Finance Act 2019: 20 Basic Food Items And Sanitary Pads Make VAT Exemption List

 

 

In a bid to ensure that the cost of living does not rise for Nigerians because of the changes in the Value-Added Tax, several basic food items, locally manufactured sanitary towels, pads and tuition relating to nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary education have been added to the exemption list of goods and services on the VAT under the Finance Bill 2019, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, on the 13th January 2020.

This is according to a statement by Laolu Akande the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Office of the Vice President.

In his statement on Sunday, Professor Osinbajo said amongst other benefits, the law will consolidate efforts already made in creating the enabling environment for improved private sector participation and contribution to the economy as well as boost states’ revenues.

Professor Osinbajo also noted that according to the President, “the Finance Bill will support the funding and implementation of the 2020 Budget. We shall sustain this tradition by ensuring that subsequent budgets are also accompanied by a Finance Bill.”

Below is a breakdown of the Finance Bill as detailed in Mr Laolu’s communique.

The Finance Bill, 2019 was submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari alongside the 2020 Appropriation Bill, and signed into law by the President on January 13, 2020.

The Bill, now an Act, has the following objectives:

Promoting fiscal equity by mitigating instances of regressive taxation;
Reforming domestic tax laws to align with global best practices;
Introducing tax incentives for investments in infrastructure and capital markets;
Supporting Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses in line with the administration’s Ease of Doing Business Reforms;
Raising Revenues for Federal, State and Local Governments.

FACTSHEET ON NEW FINANCE ACT 2019

The new Act is the first legislation created to accompany an Appropriation Act since the return of democracy in 1999.

The new Act raises VAT from 5% to 7.5%.

To allay fears that low-income persons and companies will be marginalized by the new law, reduce the burden of taxation on vulnerable segments, and promote equitable taxation, the Finance Act 2019 has extended the list of goods and services exempted from VAT. The additional exemptions include the following:

Basic food items – Additives (honey), bread, cereals, cooking oils, culinary herbs, fish, flour and starch, fruits (fresh or dried), live or raw meat and poultry, milk, nuts, pulses, roots, salt, vegetables, water (natural water and table water)

Locally manufactured sanitary towels, pads or tampons.

Services rendered by microfinance banks

Tuition relating to nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Nigeria’s increased new VAT rate of 7.5% is still the lowest in Africa, and one of the lowest anywhere in the world. (South Africa VAT: 15%; Ghana: 12.5%; Kenya: 16%; Egypt: 14%; Rwanda: 18%; Senegal: 18%)

Under Nigeria’s revenue sharing formula, 85% of collected VAT goes to States and Local Governments. This means that the bulk of additional VAT revenues accruing from the increase will go towards enabling States and Local Governments meet their obligations to citizens, including the new minimum wage as already noted by State Governors. Before now, the Buhari administration had firmly resisted previous suggestions to raise VAT.
The new Finance Act exempts Businesses with turnover below 25 million from VAT payments.

Companies Income Tax (CIT)

Under the new law small companies – companies with less than N25 million in annual turnover are charged Zero CIT.

CIT for Companies with revenues between N25 and N100m (described in the Act as “medium-sized” companies) has been reduced from 30% to 20%

Large companies – with annual turnover greater than N100m – will continue to pay the standard 30% CIT

The new Act includes a provision that grants to all companies “engaged in agricultural production” in Nigeria “an initial tax-free period of five years”, renewable for an additional three years.

The new Act also provides incentives to promote tax compliance through bonus reductions in CIT for early remittance:
*2% bonus for medium-size companies
*1% bonus for other companies.

Personal Income Tax Act

The new Act now includes “electronic mail” as an acceptable form of correspondence for persons disputing assessments by the Tax Authorities.

Contributions to Pension and Retirement Funds, Societies and Schemes are now unconditionally tax-deductible.

Stamp Duty Act

With the new Act, the N50 Stamp duty charge is now applicable only to transactions amounting to N10, 000 and above, a significant increase on the former threshold of N1,000.

The new Act also expands the list of items exempted from stamp duty.

Customs and Excise Tariff

To reduce unfair advantages previously conferred on imported goods at the expense of locally manufactured ones, certain imported goods are now subject to excise duties similar to locally manufactured goods.

