in the global capital market. To make the nation’s economic predicament worse, the coronavirus came with its own twist as oil prices fell drastically which in turn, has forced the government to further slash her annual budget for year 2020. It is worthy to note that the incessant increment in revenue rate by government agencies will not salvage Nigeria’s economic woes; rather, it would tell on the number of businesses that would close down if these infamous economic policies are allowed to continue to thrive.
Nigeria as a failed state
While many nations are trying to alleviate the inconveniences accumulated by her citizens as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the case has been different in Nigeria. As the Nigerian government has struggled to give her citizens palliatives at this horrible time, the government of the United Kingdom has suspended stamp duty charges for first time property buyers. The Nigerian government sees revenue collection not as a means to deliver development but to maintain and service its bloated government, as agencies and departments are duplicated and cloned with different names and acronyms. If not, why will a government introduce stamp duty on tenancy rate and increase licensing fees in the midst of a pandemic which has cost millions of her citizens their jobs and left many in unstable mental state.
A nation owes it to her citizens to provide security, good healthcare system, social amenities, quality and affordable education with a stable political space where economic activities could thrive. A state is considered a failure when all are not obtainable in her polity. This leaves the question, where does Nigeria lie.
In the contemporary political and economic space, governments are now limited employers of labour. Most states adopt and practice free market economy, where the driving force is hinged on efficiency and effectiveness. This free market economy gives room for healthy competitions, which in turn influences economic development. To this end, it’s imperative to note that our political elites are not ignorant of these policies but are indifferent to subscribe to the implementation as they are beneficiaries of the current status quo. They are afraid of losing relevance in the scheme of events and the call of shots of who gets what, when and how.
The Nigerian State has been bedeviled with insecurities of lives and properties from the menace instituted by the Boko Haram terrorist group, the genocide that continues to occur in Southern Kaduna,, the herder-farmer clashes to kidnapping of her citizens. The healthcare system is in comatose state, though most people can still not afford it; access to pipe-borne water, good roads and power are alien to the people as much as quality and affordable education.
Why we are where we are
Nigeria as a nation did not arrive at this stage of her decadence overnight. It has been a gradual cumulation of inapt attitude and actions from the elites as well as the citizenry. These actions transcend the military regimes’ highly influenced 1999 constitution, a bloated democracy which vested more power on the political elites than the people. On the other hand, it is as a result of the lackadaisical attitudes of the Nigerian citizens towards government policies especially when the deed does not affect them. Most times, the citizens are afraid to engage the government constructively for fear of being reprimanded with jail term and the annihilation of their human rights.
To retain their political and economic relevance, the elites have successfully divided the populace along ethnic and religious lines that the citizens tend to remain blindfolded once the person(s) of interest is of the same religion or ethnicity. The citizens of our dear nation should know that these elites are united in the continuous realisation of their selfish interest which rests solely on the looting of the common treasury.
The Afenifere, Almajiri, Niger-deltans, Biafran agitators, victims of the farmer-herder clashes and the consistent genocide in Southern Kaduna should know that our problems are as a result of our kins who continue to loot billions of funds allocated to Niger-Delta Development Commissions, for infrastructural development in the South-East and South-West, and also sponsor ethnic and religious bigotry for their selfish gains.
The way forward
When the oil price was at its peak, most public opinions were of the view that a depreciation in oil value in the global market would trigger our elites to channel their interests in other aspects of the Nigerian economy which have over the years, remained untapped and neglected. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed that our elites will come for our blood when the oil revenue dries up. Within the space of three months, the government has either introduced a new revenue rate or increased the rate of an already existing one.
To alter the nation’s political and economic woes, the populace must unite to enthrone strong institutions and system that depict equity, social justice and tolerance. Conscious efforts from all and sundry must come into play in electing leaders who are patriotic to raise the nation from her ruins while we stand up against election maneuvering and activities of political and economic buccaneers.
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