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IT’S A PRIVILEGE SERVING NIGERIA: FOWLER

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Immediate past Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Tunde Fowler, yesterday thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for the privilege he had to serve the nation and for what he was able to do with the support of all staff.

Waxing biblical, Fowler noted that the taxman job is one of service to one’s fatherland as it gives one the opportunity to serve fellow humans and the nation.

Change, he noted is constant. It is normal that people will always resist change, he noted. He spoke at about 6: 35 pm as he handed over to the Coordinating

Director Domestic Taxes Group, Abiodun Aina, who promised to stir the ship of the FIRS before a new Chairman will officially resume..

Said Tunde Fowler in a handover over ceremony at the Boardroom of the FIRS: “Let me thank all of you who are here for what we have been able to do for our country. From the driver to the senior staff, everybody played a role. But with change, sometimes there is resistance. People will not understand the vision, will not understand the reason for the change. But hope in leaving FIRS, I’ve left behind something positive that each and every one of you can build on.

“We have got a mandate. That mandate is not just to collect revenue. It’s a mandate to collect the maximum amount of revenue for all concerned for the benefit of all Nigerians.

“There is nothing automatic about having a second term. Some of you might say it’s a big surprise. It a privileged to serve one’s country, and if you have the privilege of serving your country for one term and you believe you have done your best, you have to thank God for that.

For those of you we are leaving behind, Ï do not want to get too scriptural. But I believe that anything that you do, that helps your fellow human being, your neighbours is a blessing. And I believe that this job that we have been given is a job that will continue to help all Nigerians and all people residing in Nigeria.

“We have the opportunity to show the world that Nigeria has a lot to offer. It was during this period that we had a top Director, representing Nigeria and the world at the OECD. It was within this period that Nigeria, for the first time chaired ATAF (African Tax Administration Forum), for two years running. It was within this period that Nigeria through your support, was appointed as the 1st Vice Chairman of the United Nations Committee of Tax Experts. So we have a lot going for us.

“I like you to keep the flag flying, But I hope that sometime, when I visit, my picture will be somewhere on the wall..

“One thing, for people who have known me for a while, is that some of them refer to me as a shark. I like to keep people on their toes. Some of you might have thought that I don’t appreciate your contribution.

But some of you… might have been able to do things better. And part of my role is to bring out those potentials in you. And I hope I have been able to do that. I am contented with this.

“I like to thank the President for giving me this opportunity of service. It’s a privilege of service to your country. But at the same time, I believe I leave behind a good crop of directors that can move this organisation forward.

I will say that for the incoming Chairman, for the incoming Board of Directors, give them the support. The vision, I believe, is the same vision that we have. But how to go about it may differ. Open yourselves up to change. At this point, it gives me extreme privilege, to hand over the running of this organisation until the Senate approves the new Board, to someone who has been here, to someone who understands the working of the FIRS, to someone who has been part of the change. And I believe that you will give him the support, not even the support you have given me. But more support. So that when he hands over the organisation to the new board, they will see that this organisation is one that shares the same vision, and of course believes in his mandate. With these few words, I like to say it’s a pleasure working with all of you.

“Some of you might have thought that I don’t like you. But I assure you it worked. But I believe in this room, we have got a lot of talent, but regardless of what happens, keep the flag flying.

“On this note, Mr. Aina, I have the privilege of handing over FIRS to you. God bless FIRS. Long live the Republic of Nigeria.

Acting Executive Chairman, FIRS, Abiodun Aina spoke in glowing terms about Fowler. Said Aina: “Thank you very much Mr, Chairman, my boss, my brother, and my good friend Sir. As you hand over to me I say you have fought a good fight. You laid a very solid foundation.

“Within the intervening period that I will be holding forth, I promise to steady the ship, by the grace of God. You have done a lot within the space of four years. You have transformed FIRS. You have modernised it. There has been a lot of innovations. And under you we have achieved great heights. When we look back in 2015, collection was about N3, 3 trillion. At the end of 2018, with your leadership, we were able to move to N5. 32 Trillion. That was the highest collection ever, in the annals FIRS. You brought dynamism to FIRS.

