Archive for August 2019

Multiple tax collectors, defaulters and auditors

August 28, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

The people of Jericho held Zacchaeus, the corrupt chief tax collector, in low esteem. The biblical story had it that when Jesus was passing through Jericho, the very short Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to catch a glimpse of him. People grumbled and looked at him with scorn. If they had their way, they would have pulled him down from that tree.

Many Nigerians still see Zacchaeus in our modern-day tax collectors. Be they agents of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), state Inland Revenue Service or even local government thugs, these tax collectors have a way of harassing corporate and private individuals over tax issues.

Last week, for instance, the FIRS released a list of 19,901 companies that allegedly defaulted in tax payment. Some of the defaulters include Obasanjo Farms, owned by former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Davido Music Worldwide Ltd, owned by popular musician, David Adeleke; God is Good Motors; Slot Enterprises; and popular supermarket chain, Addide. The FIRS placed the accounts of these companies under lien. It threatened that, should they fail, refuse or neglect to pay the tax due within 30 days of the notice, it would proceed and enforce the payment against all the directors, managers, secretaries and every other person concerned in the management of the companies.

For many of these companies, part of the problem is that they are confronted with up to 50 different taxes and levies in Nigeria. The Federal Government collects such taxes as companies’ income tax, education tax, and value added tax.

States collect such taxes and levies as personal income tax, withholding tax (individuals only), capital gains tax (individuals only), and stamp duties on instruments executed by individuals. There are also pools betting and lotteries, gaming and casino taxes, road taxes, business premises registration fees in respect of urban and rural areas, land use charge, consumption tax (hotels, restaurants and event centres) and many others.

The local governments, on their part, collect such taxes and levies as tenement rate, right of occupancy, market taxes and levies, merriment and road closure levy, marriage, birth and death registration fees and many others.

Multiple taxes have crippled operations of a lot of companies in Nigeria. In some cases, tax collectors reportedly compel companies that recorded losses to pay taxes from their turnover. Besides, the high rate of withholding tax charged on dividends reportedly scares many companies from listing their shares on the stock exchange. Fewer than 200 companies are listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, whereas the country can boast of over 2,000 registered public companies. Little wonder Nigeria ranks low on the world ease of doing business index.

No doubt, tax is a good source of revenue for government. Hence, some people saddled with the responsibility of collecting it, like the executive chairman of the FIRS, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, will not agree that there is anything like multiple taxes in Nigeria. They think more on how to generate better income from taxation and less on accountability and proper utilisation of the tax proceeds.

That is why the recent action of the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, is commendable. Kyari queried Fowler over alleged discrepancies in tax collections from 2015 to 2018. In 2015, for instance, the budgeted target was N4.5 trillion, while the actual amount collected was N3.7 trillion. In 2016, the actual collection was N3.307 trillion, whereas what was budgeted was N4.95 trillion. In 2017 and 2018, the FIRS collected N4.027 trillion and N5.32 trillion, respectively. However, the budgeted targets for the two years were N4.89 trillion and N6.7 trillion, respectively.

Kyari’s query raised suspicions in some quarters. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, for instance, urged the National Assembly “to come to the rescue by holding a public inquest into the handling of taxes collected by the FIRS in the last four years, take urgent steps to recover the stolen funds and channel such to projects that have direct bearing on the welfare of Nigerians.”

To clarify issues, the Presidency quickly issued a statement. Fowler, it said, was not under any probe. The letter from Kyari, it explained, merely raised concerns over the negative run of the tax revenue collection in recent times.

Nevertheless, the Federal Government announced plans to audit FIRS and Customs’ revenues. These two agencies are money-spinners. Perhaps, the government suspects that to whom much is given, much could also be stolen. In Abuja, Lagos and some other places, people talk in hushed tones about how money realised from taxes is allegedly diverted.

