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Unexplained Wealth Orders: Nigerians beware!

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I never imagined that I would ever find myself eternally grateful to the Nigerian tax authorities but recent announcements from the UK Government have made me a fan, and a grateful devotee. For those who may have missed it, the United Kingdom Government, who for the last decade actively encouraged billions of dollars of investment from around the world into its property market, has suddenly done a U-turn.

 

The UK successfully courted the Russian oligarchs, Saudi royalty and the great and the good from Nigeria to invest their petrol dollars into its highend and buy to let property market.

 

This was facilitated by allowing property to be purchased using blind trusts, offshore companies and by reducing the number of questions asked and their property market grew handsomely.

 

Meanwhile, Nigerians took over Chelsea, Knightsbridge and became key players in the buy to let market. The United Kingdom has now had  a change of heart and has decided to retrospectively ask the source of the money.

 

Where the source of any wealth of £50,000 cannot be explained, the UK Government can obtain an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) to seize the property and use the funds to support its own law enforcement efforts.

 

Now, one could speculate about the hypocrisy and self-serving motives behind this initiative and the prospect of UWOs being secured against foreigners and one would be right to be suspicious. However, by now, we should all have understood that every nation acts in its own best interests and owes no apologies to others (ask President Trump!). For the thousands of Nigerians who dived into the UK property market, such speculation will not have any impact.

 

However, what is needed is action and fast action at that.

 

It is clear that many, many Nigerians will wake up and find that their properties are now owned by the United Kingdom Government.

 

Anyone who has had experience of the UK court system and its rather  dim and sometimes prejudiced view of Nigerians will know that this is ‘real and present danger’ of a massive wealth transfer from Nigeria to the UK. This brings me back to my gratitude to the tax authorities and their ongoing Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) programme.

 

The Minister of Finance and her team deserves credit for this scheme. In their search for funds for their budget and to correct Nigeria’s abysmal tax compliance rate, they correctly foresaw that the global movement against illicit financial flows and other forms of tax evasion would result in a tightening of regulations across the world and that Nigerians were highly likely to be affected. That speculation now seems prophetic and we must be grateful as it is our ‘get out of jail free’ card.

 

The Automatic Exchange of Information promised to uncover the true networth of those who had stashed funds overseas without paying the required taxes.

 

The Ministry of Finance has worked to compile data from within Nigeria and Nigerians are being ‘nudged’ into doing the right thing by voluntarily declaring their true income and paying the right taxes. The government then opened the nine-month window for those who had not paid the correct taxes to regularize via VAIDs.

 

The appeals of the government for Nigerians to declare in the interest of the nation have now received huge backing from the very type of threat that will make any sensible Nigerian sit up and pay attention.

The threat of total loss of the property and assets is a very real risk and the only defence that will be tenable in the UK courts is evidence that the income is legitimate and has been declared in Nigeria and that all taxes due, have been paid.

VAIDS provides a priceless opportunity, for those who have unexplained wealth to do so and protect their investments and assets. The additional upside is that so doing will provide essential funds to develop our own country and deprive the UK stealth effort from fleecing Nigeria and her people a second time.

·Barrister Emmanuel, a tax consultant, writes from Abuja

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Tell Garba Sheu…

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Marxists are right when they posit that the society is in a state of constant flux; matter, of which human being is a part, is in a state of constant and ceaseless motion.

Thesis and anti-thesis interact or clash in a never-ending movement to produce new thesis and anti-thesis until the contradictions in capitalist societies like ours are resolved through the application of the Marxian ideology that resolves such conflicts in favour of the working class people.

 

To put it in another form, the only thing that is constant in life is change. Scriptures say there is nothing new under the sky; what is had been and will soon fade away; what was will become new again. In our daily life, we are subject to the indestructibility of change; we change tastes, fashion, and positions as we proceed through life.

 

We age gradually but in a ceaseless fashion until, finally, we change mortality for immortality, as the apostle Paul puts it. In 2015 Nigerians yearned for change. They were tired with PDP/Goodluck Jonathan and wanted a change. They reckoned that Jonathan was too slow, drab, and ineffectual. Put differently, they said he was not “presidential” enough or at all.

