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We have amended our conference programme to reduce activities on first day – Fowokan

We have amended our conference programme to reduce activities on first day – Fowokan

DR. TITILAYO FOWOKAN is the chairman, 22nd Annual Tax Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN). Ahead of the three-day conference, she spoke to IHEANYI NWACHUKWU (Assistant Editor) noting among other important issues that the Institute every necessary measures to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to throughout the conference.

Why did you choose to hold the 22nd Annual Tax Conference in Lagos State? Was it pre-planned from last year or due to Covid-19 pandemic?

Thank you for that question. The 22nd Annual Tax Conference (ATC) of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) had been planned since last year to take place in Lagos from 14th to 17th April 2020, at Eko Hotel & Suites, Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, before the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the whole country. The rescheduled conference will take place at the same venue from 5th and 6th November 2020, right in the heart of Lagos after a long time of using other locations.

The ATC had been held in other locations such as Akwa Ibom State (Uyo), Cross Rivers State (Tinapa), Ogun State (Abeokuta), but mostly in Abuja. Our decision to move the conference to Lagos is a strategic step to hold the conference in the centre of excellence after having a feel of other States and the FCT.

Lagos is also the location of the corporate headquarters of the Institute. Our members from the difference locations across the country will have the privilege to feel the ambience of Lagos Metropolis. Finally, our amiable President, Dame Olajumoke Moyosore Simplice is a Lagosian per excellence, and it is our pleasure to bring the conference to Lagos.

Your committee has one of the biggest roles this time –ensuring safety of participants. What’s your strategy and how prepared are you to successfully host the conference amid Covid-19 pandemic?

Covid-19 pandemic posed a great challenge for the Committee considering that we had to postpone the conference due to the pandemic that spread its net across Nigeria close to the initial scheduled date for the conference and national lockdown was declared on 30 March 2020, which is just 15 days to the initial date for the conference.

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Now that we have the lockdown lifted and Presidential Tax Force (PTF) approval to hold the conference on 4th to 6th November 2020, we have put in place measures to comply with Covid-19 protocols such as reducing the number for physical attendance by encouraging virtual participation, maintaining social distancing in the conference siting arrangements, having disinfectant spray machines at the venues to complement measures put in place by the facility owners, providing Covid-19 protective equipment (such as nose masks and hand sanitizers) as part of the conference package for all delegates. These are among other measures put in place for the conference to ensure that participants are protected throughout the conference.

Could your decision to use two venues – one for registration of participants and another for conference proper be driven by efforts to adhere to Covid-19 protocols?

Yes, this is part of our measure to adhere to Covid-19 protocols. We have amended our normal conference programme to reduce activities on the first day of the conference by repackaging our hospitality night to comply with government’s Covid-19 protocol. In order to ensure that the main conference also complies with Covid-19 protocols, we will be using the whole of the Eko Convention Centre to ensure that we have enough space to maintain social distancing for the expected number of physical participants, which has been reduced to 50percent of the capacity of the event centre.

What caliber of speakers are we expecting?

The lead paper for the conference will be taken by the Group Managing Director, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr Olakunle Alake on “Taxation and Economic Competitiveness: Imperatives for National Development”. We have Mr. Fatai Folarin, the Chief Executive and West Africa Leader of Deloitte Nigeria as one of our discussants of the lead paper. For the opening ceremony, we will be having the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-olu, as the Chief Host, the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir ElRufai, as the Keynote Speaker and the Executive Governor of Gombe State, His Excellency Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya as Special Guest.

Other notable dignitaries that will be gracing the occasion are the Honourable Minister, Finance Budget and National Planning, Dr. (Mrs.) Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Muhammed M. Nami and Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Mr Ayodele Subair, and a host of others.

Aside CITN members, what other caliber of participants from public and private sector are expected?

The Annual Tax Conference is for both members and non-members of CITN. Also, members of CITN are made up of Tax Practitioners in private practice, public sector and industry, Tax administrators and Academicians in the field of Taxation. We are also expecting foreign delegates from different countries whose attendance at the conference has been made easy by the “new normal” of virtual participation.