“You introduced so many programmes that repositioned FIRS: Tax Amnesty Programme, implemented VAIDS, increased the no of taxpayers nationwide to over 20 million in a spate of four years, began placing lien on the account of taxpayers to ensure that each capable corporatetax payers pay his/her dues, fostered collaboration amongst the states through the Joint Tax Board, began robust information sharing amongst states, launched the JTB TIN so that states might have access to data for tax purposes, deepened FIRS’ embrace of technology for tax purposes and many more.

“But like you also mentioned in your speech, change is usually resisted. And so you stepped on toes. That is normal. Leadership is not a popularity contest. And I’m sure you know that very well. And that was why you were focused on carrying out the mandate that was given to you. I can tell you on behalf of my colleagues here that we will miss you. You have left a very big shoe behind. We will do all we can to ensure that we will keep the flag flying.

“Thank you very much for what you have done for us.”

PM News 

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Tinubu To Protest Planners: Shelve Idea, Await Our Response

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President Bola Tinubu has appealed to Nigerians who plan to stage nationwide hunger protests to shelve the plan.

The President also urged the citizens to give his administration enough time to respond to their requests.

The request was revealed by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, to State House Correspondents after closed-door talks with President Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.

He said, “On the issue of the planned protest, Mr. President does not see any need for that. He asked them to shelve that plan and he has asked them to await the government’s response to all their pleas.

“So, there is no need for strike. The young people out there should listen to the President and allow the President more time to see to the realisation of all the goodies he has for them.”

His comments come days after calls for nationwide protests from August 1-10 against the rising cost of living and the economic hardship.

 

 

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Lagos Students Shun National Protest, Plan Solidarity Walk

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Students of tertiary institutions in Lagos State have disclosed their stand on the planned nationwide protests expected to commence on August 1.

JomogNews reports that Nigerians, particularly youths, have vowed to stage mass protests across the country beginning from August 1 to August 10 to draw the attention of the government to the plight of citizens.

According to the organizers, the protesters are expected to converge at state government houses across the country and the National Assembly complex in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to express their anger over the hardship in Nigeria.

However, Mr Alimi Lekan-Idris, President, National Association of Lagos State Students, NULASS, said on Tuesday that the students will not join the protest.

Addressing journalists at a press conference held at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital College of Medicine, Ikeja, Mr Alimi urged Nigerian youths to embrace dialogue.

He said, “It is crucial that we remember the importance of peace and stability and use dialogue to achieve our collective goals.

”Given these significant contributions and progress we have witnessed, we wish to state that we are not in support of any protest against the government of Lagos State”.

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Labour Plans Talks With Govs As N’Assembly Okays N70,000 Wage

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Labour unions in the country say they will schedule meetings with state governments as part of efforts to ensure that they comply with the 2024 National Minimum Wage Amendment Act Bill, which on Tuesday empowered Nigerian workers to earn at least N70,000 on a monthly basis.

The Senate on Tuesday at plenary passed the 2024 National Minimum Wage Amendment Act Bill after President Bola Tinubu had transmitted the new wage bill to both chambers of the National Assembly, seeking expeditious support of the lawmakers for its passage.

The Senate and House of Representatives passed the new minimum wage bill.

The bill passed the first (President Tinubu’s request), second (debate on general principles) and third readings on Tuesday — all within an hour — in the upper and lower legislative chambers.

The new bill replaces the National Minimum Wage Act, No. 8, 2019 which approved N30,000 minimum wage with five years to negotiate a new wage. The new wage review period has now been reduced to three years following Tuesday’s legislation.

While leading a debate on the bill, Opeyemi Bamidele, Majority Leader of the Senate, said N70,000 was agreed upon by all the parties after negotiations.

“This is part of the Federal Government’s short term measure to mitigate the situation in the country,” Bamidele said.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Tahir Monguno, said there was the need to review the minimum wage to align with economic realities.

“The review of the minimum wage used to be after every five years. It is now every three years,” Monguno said.

No Senator opposed the Bill during its consideration by the Committee of the Whole.

