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MultiChoice Vs FIRS: Tax Tribunal’s Strange Flip-flop

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By Bashir Oyintiloye

Over the last three months, the Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) has been among the headlines, notably for the tax disputes between pay television service provider, MultiChoice Nigeria, its parent company, MultiChoice Africa Holdings, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

It is a safe bet that the TAT has the attention of the business and investment communities locked on it, as it carries enormous implications. 

It is unlikely to be otherwise, particularly with the wildly different rulings it delivered in very similar matters it ruled on.

The most recent, delivered in Abuja on 26 October, saw the tribunal dismiss the appeal of MultiChoice Africa Holdings against an alleged $342million Value Added Tax bill given to it by the FIRS.

The TAT, in delivering its ruling, upheld the objection of the FIRS to the appeal of MultiChoice Africa Holdings, stating that the company had neglected to comply with Order 3 Rule 6 of the TAT (Procedure) Rules, 2021, which were issued by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Shamsuna Zainab Ahmed in June but did not become public knowledge until late in September.

Order 3 Rule 6 of the new TAT rules requires an appellant to pay half of the disputed assessment as security deposit before it could file an appeal before the tribunal. It also requires the appellant to file an affidavit verifying the payment, which TAT also ruled that MultiChoice Africa Holdings failed to comply with.

Curiously, a week before, the TAT, sitting in Lagos, in the appeal filed by MultiChoice Nigeria, had ruled in favour of the appellant, dismissing the FIRS’ objection to the continuation of the appeal. The Nigerian subsidiary had filed an appeal against the alleged tax liability of N1.8 trillion issued to it by the FIRS. On 24 August, the tribunal, relying on Paragraph 15 (7) Fifth Schedule of the FIRS Establishment Act, directed MultiChoice Nigeria to pay a security deposit for its appeal to be heard. The FIRS interpreted the ruling to mean that MultiChoice Nigeria should pay N900 billion, 50 per cent of the disputed assessment, for the appeal to be heard.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on 23 September, MultiChoice Nigeria argued that it had complied with the tribunal’s ruling and Paragraph 15 (7) of the FIRS Act via the payment of N8 billion in two tranches.

Paragraph 15 (7) of the FIRS Act gives the tribunal power to direct an appellant, in certain circumstances, to make a security deposit for the continuation of an appeal. pay 50 percent of the tax paid the previous year plus 10 percent mark-up as security before prosecuting an appeal.

The FIRS, however, urged the TAT to discontinue the hearing of the appeal and rule against the company if it failed to show proof of full compliance with the directive to pay N900 billion, 50 percent of the N1.8 trillion tax assessment, for the years under review.

The TAT adjourned till 20 October and on the day, it dismissed the FIRS’ objection to the appeal.

“It is obvious that the appellant has not only complied with the orders of this court but has also provided sufficient evidence before this tribunal that they are credible and ready to pursue this matter with all sense of responsibility and seriousness. It is only fair and just that they are given the privilege to do so,” ruled the tribunal.

The tribunal also disagreed with the FIRS that MultiChoice Nigeria was required to pay half of the assessment for all the years under review, ruling that the FIRS Act explicitly says the “preceding-year”, not “years.”

I have found it mystifying, dangerous even, that the tribunal sang from different hymn sheets, relying on the new TAT rules for one ruling and the FIRS Act for the other. As tax and legal experts have pointed out, the new TAT rules-a body of subsidiary legislations-cannot override the provisions of an act.  The blanket 50 per cent payment prescribed by the new tax tribunal procedures is inconsistent with the FIRS Act, which lists the conditions under which a directive on deposit may be issued. The tribunal, states the section, may direct the payment of security deposit if the FIRS proves that an appellant has, for the year of assessment, failed to file returns or deems the appeal an abuse of the appeal process or it is expedient to require the appellant to pay an amount as security for prosecuting the appeal. 

If any of these conditions are present, the section states that the tribunal may adjourn the hearing and order the appellant to deposit with the FIRS an amount “on account of the tax charged by the assessment under appeal, equal to the tax charged upon the appellant for the preceding year of assessment or one half of the tax charged by the assessment under appeal, whichever is the lesser plus a sum equal to ten percent of the said deposit”.

