By Adedapo Adesanya
A company known as Wardchat Nigeria has launched a social network built to digitize the electoral community, connecting voters with the same electoral profiles across the country by building relationships among voters at the ward, local government and state levels.
The social network has custom features built on Nigeria’s electoral structure covering 36 states and the FCT, 774 Local Governments, 8802 wards and over 176,000 polling units.
According to the developers, this technology has been developed to support, at the minimum, a community of 10 million registered Nigerian voters to relate, debate, trade and most importantly influence each other to participate in the electoral process either as voters or candidates.
It is the first to serve a niche electoral community, starting with Nigeria’s community of over 73 million registered voters.
First conceived in 2012, the Wardchat idea to connect voters at ward levels via social networking technology failed due to a lack of app development expertise in Nigeria as the app world was still emerging at the time.
Headway was made in 2020 when the team started the development of the Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP); a Web-based app based on the technology available at the time.
By June 2021 there was a rollout of the MVP which received great feedback and surpassed the team’s expectations: 1,600 voters onboarded on the Web-based app, 12,400 active users, 112,788 page views and over 24,000 user-generated content.
October 2021 saw the development of the IOS and Android App and after 10 years, the Wardchat app was launched on April 8 following the raise of an undisclosed amount from an angel investor.
This funding, apart from boosting the team’s confidence in the viability of the app in the long term, is also currently driving the successful development and continuous improvement of the app, infrastructural upgrade, marketing, and promotions.
As a social platform evolving in the tech space, the app’s usage has been packed with features which are easily operatable and user friendly.
Some of the custom features include – The Feeds for sharing content and connecting with fellow voters; Seamless Multi-Share which enables engaging and educative knowledge sharing among voters; Chat for messaging fellow voters as well as Electoral & Origin Switch – a switch button which enables users to flip between Electoral and Origin Feeds.
Why Nigeria Rejected OECD Minimum Corporate Tax Agreement—FIRS
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr Muhammad Nami, on Monday explained why Nigeria did not endorse the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Minimum Corporate Tax Agreement.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Johannes Oluwatobi Wojuola, the tax agency boss stated that signing the deal will not be in the interest of the nation.
The OECD Minimum Corporate Tax Agreement was designed to allow multinational enterprises (MNEs) to have a fair payment of taxes in different countries.
But Mr Nami said if Nigeria endorses it, it will lose out on potential revenue from the digital economy as the agreement is unfair to the nation and the developing countries in general.
“There are serious concerns on how the rules would compound the issues in our tax system. For instance, to be able to tax any digital sale or any multinational enterprise (MNEs), that company or enterprise must have an annual global turnover of €20 billion and global profitability of 10 per cent. That is a concern. This is because most MNEs that operate in our country do not meet such criteria and we would not be able to tax them,” he said.
“Secondly, the €20 billion global annual turnover in question is not just for one accounting year, but it is that the enterprise must make €20 billion revenue and 10 per cent profitability on average for four consecutive years, otherwise that enterprise will never pay tax in our country, but in the country where the enterprise comes from, or its country of residence,” he was further quoted as saying in the statement.
The FIRS head noted that for Nigeria to subject a Multinational Enterprise to tax under the rule, the entity must have generated at least €1 million turnover from Nigeria within a year, stressing that this is an unfair position, especially to domestic companies which, with a minimum of above N25 million (that is about €57,000) turnover, are subject to companies income tax in Nigeria.
He added that this rule will take off so many multinational enterprises from the scope of those that are currently paying taxes to Nigeria. In other words, even the MNEs that are currently paying taxes in Nigeria would cease to pay taxes to us because of this rule.
On the issue of dispute resolutions under the Two-Pillar Solution, the FIRS Executive Chairman explained that the rules were such that in the event of a dispute between Nigeria and a Multinational Enterprise, Nigeria would be subject to an international arbitration panel as against Nigeria’s own justice system.
“It would be subject to international arbitration and not Nigeria’s judicial system and laws—even where the income is directly related to a Nigerian member of an MNE group, which is ordinarily subject to tax in Nigeria on its worldwide income and subject to the laws of Nigeria.
“We are concerned about getting a fair deal from such a process. More so, such a dispute resolution process with a Multinational Enterprise, in an international arbitration panel outside the country, would lead to heavy expenses on legal services, travelling and other incidental costs. Nigeria would spend more; even beyond the tax yield from such cases,” he said.
On the issue of Nigeria losing significant revenue if it fails to sign in to the OECD Inclusive Framework rules for the taxation of the digital economy, Mr Nami noted that this was not a problem as the country had already put forward four ongoing solutions to the challenge of taxation of the digital economy.
