At Tax Conference, Sanwo-Olu, Ahmad Sokoto, Amosun, Others Seek Greater Efforts to Boost Internally Generated Revenues

•Zulum, auditor-general allege unbridled corruption in tax administration, say system lack of transparency, accountability

James Emejo in Abuja

Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, alongside his counterparts from Sokoto and Borno States yesterday emphasised the need to make the country’s tax system more transparent and accountable to Nigerians to boost confidence and voluntary compliance.

Also, former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, said the country must depart from funding national and sub-national budgets from borrowing by committing to growing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) while Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, criticised the inefficiencies and corruption in tax administration.

The stakeholders spoke at the opening of the 26th Annual Tax Conference organized by the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), with the theme, “Sustainable Tax Culture and Economic Roadmap for Nation Building”, in Abuja, where the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Dr. Sakirat Madein, further challenged the tax professionals to do more to boost the country’s non-oil revenues.

Sanwo-Olu said building a tax culture that is sustainable, required concerted efforts on the part of the government to be transparent, accountable, and efficient in tax administration.

He said taxpayers needed to see that their contributions are being used effectively for public services and infrastructural development.

Represented by his Special Adviser on Taxation and Revenue, Mr. Abdul -Kabir Opeyemi Ogungbo, the governor said the theme of the conference was apt and timely given that Nigeria, like many other nations, is currently facing significant economic challenges.

He said building a strong and sustainable future through a robust tax system that fosters economic growth and development had become inevitable.

He however, urged the taxpayer to have a shift in mindset, pointing out that paying taxes should not be seen as a burden, but as an investment in the collective future.

Sanwo-Olu said, “We must all understand the crucial role taxes play in building a better Nigeria for ourselves and for generations to come.

“The theme also highlights the need for a clear economic roadmap which should take note of the architecture of our developmental ideologies as they are designed to provide the government with the necessary resources to cater for the social needs of its citizens, therefore we need a tax system that incentivizes investment, job creation, and economic diversification.

“We need to explore innovative ways to expand the tax base, while fostering a business environment that allows our economy to thrive. The good news is that Nigeria is already taking positive steps in these directions. The recent efforts to streamline state-level taxes and the focus on integrating the growing remote workforce into the tax net are commendable initiatives.”

According to him, a thriving tax system is not just about collecting revenue, but empowering Nigerians to be active participants in nation-building.

The governor said, “By ensuring a system that is transparent, efficient, and fosters a sense of shared responsibility, we can unlock Nigeria’s true economic potential.”

“The CITN plays a vital role in fostering this vital shift. Your commitment to professional excellence and education is instrumental in ensuring a tax system that is fair, efficient, and promotes economic development.

“I am confident that the discussions that will be held during this conference will pave the way for a brighter future, one where a robust tax culture fuels sustainable economic growth and propels Nigeria towards a future of shared prosperity.”

However, Amosun who declared the conference open, said borrowing to fund the budgets was not the way to go amid the current national economic challenge when “our nation and its constituent states and local governments are going through very difficult times and finding it hard to provide for its teeming populace, acceptable standards of living, employment with the growing population of youths, infrastructure and basic amenities that will make life more meaningful”.

This came as the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Shaakaa Chira, also said the country’s tax system was plagued by instances of tax evasion especially by the upper class, and inability of the administrators to properly account for taxes collected.

Zulum, who was represented by the Deputy Governor of Borno State, Umar Kadafur, noted that while tax revenues remained an important fiscal tool for economic development, poverty alleviation and investments among others, the country is yet to have a resemblance of a good tax system.

He said the system is currently marked by reported culture of tax evasion and avoidance, coupled with the inability of tax authorities to tax the shallow economy which is exemplified by low level of revenue.

He said there are every indication that the country’s tax system is still evolving, adding that it is further characterized by multiplicity of taxes, lack of transparency, and complexity of tax laws, among others.

He said to many taxpayers, the fundamental principles of governance had been defeated while the moral obligations to pay taxes no longer exist.

While calling for critical reforms, he lamented what he called manipulation and connivance of multinationals with tax administration to short-change the system, adding that this represented one of the hallmarks of corruption in both the oil and governance system.

The Borno State governor further berated the alleged political protection of tax evaders both in public and private sectors as well as protection of individuals and businesses related to political parties which he termed as most pronounced tax infractions in the country.

He added that there had been lack of transparency and accountability by tax administrators for financial gains while the oil sector is riddled with corruption, making it difficult to tax it fairly.

In his remarks, Governor of Sokoto State, Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto, said the conference will greatly assist in exploring innovative ways of improving revenue generation in the country.

He said the economic and revenue challenges had made it difficult for governments at all levels to implement their people-oriented programmes, thus the need for the government to devise a means for more funds to provide the dividends of democracy to the people.

The governor said taxation remained a veritable source of resource mobilization for the government adding that his administration would work with CITN to boost IGR in the state.

Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Shaakaa Chira, also said the country’s tax system was plagued by instances of tax evasion especially by the upper class, multiple taxation and inability to properly account for taxes collected by administrators.

He said while these challenges are disincentives for investment, they also portray the government as insensitive to the plights of citizens.

Nonetheless, President/Chairman of Council, CITN, Samuel Agbeluyi, said the institute had convened tax experts from across the country and beyond to critically examine the challenges in Nigeria’s fiscal and tax environment with a view to providing solutions for the consideration of policy makers in this regard.

He said, “It cannot be reiterated enough; taxation is not merely about revenue collection; it is about building a sustainable future for our country. It is about creating a culture where every citizen understands the importance of contributing his or her fair share towards national development. It is more importantly about prudently using tax policies as a roadmap to drive economic growth, social inclusiveness and prosperity for all.

“This is therefore a thought-provoking topic that requires all of us to put on our thinking hats. As we deliberate, we must recognize that our nation faces significant challenges. Our current economic realities as a country are multifaceted, in spite of efforts to improve the narrative by the current government.

“The need for sustainable solutions has never been more pressing than now. And at the heart of these solutions lies an effective tax system.”

He said, “The 2024 budget of “Renewed Hope” as we know relies significantly on non-oil revenue, and this trend is expected to continue in the future. Therefore, building a sustainable tax culture capable of significantly improving our tax revenue performance for an effective. economic and capital formation becomes a top priority.”

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