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‘Nigeria’s tax and fiscal policies are not close to where they should be’

Have you made comparison of the tax system in Europe and what we have here in Nigeria? Yes I have. A couple of years ago,…

Have you made comparison of the tax system in Europe and what we have here in Nigeria?

Yes I have. A couple of years ago, the World Bank, there was a project from the Federal Inland Revenue Service—they wanted to upgrade and integrate the inland revenue system. We wrote a proposal on how we could assist with integration of the system. But…somebody tells you this one is the one in-charge, you don’t go anywhere!

Disappointingly, our proposal never received a single acknowledgement. I was working with a consortium firm in America. They published a bill which we saw and we expressed our interest in the project and submitted some of the top practitioners who might help in revamping the system. Unfortunately, it wasn’t acknowledged.

There are a lot of things not working in tax system which is unfortunately pathetic. Many Nigerians work with the UK, the US tax departments—for example, there is no day I do not touch basis with an English tax inspector, reconciling technical complex tax issues. We could as well do that in Nigeria.

We could set up a specific free tax zone in Nigeria and attract a lot of foreign investors. Make it a semi-heading of foreign direct investment. Once you invest in this particular territory, government will not tax you—free enterprise just to boost a particular sector. So the tax and fiscal policies of the country, unfortunately are not close to where they should be. It is 10 percent of the potential; I’m afraid!

As we talk about entrepreneurship, where should the average Nigerian youth start?

The average Nigerian youth should start in the belief of self-possibilities. In many sectors in Nigeria, as I have seen, many people are dependent on connection, god-fatherism and that applies to businesses, to contracts. Where I’m coming from, we believe in self-worth and things are possible within you—that you have unique abilities and talent within. That if you spend time to harness these talents and put them together, you will be able to beat obstacles.

There are difficulties everywhere in the world. In the UK, US, it is not a bed of roses. When I moved to the UK—I wasn’t born in the UK—and as a Nigerian passport holder in the UK, things were incredibly tough and difficult. So there were all sorts of grounds for me to perhaps come up and say “Oh, these country is too tough, the immigration laws are too tough I cannot make head way.”

So the primary beginning of a thriving entrepreneur is to have an absolute conviction in oneself—above all, to say yes, I can do this!

And the mentoring scheme from us will come in to unravel this self-confidence in our youths who are incredibly talented. Finance is not the first issue. If you believe you can do something, you sit down and look at what you can do and discuss it with people, people that have experience in what you want to do. We will be lending our support because I run a successful business in the city of London—professional service practice.

With collaboration with the NYSC officials and government, we would be able to set up seed fund into our youths that have this belief that “yes, we can do this.” In collaboration with the NYSC, we would try to organise business competitions. Talk about your ideas, look at yourself, what do you think you can provide for your immediate environment with your skills?

There is no government in the world that employs 90 percent of its workforce. In Nigeria, most people are employed by the government. Everybody wants to be a politician, everybody wants to be a public officer.

Why the interest in the NYSC?

We want to collaborate with the NYSC because we believe that the universities turn out a lot of graduates that go to camp every year. However, there are no provisions. Once these graduates pass out of the camps, there is no follow up and there is no sufficient employment to absolve even 20 per cent of these graduates which inevitably leads to crime in the society.

So we are looking at partnering with the NYSC. We’ll tell them once you take your intake, we will set up a development fund. But for that to happen, we will need a regulatory framework. Government has to be interested as well.

We will get investment bankers. I will come with colleagues from the US and the UK. We will sit down, you make your business case to us. We will ask you what the limitations are.

Our mentoring for the NYSC people is to look at where their interests lie, what they can do and we will try to bring out the beauty of that and support them. We are looking at setting a development cum a panel of judges the will judge business proposals for value creation and sustainability of those values created.

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