Senate fast tracks Buhari’s Finance amendment bill for 2nd reading

By Ignatius Okorocha

The Senate on Wednesday at plenary surprisingly fast tracked the consideration and passage of the Finance Act amendment bill transmitted to the National Assembly on Tuesday by President Muhammadu Buhari for second reading.

Recall that President Buhari had in letter addressed to Speaker of the House ofRepresentatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, specifically asked the apex legislative institution to amend the recently approved Finance Bill 2019 to accommodate the exemption.

The letter read, “Pursuant to Sections 58 and 59 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria1 999 (as amended), I formally request that the Finance Act, 2019 (Amendment) Bill, be considered by the Senate, for passage into law.

“This Bill seeks to amend the Finance Act, 2019, as recently passed by the National Assembly”

The bill which was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi Yahaya (APC – Kebbi North) was referred by the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Finance.

The lawmaker, in his lead debate, explained that the bill which was recently passed by the National Assembly seeks to, among other things, amend certain tax provision of the Finance Act 2019 and other relevant tax statues to make them more responsive to the tax reform policies of the Federal Government, to enhance their implementation and effectiveness.

According to Abdullahi, the amendment to the Act includes: “amending Section 23 of the Companies Income Tax Act pursuant to Section 9 of the Finance Act, 2019 to make certain clarifications regarding the newly introduced tax incentives for Agricultural production, which for administrative convenience may be better provided for under the Industrial Development (Income tax relief) Act.

“To provide clarifications regarding the administrative effective dates for the commencement of the increase in Value Added Tax from 5 percent to 7.5 percent; provide clarity regarding the definition of basic food items exempted from Value Added Tax; and amend sections 1 and 25 of the Industrial Development Act to make certain clarifications regarding the newly introduced tax incentives for Agricultural production.”

In his concluding remark, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, lauded the Executive arm of government for its cooperation with the National Assembly on issues of legislation.

“We passed this bill sometime in November last year, and the President signed it. Just like our Distinguished Senator said that he is worried that they have not even operated and they are seeking for amendment.

“I think we have something to celebrate here, that instead of either not signing or assenting to the bill that we worked on, or implementing it without recourse to exactly what the law will be dictating, I think that would have been our cause for worry.

“But the fact that it was assented to, and even when they discovered that there were loopholes that we needed to clarify with the bill or the Act to take effect from February 1, and I believe there were some definitions, especially what happens in the case of Animal Feeds and so on, and they felt to still come back to the legislature, I think is something that we should celebrate,” Lawan said.

The Finance Committee, which is chaired by Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC – Lagos West), is expected to submit its report on the Finance Act 2019 amendment bill for passage in one week.

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