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2019 Budget: FG may borrow more to close N102.8 billion funding gap

In order to take care of the funding gap that was created as a result of the National Assembly’s tinkering with the 2019 Budget, the Federal government of Nigeria may increase its rate of borrowing this year

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2019 Budget

In order to take care of the funding gap that was created as a result of the National Assembly’s tinkering with the 2019 Budget, the Federal government of Nigeria may increase its rate of borrowing this year.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, during the presentation of the 2019 approved budget.

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The Backstory: President Buhari presented the 2019 budget in December 2018 to the National Assembly. The initial proposal had the sum of N8.83 trillion, comprising of N4.04 trillion for recurrent expenditure, N2.03 trillion for capital expenditure, and N2.14 trillion for debt servicing, among others.

After going through it, the lawmakers eventually raised the budget by over N90.3 billion to N8.91 trillion. They passed the bill on April 30th, 2019.

Highlights of the adjusted budget: On April 30th, the National Assembly approved the adjusted which they shared as thus; capital expenditure of N2.09 trillion, recurrent expenditure of N4.07 trillion, statutory transfers of N502 billion, fiscal deficit of N1.92 trillion, and special intervention of N500 billion. The lawmakers also approved debt service of N2.14 trillion.

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The Problem: The Minister of Budget stated that the increment in the budget by NASS raised budgetary deficits by N58.83 billion. The Government is facing a hard time on how to fund it.

He further disclosed that the Federal Government will have to borrow in other to finance the deficit because the country is experiencing revenue challenges.

“NASS increased the budget size by from N8.83tn to N8.92 trillion translating to an increase of N90.3 billion

“This resulted in an overall increase of N58.83 billion in deficit. Inexplicably, NASS reduced the proposed borrowing from N1.64 trillion to N1.60 trillion, thus creating an overall unfunded deficit of N102.83 billion.

“To fully fund the budget, the level of borrowing may, therefore, have to increase.”

The budget Minister had gone on to state that the revenue assumptions proposed by the executive were generally approved and adopted by the lawmakers except for the unexplained increases of about N31.5 billion on some non-oil revenue items.

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He added that the allocation for some executive projects that were critical to the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan was also reduced, noting that a large number of new projects, which were mainly in the form of constituency projects, were introduced into the 2019 fiscal document.

The president to seek a Solution: Udoma continued that in regards to the tinkering with the budget, the president after his inauguration will find lasting solutions to the disagreement. When asked how specifically the 2019 budget would be funded, the Minister stated that the sum of N7 trillion was being sourced.

He gave a breakdown of the amount thus: N3.69 trillion would be generated from oil sources, while N3.31 trillion is being expected from non-oil revenues.

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He added that the deficit of N1.92 trillion would be financed mainly by borrowing N1.6 trillion, made up of N802.82 billion from domestic lenders and N802.82 billion from foreign lenders.

Udoma stressed that the country is facing significant challenges with respect to revenue generation. He, however, assured that the Government is taking every necessary step to tackle the challenge.

“Key reforms will be implemented with increased vigour to improve revenue collection and expenditure management.

“Mr President is committed and has directed that all measures necessary be taken to ensure that we grow rapidly while maintaining fiscal sustainability.

“To ensure that this happens, the President set up a Projects and Programmes Committee which has concluded its work.

“THE INITIATIVES DEVELOPED BY THIS COMMITTEE WILL BE ROLLED OUT AS THE PRESIDENT ENTERS HIS SECOND TERM.”

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CITN issues rejoinder to ICAN’s claim over court case

The rebuttal claims that there are some ‘critical misinterpretations’ contained in ICAN’s claims concerning the judgment.

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CITN

The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) has issued a rebuttal to the “critical misrepresentations” that are supposedly contained in a notice to members sent out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) over a court case, as reported by Nairametrics.

Recall that ICAN had informed its members that Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State ruled in their favour by striking out “Suit No. LD/3288GCM/19 – CITN VS ICAN” which was filed by CITN. In the suit, CITN had, among other things, prayed the court to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) unless they have a CITN license.

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CITN’s position: Now, in its rebuttal to ICAN’s claims concerning the court case, a copy of which was sent to Nairametrics, CITN clarified the following points:

