Elder Kayode Emmanuel
Human beings will always be human beings. Regardless of their colors, education, beliefs, vocation or location, to take any of the homo sapiens for granted is for one to be grounded.
What is happening in Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) today will be a shock to many but for those who are accustomed to human nature can easily sleep over it.
The man of God himself, the late Senior Prophet TB Joshua used to say: ‘I don’t trust you; I cannot trust you because you are a human being. It’s only God I trust. Don’t trust me either. Trust only God, let God alone be your trust. But I love you and let love lead in all you do’.
This critical factor in human life is today the albatross presently rocking the boat of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) where former Personal Assistants to the late Senior Prophet TB Joshua otherwise called Prophets/Prophetesses and Disciples stylishly and suddenly seized power in SCOAN and made themselves heirs of the spiritual and estates of the world renowned prophet against the legitimate heirs in his wife, Mrs Evelyn TB Joshua and her three biological children, Sarah, Promise and Heart!
Unilaterally they constituted themselves into the APEX COUNCIL for the church and appointed within themselves a new General Overseer G.O. and Mommy G.O!
Far beyond this they also established the Governing Council for the church in which all positions are shared within themselves with no member of TB Joshua’s family or any church member on board!
Ironically, these are mere TB Joshua workers who are not even qualified to be called church members because by the Church’s Constitution for you to be recognized as a church member you must also be a financial member. This is a critical factor for membership which none of them has.
Disenchanted church members see their action as a spiritual coup detat or a kind of opportunistic spiritual gangsterism that is antithetical and inimical in the sanctuary.
Right from the moment of TB Joshua’s passing, they translated themselves into extraordinary uncontrollable authority and power with enormous and reckless freedom. They became worldly to the chagrin of church members with flagrant disrespect and nonchalant attitude to their mentor, TB Joshua’s family!
Many concerned church members became pissed off over their selfish desires and hypocrisy: ‘So these so-called desciples were pretenders when Daddy was alive?’ one foundational church elder thinks aloud. Their lifestyles suddenly changed too. They took over all workers, sacked those they didn’t trust and brainwashed all others into total submission to their whims and caprices to such an extent that none of them would respect any instruction or request from Mrs Joshua in flagrant dishonour and nonchalant attitude! It was a spectacle of the highest order.
Church elders and entire visiting members were dumbfounded. They reasoned that things should not be allowed to continue in this way for the future of the church as church members became worried.
Consequently Mrs Evelyn TB Joshua was forced to rise up to the challenges of preserving and strengthening the good legacy left behind by her husband by the unholy circumstances.
Before the emergence of Evelyn Joshua as the leader of the church through replacing her husband as Chairman, Board of Trustees for the church by the court ruling, she and her children had been pushed aside as ordinary church members.
She was completely put in the dark of all activities. If she sent for them they would not come. An ordinary phone call to say hello became a big burden for them to do.
There was an occasion when Mrs TB Joshua wanted to address about 2000 members who were in the church just to commend them for their steadfastness almost one and a half years the church had been on lockdown and to encourage them that very soon the church would bounce back. These so-called desciples including prophets and prophetesses refused and prevented her from using the church camera for the coverage on the ground that they were not asked for permission before they were invited! This got to the apex of endurance of observers.
Times are changing. Paradoxically, the Prayer Mountain of the church at Agodo Egbe designed only for prayers became their residence!
They completely abandoned their official quarters in the church and relocated to the Mountain along with their personal attendants where they were living large.
The Prayer Mountain was embarrassingly and gradually becoming a place where they hold parties conducting their businesses and private affairs – a development that was never in practice when TB Joshua was alive.
None of TB Joshua’s family is privy to all monies collected from partners all over the world during his burial and after the burial.
They took over the church’s strong room carting away the money with reckless abandon. Sometimes in the thick of the night they would come with several giant “Ghana-must-go” bags to cart away currencies to the Mountain not knowing they were being cleverly recorded.
They have their own personal bureau de change.
