By Ed Malik, A | November 9, 2022

Prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Wednesday, asked the Federal Government to remove multiple taxation and the ten per cent excise duty placed on carbonated drinks, saying it is forcing manufacturing companies and factories to shut down and relocate to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic and Ghana, which seems to have a friendlier business climate.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, said that the net consequences of the outrageous excise duties are causing hardship and food shortages which is pushing the Nigeria economy to unimaginable levels of poverty, even as the National Economic Council led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has not been able to come up with better policies to arrest this abysmal drift of our ship of business.

The group said though President Buhari had promised to uplift millions of people from the poverty bracket when he campaigned for office in 2015 but has done exactly the opposite of what he promised as the economic decisions of his government have plunged millions of Nigerians into poverty with the unemployment rate standing at 33.3%, which in real terms translate to about 23 million agile and active adult Nigerians without jobs.

Recently, the members of the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) met to review emerging scenario of the growing job loss due to multiple taxation and other crippling business policies of the Federal Government, which they lamented, noting that more than 5,000 employees in the sector have been sacked within eight months in 2022.

This is as the group said plans have been have concluded by other beverage companies to leave Nigeria and relocate their factories to neighbouring West African countries where production cost is less and invariably, the finished products will be brought back to Nigeria to sell.

Commenting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “It is so unfortunate that all indices of economic development are in red and the levels of unemployment and poverty, hunger have ballooned out of control and it is so clear that there is a disconnect the economic team of President Buhari if they are indeed still in existence.

“It is evident that the soaring prices of diesel, cooking gas, electricity tariffs and the general sources of energy make it difficult for businesses to thrive in Nigeria. Yet, the government is insensitive by imposing multiple taxations and unthinkable excise duties to further burden businesses who are supposed to be encouraged to keep providing jobs for citizens as government has no job anywhere.

“With inflation rate at a new 17-year high of 20.77% in September 2022 and food inflation at 23.34%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, prices of food and essential commodities have skyrocketed to more than 100% in some cases. In fact, N1,000 can hardly buy a loaf of bread while the prices of tubers, pepper, garri, cassava, rice and other grains which are staples of the common man have shot beyond the roof!

“The situation has since gone from bad to worse with the flooding that has ravaged over 20 states across the Federation, washing away thousands of hectares and acres of farmlands. The situation has since moved from worse to worst with the planned redesign of the N1,000, N500 and N200 notes money hoarders, who don’t want to take their money to bank, troop into markets and purchase the foodstuffs in bulk, thereby creating a higher-bidder scenario and artificial scarcity which is totally avoidable in the first place if the government is reasonable in its economic approach and avert the impact of flooding on farmers.

“Naira is falling in value to the dollar and the CBN is bent on redesigning the Naira at this time with a very short timeframe and just a few days to election thereby fueling currency speculation with the Naira being one of the worst currencies on the globe at the moment. This is tragic more so because the finance ministry and apex bank are working at cross purposes thus compounding the economic adversities affecting millions of Nigerians.

“The Federal Government must take steps to avert the total collapse of the economy of Nigeria because if the economy collapses then constitutional rule and democracy will inevitably collapse. The government must build back the confidence of manufacturers by removing burdensome taxes and duties, incentivize businesses with tax breaks to retain them in Nigeria, amongst others. check the government’s assisted massive thefts of crude oil resources and financial leakages in the system fueling general condition of economic paralysis.

“The sustainable economic repair and engineering work must include stabilizing the value of the Naira. The situation is catastrophic and demands a national economic emergency to be declared. All hands must be on deck. Nigeria must never be made to become a basket case because if the National economy is allowed to continue to witness unrestrained free fall, then before long, millions of Nigerians may become refugees and, in that case, even all of the African continent can’t accommodate the millions of distressed Nigerians that will be forced to exit Nigeria.”

“It is this nexus that Nigerians from all around the World should mount pressure on World leaders to make it known to President Muhammadu Buhari that nobody is safe when the economy os a nation collapses, and thus, should have a rethink of policy thrust, in order to arrest the economic spiral that’s already at the precipice”, the rights group surmised.

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