By Ewache Ajefu
Investors’ interest and confidence in the Nigerian economy is surging, Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama has said.
Citing 14 million hits and download of data from the website of the National Bureau of Statistics,(NBS) as a pointer, the minister observed too, that the percentage of non-filers in Nigeria of Companies income tax regime declined from 54 per cent to 46 per cent last year.
Ngama spoke today at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, at the Africa Tax Forum: Tax Coordination in Africa, jointly organized by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the African Tax Institute (ATI), and the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC), a nonprofit research and education foundation that has been providing technical assistance on tax and investment reforms since 1993.
The Forum brought together senior-level tax policy and administration officials with academic and industry experts to expand the current thinking on VAT and tariff/excise taxation, including how to best coordinate indirect taxes between member states in common markets, natural resource taxation and selected corporate taxation issues.
Following the reforms of the 1980s and the 1990s, Ngama noted that Nigeria and other countries on the continent had reformed their economies and there is a global consensus that Africa is the hottest investment destination globally. “Growth in Africa and opportunities abound. Funds are flowing in. We have a revamped Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, investors come and go.
“Last year alone the number of downloads from the website of the Bureau of Public Entreprises is over 14 million. That means people are looking for information on the Nigerian economy. Economic growth has been phenomenal.
“As at 2011, Nigeria is the fastest growing economy on the African continent and fifth fastest growing economy in the world. And although more people are registering to come and do business—meaning more revenue for government, the rate of taxes collected to Gross Domestic Product is still low.
Ngama noted that it is in the interest of businesses to pay tax as government will deploy revenue to provide infrastructure to grow business.
Acting Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Alhaji Kabir M. Mashi saluted the ITC and the ATI as the workshop is a demonstration of confidence in the Nigerian tax system and the economy.
Said the FIRS Chairman: “We view your participation in this conference as a demonstration of confidence, not just in FIRS and our partners ITIC and ATI, but in the entire Nigerian tax system. We have noted the diverse set of participants and…believe your participation will greatly enrich this conference and we look forward to a high level of deliberations and input from all of you.
“Tax Coordination has become more imperative in recent times with increased focus on domestic resource mobilization in Africa countries and special focus on how taxation can be used to facilitate rather than hinder cross border movement of goods, services and even people. The issue of internal and external coordination is therefore a very topical one for African countries and we must begin to prioritize our regional and continental tax coordination.
“This should be done in a way that will ensure that the investment and business climate in our countries are not distorted by discriminatory and uncoordinated tax regimes or practices. This is particularly necessary, if we are to ultimately achieve our aim of building a single African market.
“This is the major focus of this Forum and we hope that we will gain insights into how similar initiatives have been implemented in other climes and how these initiatives enhanced the ability of tax and revenue agencies to achieve collaboration and coordination within and outside their borders as we interested in learning from practical experiences in other jurisdictions outside Africa and how this can be tailored to our local conditions and replicated in Africa at large and particularly in Nigeria.
President of the International Investment Tax Centre, ITIC – which co-organised the event with ATI and the FIRS, said that part of the ends of the ITIC efforts is to stoke policy dialogue, promote research agenda and foster training in partnership with international schools.
About 165 participants from 22 African countries are attending the workshop.
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