Their scheme and operation were well conceived. They even went ahead to open another global network account without the church or family’s knowledge.
Available Information shows many of them have become overnight multimillionaires within the last few months!
Their agenda is tall and total. All Prophet TB Joshua’s phones which contain valuable contacts and information including global partners were withheld by them. After a lot of pressure by Mrs Joshua and several well- meaning personalities who held several long hours of meeting with them demanding her husband’s phones, and urging sanity to reign, they eventually released the phones. By the time they released them they had wiped off everything in the phones so that she won’t have access to anything about them and partners! But before then they had also transferred all the information to their own private custody.They have been using the information to contact partners and securing funds without the knowledge of Mrs Joshua or any authentic members of the church beside a few of them at the top of the discipleship.
But something is more worrisome and shocking. Without the knowledge of Mrs Joshua and the family, these people of God now living on the Prayer Mountain arranged to sell TB Joshua’s aircraft before the bubble burst! All arrangements had been perfectly sealed by them before the fraud was discovered.
They have their own personal bureau de change! It’s not surprising that EFCC is investigating their activities over their sudden emergence as millionaires
Available Information shows many of them have become overnight multimillionaires within the last few months!
They have a tall and ambitious agenda: To corner the church and its entire resources without any second thought for the legal implications.
They have been using TB Joshua’s contacts on behalf of the church to secure funds which neither any of TB Joshua’s family nor church members were aware of not until information was coming from the back doors!
The continued lockdown of the church without services was not pleasant to church members. The behaviour of these disciples has also become a serious concern. All these led to the church elders under the new BOT Chairperson to call for a comprehensive audit of the church, save some critical assets not yet manipulated and to ask those on the Mountain to come down and go on leave at least in the interim for proper management and discipline in the church.
SCOAN is obviously going through a new phase of experience in its life. Members of the church and the public are watching the recent developments in the church of a great prophet whose positive impacts have globally touched the lives of many.
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The Audacity Of False Prophets
Dear Omoh Giwa,
Would you think it satirical to ask how you are faring (considering the state of affairs in Nigeria)? I bring you warm tidings from Osalobuwa (though He dissociates himself from the filth and treachery of a particular individual that claims to be led by the spirit of God).
I do not envisage a response from the Lioness of Lisabi or the great Awo (like the gods of ancient Greece, there are weightier issues than those iterated in your previous missives like our bets on the VAT brouhaha).
I am contacting from Nirvana as I could not but notice in your tirades, a disconcerting notion. (Digressively, are you really surprised that over fifteen million Nigerians voted not once but twice the nepotistic general or is this your weak attempt at humour?)
I have been called ‘Father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria’ several times and it is on this authority I want to discuss the subject of Christianity in Nigeria. How can you honestly expect a response from He who is addressed as the Holy One of Israel while wallowing in your filth like swine (blocked drainages or heaps of refuse on major roads?
You are an unclean lot spiritually and physically) However, this is insignificant compared to my reason for writing. I am bothered about the increase in false prophets and the gullibility of the sheep.
READ ALSO: Dear General Sanni Abacha
When our messiah charged Peter with the care of the flock, it was under the impression that as a religious leader, he would lead and act in the footsteps of the Nazarene but consider the perversion today. I understand the epistle of Paul to Timothy prophesizes that men would be lovers of themselves and practice heresy and idolatry but should this be associated with men of the cloth? The role of the priest is to act as ambassador between the sheep and the master of the flock but these wolves are more interested in exploiting and extorting the flock than caring for them.
Remember how politicians hoarded palliatives during the lockdown from the pandemic (do not get me started on the importance of cleanliness and abstinence which you are now being compelled to obey but at what cost?), well how did your general overseers care for you (you weren’t expecting anything or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish doesn’t apply to you?)
Instead they capitalised on avenues to ensure the steady inflow of wealth through tithes and offerings. You don’t believe me? Did one of them not recently boast that he acquired not one but two private jets during the pandemic as though that is a reflection of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
A nation enormously blessed with vast reserves of mineral resources yet is the poverty capital of the world coincidentally boasts of elegantly constructed cathedrals but has less than a tenth of the total number of churches in factories that could improve the economy and standard of living.
