It is unfortunate that certain people have made it a pastime to thumb down government policies and programmes, no matter how well intentioned.
There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism that points out germane issues for the purpose of throwing more light on public policies and creating a balance between public interest and weakness or errors in public policies.
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But when criticism of every public policy becomes a trade, it becomes a draw back to public good.
This perspective is the only reasonable way to assess the argument of Duro Onabule’s article on his regular column in the Sun Newspaper which appeared on July 10,2020 in which he took a swipe at the implementation of stamp duty introduced by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
In the piece entitled “NASS task on FIRS”, the writer called for the suspension of stamp duty as a form of palliative as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, just the way the United Kingdom did.
“All over the world today, the operative word is palliative to cushion the hardship created by coronavirus.
Among such palliatives in Britain is the suspension of stamp duty for new home buyers.
Is Nigerian Inland Revenue Service aware of that? If not, why not?
Yet, FIRS chose that very moment to introduce what was abolished, even if temporarily, in a considerate society.
The FIRS decision is only meant to impress Aso Rock, while, on the contrary, the same Aso Rock, through no fault of its own, will in the process be alienated from struggling Nigerians.
“The new FIRS tax is coming at a time value added tax was increased by 50 percent.
“Nigerian government chose the lockdown on coronavirus to sneak on Nigerians total withdrawal of fuel subsidy, thereby paving the way for fuel pump price hike and reverberating increase in cost of everyday living, especially for poor Nigerians on food prices, transport fares, house rents, children’s school fees, clothing, etc.
“The same coronavirus has been exploited to increase air fares. The FIRS is introducing stamp duty at a time National Assembly halted Discos from increasing electricity tariff”, he stated.
He therefore asked lawmakers at the National Assembly to stop FIRS from implementing stamp duty, especially if it cannot go after the wealthy Nigerians whose sources of wealth are questionable.
One major problem with professional critics is that they are in such a hurry to attack anything they do not understand that they leave their defences porous.
It is trite to suggest that by granting tax relief on stamp duty, the British government has suspended all taxes as a result of COVID-19. And why did Onabule select only Britain?
Have European countries and the US suspended critical taxes as a result of the pandemic? Can Onabule confirm same about China? In any case, the UK deal only excludes those new home buyers, not all stamp duty.
It is important to stress that the FIRS has been wearing humanitarian face since the advent of the deadly coronavirus through conscious measures to cushion the effects of the pandemic on tax-paying Nigerians and corporate bodies.
It is however unfortunate that Onabule deliberately decided to act the mischief on the intrigues on VAT increase “by 50 percent” at a time of COVID-19 era economy without being considerate.
How can he distort the truth and replace it with grandstanding? The media in Nigeria widely reported the fact that at the early stage of the outbreak of the pandemic, the FIRS suspended the implementation of the new VAT increment. Can Onabule deny this fact?
Also, it would be recalled that on 30th April, 2020, the FIRS issued a public notice entitled “Update on the Palliative Measures to Cushion the Effects of COVID-19 on Taxpayers No 3” (the “Notice”), wherein it introduced an additional palliative measure.
Note that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (Establishment) Act 2007 imposes certain penalties for late payment of Companies Income Tax, but due to COVID-19, the FIRS graciously waived penalties and interest on the defaulters.
It should be added that if indeed Onabule reads and listens to the Nigerian media, he would have known that the FIRS under the leadership of Mr. Muhammadu Nami is coming after the wealthy Nigerians he is talking about.
It is important he also knows that no government in the world runs its economy on hollow sentiments freely and copiously expressed on newspaper columns.
Every government across the world runs its economy based on comparative advantage that considers cultural, social and productive factors that are peculiar to it.
Global economies are going through turmoil as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, and each country is trying very hard to navigate its economy amidst uncertain prices of crude oil at the international market, and Nigeria is not an exception.
This is not the time for grandstanding, sensational opinions and unpatriotic attacks on our government.
This is a time to support governments at all levels and critical institutions such as the FIRS in order to generate funds to cater for the disruption of public humanitarian needs, create economic balance and sustainability for the good people of this country.
Anybody who stands aloof of this singular objective does not love this country. Onabule should deeply reflect on this very important premise.
Idowu, a financial analyst, writes from Ikeja, Lagos