Nigeria, revenue poverty and taxation atrophy

Abiodun Komolafe

By Abiodun Komolafe

WHEN our forefathers came up with the wise saying that ‘the earnest wish of potters is for earth to be clay’, it was not only worthy of commendation but also no mean achievement. The beauty of the adage is that, in some 1000 years to come, it will still be relevant. So, instead of concentrating on having more wealth, the wisdom in it is learning how to be frugal and maximally productive with the little that’s available.

Simple Economics: economic activities breed taxation while taxation without representation is problematic. Generally, the mission of governments is revenue generation which practically translates to poverty on the people’s part. Impliedly, there’s poverty of revenue but taxation schemes are a-plenty. Why? While taxation is multiplying itself, revenue assurances are shrinking. So, it is more or less a case of revenue nowhere and it is a problem for the state because the state is supposed to be a basket of revenue whereas it is atrophying. 

Objective observers will agree with yours sincerely that most governments want more revenue, whereas governance-seeking and people-loving governments seek accountability. People have come to governments and said to themselves: ‘we are here to take our own portion of the national cake.’ Well, it is to show that Nigeria is in trouble and, until Nigerians come to terms with the fact that government exists only for itself, and that the largesse of the government will always go to certain people whether they (say that they) are in government or not, Nigeria won’t move forward. It is a very terrible statement but that’s the truth. 

High crime rate! Beggars everywhere! Slave-owners thriving! We are a rich country with poor people: what a paradox? The town is tough! The people are hungry and need help! But we can’t continue this way. Something must give. We must arrest the situation before it is too late. We must not forget the invisible hands and the unknown calculations of economic fate. Besides, economic injections don’t always determine the directions of economic flow. Otherwise, all inflations of the world would have been controlled or confined ASAP. 

Come to think of it, part of the reasons adduced by the Bola Tinubu-led administration for the removal of fuel subsidy was that there would be more money for the states to carry out the business of governance. So, one wonders what has become of governance in a state like Osun where Governor Ademola Adeleke has, in less than a year in office, started lamenting “cash crunch”, to the extent of suspending foreign trips for its top officials. If we may ask, what’s the total allocation to Osun from November 27, 2022 to date and how much did each beneficiary of the state government-funded foreign trips collect as estacode and associated allowances? Of course, the people deserve to know when the rain started beating them.

It is a tragedy that nobody is interested in the calculus of spending our resources, not those in government, not friends of the government. That’s why Osun wants investors but will not want to invest in research or what can generate commerce. Added to it is that the current government is running like a vehicle with no headlamp, focus or direction as to what to do. As a matter of fact, it has no policy statement or standpoint; and no coordination at all. Otherwise, aren’t there opportunities in Osun beyond gold mining, which can be developed to the level of generating income for the state? The same thing goes for other parts of the country.

Without doubt, what we need is a new thinking. It is the general thought and it is correct. God is not going to recreate the world. So, it is either we discover it or make use of it. In terms of mineral resources, it was created when the wide, wild, world of war was created, with an amount of resources maybe yet to be discovered, or will ever be discovered by man before the end of the world. Therefore, it is a question of vision on the part of the leadership. That Nigeria has been a victim of bad leadership is not only a terrible equation but also valid statement. It is our problem and it is a double-edged sword. At the national level, everybody wants to go to the East to refine crude. This terrible thing, which brought along with it wealth as well as the repudiation of wealth and other terrifying battles of life, is also a double-edged sword. 

The issue really is that Nigeria must develop; and, for Nigeria to develop, pieces of Nigeria must learn the philosophy of development. Pure and simple! Government should allow free hands to run the economy. There should be no compulsion of free flow and there should be no repression of the process. Once that is done, free economy is assured and unhindered development is guaranteed. Nigerians are shouting ‘Tinubu’, but Tinubu is just one man from Lagos. So, let a Zamfaran be thinking of developing Zamfara State and … Nigeria; and ditto for an Akwa Ibomite who must be thinking of developing, essentially Akwa Ibom State, then Nigeria. Until we are able to transform our thought processes to that frame of mind, the country will continue to be challenged.

Wait, unless there is an inflow of solutions elsewhere or a lifeline economic prosperity that flows into a country’s economy from somewhere else, Nigeria must undergo a turbulent period, one time at a time. The actual thing is to ask for a new orientation for the entire country and, this time around, it is more about orientation and purpose on the part of the leadership and expectations on the part of the followership. Leadership has to be tasked. It has to be focused and responsible. Our challenge as Nigerians is that we cannot afford to be careful because we do not even have the knowledge. 

As things stand, Nigeria is in dire need of goals-targeted and goals-delivered leadership. So, let our leaders swallow their pride and make Nigeria work. Promises of a better tomorrow for dear country are sweet words to the ears but let them push narratives and characterizations that can first and foremost help put food on the table of the masses. Let the government evaluate the people’s needs with a view to putting in place lifesaving programmes. That’s why the soon-to-be resuscitated National Homegrown School Feeding Programme by the Tinubu-led administration is a step in the right direction. According to Yetunde Adeniji, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on School Feeding, the Programme would “cater for over 10 million pupils across the country” and that it would “ensure that no child in each public school is left behind.” In her words, “the school feeding initiative under the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda is targeting pupils from primary one to three across Nigeria. It resonates with the sentiment that every child deserves the opportunity to flourish and contribute to the nation’s development.”

Lastly, congratulations to Zacch Adedeji, for the confirmation of his appointment as Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) by the Senate. It’s no doubt a call to duty, for the tasks before Nigeria’s Tax Chief and other handlers of the country’s fragile economy are enormous. From the East to the West, and from the North to the South, they deserve Nigerians’ support to succeed in that area of governance, because tax evaders will see and treat them as enemies while indulgence on government’s part will only spell deepening poverty for the populace.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

A.

-November 06, 2023 @ 08:03 GMT |