SACE is a governance project funded by USAID to support civil society to advocate for reforms that improve transparency and accountability and increase inclusive governance in Nigeria.
It was now very apparent why the likes of Oludotun Babayemi, co-Founder of Connected Development , Omojuwa; Social Media Commentator, Maryam Uwais; Human Rights Lawyer and Activist were representatives of their respective organizations to share thoughts with the group of CSOs present at the event.
Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian blogger, public speaker, socio-economic and political commentator and social media expert gave doses of advice for Social Media folks. He said “One of the fastest ways of reaching people is perhaps through Social Media” but, a caveat was labelled on to that “We have to take responsibility for the platforms we consume our news from”.
The 2016 Best Twitter Personality Of The Year said part of what drives our movement towards achieving success with Social Media is that, “the citizens now have the power to drive change via new media but because we are now in the era of masses; Mass media, mass production, mass movement, we have move from the stage where organizations say something and we follow”.
Oludotun Babayemi, shared essential information on how Connected Development’s FollowTheMoney – the largest grassroots movement was designed to track and visualize government funds in Africa .
He said “Passion drove us to Zamfara State to link what was happening but we never thought of sustainability; however sustainability is an essential component of building effective public campaign strategy.” Speaking more on how passion drove their activity, he said “the first time we journeyed into Zamfara State, Bagega wasn’t even on Google map“.
He also intensively debated that “No country has been able to move from underdevelopment to development without Education”.
The Stanford University Centre for Development, Democracy and the Rule of Law fellow enthused further that “We decided not to be conventional in our campaign but to leverage heavily on the media, both traditional and the new, in innovative ways.
We started Follow The Money campaign by tracking government funding on health, education and environment and we constantly leveraged on champions to drive the Bagega Campaign such as Omojuwa as key influencer, as it is always sane and reasonable for long-term sake that “NGOs should focus on their strengths and have one thematic area of work to remain relevant and in sync with the public because originality, people and technology are key to success”.
Babayemi advised that “evidence based advocacy is important in having focused campaign” to be able to have strengthened public awareness, discourse and support for key democratic governance issues such as transparency, accountability and good governance.
As part of the Objectives of the 2.0 Mindset series which is to share lessons learned based on the achievements and challenges of CSOs in TAGG engagement.
Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social vices and curb them, in line with focus. She was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has reward”.
Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social menace and able to curb them, in line with focus, she was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has its own reward”.
“Identify our audience well” because she said “Working on Child marriage in the North, we targeted the turbaned and bearded.” Because “It’s always important that you stand for something; build network and reach out to people”
The seasoned lawyer and activist also tasked the audience that in carrying out the functions, we must “be kind, be compassionate, put yourself in the others shoes and always keep the bigger picture in view”.
Moreso , as the program also seek to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to have in-depth discussion on the expectations and way forward in optimizing CSOs role in policy dialogue and reform. She enthused that “We’re enlisting 3rd party monitors to track social investment because it’s important to hear the other party’s’ voice.
“Every beneficiary of social protection program of the Federal Government has BVN and their names in register” she added.
Also as this initiative seeks to complement the project’s subsequent dialogues on fostering and strengthening public discourse and support for key democratic governance issues, e hope to , continue the conversation via http://ifollowthemoney.org and be part of the people that will drag positive change into the country. Do join us!
Olusegun Olagunju is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development (Follow The Money), a Sociologist and a non-conformist. He tweets using @mobolsgun
L-R Hamzat Bala Lawal, Senator Jummai Alhassan
Ever imagined the world where there wouldn’t be differences within the gender grouping? Ever wished your female children are accorded same respect as given to the male folks out there?
These drove the challenge for the HeForShe campaign that was created by UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and empowerment of women, HeForShe is a global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential, enlisting men and boys as equal partners in the responsible crafting and implementing of a shared vision of gender equality, with norms of gender equality, non-violence and respect, and thus together positively reshaping society.
Purely the fundamental objectives of HeForShe campaign are to change discriminatory behaviours, through building awareness of the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment and the crucial role men can play in their own lives, and at more structural levels in their communities, to end the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.