It is expected that the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which will likely conduct this audit, will do a good job of it. My only fear is that nothing much would come out of it. Recently, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, indicted many government agencies for not submitting their audited accounts to his office. Ayine also accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Solid Minerals Ministry of poor/non-disclosure of receipts. In an audit report, the AuGF said, as at April 2018, 109 agencies had not submitted beyond 2013; 76 agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year, while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception.

Besides, the AuGF reported errors in the amounts included as the Federal Government’s share of VAT for 2016.  The sum of N108,997,999,612.48 was recorded as Federal Government’s share of VAT without the full picture of the VAT earnings to the federation. From the auditor’s account, what was due the Federal Government from January to December 2016 was N116,783,571,013.35.  This posted a difference of N7,785,571,400.87. The Accountant-General of the Federation could not provide explanations for this difference at the time of the audit report. Despite concerns raised by the AuGF, nothing much was done to sanction defaulting agencies and parastatals.

Many Nigerians have resigned themselves to fate. To them, what matters most now is an improvement in their standard of living. They expect the government to initiate a review of the Taxes and Levies Act. This is to eliminate ambiguities and streamline the administration and collection of taxes by the different tiers of government.

Government may also consider consolidating some of these taxes to lessen the burden on individuals and corporate bodies. The re-enacted Lagos Land Use Charge Law (2018), for instance, is a consolidation of ground rent, tenement rate and neighbourhood improvement levy.

Undoubtedly, a good tax system would not only encourage savings and generate employment opportunities. It would also create an opportunity for tax collectors to escape the Zacchaeus treatment.

Re: Isuofia: New yam, spirit beings and other stories

You are correct Casmir. Some Igbo don’t know the difference between culture and paganism. We have lost our identity; that is why we are plagued from all corners, and religious bigotry is having a field day. My brother, keep educating Igbo on why we should internalise our culture and tradition, because it is our heritage and identity.

– Smart, Abakaliki, +2348160638941

We need to develop our cultural heritage to boost our tourism internationally.  New yam celebration in South East can boost local and state revenue, if it is well organised.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Re: What a country!

It’s very disturbing that Nigeria has remained a country persistently founded on a designed platform of the fraud of the oligarchs, by the oligarchs and for the benefit of the oligarchs who are in control of the security agencies, which they use at will to mow down all oppositional voices. Nigeria needs very serious constitutional amendments and restructuring of our mindset, with emphasis on suppressing tribalism and religion to an insignificant level. The leadership of the judiciary and legislature in Nigeria, just like the executive, must be allowed to enjoy constitutional immunity. If Onnoghen must go, let the law rule, not the rule of a corrupt process masterminded by interested parties. Our criminal jurisprudence is not accusatorial where one is pronounced guilty before prosecution: it is prosecutorial and anchored on presumption of innocence. Hack writers and emergency lawyers who either out of sycophancy or brazen display of their political direction have created a system of an all-knowing executive that does no wrong.

The peculiarity of Nigeria should also attract peculiar applications to our political problems. Or haven’t we observed with grave consternation the questionable and laughable decisions being churned out by our powerless and jittery courts and ‘yes sir’ legislature? Recently, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, usually in the news for divisive submissions, proposed the abrogation of zoning, citing the need for competence, as if that was the yardstick for his people’s recurring ascendancy to presidential power. His Excellency is aware that his proposal is a huge fraud. Have we had a Nigerian President of Igbo descent 49 years after the war?

Why shut the door of Nigeria’s presidency against a particular race through idiotic and annoying reasoning? The Igbo race must sit up and shun this Vee-Pee Syndrome, pick out the best from their lot, stand behind him or her, while reaching out to other sectors of the country and present that Nigerian President of Igbo descent to Nigerians for 2023 presidency.

Lastly, let me warn that the various ethnic settings in Nigeria must play the Nigerian card wisely, objectively, inclusively and respectfully, otherwise, we may soon wake one day and behold a scattered Nigeria in many identifiable and internationally-approved entities.