Is this not the same church leader smeared in a sex scandal of funding the rich and extravagant life of a certain actress? We particularly like the social media captions of “small girl big God” when they speak of their blessings and source of their lifestyles.
Ironically, the blessings are from the pulpit (a gathering of the widow’s mite. Jokes! Jokes! Relax, humouris not reserved for the living).
What about the one that was exposed as a sexual predator, preying on young girls (you’d probably remember him as the ‘Krest’ Pastor?) and intimidating them when they go public?
The feigned public outrage and anger lasted mere weeks and the nation carried on, business as usual and service continued as usual. Is he not back on the pulpit and his cathedral bursting at the seams? What about priests that not only engage in fornicating with women but have added young impressionable boys to their list of victims?
I especially like the one that calls himself “liquid metal” and has turned his church services into a carousal. One time he claimed to be casting demons out of a member and kept kicking and throwing the victim on chairs as though the erring demon is physical and could feel the torture. Do you remember a certain pastor that asked her congregation to tap into her special anointing of rearing virgins (I’m as confused as you are) for a paltry sum of one thousand dollars as though God’s blessings could be repackaged for sale like exotic wine?
How can you be comfortable with the denigration of Christianity? Was the blood of Jesus shed for this? This reminds me of Simon the Sorcerer who attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit but was rebuked by Peter but look at stomach-infrastructure deacons.
My lengthy harangue seems to have gone off-track because I wanted to address the role of religious leaders in the political affairs of a nation. A certain influential religious leader has been tagged ‘Kingmaker’ because a sitting president and British prime minister knelt before him for re-election success (coincidentally didn’t go as planned).
I wish to remind you of the biblical story of Elijah and Ahab where the prophet faced the dictator without fear even though he knew the implications of such actions. You do remember that Elijah went into hiding for fear of his life and pleaded with God to take his life? What do these clerics do with their influence? Amass more wealth, influence and build bigger cathedrals during economic hardship and political unrest/instability when they have been charged with speaking truth to the powers that be. Do they even consider creating avenues for
economic growth for their members? I guess they have no intention of inheriting the kingdom
of God (the Beatitudes).
My daughter, men of the cassock have become influencers for politicians and have no regard for God whom they profess to call. Have they forgotten the prophecy that God’s judgment will start from the church? When did the pulpit become a poverty alleviation scheme?
How did the church get to this point where one cannot differentiate the heathens from the righteous? When did we lose focus and sight of the goal?
I think it is time to get off your knees in reverence to your religious leaders (I like how you are quick to quote ‘touch not my anointed…’ does having a pulpit make one God’s anointed?) and take the bull by the horns. Our Father considers the prayer of the unrighteous an abomination.
Yours in His Vineyard, Benson Idahosa.
Giwa is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.
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Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest
THE TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS
A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 1
Africans have a famous saying that “until the lion talks, every story will glorify the hunter.” This is a multifaceted maxim that more than sums up the nuances of this world. It defines how stories are told, and histories are recorded. Guided by this maxim, a careful analysis of seemingly historical facts will reveal that the so-called facts might have underlying truths in them; however, they are not the facts. Sadly, Africans, who are the proponents of the opening maxim, have been in the position of the marginalized lion for a long time. In what follows, I present how Asante has constructed the pyramid of his intellectual contributions. I could not have been able to compose this piece unless I fully understood his way of thinking.
To Molefi Asante, history has it that Africa is one of the earliest sources of civilization. From the Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, civilization was well-founded on the African continent, millennia before the Industrial Revolution of Europe. When the world was still young, and humans were hardly any other thing aside from hunters and gatherers, Africans, especially Egyptians, had advanced civilization. They had their system of writing in hieroglyphics. Some engineers and mathematicians made the construction of pyramids a scientific possibility, not to forget the medical professionals. Egypt had its system of government, one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. To Asante, this is where we must begin not just the history of Africa but of the world itself.
