Organised private sector, Senate clash over Finance bill

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The organised private sector and the Senate have clashed over the Finance Bill 2019, which was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari  to the National Assembly together with the 2020 budget in October.

The bill, which was passed by the National Assembly last week, among others, seeks to promote fiscal equity, align local laws with global best practices, introduce tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and the capital market.

But the orgarnised private sector, which submitted a memo on the bill through the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association,  said its suggestions were disregarded by the lawmakers.

But the lawmakers, in a swift reaction described the allegation as untrue, adding that all views on the bill were considered.

The OPS, through the Director General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr Timothy Olawale,  in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, said the association sent the memo to the National Assembly a day before the lawmakers passed the bill, due to the short notice it got for the submission of the document.

Olawale, however, argued that the action of the National Assembly was premeditated, adding that a day was too short for such a memo to be considered.

He said, “The memo was sent a day before the bill was passed. It was a premeditated exercise. No memo could have been considered overnight. They merely requested  memos from the public to fulfil  all righteousness – a mere formality.”

The NECA boss said that the group wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari not to append his signature to the Finance Bill, based on hardship his assent would foist on Nigerians.

In the letter dated November 29, 2019, it stated that in the event that the two legislative chambers of the National Assembly passed the contentious bill, the President should withhold his assent to it.

Olawale told The PUNCH on the telephone  that though the association knew that the Finance Bill emanated from the executive, it hoped that the President would reconsider his stand based on the concerns expressed by NECA.

He, however, said that if the President went ahead and signed the Bill into law, it would be on record that NECA did raise concerns over it.

He said, “We wrote that open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to let him know that if he assented to the Finance Bill, it would further unleash untold hardship on Nigerians.  Even if the two chambers should pass it, the President should refuse assent.”

“We know the bill emanated from the executive arm, but we advised the President to refuse assent due to our concerns, and if at the end of the day, the President went ahead to  sign the bill into law, it would be on record that we raised concerns over it.”

In the letter, NECA further stated, “The bill seeks to amend the provisions of Section 4 of the Value Added Tax Act in a bid to increase the rate of Value Added Tax from 5% to 7.5% as provided for in Section 36 of the proposed bill.”

But the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Solomon Adeola, described as untrue, allegations that the position of the OPS was not reflected in the report submitted by its panel to the Senate for consideration.

Adeola, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja, insisted that all views including that of the OPS,  were captured in his panel’s submission.

He explained that since every stakeholder made submissions on each of the items slated for amendments, it would be wrong to identify each position one after the other in the report.

He said his committee could come up with over 1000-page report if individual views reflected in the report.

He said, “All positions were considered. If we decide to write the specific submissions of all those who presented their positions to our committee,  we would have to present about 1,000-page report before the Senate.This is  because every stakeholder has its position on different issues as contained in the Finance Bill.”

“We decided to look at the objective of the bill in line with the position of each of those who presented the views during the public hearing. We concluded at the public hearing that the Finance Bill is not a bad idea.”

“We all agreed that it is timely and just,  coming up after 20 years of legislation on different Acts on tax laws. What the bill tends to do is to make these laws to comply with global best practices as it is obtained all over the world.”

Source Punch News

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