Nigeria ’s Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala voiced confidence on Friday in her quest to lead the crisis -wracked World Trade Organisation after all of Africa backed her candidacy , vowing she would champion reform .
“ I feel the wind behind my back , ” she told a virtual press briefing after the 55 -member African Union officially supported her over her sole remaining opponent , Yoo Myung -hee of South Korea .
Okonjo -Iweala said she was thrilled to learn that “ all African countries are getting behind me .”
According to her, a group of Caribbean and Pacific states had also said they would back her, bringing the number of countries officially endorsing her candidacy to 79 out of the 164 states that comprise the WTO .
She also said she felt “ optimistic ” about her support in Latin America , and said she felt she had gotten “ very good traction and good support ” in Asia so far.
“ I feel quite confident that across the regions , we will be able to attract ” support , Okonjo -Iweala added while hinting that the European Union was due to announce its preference of the last two candidates “ soon” .
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, assured Okonjo -Iweala during her visit to Aso Villa in Abuja that he would do all within his powers to ensure she gets the job .
The global trade body is set to be led by a woman for the first time whichever of the two candidates is successful in their bid to follow Roberto Azevedo, who stepped down as WTO director -general in August a year ahead of schedule .
Okonjo -Iweala , 66 , who served as Nigeria ’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25 -year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank , said it would be good if WTO could also boast its first African leader .
“ If that person is African and a woman , I think that is great . Because … neither an African nor a woman has led the organisation , ” she said.
But at a time when the WTO is engulfed by multiple crises, she stressed that the new chief must above all be highly skilled in political and diplomatic negotiations , as well as at the managerial level .
“ The WTO at this time with the challenges it confronts needs a very competent Director General who is able to have the political reach and stature to be able to do reforms and deal at very high levels .
“ It is not only having those skills but having them all meet in one person at this juncture when the WTO needs that ,” she said .
Even before the Covid- 19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China .
The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington , which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organisation altogether .
Okonjo -Iweala said she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.
“ I am a reform candidate and I think the WTO needs the reform credentials and skills now . ”
The initial pool of eight candidates for the WTO ’s top post , which has been whittled down over two rounds of consultations , had included three Africans , and the AU had until now refrained from offering an official endorsement .
The third and final round of consultations seeking to establish consensus around one candidate is due to begin next week and end on October 27 , with the announcement due in early November .
FCCPC: Electricity Topped Consumers’ Complaints In 2020
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) says it received the highest consumer related complaints from the electricity sector in 2020.
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Babatunde Irukera (pictured), chief executive officer of FCCPC, said the banking and telecommunication sectors ranked second and third respectively on the complaints chart.
He added that the aviation sector was ranked fourth.
“Our complaints resolution team is still a very small team of people and they are dealing with thousands of complaints,” Irukera said.
“We are looking at expanding capacity to have more hands handling the complaints but the real game changer in handling complaints better and faster is for companies to start doing it.
“The person who has the least open complaint in our resolution team has about 800 complaints across sectors and that is one person. If you multiply it by 12 to 15 persons, you will imagine the number of complaints.
“Being able to expand to a point where we are able to operate more efficiently, we will keep training, leveraging technology, the more we leverage technology, the more efficiently we can do our work.”
The commission was established by the 2018 Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) to promote fair, efficient and competitive markets in the Nigerian economy, facilitate access by all citizens to safe products, and protect the rights of all consumers in Nigeria.
FEC Approves CBN’s Request To Renovate National Theatre For N21b
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said on Wednesday that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and the ministry of information and culture for the renovation of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos.
He spoke at the end the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja.
The federal government, on July 12, 2020, handed over the national theatre to CBN and the bankers’ committee to signify the kick-start of the renovation process.
“This is a landmark approval because, it has paved the way for investment in the creative industry as part of the resolve of this government to create at least one million jobs in the next three years in the creative industry,” Mohammed said.
“The CBN and banker’s committee are willing to invest N21.894 billion to renovate, refurbish and commercialization (run it profitably) of the national theatre complex. The MoU has a life span of 21 years after which it will revert back to government.”
The minister assured that no job will be lost after the national theatre is renovated, adding that the “brand new national theatre, an event centre” will instead create more jobs.
Asides from this, FEC approved about N9.43 billion to complete the digital switch over (DSO) in broadcasting; N8.98 billion for a new national ICT park in the federal capital territory (FCT) to coordinate public and private ICT hubs in Nigeria.
The council also approved a new national policy on aging which would take care of the needs of the aged people across Nigeria; approved the ministry of water resources memo to construct Damaturu water supply project in Yobe state worth N8.43 billion.
Adesina identifies Debt Service As Greatest Risk To Nigeria
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has warned that debt service is Nigeria’s greatest risk, even as he urged the federal government to take steps to increase tax revenue in the face of dwindling oil income.
The Director of Communications and Liaison of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Abdullahi Ahmad, stated that he spoke virtually at the recently held First Annual National Tax Dialogue .
Dr. Adesina was quoted as saying that due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s economy shrank “by 3% in 2020 on account of falling oil prices and the effects of the lockdowns on economic activities,” adding, “with shrinkage in oil revenues, debt service payments pose the greatest risk to Nigeria.”
He stressed further that for Nigeria to overcome the pandemic, “taxes must form a significant percentage of government revenue. Digitalization of tax collection and tax administration is critical to ensure greater transparency of the tax system, widening of the tax base, while mitigating compliance risks and encouraging voluntary tax compliance.”
Tax experts and stakeholders at the event called for the automation of tax collection by the FIRS through data and intelligence in order to ease tax collection, as well as, improve revenue.
Executive Secretary, African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), Mr. Logan Wort, harped on the place of technology in generating revenue for the country in a post-Covid economy.
Mr. Wort, who joined the dialogue virtually from South Africa, stated, “Domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM) is expected to contribute at least 75% to 90% on average per country” in the post-Covid era, adding that Nigeria and other African countries should note, “improved tax revenue will have to take prime position” in the scheme of things.
He urged Nigeria to pay serious attention to e-commerce and the digital economy sector where big, trans-national digital conglomerates like Google, Netflix and Uber operate and make huge, tax-free profits as a possible way of increasing tax revenue generation.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana in e-commerce taxation, projected to fetch Ghana $450 million in annual tax revenue.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who was chairman of the Dialogue, was quoted as lauding the FIRS “for its performance in the 2020 fiscal year, despite operating in the most challenging period. The Service not only collected N4.9 trillion in taxes, achieving 98% of its target; only 30.6% of this was attributed to Petroleum Profits Tax, from what used to be over 50%”.
He urged participants to, “interrogate how Nigeria can further deepen the use of technology to improve tax compliance nationally and across sub-nationals.”