Histories are eroded, and people are forgotten, and so it was for the early African civilization. By the natural law of evolution and perhaps the mal-decisions of some of the empire’s leaders and decision-makers, the empire fell into oblivion. Power shifted hands, and Europe became the center of world civilization. If the story of the European civilization had ended there, perhaps Asante would not have emerged as a proponent of the “Out of Africa” thesis. However, the Europeans, in the natural order of things and as humans, became insatiable. After exploring and conquering their territory, they stretched their tentacles to other territories and exploited them. First, because to humans, superiority is defined by how many humans or human territories they have subdued. Second, because growth means the expansion and the attendant inability of available resources to meet the territory’s needs. So it was that the Europeans arrived in Africa, initially as curious explorers who wanted to get familiar with new territories and trade goods. The initially clear conception of meeting new people and exploring new worlds translated into a burning need to ravage, exploit, dominate, capture, and grow exponentially at the expense of others. There were the long and arduous years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how they brought humans’ brute nature and inhumanity to the fore.
As if the dehumanization of the trans-Atlantic slave trade era was not enough, there came the infamous Berlin conference of 1884 to 1885 and the unscrupulous sharing of the African continent among European countries. The centuries of colonization in Africa severely impacted Africans’ sense of identity, consciousness, being, culture, traditions, and continued development. Beyond this, an almost unforgivable impact of colonization on Africa was the deliberate misrepresentation and presentation of Africa to the world. Early European observers in Africa presented the continent as a barbaric one. Essays upon essays were written to portray Africans as needy and hopeless, and people who would have gone into extinction but for the supposed intervention of the Europeans. Indeed, the West brought us the modern form of education. However, Africa would not have declined, so argued many Afrocentric scholars, if the Westerners had not come to the continent. Some argue that Africa would have been better off and way more developed than it currently is if the Europeans had not colonized the continent.
In yet another argument by another set of scholars, the westernized education of Africans is perhaps the only good thing that colonialism brought to Africa. Of course, this same westernized education has severely impacted African thought patterns, beliefs, and ways of life. The Europeans handpicked Africans whom they believed were outliers and gave them European scholarships. After being schooled in the West, these Africans returned home, and with their return came an awakening and an intellectual revolution. The education of these select Africans brought about a much-needed reawakening. African scholars received a jolt in their subconscious; they were awakened to the realities that faced the African continent and the African people, how the Europeans had exploited, marginalized, and misrepresented Africa. Questions started sprouting from all angles. Curious Africans started gaining access to those malicious and mal-informant books of purported history, and so began a counter intellectual attack. The likes of Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, David Diop, Kenneth Dike, Herbert Macaulay, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and Nnamdi Azikiwe took to arms. They deployed knowledge and the education they got–the same tool used to train them–to re-write African history and counter the malicious records made about Africa.
Africa gained independence between the mid and late 20th century. However, the fact remains that Africa is yet to be free from some problems plaguing it. Post-independence has seen the rise of historians and African scholars, people who have taken up battle with the ruining political ideology of Africa and the corrupt and destructive governance militating against the growth of the continent. The attention has shifted from debunking racist and condescending fausse history of Africa to battling destructive African leaders, unscrupulous policies, and a host of other problems facing the continent.
In the face of all these, the lions have not forgotten that the hunter is lurking and has not ceased to tell the story in a way that glorifies the hunter and maligns the lion. This move of the hunter is visible to us; it is all over the media. The malnourished children; war; seizure of power; hunger; crises; and how the media projects them. However, lions still look the hunter in the face and choose to tell their story and that of their species. Lions who have defied all odds to glorify what needs to be glorified about their history and current story. Of these lions, Molefi Asante stands tall.
