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Despite N5b budget for cars, Senate President says Nigeria is broke

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Nigeria’s Senate President Ahmed Lawan Monday says the country is faced with the problem of availability of revenue.

“Today Nigeria is faced with the problem of availability of revenue,” Lawan said at the convocation ceremony of the University of Benin/ National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (UNIBEN/ NILDS) Postgraduate Programmes.

“The time has come for National Assembly to continuously engage with revenue-generating agencies. We have to take the bull by the horn and look for our revenue wherever they are,” he added.

This comes weeks after the National Assembly budgeted five billion naira to buy “official vehicles” for members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

News of the proposed vehicle’s purchase has also drawn fierce criticism from Nigerians against the National Assembly.

“In a country where over 98m citizens live in ‘multidimensional poverty’, @NGRSenate’s plan to waste N5.5billion of taxpayers money on cars for 109 (including returned) members is reckless—after #8thSenate‘s N4bn cars,” BudgIT, a civic group committed to government financial transparency, said in a tweet.

A coalition of civil society groups, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT and by 6,721 Nigerians including Bring Back our Girls campaigner and former presidential candidate Oby Ezekwesili, has launched a lawsuit to block the purchase of the luxury cars.

The activists said in the lawsuit that spending such an amount on cars in Nigeria’s present economic state was “unjust and fair” and contradicts their oath on taking office to prioritize the welfare of citizens.

“They can have official cars but why would they spend such an amount buying cars for 109 Senators when more than half of Nigerians are living in abject poverty,” the group’s spokesman Kola Oludare told CNN.

Low oil prices has forced the government to look to taxes for revenue generation, despite a large percentage of the citizens living below poverty line.

The Nigerian government wants the present tax collection rate of roughly 6% of GDP to double by 2020 but raising more money from taxes has proved difficult in the country because so many small businesses are not registered.

Nigeria’s Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed early September said the government is proposing to increase value-added tax on goods from 5% to 7.2%.

Also, Babatunde Fowler, head of Nigeria’s federal tax agency, says Nigeria’s government is considering a 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) specifically for online purchases.

Already the government through Nigeria’s central bank has introduced new charges on withdrawal and deposits for the country’s cashless policy – a withdrawal above N500,000 on an individual account attracts 3% penalty while deposit above N500,000 will attract 2%.

The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria also gave a new directive of vetting online adverts which comes with a payment of the sum of N25,000.

While other charges or taxes could be implemented without the legislative approval, increase in the planned VAT rise must be approved by parliament before it can become law.


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