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Understanding Edo New Tax Regime

By Erasmus Ikhide
 Published March 31st, 2009

Taxation in other lands and climes is the most potent source of fiscal revenue, key economic player of micro-economic regulation and social development in the larger interest of the governed. As much as taxation is the obligation of the citizens, it is the duty of government to guaranty affordable amenities for her citizens. A nation or state that depend on free Dollars rains, effortlessly from the bowel of the earth; use same to create few cabalistic rich men and women, then has its mass of people living on the edge and in squalor like ours, without historical inclination to tax payment and tariff collection would hardly survived this moment of self-reappraisal.

The new tax regime in Edo State that is obviously meant to cushion the effect of the depleting revenue accruing to the state from the Federation Account as a result of global economic crunch that caught our all flat-footed. It should not be misconstrued or viewed from a hostile standpoint. Other states of the Federation have also concluded other means; including aggressive taxation to stave off the debilitating economic meltdown in order to keep the instruments of state and governance running.

There is no begging the question that extensive overhauls of our tax regulations to increase the revenue base of the state will augment for the short falls from the Federal Allocation to the state. Failure is not an option in this administration, and Oshiomhole administration would have no explanation to give as to why he failed the mass of people who reposed absolute confident in his government to savage the ruins that is the lots of Edo State for years on end.

Without taxation Edo State can just fail and, if it does, we have all failed as a people since the government we voted into office and so tenaciously defended will be unable to deliver the goods as a result of our reluctance or failure to pay our taxes and levies. We will also run the risk of breeding traditionally poor people. For instance, a child who ought to be an engineer will turn out to become an artisan and the vicious circle of poverty will continue as one artisan begot another.

Oshiomhole is out to tear the mask of ideological poverty from the people who have been regrettably immersed in the cesspit of poverty of the stomach. His agenda for growing the state is explicit – develop the mind and intellect of everyone in the state through affordable and qualitative education and healthcare system in order to achieve irreducible standard of living for the downtrodden.

If we continue to privatise education, only the children of the rich will have access to quality education. So this administration has to make deliberate efforts to switch the balance in favour of public schools by getting revenue to build our schools so that the children of the poor and the middle class can have good schools to attend. The same is applicable to healthcare system. We are also at the mercy of private healthcare practitioners who have refused to pay appropriate tax, yet have been ripping off the people since public health sector is in shambles.

The reasons we pay taxes is to enable the government to provide basic infrastructures to the governed; like the maintenance of parks and schools, equip the police to fight crime effectively and other social services. But more than anything else is the sense of belonging arising from the payment of taxes to run a government you help to put in place. It arouses in the consciousness of the electorate to hold leaders accountable, and by the same token quickens the moral rectitude of the people at the helms of affair to govern aright.

As much as the levies and taxes and tariffs are paid by those who are capable, and according to the income of the payers the government of Adams Oshiomhole will appropriates the hard earned resources to better the plight of the people. What is more, the people who nitpicked previous administrations to a stand still, stuck their neck stoically in defence of their votes would have no trouble ensuring that their government succeeds.

The moral minefield on which Oshiomhole’s mandate derives its anchorage makes payment of taxes, tariffs and levies tenable to all well meaning Edolites who have aspired for a change that they can phantom. But if we continue to cheer from the sidelines for a government we popularly elected and now ‘opt out’, disengage when it matters most to support the same government in sheer contrivance with those who never wished Edo people well to invade taxes, the chances are that we may yet return to pre-April 21, 2007 where we dusted our foot, and say never again!

Those criticizing the new tax regime of Oshiomhole’s administration; fanning the embers of infamy and causing disaffections are indeed the enemy of the people. And I should say straight up, that no one should act in a way that threatens the corporate interests of the larger populace whose resolve have brought us from the tragic pass of the state where taxes and tariffs are paid to thugs and godfathers, while the state looks helplessly away.

This was so because the previous occupiers of the seat of government, Osadebe Avenue usually owned their mandate exclusively to these retrogressive clowns who are still striving to cause disharmony in Oshiomhole-led administration, to score cheap political points by painting a glooming future for the electorate so as to lure them back to the infamous era where might was power and power was an end in itself.

There is nothing much Oshiomhole can achieve if we shy away from our social responsibility and expect the government to conjure up imaginary funds from heaven-knows-where and fix the roads, build schools, hospitals, drainages, beautify the walk ways, provide public transportation, rural electrification, portable water and what have you, to the expectant society. Oshiomhole will micro-manages prudently whatever comes into the state coffer, block the linkages – that had been done already – with which the funds had usually took flights and ensure that the people get value for their money.

Unfortunately, there is no system of government today that does accommodate tax invaders and therefore we can’t afford to strike at the rock like the ‘free riders’ with retrogressive slogans, ‘‘Taxes are too high!’’ ‘‘Tax the rich only!’’ ‘‘Stop tax cheat!’’ ‘‘Avoid, don’t evade!’’. Truth be told: this mantra, ‘‘tax avoidance GOOD … tax evasion BAD’’ is one of the probable ills that has dragged this nation and Edo State into the dick.

Berlin Walls fell recently when Adams Oshiomhole-led government went into the books of taxable companies and found that virtually all Federal and state owned institutions and individuals have internally renegotiated their taxable incomes from 10% to 5%! You can now imagine how much of the state funds had drained through the basket if the state’s monthly Internally Generated Revenue, IGR had been stranded around N 400 million.

Those in the attitude of tax invasion, especially in this part of the world have always reasoned that they could only pay tax after the state has provided all their needs, as if the state were some deity. It is also far from the truth that the state would provide all our needs if we were to pay our taxes to date, as it were. But the critical balance remains that we run foil of the most basic ethics of civility in an organized society – not a classless society – that harnesses resources for public goods.

As has been said elsewhere, we are not unmindful of the fact that immediate evidence of performance is the best way to repay and retain the steadfast support of the good people of Edo State , notwithstanding the fact that we are being sandwiched between two hostile bodies – House of Assembly and the 18 Local Councils.

Now, the waffles of unpaved roads stir you in the face. How about that? As you pay your tax and levy, you are partaking in the triumphant wind of progressive change blowing across the state; the cock pit of Nigerian politics. On our part, we have broken the fallow ground, slice the bush and set the trash ablaze; we will hire the rain makers if need be now that the rain has refused to come.

Erasmus Ikhide is a
Special Assistant to Edo
State Governor, Comrade
Adams Aliu Oshiomhole.

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