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Why Finance Bill 2020 should not be passed, by CSJ

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Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikpeazu (left) and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, during the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

A group, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has raised concern over the Finance Bill 2020 introduced by the executive arm of government for the purpose of amending 12 different Acts to facilitate the implementation of the Appropriation Act 2007 and respond to fiscal challenges.

The centre is claiming that the proposed bill would be injurious to and hamper the implementation of the Appropriation Act as it runs in contrast with most of its provisions.

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Lead Director of the centre, Eze Onyekpere, made this known at a media briefing on a memorandum containing recommendations on the proposed law submitted by the CSJ to the National Assembly yesterday in Abuja.

According to Onyekpere, the bill is structured in such a way that some of the Acts it seeks to amend will give the executive arm of government the power to control unclaimed dividends of individuals, thereby denying people their monies.

The CSJ, which said it would be too ambitious to propose to amend 12 Acts of the National Assembly, urged the lawmakers to consider carefully the Finance Bill, warning that its passage would be very injurious to the Appropriation Act, among others, and go against global best practice.

According to Onyekpere, it is clear to see from all these that there is no money and the government is looking for ways to take out monies from other areas without any care about the implications. Besides, these laws are too fundamental to economic management for the government to contemplate amending them in a hurry.

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“Doing all these requires deep consultation with stakeholders and their representation, but the hurried approach of lumping things together will serve no useful purpose.

“This is not the way to run the government. It is clearly evidence that there is no money and, with due respect to all those taking these decisions, the capacity to manage all these things is beyond them, apart from the danger it poses to procurement. There is a lot that is problematic with this bill.

“Even unclaimed dividends, the government says it now wants to hold it as trustees, but who appointed it as trustees for other people’s money? This means that the government will take over the unclaimed monies of shareholders of companies.”

Onyekpere warned: “If the National Assembly goes ahead and passes the bill into law, the economic governance structure of Nigeria will collapse on their heads because laws are not made for retroactivity. It will only put the country in trouble and will not support the economy, more so at a time of recession.”

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