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Adewusi-led NIPOST in Covid-19 era: Imperative of FG’s attention

By Emeka Oraetoka

“They’re handing out packages for Amazon and other Internet companies, and every time they bring a package, they lose money on it,” Trump said on Friday. He also accused post office officials of being “very cozy” with big online merchants.

“If they don’t raise the price of the service they give, which is a tremendous service, and they do a great job and the postal workers are fantastic — but this thing’s losing billions of dollars,” Trump said.

“If they don’t raise the price I’m not signing anything, so they’ll raise the price so that they become maybe even profitable but so they lose much less money, okay?”— Donald Trump’s threat to block $10 billion emergency COVID-19 loan approved by Congress for US Postal Service, Washington Post, April 24, 2020.

Emeka Oraetoka
The author, Emeka Oraetoka

Ordinarily, Jeff Bezos’s Amazon and other Internet companies would not have been object for which President Donald Trump would attack US Postal Service, but because COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity for Amazon, in particular to post handsome profit despite lockdown, and US Postal Service whose infrastructure, enables Amazon to stay comfortably afloat, had to depend on government for survival.

In a nutshell, here is the breakdown of Amazon’s financial standing in the first fiscal quarter of 2020: revenue of $75.5 billion, net income of $2.5 billion, and earnings per share of $5.01. The success story of Amazon is particularly interesting because it came about when big companies in US are struggling to stay afloat. The point being made here is, without US Postal Service, Amazon would have been struggling too.

But why would US Congress approve a whopping $10 billion emergency loan for the US Postal Service at this corona-virus pandemic period? The reasons are simple. Without efficient and effective Postal Service, the masses cannot feel the impact of government as the cost of mails and parcels service, will be out of their reach.

Well-funded Postal Service enhances robust economic activities, particularly e-economic activities. As the representatives of the people, members of the Congress are aware of the implication of a troubled US Post in this era of COVID-19 pandemic, to the masses as the Post remains the best outlet through which essential goods can affordably get to the masses, while respecting the lockdown protocols.

Advancement in ICT which encourages online shopping would have been meaningless, if the cost of transporting parcel to its destination is high, so, US Post’s infrastructure becomes handy here.

There is no doubt that Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, and Amazon’s relationship with the US Postal Service accounts for at least, 2/3 of his wealth. By implication, Federal Government must pay attention to Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), if actually she wants to leverage digital technology to drive the economy.

Besides, in this era of COVID-19 pandemic, the Postal Service has automatically become a veritable platform for driving economic activities, as a result of social distancing protocol. So far, Dr Adewusi-led NIPOST has done extremely well in the area of making its infrastructure available for even distribution of palliatives to Nigerians.

As an agency in the front-line of activity, in terms of distribution of essentials, it is expected that with more government attention and support, the Post will surely produce Jeff Bezoses in Nigeria.

It has become imperative for Dr Adewusi-led NIPOST to come out with strategy to identify online supermarkets, operating in each and every geopolitical zone in Nigeria, with a view of going into strategic alliance with them, for easy and uninterrupted flow of e-economic activity via NIPOST.

Since COVID-19 pandemic has ushered a new normal in the way business is done all over world, federal government can no longer drag her foot on the repositioning of NIPOST. It has become a task that must be done.

Unlike in US case where the Congress approved $10 billion emergency COVID-19 fund for the country’s Post, government may provide thirty billion (N30) Naira emergency fund for NIPOST, to be partly sourced from the 4% commission on stamp duty collection and loan from stamp duty proper.

This money will be used to rehabilitate and furnish NIPOST offices nationwide. Part of the money will be utilized in training staffs so that they can be up to speed with modern Postal activity, particularly as it relate to COVID-19 era.

Since it has been comprehensively proven that Federal Inland Revenue (FIRS) has no business in collecting stamp duty on behalf of federal government, providing NIPOST with COVID-19 emergency funding which the agency urgently needs now will not be a problem.

For emphasis sake, stamp duty is a special tax that involves the sale of N50 adhesive stamp which NIPOST is the custodian. And the law explicitly stated that any transaction from one thousand and above attracts a N50 stamp.

In this type of tax (law), FIRS has no right to it because the tax element is embedded in a stamp. Just like in Customs and Excess duties, the Customs has exclusive right to it.

This writer is still wondering why FIRS has not made any noise about Custom duty being collected by Customs on behalf of federal government, since they believe FIRS is the only agency of government that collects tax on behalf of government.

In spite, of incontrovertible evidence that NIPOST is the fit and proper agency that collects stamp duty on behalf of government, FIRS appears to be engaging in shadow boxing over which agency should do that.

Only on May 29, 2020, one Abdulahi Ismaila Ahmed, writing in The Nation newspaper, with caption “FIRS: The burden of leadership, either naively or mischievously listed stamp duty as one of the tax the agency collects on behalf of government.

Although, the article in question, apparently sought to put the record straight on allegation of nepotism leveled against the executive chairman of FIRS, Mohammed Nami. The author of the article labored so much in exonerating his boss of wrong doing in assembling his management team.

It will be recalled that the FIRS boss has been accused of tribalism and ethnicity in the agency. According to reports, some directors in the agency were removed on tribal and ethnic basis. So, in trying to defend or refute the allegation of nepotism against Mohammed Nami, Abdulahi Ahmed, made a terrible Freudian slip.

Here is excerpt in Ahmaed’s article that made nonsense of his rather brilliant defence of his sponsor’s action in FIRS: —Automation solutions have been put in place to ensure adequate remittance of Value Added Tax (VAT) and Stamp Duty in close coordination with relevant stakeholders. —.

One would have expected him to know that some categories of tax are collected by specialized agencies, but he probably elected to be clever by half.

For instance, deed of partnership or assignment is usually authenticated by the affixing of adhesive Seal (Stamp Duty) on the deed document, which attracts a fee. This type of tax is collected by the court (Judiciary) on behalf of government.

Excise duty is a kind of tax, customs collects for federal government. And of course, stamp duty is a tax government gets from the sale of stamp by NIPOST and is usually affixed on transaction that is up to, or above N1000. The question remains, is Abdulahi Ahmed not aware of these categories of tax?

Apparently, the world may not go back on the old ways of interaction, no thanks to COVID-19. The new business interaction occasioned by corona-virus pandemic has made it possible for government all over the world to make massive investment in their Postal establishments.

Nigeria is not left out in this vital investment, particularly, in physical infrastructure rehabilitation and haulage. To this end, a repositioned NIPOST will go a long way in energizing e-commerce and ensures smooth transition to proper e-economy drive in Nigeria.

Emeka Oraetoka; Information Management Consultant & Researcher; wrote in from Abuja; e-mail: giltsdaimension@gmail.com; GSM: 08056031187, 09039094636

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