Molefi Asante–the father of Afrocentrism. If Afrocentrism gained flesh, received the breath of life, and became human, then it would be to the credit of Molefi Asante. I doubt if I have ever met, discussed with, or studied a man who is as passionate and proud of Africa as Molefi Asante. Is it his dedication? Asante has dedicated his life, intellectual prowess, time, and resources to the study of Africa and Afrocentrism. He is living proof of the amazingness of Africa. We often hear and read people’s thoughts on Africa, of how beautiful and rich the continent is in culture and human resources. If this were true of Africa, then Africans should be proud of their continent, and their actions, discourses, exploits, and manner of engagement should reflect this pride.
There is a lamentable eroding in the cultures, beliefs, and values that were once dear to Africans and guided our inter-relationships. To what are we losing our core values as Africans? People who have lost their values would soon lose their identity, and then the abyss of oblivion will not be so far away. In an age where we are fast losing the values that bind us and guide us, there are lions like Molefi Asante, roaring and reminiscing, reminding us of our history, who we are, and whom our forefathers used to be. Of communalism, the Ubuntu spirit, of how only the unity of fingers guarantees one of a resounding fist thump on one’s chest. Molefi is an African vanguard. Molefi Asante is like the baobab, with long-stretching roots that reach Sudan in the North-East, Nigeria in the West, and Costa Rica through the blissfulness of marriage. Asante’s contributions to Africa through scholarly works can never be forgotten. He is a proud and respected son of the soil and one of the most respected prides of African lions.
This Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will be hosting Molefi Asante on another edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. And this is something I rarely say–I am personally looking forward to this interview to see the eloquent Asante prove his Africanness once more. Please do join us too for a conversation with this eminent philosopher.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST
Register and Watch:
Join via Zoom:
Watch on Facebook:
Watch on YouTube:
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Retrogressive Politics Of Value Added Tax In Nigeria
Salihu Moh. Lukman
The controversy around whether Value Added Tax (VAT) should be centrally collected by the federal government or decentralised so that state governments are the ones to collect, beyond anything, is a test about the type of democracy Nigerians want. Is it going to prioritise the development of the nation’s productive capacity? Or will it simply be about consuming the resources that are currently available? Once the priority is about consuming currently available resources, commitment of political leaders to mobilise investment to develop the nation’s productive sectors will be weak. This is not to dismiss issues of access to existing resources by those who produce them. However, access may not necessarily translate into commitment to utilise the resources in ways that strengthened the commitment of political leaders to invest in the development of Nigeria’s productive sector. The important challenge therefore is to ensure that access to resources also comes with increased commitment by political leaders towards developing Nigeria’s productive sector.
With this background, it is important that Nigerians are also reminded that since 1999, public debate about increased access to resources by state governments, otherwise known as resource control, was limited to revenue from petroleum. Largely, promoted by the oil producing states, mainly the South-South geopolitical zone of the country, the debate was about allowing those states to control all the revenue from oil and perhaps pay a percentage as royalty to federal government. The royalty will be expected to support both the federal government and other non-oil producing states in the country. In all the debates around resource control, tax revenue was never recognised as a significant factor worthy of consideration. Partly, on account of both combination of weak institutional capacity and corruption in the public sector, the belief was that the most important source of government revenue for Nigeria is petroleum.
That Nigerians are debating whether it is states or federal government that should collect VAT signifies some progress, which has to do with the fact that there is an increase in what is being generated from VAT. For instance, in 2015, the total amount collected was N759.43 billion. Between 2016 to 2020, there was consistent increase in the amount collected respectively to N777.51 billion, N972.35 billion, N1.11 trillion, N1.17 trillion and N1.531 trillion. Everything considered, under the APC-led federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari, VAT collection increased from N759.43 billion in 2015 to N1.531 trillion in 2020, an increase of more than hundred percent.
Nigerians can conveniently dismiss the role of the APC-led federal government in making it possible for the remarkable improvement in VAT collection in the country such that today, it has become an attractive variable in the struggle for resource control by state governments. The reality however is that credit must go to the APC-led federal government of President Buhari. Whether it would have been possible if PDP is still in control of the federal government can only be a wishful thought. If that were to be the case, why wasn’t it the case at any point between 1999 and 2015? No matter what anyone wants to say, the reality is that the significant increase in VAT in the country between 2015 and 2020 confirmed improved efficiency and reduced corruption in the process of collection and management of Nigeria’s public finances.
