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Senators Grumble Over Call For Tax On Earnings

* Nigeria ‘ll N500m Daily To Manage Budget
* As Buhari’s Budget Receives More Knocks
* Disagree Over Oil Benchmark Price

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senators on Thursday grumbled over call by one of them for Nigerian legislators and other office holders to begin to pay tax on their allowances.

During the second day of the consideration of the 2016 Budget on the floor of the Red Chamber, the Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, observed that Nigeria is the only country that shields its workers’ earnings in allowances.

Following his suggestion, his colleagues made a failed attempt to make him discontinue by grumbling on the background.

But rather than give in to his colleagues’ grumbling for discomfort, Adeyeye, however, insisted that legislators’ allowances must be taxed.

“We must begin to tax allowances. Nigeria is the only country that shelters the bulk of the earnings of its workers, and call them allowances.

“You don’t want your allowances taxed? They will be taxed,” Adeyeye maintained.

Earlier, Adeyeye, who had cited that 54 percent of the $3.8 trillion US Budget is sourced from tax, highlighted other areas to tax on.

“If we are going to move this country forward, we must go back to what we did in the days of (late) Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe. Nobody in my village will go to his farm until he can produce his tax receipt.

“We need ingenuity to bring this to pass. We must begin to tax things like cigarette, alcohol, you beat your wife you pay heavily.

“Text messages cost N3.81 a page: if we ask just N1 to a page of text message, and we say that (the) money belongs to government, we will make billions.

“We must install toll roads, but that is not enough: across the world. When you park at any airport, you pay per hour. We must do what the rest of the world does,” he added.

Adeyeye, who also called for a reduction in the cost of governance, recalled that government officials now ride on exotic cars.

“If we are going to save this country, we must reduce the cost of government: there are too many parastatals, and when you look at these parastatals, many of them have failed in their missions.

“We continue to protect them, and give them money. It is time for them to go.

“We must go back to ‘Operation 504’. There was a time when our President rode 504. Go and stand in front of Eagle Square, see what cars judges, senators and ministers are riding,” he observed.

In her contribution earlier, the Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, expressed worry that the expenditure and deficits are not only the major problems of the 2016 Budget, but the curb in the wheel of progress in the Budget.

Olujimi, who noted that Nigeria would borrow the sum of N500 million on daily basis, should the Federal Government borrow to manage the N2.6 trillion.

She warned that Nigeria would be in deficit of almost N6 trillion in four years, if the Federal Government borrows N500 million a day and cannot pay it in one year, and it rolls over to the next year.

“Already our people are dying from financial problems, and keeping this on undone might cost them more pains. Right now, Mr. President, we have a deficit of $11 on every barrel of oil that we sell, and in the Budget we have a deficit of N2.2 trillion that is $11 deficit in 2.5, 2.6 trillion.

“That’s not a serious problem. The problem is, if we need to borrow to manage this N2.6 trillion it means we will be borrowing N500 million everyday of this year. Everyday of this year this government will look for N500 million to borrow and that is not been fixed.

“To crown it all, there is nothing in this Budget that suggests repayment for this every other thing in the Budget is quite. It is only expenditure; nothing has been set aside to ensure that we pay back our loans. What it means, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, is that we are likely to become a pariah state like we were before, begging from people to help us pay our debts, which we must never get back to.

“A country that borrows and does not plan to pay back has not done enough work at all, and what we will be doing, distinguished colleagues, is that we would be given the people with one hand, and we would be taking from them with both arms because at a point the people you borrowed from will ask for their money back, and we have only four years for this government.

“If we borrow N500 million a day, and cannot pay it in one year, it rolls over to the next year, and in four years, you find that we are in deficit of almost N6 trillion, which we must never get to. Mr. President, there are too many policy changes in this system in the last six months, the policy somersaults in the foreign exchange regimen is such that it will lead us back to our status of round tripping, where our people were doing anything to make ends meet, and our currency went to zero.

“We must not drive our people down to such a stage that would not be good for the nation. In the Budget, what has been used is not zero budgeting. You find that it is still the envelope system. The envelope system provides funds, and they are badly explained. The people, who will operate it, will wait for the projects to come, and that’s what we have found in this Budget.

Olujimi, who expressed her belief in the need for change, maintained that the change is not yet in this year’s Budget from President Muhammadu Buhari.

“There is nothing about being zero based or being protected by the various ministries. The capital expenditures has increased, and the inflow has decreased what it means is that this Budget has a serious deficiency. This Budget is not a ‘budget of change’ yet. I think they (ruling All Progressives’ Congress) are still looking for how to bring in the required change. There is need for retrospection. There is need for us to have a solid economic team and have economists, who have the interest of Nigeria at heart so that they can look again at this Budget, and see where we can cushion the effects of all this for our people needs, for us to cushion the effects of the depreciation.

“We must, from the government, to look back and see what they can do again with this Budget. Our economy, like every other economy, is suffering. It is not Nigeria alone that is in this situation: it is a global situation, but our own is to ensure we bring a budget of total change, which is not this Budget.

“We have been talking about diversifying our economy. Of course, we would diversify, but we still have to rely on oil until we do so because diversification takes a long time. I think Nigeria needs a better budget. I believe there is the need for change, and the change is not in this Budget yet, and there is a need for us for Nigeria to have a strong economic team and social developers, who can bring required change we want. We will run with this Budget, but there are so much more to be done,” she concluded.

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