HeForShe also provides a platform for men and boys to become advocates for women and girls, and to behave accordingly, telling their stories to the global community about the actions they are taking to end inequality.
There are mixed feelings in the acceptance of this cause but to know if this call for change is necessary, we need to have had a fair knowledge of how gender-inequality wrecks the society.
Research estimates suggest that, on the current trajectory, gender equality would not be achieved until 2095. With men and boys at the table and engaged in the issue, we believe that we can more than double the Speed of change.
Can we then fold our arms and anticipate 2095 without acting as fast as we can and allow this unhealthy phase continue in this devastating form?
In this light, an event was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development at the International Conference Centre for officially and Nationally Launch this HeForShe campaign in Nigeria to sensitize the National mind-set of the need to act now for a gender equal world.
Present at the event were notable figures, the Vice President of Nigeria; Professor Yemi Osinbajo, The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development; Senator Aisha Jummai AlHassan and Phyllis Nwokedi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The Ministry channels visibly took all present around what we stand to enjoy as this campaign kicks off. It was relayed that the Ministry’s ambitious aim is to secure the commitment of one billion men to make changes in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Those changes may range from small steps – acknowledging the issue and recognizing that the status quo is acceptable to big steps that directly make changes to individual or community lives.
Hamzat Lawal; The Chief Executive of Connected Development, an organization that has done well in ensuring that marginalized people and sect are empowered and have their voices amplified was also present at the event and gave a direct speech on the focus and his stance on gender equality and parity.
He said “Although we have come a long way from a century ago regarding the rights of women and girls, there is room for improvement. According to UN Women, gender equality is defined as “equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”.
For long, the attention and the pressure have fallen only on women to be the ones who should believe in gender equality. This is wrong. Both men and women should play an active role in ensuring equality between the sexes. As the popular Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says- “we should all be feminists”! This creed should be passed on to our future generations.
He further enthused “I am happy to be a young man who truly believes in gender equality. In my organization, 70% of my workforce is women. As of 2016, my organization – CODE has directly impacted 26,811 rural lives, especially those of women and children in ensuring that educational and health care appropriations meant for them are well spent through our “Follow The Money” campaigns.
“However, this is not enough. As an Activist, I strongly believe that now is the time to stand up on our tiptoes, extend our arms to the sky, and confess to the world that we are sick of our women and girls missing out of school, and being victims of conflict and domestic violence.”Lastly, Lawal pointed out that “My greatest dream is that one day, I’ll have a little daughter and a son of my own. When my son asks me what it means to be a man, and when my daughter asks me what it means to be a woman, I should be able to tell them one similar thing- “Boys and Girls are equal!
“I implore our youth to join the HeforShe campaign by standing with women and girls around the world who deserve access to education, healthcare, water, and sanitation, as well as decent work. As a great country, we could lead Africa in achieving the sustainable development goals.”
It is anticipated that out of the signatories to HeForShe, half will take the initial step of joining the solidarity campaign by making a simple positive pledge for gender equality. It is also projected that another quarter may make the pledge and then be inspired to become more engaged by taking a second step-to donate, to advocate and to sensitize themselves to gender equality issues. And a final quarter may deepen their engagement by making and following through on a major commitment that substantially contributes to social change.
Every story of a champion making a difference has the potential to inspire others to become more engaged. Each man who takes a new action helps all of the humanity to take an additional step towards gender equality.
I advise you to Take Action Now for a Gender – Equal World.
Olusegun is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development & FollowTheMoney. He’s a Social commentator and Social Media expert.
All these and more have been encapsulated in the reason behind the Tax Treaty Training hosted by ActionAid to bring to the fore, concise details of the Nigeria taxing system and the processes of Tax Treaties between Countries, most especially, Nigeria.
Hosted at one of the Luxurious halls of Sandralia Hotel, Jabi, from 20th to 21st February. The First Day of the training was dedicated to elucidate and make more comprehensible – Tax and Tax Treaties.
Coming in at Lunch, I was greeted by Kolo Kenneth who immediately handed a mini postcard sized paper to me, voila – a meal ticket. Headed straight to the lunch room. The rest is history!
Funny, I was seated next to one of ActionAid’s speakers for the event – Lovisa Moller and we spoke for the entire period of the lunch.
