What’s Going On: Fuel Scarcity in Nigeria, Taxation in Ghana & More

Notable headlines from around the continent

“What’s Going On” Tallies Notable News Headlines From Across The Continent — The Good, The Bad, And The Horrible — As A Way Of Ensuring That We All Become A More Sagacious African Generation. With This Column, We’re Hoping To Disseminate The Latest Happenings In Our Socio-Political Climate From Across The Continent, Whilst Starting A Conversation About What’s Important For Us To All Discuss. From Political Affairs To Socio-Economic Issues, ‘What’s Going On’ Will Discuss Just That. 

Nigerian Government seeks patience amidst fuel scarcity

For decades, episodes of fuel scarcity have plagued Nigeria. Fortnightly, the country faces a new bout of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) scarcity, worsening the living conditions of citizens—as if that was already challenging. In the past few weeks, the scarcity of PMS, colloquially referred to as petrol or fuel, has effected long, gruelling queues at filling stations, arbitrary hikes in the price ranging from one fuelling station to the next, as well as accidents from purchasing adulterated fuel from the black market.

According to reports, the scarcity was caused due to the importation of bad PMS—contaminated with methanol—into the country, however, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) put out a statement claiming that the situation would be stabilised within a few days. Currently, though, access to petrol hasn’t been any easier, with ongoing presence of queues and price hikes. In addition to powering vehicular movement, petrol is used by many Nigerian households and businesses to power generators that serve as alternative means of electricity to the country’s everlasting, epileptic power supply. With general groans of the power situation being much worse during this bout of petrol scarcity, Nigerians are really going through it.

In a recent statement, the Federal government of Nigeria sympathized with its citizens and called for patience as they make moves to find an enduring solution to the problem. Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, made the plea on Sunday in an announcement by his Senior Adviser (Media & Communications), Horatius Egua. “In the last weeks, Nigerians have grappled with fuel scarcity not because of the absence of supply of products but due to inspection failure, which allowed adulterated products into the country. This is regrettable, and the Federal Government sympathizes with the citizenry over the unforeseen hardship, occasioned by the inevitable scarcity. Let me once again appeal to Nigerians to be patient with the government in finding lasting solutions to the crisis,” Sylva said.

Also, the NNPC recently stated that it is expecting 2.3 billion litres of PMS by the end of February, perhaps giving a clear path to the return of relative normalcy.

More taxes in Ghana

Last November, during its 2022 budget presentation, the Ghanaian federal government announced the impending introduction of an electronic transaction levy, charging 1.75 percent on all electronic transactions above GHs 100. The announcement immediately proved controversial, drawing backlash from many Ghanaians who are already weary of the economic woes and corruption allegations under Nana Akufo-Addo’s administration.

Last August, thousands took to the streets of Accra to protest the country’s uninspiring economic situation, which has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement clearly incensed many who feel the E-levy is a tone deaf measure by the federal government, citing its potential to worsen economic inequality, especially as it is yet to address concerns on corruption and misappropriation of public funds. The proposed tax hasn’t been passed into law yet, proving to be divisive in Ghana’s parliament, which broke out into a brawl last December while the deputy speaker stood to vote. While the tax hasn’t proved popular amongst the general populace and legislative arm, the federal government sees this as an avenue to improve revenue by leveraging on the increased popularity of mobile money over the last half-decade, projecting to rake in GHc 6.96 billion in 2022 alone.

As the debates on the E-levy continue, with the government even scaling back to 1.5 percent, the Ghanaian Revenue Authority (GRA) has laid its sights on making GHc 2.7 billion from imposing taxes on betting, gaming and e-commerce companies, this year. The commissioner for Domestic Tax Revenue Division of the GRA, Edward Appenteng Gyamerah stated that the GRA is rolling out a policy to enable it effectively receive a fair share of tax of companies that fall under this umbrella, both domestic and foreign entities with a presence in Ghana. This new tax policy should take effect from the second half of this year.

With an economy in desperate need of a boost, as well as a pile of external debt, the Ghanaian federal government clearly sees taxation as its best means of revenue. However, not only is this method increasing resentment among citizens, it might dampen Ghana’s reputation as the ideal location for foreign investment in West Africa. Also, without wholesome oversight and accountability, these taxes will only fuel the corruption that’s already allegedly rampant amongst public office holders.

Nigerian air strikes reportedly kills and injures children in Niger

Nigeria’s battle against insurgency has been a long drawn one. Since its first attack in 2009, Boko Haram has upended the stability in the country, especially in Northern Nigeria, killing thousands and leaving over 3 million people displaced from their homes. To this day the onslaught against insurgency still rages, and amidst all of this, civilians are also vulnerable to fire from the Nigerian military.

According to multiple sources, the Nigerian air force has killed and wounded several children in neighbouring Niger in an airstrike, possibly aimed at insurgent forces. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Chaibou Aboubakar, governor of Niger’s Maradi region said, “There was a mistake with the Nigerian strikes on the border that resulted in victims on our territory in the village of Nachade.” He estimated that the victims were 12 children, seven dead and five wounded. According to the governor, “the parents were attending a ceremony and the children were probably playing when the strikes” hit them. Four children died instantly and three others succumbed “to their injuries while being transported to hospital.”

The Nigerian military has neither confirmed nor denied the launching airstrike and causing these casualties, but a military spokesman has stated that a probe was underway.

French military exits Mali after almost a decade

In 2013, France sent 5,000 troops to Mali at the government’s request, following increased insurgent activities by al-Qaeda-linked Islamists in the country’s northern region. Last Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron announced his decision to withdraw French troops from Mali, following soured relationships with the current military government and the Malian populace. A linked European special forces task force, Takuba, will also withdraw from the country.

In its entrance nearly a decade ago, France’s government said it wanted to help in protecting the Malian populace and the 6,000 French citizens living there, however, the insurgency and armed rebellion has only worsened in that time period. Also, deteriorating relations with Mali’s military leaders, who seized power in a coup in 2020—the second coup in 8 years—catalysed France’s exit. The ruling junta had reneged on an agreement to organise democratic election in February, and proposed holding power till 2025, to the public disagreement of the French ambassador, Joel Meyer, who was given 72 hours to leave Mali after his comments.

President Macron has stated that the withdrawal of French troops and Takuba will take four to six months, during which time there would be fewer operations against jihadists. In its own retort, the Malian junta has demanded the immediate exit of French troops, instead of the drawn out plan. This was met with positive reactions from many Malians, who took to the streets celebrating the exit announcement with symbolic brooms. Currently, it is alleged that Mali has sought alliance with a Russian mercenary group in the fight against insurgency, a move that analysts claim will have profound effect on the anti-terrorism situation in the Sahel region, since the majority of French military support was focused in Mali.

[Featured Image Credits: BusinessdayNG]