Interestingly, in terms of the politics of the debate, improved efficiency and management of Nigeria’s public finances are not the focus of the debate. In some ways, even those who are supposed to recognise this fact and promote the achievements of the APC and its federal government, instead have become so defensive, may be because the public noise in the country is all about demonstrating how the APC-led federal government of President Buhari is the driver of inequality, injustice and unfair practices against state governments. Sponsored by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers States, the argument is that monies belonging to state governments are collected by the federal government and shared to states. According to Governor Wike, state money is taken by ‘Abuja people’, based on which he expressed ‘surprise at the level of injustice in the country’, arguing that ‘Rivers State generated about N15 billion as VAT in June 2021 but received only N4.7 billion, Lagos State generated over N46 billion as VAT in June, but got just over N9 billion, whereas Kano State generated N2.8 billion and also got N2.8 billion as allocation.’
Governor Wike can audaciously and shamelessly talk about VAT today because, its value has significantly increased which made it attractive for a rich state like Rivers to be interested in controlling it. If Governor Wike has any morality, he should look back and acknowledge how small Rivers must have received as its VAT share before 2015. Being a leading member of PDP, what was responsible for the low VAT records in the country between 1999 and 2015? And since, according to him and almost every leader of PDP, Nigerians are looking up to the PDP to rescue the nation from ‘bad governance’ in the hands of APC, does PDP’s brand of good governance come with low capacity to manage the nation’s public finances?
As members of APC, it is important that Governor Wike is reminded that the current increased record of VAT collection in the country is made possible only because the PDP is no longer in power. If PDP were to be in power the fact of inefficiency and corruption in the process of collection and management of VAT would have continued and the amount collected would have remained relatively low. It is not by accident that VAT collection in the country significantly increased under the APC- led federal government. This is because one of the specific commitments of APC since 2015 as outlined in the section of the party’s manifesto Funding a New Nigeria was that ‘APC government will set about the urgent task of getting Nigeria’s public finances in order, by tackling the massive waste, duplication and corruption in the system, diversifying the economy and expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenues, and reprioritising public spending away from bureaucracy towards investment in infrastructure and improved frontline services.’
Both in terms of ‘getting Nigeria’s public finances in order’ and ‘investment in infrastructure’, the APC -led Federal Government is implementing the provisions of the APC manifesto to the letter. Nigerian’s especially PDP leaders can conveniently dismiss all the work being done to develop Nigeria’s dilapidated and abandoned infrastructure, but the question of ‘expanding our tax base to increase non-oil revenue’ cannot be disputed. One strong evidence of that is the debate about states collecting VAT. It is very easy to play very cheap politics with these issues, partially because also, as a party, APC is not taking ownership of its achievements. Instead, its achievements are now being interpreted to justify some rebellious politics against the APC-led federal government.
Somehow, the VAT debate in Nigeria recalls the warning by Amartya Sen in the book, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, when he cautioned that ‘One of the penalties of the increased focus on religious and communal identities, which has recently gone hand in hand with the deliberate fostering of sectarian politics …, is a weakening of the pursuit of egalitarian commitments, which requires a more integrated focus on the interests and freedoms of deprived groups taken together (related to economic, social and gender-based stratifications). While political organisations that unite all the lower castes can – and often do – help the underdogs in general, that end is not served by the divisive politics of rivalry between different lower-caste groups …, or by religious sectarianism …. The newly erected communal boundary lines are not only divisive in themselves, they also add to the social and political difficulties in removing the old barriers of hardened inequality.”
