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Fire guts Unity Bank head office in Lagos

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The Head Office of Unity Bank Plc on Victoria Island, Lagos, was engulfed in flames on Monday morning.

Videos posted on social media platforms by witnesses showed parts of the building on fire with the flames spreading to at least three floors.

Though, the cause of the fire incident is yet to be ascertained but the fire service has intervened and has brought the situation under control.

Confirming the incident, the bank through its verified twitter handle said, “We regret to inform the public that there was a fire incident on one of the floors of our Head Office building early this morning.

“While the extent of damage is being assessed, we are happy to note that there was no casualty or loss of life as a result of the incident. From current observations, however, the Banking Hall and other strategic business areas were not affected.

“We are grateful to all the Agencies and volunteers that supported in bringing the incident under control.

“Further developments regarding the incident will be communicated as it unfolds”.

Nigerians have expressed solidarity and support for the bank, which is listed on the Stock Exchange and has more than 200 branches across the 36 states of the country including the nation’s capital, Abuja.

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The bank, however thanked the agencies and volunteers that helped battle the fire.

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Don’t drag us into UI succession battles – Oyo BIR boss

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The Chairman of Oyo State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), Aremo John Adeleke, has debunked reports linking his agency, the State’s Ministry of Finance and officials of the University of Ibadan, with any form of shady deals in the process that led to the refund of the PAYE tax arrears owed the state by the university.

The BIR boss, in a statement made available to newsmen, declared that there is no evidence of shady financial dealings between the BIR and the University of Ibadan, or any other federal MDA on the Pay As You Earn tax liability audit process for the periods of 2012 to 2018 and 2019.

According to the BIR boss, there was no case of abuse of office or contravention of the code of conduct for public officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He also insisted that the tax audit process was transparent, unblemished, and in line with the tax assessment and reconciliation procedure provided by the Personal Income Tax Act 2004 (as amended).

The statement further indicated that the media houses which published the story had been misled by the muddled-up analyses put forward by an unknown anti-corruption group headed by one Bala Ayodele.

Adeleke equally stated that the basis of the agreement between the Federal Government and Oyo State which led to the settlement of the undisputed PAYE tax liability, has nothing to do with any matter relating to the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), as, according to him, the settlement was consequent upon the Nigerian Governors’ Forum complaint to the Federal Government on the huge unremitted PAYE of federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies in most states.

The BIR boss warned that the Oyo State Government should not be dragged into the on-going succession battle in the University of Ibadan, adding that the false and malicious publications were made in bad faith to tarnish the government of Engr. Makinde by elements who are bent on dragging the state into the ongoing battle over the emergence of a new Vice-Chancellor in UI.

He stated that contrary to claims in the publications that the tax audit process allegedly covered a period of 12 years , 2007 to 2018, in contravention of the Personal Income Tax Act 2004, the exercise only covered the period of 2012 to 2017 (six years) in the first instance, and then 2018, which was conducted in 2019 in strict accordance with the relevant section of Personal Income Tax Act, 2004, as amended.

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The OYIRS equally debunked the claim that there was a fraudulent deal on the 10 per cent commission to Tax Audit and Monitoring Agents, stating that the governor approved the engagement of the agents in July 2019 for the recoveries of the PAYE tax liabilities and that the 10 per cent commission is to reward all the categories and layers of consultants involved in the recovery process.

Adeleke maintained that contrary to claims in the publications that an initial 2 per cent paid as commission is not part of the 10 per cent approved for such purpose, the 2 per cent paid to the first category of consultants, indeed, formed part of the 10 per cent.

Responding on the case of reward disagreement between Baytem Nigeria Ltd. and the Oyo State Government, Adeleke maintained that the matter is being handled by a court of competent jurisdiction and that the OYIRS would limit its comment until the court process is completed.

He said: “It becomes pertinent to put the records straight as a matter of public interest and give the process flow of the tax audit process that led to the recovery of N3,751,024,427.22 of which N1,875,512,213.61 (50 per cent) has just been recovered from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation in two tranches of 25 per cent each. The N1,875,512,213.61 recovered was essentially receipted by the Oyo State Government following the payments.