Lovisa Moller gave her insightful piece “Tax Treaties – a critical perspective”. Sliding through, she left no stone unturned as she explained the core of Tax and Treaties.
“Tax Treaty is an agreement between two countries to divide up and limit taxing rights. Tax Treaties decide how much, and even if, the Contracting States can tax multinational companies.Tax Treaties are also known as Double Tax Agreements (DTAs), Double Tax Treaties (DTTs) and Double Taxation Conventions (DTCs)”.
Still on Tax Treaties, she explained ‘How rights are divided up’. According to the slide report, it is:
- Source vs Resident Taxation.
- Rules are Neutral in theory, assymetrical in practice.
- OECD and UK model Treaties propose different versions. Moreso, ActionAid analysis of 519 tax treaties concluded that: Tax Treaties impose an unfair burden on lower-income countries compared to wealthier countries.A question was raised by Lovisa as to ‘why countries sign treaties’, the floor was aroused to action and heads began to sway in contention for answers.
Here are some of the answers that were given:
- New markers attracts Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
- Reduces taxes and ignites smoother investment .
- It boots exports.
Moreover, in answering the question, she explained thus, “Tax Treaties attract more foreign investment – it can be assumed that Treaties will cause foreign investment to increase. The empirical evidence on the investment of Treaties is mixed. The potential revenue loss, especially to developing countries – including through ‘Treaty shopping’ – has caused increasing concern”.
ActionAid’s International Policy and Campaign Advisor; Lovisa Moller gave some brief lessons in the history of Tax Treaties before moving ahead.
ActionAid, through Lovisa Moller gave a strong reason why we should care about Nigeria Taxing rights. It was directly disclosed to participants of the training that:
15 out of every 100 children die at the age of 5. Meanwhile, Nigeria is reputed as Africa’s largest economy, the continent’s largest oil producer and largest owner of natural gas proven reserves. These sharp contrasts between socio-economic state and resource abundance makes for compelling need to evaluate reasons for insufficient flows of funds to the government by businesses who should contribute their fair share to the development of the country.
Noteworthy it is – Nigeria Treaty Ratification process, below is the process;
- Initial Preparation
- Approval (The Federal Executive Council approves the negotiated text)
- Signature (The Minister of Finance or his/her representatives)
- Ratification (The National Assembly must choose to enact into law)
- Entry into Force
- Renegotiation or termination
It was noted that there are impacts and implications in the processes that surrounds Tax Treaties, some of which the underlisted explains:
- It creates allowance for tax evasion and (or) treaty shopping.
- Difficult to distinguish between genuine investors and “shell” companies.
- Nigeria being a net importer will remain so for the nearest future, the DTT by limiting the taxing right of Nigeria on dividend interest and royalty potentially reduces the tax base of the country which will.impact negatively on the revenue generation for the country. ActionAid however gave some promising recommendations on the above. It’s a praiseworthy effort from their part, of not only critically looking to the taxiing system but also giving lasting recommendations.
Read below, some of these recommendations…
1. Consider reviewing the current tax Treaty network to determine if the country actually is benefitting from its current and potential future tax treaties
2. Place a special review focus on the Treaties with Kuwait, Mauritius, Belgium, China, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as these have been found to restrict Nigeria’s rights more than the norm.
3. Subject treaty negotiations, ratification, and impact assessment to far greater public scrutiny.I ended day one on a highly fulfilled note but understanding that Day two was pregnant with so much more, my impatience was steady.
Cluster Group of CSOs. talking Nigeria Tax Challenges
Day 2 started with a lot of innovative ideas around Tax, the moderator, Tunde Aremu was all around the hall fielding questions from participants and in return was checking on our level of memory retention – asking about lessons learnt on Day 1.
Tunde Aremu of ActionAID
He made startling, momentarily shocking revelations on how multinational companies have evaded taxes. Of all, he said “Firms like Deloitte have constantly aided and abetted countries on ways to avoid Tax payments”.
So much more was made known within the hours of the training. It was also explained – the various types of Tax rights; Profit tax, Withholding Tax, Capital gains tax.
