Editor's note: Comrade Ben Ojonugwa Abdul of the Federal University, Lokoja, writes on the state of finances of Kogi state, with emphasis on how the internal revenue generation mechanism of the state have improved under the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello.
Anyone who is conversant with the internally generated revenue of Kogi state will readily agree that it had been one of the lowest in the country. Sometimes one wonders if the state generates anything on its own at all in the face of the enormous revenue potential the state holds.
The implication of the above is that the state has always depended on fiscal receipts from the federation account to survive. Cut off financial supplies from the federal government and Kogi state will slip into an irreversible coma without further delay. Sad and ridiculous as this may seem, it is the reality staring every Kogite in the face.
In other words, without remittances from the federal purse which comes in every month, Kogi state finances would be precariously poised because its Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) is so infinitesimal that it can't barely offset less than 15% of the monthly wage bill of the state workforce. That's to say, the state, like most states of the federation, is being spoon fed by the federal government. But for how long?
It was like that in the days of the late Prince Audu Abubakar as governor. Former Governor Ibrahim Idris made little or no effort to expand the IGR of the state during his two-term tenure. It was the same scenario when the immediate past governor of the state, Captain Idris Wada, reigned. Perhaps the former governors had wanted to raise the bar of the IGR, there's no tangible record anywhere to demonstrate their willingness to do so with vigour.
But all that is set to change now as Governor Yahaya Bello has repositioned the internal revenue generation mechanism of the state such that the state for the first time in its chequered history hit N1billion 2018 as its monthly IGR in 2018. At the moment, it is already hovering around N1.2billion monthly as against a paltry N300 to N350m that it was, prior to 2016 when the current administration came into existence.
By the way, it is essential to emphasize that Kogi state has many opportunities through which it can generate substantial IGR every month. The state government only has to demonstrate the needed capacity and readiness to do so without any detriment to the people and business in the state on the vexed issues of over taxation and double taxation. And that exactly is what the government of Governor Bello, an accountant and shrewd businessman, is poised to do. But how exactly is the digital governor doing it?
To start with, knowing the criticality of having a functional and conducive work environment as a major factor that drives the productivity of workers, Governor Bello, passed into the bill which gave birth to Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KGIRS) with administrative and financial autonomy, constructed a beautiful edifice, equipped with state-of-art facilities for the service. The building situated in Lokoja, the state capital, otherwise known as 'Revenue House' in local parlance, is the first of its kind in the history of the state and one of the best three revenue houses in the entire federation. Before now, the KGIRS used to be housed in a ramshackle two-room apartment with poorly motivated staff who barely knew what their official functions were. There was practically no ICT in the old revenue office.
The hood alone does not make the monk, as they say. Analogously speaking, having a beautiful revenue house alone won't translate to improved IGR for the state. The governor realized this early hence he appointed, Aliyu Inda Salami as the chairman of KGIRS, following the resignation of Senator Yakubu Oseni in 2018, to help him further put a spin on the revenue generation capacity of the state.
Salami is a graduate of Economics from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with an MBA to boot from Lagos State University. He also has an MDP from the elite Lagos Business School with a sterling pedigree in the banking sector spanning decades until his appointment as KGIRS chairman by Governor Bello.
Under the new management team piloting the affairs of KGIRS, it has been a different ball game entirely leading to a SUSTAINED increase in the monthly IGR of the state. That's what happens when a competent and capable hand is saddled with responsibility with an accompanying authority.
In no distant time, the entire revenue generation and collection architecture of the agency will be fully automated via best in class information and communication technology (ICT) Tax payers won't have to have a physical interface with tax collectors anymore, a practice reminiscent of the past. The essence of this is to block loopholes and financial leakages which were the in-thing in the past. It is also meant to fast track revenue processing and collection for upward remittance to the state coffers. In modern societies, IGR drive is anchored on ROBUST ICT platforms ranging from enterprise managing system, staff records, requisition to asset management, among others.
So far, the strategic thrust of the services is anchored on four major planks of deepening and widening existing collectibles from tax and non tax revenues, active dormant revenues lines by operationalizing those already backed by law and the time to pass relevant bills to drive other opportunity areas, engender collaborative synergy with the ministries , departments and agencies for effective and efficient revenue drive .
In the past, previous administrations had entered into unwarranted, unmerited and spurious tax concessions with some companies operating in the state who were not paying their due tax. KGIRS is currently auditing their tax profiles with a view to collecting what is due for the state without holding back anything.
In the past, tax education was not far-reaching. The case is different in the new administration of Governor Yahaya Bello courtesy of the communication strategy emplaced by the new chairman of the service. There's aggressive tax education, management, approach in the three major languages spoken in the state, namely; Igala, Ebira and Yoruba plus of course English language across both the print and broadcast media houses operating within Kogi media ecosystem. The essence of this is to educate the taxable people in the state on the need to pay their taxes and what revenue derivable from such will be used for by the government. This is to bridge the trust -deficit between the tax payers and the service. It has been so far so good. Inevitably, when people pay their due tax, they can always ask the government to deliver on its mandate to them. That is, to whom much is given, much is expected.
The above and other numerous initiatives have been put forward by KGIRS under its new leadership to widen the tax net in the state. The singular objective of this mission is to double the IGR of the state by the end of 2019 and indeed be among the leading states on IGR performance by 2020. According to the chairman of the service, KGIRS is not all about tax collection alone, it has also mapped out some interventions in its corporate social responsibility initiative especially in the areas of environment, health education and special projects for the on taxpayers, taxpayers and their communities.
All said and done, an efficient leader is the one who is able to recruit capable lieutenants to whom he delegates authorities. It is the reason Governor Bello appointed Aliyu Inda Salami as chairman of KGIRS, who against all odds, has come out with a lot of reforms meant to widen the tax net in the state and also to deepen transparency and accountability in revenue processing and generation in the state.
As the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state draws nigh, it is imperative to posit that such a lofty initiative should be sustained and consolidated on. And as commonly said, the best executioner of a vision is the visionary himself. Governor Yahaya Bello started the new IGR drive of the state; it won't be out of place to ask that he be reelected again so he can consolidate on his achievements in this regard for the utmost good of the greatest number of Kogi people. For now, kudos must be given to the chairman of KGIRS for repositioning the service for optimal productivity.
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