The Senators also unanimously approved that the Bill be read for the third time and passed when it was put to voice vote by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

The legislation gives legal backing to the N70,000 minimum wage recently approved by the President after weeks of a face-off with labour unions over a new minimum wage.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress had both threatened a nationwide strike in the event of the failure of the Federal Government to approve a new wage for workers.

The NLC and TUC proposed N494,000 as the new monthly national minimum wage, citing inflation and the prevailing economic hardship in the country.

The unions in several statements lamented the hardship in the country, fueled by the removal of subsidy from the Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, and the rising cost of goods and services.

But the unions later reduced the amount to N250,000 after several meetings with the Presidency.

On June 7, the Federal Government increased its offer for the new minimum wage for workers from N60,000 to N62,000 but the unions insisted on N250,000.

On July 11, the labour leaders again met with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa over the new minimum wage before eventually accepting N70,000 as the new minimum wage for workers last week.

At Tuesday’s plenary, the bill was speedily passed through the first and second reading stages, leading to the consideration of the report and final passage to pave the way for the immediate implementation of the new minimum wage.

After the bill passage on Tuesday, the Trade Union Congress warned states against delay in the implementation of the new minimum wage. The TUC noted that no delay should be allowed due to the biting economic conditions in the country.

The National Vice President, TUC, Tommy Etim, made this known in an interview with our correspondent.

Etim said, “We are happy that the Senate was able to pass the National Minimum Wage Bill promptly. It’s now for the President to sign it into law and for the implementation to commence immediately.

“Moreover, the states should not delay in the implementation because of the socioeconomic challenges and the need to address hunger in the land.”

The NLC also urged state governments to replicate the move by the Federal Government to hastily pass the new minimum wage bill into law. The Congress also advised states to implement the new minimum wage to the letter.

“We are delighted by the gesture of the Senate because it suggests sensitivity to the plight of our members. The 2019 law expired in April 2024. This means we are already in arrears. The states should not only obey the law to the hilt but timeously too,” the Head of Public Relations of the NLC, Benson Upah, told one of our correspondents in Abuja.

Ekiti, Osun pledge to pay

Meanwhile, The Kwara State Governor, Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, on Tuesday forwarded a bill seeking the revised Supplementary Budget of the state by N201bn to the State House of Assembly for approval, as states begin moves to pay the new wage.

Though, the Governor did not state the reason for the budget in his letter to the Assembly, it was learnt it might not be unconnected with the recent enaqctment of the new wage bill.

In the letter, which was read at plenary by the Speaker, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, the Governor sought consideration and approval for the 2024 Revised/Supplementary Estimate.

The Speaker stated, “The total budget size after review is now N493,449,372,429.00 as against the 2024 approved estimates of N292,741,292,132.30, representing 69 per cent increase.

“The bill, however, passed through first reading and thereafter the Clerk of the House was directed to circulate clean copies of the bill to the Honourable members and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Rules and Business to slate it for second reading at the next legislative day.”

Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, on Tuesday assured workers in the state that he would not disappoint them on the new minimum wage for workers.

Oyebanji, who spoke in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, during the presentation of N1bn gratuity cheques to retirees, expressed hope that he would offset all outstanding pension arrears before the end of the year.

The governor said, “On minimum wage, once it becomes law, when the President signs it into law, all will be well. The only thing I know, I am here to serve you. Let us wait, at the appropriate time, all will be well. One thing I know is that I am not going to disappoint you.”

Also, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, said the state government would pay the new minimum wage, adding that the welfare of workers remained a priority of the present administration.

Alimi, who admitted that the new wage would strain the state’s finances, added that since the FG’s decision to pay the N70,000 minimum wage to workers was backed by law, Osun would not be found wanting.

“We will pay, but if the Federal Government is willing to give us more money, we will definitely be interested in collecting it. It is a question of law. Once they say an amount is the minimum wage and it is backed up by law, it is not negotiable.

“In Osun, the number one in the five-point agenda of the governor is workers’ welfare. If we can be paying arrears of salaries and pensions, we are going to pay the minimum wage. It is an obligation. I told you before now that whatever agreed upon as minimum wage, Osun will not be found wanting. It’s an additional burden but that notwithstanding, our government is committed to the welfare of the workers. We are going to pay,” Alimi said.

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