“One, we have made it a point of practice to annually amend our tax laws to reflect the current global realities, it was courtesy of these reviews that we developed the Significant Economic Presence (SEP) rule, through the Finance Act of 2019 and 2020. The SEP rules set a threshold for multinational enterprises, without a physical presence in Nigeria, for registration and payment of taxes to the country.
“Two, we have deployed technology in order for us to bring digital transactions to the tax net. Coupled with the Significant Economic Presence rule, we have started seeing the impact of the technology we have deployed; companies like Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, and LinkedIn, among others who have no physical presence in Nigeria and that were hitherto not paying taxes, have now registered for tax purposes and are paying taxes accordingly. A positive to this is that we surpassed our target in the year 2021, despite the challenge posed to the global economy, including our own economy, by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The third initiative is the Data-4-Tax Initiative, a blockchain technology which FIRS is jointly developing with the Internal Revenue Service of the 36 states and that of the FCT, under the auspices of the Joint Tax Board. With this project, we are confident that we are going to have a seamless view and access to all economic activities of individuals and corporate bodies in Nigeria going forward, including money spent on digital commerce.
“The fourth is that we have set up a specialised office, the Non-Resident Persons Tax Office, to manage the taxation of non-resident persons and cross-border transactions, including all tax treaty operational issues and the income derived from Nigeria by non-resident individuals and companies,” he disclosed.
Lagos Joins Eight Other Cities to Improve Air Quality
By Adedapo Adesanya
Lagos State has signed the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration alongside Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Ekurhuleni, Freetown, Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Tshwane to improve air quality.
Governor Babajide Sanwu-Olu in a statement revealed that he was committed to improving air quality for its citizens, adding that it is the responsibility of every citizen to maintain it because together it can be achieved.
He explained that he was happy to join the mayors and governors of nine other African cities in making an unprecedented, ambitious commitment to improve air quality with the signing of the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration.
“The need to breathe clean air is more important than the licence to pollute it.
“Lagos has committed to improving air quality and I appeal to the responsibility of every citizen because together we can,” he said.
The statement also revealed that by signing the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration, the governor of Lagos State recognises that breathing clean air is a human right, and commits to working toward safer air quality.
Mr Sadiq Khan, the Chair of C40 Cities and Mayor of London, in his remarks, said that: “With COP27 being held in Africa later this year, I am delighted to welcome 10 new African signatories to the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration.
“As Chair, I am determined to do more to support cities in the global south, who are on the frontline facing the worst consequences of climate change.”
Mr Khan also said he was focussing C40’s resources to help cities around the world accelerate their efforts to tackle climate emergencies, reduce toxic air pollution, and address inequalities.
He lamented that the world was at a crossroads, adding that efforts must be made to allow cities around the world to become greener, fairer, and more prosperous for all.
On his part, Mr Michael Bloomberg, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, President of the C40 Board and 108th Mayor of New York City, in his remarks noted that many of the world’s fastest-growing cities are in Africa.
“We believe that the ten mayors can help show cities everywhere how to protect public health, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity all at the same time.
Mr Bloomberg also added that cities play a vital role in the fight against climate change.
“This new commitment is an important step to help build momentum and highlight Africa’s leadership in the lead-up to COP27 in Egypt later this year,” Bloomberg said.
The statement read in part: “Under the Clean Air Cities Declaration, Lagos is improving public transport as a key component of Lago’s strategy to reduce air pollution.
“The city will expand the bus rapid transit (BRT) network, installing new terminal hubs and lines allowing for additional users and trips.”
“A low-emission bus pilot, replacement of older vehicles by 2025, and improved fuel quality standards will reduce public transport pollution.”
“Improved walking and cycling infrastructure by 2025 will increase active mobility, further reducing demand for private transport.”
“Other actions include rehabilitating three illegal waste dumping sites, increasing the uptake of LPG for cooking, and promoting solar photovoltaic systems on buildings.”
It read: “Air pollution has become the second largest cause of death on the African continent, due in part to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.
“Approximately 1.1 million deaths per year have been linked to air pollution across Africa, according to a Global Burden of Disease Study.”
“Approximately 59 million people across the ten African cities stand to benefit from cleaner air and improved health through commitments that are estimated to prevent as many as 10,000,”
“Early deaths linked to air pollution exposure, as well as more than 300,000 hospitalisations, resulted in US$ 9.4 billion in annual savings from averted deaths and hospitalisations.
“If Lagos reduces its PM2.5 concentration to 35 μg/m3 (World Health Organisation (WHO) Interim Target 3) by 2030, it could prevent 2,800 deaths and 155,000 hospitalisations per year.”
