VAT controversy: Professional bodies advocate caution

The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) has said the ongoing controversy over Value Added Tax (VAT) should be handled with caution so that it doesn’t degenerate into a conflagrating crisis.

The President of APBN, Mr Akinloye Oyegbola, while speaking on Tuesday at the 37th Annual General Assembly of the Association in Lagos, said the ongoing furore on VAT between some states and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is one that is worth giving attention to.

He cautioned that “the issues about the duplicity of taxation will depress the economy if not nipped in the bud”.

The APBN, which is the umbrella body of 30 professional associations in the country, also expressed concern over the free fall of the naira, saying that the situation is worrisome.

Oyegbola said: “The Board took into cognizance the gradual recovery of the nation’s economy which has been a huge concern to the Board. The drop in inflation rate to 17.01% in August 2021, which is the 5th consecutive decline is encouraging. The Board believes that this gradual growth can translate into more jobs.

“The Board is also concerned with the free fall of the naira against the dollar. While we are aware that the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is doing its best to get the naira stable, we see the situation as worrisome.”

He also said the Board of the Association during their deliberations raised concern over the looming food crisis in the country.

According to him, “It’s an open secret that the high levels of conflict in different parts of the country, the not-too-favourable weather and the increasingly-dwindling purchasing power, are a big disincentive to farming, a development likely to result in food crisis this year. Besides providing security for the nation’s farmers, there is also the need for the federal government to come up with incentives that would encourage existing farmers or those planning to venture into farming.

“The issue of insecurity has been a major concern. It also formed a major thrust of the Board’s last deliberations, because of the seeming intractability of this issue. The nation’s economy is being stunted, and may not attract the much-needed investments as long as there are these palpable feelings of insecurity in the land. The Board urges the federal government to sustain its onslaught against bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and criminal elements across the country.”

The Association reiterated its call for both the federal and state governments to engage indigenous professionals in reviving the nation’s economy.

The APBN President stated that any economy that wants to develop must find a way of enlisting the services of its professionals.

“We believe the Nigerian governments – national and sub-nationals — are not doing that enough. The Board will, therefore, like to use this opportunity to call on those in government to begin to look inwards. For instance, APBN boasts of an array of qualified professionals that can rub shoulders with their peers anywhere in the world, and we are very ready for national assignments,” he said.

On the ongoing strike by resident doctors, the APBN called on the government to take seriously the plight of doctors and health professionals in the country, saying the government should invest more in our healthcare system to discourage brain drain and unnecessary loss of human capital.

The APBN, which said the prolonged strike by the doctors is worrisome, especially now that the country is battling COVID-19 and an outbreak of cholera, urged the government to quickly resolve with the doctors by meeting their demands.

In his paper presentation titled “Rethinking Professionalism, Leadership & Development,” Bayo Adeola charged professionals in the country to do more in the nation’s development process.

He said professional associations must be there to regulate their members and ensure that they abide by their professional ethics.

Adeola said while the Association promotes the image of the professions and lobby prospective clients for work and decent remuneration, they must then protect the public from incompetent and unethical professionals.

He said: “Professional associations do more? It is my firm conviction that professional bodies must do much more than we are doing now. Not only must we do the activities we are presently focussed on better, but we must also take on even the greater challenges of national development. We need to focus more on what we can do outside of government rather than our unproductive complaining to an un-listening one.”

Adeola called for a more enhanced role for professionals and professional associations in the country.

“If the society must change for the better, it must start with some individuals who determine the desired values the society should embrace, adopt and commit themselves to these values, and constitute the nucleus from where these values are spread through the larger society. This places the responsibility for part of society’s improvement on these individuals who will then complain less about what others are doing or not doing but focus on their own contributions.

“The professional is perhaps a good candidate for this role, and the professional association is perhaps a good group around which these values could be determined, developed and shared. There are several advantages to professionals and professional associations playing these roles. Firstly, they cover a very broad range of disciplines and are in every facet of life. The messages and values can therefore permeate the whole society. Secondly, they cut across political, religious and ethnic biases, and can more easily come to an agreement on core values. They are also found everywhere, although they are mostly in urban areas. The elite professionals could be the thought leaders given the depth of their education. However, they must involve all professionals and professional associations as soon as possible so that the seeds can spread widely and quickly,” he said.

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