Relations Between Nigeria And US Will Curb Extremism In The Sahel – Osinbajo

Osinbajo Proffers Solutions To Challenges Facing Legal Profession In Nigeria

 

The increase in activities and threats by terrorist groups in the Sahel region can be largely curbed by stepping up relations between Nigeria and the United States of America, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this in Abuja on Thursday when he received the new US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs Mary Beth Leonard, on a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa.

Noting the good relationship between Nigeria and the US, the Vice President called for an even more robust cooperation.

He observed that apart from poverty, terrorism is a major issue affecting the Sahel region and this is the best chance of making progress on those issues.

READ ALSO: Buhari Attends UK-Africa Investment Summit In London

“Stepping up cooperation with the US in the area of counter-terrorism is something that should be pursued vigorously given the threats of terrorism in the Sahel,” according to the Vice President.

Responding to the proposition by Mrs Leonard for improved ties between Nigeria and the US including through the restoration of the Bi-National Commission, Prof. Osinbajo said there are indeed huge opportunities for improved cooperation between both countries.

“The challenges facing us as a country are many but they present opportunities for doing innovative and great things. This is our best chance to making serious progress.

“I am certainly looking forward to the Bi-National Commission and hope that important issues concerning our trade relations will be addressed because we have barely scratched the surface,” the Vice President said.

Earlier in her remarks, the US Ambassador, Mrs Mary Beth Leonard said it was an honour to serve in Nigeria and expressed hope that her tenure as Ambassador to Nigeria would be fruitful.

The Ambassador said improving trade and investment and resuscitating the US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission will top her agenda in the coming years.

Words Alone Cannot Change Predispositions To Intolerance – Osinbajo

 

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says it will take more than mere words to change the world’s predisposition to intolerance. 

According to the Vice President, in a world increasingly plagued by activities of the agents of intolerance and religious extremism, it will take acts of deep humility and personal sacrifice, especially by leaders across the board, in order to change the disposition to hate and prejudice.

Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Monday in a keynote address he delivered in Abu Dhabi at the opening session of the Sixth Assembly of the Forum for Promoting Peace organized by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

Speakers and participants at the conference were drawn from across the world, including countries like the United States, and there were representatives of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Among representatives from Nigeria were the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, and the celebrated Imam from Plateau State, Abubakar Abdullahi.

The Vice President was also received after the opening session by both the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nayan, and the Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the Vice President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The reception was at the Al-Ain Palace of the Crown Prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.

According to the Vice President in his keynote address, “no amount of words or platitudes can change the human predisposition to prejudice and parochialism. Only acts of deep humility and personal sacrifice can.

“There is no question at all that this is the responsibility leadership places on those of us who are religious and political leaders in our countries.

“The responsibility of leadership is not just words, it is not text, it is not just laws. The responsibility of leadership is self-sacrifice, it is putting our reputation on the line, it is putting our words into action.

“It is my respectful submission that the burden rests squarely on leaders, especially religious and political leaders, and others we may describe as the elite in our nations and communities.”

READ ALSO: Why I Did Not Attend The Wole Soyinka Award Ceremony – Osinbajo

Continuing on the role of leaders of communities in promoting peaceful coexistence, Prof. Osinbajo said, “it is our role not only to articulate, as we are doing in this assembly today, the theoretical and doctrinal foundations for a more tolerant world but more importantly, to make the personal sacrifices that would compel our societies to commit themselves to lifestyles of tolerance.”

Speaking on how technology and globalization can also be used in promoting hate and intolerance, the Vice President said leaders who exemplified selflessness and love are better positioned to reverse the negative trend.

He said, “The defining paradox of our world today is that thanks to technology and globalization, we have never been more connected than we are today, and at the same time, we have probably never been more divided than we are today, and this is the handiwork of agents of intolerance who weaponize our fear of the ‘other’.

“In recent years, we have witnessed a rise of religious extremism, right-wing populism and ultra-nationalism. We have seen extremists hijack the symbols and letters of the faiths and use them to prosecute violent campaigns that violate the sanctity of human life on a global scale: ISIS, ISWAP, Boko Haram etc.

“Therefore, if we are to prevent an endless cycle of strife and conflict, tolerance is a necessity.”