– Edet Essien Esq., Calabar South, +2348037952470

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 26, 2019.

Isuofia: New yam, spirit beings and other stories

August 21, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

When you hear of Argungu fishing festival, what comes to mind is Kebbi State. When Osun-Osogbo is mentioned, a festival rooted in deep Yoruba culture brings nostalgic feelings. When New Yam festival is an item on the agenda, the gathering must be that of the South-Eastern people. And when mmanwu (masquerade) performance comes up for discussion, what you get are mixed feelings, heated debates and a clash between paganism and Christianity.

This is what played out penultimate Saturday at Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. The town, like many others in Igbo land, celebrated New Yam festival with pomp. The event afforded many indigenes from far and near an opportunity to commune with their ancestors. 

Tagged Unity New Yam festival, the occasion was the first of its kind in the community after over 20 years in crisis. The traditional ruler of the town, Igwe (Col.) Christopher A. Muoghalu (Retd) used the occasion to crown the new traditional prime minister (Onowu) Chief Ndubuisi Osele. The six villages which make up the town namely: Umueze, Ozalla, Isiaku, Ezioka, Okpoko and Akulu came with different side attractions. Akulu village shone brightly with her traditional Ekelemgba wrestling dance to the admiration of spectators.

The special day also witnessed the unveiling of some brand new masqueraders called Achikwu. Immediately the “spirit beings” entered the Isuofia Civic Centre where the festival took place, the arena erupted in ecstasy.

Igwe Muoghalu explains the phenomenon better: “Celebration of the feast of New Yam is deeply rooted in ancient Igbo culture, fore-grounded in the belief that yam is the king of all crops. And to underscore its prominence among all other crops, the feast of New Yam is celebrated to thank the gods of good harvest. Being an important event in the calendar of Igbo race throughout the world, it is very important to state that contrary to misrepresentation by religious zealots, the new yam festival has nothing to do with fetishistic and diabolic practices. It is simply the Igbo traditional way of thanking God for giving them the opportunity to plant and reap.”

That is true. But to some people, the introduction of mmanwu in this year’s festival amounts to drawing the town back to paganism and fetishism. They cite instances of the ruins some youths of a neighbouring town, Ekwulobia, faced in the recent past because of Achikwu. Some Christians also frown on the presumed magical powers big masqueraders display; the type which the late singer and traditionalist, Perrycomo Okoye, popularised in his lifetime.  

They believe such practices will corrupt the youths. According to them, what the youths need now are jobs and creative abilities that will make us match a country like China and the United States in technological wonders. Those who think this way have a point.

Nevertheless, it is worthy to note that culture is dynamic. There was a time killing of twins was in vogue. It is no more so today. In the days of yore, new initiates of the prestigious Nze na Ozo society went through some rituals. Today, it has been reformed such that ardent Christians are now members.

In those days, if you were not a full grown man or an initiate, you dared not come close to where big masqueraders were performing. You also dared not touch any economic tree dedicated to them. The consequences would be severe. These days, women and children even watch their performances at close range.

Mmanwu is part of Igbo culture. It energises any function or festival. Like other cultural performances, it is an occasional thing, not a daily affair.  To many local pub operators in some Anambra communities, it is merely a veritable form of entertainment. They make huge sales whenever those “spirit beings” perform on their business premises during festive seasons such as Christmas.  I don’t see how this occasional merriment will render our village youths useless as some people have postulated.  

Let us look more at the positive side of the coin and discard the bad aspects. Recall that the old Anambra State held the first mmanwu festival in 1986 at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. For the period it lasted, the festival became a good source of entertainment and attracted many tourists to the state.

Reviving and reforming some of our cultural festivals could be money spinners for the country. About one million tourists from different parts of the world just witnessed Osun-Osogbo, arguably the most popular cultural festival in Nigeria. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has listed Osun-Osogbo groove among its world’s heritage sites. Not satisfied, the Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, seeks partnership of indigenes of the state in the Diaspora to further promote and project the festival.  