 

 

 

There were many issues they felt he did not effectively handle; was not trying hard to resolve or was not willing to resolve. One of such was the rabid and rampant corruption in his government. Nigerians cried for heads to roll but Jonathan offered none until it became too little, too late.

 

Another sore thumb was the insecurity of lives and property and the Boko Haram insurgency. The Islamists took territory after territory as government troops fled before them.

 

The height was the abduction of the Chibok girls. Nigerians’ standard of living dropped sharply and government had no answer to the social malaise of worsening unemployment, rising crime rate, and collapsed infrastructure all over the place. It was therefore not difficult for Nigerians to agree with the then opposition party’s characterization of the Jonathan administration as “incompetent and clueless”.

 

Come election D-Day and tried as Jonathan/ PDP did, they were rejected at the polls. In truth, that election was not fool-proof as it was blatantly rigged for the APC/Muhammadu Buhari in some parts of the country, especially in Kano.

 

Nigerians generally turned a blind spot to the shenanigans of that election because they were tired of Jonathan.

 

The international community, too, leaned on Jonathan to accept the results of that fraudulent election, which he could have contested. So, wise and patriotic Jonathan vacated office and the “messiah” Buhari and APC took over. Nigerians had high hopes in Buhari/APC. During the campaigns, they promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency within three months.

 

They said they would also end corruption as well as revamp the economy so much so that one Naira will equate one US dollar.

 

Nigerians were elated but three years hence, Buhari/ APC have not delivered on any of their campaign promises. In fact, matters have become worse on all fronts, prompting Nigerians to now say that things don’t get better here, they only get worse. And you cannot blame them for becoming this pessimistic. With the faith and confidence reposed in Buhari, the thinking now is that if Buhari fails to get the job done, then, no one else will.

 

And, sadly, Buhari has not only failed to get the job done, he has made matters worse for the people. The Yoruba have a saying, to wit, if I run to a god to help ameliorate my parlous condition, if it fails to do so, it should at least not make my condition worse.

 

Nigerians deified Buhari, taking him like a god, but not only has he failed to deliver, he has made the people’s situation worse. Before he became president, he boasted and promised heaven and earth but after the people made him president, the first thing he began to do was to deny many of his promises and speeches. Even the ones he admitted making, he has failed to deliver.

His case became like that of a man made the king of hawks but who could not snatch chicks from the mother hen. Propaganda rather that real deliverables have become the hallmark of APC/Buhari administration. The PDP/Jonathan administration has, interestingly, also become its benchmark. Nigerians are alarmed that Buhari can perform so miserably.

 

Since Buhari/APC prefers to use PDP/Jonathan as benchmark, they can be told that the former president had a firmer grip over his government and party than Buhari. Right from day one, Buhari threw away the control of his own party; the consequence is there for everyone to see today. Cabals control the Buhari government more than they did Jonathan’s.

 

To make matters worse, the Buhari presidency is divided and always quibbling and quarrelling. We have never had a government so disorganised and so irresponsible. Buhari has not been able to instil discipline and order in his own government.

 

His orders are even flouted, as the Inspector-General of Police made it known to all of us, and as the ex-Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, asked sarcastically, “Who is the Presidency?” Buhari’s reputation as a no-nonsense leader is gone with the winds. Corruption thrives under Buhari just like it did under Jonathan.

 

Many aides of Buhari are as corrupt as Jonathan’s. Like Jonathan/PDP, Buhari/APC have also treated the corruption of their inner circle members as “family affairs”. Cries that Buhari turn over for prosecution those around him accused of corruption have gone unheeded; even those caught in the brazen act have been shielded from prosecution by Buhari. Unfortunately, this is one area in which the President and spin doctor Garba Sheu think they have performed admirably, but the verdict, home and abroad, is that they have not.

 

In returning Nigeria’s stolen money, the international community now imposes more stringent conditions on Buhari/APC than they did Jonathan/PDP because they have seen that under Buhari/ APC, despite all the anti-corruption noise and propaganda, recovered loots are being re-looted with reckless abandon.