The Vice President added that it was the responsibility of leaders, “especially religious and political leaders, and the elite in our nations and communities, to bear the torch of tolerance and illuminate new pathways to a shared future.”

Citing the examples of some community and religious leaders in Nigeria who offered their lives to save people of different faiths from theirs, Prof. Osinbajo urged leaders of groups and communities to imbibe the principles of tolerance and empathy.

According to him, “the great conflict of our time is not between Islam and Christianity, or between Islam and other religions, but between extremism and human solidarity, between the forces of hate and intolerance and those of empathy and peace – that is the great conflict today.

“We must emphasize the central place of the principle of empathy; this is a thread that runs through our moral traditions, and is summed up in the Golden Rule in the words of Jesus Christ where he said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus Christ goes further to say that “we must love our enemies; we must even pray for our enemies.”

“This is the notion of self-sacrifice. In other words, all of these is summed up in the general principle that we must treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated, and this is embedded in the Abrahamic traditions and other major religions.”

Earlier, the UAE Minister of Tolerance, Sheikh Nahayan Al Nahayan, spoke on the need for the world’s major religions to embrace tolerance as a virtue and vehicle to promote peaceful co-existence.

WSCIJ Awards: Osinbajo Blames Absence On Developments In Sowore’s Case, Abu Dhabi Trip

A file photo of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

 

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has revealed why he did not attend the Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019.

In a letter released by Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Osinbajo gave two reasons why he didn’t attend the event which was held in Abuja on Monday.

According to the Vice President, he was absent first because he was a keynote speaker at an international meeting in Abu Dhabi, where he was invited by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Osinbajo Travels To UAE For Peace Forum

“First is that I am currently in Abu Dhabi for an international meeting under the auspices of the government of the UAE where I am the keynote speaker,” he said.

He further stated that the second reason for his absence is owing to the drama which played out on Friday when operatives of the DSS attempted to arrest Mr. Omoyele Sowore in a High Court in Abuja.

“Second, in view of the developments on Friday in the Sowore case, I think it would be insensitive and inappropriate to attend the ceremony.”

The Vice President appealed to members of the organizing team to accept his heartfelt apologies for not making it to the event.

Professor Osinbajo said he was extremely grateful for the recognition and award of the ‘Integrity Specialty of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019’ to him.

The Vice President noted that he had accepted the award with pride on behalf of the excellent Justice Sector team.

See the tweets below:

Buhari Speaks About Sacking Of Osinbajo’s Aides, Insists It Is Not Political

President Muhammadu Buhari has spoken for the first time on the sack of some aides in the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The President told reporters that the action which sparked heated reactions with some claiming the powers of the VP had been whittled down, was purely a reorganization with no political or ethnic undertones.

President Buhari spoke about the controversial move on Friday night when he returned to Nigeria after a private visit to the United Kingdom.

“We are going to work harder, be accountable and try to make Nigerians understand why we do certain things whether they appreciate it or not,” the President before using the firing of the VP’s aide as an example of a misunderstood move.

“Like, they said 35 people were sacked in the Vice President’s office. We just created a ministry and we reorganised and people are giving ethnic and political dimensions. It is unfortunate.”

Since the start of President Buhari’s second term, there have been claims that the office of the Vice President was being weakened. It is a claim the Presidency has repeatedly denied.

The establishment of an Economic Advisory Council to report directly to the President, to replace the Economic Management Team, which was chaired by Professor Osinbajo, fueled the claims.

As news of the firing of the VPs aide made the rounds, the claims resurfaced with the Presidency issuing statements insisting that there is no rift between both men and that the move was part of a reorganisation in the government.

President Buhari maintained the “reorganisation” position in his brief comments on the matter.

Osinbajo Receives Alibaba Group Co-Founder, Jack Ma In Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Jack Ma of Alibaba Group in Abuja on Thursday, November 14, 2019.

 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday received Jack Ma, the co-founder and former Executive Chairman of popular Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba group.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the meeting with the business mogul promised government support to businesses willing to invest in Nigeria.

Mr. Jack Ma is leading a large delegation of Chinese investors to Nigeria.

In response to Vice President Osinbajo, he explained that he is in the country to honour the VP’s invitation extended to him earlier in Davos, Switzerland.

Jack Ma also expressed desire to assist Africa with particular interest in Nigeria.