Former Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), was quoted in the media as describing Order 3 Rule 6 as akin to a forced admission of liability before actual adjudication of the dispute.

 “This will amount to forced admission of liability before adjudication of dispute contrary to our justice system of fair hearing and equality before the law,” he said.

Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL) Mr. Monday Ubani, expressed similar sentiments, saying the new rules are at variance with the grain of rationality and the country’s legal jurisprudence. 

“It is an affront to the rights of fair hearing and access to justice guaranteed by the constitution of Nigeria. I have personally written to the Minister of Finance over this issue and highlighted the dangers of the Rules, which are capable of stifling businesses and sending a wrong signal to prospective investors,” Ubani stated.

The glaring inconsistency of the tribunal’s last ruling with the substantive legislation is a curious one. In addition to being unjust, it also carries the potential to injure the economic well-being of the country. The new tribunal rules effectively empower tax authorities to come up with whimsical assessments and prevent the taxpayer from appealing. The latter will create cash flow problems for businesses, suffocating them, and making the country’s investment environment unappealing to domestic and foreign investors.

Oyintiloye, investor and public commentator, writes from Ibadan

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Dangote Wins ECOWAS’ Manufacturing Brand Of The Year Award

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DANGOTE WINS ECOWAS’ MANUFACTURING BRAND OF THE YEAR AWARD

…Cement, Sugar win Brands of the Decade

Olushola Okunlade Writes

Africa’s largest business conglomerate, Dangote Industries Limited has been adjudged the Outstanding Indigenous Conglomerate of the Decade, carting home eight different Economic Community of West African States Manufacturing Excellence Awards (EMEA) in the process.

In the same vein, two subsidiaries of Conglomerate, Dangote Cement Plc, and Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc also received awards from the renowned Marketing Edge magazine’s Brands of the Decade.

While the EMEA awards were given by Nigeria’s Daily Independent Newspaper and its BusinessDay Ghana counterpart, the Brand of the Decade for Dangote Group subsidiaries were received at the 10th edition of the leading brand magazine, Marketing Edge’s 2022 Summit and Award Night themed “Technological explosion in the digital Age – Imperatives for the marketing communications industry”, which held in Lagos.

It was a gale of accolades as the Dangote brand was named number one brand by all standards with its Sugar and Cement brands as the two brands, which company has contributed tremendously to the infrastructure development not only in Nigeria but Africa in the last 10 years.

Speaking at the event, Mr. John Ajayi, Publisher/CEO of Marketing Edge Publications described this year’s awards as one with a special attraction and uniqueness, designed to reboot, restart and re-energize the social, intellectual, and entrepreneurial landscape of the Nigerian Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC).

While eulogising the management of Dangote Group for the business strategy that has helped in positioning the brand well ahead of others in the industry, he explained that the award event was organised to “celebrate the best and brightest brands”

According to him, the award to Dangote brands are in recognition of its leadership and domination in the various market segments and categories, adding that the recognised brands are brands that “continue to make the Nigerian consumers happy and satisfied”.

The Marketing Edge publisher, while giving the business trajectory of the past 19 years, saluted the various winners and their managements for their roles in making Nigeria proud, citing an instance of how Dangote Cement and Dangote Sugar have made Nigeria self-sufficient in cement and sugar production.

In his response to the new awards, Mr. Anthony Chiejina, Group Chief, Branding & Communications Officer, Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), said the Group’s brand remains at the forefront of African enterprise and that the brand, since its inception, has touched the lives of many by providing their basic needs.

Expressing gratitude to the management of Marketing Edge publications for the recognition, Mr. Chiejina explained that consumers are loyal to brands that are purposeful and that is “why we have designed a strategy that creates that purpose.” “Because we understand the power of brands, we have positioned all our businesses to be consumer-centric so that it can inspire millions of people behind it”, Mr. Chiejina stated.

