The Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Most. Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig his policies and reconsider the latest hikes that will further compound the hardship of Nigerians. He spoke against the backdrop of the recent hike of the pump price of fuel to N151.56 per litre, coming after the August 4 increase that adjusted pumps from N143.80k to between N149 and N150 per litre, and sudden approval of the suspended rise in electricity tariff to N66 per kwh; coupled with previous introduction of a variety of new charges in quick succession at a time the country is experiencing harsh economic realities occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 10, 2020, the Federal Ministry of Finance announced an increase to the Value added Tax (VAT) rate – measures to counter the economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic. The VAT rate was increased to 15% from the current rate of 5% effective, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The next day, Thursday, July 2, 2020, the country witnessed yet another increment. The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), disclosed through a press statement that stamp duty will be paid on house rent and Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), in line with its new adhesive duty. Between August and September 2020, Petrol pump price was increased twice within an interval of barely three weeks.
Reacting to this development, Archbishop Martins stated that the latest increments should not have been thought of as they are coming at a time when people are yet to get over the hardship and bite of COVID-19. While battling the impact of COVID-19, the government not only increased electricity tariff but also raised taxes and levies on the informal sector. “Since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic, a lot has happened in the lives of Nigerians. In the first instance, we had the increase in value added tax, then after that, the government went ahead and expanded the scope of stamp duties such that stamp duties are now expected to be paid on rent and on properties that are purchased. Today, in the Certificate of Occupancy, there is a stamp duty that is expected to be paid. “Within this time we also had the electricity tariff reviewed upwards.
Within this same time, fuel price has also been increased upwards. All of these happening within the time that COVID-19 pandemic had impacted negatively on the lives of people; and so, one wonders why the government is imposing all of these that would even compound the problems that people have at this point in time. “You wonder if they actually know the impact these policies are having on the day-to-day life of the average Nigerian. Everything adds up to increase the suffering that the average Nigerian is facing at this time.
Then of course we can understand that these steps will put more money in the hands of government.” “But at what cost? At what cost to the life of people? At what cost to their ability to manage their families, pay their bills, and even just simply live well. I think the cost is too high for all of these things to be put together. People have been asked to make sacrifices. Over the years, Nigerians have been asked to make sacrifices so that the future can be better. But what has happened? Every future so to say as it comes has not made the lives of people better in this our country. So, it is important that the government should find other ways of ensuring that money comes into its pocket.
” It is illogical that despite the huge revenues accruing to the Federal Government, the level of poverty in the country has worsened. According to Archbishop Martins the best way forward is to drastically reduce the cost of governance, part of which should be a hefty cut in the emoluments and allowances paid to government and political officials. “For instance, if the cost of governance were to be reduced, the allowances and salaries that are paid to political office holders were reduced, and different ways of ensuring that the cost of governance is reduced, if all of these were put in place, I’m sure there will be more of this money in government coffers also; and the suffering of the average Nigerian will also be reduced.
People who were receiving full salaries that were not enough before are either not receiving any salary anymore or at best are receiving half the salary. It is literally impossible to make people live well with all these increases that are coming up, and I hope the government will be sensitive to these concerns of Nigerians.” Most. Rev. Martins urges the government to be more empathetic with what Nigerians are going through, by means of the introduction of friendly policies that will alleviate the sufferings of majority of Nigerians.