He disclosed that he is pursuing a programme which he terms “Four Es” – E-infrastructure, Entrepreneurship, E government and Education.

Alibaba is one of the world’s largest retailer and e-commerce company, and one of the biggest investment corporations in the world.

 

‘Warehouses Along The Border Must Be Dismantled’ – The Week In Quotes

 

Here is what was said and who said what within the course of the passing week. 

  1. “We absolutely insist on the dismantling of all the warehouses along our common borders”

    A file photo of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

    The Federal Government gives conditions that ECOWAS countries have to meet for Nigeria to reopen its borders.

    2. “No misunderstanding between Buhari and Osinbajo”

The Presidency debunks reports of a misunderstanding between the Office of the President and the Vice President.

3. “The Presidency wishes to confirm that there is, on-going, an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s seat of government, arising from which a number of political appointments have either been revoked or not renewed in the second term.”

The Presidency confirms the sack of some political appointees in the office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

4. “There have been ‘Serial Assaults’ on the office of the Vice President”

Social Commentator, Yinka Odumakin, says there have been ‘serial assaults’ on the office of the Vice President.

5. “He should be arrested because there is no hate speech more than the one he was saying and was given wide publicity that governors who do not embrace cattle colony and RUGA will not know peace” 

Governor Samuel Ortom

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State explains why he called for the arrest of the President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore.

6. “My clients have fulfilled bail conditions, will be freed soon”

The Lawyer representing the detained convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore, and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, says his clients have met the bail conditions imposed on them with regards to the charges of treasonable felony preferred against them by the Federal Government.

7.  “The office of the Governor has been celebrated as the paragon of excellence, a temple of perfection and a throne of purity. This demi-god mystique spreads over the entire machinery of the executive arm of the government, symbolising an authoritarian disposition on the governed”

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu asks Lagosians to address him simply as ‘Mr Governor’, saying only God is the ‘Most Excellent’.

8. “We thought there should be drones all over the place properly deployed to ensure that kidnapping is tackled. We have to find the way to track phone conversations between kidnappers and the victims’ families.”

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, asks security agents to come up with a plan on how to monitor conversations between kidnappers and families of victims.

9. “The team is playing well. We are not getting carried away and I’m not going to trap the players with any sort of pressure”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers says he will not put extra pressure on his players by publicly targeting a top four finish in the Premier League after a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace moved the Foxes up to third.

10. “I won’t do it”

President Donald Trump says he will not remove all the existing tariffs imposed on Chinese goods as part of a deal to resolve the longstanding trade war.

11. “What came so far and what was collected is a small amount of what was spilled”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says that “the worst is yet to come” with an oil spill that has affected more than 200 beaches on the country’s coast.

12. “Too many children and young people, rich and poor alike, in all four corners of the world, are experiencing mental health conditions” 

With the alarmingly high rates of self-harm, suicide and anxiety among children and young people around the world, UNICEF and the World Health Organization are teaming up with some of the world’s leading minds to tackle this growing threat.

13. “The President’s trips are not sightseeing trips, they are justified by outcomes. In each of the trips, we try to let Nigerians know what the things the president has achieved; and so, we are making progress, the economy needs the trips because much of it actually comes on account of who the President is”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign trips are not for ‘sightseeing’, but justified by outcomes. This is the position of his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Osinbajo Returns To Abuja After ECOWAS Summit

Osinbajo Proffers Solutions To Challenges Facing Legal Profession In Nigeria
A file photo of Professor Yemi Osinbajo

 

The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has returned to Abuja, the nation’s capital after attending an extraordinary Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Summit in Niamey, Niger Republic.

Spokesman to the Vice President, Laolu Akande confirmed his return in a tweet on Friday.

He said, “VP returns to Abuja & tonight he is attending the Abuja Special Holy Ghost Service as the RCCG continues its 30-day fasting programme called for this month.

“We continue to work very hard and pray fervently for God’s continued blessing on us, our leaders, and our country, Nigeria”.

The Vice President represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the summit which included other ECOWAS Heads of State and Government with the aim of reviewing the ongoing situation in Guinea Bissau.

President Buhari had earlier in September attended a one-day ECOWAS Heads of State and Government Extraordinary Summit on Counter-Terrorism, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Given the growing threat of terrorism in the sub-region, the West African leaders had called for the Summit to review different initiatives taken so far, and redefine the priority intervention areas for the containment of the worrisome attacks in the area.