“This would save $2.3 billion annually (from avoided deaths and hospitalisations).”
According to it, if Lagos reduces its NO2 concentration to 10ppb (WHO Air Quality Guideline), it will prevent 2,300 asthma incidences per year.
“This will save U.S.$ 200 million annually in related healthcare costs.
“Swift, unprecedented and collaborative action is needed to address the sources of pollution that are harming our health and heating our planet,” the statement read
SERAP Wants INEC to Publish Financial Details of Political Parties
By Adedapo Adesanya
In its latest move, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to publish the reports on the accounts and balance sheets of every political party submitted to the National Assembly since 2015.
The group called on Mr Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the body, to make available the request in a letter dated May 21, 2022, signed by SERAP deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare.
SERAP urged him to “urgently examine the books and records of financial transactions of political parties, and to make public the outcome of any such examination.”
It also urged him to “provide details of the guidelines, and steps that INEC is taking to prevent vote-buying in the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun states and 2023 general elections, and to prosecute vote buyers and other electoral offenders.”
Recently, the All Progressives Congress (APC) collected N100 million for its presidential form while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) collected N40 million for the same purpose for the 2023 elections.
The organisation also alleged that some leading political parties and politicians also spend between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes.
The organisation said: “Nigerians have the right to know about the accounts and financial transactions of their political parties, especially the major parties with a strong possibility to assume government in the future.”
According to SERAP, “transparency and accountability of political parties is important to achieve greater transparency in public life, curb the influence of money in politics, promote a level playing field, and remove the risks to the independence of political actors and would-be public office holders.”
SERAP also said, “It is both immoral and illegal to pay citizens to vote for a particular political party or candidate. Unpunished cases of vote buying and related electoral offences would continue to undermine good governance, the rule of law, moral values, as well as hinder citizens’ participation in elections.”
The letter, read in part: “When a political candidate decides to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such candidate will show a disregard for democratic rules and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.
“Vote buying and related electoral offences encourage poor governance and weaken citizens’ capacity to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.
“SERAP urges you to urgently take measures and to collaborate with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to ensure the effective prosecution of any outstanding cases of vote buying and related electoral offences allegedly committed in the context of the 2019 general elections.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The lack of transparency and accountability in political finance is seriously undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the democratic and electoral processes, and invariably contributing to denying the citizens the right to effective participation in their own government.
“The failure of political parties to comply with transparency and accountability frameworks would undermine citizens’ trust in their political parties and lack of trust will inevitably destroy confidence in the system and decrease citizens’ interest and participation in the democratic process.
“Elections are only one part of the democratic process, and a fair and effective electoral system must be founded in an adequate democratic infrastructure and responsibility of political leaders.
“According to our information, several political parties have for many years failed to submit their annual financial statements to INEC. Many political parties have failed to submit election expenses reports, and to disclose material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies to the Commission.
“The Commission has also been apparently unable or unwilling to monitor, examine and publish these financial statements.”
“Also, some leading political parties, politicians and other political actors reportedly paid between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes. For many years, allegations of vote buying (the payment of cash or gifts in exchange for voting) and related electoral offences have characterised elections and party primaries in the country.
“SERAP is concerned that despite several provisions of the Electoral Act (as amended), anti-corruption laws, and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations, suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences frequently escape justice for their crimes.
“However, INEC has consistently failed to exercise its powers and to provide the leadership that would promote collaboration with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to facilitate and ensure thorough, transparent and effective investigation of cases, and the arrest and prosecution of suspected perpetrators.
“Section 86(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires every political party to submit to INEC a detailed annual statement of assets and liabilities and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets and statement of its expenditure. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 86(2), which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of six months or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.
“Under Section 86(3)(4) INEC has the power to examine the records and audited accounts kept by any political party, and to publish the report on such examinations and audit in two national newspapers and Commission’s website within 30 days of receipt of the results.
“Section 226 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 also requires INEC to prepare and submit a report every year to the National Assembly on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. Under Section 225(5), INEC has the power to give directions to political parties regarding their books or records of financial transactions.
“The Nigerian Constitution and international standards guarantee and protect the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in general elections.
“The right to vote freely for the political party and candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.
“The effective exercise of the right of qualified Nigerians to have a voice in the election of those who make and enforce the laws under which, as good citizens, they live can contribute to the enjoyment of other human rights, including to corruption-free public services, freedom of expression and digital and data rights.
“Public confidence in voting systems serves as an indispensable feature of a full and healthy democracy.
“Persistent failure to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences may ultimately undermine public confidence, the integrity of the country’s elections, and lead to widespread disaffection with the electoral process.”
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