 

The economy under Buhari is in shambles and in a worse state than under Jonathan/PDP. More jobs have been lost; lesser jobs have been created; more industries have closed down, the Naira’s value has been cut by more than half; fuel prices have doubled; more subsidies on fuel are being paid under the counter; the country’s debt overhang has more than tripled; and the state of our infrastructure has not improved in any significant way. Buhari/APC cannot point at signature projects they have executed all over the country.

 

To make matters worse, Buhari has hopelessly divided the country with his inflammatory and divisive statements that favour his region and religion above others. He has also done similarly with his appointments and policies.

 

He has not behaved as the president of the entire country, but as the president of one region and one religion. His tacit support for the murderous herdsmen that have turned Nigeria into a killing field will forever remain the greatest blemish in this regard. Even Boko Haram he is yet to defeat.

 

The evidence is the Dapchi abduction and the continued incarceration of Leah Sharibu and others. Someone should therefore tell Garba Shehu that these and many other reasons are why Nigerians are clamouring for another change. They want to change the change because Buhari and APC have not performed.

 

 

They have been a let-down. In addition, they are becoming increasingly intolerant and destructive of our renascent democracy – and Nigerians are not ready to go back to the era of totalitarianism and military jackboot.

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Soremekun: Taking FUOYE to greater heights

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On May 21, 2018, the erudite scholar, Professor Kayode Soremekun, clocked 65 years. He is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Ekiti State.

 

Soremekun is a public-spirited intellectual, who occupies the critical interface between journalism on one hand and academia on the other. He was born and grew up in Lagos where he attended the prestigious Kings College, Lagos, as a scholarship student. He later attended the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), also as a national award scholar.

 

His academic prowess took a very significant dimension at the University of Ife where he eventually took trinity degrees of Bachelor of Arts (BA) English/History, Masters of Science (MSc) International Relations and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) also in International Relations.

 

 

His academic pursuit was complemented with postdoctoral studies in Holland and the United States of America. In course of his career, Soremekun had some stints in the field of journalism in various capacities.

 

He served on the boards of editorial of several newspapers including The Guardian, Champion, Compass and A.M. News, a quasi-guerilla newspaper in the era of military dictatorship in Nigeria.

 

He joined the academia fully in 1982 as an Assistant Lecturer. He rose through the ranks and became a Professor in 1997. In course of this, he has been Dean of the Faculty of Administration, OAU, Ile-Ife; Dean, College of Development Studies, Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State, among many others.

 

 

As a scholar, Soremekun had obtained a number of fellowships such as Ford Foundation Fellowship, Netherlands Fellowship, Senior Fullbright Research Fellowship and Resident Rockfeller Fellowship in Bellago, Italy, among many others.

 

 

Professor Soremekun in February 2016, took over the mantle of leadership of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti as the Vice- Chancellor. Since then, he has made indelible marks on the sands of time in the institution.

 

 

The vice chancellor on taking over in 2016 had a mission and vision to rebuild, reconstruct and transform the forest-like university into a habitable destination. And today under his watch, the university has become an evolving institution and it largely remains a working project.

 

A determined administrator, Soremekun inherited four faculties and 29 departments. But in two years, the university now boasts of seven faculties and 49 departments with a current capacity of 12,163 students from mere 3,000 in 2016. So far under his watch, 45 out of the 49 programmes have got full accreditation.

 

A manager of human and material resources, he has cut tremendously down excessive spending. In the area of infrastructural facilities, Soremekun has successfully in 2017 connected the campus to the national grid. The resultant effect is constant supply of electricity to the campuses at Oye and Ikole respectively.

 

This feat has reduced the huge sum and heavy consumption of diesels. As a man who is not used to giving up against challenges, Prof. Soremekun while acknowledging some challenges of a new university running two campuses concurrently with capital intensive courses like Engineering determined to surmount the challenge and today, Federal University, Oye- Ekiti, has become the prime choice of most prospective undergraduates.

 

With his administrative acumen, ingenuity and above humility, he has ensured that the fee structure of the university is affordable to most students and because the fee is affordable, that explains overtime, in the short time of existence of FUOYE that it has become the bride of students seeking admission.