We were asked to form clusters of CSOs, Journos to discuss challenges that beset Nigeria’s formulation of a concrete tax Treaty.
We were able to identify the listed as the challenges:
- Secrecy in processes involved in drafting treaties
- Low level of awareness on implementation of the Tax Treaties.
- Perceived Capacity Gap
- Excessive Conception of Taxing rights.
We also discussed HOW TO TACKLE THESE CHALLENGES below are points from our discussion: That:-
- There should be policy that is open and transparent and more private sector involvement / participation.
- Policies that allow participation of expertise around the specific Tax Treaty being negotiated.
- Strict implementation of the Tax Policy rights
- The MDAs should be up to their responsibilities in making public – any Treaty entered into.
How can CSOs, POLITICIANS, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, MEDIA, LABOUR contribute to making these responses happen?
- They need to crucially understand the existing Treaties
- They should create awareness through the Media
- Mapping our relevant stakeholders for Advocacy and Engagement processes.
Enjoy your week.
I leave you to ponder on these revelations, I was wowed upon seeing these, I hope you will, too.
Social Cost of Revenue Lost to Tax Loopholes
– As much as tax is every citizen’s responsibility and as well as companies doing business in the country, only few Citizens pay tax. The poorest who live in the rural areas are known to suffer this burden more, through multiple taxation. (HOW OFTEN DO YOU GET TAXED/ PAY YOUR TAX?)
– Corporations use their connection with political elites and Loopholes in Nigeria’s tax system to access tax holidays for their greedy benefits. (ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?)
– Due to tax loopholes, corporations and political elites engage in illicit financial flows to tax havens where financial secrecy is in place or low tax levies enable them profit from the act.
PAY YOUR TAX!
Olusegun Olagunju is the Media Strategist at Connected Development, He’s a Sociologist. He hopes to see a world where equal rights of all genders will be respected and a safe environment will be achieved. He tweets via @mobolsgun
Participants at the CSOs engagement with the Minster of Mines and Steel Development
Concerned bodies that seek to bring a total change to the face of the Mining Industry and Civil Society Organisations brought the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development and Environment together on the 13th day of February, 2017 at Rockview Hotel, Wuse I I, Abuja to factor out ways to efficaciously partner and bring about the desired sectoral reform that has hitherto rented the economic fabric that the Nation is adorned with – from the Mining sector.
The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development was ably represented by his Chief of Staff – Mr Egghead Odewale. The Minister, in his usual liveliness and strong enthusiasm welcomed all Heads of CSOs present to the event, in the same vein he said “It is always a delight for me to interface with a constituency which I hold dearly haven been a member for a considerable part of my life. There is always a nostalgic feeling associated with these intermittent interactions with most diverse people-oriented sector within the nation state…”
He started his speech with a brief overview of the Ministry’s efforts in boosting the sector towards the agenda of diversifying revenue accruals to the Federal Government.
Dr. Fayemi highlighted some few challenges barricading the growth of the sector among which Insufficient Funding, Lack of Geological Data, Weak Institutional Capacity, Limited Supporting Infrastructure, Limited Cooperative Federalism, Low Productivity, Illegal Mining and Community Challenges, Weak Ease of doing business and Perception issues, Protracted Litigations on Legacy Assets were mentioned.
In furtherance, he gave a review of the past year – 2016 and was quick to point out that the past year 2016 was one of the toughest since the world emerged from the great recession about 7 years ago. He praised all stakeholders because “Much of what has been achieved has been a result of the collective efforts of all stakeholders, based on shared vision of the sector, which we have articulated in a roadmap, Our Ministry considers all stakeholders as partners with a common goal, which is why we spend time engaging with various publics, providing feedback, sharing our vision, and eliciting more concerted participation”
On funds not being sufficient for the sector to thrive, the former Ekiti State Governors had this to say;
“We sought for N30bn intervention fund from the Federal Government, partly to help provide cheap loans and grants to industry participants as well as for directly investing in foundation infrastructure… we got approval got activation and securing access to the revolving Mining Sector component of the Natural Resources Development Fund”.
He made it known at the event that the Ministry is working with Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, The Nigerian Stock Exchange and others to assemble a $600m investment fund for the sector.