Nigeria spends millions of dollars every year to sponsor pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and Israel. While we continue to stone the devil and kiss the feet of Jesus at these “holy sites”, the host countries continue to smile to the banks with huge sums of money. We should learn to promote our own and invite foreigners to come and patronise us.

Re: What a country!

Despite your Column’s usually engaging intellectual disputations, you apparently flew off the handle last week, when you called for “localised protests”, to hold local leaders to account. It will not work, ten times over.  I will not protest against my LGA Chairman, who is from my town, even if he is a bum-sitter. This is because he is not the problem. Governors corner the allocated LGA funds, under their ubiquitous “Joint Account Allocation Committee”. They then give LGA Chairmen everywhere, some pittance to pay staff salaries. They get next to no money to buy laterite to confuse local roads. I appreciate your doing a yeoman’s job raising much of the ills and muck in a society that wages war against itself. Don’t you worry. Something must give.

Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645.    

The title, “What a country”, is so exciting and also intriguing. By 1999 as we waited for year 2000, we all had strong and very high expectations when the air was filled with the slogan everything for all by the year 2000: wives, houses, jobs. Contrarily, we never saw it that way at all. What we experience on a daily basis is nothing but a catalogue of woes and disheartening events. What a country! Perhaps, all hope may not be lost. We all must guard our loins, lie flat on the dusty or muddy soil and cry to Onyame, Chukwu, or Abasi, Allah, Oluwa, Soko, Shekwo, Osonobwa for His Mercies and forgiveness over our numerous offenses more especially for the killing of those three police officers and one civilian by our own soldiers. What an irony, and what a country!
Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State,
08036174573

Dear Casy, the present leadership in Nigeria, the Presidency, the legislature and the judiciary are products of corruption. The three arms of government are people of the same faith whose agenda is to take our ancestral lands and give to their Fulani brothers who migrated from other West African states on their invitation. The present government led by Buhari and its next level is nothing but chaos. Let every ethnic group prepare how to defend their lands, lives and properties because Buhari has failed. God bless you always.

Eze Chima C, Lagos, +2347036225495

Casmir, you will now agree with Nnamdi Kanu who stated that this country is a zoo, because what is happening in Nigeria will only take place in a zoo. I call it a failed state because Nigeria has all the characteristics. We have gone back to the state of nature where Thomas Hobbes stated that life was solitary, poor, short, nasty & brutish. But John Locke offered us a remedy – we should revolt when the government fails to protect our lives & properties. But my bro, keep telling the powers that be the truth. Don’t be deterred by their castigation.

Smart, Abakaliki, +2348160638941

There is no contradiction to the fact of general insecurity in Nigeria as contained in your article “What a country”. The issues of Boko Haram, militancy, kidnapping, banditry and assassination have become worrisome because they have grown in dimension and proportion. Let’s recall that kidnapping and assassination have taken a toll on our VIPs including Maj. Gen. Peter Ademokai, Major Gen. Alkali and AVM Alex Bade. President Muhammadu Buhari should do something urgently. This is because we don’t know whose turn it will be tomorrow.

Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP) 08063730644

It’s very unfair for security agents to stop any protest since the law allows aggrieved or suppressed people to protest so that government will address their problems. Insecurity in Nigeria is very worrisome and the three tiers of government should find lasting solution to it. Truth of the matter is that investors will not come when there is insecurity in the country. Let’s tell ourselves the truth. Nigerians are not interested in hearing condolence messages from government officials over killings. They need solutions please.

Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 19, 2019

What A Country!

August 17, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Mr. Sunday Emenike left his base in Isuofia, Anambra State, for Taraba on a business trip. That was on July 17, 2019. Somewhere on Ukari-Zakibiam Road, armed robbers reportedly attacked the bus he was travelling in. The bandits allegedly brought him and one other passenger down from the bus and took them away. Till date, there is no information about him. His whereabouts remain unknown. His family is distraught.