The ECOWAS awards won by the company included ECOWAS Manufacturing Company of the Year; ECOWAS Manufacturing Company CEO of the Year; ECOWAS Manufacturing CSR Company of the Year; ECOWAS Cement Manufacturing Company of the Year; ECOWAS Sugar Manufacturing Company of the Year; ECOWAS Salt Manufacturing Company of the Year and ECOWAS Fertiliser Manufacturing Company of the Year.

The awards won during Marketing Edge Magazine’s 2022 summit included Outstanding Indigenous Conglomerate won by the Dangote Industries Limited, Cement Brand of the Decade, and Sugar Brand of the Decade.

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World Champion, Tobi Amusan, Now Glo Ambassador

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World Champion, Tobi Amusan, now Glo Ambassador

Olushola Okunlade Writes

Nigeria’s Digital and Telecommunications services provider, Globacom, has announced the appointment of the current AfricanCommonwealth, and World Champion in the 100m hurdles, Tobi Amusan, as its latest Brand Ambassador.

She was unveiled to the media at a ceremony held on Thursday, September 29, 2022, at the company’s headquarters, Mike Adenuga Towers, in Victoria Island, Lagos.

World Champion, Tobi Amusan, now Glo Ambassador
Tobi Amusan, Glo Ambassador.

Tobi became the first Nigerian world champion in an athletic event when she won the gold medal in the100 meters hurdles event at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. She set a new world record of 12.12 seconds in the semifinal and followed this up with 12.06 seconds in the final to take the gold medal.

Speaking at the event, Globacom’s Regional Manager, Sales, Lagos, Lawrence Odediran, said that the company’s decision to make Amusan its ambassador was not just to reward her for her sterling accomplishments, but also to promote the growth of sports in Nigeria and encourage the country’s teeming youths to aspire toward realizing their dreams by looking up to the new ambassador as a mentor.

“At Globacom, we are very proud of what Tobi Amusan has achieved in her athletics career. She is an embodiment of the Nigerian spirit of resilience, hard work, and enterprise which enabled her to excel irrespective of the enormity of the challenges she encountered in her quest for success. These are qualities that Globacom identifies with”, Odediran stated.

World Champion, Tobi Amusan, now Glo Ambassador

He explained that Tobi Amusan has become a testimony to the famous saying by Malcom X that “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today”, adding that “she prepared very hard in the previous years and today belongs to her.”

“Tomorrow is also waiting for other determined Nigerian and African youths who begin their preparations today. We, therefore, urge them not to be discouraged by present challenges, but to continue to strive to realize their dreams”, he concluded.

Speaking at the event, a very delighted Tobi Amusan thanked Globacom for appointing her as its ambassador. She promised to be a good representative of the company and the youths at all times. The new ambassador also assured the company that she would continue to project a positive image of the brand across the world. “I am proud to be associated with Glo as its brand ambassador. It is a proudly Nigerian company doing great things and empowering Nigerians. I am grateful to the Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, Jr., for giving me this amazing opportunity,” she declared.

A two-time African Games champion in the event,  Amusan who also won back-to-back African and Commonwealth titles in 2018 and 2022 in the 100m hurdles event wrapped up her long and successful 2022 campaign by competing in the 100m hurdles at the Zurich Diamond League event, which she won in 12.29 seconds.

The event was attended by top sporting personalities, the media, and the management of Globacom Limited.

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Top 50 Brands: Dangote Emerges Most Valuable For Fifth Consecutive Year

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World Water Day: Dangote, Others Make Case For GroundWater Protection

Olushola Okunlade Writes

Dangote Industries Limited (DIL), has emerged as the Most Valuable Brand in Nigeria for a record 5th year in a row at the outcome of the 2022 corporate brand evaluation, conducted by the leading brand and marketing research firm, TOP 50 BRANDS NIGERIA.

Dangote emerged top with an aggregate score of 83.7 Brand Strength Measurement (BSM) Index score. This is followed by MTN, Globacom, and Access Bank in fourth place.

Others among the top 10 are Airtel Nigeria, Coca-Cola, Zenith Bank, GTCO, First Bank, and UBA at fifth to tenth positions respectively.

The annual top brands’ evaluation report which is now like a report card, with which top corporate brands have an independent opinion about their brand performance, from the consumers’ points of view has also become a sort of ‘bragging’ right and a source of pride for the brands that made the top 50 league table, particularly, those that took the lead.