So far, the VAT debate is more about perceived injustice on account of Nigeria’s divisive politics of ethnicity. Substantive issues of desirability or otherwise of VAT, including all the administrative challenges bordering on implications of methods of collection and why it is a crucially determining factor for any democracy are ignored. Part of the challenge of debating policy issues in Nigeria is that public noise, largely influenced by subjective anger of citizens becomes the guiding consideration. The subjective anger of citizens is mainly about the blind politics of dismissing whatever is associated with the Federal Government as biasedly in favour of a section of the country, however it is defined. With or without justification, many Nigerians who dominate the media space accuse the Federal Government of injustice. In several respects, ethnicised campaigns are further entrenching divisive politics, thereby increasing social and political inequality. As things are, Nigerian politics is blind to ‘egalitarian commitments’ of promoting national integration.
With respect to the specific issue of VAT, if the federal government can record increase of more than hundred percent between 2015 and 2020, is the current figure representative of the total expected collection from VAT? Simple reading of all the federal government revenue projections as contained in every year’s budget estimate will indicate a wide gap in expectation. Although there is a remarkable increase in collection, it should be recognised that a lot more can be done to generate more revenue from VAT. Can transferring collection to state governments achieve that? May be and maybe not. But beyond the question of what is collected and what states get, what is even the economic implications of VAT?
Generally, debate around tax is about how governments can use it to influence economic development. As a fiscal policy tool, it is basically about controlling the amount of money individuals should have for consumption. Will government tax policy seek to support low-income groups, i.e., ensure that the higher income groups pay more tax? Or will government tax policy disfavour the lower income group. The first test of whether any government can make any claim to being progressive will be reflected in the orientation of its tax policy. A progressive government will generally be associated with a progressive tax policy, which means it will seek to tax the rich more. A conservative government will tax the rich less. Beyond who is taxed more, taxing the poor less is proven economically to be a strong incentive to increase demands for goods and services. If government wants to ensure increased production of goods and services in the country, increasing the amount of money available to low-income groups is an attraction. Therefore, in addition to a progressive tax policy being in favour of low-income group, given that low-income group are in the majority, any government that wants to be popular with citizens would lean towards a progressive tax policy.
Given that VAT is basically a sales tax, which is regressive because both the rich and the poor pay the same rates, and to that extent therefore makes it disadvantageous in terms of using it as a fiscal policy instrument to stimulate demand, ideally the politics of debating it should distinguish conservative and progressive politicians. Somehow, the public noise in Nigeria has pulled our dear Lagos State government into teaming up with Rivers in the legal battle to ensure that states win the right of collecting VAT and not federal government.
Something must have just gone wrong for Lagos State to disregard its longstanding historical commitment to progressive governance and embrace what in the long run will be a disadvantage to the majority of Lagosians.
Mr. Simon Kolawole, the publisher of The Cable online newspaper has excellently demonstrated why in the long run VAT collection by states governments may be disadvantageous to both Rivers and Lagos States. According to Mr. Kolawole, in ‘2020, Nigeria earned N1.531tr from VAT. While local VAT was N763bn, foreign VAT — collected by FG — was N768bn. Therefore, rather than take just 15% (N230bn) from the N1.531trn, FG may now pocket the entire N768bn from foreign VAT since it does not go into federation account and may not be subject to the regular sharing formula. That would deprive the states, Rivers and Lagos inclusive, of about half of the total VAT revenue. This is HUGE. The FCT may also win as it generated N202bn in VAT last year but got only N34.6bn as its share.’
The desire to access more resource is perhaps the main driving factor in the battle to get state governments to collect VAT in the country. Wouldn’t it be possible to work with federal government and manage all the challenges, including ensuring that businesses are not necessarily encumbered by having to deal with multiple points of collection? There is no need to go into the details about how decentralised collection can impact on prices of products and services. Also, no need to go into the potential conflicts that would emerge between branch offices of companies and state governments in the country. All these are issues that would be instigated because VAT collected at the point of sales by a branch of company is expected to be remitted to the host state government where the head office is located. If state governments want to control what is generated in their states therefore, the administrative framework of how it is remitted to government and which government will be a major issue.