No doubt, life in Nigeria has become what the Igbo call “agba ekpere chi,” (moving and praying to God). The number of those who speak in tongues has continued to multiply. Christians now plead blood of Jesus many times. Catholics have intensified their prayer for Nigeria in distress. Same thing goes for Muslims chanting Allahu Akbar! Prayer houses are booming. And the majority of the people have completely lost confidence and trust in their government.

True, insecurity is a global problem. In Europe, America and the Middle East, some demented souls sometimes turn their guns on innocent and defenceless citizens. My worry with Nigeria is the frequency of the attacks and the apparent helplessness of the people whose primary responsibility it is to protect life and property.

The situation is traumatic. The other day in Enugu State, gunmen said to be Fulani herdsmen gunned down a Catholic priest, Rev. Father Paul Offu, on Ihe-Agbudu Road. This prompted the priests in Enugu Diocese to embark on a peaceful protest. Last month, some killers also terminated the life of the daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, on the Benin-Ore Expressway.

Also, last month, a 16-year-old girl, Chinyere, left Lagos for Abia State University, Uturu, to write her post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. According to her story, some gunmen, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, stormed the Okada junction on Benin-Ore Expressway in Edo State about 6pm. They took her and some co-travellers away. For two days, there was nothing like food for them inside the bush. On top of that, the herdsmen tortured the men with sticks, guns and cutlasses. After five days, they regained their freedom after payment of different sums as ransom. The girl missed the exam she was going for and obviously missed her admission into the university this year.

Penultimate Sunday, a former Commissioner for Information in Abia State, Eze Chikamnayo, was reportedly travelling from Isuochi in Abia State to Enugu. About 5.30pm, after Awgu junction, on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, some gunmen emerged from the bush and started raining bullets on his vehicle. Miraculously, he escaped unhurt. When he parked later, he discovered over 20 bullet holes in the front fender of his car. The gunmen missed Chikamnayo but got the traditional ruler of Obom-Agbogugu in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State, Igwe Sunday Orji, and his wife. Luckily, the couple regained their freedom last Wednesday.

However, it is disturbing that Chikamnayo reportedly got to a military checkpoint about a kilometre from where the criminals were operating. He informed the soldiers there but they allegedly waved him on and did nothing.

The questions are, why didn’t the soldiers go after the criminals when they got wind of their operation? Was there no bullet in their guns? Were their own weapons inferior to that of the killers? Were they denied their salaries or allowances? Or were they sympathetic to the cause of the marauders? Many questions, few answers!

It was situations like these that pushed Omoyele Sowore to convene a protest last Monday. The Department of State Services (DSS) arrested and detained him even before the action took off. Security agents fired gunshots and teargas at protesters and even manhandled and arrested some journalists covering the protests.

Ironically, President Muhammadu Buhari and some All Progressives Congress stalwarts protested against insecurity in Nigeria in 2014. The then President Goodluck Jonathan did not send security agents to arrest them. Buhari also joined the leaders of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party in 2003 to hold a rally in Kano to protest the alleged rigging of that year’s general election.

The suppressed protests of last Monday, tagged #RevolutionNow, once again, brought out the complexities of the country called Nigeria. In Algeria, France, South Korea and many others, popular protests of this nature are the norm. As Algerians would say, the power of the people is greater than the people in power.

In Nigeria, the present people in power appear to be greater than the power of the people. They violate people’s rights with impunity. They refuse to release some citizens granted bail by the courts. Two years ago, agents of the state mowed down some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in what they called Operation Python Dance. And early this year, soldiers raided the premises of Daily Trust newspaper, carted away some office equipment and arrested some of its journalists. The crime of the newspaper was perceived unfavourable report on the war against the Boko Haram insurgency.