The decision to convene the Summit was reached at the 55th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja on June 29, 2019.

No Misunderstanding Between Buhari And Osinbajo – Presidency

 

The Presidency has debunked reports of a misunderstanding between the Office of the President and the Vice President.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters Senator Babajide Omowurare made this clarification while briefing journalists at the National Assembly.

READ ALSO: Buhari Signs Bill Amending Deep Offshore Act

Responding to critics who have questioned President Buhari’s decision to sign the amended deep offshore Act in London, Senator Omowurare insisted that the constitution permits the President to work from anywhere.

He explains that the scenario is different from that of former President Umaru YarAdua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan where the former was at the time unable to discharge his duties because of ill health.

He was however silent on why the President did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly, handing over responsibilities to the Vice President.

Join Us In Calling The World To Take Action Against Boko Haram, Osinbajo Tells Egypt

Osinbajo Proffers Solutions To Challenges Facing Legal Profession In Nigeria

 

A concerted action by countries around the world is crucial towards tackling terrorism in the Sahel region, as well as the challenges posed by Boko Haram and ISWAP in Africa, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo made this call when he received a delegation of members of Egypt’s Parliament (House of Representatives), led by its Honourable Speaker, Dr. Ali Abdel-Aal Sayed Hamad. The delegation also included the Egyptian Ambassador to Nigeria, Assem Hanafy Elseify.

Similarly, speaking on behalf of the government of Egypt, Hamad said Egypt shared the same view as Nigeria that concerted efforts was needed to combat terrorism in the Sahel region.

Prof. Osinbajo, who welcomed the delegation on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that Egypt and Nigeria have enjoyed very good relations over the years.

“Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, we’ve always had friendly relations and cooperation with the Republic of Egypt. We know that this very friendly and brotherly relations will continue.”

On the issue of security challenges on the continent, the Vice President urged for more concerted global action to prevent similar escalating situations in some parts of the Middle East as related to ISIS.

READ ALSO: Minimum Wage: IGR To Drive States’ Payment, Says NGF

He said, “We would want to urge that Egypt joins us in calling upon the world, the international community, to immediately see the need for a concerted action against Boko Haram, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), and terrorist groups operating in the Sahel, in particular.

“We think that it is time for that kind of concerted action in the Sahel. And with such concerted action, we believe that we can prevent a situation as seen in some parts of the Middle East where damage to lives and livelihoods was done by ISIS.

The Vice President added that the world should not look away and hope that the problem would disappear, unless world powers come together to tackle it.

“Just as was done in Iraq, where the world powers came together to drive out ISIS, that is the sort of cooperation that we should have now to ensure that we’re able to deal with terrorism, especially terrorism in the Sahel,” he said.

Prof. Osinbajo also stated that Nigeria would continue to join hands with Egypt in promoting religious tolerance and tackling extreme poverty and challenges to social inclusion.

The Vice President further said Nigeria is open to Egypt for more investments, especially in the agri-business, agro-allied value chain, and also in light manufacturing and other such areas; just as he equally noted that Nigerian companies, particularly in the financial sector and industrial investments, are willing to do business in Egypt if given the opportunity.

In the same vein, the Egyptian Parliament speaker delivered a personal message from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to President Buhari and the VP, inviting him for the Africa Investment forum and the inaugural Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Egypt in November and December respectively.

The Vice President said he would convey the message to President Buhari. He also said President Buhari would be briefed on the request to mediate in the issue between Egypt and Ethiopia over the building of the Renaissance Dam project on the Blue Nile River.

“I would certainly ensure that I convey the strong feelings of the Egyptian government on this point to our president, President Muhammadu Buhari, and I believe that, within the auspices of the AU, we would be able to reach a just and fair conclusion. I’m sure that he would work within the AU to find a solution that is fair to all parties,” the VP stated.

Also, Hamad pledged the full support of the Egyptian government for the candidacy of Nigeria’s Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who is running for a second term as president of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The Vice President had earlier stated that he (Adesina) has done quite well in the first team and that he would do better in the second term.

