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Open Letter to the President on palliatives for Nigerians - Fola Daniel Adelesi

Your Excellency,

I hope you’re keeping well and safe during these interesting times that the world is experiencing. I must acknowledge the enormous task you’re faced with at such a time as this – fighting a pandemic and at the same time trying to save an economy. It is clearly a daunting task as we have seen how difficult it can be for even a President in America to manage the same situation.

We are not America and we clearly have our peculiar situations that have their benefits and disadvantages. While this is a new experience for all nations and leaders, it is understandable that many leaders do not really understand how best to respond and help their citizens.

Notwithstanding, I have read in disbelief, the efforts of some commercial banks to explain the CBN directive for the deduction of a 50 Naira stamp duty on every naira denominated account – Current and savings – for amounts exceeding 10,000 Naira. The fact that some banks began the deduction without any notice to Nigerians shows how far we can be taken for granted in this nation with no consequences. It further reinforces the fact that even our leaders believe we will do nothing and simply accept all the decisions made against us hook, line and sinker.

Seeing that it is common place for other nations to provide traceable and organized palliatives for their citizens at a difficult time like this, it is punitive, putting it mildly, that the CBN will direct banks to deduct stamp duty on behalf of the Federal Government at such a time as this. It beats my imagination and I still haven't been able to come to terms with why a decision like this will be taken against the people when nations are thinking about what to do to help the people.

The least you can do, if you can’t provide meaningful palliatives for us at this time is to suspend some deductions and even tax related deductions as a way to help Nigerians and cushion the impact of Covid-19 on every Nigerian. Some other nations have given tax breaks. Others have exempted business owners from certain types of taxes apart from giving verifiable loans to these business owners with little hassles.

In all humility I have been in a position to send a token to a few people and I know the impact of the seemingly insignificant N50 stamp duty deductions on those who have just received a little support that they cannot get from their government. While many people have made it a habit to solicit funds from other people online, the number of people who genuinely need help went up during the pandemic and lockdown clearly because they couldn't get to their places of work or they have been laid off from their offices. Many companies can't pay their staff anymore and have had no choice than to lay off.

When people in this difficult position have to summon the courage to beg from other people, it is dehumanizing enough and it is also devastating when the little 'proceeds' of their labour will be charged by the banks for the government that did not help them.

The government needs to come to terms with the fact that this deduction is utterly insensitive and will be hard on many more Nigerians in several ways that cannot be explained. The owner of the money will be charged and the receiver of the money will be charged. Many of the people receiving this money may also live in areas where they cannot easily access ATM machines. That means they will have to pay someone at least N100 or N200 to get the cash they have just received. At this time, the leadership of this nation need to seriously empathize with the people, not only in speech, but in clear demonstration of a will to make life easier for the people.

I therefore call on Mr. President, the Vice President, The Senate President, The Speaker of the house of reps, and the CBN Governor to agree and immediately suspend the deduction of stamp duty on every account until we are out of the woods regarding Covid-19. The alternative is to direct that only accounts receiving deposits above N100,000 should be debited. This little move is a lot considering that N50 will mess up the funds of people trying to get something little just to keep hope alive. 

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