The council of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has called for proactive measures to hedge the economy from imminent headwinds.
The first of these measures, is a concessionary tax rate for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in order to promote job creation and inclusive growth as enshrined in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The chamber’s position which was contained in a communiqué of its council meeting, signed by its Director-General, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said the need for concessionary tax relief for SMEs became imperative because “small businesses are more vulnerable to the current challenges in the economy, hence the high mortality rate.
“This group of businesses, therefore, deserves every support that the government can give.”
The meeting also expressed concern about the persistent delays in the issuance of the Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) to importers by the Nigeria Customs Service.
This situation, it said, was contributing to cost escalation for many businesses as cargoes are delayed unduly leading to the payment of avoidable demurrage and high interest cost on borrowed funds by importers.
“The protracted delays in the issuance of PAAR is a negation of the policy of the government on Ease of Doing Business,” it stated.
The LCCI therefore calls on the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, to urgently intervene to put an end to the persistent delays in the issuance of PAAR.
The LCCI also expressed concern about the investigating activities of anti-graft agencies and regulatory institutions regarding alleged infractions by corporate organisations.
It admonishes that such investigation, as much as possible, should be conducted in a discreet manner devoid of any form of media hype.
“This is necessary to avoid unwarranted reputational damage and erosion of investors’ confidence,” it said, adding that, “this position does not diminish the significance of compliance by corporate organisations with extant laws and the imperative of proportional sanctions for proven cases of infringements of the law.”
As a leading advocate of sound corporate governance in the country, LCCI stressed the need for proper coordination between regulatory institutions and anti-graft agencies in dealing with suspected regulatory infractions to avoid duplication of investigative actions.
Hence, the chamber also expressed concern over reports of interception of containers on the highways by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), adding that this could be avoided if there was proper coordination.
The LCCI was of the view that where there are outstanding charges to be paid to SON, or where there are issues about SONCAP compliance, such matters should be dealt with before the container leaves the port.
“It is unprofessional for the operatives of SON to be intercepting containers on the highways on account of some fees or charges that have not been settled by importers,” said LCCI.
Similarly, the meeting expressed worry over the practice by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) instructing the banks to put a lien on the accounts of alleged tax defaulters.
The chamber stressed the need for the FIRS to adhere strictly to due process in dealing with issues of alleged tax defaults.
It said, “there should be a proper communication and engagement with taxpayers to properly ascertain a tax liability before such extreme actions of invocation of a lien on the accounts of companies are taken.
“This practice is very disruptive and has caused grave embarrassment to many corporate organisations.”