  1. The Ruling of the Hon. Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the 2/7/2020 in LD/3288GCM/19 did not invalidate the MOU and TOS because it did NOT address the issues in the substantive suit, itself. However, since ICAN has resiled from the MoU and ToS it freely entered with CITN, the CITN will not stop ICAN from walking away.
  2. The Judge only struck out the suit based on the Preliminary Objection of ICAN to the effect that the suit was an abuse of court process because the issues in it were the same as the issues in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 – ICAN VS FIRS & 1 OTHER which was earlier decided in favour of CITN.  However, the issues in the two suits are completely different and distinct as has now been explicitly admitted by ICAN in its Notice under reference when it said: “The earlier ruling at the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.”ICAN having admitted  that the judgment in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make any pronouncement on the MOU and TOS (and this is a fact), how then could issues in that suit be the same as those in LD/3288GCM/2019 (decided by Justice Onigbanjo) which only asked for judicial pronouncement on the MOU and TOS?
  3. Regulation 5 of the Tax Administration (Self-Assessment) Regulations, 2011, was categorically annulled by the Hon. Justice Liman in the judgment delivered in FHC/L/CS/125/2019 on 21/11/2019.  None of the lawyers to the parties (including ICAN) can deny hearing the annulment of Regulation 5 during delivery of the judgment. It is unfortunate that ICAN is jumping the gun in a case with a pending post-judgment application.
  4. In the judgment delivered in FHC/L/CS/1480/2018 – CHIEF IGBAROOLA & OTHERS VS FIRS & OTHERS on 21/5/2019, the Hon. Justice A. O. Faji, declared: “CITN Act is thus superior to ICAN Act on the issue of tax practice.  The Self-Assessment Regulations being in conflict with the CITN Act is null and void.  The Plaintiffs cannot practice as tax agents without first being members of the 2nd Defendant.”
  5. In the Court of Appeal judgement of 2013 between ICAN v. CITN, it was held that the power to regulate and control the tax profession, to the exclusion of any other body, in Nigeria lies with CITN.
  6. It is, therefore, now firmly settled from all the relevant judgements at the Lagos High Court, Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal, which have all upheld the primacy of the CITN Charter, that no member of ICAN can practice taxation without first being a member of CITN.
  7. For the avoidance of doubt, no ICAN member, who is not registered with CITN, has been permitted by any law or court decision to practice taxation. The law has made it clear about the professional body that can regulate tax profession in Nigeria and CITN reserves the right to invoke the relevant provisions against any person that violates the provisions of its charter.

The backstory: The disagreement between ICAN and CITN dates back to 2015 following a misinterpretation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Due to the disagreement, CITN took legal actions in a bid to basically make the MoU and ToS binding on ICAN members.


You may read CITN’s full rejoinder by clicking here and follow up on ICAN’s notice to its members here.

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UPDATED: Court rules ICAN members do not need CITN license to file tax returns

The suit, which was filed some years ago by CITN, was basically struck out for lacking merit.

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ICAN

Justice S. A. Onigbanjo of the High Court of Lagos State has ruled that members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) do not need to be licensed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) before they can file tax returns.

The ruling on July 2nd followed a suit filed by CITN trying to restrain ICAN members from filing tax returns for their clients unless they have a practicing CITN license.

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A notice to ICAN members regarding this development, as seen by Nairametrics, noted that Justice Onigbanjo struck out the suit after describing it as “an abuse of court process and an embarrassment to the judiciary.”

The backstory: Nairametrics understands that the disagreement between ICAN and CITN stemmed from the misinterpretation of a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Terms of Settlement (ToS) between the two organisations. Consequently, CITN had filed a suit before the High Court of Lagos State, seeking the following:

  • A declaration that the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Service both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on the CITN and ICAN.
  • An injunction restraining ICAN whether by its agents, privies, assigns, or whosoever called, from repudiating, resiling from or acting in any manner or doing anything that is inconsistent with, contrary to or is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Terms of Settlement dated February 12, 2015, between the CITN and ICAN.
  • Determine whether the Memorandum of Understanding and Terms of Settlement both dated February 12, 2015 between the CITN and ICAN are valid, subsisting, and binding on CITN and the ICAN.

However, last week’s ruling by Justice S. A. Onigbanjo which, by the way, was delivered virtually due to COVID-19, has made it impossible for the CITN to implement the terms of the 2015 MoU and ToS. The ruling also aligned with ICAN’s earlier objection to the MoU and ToS.

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The status quo: In view of this development, ICAN has informed its members that they do not need to obtain any license from the CITN before they can file tax returns for their clients with the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

ICAN members were also informed that an earlier ruling by the Federal High Court on the case does not affect the status quo. This is because “the earlier ruling by the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/125/2019 did not make pronouncement on the memorandum and terms of settlement between ICAN and CITN.” More so, regulation 5 of the FIRS Act was not reflected in the earlier judgment of the Federal High Court.

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China more willing to restructure Africa’s debt than private creditors

Agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors.

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A recent study by John Hopkins University reveals it may be easier for African Nations to raise debt and also get debt relief from China than private creditors.

The report of the study comes a day after China promised to cancel interests from loans to African nations and restructure debt to Africa. The study also revealed that China has restructured $15 billion of African debt and written off $3.4 billion in the past ten years.

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After 1,000 Chinese loans, including restructured Mozambican and Republic of Congo debt, were analysed, the researchers concluded that “the agreements have been easier to reach with Chinese lenders than with private creditors”.

The Paris Club recently agreed to pause debt payment valued at $11 billion for the poorest 73 nations freeing up capital to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. However, not all eligible nations signed up citing fears of default ratings if debt obligations are not met.

The study discovers difficulties in renegotiating terms on International Bonds for African countries due to the disparate ownership structure making private creditors unwilling to grant complete debt relief, citing warnings on rating downgrades.

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China accounts for about 20% of Africa’s external debt and lent over $150 billion to the continent between 2000-2018 the study reveals. Chinese President, Xi Jinping has urged global leaders to be more pragmatic with debt suspension for Africa.

The study says much of the terms of Chinese debt to Africa has not been transparent and the relief negotiations may follow the same path.

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Patricia
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