Finance Bill Suffers Setback, Threatens 2020 Budget
The plan by the Federal Government to shore up its revenue base by amending seven Acts of the National Assembly relating to taxes suffered a major setback in the Senate on Tuesday.
A public hearing organised by the joint committee of the National Assembly slated for Tuesday to collate the views of stakeholders on the bill was boycotted by members of the House of Representatives.
Our correspondent learnt that members of the finance committee of the House of Representatives were angry because they were not carried along by the Senate Committee on Finance in matters relating to the planning of the public hearing.
The representatives alleged that the Senate panel was conducting its affairs in secrecy.
It was gathered that the leadership of the House of Representatives was not happy that it was only informed about the public hearing on Sunday night after the advertisement had been published in major newspapers.
A source in the House committee said, “There was a circular that we should not attend the public hearing.
“The Speaker too was only informed on Sunday about the hearing. So, we agreed not to be part of the hearing.
“The Senate treats us with disdain and this has to stop. We only heard about the hearing when we saw the adverts in the newspaper. This is an insult and this has to stop.”
Another source told our correspondent that the House of Representatives might carry out its own public hearing on the bill.
The source said, “The leadership has directed us to be prepared for our own public hearing on the bill. After all, we have similar legislative powers with the Senate.
“Our fear now is that the development could threaten the passage of the 2020 budget this year because the amendments have to be included in the 2020 Appropriation bill.”
The Senate panel, however, went ahead with the public hearing.
The bills considered were Petroleum Profit Tax, Customs and Excise Tariff Act, Company Income Tax Act, Personal Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax, Stamp Duties Act and Capital Gain Tax.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Solomon Adeola, during the public hearing listed the objectives of the Finance Bill.
Stakeholders at the hearing said the bill threatened investments.
They said it would erode Nigeria’s competitiveness in the global oil and gas industry to the advantage of other countries.
The Oil Producers’ Trade Section of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for instance, told the Senate that the bill could jeopardise the future of the country’s economy.
OPTS Chairman, Paul McGrath, who was represented by Mr Taj Shobayo, insisted that the additional taxes being demanded would be an additional burden to the operators of the oil and gas sector.
Other stakeholders like the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria led by Rasaq Okulaja who represented the President of the Association kicked against VAT increase from five per cent to 7.5 per cent.
He also demanded that the N50 stamp duties on all manner of transactions should be reviewed.
However, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said the proposed reforms were geared towards sweeping changes in the nation’s taxation policy for sustainable economic growth and development.