IS THE PRESIDENCY STILL ON VACATION?

It is no longer news that the problem Nigeria is having and may continue to haunt her has to do with lack of a functional plan or not planning at all or both. Either way, the fact remains that we need to do some re-think by way of seeing to it that we have a functional plan in place, a plan that we allow businesses to key in into activities with less disruptions and or distortions. A plan that will ensure stable prices and sound projections, with the Nigerian business operating in a near certain environment that is commerce friendly.

The envisaged plan should also take note of state tardiness and pump live into official activities with purpose and focus on what will benefit Nigeria and aid development.

Therefore, in this new year, we should spare some time to reflect on our past, reviewed against our present to shape our future as made popular by the late reggae artist ‘Peter Tosh’ in one of his works titled ‘Equal Rights’, in a lyric that states thus…“I reflect in the past, live in the present but working for the future…“. I propose this approach because Nigeria is notorious for not learning from experience.

The basic management tools that encourages review or auditing or appraisal of activities periodically is only in our consciousness to fulfil all righteousness. Beyond that it must be the way it has been, chaotic, dis-organized and sometimes, very violent and confusing. This way, records would have been compromised, and rules abridged so that accountability will suffer.

Painfully to the generality of the public, and to the benefit of a few who created the confusion, set goals and objective cannot be appraised and measured because the tools to do that has been corrupted and violated all because there was no plan in place at the out set.

The need for this reflection is ever present with us and is now more urgent and necessary than ever given the signals emanating from the direction of the ‘institutions’ that should show the lead and the way the nations’ economic activities should go.

Sadly, the national assembly always not sure of what to do next, may be, because they do not understand their briefs, probably by default or share ignorance, are yet to pass the 2009 budget. It is normal in Nigeria, even when in more than nine years of democratic practise; we are yet to come to terms on the necessity of being orderly. Imagine the senate president suggesting that by 2011, we would have ‘learn’ the act of passing the budget well’ on good time. No problem.

For a nation that has substituted an annual budget for a national plan not much should be expected and you cannot blame the senate president for displaying crass ignorance. It is just that the man has stayed a little more than two terms for a formal degree in a university on the average, yet he is asking for more time to have a resit? And this character is one of the key functionaries who are to give Nigeria an enabling environment for good business by way of laws that tallies with international standard.

Even the budget as presented has once again exposed our readiness to help other economies grow at our own expense. The small and medium sector of the economy received a good measure of neglect by way of protecting imports to local production. No thanks to the complete absence of any concrete serious plan to tackle the energy sector which should have reduced cost of production and conserve foreign reserve from the importation of petroleum products albeit shamefully though. Nor are the authorities bothered on the future health implications of having to run generating sets noted for pollutants. See the ‘Owerri” deaths. Our roads are where madam Dezani met them and may not even receive attention beyond the annual ritual of constructing the roads on paper at Abuja.

The presidency is still on vacation. Can we have some speed? Can we just for Gods sake change our time worn strategy? Please, we need it. And now too.

Advertisements

CHURCHES, MOSQUES, NGOs TO START PAYING TAXES FROM NEXT YEAR

The tax exemption status of religion based organizations and non government organisations are to be reviewed to align with international standards. This, according to a source in the Presidency, is to appropriately integrate otherwise tax exempt organizations into the taxable entities mainstream so as to drive the new impetus to fund the growth of the national economy from non oil revenue.

In line with this new thinking, the source informed that the Presidency has given its backing to the Nigeria Accounting Standard Board to evolve accounting standards that will serve as framework for tax exempt organizations to file their accounts and to be able to delineate which of their income is taxable from next year.

“The government does not intend to tax the income of churches, mosques or non-governmental organization or any other organization that naturally enjoys tax exemption status. The law is clear on the exemption status of such organizations. What the government has decided to do is to streamline income made in the furtherance of charitable activities of the tax exempt organizations and remove it from income made from what is known universally as unrelated business income,” the source said   

“So many religious organizations have, in fact, transformed into profit earning business enterprises and it is just proper that they are properly assessed for the purpose of taxation under the unrelated business income tax (UBIT),” the source argued. “These organizations are involved in various types of commercial activities, such as operating publishing houses, hotels, factories, radio and TV stations, parking lots, newspapers, bakeries, and restaurants. The Tax Reform will make income derived by churches from unrelated trade or business subject to tax.”

Another source at the Nigeria Accounting Standard Board argued the justification for taxing the unrelated business income of tax exempt organisations

The problem at which the tax on unrelated business income is directed is primarily that of unfair competition. The tax-free status of religion based organizations and NGOs enables them to use their profits tax-free to expand operations, while their competitors can expand only with the profits remaining after taxes. Also, a number of examples have arisen where these organizations have, in effect, used their tax exemptions to buy an ordinary business. That is, they have acquired the business with little or no investment on their own part and paid for it in instalments out of subsequent earnings – a procedure which usually could not be followed if the business were taxable. The idea is to impose the same tax on income derived from an unrelated trade or business as is borne by their competitors. It is, however, not intended that the tax imposed on unrelated business income will have any effect on the tax-exempt status of any organization,” the source explained.

