The vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has said that the federal government is not collecting enough revenue compared to what it wants to spend.
The vice president who stated this while responding to questions from Nigerians across different professions and persuasions at a town hall meeting in Abuja yesterday, said no Nigerian who lives outside Lagos and Ogun states pays the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million.
“Nigeria may have an issue with debt to revenue; we are not collecting enough revenue compared to what we want to spend
“Are we collecting enough taxes? If you look at the FIRS figures, it says 914 Nigerians pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. Of the 914, 912 live in Lagos and the other two live in Ogun State, no other Nigerian outside of Lagos and Ogun pay the self-assessed tax of more than N10 million. So, we are simply not collecting enough revenue,” he said.
The vice president said the federal government in collaboration with the states was working on harmonising tax collections in order to address issues relating to multiple collection of taxes.
“This is a problem that we are dealing with all across Nigeria. It is one of the issues we are dealing with under the ease of doing business. We are addressing the sub-national. How we can harmonise taxes. The second phase of our ease of doing business is focused on the collection of multiple taxes; there is no reason why that should continue,” he said.
Thereafter, he said the federal government’s N-Power programme had been expanded and will accommodate one million beneficiaries in the next phase adding that the programme would become the largest post-tertiary job scheme in Africa.
“The idea of N-Power is supposed to be government’s own programme of direct employment and training. At the moment, we have taken up to 500,000 and in the next phase we are looking at another 200,000 and closely followed by another 300,000.
“In all, we will be employing up to a million, and that will be the largest post-tertiary job programme in the entire Africa. The reason why we have done this is because of the employment problems that we have, we may not be able to engage everybody but at least government must give some direct provision of jobs.”
Osinbajo explained further that though government could not pay more than the N30, 000 currently paid to beneficiaries and also fix all the unemployment issues, it was working on creating the enabling environment to ensure that beneficiaries as well as other unemployed Nigerians become useful to themselves.
“It is infrastructure that will create the opportunities to provide more jobs, especially through manufacturing and industry.
“So, we are doing roads and rail, providing power; that is the way we can develop industry. We are energising our markets at the moment, putting solar power in the markets. We have designated 300 markets, we have done Ariaria in the South East, Sabon Gari in Kano, Surat in Lagos, Isikan in Ondo, Gbagi in Oyo and we are expanding so that more people can work,” he said.
On the need to engage more women in productive activities, Osinbajo said: “one of the ways the Buhari administration is engaging more women is through our GEEP loans.
“Fifty-six per cent of our GEEP loans go to the women. So there is a lot of preferential advantage that we give to women and this is because women are effective managers of resources; they pay back these loans when they are given.”
Commenting on the misconceptions about the borrowing arrangements of the Buhari administration, the vice president said, the country, under President Buhari, was not in a terribly bad debt situation as insinuated in some quarters.
According to him, very frequently you find people creating fear about the issue of debt and saying that this government has borrowed more than previous governments.
“I want to give you the facts and figures on the debt issue. The dollar denominated debts of Nigeria – that is the debts of the federal government, the states and local governments.
“In 2010, Nigeria’s debt was $35 billion; 2011, it was $41billion; in 2012, it was $48 billion, in 2013, it became $64 billion; 2014, it rose to $67 billion; 2015, it fell to $63 billion; 2016, $57 billion; 2017, $70 billion; 2018, it is $73 billion. So, the difference between 2015 and now is $10 billion.
“One of the things that I always want you to bear in mind is that when oil prices are at their highest, between 2010 and 2014 that was when we had the sharpest rise in debts.”
“The other thing that I want us to bear in mind is what is called debt to GDP. Our debt to gross domestic product is one of the lowest among the countries that are frequently compared to us. Our debt to GDP is 20 per cent. When you compare it to other countries, you will see that Ghana is about 68 per cent whereas Ethiopia’s is 48 per cent. In terms of the size of our economy and debt, we are doing okay.”
On the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, Osinbajo said the federal government had engaged the leadership of the union and scheduled the next meeting for Thursday (tomorrow).