Speaking further, Hamad noted that, “Egypt and Nigeria are two big nations in Africa in terms of population and capabilities. We also pledge to put our expertise to foster and strengthen economic relations, especially in the economic and energy sector.”

We Must Not Allow Social Media Become An Instrument Of War – Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

 

Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has called on religious leaders who are very active on social media not to allow it to become an instrument of war.

He urged them to use the social platform to promote peace and kindness.

“I want to say in particular about social media that we absolutely need to be careful with our use of social media.

“If we do not want to promote the kind of conflict that can completely go out of hand, we must be sure that we are policing ourselves and regulating ourselves on social media.

“I don’t think that government regulation is necessarily the way to go, but I believe that we as persons of faith, as leaders and those of us who use social media actively, owe a responsibility to our society and to everyone else to ensure that we don’t allow it to become an instrument of conflict and war”

READ ALSO: NJC Recommends Appointment Of Four Supreme Court Judges, Other Officers

The Vice President stated this during a religious gathering in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

Read Full Statement Below:

“I don’t think that government regulation is necessarily the way to go, but I believe that we as persons of faith, as leaders and those of us who use social media actively, owe a responsibility to our society and to everyone else to ensure that we don’t allow it to become an instrument of conflict and war.”

REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE INTERFAITH RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE ON PROMOTING RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND ACCEPTANCE ORGANIZED BY THE UAE EMBASSY ON THE 24TH OF OCTOBER, 2019

Protocols

This has been a very enlightening morning and I would like to commend the discussants for the richness of the panel conversations and the invaluable insights that they have brought to our attention. I am struck by the common threads in all the discussions; empathy, love, justice and fairness.

A great deal of inter-religious dialogue tends to focus on mediating the differences between our various religions, creeds and our various positions and this is absolutely necessary.

However, I do feel sometimes that we do not speak enough about these common threads and things that bind us; that all human beings regardless of faith or ethnicity, desire much the same things, to be valued, loved, treated with dignity and fairness, to possess at least the basics of life – food, shelter and clothing sufficient for self and family.

As we have heard, the Golden Rule is “love thy neighbour as thyself” or “do unto others as you
would have them do to you.” This rule occurs in every major religion and even in some iterations of secular constitutions. This is a common thought.

It is significant that there is a truth which all adherents of different faiths and even those who say they do not believe in God can confidently claim belong specifically to their creed or to their own way of thinking, or collectively as people of faith, or as those who even have no faith.

Treating people the way we would like to be treated imposes a moral obligation on us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we act. This is the very definition of empathy.

For those of us who are Christians, an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for example, reveals that Christianity is not in fact, a religion. It is the establishment of a relationship of love, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and man.

Central to that message is that we are required to love God and then love our neighbours as ourselves, but the gospel goes on to say that it is a liar who says he loves God but hates his neighbour. So, the whole essence of the love of God itself is demonstrated in the love of one’s neighbour.

Love is a sacrificial act, it requires self-sacrifice, which is why what Imam Abubakar Abdullahi did is deeply exemplary. When “a band of herdsmen” as they were described, came into his village to kill Christians, he put them in his home and in the mosque. When the “herdsmen” insisted on killing the Christians, he said they had to kill him first if they wanted to kill the Christians. He put his life on the line for what he believed.

Our religious leaders must accept that this is the true demonstration of leadership. We must go beyond rhetoric, beyond talking about tolerance, we must make the sacrifices required. This is the real challenge of leadership, leading rather than following.

Preaching hate and suspicion attracts more attention and more popularity. So, you don’t need great leadership for that. You need great leadership to tell people to love those who hate them and pray for those who curse them, to respond to hate with love, and to show compassion and understanding to people of other faiths. That is what we need great leadership for and what we need our religious leaders to do. The easiest thing to do in the world is to bring suspicion. There is already enough suspicion, the fact that you belong to different beliefs, already creates the basis for suspicion. If we make it easy for those fault lines to be perpetrated, then we can’t describe ourselves as true leaders.

Recently, I had the privilege of addressing young Muslims and Christians in an event quite similar to this event. I submitted to them that the great conflict of our time is not a clash of civilizations, between Islam and Christianity, but between extremism and human solidarity; between the forces of hate and intolerance and those of empathy and peace. We have heard every side talk about the essence of faith, the essence of faith is peace, compassion and love. But the conflicts that we have are between those who belong to several religions who preach conflict, hate and intolerance.