The United States of America’s Internal Revenue Service Code, the template, which the NASB, is likely to adapt in its accounting standard to effect taxation of unrelated business income of affected organizations from next year, explains that churches and religious organizations, like other tax-exempt organizations, may engage in income-producing activities unrelated to their tax-exempt purposes, as long as the unrelated activities are not a substantial part of the organization’s activities. However, the net income from such activities will be subject to the UBIT if the following three conditions are met:

                      the activity constitutes a trade or business,

                      the trade or business is regularly carried on, and

                      the trade or business is not substantially related to the organization’s exempt purpose. (The fact that the organization uses the income to further its charitable or religious purposes does not make the activity substantially related to its exempt purposes.)

 

Exceptions to Unrelated Business Income Tax

Even if an activity meets the above three criteria, the income may not be subject to tax if it meets one of the following exceptions: (a) substantially all of the work in operating the trade or business is performed by volunteers; (b) the activity is conducted by the organization primarily for the convenience of its members; or (c) the trade or business involves the selling of merchandise substantially all of which was donated.

In general, rents from real property, royalties, capital gains, and interest and dividends are not subject to the unrelated business income tax unless financed with borrowed money.

 

The code also provides examples of Unrelated Trade or Business Activities:  Unrelated trade or business activities vary depending on types of activities, as shown below.

Advertising

Many tax-exempt organizations sell advertising in their publications or other forms of public communication. Generally, income from the sale of advertising is unrelated trade or business income. This may include the sale of advertising space in weekly bulletins, magazines or journals, or on church or religious organization Web sites.

 

Sale of merchandise and publications

The sale of merchandise and publications (including the actual publication of materials) can be considered the conduct of an unrelated trade or business if the items involved do not have a substantial relationship to the exempt purposes of the organization.

 

 Rental income

Generally, income derived from the rental of real property and incidental personal property is excluded from unrelated business income. However, there are certain situations in which rental income may be unrelated business taxable income:

                      if a church rents out property on which there is debt outstanding (for example, a mortgage note), the rental income may constitute unrelated debt-financed income subject to UBIT. (However, if a church or convention or association of churches acquires debt-financed land for use in its exempt purposes within 15 years of the time of acquisition, then income from the rental of the land may not constitute unrelated business income.),

                      if personal services are rendered in connection with the rental, then the income may be unrelated business taxable income, or

                      if a church charges for the use of the parking lot, the income may be unrelated business taxable income.

 

Parking lots

If a church owns a parking lot that is used by church members and visitors while attending church services, any parking fee paid to the church would not be subject to UBIT. However, if a church operates a parking lot that is used by members of the general public, parking fees would be taxable, as this activity would not be substantially related to the church’s exempt purpose, and parking fees are not treated as rent from real property. If the church enters into a lease with a third party who operates the church’s parking lot and pays rent to the church, such payments would not be subject to tax, as they would constitute rent from real property.

Whether an income-producing activity is an unrelated trade or business activity depends on all the facts and circumstances.

Obama will be a good president

Head or tail, history made

Obama: Head or tail, history made

Away from our beleaguered stock market and the yet roiling global financial markets. At least, a little bit of sanity is returning to the Nigerian stock market though not by way of positive market activities, thankfully, the management of the Nigerian Stock Market has finally discerned the wisdom that informs free market activities by removing the one percent down limit on stocks price depreciation. Good enough, prices are stumbling; curiously, most hurt in the crashing prices are stocks of banks and insurance companies. The manufacturing sector is curiously holding steady, prices of UAC Nigeria, UAC Property and even those in the health sector; especially the pharmaceuticals have managed to hold their own at relative sliding rate. Does this tell a story?

 

I think it does, the power of any economy is a function of its real and active sector. Investors seem to have decidedly held faith with companies that are producing goods and products they can relate with and have turned their backs on the services of the financial sector with the average fall in price of stocks in that sector calculated at more than 50 percent. I guess it all about fears and negative sentiment. Yet, I can still dare to propose that in that sector lies the redeeming prospect of the market. Why?

Financial sector players understand the Nigerian economic market, perhaps, much more than any other sectoral player, and of course, they know how to get things done. They have been at the commanding height of the economy since the military inspired economic structural adjustment programme as influenced by the International Monetary Funds. Nigerian banks and bankers had survived much turbulence since 1993 when we first witnessed the first wholesale crash of the national banking sector and had returned stronger and better.

  So if First Bank is selling for less than 30 per cent of its peak price in 2008 at N20 plus and Access at less than 100 per cent of its high this year, I am tempted to go searching for value in the finance sector.

Please, excuse me, the stock market was not supposed to be in focus this week. I am very sure, the most discussed issue that would be discussed the whole of this week will be the USA presidential election while the most mentioned name any where in the corners of the globe this week will be Barrack Obama, that genteel, lithe figure that suddenly happened on the American political scene and had since captured the imagination of American across age, gender and other persuasion.