“It is also pertinent at this juncture to state that: The tax audit exercise, covering the period, 2012 to 2017 (six years), was facilitated and conducted in 2018 in strict accordance with the relevant Section of Personal Income Tax Act, 2004, as amended. A sum of N4,003,020,114.02 was established and later revised to N2,975,027,903.83 after the tax audit reconciliation process that featured exclusion of Withholding Tax liability and expungement of penalty and interest, as demanded by the verification team.

“In 2019, however, following a similar process, a tax audit liability of N775,996,523.39 was also established and resolved. Therefore, the total tax audit liability of N3,751,024,427.22 was resolved and signed by both parties (University of Ibadan and Oyo State Internal Revenue Service). In a nutshell, the tax audit effort, in good faith, was not beyond six years in any of the cases.

“There was no case of false financial claims or abuse of office and the code of conduct for public officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was not contravened. We are glad to emphasise that the tax audit process for the period, 2012 to 2018, is transparent in line with the tax assessment and reconciliation procedure as provided by Personal Income Tax Act, 2004, as amended.”

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The management of the state’s internal revenue service also debunked allegations of underhand arrangement with the top echelon of the University of Ibadan.

The statement read: “For emphasis, there is no way OYSIRS could have compromised the top management of University of Ibadan and also the other parties and layers of verification, as evidenced by the participation of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Joint Verification Team of the Joint Tax Board and the Office of Accountant-General of the Federation, as well as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and its consultancy apparatus.”

According to the OYIRS Management, the BIR Chairman, Adeleke, did not at any time meet with Professor Olayinka and/or Prof Adebowale or any other top echelon of the university to perpetuate any fraudulent act.

“We are not aware of any kickback process or underhand arrangement involving the trio: Prof Idowu Olayinka, Prof Kayode Adebowale and Dr. Michael Alatise in one part and any official of Oyo State Internal Revenue Service or by extension, Oyo State Government on the other.

“In addition, no trade-off existed in favour of either any University of Ibadan official or any official of Oyo State Government. The tax liability for 2018 was evidently established, reconciled along with 2012 to 2017 and mutually signed for onward recovery from Federal Government intervention funds. All monies of all federal MDAs audited and recovered for PAYE liabilities in OYSG, were duly recovered to the account of OYSG and could not have ended in anyone’s private pocket as alleged,” the statement added.

The body equally maintained that the resolution period of the tax audit matter between the University of Ibadan and the OYIRS did not span beyond three months, contrary to the allegation in the publications.

“The Oyo State Internal Revenue Service, based on its normal revenue recovery mandate and working towards meeting up with the mutually agreed figure before the arrival of the verification team of the FGN, encouraged the University of Ibadan, among other Federal MDAs, to take advantage of Federal Government offers to help clean their books of tax liability – essentially backlogs of unremitted PAYE.

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“The agreement of the Federal Government to help to settle the tax liability is also logical in addressing the plight of the MDAs on account of inadequate funding by the Federal Government and insufficiency of the released funds to pay the employees’ salary in many of the MDAs, including the University of Ibadan.

“For collaboration with OYSG to relieve the university of unpaid PAYE liabilities to OYSG, the university management deserves commendation, not vilification, especially when the final liability is a product of thorough audit and reconciliation.

“In finality, this spurious petition is full of lies and has no basis in logic and reality. The PAYE recovery by the states is a special initiative of the Federal Government to, on behalf of her MDAs owing the state, to repay all the outstanding and unremitted PAYE to all affected states in the federation. The settlement of the tax liability is at no cost to any Federal MDAs, including the University of Ibadan.

“The process was guided by strict rules and procedures by the verification team from Abuja. All these rules were thoroughly applied and observed by the Oyo State Government and the management of the University of Ibadan. The process of tax audit of Federal MDAs and the payment process was and is straight-forward.

