A responsible government inspires hope in its citizens, keeping them assured that the days ahead hold a better promise. This is a very delicate act of statecraft where every official sings the same tune. They speak hope out of their understanding of the current difficult time the people are grappling with. When government officials adopt empathy and reassurance while communicating with the people, this goes a long way in lifting the citizenry from depression and giving them a reason to face the future.
This is one major lesson the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must learn. As a new year beckons, they’ve not in any way bothered to assure of a great year for Nigerians. All the people have been fed with are tales of a difficult time ahead as if Nigerians are not at rock bottom already. Government officials have continued to paint the picture of a bleak 2022 that will dig more holes in the pocket of Nigerians. They talk about imminent austerity measures and even fly the kite on policies they may not pursue, all to the disillusionment of the citizens.
After the distress Nigerians suffered after an earlier announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy in 2022, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, stated that there might be an introduction of new tariffs and levies in 2022. According to the Finance minister, by mid-2022 ongoing cases in court against the Federal Government on Value Added Tax (VAT) and stamp duties would have been dispensed with so that the federal government can have its way. She disclosed this while addressing ‘stakeholders’ at a public hearing on the 2021 Finance Bill organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on Monday in Abuja. With the Senate President recently disclosing that the N1.5m gross salary and N13m office running cost of a senator, as well as the N1.3m salary and N8m running cost of a Reps member is inadequate, Nigerians can better imagine how the planned increase in taxes and levies will be disbursed.
On Wednesday this week, the central bank governor, Godwin Emefiele, stated that most of the roads constructed in the country will be tolled to repay the loans used to fund them. With the reintroduction of toll gates, transportation costs will definitely go up, having a ripple effect on the prices of goods in the country. Added to this heart-wrenching mix is the earlier report that the Federal Government will end the payment of subsidy on electricity by January 2022.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who stated this at the opening of the 14th Nigerian Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) conference in September, said the government expects the electricity sector to generate its revenue from the power sector market. Stakeholders have argued that allowing market operators to determine the course of action simply means that Nigerians are to pay the full commercial price for power as determined by the generating and distribution companies.
The Buhari government must stop adding to the misery of Nigerians already and be reminded of Tuco’s famous line in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly movie: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk! It is bad enough for the government to shoot; its officials should be humane enough to spare citizens the agony of being reminded of having to face the firing squad in 2022. They should rekindle hope by letting the people know what they will be enjoying from the government amid the financial squeeze they will be subjected to next year. No, the paltry, corruption-enabling, and nepotism-prone N5000 transportation allowance to 40 million poor Nigerians won’t cut it.
It is believes that if the government is more measured in announcing its plans to mine revenue from the populace in the coming year, it may yet save disillusioned Nigerians like Lekan Odunare, the national diploma certificate holder who took his life this week by jumping into the lagoon at Epe LGA of Lagos State. However, the point must be stressed that government does not boost revenue by levying more taxes on the people. In the United States, for instance, the government cuts taxes as was done by the last Republican administration.
With the federal government contending with a budget deficit of N5.62 trillion, it is understandable why it is increasing levies and taxes on an impoverished populace. Those in authority must adopt new thinking such as export-competitiveness in a bid to shore up government revenue. Indeed, a government loses more revenue when it imposes taxes on citizens and residents without taking to offshore investment opportunities. Given how divided Nigerians currently are, the federal government must move to unite the people in its quest to grow revenue.
It can go about this by immediately re-allocating the fund earmarked for the controversial rail line project from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic to constructing a standard-gauge line linking Kano to Aba in Abia State. Kano is Nigeria’s hub for hides and skin and Aba hosts the best shoe and garment makers in the country. It is believes that a railway connecting both cities will engender the export of made in Nigeria shoes, thereby creating a whole lot of value chain and benefits for the government.
Also, Nigeria must position itself in the global race for resources by investing in having equities and shares in flourishing local and international companies. The Nigerian government can borrow a leaf in this regard from the Chinese government which earns from the sales Chinese companies are making in Nigeria and other countries of the world where they operate in.
Export competitiveness remains the route to growing national income. The Nigerian government must tilt its economic philosophy in this direction. Countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia don’t have to increase taxes on their citizens because they use their sovereign wealth funds to invest in viable business entities like WWE, HP, Disney which deliver huge returns. Nigeria must invest in businesses, rather than basing its revenue projections on taxation. If the government must tax, let it start with the rich who indulge in ostentatious living without paying the concomitant taxes as is the case in serious nations of the world.
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) had disclosed in August that 30 out of 65 private airplanes in the country so far verified are liable to pay required duties to the Federal Government. Last month, the presidency was reported to have directed the NCS to ground 91 private jets belonging to some wealthy Nigerians over their alleged refusal to pay import duties running to over N30bn. The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, followed through by asking the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to ground the affected private jets.
Owners of these private jets and other luxury items must be made to pay the attendant levies and taxes. The government should also impose levies and taxes on the several mansions dotting the landscape of Nigerian cities most of which are uninhabited. These are to mention just a few means through which the federal government can raise revenue to finance its budget deficit without having to further pauperize poor Nigerians.
Before FG’s Revenue Drive Pushes Nigerians To Extreme Poverty – Zainab Ahmed