… gives timely advice on nation’s economy
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has congratulated President Bola Tinubu on his appointment as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), describing it as a laudable feat and well deserved. The President and Chairman of Council of the LCCI, Asiwaju (Dr.) Michael Olawale-Cole, has observed that the “election has come at a time when the ECOWAS region’s member states are positioning themselves to be integrated into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As you stated in your acceptance speech, insecurity and creeping terrorism have stunted the progress and development of the region and must be dealt with”.
As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria is expected to play a significant role in the region and the continent as a whole. However, despite its significant achievements, there are still a number of barriers inhibiting the free flow of goods and services within the region, such as onerous regulations, weak payment platforms, security risks, high transportation costs, and corruption. Consequently, the region has experienced low trade, which had hampered economic growth and development, but despite these limitations, Nigeria is still held in a high standard, especially in terms of setting policy direction on issues affecting the region, the President added.
The LCCI recommends that under the current leadership, issues that affect trade would be appropriately dealt with and that a critical success factor would be to support the implementation of the eco, which is the proposed common currency for ECOWAS. This currency would ease the burden of payment, foreign exchange fluctuation and the attendant impact on trade. “We are assured that your wealth of knowledge, commitment, and track record of governance and leadership will undoubtedly be a significant advantage as you tackle the challenges currently facing the region”, Dr. Olawale-Cole said.
Meanwhile, the LCCI has lauded President Tinubu’s appreciation and recognition of the role of the organised private sector in the realisation of the socio-economic objectives of Nigeria, saying this is “reflected in your actions since inauguration to stabilise the market and support the private sector. The role of the private sector is critical to the achievement of Nigeria’s economic goals of job creation, revenue mobilisation, and non-oil export promotion. I, therefore, heartily commend the efforts of the Federal Government in formulating policies, national plans, and sectoral interventions toward creating an enabling environment for enhanced national prosperity”.
On the proposed establishment of the Nigerian Revenue Services from the merger of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), the LCCI said it understands the government’s arguments on the proposed merger, which borders on improving efficiency in collecting all direct and indirect taxes and levies. It also supports the government’s desire to curb the rising cost of governance, its readiness to declare a state of emergency on revenue generation, and its resolve to tackle them headlong.
The chamber, however, cautions that the government should ensure that implementing the proposed merger does not impede the ease of doing business and that it is necessary for the government to ensure that the fallout of the proposed merger, such as staff rationalisation, realignment of operating structure, accountability, and transparency, are adequately dealt with. While we commend the government on some of its recent measures to stop wasteful spending, we urge the administration to halt the revenue leakage of more than US$5 billion, paid as freight to foreign ship owners and that the chamber’s perspectives are in tandem with the government’s need to check the over-alleged bloated and inefficient workforce of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Thr body calls on the government to embrace critical stakeholders’ engagement and consultation, which would hopefully provide further insights into charter-specific responsibilities and possibilities. The LCCI further lauds the government on the recently-released Executive Orders, which, by and large, would curb arbitrary taxation policies. The orders such as the 2023 Finance Act (Effective Date Variation) Order, Customs Excise Tariff (Variation) Amendment Order, Suspension of the Five-Percent Excise Tax (Telecommunications Services) Order, and the Excise Duty Escalation (locally manufactured products) Order, are most welcomed.
The group stated that while the Finance Act 2023 defers the commencement date of the changes contained in the Act from May 23, 2023, to September 1, 2023, the Excise Tariff (Variation) Amendment Order shifts the date for the commencement of the tax changes from March 27, 2023, to August 1, 2023, saying these new dates align with the 2017 National Tax Policy, which provides a 90-day minimum advance notice. The LCCI notes with satisfaction, that the executive orders demonstrate the listening ear tendency of President Tinubu, for they further highlight the administration’s readiness to strengthen due process, willingness to follow established path, and readiness to uphold collective agreements while at the same time, taking into serious consideration their economic growth impacts in general and the organised private sector in particular.
It added that they would also lessen the current hardship being faced by households and that with the new dates, the LCCI believes that they would afford the affected sectors enough time to rise to expectations of the acts. On the recent appointment of Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, it was described as a decisive and affirmative action. LCCI observed that the pronouncement recognises the importance of a sound fiscal policy environment and an effective taxation system for the functioning of the government and the economy, saying the committee’s primary objective would be to enhance revenue collection efficiency, ensure transparent reporting, and promote the effective utilisation of tax and other revenues to boost citizens’ tax morale, foster a healthy tax culture, and drive voluntary compliance.
The chamber stressed the need for the presidential committee to focus on expanding the tax net to avoid overburdening existing taxpayers while other issues of revenue leakages, such as oil theft, should also be properly addressed, as these would ensure that the government earns more revenue and that there would be less dependence on internal and external borrowings to fund the budget maintaining that these efforts would improve Nigeria’s revenue profile and create a more conducive and internationally-competitive business environment.
“LCCI, as the voice of the organised private sector, has the capacity, pedigree, and stature to support the government in facilitating the implementation of policy initiatives. The issues presented herewith have both policy and institutional implications. We are aware of the many challenges facing our country currently, and we commend all that the government is doing to resolve these issues and stabilise the economy. We only crave to see more results through efficient and timely implementation. The chamber, under my leadership, is available to work with the Presidency with respect to policy formulation and implementation in the direction of a more robust economy for the nation. We look forward to seeing more policy interventions to promote an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive”, the President added.
The LCCI, which was established in 1888, is the foremost chamber of commerce in Nigeria and West Africa. Over the past 135 years, LCCI has remained the leading voice of the private sector through its sustained public policy advocacy, stakeholders’ engagement, and trade promotion activities. The group remains a strong advocacy brand that is representative of the yearnings of Nigeria’s business community. It has a membership base operating in almost all sectors of the economy and accounts for an estimated 60% of industrial output, 65% of general commerce, and 75% of financial services in Nigeria.
Under the leadership of Dr. Olawale-Cole, the LCCI has held several interactive sessions with policymakers at the federal, state, and local government levels on numerous business, investment, and economic issues. The chamber has also been described as the first point of call for visiting foreign diplomats and investors worldwide, and had regularly and consistently hosted numerous inward and outward trade missions that had contributed to investment inflows into Nigeria.