In a press statement released after the public presentation, the rating firm said “The annual top brand evaluation is a qualitative, non-financial estimation of the value of top corporate brands in the country. A measure of consumers’ perceptions and how positive or otherwise towards a brand, and how this affects its overall strength, using the Brand Strength Measurement (BSM)index, a model that tests a brand’s ability to deliver on its promise to the consumers from the consumers’ points of view.

Chief Corporate Communications and Branding officer of Dangote Group, Anthony Chiejina said: “Dangote’s emergence, for the fifth year consecutively, did not come as a surprise to industry watchers. The brand has steadily increased its influence in many African nations through the establishment of cement factories. It operates in about 13 African nations making it one of the most visible, recognized, and admired brands in Africa”

In his address to the owners and promoters of the top brands, TOP 50 BRANDS NIGERIA CEO, Taiwo Oluboyede said, “Brand has become a critical differentiator that helps consumer’s choice and also separates the top corporate organisations from the others and even much more. It is also consumers’ buying choice justification” He likened the task of building a formidable and continuously strong brand to a flower, he said “When you plant a flower, you keep watering and pruning it to grow and until it blossoms, and this you do for its lifetime” If you omit or forget to prune or water, regardless of how beautiful it is at the beginning, it dies. The same is applicable to brands. That is why we have seen brands that dropped from the 50-league table in recent times, while new ones emerge.”

He said further “So, the responsibility lies with the owners and promoters to consistently maintain compelling propositions and live up to their promises. As we all know, it’s not just about making a proposition, but living up to its demands and consistently so. This is what makes a top brand.”

For the 2022 evaluation, Nigerian-owned brands again dominated the top 10, with 7 brands. Dangote leading the pack, followed by Globacom, Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTCO, First Bank and UBA

Five brands among the top ten are banks while 3 are telecoms. Nine of the top ten were among the top 10 last year, with Access Bank making a dramatic leap to fourth place, effectively topping the Banking and Financial Services Categories.

Four brands, maintained their previous year’s position among the top 10, while six of the top 10 had maintained top 10 positions for 7 years consecutively. Overall, 28 or 56 per cent of the 50 Brands are multinational brands, while 22 or 44 percent are Nigerian. PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc emerged as the highest gainer this year by moving up 10 places, from 38 last year to 28th position. Rite Foods, another Nigerian brand emerged as the first entrant into the annual brand ranking this year.

Fifteen (15) brands maintained their 2021 position- these are (Dangote, MTN Nigeria, Globacom, First Bank, Nestle Nigeria Plc, Guinness Nig Plc, Nigerian Breweries, Seven-up Bottling Company, Julius Berger, FMN Plc, Chi Limited, Oando Plc, Energies, P&G, Axa-Mansard and TGI.

Furthermore, the Banking & Financial Services category had the highest entries with – 11 brands, that is, 22%.  Access Bank topped the category, and consumer goods followed with – 8 brands. That is 16%. Dufil Prima Foods topped the list.

Conglomerates had 7 brands. that is 14% with Dangote Group on top, beverages came at fourth place with 6 brands. That is 12%. Coca-Cola topped the category, Oil & Gas and the Insurance categories had 3 brands each, amounting the 6% each. Oando Plc and AIICO Insurance topped them respectively and electronics, mass media, and Building & Construction Services returned with 2 brands each which is 4% for each. Samsung, Multichoice, and Julius Berger topped their respective categories.

Meanwhile, agriculture and automobile have 1 brand each, an equivalent of 2% of the total top brands. Olam International and Toyota Nigeria topped their individual group.

In his contribution to the annual top brands’ evaluation, Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, Chairman Proshare Nigeria said “First, it is commendable to see that in the evaluation process used in ranking the brands, professionals such as Chief Marketing Officers and Head of Corporate Communications and Reputation Managers. Eight (8) companies listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) made the list of the top 10 brands in Nigeria. With the thorough evaluation process and degree of attention to detail evident in the report, the list indeed provides a true and fair representation of top brands by strength, popularity, and potential in Nigeria.

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