 

“Due to low fees, many students, who are hitherto in the private universities now come to us,” he once said.

 

The superb human relationship that existed between the vice chancellor, staff and students accounted for the relative peaceful atmosphere that exists in the university.

 

In all this, Professor Soremekun agreed that funding, as the oxygen of education cannot be wished away as he called for more funding of universities. Thus, as Professor Soremekun clocks 65 years and two years in the saddle as the Vice Chancellor of FUOYE, he is wished continued good health and the capability to steer the ship of FUOYE to the Promised Land.

 

•Olatoye is a public affairs analyst.

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Satellite TV, not IPTV, remains viable viewing option

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Around the African continent, the digital age has spun almost everyone giddy. Understandably. The internet, as we know, offers users almost limitless possibilities for whatever use they choose to put it and is available on various devices: computers, smartphones, tablets etc.

With the internet, television viewing and video content consumption in general have changed radically, especially through the impact of the millennial generation. As such, the arrival of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) on the African continent has created a new content distribution paradigm, which offers television viewing anytime and anywhere and has bred the hugely optimistic view that satellite television on the continent is endangered.

The basic difference between IPTV and satellite television is that instead of receiving television programmes as broadcast signals via antenna or satellite dish, they are streamed through internet connection. IPTV, therefore, enables users to watch television as though they were browsing the web, implying that they could pick and choose what programmes to watch and when to watch them. It is essentially an on-demand service.

That IPTV offers the freedom to choose what and when to watch is widely advertised as the death knell for satellite television in Africa, where the mobile phone boom, which has led to widespread adoption of smartphones.

Those possessed of this view reckon that satellite television, which operates a monthly contract model and offers channels in bundles for which subscribers must pay whether or not they watch all, does not offer freedom of choice.

The freedom of choice has equally fed the belief that IPTV is cheaper as the user pays only for what is watched. I would kill to have those freedoms, which many in the Western world and some parts of Asia currently enjoy with IPTV.

Africa, however, is a different kettle of fish. According to 2017 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) data, the proportion of internet users in Arab states was 43.7 per cent compared to 21.8 per cent in Africa, which has one of the world’s lowest fixed broadband subscriptions rates at 0.5 per 100 inhabitants. Nigeria’s broadband penetration level, according to the National Communications Commission (NCC), stands at 26 per cent.

As seductive as its promises are to Africans, IPTV is no great viewing option in most parts of the continent, where the infrastructure for long-form content streaming is unavailable. What is required for IPTV is not the spotty and slothful kind of connection, which can only handle 1 to 10Mbps, but a broadband line with about 10 times higher information carrying capacity or bandwidth of between 10 and 100Mbps.

Network latency or “buffering” is another disincentive. Since content is transmitted via the internet, the chances of transmission delays for the IPTV user are high. This is because video content must go through the uplink process (uploaded on the IPTV servers) first before getting to the viewer via the downlink process. As a result, there is always an interval between the simulation and response of signals and video links, a situation that latency limits the maximum rate at which information can be transmitted. There is often a limit on the amount of information being delivered at a given time.

With the kind of internet connection available in most parts of Africa, content streaming is close to an ordeal. As a subscriber continuously struggles to connect his device to the internet, data is being consumed, even when not effectively used.
Can IPTV be considered cheaper? No chance.

To get IPTV running, a subscriber is required to have a set-top box and an active internet router on which he/she pays a monthly subscription. To stream content in long form, copious data volumes, in excess of 50GB monthly are required. Various predictions about data costs crashing on the African continent, so far, have amounted to fantasy. Average cost of 50GB in Nigeria is N20,000 monthly.

Therefore, heavy data usage at back-breaking costs, unreliability of internet signals, which affect audio-visual quality in IPTV, are issues the satellite television subscriber does not have to deal with.

Then, there is matter of privacy breach in IPTV usage. While IPTV service providers continue to assure users that their privacy is protected, cases of third parties hacking into providers’ databases and stealing personal information are well documented, worry satellite TV subscribers do not have.

•Omogbai-Musa, an engineer, writes from Benin

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