A large dose of relief as the Minister revealed that the Ministry has secured support from the World Bank for the funding of the Mineral Sector Support Fund for Economic Diversification (MSSED or MinDiver) program which is to provide technical assistance for the restructuring and operationalisation of Solid Minerals Development fund.
Dr. Fayemi said the Ministry is working out modalities to engage world-class exploration companies to collaborate with her data generating agencies towards providing bankable data to attract big players in the Mining sector. This is in a bid to bridge the gap of unavailability of Geological Data.
The Sector has been assailed with gross illegal mining and also plagued by conspicuous and outrageous community challenges but the Minister informed us that “We are working with the state governments and relevant Ministries to formalise and manage our artisanal miners, while also working with defense and security agencies to cure the actions of illegal mining in the country”
In the light of all these, there is an outlook for the year 2017 and years ahead as expectations and projections were highlighted. The Ministry is to focus on priority areas of competitive advantage to drive growth, some of which are:
- Priority Minerals as iron ore, coal, bitumen, limestone, lead/zinc, gold and barite have been identified as key for Nigeria’s domestic industrialization and infrastructural requirements.
- Served Market – Nigeria will initially focus on the domestic market, trading ore and processed materials to domestic buyers at a quality level comparable to imported materials to win market share from imports. As global commodity market recover, Nigeria will then seek to serve both domestic and export market. Nigeria will also seek to exploit its mineral assets in such a way as to preserve and extend the life of its holdings for future generations and manage earnings carefully.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development was represented by his Chief of Staff – Oluseun “Egghead” Odewale
According to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, to achieve these set goals, Specific Objectives were outlined which include the under-listed:
- The set-up of the Mining Implementation and Strategy Team (MIST) to drive the execution of the roadmap
- Restructuring and reorganization of the MSMD for more efficient operations, and enforcement of established laws and regulations governing the mining sector.
- Commencement of process of working with National and State legislatures and governments to address gaps, and resolve conflicts in mineral resource legislation.
- Development of a strategy to use priority minerals domestically and substitute exports.
The Heads of CSOs present were more than ready to give their all towards achieving a meaningful success in the Sector.
The Minister, however, gave a list of suggestions required of the CSOs in bringing growth and development into the industry. He suggests that;
- CSOs could help improve the knowledge assets and awareness of stakeholders including the Civic public about the Mining sector.
- CSOs should help Monitor the decisions, promises, programmes and plans of the Ministry against available resources to ascertain value of resource application
- CSOs should critique the plans and programmes of government to ensure best value for Nigeria and Nigerians in the short to long run.
- CSOs should help Monitor Mining operations to ensure that investors or operators maintain Fidelity to their community development agreement. Especially, monitor corporate social responsibility impacts of mining operators.
- CSOs should help support the promotion and realisation of the NEITI principles and programmesAmong others.
- CSOs should help should assist in the coordination, organisation and management of ASM cooperatives.
- CSOs can also help to empower community representatives to assess and flag mining operations, which may undermine the health and safety of their communities.
The Honourable Minister fielded questions from participants of this Engagement and gave insightful responses where required, some of the few questions raised was from the CEO of Connected Development, Mr Hamzat Lawal, he asked the Honourable Minister if it was possible to get the names of the companies that have been licensed to Mine.
He asked further that Datas of ecological funds that have been given to states should be made public so information would be available to work with.
The Co-Founder of Follow The Money rounded off by asking the Honorable Minster his Ministry’s plan for Safer Mining Process putting into consideration what happened in Shikira.
The Minister also responded to a question raised by a participant asking what the Ministry is doing in terms of technological monitoring of extraction sites. He said provisions are underway for that as proper investigation will be done in that regard.
In conclusion, he appealed for perseverance as right measures are taken and implementation of the sustainable reforms that would outlive his tenure are entrenched.
He said “I invite you to join us as we continue on this road to rebuilding this sector, unlocking it’s full potential, and making it one of the key sources of our future prosperity”.
Olusegun Olagunju is the Media Strategist at Connected Development, He’s a Sociologist. He hopes to see a world where equal rights of all genders will be respected and a safe environment will be achieved. He tweets via @mobolsgun