OPINION: Codified austerity: Taxing the poor by Femi Amele

OPINION: Codified austerity: Taxing the poor by Femi Amele

Editor's note: Femi D Amele, a multi-awards winning political journalist, and recipient of a doctorate in conflict management, writes on the conversations around tax policies, stating that the proposed Value Added Tax increase is a clamping policy on poor Nigerians.

Read below:

One of the most anxious moments in a pragmatic Nigerian party is the moment the host of the party such as the mother of the bride instructs the caterer that it’s time to serve the food. The food coolers come off quickly as the caterer and food service attendant decides to serve the Nigerian Jollof, ‘I insist ‘Nigerian Jollof with other choices available as Amala (yam flour meal), Semovita and the ridiculous poundo, (gradually replacing pounded yam at events) steaming its presence up the caterer’s table.

As the foodservice attendants moves the food through the guests of the party, many of them or even better many of us dance slowly to the music of the party from left to right turning our shoulder and neck to support the sight tracking of the foodservice attendants coming in our direction or away from it. Almost instinctive calculating the number of tables that needs to be served before its get to our turn, also presuming we are sitting at the table with men and women who have good-luck attributes to attract the right size of food plate with well-conditioned meat sizes and parts; and a league of soup to choose from.

Finally, the food arrives at our table, our grateful eyes look at the food service attendants as timely providers with the right meal choices for the table, we never trust a two-time journey from a food service attendant, at least I don’t. Then somebody attempts to stand at the table, only to disrupt the eating sequence of others there by shaking a few drinks into a soup and almost upturning the table from right before us after the psychological hustle to attain victory for the food. This is how hope arrives and is accidental displaced by relentlessness.

Following the 2019 Independence Day speech by President Buhari that signaled that the next level party can commence the activation of tax policies for the poor was a shock. It’s like the mother of the Nigerian bride and the Ministers in catering service have opened a cooler of worms to serve... Except at this party everyone gets a meal they don’t want and must eat the policy meals from the high table to the guys watching the cars outside.

Minister of works, Babatunde Fashola says tollgate tax is bound to come back to Nigerian untarred roads. There are roads in Nigeria not recognized by google and some others orphaned between federal and 36 state governments on who owns this ‘GRA- government reserved area’. Nigerians have continued to groan about the finalized announcement of inter-state tax. The carnival natured tax reminds one of December festivities when so many young men come out from the corners of the street and propose you pay a levy to get to your house because the streets have been decorated for the December party. In this event at least the street boys added some color to the streets with shoes hanging off electricity polls to add a holiday flare. Please, what has been added to majority of the Nigeria roads that tax cubicles should be pe*gging between kilometers of bad roads? Is the tax designed as a pre-paid for a post service of road construction at a time of mind-bending corruption tales exist?

Meanwhile Value Added Tax increase is waiting to take a 2.5% climb to 7.5% as the cooperative system opened up between the ministry of finance and Nigerian Senate provides a clamping policy on poor Nigerians. As the standardized market answer becomes the negotiation phrase “the price has gone up... it’s not my fault.” The English language explanation around the reasons and reasoning for blowing up the poverty index for the debt years to come is numbing.

In an era of doctored realities of numbers, the ‘2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) set out the parameters for the 2020 Budget. As conservative oil price benchmark of US$57 per barrel, daily oil production estimate of 2.18 mbpd and an exchange rate of N305 per US Dollar for 2020’. A lot of the new numbers are not false but are flourishing in the middle of fictional economic gardens.

Now becoming infamous for his management style of labour, minister of Labor, Dr. Chris Ngige is back for a 2nd season and with native seasoning for the pepper dem gang of Nigeria labor union of salary advocates. Dr Chris says the government can only pay some workers, leave some workers and may sack some workers. He has instituted a conditioned campaign against the promise of President Buhari as labour union insist no strike sampling, it will be full force, showdown.

I am tempted to write on the cashless policy and bank charges. No, I will not, I guess the pain is waiting at the counter unless you willing to make split payments or withdraw to go around the policy, patience is the currency here. Meanwhile to the cashier that will do the stamping and counting, well done in advance.

As codified austerity measures build up, a Nigerian will be defined by his endurance or endanger survival.

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