Unfortunately, there is no unanimity of purpose among the people of Nigeria. For instance, some northern elements saw RevolutionNow as a protest against their interests. They vowed never to be part of it. Some southeasterners viewed the protests with suspicion. To them, Sowore was a lackey playing a self-interest game.

Recall that musician, Charles Oputa (Charley Boy), once organised a protest march in Abuja. He tagged it “Our Mumu don do.” Oputa narrowly escaped being lynched by some characters who saw his actions as anti-North and anti-Buhari.

The first coup in Nigeria led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu in 1966 had similar colouration. Some northern soldiers who saw it as an Igbo coup staged a counter-coup. They not only killed the then Head of State, Aguiyi Ironsi, but also precipitated in a pogrom against the Igbo in the North, which eventually led to a 30-month civil war, with the attendant catastrophes. Since then, we have been forced to remain as one country without any sincere efforts to heal wounds and renegotiate the terms of our union.

As it is, the only revolution that will succeed in Nigeria today will be a localised one. Communities should hold their leaders to account. People should question chairmen of their local governments on their stewardships. Same goes for state governors who are not doing well.

The governors should initiate watertight security measures in their respective states to curb banditry. They should organise and equip local vigilance groups to complement the efforts of the federal police. The planned joint security initiative by the governors from the South-West region is commendable.

Governors of other regions should map out their own strategies. Nigeria’s federal structure as presently constituted is not working. The British colonial master brought divergent groups together and forced them to live as one. No doubt, diversity is a great asset. But when the divergent groups find it extremely difficult to agree on many issues, there is every need to sit down and discuss.

You do not force marriage on an unwilling couple. If they are not compatible, the marriage will collapse. Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan organised a marriage course for Nigeria called National Conference in 2014. He could not implement any outcome of the course before he left office in 2015.

President Buhari is rigid about renegotiating the terms of our corporate existence as a nation. Perhaps, restructuring does not serve his interest. But for how long are we going to cage ourselves in this manner?

Re: Efi Igbo, SMEs and the Heritage example

I thank God for your shift too from the Nigeria’s unending problems to inspiring situations that can lift souls. Your outing last week was revealing as well as encouraging. Not many people are aware that Heritage Bank exists, not to talk of encouraging youth with business interests. It is through your writing that I had a recall to numerous Ehi Igbo in my childhood days. They used to be very smooth, fat with shiny black colours or spotted with white. There are several other areas of life one can venture into to make life interesting and more suiting. I thank you once again for a beautiful shift.

– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibekuta-Ibeku, Okwuato, Aboh-Mbaise, Imo State, 08036174573

You have reinvigorated the minds of Igbo nation towards the rearing of muturu cattle breed, otherwise called Efi Igbo, Ehi Igbo or Eshi Igbo, so that we can tell the heartless and rampaging Fulani herdsmen that we can do without their zebu or ndama breed, otherwise called Efi Hausa. I have stopped patronising butchers dealing in Efi Hausa and substituted it with chicken, fresh fish and ice fish, pending the supply of muturu breed to cattle market. Some people can even substitute zebu and ndama breed with pork meat, snail and bush meat. Throughout the civil war we did not taste zebu.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno JP, 08063730644

My brother, your column of last Monday was insightful and timely, if only Igbos will think inward and learn their lesson from Nigeria/Biafra civil war and think home because Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun-powder, waiting for a time to explode. They have sent their lackey again, Sowore, who knows the next person?

– Smart, Abakaliki, +2348160638941

Despite years of delay, Golden Guinea Brewery coming back to life with the help of financial institutions, which Abia state government could not do for years, is a welcome development. There are so many organisations established by Dr. M.l. Okpara and Dr. Ibiam that went under that need to be revamped to create jobs for unemployed Nigerians, especially in the South-East region.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 12, 2019

Efi Igbo, SMEs and the Heritage example

August 7, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

The existential problems in Nigeria can drive one mad. Killings, kidnappings, extreme poverty, fear and anxiety all combine to flog Nigerians every day. Writing about these issues can also make one sick, especially when one discovers that the more one writes, the worse things turn out to be.