“The writer and his allies, acting scripts, are only trying to smear Oyo State Government and this will not stand. We have no hesitation in owning up to a good working relationship with the out-going management of the University of Ibadan. This same cordial atmosphere will always be extended to any management of the University, past, present, or future,” the statement concluded.

 

 

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Ooni’s new prince: Palace disowns viral pictures, says traditional rites ongoing

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The Palace of  Ooni of Ife, on Monday informed the general public to disregard the two viral pictures in circulation misrepresenting the newly born heir to the ancient sacred throne of the Ooni who joined the Ogunwusi royal family recently.

Ooni’s Palace added that his   father, Arole Oduduwa , Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, the Ooni of Ife who has the sole right to make the face of the baby public is yet to do so, as essential traditional rites to formally welcome the Prince in accordance to culture and traditions are still ongoing.

The Palace in a statement signed by its Director, Media & Public Affairs, Comrade Moses Olafare, unequivocally stated that the pictures are not that of  the Prince,  urging the public to ignore the social media circulation of the pictures capable of threatening the privacy of the babies in those pictures and their parents.

Olafare further urged Journalists and bloggers to always verify sources of news materials and pictures before publishing or posting so as to avoid ‘Invasion of Privacy’ which he said  is an actionable offense punishable by law.

He added that child and mother are  doing perfectly well as the palace remains agog with daily jubilations and congratulatory visits.

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We will remain bullish in our approach to developing Oyo – Makinde

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Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, on Monday, presented the 2021 Appropriation Bill to members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, declaring that his government will remain bullish in its determination to develop the state.

Governor Makinde, who stated that though the government was able to grow the state’s Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) geometrically in the last one year, recording a 26.4 percent year-on-year increase in IGR, it will not rest on its oars in its drive to take the state off its total dependence on federal allocation.

The governor added that his administration plans to increase the state’s IGR to N102,824,207,213.46 in the year 2021 up from the current N25.6 billion.

According to him, the state hopes to achieve that feat by widening the tax net, bringing more tax payers into the system without necessarily increasing taxes on the people.

A statement by Mr. Taiwo Adisa, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, indicated that the governor stated these at the House of Assembly Complex, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan, where he presented the 2021 Budget Proposal to members of the Assembly.

The governor appreciated the members of the House of Assembly for their cooperation over the past months, saying the successes recorded so far were due to their continuous support of the government’s fiscal policies, which have led to an impactful implementation of the Roadmap for Accelerated Development of Oyo State 2019-2023.

The governor added that his administration was able to make significant progress in the actualisation of its plans for the state in the last one year, saying: “We have been able to lower our infrastructural deficit, make improvements in healthcare delivery, improve the quality of education and achieve milestones in our security systems.

“We remained bullish in our approach to developing Oyo State. Let me share one of our biggest wins in the last year. You will recall that in my 2020 budget presentation, I had stated that from January 2020, we will be recording a monthly Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of three billion Naira. I am happy to report to you that despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, we were just less than two hundred million Naira shy of our target monthly. As at September 2020, we had recorded an IGR of 25.6billion Naira. And using the half-year figures, that represented a 26.4 percent increase in IGR year on year.

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“Permit me to share some of our other wins from the 2020 fiscal year. You may recall, Mr. Speaker Sir, that one of the issues I highlighted that has been facing our state’s budget is underperformance. By the end of quarter one, (Q1), 2019 budget performance was 38 percent. We were determined to increase this and had set a mark of 70 percent performance. Honourable Members of the House, although we have not yet met up with our target, our budget performance as at now is above average at 50.32 percent. We accomplished this despite the economic shock induced by the pandemic.

“Let me quickly state that our use of the Alternative Project Funding Approach (APFA), the Contractor’s Project Financing Scheme, as well as targeted loans, have gone a long way to helping us to improve our budget performance.

“This year, we are again pegging our budget performance goal at 70 percent. Since we have been able to increase by 12 per cent points in performance over 2019 thus far, despite the economic challenges we faced, an additional 20 percent points increase should be attainable.”