Our students for Professional Taxation Examinations and undergraduates of Tertiary Institutions and members of Tax Club/associations sponsored by the Institute are not left behind. We also recognise our aged members from 65 years and above, and encourage their participation at the conference.

No doubt security is important for Class A conference like this. What are you doing on this?

In terms of security, we have invited the State Security Officers to be part of this conference. We have contacted the Lagos State Police Command, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, and other

Security agencies in the State. Apart from this, we will be complementing the security measures put in place by the conference facility with other private security firms to ensure the safety of lives and property of participants throughout the conference.

What will you not like interested participants to miss at this year’s conference?

The 22nd ATC for 2020 will be starting with the celebration of the 10th year anniversary of the Society of Women in Taxation (SWIT), the female arm of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria. The anniversary seminar will be holding on 4th November 2020 at Lagoon Restaurant, Victoria Island, by 9.00 am during which notable members of the society that has contributed to the establishment and growth of the society will be honoured.

Another notable event during the opening ceremony of the conference is the launching of the new corporate identity of the Institute and unveiling of the new logo by the dignitaries present.

The technical sessions and health talk is not what anyone should miss and all participants should be eager to be part of this. We encourage all delegates for the physical attendance not to miss any of these events.

How many participants are you expecting each day of the conference?

A total of over 2,000 delegates (both foreign and across Nigeria), all physically in attendance, was initially planned for the conference before the Covid-19 lockdown on 30 March 2020 but this has now been scaled down to between 1,000 and 1,200 for the physical participation while others are encouraged to participate virtually. This is necessary to comply with the social distancing requirements of government and covid-19 protocols.

Do we foresee you leveraging technology more during this conference due to Covid-19?

Yes. We are now in the era of the new normal and the use of technology is the way forward. In as much as we would not want our foreign participants and members that would prefer to connect virtually to be deprived of the opportunity to get the benefit of the conference, our default approach is to leverage on the use of technology and social media platforms to reach all interested participants.

What will be the major attractions for this year’s Annual Tax Conference?

The mode of delivery of this year’s conference is more of panel discussion and by so doing we can have all our resource persons contribute to the sub-themes for discussion as follows: (i) African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA): What’s in it for

Nigeria? (ii) The digital economy and taxation puzzle: lessons learnt from Covid-19 Pandemic; (iii) Nexus between Tax Practice, Managing a Tax Function and Tax Administration; (iv) Designing an inclusive tax system: Citizens perception and the role of fiscal exchange; and (v) Attracting investments through taxation: Post Covid-19 Strategy. The Health Talk session will be focused on: Dealing with the Silent killers such as High blood pressure, Hepatitis, Hypertension and Pneumonia.

Other side attraction that promises to be an interesting session is the grand finale of the National Tax Quiz Competition that will be featuring students of our Tertiary Institutions that will be engaging in keenly contested tax quiz competition, with the winners going back to their Institutions with Computers, books for their library and cash prizes.

What drives your partnership with Businessday?

The CITN Charter legally placed the responsibility for regulating Tax Practice in Nigeria on the Institute. In order to enlighten our target audience on this, we reckon with media organisations that have both national and international reach and also attracted to the business community. The Institute acts in advisory capacity to the government and advocates for ease of doing business in Nigeria, coupled with the fact that we have members both in Nigeria and diaspora that supports the wide population of taxpayers in ensuring voluntary compliance with the laws and regulations of the country and international tax rules. We believe that Businessday fits into our corporate profile and partnering with the organisation will enable us achieve our mandate and foster a wider reach to our stakeholders.

Considering Covid-19 pandemic, what happens to the social aspect of your conference this year?

The climax of our conference is the Gala Night which comes up on 6th November at 4-Tees Havilah Events Centre, Victoria Island, from 4.00 pm to ensure that we observe Covid-19 protocols.

During this social event, we will be having our District presentations where all our Districts will speak the language of taxation in different formats, ranging from sons to playlets. There will also be prizes for the best performances based on the results from our panel of judges, which have been carefully selected.

Successful conclusion of the conference is worth giving praise and thanks to God and this will be expressed during the Gala Night. We have taken every measure necessary to ensure that covid-19 protocols are observed throughout the conference and in all the venues.