Commiunique of the One-Day Dialogue on Increasing Revenue through Just and Fair Taxation in a Participatory Democracy.

Introduction
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.

The Issues
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.

Concerns

  • Stakeholders raised concerns about incidence of taxation on the people vis-à-vis economic downturn and obvious recession
  • There were also concerns about multiple taxation as the people narrated sundry collections from tax/revenue agents.
  • Also issues of non issuance of valid receipts by tax/revenue agents were reported among the challenges to the stakeholders.
  • Some of the participants complained about lack of adequate sensitization and information on payable taxes
  • There was also the issue of coercive enforcement by the revenue officers and their cronies.
  • Also members of Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASA-TU) bemoaned what they called neglect and lack of consultation by the government on Tax matters as it affects the communities.

    The participants generally, complained about lack of inclusiveness and participation in tax/revenue matters.

    Discussions

  • The Chairman of the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, Pastor Achike Emejulu said he was participating in the dialogue because he wanted to demystify taxation and present it as a civic responsibility. Furthermore, he said the State Revenue Service wanted collaborate with the citizens and residents to increase the tax base of the state by increasing the number of tax payers because at present less than 200,000 people were paying their taxes regularly in the state. Doing so he said would lead to an improvement in the IGR of Anambra State. This he said was the only way that meaningful development could be expected in the state.

    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 State Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) Dr Mike Ozoemena in his contribution, emphasized the need for government to always reach out to the people and enlighten them on their civic responsibilities. He also harped on the imperative of adequate monitoring and evaluation of intervention mechanisms to boost IGR in the State.
  • The State Coordinator of Legal Aid Council, Mrs Maduabuchi, in her remarks implored the people to always assert their rights and to consult the Council over any breach of their rights. She also enjoined the people to support government by paying lawful taxes.
  • A Consultant to SERI and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies, Enugu, Dr Uzochukwu Amakom in his presentation said among other things that though the N2.2 billion monthly IGR target was good, it was not good enough because Anambra State should be making a projection of N5 billion monthly if it effectively blocks leakages. He said further that revenue drive should not be hinged on taxation alone rather other sources of revenue such as agriculture and agro allied industries should be explored. He said the state should also partner with the Federal Government to develop the solid minerals in the state.

    Resolutions

  • Participants resolved to support the government in her development strides. However, they demanded transparency and accountability from the leaders and government.
  • They also enjoined government to publish all collectible Tax/Revenues for the people to be aware of what they are to pay.
  • Government should establish a one-stop shop for Tax/revenue collection and administration.
  • Government should discontinue the use of agents and properly constitute a body of government officials to be in charge of tax administration in the State.
  • Tax/Revenue administration to be inclusive and participatory in order to afford all Stakeholders opportunity to make input on how best to improve Tax collections/ administration in the State.
  • Government to institutionalize transparency and accountability in tax administration to engender compliance
  • Organizers of the Dialogue were enjoined to extend the programme to such professionals as doctors, lawyers and accountants.

    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.