Driven by the need to have focused discussions on issues affecting entrepreneurship in Nigeria, the Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC), Lagos, has launched a quarterly lecture series.
The maiden lecture of the series was held on Wednesday at the centre with the theme “The Impact of Multiple Taxation on Enterprise Development in Nigeria: Need for a Rethink”. Participants were drawn from the public and private sectors.
In his introductory remarks, the Executive Director of Africa Leadership Forum and Project Director of the EDC, Mr Ayodele Aderinwale, MFR, said the series would provide opportunity for the EDC and other stakeholders to push for policies and reforms that will benefit entrepreneurs. Mr. Aderinwale said a report of the maiden lecture will be compiled and sent o the executive and legislative arms of all states in the South West region, which EDC Lagos covers.
The event was chaired by the Director and CEO of the Business School Netherlands in Nigeria, Mr Lere Baale. While opening discussions, Mr Baale said the issue of multiple taxation must be addressed for businesses to grow in Nigeria. He recounted a personal experience in which he was travelling and had to pay countless numbers of levies and taxes in every state he passed through. He said the situation negatively affects business in the country.
Speaking at the event, Director of Development Finance at the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Paul Eluhaiwe, said enterprise development is vital to achieving the Vision 20:2020 objectives but is threatened by multiple taxation. He said the average SME in Nigeria is subjected to about 34 taxes and levies by federal, state and local governments.
Mr. Eluhaiwe said the situation can be corrected if tax reforms like Automated Tax System, e-Payment, comprehensive data base are introduced across the three tiers of government. He also said consultation with stakeholders in tax law formation needs to improve.
The CBN official commended Africa Leadership Forum for steering EDC Lagos to become “the foremost centre among the three in the country”. He said the Central Bank is encouraged by initiatives of EDC Lagos and has requested the centre’s profile in order to establish three more centres in other regions of the country.
The Lagos State Chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Rev. Isaac Agoye, delivered the key note address. He identified official neglect of enterprise development, dearth of basic infrastructure, multiplicity of taxes and lack of conducive business environment as some factors that have contributed to the growth of Nigeria’s informal economy. He said the sector accounts for 65% of gross National Product and accounts for 90% of all new jobs.
Rev Agoye, however, lamented the “burden of taxes payable by business enterprises”. He said illegal and multiple taxes combined with existing infrastructure deficiencies add to increase in the cost of doing business in Nigeria, a situation that has led to the closure of many businesses.
Among other recommendations, Rev Agoye said government should direct revenue agents and officials to desist from collecting illegal or multiple taxes. He also said authorities should consider the overall impact of tax policies and laws on the economy with a view of reforming them where necessary.
Other speakers at the event included the Regional Controller, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr Ohagwa Innocent; a tax expert and Managing Partner at Saffron Professional Services, Mrs Adebimpe Balogun; and the Group Head, Advisory Services at Wema Bank, Mr. Lanre Ajayi.
Rounding up the discussions, Mr Aderinwale, the Project Director of the EDC, said there is need to establish a pressure group that will lobby for beneficial tax policies. He said EDC Lagos is willing to provide the personnel and intellectual framework for such a group but other statekholders would have to provide the funds for its operations.
Mr. Aderinwale thanked participants for their activeness during the lecture and urged them to return on October 26 for the last quarter lecture which has the theme “Microfinance Banks and Entrepreneurship Development: building the Appropriate Synergy”.