The One Day Dialogue was organized by Socio-Economic Rights Initiative (SERI) in collaboration with International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC) on Thursday, September 22 2016 at King David Hotel and Suites, Regina Caeli Road, Awka, Anambra State.
The theme of the dialogue was Fair and Effective Taxation in a Participatory Democracy and it was organized to strategically examine how increase in internally generated revenue (IGR) could be achieved through sensitization of tax payers and best practices in accountability and service delivery by the government.
The Dialogue was a platform for people representing different segments of the society to rub minds on the issue of fair and effective taxation and participatory democracy.
It was attended by the representatives of government, Regulatory and Enforcement bodies, Chambers of Commerce as well as Market Associations. Also in attendance were representatives of Tax Payers Associations, Captains of Industry, Small and Medium Scale Enterpreneurs, Leaders of Communities, the Organized Labour, the Media and Civil Society Organizations.
Revenue from oil has sharply dwindled in the past one year, precipitating the current economic recession. For this reason, Governments in Nigeria are contending with a myriad of governance challenges and every State must therefore look beyond revenue allocations from the Federal Government to fulfill its obligation of making the welfare of the people the primary objective of government as enshrined in the social contract principle.
Democracy which is the extant form or system of government in Nigeria places emphasis on people as the first condition of government when it declares in sec 14 (2) of the constitution that “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives its powers and authority”.
It further states in subsection C that “the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with this constitution”
To emphasize the above imperative, the world recently marked the International Day for Democracy with the theme: Democracy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable Development Goal 16 addresses democracy by calling for inclusive and participatory societies and institutions. It aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
It is imperative that every programme and activity of government shall ensure full participation and compliance of the people. As such, taxation should be organized in such a manner that tax payers find it convenient to pay while also being certain of what they are to pay within the tenets of justice and fairness. The development dividends of such payments should also be visible to the people.
The situation therefore requires a comprehensive approach to tax administration/ collection and partnership with the stakeholders by identifying economic, environmental, educational, legal, cultural and religious challenges militating against the collection of IGR for growth and development.
The participants generally, complained about lack of inclusiveness and participation in tax/revenue matters.
Emejulu explained that tax revenue in the state increased from 1.4 billion in July to 1.97 billion in August and that the target is to increase it to N2.2 billion. He listed the stimulus put in place by the state government to cushion the effect of economic hardship on the people and revealed that government has put mechanisms in place to stop all illegal collections and bring offenders to justice.
The participants resolved that if all the above recommendations are strictly adhered to, the state would experience among other things increased revenue; entrenched tax justice system with tax and revenue compliance; available revenue for achieving democracy dividends; and accelerated growth and development.