Governor Makinde explained that the recurrent expenditure in the 2021 Budget Proposal stands at N136,262,990,009.41, while the capital expenditure is N130,381,283,295.63, saying that the larger share of N56.3 Billion or 21 per cent has been earmarked to the education sector, because his administration considers education as the only way out of poverty.

He added that the agriculture sector will receive an allocation of N9.5 billion, which is about 3.6 percent of the Budget proposal, stating that his administration’s plan to grow the state’s economy through agribusiness remains well on course.

The governor highlighted how the administration, in the last one year, began a massive turnaround of the agriculture sector, with partnership agreement with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on the Start Them Early Programme in agribusiness and the ongoing upgrade of the former OYSADEP Headquarters, Saki, now rechristened the Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA), among others, to drive the focus on agriculture.

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The governor also said that the sum of N13.2 Billion was earmarked to the health sector, adding that the administration recorded tremendous achievements in the sector by turning the COVID-19 pandemic to an opportunity for aggressive turnaround of health facilities.

According to the governor, the government would go ahead with the revolution in the health sector with its plan to upgrade one Primary Health Care Centre across the 351 electoral Wards of the state, among other key efforts that will ensure the consummation of the works already started in reforming the health sector.

He said: “Mr. Speaker Sir, Distinguished Members of the Oyo State House of Assembly, please permit me, at this point, to present to you the Oyo State 2021 Budget Proposal. The total budgeted sum is Two Hundred and Sixty-Six Billion, Six Hundred and Forty-Four Million, Two Hundred and Seventy-Three Thousand, Three Hundred and Five Naira, Four kobo (₦266,644,273,305.04). This sum represents a 53.16 percent increase over the 2020 revised budget. Let me emphasise that the tenets of the Federation’s Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) and other development aspirations were used as a guide in the preparation of the 2021 Budget.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, I must also mention that we have been able to resolve some of the issues around moribund industries in Oyo State. As you are aware, these have been a source of worry to members of this assembly and indeed the entire people of Oyo State. We have been able to put back in business state enterprises that have been laying waste for decades.

Among these moribund industries are the Pacesetter Quarry and Asphalt Plant, Ijaiye; the Pacesetter Fruit Processing Plant in Oko; and the Agbowo Shopping Complex in Ibadan.

“It will also please you to know that we have commenced the preparation of the Twenty-Year Oyo State Development Plan (2021-2040). Oyo State has never had such an overarching blueprint. The plan, when completed, will facilitate a speedy socio-economic development with the Medium-Term Sector Strategy and Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.

“It has, once again, been my honour to present this budget proposal to you, Mr. Speaker Sir and Distinguished Honourable Members of the House. It is my prayer that you give our proposal the usual consideration in a timely manner so that implementation may commence; and Oyo State will continue on the path to accelerated development.”

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In his speech, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Ogundoyin described the 2021 Budget as pragmatic and realistic, commending the governor for ensuring the timely presentation of Appropriation and Finance Bills to the House.

This was as members of the House of Assembly, including the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Mohammed Abiodun Fadeyi; Majority and Minority Leaders, Hon. Sanjo Adedoyin and Hon. Asimiyu Alarape, respectively, as well as Hon. Wumi Oladeji severally commended the governor for different reasons bothering on good performance.

While speaking, the Speaker equally lauded the governor for the steps being taken to rebuild the state and place it on the pedestal of socio-economic growth and development, saying: “It is commendable that in the recent history of governance in Oyo State, the present administration, ably led by our diligent and highly energetic Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde has ensured that Appropriation and Finance Bills are timely presented before the House.

“This is particularly praiseworthy as it enhances the proper and meticulous monitoring and evaluation of Budget performance and prevents wasteful spending and improper execution of Government programs and projects.

“Let me assure that, as a House, we are always ready to perform our constitutional duty of law-making in particular and to also ensure that the Executive arm of Government encounters no legal impediment in the performance of its functions for the overall welfare and wellbeing of the State and its residents.”

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