Make 7.5% VAT increase count


President Muhammadu Buhari, this week, signed the 2020 Finance Bill into law.

The president had, while presenting the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly, presented the Finance Bill.

“The Finance Bill has five strategic objectives, in terms of achieving incremental, but necessary, changes to our fiscal laws,” he said. “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 in line with our Ease of Doing Business Reforms; and Raising Revenues for Government.”

The Finance Bill also contained provision for an increase in the VAT rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent, thereby making the 2020 Appropriation Bill to be based on the new VAT rate. A value added tax is a consumption tax placed on a product whenever value is added at each stage of the supply chain, from production to the point of sale.

Thus, with presidential assent now given to the bill, it is expected that governments, at the three levels, would have more revenue to finance their projects, especially in the areas of health, education and critical infrastructure.

It should be noted that while the states and local governments are allocated 85 percent of all VAT revenues, Nigerians expect to see greater quality and efficiency in their spending in the critical areas as well.

Though some people and groups may have reasons, even if not good enough, to challenge the increase in VAT, taxes are essential to the operation and function of any government which provides constitutional functions such as maintaining infrastructure and security.

Of course, there are other constitutionally mandated programmes such as the provision of disaster relief, general health and national human service, education and health programmes can be effectively accomplished through tax collection.

Therefore, the importance of taxes cannot be underestimated, and fiscal authorities must work to enhance the country’s revenue profile to cater for the growing infrastructure and debt financing needs. The increasing cost of debt servicing in the light of slower revenue growth leaves lesser room for expenditures on critical infrastructure and payment of salaries.

The average VAT collection in the past six years is said to be N900 billion. The revenue is shared 15 percent to the federal government, 50 percent to states and 35 percent to local governments net of four percent cost of collection to FIRS.

Of course, there are arguments that any increase in VAT rate without a registration threshold and zero rating of basic consumption will increase burden on the poor and SMES, contrary to the 2017 National Tax Policy.

It is also argued that trying to expand the VAT net while also increasing VAT rate at the same time is a faulty tax strategy. Nigeria can make twice as much from VAT at current rate by reforming the law, expanding the net and ensuring robust administration rather than by increasing rate.

However, while arguments hold some waters, the issue is, are taxes in Nigeria properly utilised? The answer is, of course, no. Until the Buhari-led administration came into office, corruption and embezzlement of resources were the hallmarks of taxation.

In the past, little were known about how much taxes were collected and how they were used and for what purposes. Most, if not all, of the money collected as taxes from Nigerians went into the pockets of corrupt public officials.

This is the issue the government must now address in the face of increase in VAT. All monies collected must go into the coffers of governments and be utilised for the purposes of making life meaningful and worth living for the people of this country. If this is achieved, Nigerians will not raise any eyebrow regarding the increase and the country will witness development.   

Let’s unite to salvage education

President Muhammadu Buhari said the federal government is ready to engage more qualified teachers to increase the teacher-to-pupil ratio in the country.

Student-teacher ratio shows the relationship between the numbers of students enrolled and the number of teachers in a particular school.

Receiving leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the president said the obvious that Nigeria has a deficit of teachers which his administration is addressing through the N-Power Teach Volunteers scheme under the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

‘‘We have created a dedicated platform under the National Social Investment Programme called N-Power Teach, which engages qualified graduates to man the gaps of basic education delivery in Nigeria,” he said. “The aim of this, and many other government programmes is to increase the teacher-student ratio at the primary school level thereby enhancing the quality of students moving to secondary schools.”

The president can be said to have rightly spoken because one aspect that has been overlooked by most parents, guardians, teachers, school administrators and students themselves is the student-teacher ratio. Needless to mention, it has been reasonably demonstrated that learners are more likely to learn better when personal attention is rendered to them, especially in the case of a slow learner. And this calls for factors that include having an ideal student-teacher ratio. Unfortunately, many schools in Nigeria do not have the required resources to afford the necessary number of teachers that matches their number of students.

Of course, the schools cannot be blamed for that bad development. Rather, governments in Nigeria should take the blame for that, mainly because abysmal attention is being paid to the issue of education with bulk of the money budgeted for education going into private pockets.

Of course, the declining standard of the Nigeria educational system should trouble the mind of any well-meaning Nigerian, because, education is the bedrock of development. But unfortunately, a lot of problems bedevil the education system in the country.

Poor funding from the government leading to lack of educational infrastructure, lack of quality teachers, inadequate classrooms and teaching aids like computers, laboratories and libraries, coupled with numerous social vices like malpractice, cultism and corruption all contribute to the sorry state of the education system in the country.

Though the essence of engaging more qualified teachers to increase the teacher-to-pupil ratio in the country is to improve the standard of education, the burden of improving students’ academic performance should not totally be left to the government alone. Parents and teachers should also play their part.

Therefore, like the president said, members of Nigeria Union of Teachers should support the programmes of government and encourage, through their personal conduct, qualified and willing graduates to join the teaching profession.

Though not all teachers are noble, the teaching profession is one of the noblest of professions, shaping the character, calibre and future of individuals and nations. Teaching is the noblest among all the professions since all professionals underwent education with a teacher. It’s also a process to prepare the next generation of skilled professionals and workers like politician, engineers, doctors, policemen, priests, educators, legislators and good citizens.

Teaching, therefore, is considered as a means for which God uses a teacher as an instrument to touch lives. In fact, there was a period of time in Nigeria when teaching was seen as one of the most stable of professions and that once you are a teacher you have a job for life. Many gravitated towards the profession with that in mind, without considering all that teaching students entailed. Once the reality of the job set in, they became apathetic.

In some cases, the endless initiatives and reforms have left many teachers disillusioned. The fact that persons who have never set foot inside a classroom are proposing the majority of the reforms, has added to heightening the levels of frustration these educators feel.

Yet, the teaching profession does not only show the right path that the students should follow but also prepares the human resource for the further development of the nation. It has the potential to have a great impact in the moulding of the next generation. That is why education should be valued by social institutions like the government, church, family and civil society.

After all, as the president said, today, “we live in a dynamic world where science and technology drives innovations that virtually touch every aspect of our lives,” and the “foundations of today’s changes can be attributed to teachers who, decades ago, in one way or another, shaped the minds of young men and women who eventually grew to become global innovators and inventors from whose works we are benefiting today.”

So, let us join hands, as Nigerians, to salvage and uplift the noble teaching profession for the benefit of our country and ourselves.

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