This week, I decided to uplift my spirit by looking for something positive amid the chaos called life in Nigeria. The excitement in the South-East about breeding of Igbo cow, called Efi Igbo, came to mind.  The menace of Fulani herdsmen in different parts of Nigeria engendered this quest to breed Efi Igbo. Some social media campaigns tried to persuade Ndigbo to patronise local cows and chickens, said to be more delicious.

Certain reports also claimed that some Anambra billionaires like Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Chief Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson) and Obi Jackson have made serious plans to establish modern ranches for local cows in some localities in the state.

I smelt a rat with some of these reports. And so I called Innoson to confirm.

“I know nothing about cows. You know my type of business. It’s the handiwork of my detractors. They want to pit me against certain powerful interests. The report is absolutely false,” Innoson said.

Nevertheless, I still see something positive in all this. I see a people who are desirous to go into agriculture, especially animal husbandry. But the majority of them are handicapped by lack of funds. This is where government and financial institutions come in.

There are reports that Anambra State government is ready to assist farmers willing to breed Efi Igbo. The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Nnamdi Onukwuba, said plans were underway to expand cattle grazing across the local government areas.

On the part of financial institutions, it is good to note that a number of banks now look beyond how much money they can make from customers. They have engaged in one scheme or the other to boost small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and agriculture. I particularly find what Heritage Bank is doing in this regard very commendable.

Recall that the popular Golden Guinea Brewery experienced an explosion of its boiler in 2001, which forced the company, located in Abia State, to stop production. For over 16 years, the brewery, established in 1962 by the defunct Eastern Region under the premiership of the late Dr. Michael Okpara, remained moribund. But, in a delightful move, Heritage Bank, Afreximbank and Bank of Industry brought back to life the new Golden Guinea Brewery.

Recently, Heritage Bank also empowered about 35 entrepreneurs with N50 million. The bank tagged it YESGrant and it was done in partnership with Nigerian Young Professionals Forum (NYPF). It also guided the entrepreneurs to ensure the grants provided were judiciously used.

The bank’s entrepreneurial TV reality show called “Next Titan” is particularly thrilling. It aims at encouraging young men and women to succeed in other areas of business other than what they studied in school. It gives the young aspiring entrepreneurs a new opportunity to showcase their business ideas and compete for a prize of N5 million and a brand new car to start their business. It has immensely contributed to employment generation in Nigeria. The “Next Titan” is the type of reality show Nigeria needs at this point in her life, not BB Naija.

Besides, the bank recently launched another programme called HB Lab. This is a programme expected to provide technology start-ups with the resources and support required to achieve improved financial inclusion/intermediation in agriculture and other related problems affecting critical sectors of the economy. The maiden edition was a 12-week programme. The winner of the competition went home with $25,000.

Last year, Heritage Bank co-sponsored the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit Group. At the summit, the bank’s managing director and CEO, Ifie Sekibo, called on government and financial institutions to support agriculture and small and medium-scale businesses in order to move from poverty to prosperity.

In recognition of the bank’s commitment to SMEs and youth development, the Central Bank of Nigeria adopted it as the sole pilot bank for the Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP). Some young business concerns that have benefitted from Heritage Bank include Infusion Cakes, Niuma Boutique & Accessories, Heart Affairs and Africanna Accessories, and many others.

More youths need to be similarly empowered. Recall that some years back, agriculture, especially local cattle rearing, was in vogue, especially in the South-East. Hardly would you get to any family in Igboland without seeing barns of yam and herds of cattle. Efi Igbo was also available.

Unfortunately, there was the oil boom. That brought about the quest to make quick and easy money. Many youths migrated to the cities. The business of rearing cattle in Igboland gradually went into extinction.