As practitioners of empathy, it is our responsibility to build bridges and to seek common ground as a basis for national progress.

In every diverse society, a measure of conflict and discord is inevitable. This is the natural social consequence of our differences brushing up against each other. Whether these tensions become teachable moments for learning more about ourselves or they snowball into implacable hostilities, depends on how we address these tensions.

As gatekeepers of the public mind, the media, and now especially social media, play a very crucial role in shaping our perception of these differences.

Do we report tragedies and incidents of conflict in ways that promote the sanctity of human life? Or are we simply driven by the need to drive lucrative sales and clicks by promoting shock value, sensations, gratuitous violence and the cynical coverage of carnage? Are we using our platforms to amplify measured voices of reason or are we using them to amplify the voices of divisive hate-mongers? What are we using our platforms for?

One key lesson in terms of media reportage of conflicts is that we must avoid the temptation to demonize whole groups by judging them by their most extreme fringes. We must resist the urge to portray communities in caricatures. I think it is important to stress that when an individual commits a crime, he or she does so as an individual and not as a representative of an ethnic or religious community.

Neither journalistic best practice nor legal convention subscribes to the idea of holding communities responsible for the actions of individuals. This cycles back to the Golden Rule. Are we portraying the subjects of our reportage as demons? Are we portraying people in the way we want to be portrayed?

The people in the media and opinion moulders have a responsibility to inspire us to think deeply about the complexity of our society. You have a responsibility to help us see the bigger picture, to rise above our prejudices and to apprehend the nuances that characterize inter-group relations in a plural society such as ours.

As the conversations that we have just witnessed have shown, we have voices of reason and empathy in our religious communities. I urge the media and social media which involves every one of us as gatekeepers of the public mind, to lend their platforms to advocates of peace and mutual understanding and therefore amplify our potential for harmonious co-existence.

At the same time, we must ensure that we intentionally marginalize the agents of intolerance and hatred and deny them the ability to influence impressionable hearts and minds.

As religious leaders, media personalities and people of faith in general, we share a common calling to apprehend the truth. One truth that our diverse moral traditions agree on is the Golden Rule. It is, in many respects, the primary ethic and as we commit to practically living it out, we will bring in a kinder, safer and more peaceful world into being.

I want to say in particular about social media that we absolutely need to be careful with our use of social media. If we do not want to promote the kind of conflict that can completely go out of hand, we must be sure that we are policing ourselves and regulating ourselves on social media. I don’t think that government regulation is necessarily the way to go, but I believe that we as persons of faith, as leaders and those of us who use social media actively, owe a responsibility to our society and to everyone else to ensure that we don’t allow it to become an instrument of conflict and war.

Recently, I was sharing at a gathering about my aunty, an 81-year-old lady who thought I had resigned. Sometime before the elections, the news went round that I had resigned my appointment as Vice President, the news went round on social media and WhatsApp. My aunt insisted that I had resigned because the news was on WhatsApp. I had to explain to her that I didn’t resign even if the news was on WhatsApp.

It was Rev. Sister Agatha who mentioned (in one of the panel discussions today) that if we are not careful, most people are not discerning enough to tell fact from fiction. Depending on what it is that you are spreading, if you choose to spread the sort of news that can create real conflict and religious misinformation which is the worst sort, it can create the kind of conflict that can completely get out of hand and jeopardize all of our lives, livelihood and property.

It is important that we keep self-regulating and ensuring that we don’t lend our platforms to those who would promote conflict.

I would also like to join others in commending His Excellency, Ambassador Fahad Obaid Mohammed Altaffag, a true believer in peace and tolerance, for hosting this dialogue. A few weeks ago in Lagos, he hosted the UAE – Nigeria Cultural Day, where we celebrated the brotherhood of our countries through the Arts. In you and the good people of the United Arab Emirates, we are delighted to say that we have true partners for peace.

I thank you all for listening and participating in this dialogue.

God bless you!

FEC Approves Change Of Name For Ministry Of Communications

 

The Federal Executive Council has approved the change of name for Ministry of Communications.

At the meeting on Wednesday, FEC says the ministry is now to be called Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo chaired the meeting in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari who is away on official duty in Russia.

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