A tax expert, Mrs. Morenike Tejuade Babington-Ashaye has flayed the flaws in the Nigerian constitution that hindered the country sustainable development over the years.
Babington-Ashaye who was prior to her retirement, the Assistant Chief Inspector of Taxes, Federal Inland Revenue Department, argued that the flaws had made it impossible for the country to move forward at the pace it ought to in the comity of well-endowed nations.
In a welcome address she presented at the formal unveiling of an International Centre for Tax Research and Development (ICTRD) in Lagos, she expressed dismay that those who genuinely worked to change the status quo had met stiff opposition from political and economic actors whose business was to develop chaos and reap selfish rewards through national crisis.
According to her, these negative actors were political, economic and social terrorists who shake the very structure that promotes good governance in any society. These terrorists exist all over the world and they plant themselves in countries that are rich in natural resources. They corrupt the people in power by engaging them in flamboyant plans for development from which these terrorists are the beneficiaries. It is only the strong will of the people that can destroy them or put them back to where they belong.
Babington-Ashaye who is also the former Chairman of Ogun State Internal Revenue Service decried a situation that every aspect of nation building in our country has been dented politically, socially, and economically.
Her words: â€œMajority of our people live in poverty in the midst of plenty. Many die in the hospitals for lack of facilities and inability to pay for services or purchase medicines in government hospitals. There are so many innovations in our technical colleges and universities begging for development. We spend money in buying goods and services for which we can produce locally. We spend so much money in foreign exchange on invisible transactions through consultancy and technical services that our people are capable of providing but not given the opportunity.
â€œOur rural areas beg for development. We have places in this country where human beings and animals drink, wash their clothes and themselves in the same stream. How should we spend our tax revenue and proceeds of our natural resources? Today, we are moving towards a clean environment in political, economic and social set-up.Â
We pay taxes as citizens to government to provide a healthy environment on all these fronts. We allow government to harness our natural resources with the hope of using it to build a strong society. Therefore, it is important that we as citizens also examine areas that are begging for change and proffer solutionsâ€.
She called on the citizenry to ensure that their representatives in the National Assembly consult them on any national issues before making decisions on their behalf, even as she pointed out that the recent approval of a $5.2 billion loan for the 2017 budget which will end onÂ December 31, 2017Â was an example of a decision that should have required more inputs from the citizens.
â€œA system where the executive is the commander of thoughts, planner, and executor cannot continue as such processes have not yielded the desired results. A system where the economic benefits of this nation are placed in the hands of a few individuals is against the tenets of our Nigerian constitution,â€ she said.
According to the tax and revenue expert, we want to examine Chapter II on fundamental objectives of the 1999 constitution as amended. Which areas are structurally defective? Which areas are wrongly implemented? What do we need to change for progress? These are key areas of concern.
On why the ICTRD was set up, she said: â€œWe want to help the legislators, executives and judiciary to excel in their duties. Nobody can love this country more than Nigerians and we as citizens must be part of determining our future. Those who have been elected, selected, or employed to serve the people must do so with clean conscience and must appreciate that the opportunity is transient and that the ultimate authority and responsibility rests with the citizens. Our representatives must make the best of their position for the benefit of the people and not for any individual or group of people. As citizens, we must place our destiny in our hands and build a new nation for Nigeriansâ€.
She argued that Nigerians need to decide whether section 6 (6) c of the 1999 constitution as amended should be expunged, even as she added: â€œWe also need to decide whether the Education Tax being paid by companies should be used as a primary source for funding education or it be used as intervention as it is presently the practice. These are areas that are fundamental and must be resolvedâ€.
Babington-Ashaye who is also the Founder and President, ICTRD expressed appreciation to those who are eager to contribute towards nation building.
â€œIn everyone’s little way, they contribute towards rebuilding a nation that has been plagued with corruption and regression. I am humbled to host this gathering because it demonstrates that enough people believe that the time has come for the people to make another positive change in the history of this nation. A change that ensures that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain,â€ she said.
She promised that the communique that will be issued at the end of the roundtable organised to mark the unveiling of the ICTRD would be sent to the National Assembly and all the states House of Assembly, National Judicial Council, Chief Justice of Nigeria, state governors and chairmen of local government areas across the country.