Ironically, the spate of insecurity in the country, especially the herdsmen’s menace, has forced many Ndigbo to think home, to think agriculture. The founder and managing director of Eagle Food Processing Industries in Umuchu, Prince Ugochukwu Okpalaeke, recently said farmers had the intention to breed cattle but lacked the requirements to do the business in terms of facilities like land, manpower and funding.

Government and the banks should not disappoint people like Okpalaeke.

Re: New ministers and tragedy of take-a-bow government

Yes, you are quite right, Boris Johnson, the new British leader, radiates life and inspires hope like the American President Donald Trump, the global trumpeter. For one thing, that our own president did the pruning himself is ethically helpful. We give him kudos for that. I never knew that the much-esteemed Lawan could allow “take a bow” this time in his tenure. I’m not enthused with the list of the ministers. They are mainly of the analogue class, which raises doubts in the minds of many who are majorly in the digital class and had advocated a shift to modernity as a trending global system. After a careful watch at the list, still seeing the former governor of Osun State, the man who owed  many months of salary to his  state’s workers, I was in rude shock on how he made the list, probably because he looked hungry, an evidence of not having misappropriated public funds.

– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State,     08036174573

Mr. Igbokwe, I’m one of the ardent admirers of your incisive column in Daily Sun. No doubt, Nigerians are disenchanted with the take-a-bow mantra of the 9th Senate. Nevertheless, you were so livid that you did not see anything good in any of the 43 ministerial nominees! Among them are PhD holders, first class brains, medical doctors and different professionals who have excelled in their fields of human endeavour. I am not a media person but a medical practitioner. My diagnosis of your jaundiced critique is either myopia or paranoia. You should be objective in your criticism and avoid pandering to the gallery. You could have picked at least one out of the 43 nominees for commendation. A high-profile columnist of your caliber should be objective in your analysis to maintain the admiration of your fans.

– Dr Ugbonabo, keugbor@yahoo.com

Casmir, in your last column, you analysed Nigeria’s endemic position so well, as hopeless. But if I were writing your copy, I would have ended with a fitting alliteration – to wit… “The Executive is a Disaster. The Legislature is a Disgrace. The Judiciary is a Deceased waiting to happen.” What a dramatic irony, in a giant country of about 200 million people.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, +2348037254371

Despite the ministerial list coming out very late, it was a welcome one. With the delay of the list, we all thought that the people President Buhari would bring to us would be different people from the moon, not knowing that they were the same people who didn’t deliver their first assignment. This issue of bow-and-go should stop for future screening of appointees, irrespective of their personality. We pray that the ministers-designate deliver dividends of democracy to move Nigeria forward.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casy, your sermon in your column of Daily Sun on Monday was great. Buhari’s appointment of his ministers has failed because most of them didn’t perform well in their first outing and also as governors. Buhari’s agenda is to Islamise and Fulanise us. He has destroyed both the judiciary and the legislative arms of government, including the masses. Nigerians must unite and fight for their survival and rights. Continue to educate us. God bless you. You are highly and always esteemed.

– Eze Chima, Lagos, Nigeria, +2347036225495

My brother, you will not kill yourself. Nothing about APC inspires me because they are cabals. Posterity will remember Buhari as a president that flagrantly disobeyed court orders, Lawan as take-a-bow-and-go Senate president, PDP as a party that does not know how to play the role of opposition and Tanko as a technicality CJN. But I see the incidents in Hong-Kong, Egypt, Zimbabwe, etc, playing out in Nigeria.

– Mart, Abakaliki, 08160638941

I totally disagree with you in your last Monday article. Awolowo, a lawyer, Femi Okunu another lawyer, performed creditably as ministers of finance and works, respectively. There are so many others in this category. If you insist on qualification and commensurate portfolio for the minister, what then will be the qualification for the governors? Are ministers screened in Europe? And yet they do well. Boris Johnson will soon form his cabinet while ours will be undergoing screening for the next one month. As a journalist, is it only the ministry of information that you can work in?

– Anonymous, +2348033072852

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 5, 2019