Nigerian democracy and politics must functionally rise above sentiment. Instead of debating how to consume the little resources so far available, Nigerian political leaders should be debating how to increase available resources. Even within the limit of the debate about increased available resources, the question of what governments need to do, policy measures required, including issues of tax, its administration and orientation in terms of whether it should favour the low or high-income groups should not be issues that would be blindly considered. In the same way Rivers and Lagos imagined that they would have more revenue if they were allowed to collect VAT and therefore control everything, they collected without sharing with the federal government and other states, states like Osun, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Abia, would lose. On the other hand, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Kaduna and Enugu, may be the surprise actual gainers.
Overall, APC leaders, must take advantage of the current VAT debate to take ownership of its achievements, which the fact of improved VAT collections in the country represents. In doing so, APC leaders must go beyond the narrow debate about access to what is currently available. If at all APC leaders and members are to make any claim to progressive political credentials, generating large-scale financial resources at both federal and state levels, which should be deployed to expand the productive base of the nation’s economy, should be the aspiration. There is no reason why any state in the country, including Zamfara, Yobe, Osun, Ekiti, Abia, Ebonye, should not aspire to generate at least N10 – 15 billion monthly as Internally Generated Revenue. To be caught in the backward debate about whether they should have the little they currently receive from the federation account is retrogressive. As a nation, our politics and democracy must be refocused towards nurturing the productive potentials of every state.
READ ALSO: Lagos Signs VAT Bill Into Law
The commitment to develop capacity to mobilise large-scale financial resources to develop productive potential of all Nigerian states should be the minimum requirement for all APC leaders. Already, since the time of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, Lagos State has emerged to be the leader in mobilising large-scale financial resources in the country, which is why it is the only state with about one trillion Naira annual budget. Justifiably, Lagos was able to undertake large-scale public investment commensurate with its resource base. It’s not by accident therefore, it is the leader in the country with a model transport infrastructure. If the Lagos vision is limited to sharing available resources, it wouldn’t have been the leader it is.
The VAT debate in the country also poses a significant challenge to political parties in terms of developing capacity to coordinate policy debate within the structures of parties as well as ensuring that policies of governments produced by the party reflect any emerging consensus. Somehow, the current VAT debate in the country is completely removed from the structures of the main political parties – PDP and APC. If the debate is to take place within the structures of PDP, for instance, even the sectarian outburst of Governor Wike will be moderated. On the other hand, if the debate is to take place in any of the organs of APC, the question of the role of APC federal government in achieving improved collections will be well emphasised. In addition, the potential to mobilise more revenue from VAT and the expected role of state governments cannot be avoided.
The need to develop Nigerian democracy so that political parties in the country can initiate pro-people and pro-poor public policies, and not cheap sentiments that can be disadvantageous to citizens, especially the poor, is an urgent imperative. Important as the debate around increased access to resources by state governments, so long as political leaders are not commitment to initiatives that can develop the productive capacity of the country, the amount of revenue generated will remain low. The other issue is that all APC leaders must be appealed to jealously guard the achievements of APC and all its governments. Why should APC leaders allow a situation whereby any PDP leader, including Governor Wike, can make claims of any injustice on a matter that demonstrated in practical terms the failure of PDP? If VAT is an important source of revenue for government, why did PDP fail to record any significant collection throughout their sixteen years as a ruling party?
Every opportunity to remind Nigerians about the failure of PDP should be amplified. Similarly, all evidence of success of APC and its governments should be affirmed. APC leaders must take ownership of all the achievements of APC governments at all levels. On no account should APC leaders allow opportunistic rebellious politics of PDP and its leaders to distract them from the task of providing the needed progressive leadership to develop the nation’s productive potential. As a nation, the question of fighting poverty and reducing inequality both among citizens and across all the 36 states of the country should be the egalitarian commitment of all progressive political leaders in the country. If Nigerians are to be united, it must be based on equitable productive resource endowment across every part of the country!
Dr.Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. This position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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