It’s natural to expect an opinionated African to canvass an Obama presidency, isn’t it natural? Of course, to my mind, this is the final resolution of the opposites that had defined relationship among people across the world, and for once, an indication that Africa, will, despite the interface of all morbid attributions in national leadership of countries across the black African continent, is where ultimate civilization and prosperity is headed. This may not be more than 50 years, I feel a reordering of the global economic space, an Obama USA presidency will be the beginning of the process.

Is this some fanciful thought? I don’t know, but it’s not every time that an individual, seemingly unqualified for a position just suddenly start marshalling the most effective strategies to beat political institutions in the United States.

The fact that Obama, a black-white man, or put properly, a white-black man (still wonder why they still primarily describe him as a black man as if the white gene and pigmentation of his mum were of no consequence) subsumed the Clintons and veteran John McCain in the opinion of people across the USA should convince anybody that Obama will be a good president.

No need to cajole logic and other persuasive argument about the worthiness of Obama, he has proved this by taking the battle to republican states and even competing on favourable numbers in McCain’s Arizona. And even more interesting, he turned the institution of the republican into a bleary eyed pumpkin mask only suitable to be laughed at during Halloween. Obama is that awesome.

So, can we be practical enough to stop all those talks of a McCain miraculous come as he had done before in those other elections into the senate. This is a different ball game; we are talking here about a phenomenon who is just being introduced to the world stage. Something tells me the world will not be the same after four years of Obama…but that will be if he survives the first term. Now, that’s talk for another day.

AFTERMATH OF FALL-OUT WITH DANGOTE:FEMI OTEDOLA SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH JIMOH IBRAHIM

A re-alignment of business interests and affiliation is believed to be in the offing and it involves three of Nigeria’s most celebrated billionaires. In recent times, the news have made the rounds of a business skirmish between Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Femi Otedola, both had been known to be buddies and have been reported to have jointly engaged in business ventures over the last five years.

The chummy relationship between the two, however, is believed to have been embroiled in suspicion and a brickbat of sort on account of Dangote pitching his support for his kinsman, Sayyatu Dantata over the acquisition of the majority shareholding in downstream Chevron Nigeria Plc, a shareholding in which Otedola had confided his interest in Dangote.

Reports close to Otedola and Dangote indicated that on the heels of Dangote’s preference for Sayyatu, Otedola might have to go his way in matters of business relationship with Dangote, the officially profiled richest man in Nigeria.

But then, in the context of doing business in Nigeria where government influence is all pervading, a businessman must understand the act and intricacies of balancing power plays by networking with power players.

“Of course, you know that political power and influence determine a lot of things in business in Nigeria,” a source told FORTUNE & CLASS Weekly. “So to survive in business at the level these people operate, you have to know the right people and understand how to continue to pander to their needs. The relationship between Otedola and Dangote was principally predicated on this kind of facilitation. For instance, during the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the two had enjoyed some privileges of state support because Otedola enjoyed the favour of Obasanjo. Obasanjo extended his favour to Dangote because he was friend to Otedola, who is his Yoruba southwest kinsman. And since Nigeria’s democracy has a peculiar command structure, everybody within the circle of the Obasanjo’s presidency had to extend all the courtesies of power to the two businessmen,” the source explained.

With the shift of power to Northern Nigeria, our source reasoned that the centre of power influence revolves around a core group of Northerners and until the disagreement that unravelled the relationship between Dangote and Otedola, the two had farthered their business interests by acting together to relate with individuals that influence the power structure.

“With the parting of ways with Dangote, Femi must naturally form new alliances because he has grown quite massively in the business sector. And if I must tell you, the fact is that not many people are happy with big time players if they are not within the circle of the influential,” FORTUNE & CLASS source reasoned.

According to reports gathered last week, there are strong indications that Otedola, who owns Africa Petroleum, one of the country’s largest downstream sector operations and other long list of A-class business entities, might be gravitating towards Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, the billionaire core investor in the nation’s biggest insurance concern, NICON Insurance.

“I understand that the two have started talking and I think it is natural. Barrister Ibrahim has survived a most violent onslaught by some adversaries in business and government. Do not forget that his business troubles started during the presidency of Obasanjo despite the fact that he, like Obasanjo, is from the Yoruba speaking southwest. This did not stop the presidency from contending with him on a number of issues that culminated in his sacking from NICON where he had invested so much. But as it turned out, he was able to resolve all the contentious issues and regain control of the company. And to top it all, he became quite friendly with the current president, Umar Musa Yar’Adua,” another source gushed.

“I think the two would find common ground to relate,” the source further asserted. “This is because the two of them are involved in the downstream sector of the oil and gas sector and are adventurous enough to pursue their business expansion dreams vigorously. I can say that very soon, the two of them would become a pair if the effort of elders facilitating the alliance is successful,” the source said.