OPINION: If you don’t have money to print, be prudent with finances
By Abubakar Shekara
In the current economic situation in Nigeria, whoever cannot print money to augment expenditure, must be prudent with finances. That’s the advice from Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, at Wednesday’s Revenue and Tax Forum organized by the state’s Ministry of Finance and Sokoto Board of Internal Revenue.
The forum was called for revenue generating ministries, departments and agencies of the state to brief them on the progress made on various fronts in tax administration and general IGR drive in Sokoto state. Participants at the meeting were also sensitized on their obligations to the state concerning revenue accruable to the government.
Governor Tambuwal, who was making a veiled reference to the contentious issue of the Federal government’s printing of money to bolster its purse, said since that way and means isn’t available to Sokoto State, his government has over the last five months been very prudent with the scarce funds at its disposal.
It is in fact, the prize for accountability that’s prudently employed to ensure sustenance. Tambuwal revealed to the forum that it’s actually Sokoto State’s World Bank prize of N6.612 billion for being the number one state in SFTAS that is saved to augment monthly expenditure.
It isn’t therefore a miracle, he explained, that Sokoto State has sustained the new salary scale, maintained hundreds of millions of Naira in expenditure on health and water supply and subvention to MDAs, while other states are owing wages and considering retrenchment of workers.
For Tambuwal, retrenchment isn’t an option. The only remedy to the current financial crunch faced by governments is dialogue with organized labor on the ways to manage the situation. It’s time, to think out of the box, he advised.
The governor rehashed the need for improvement in IGR through efficiency and control. “We must put a few people out of business in order to remain in business”, he said, referring to erring government revenue collectors, whose activities Tambuwal insisted must be checked, for the survival of Sokoto state.
After cleansing of the state government financial system by his administration, the sanitization of local governments, teachers and pensioners payroll is the necessary next step to ensuring prudence in the management of scarce resources for service delivery, Tambuwal noted.
He emphasized on his now popular and trademark call for the strengthening of institutions, which is the only lasting legacy for future generations, rather than strong individuals, who’s time will certainly pass.
The score card presented at the forum by the state’s Commissioner of Finance, Abdussamad Dasuki gave clear indications that Sokoto State is institutionally waxing stronger under Tambuwal.
According to Dasuki, “the journey began with the foundational passing and signing into Law of the Sokoto State Revenue Integration and Consolidation Law, 2019,” which admitted the state into the global league of societies that are committed to revenue generation, efficiency and discipline.
Several successive steps are taken to give effect to the legislation that include the creation of SOIRS, appointment of a chairman and executive directors and employment of 65, meticulously and competitively chosen upward mobile personnel for the agency. The Service is also accommodated in a new imposing complex and rejigged with computers and other world class equipment, in addition to being made mobile by being provided with categories of vehicles.
The introduction of the State IGR Portal (e-Tax) for the billing and collection of all revenue accruing to all MDAs in Sokoto State, is according to Dasuki, an initiative that automated the taxation process, there by eliminating leaks and delays in the system.
A similar move is the automation of the Tax Register, making it possible to identify and monitor taxpayers. This, according to the commissioner, has revealed that, “registered taxpayers now exceed2,000 from a previous total of 200 and they are properly classified into sectors, consisting of financial institutions, health, education etc.’
With the needs of SOIR provided by Tambuwal, there’s no justification for failure, Dasuki acknowledged, “failure is not an option”.
The positive impact of these changes on the performance of the Sokoto Internal Revenue Service is evident in the First Quarter Report of the Service.
Over N3.7 billion was generated within the period, indicating over 50% growth in collections, in spite of the government’s moratorium on taxation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the automation of revenue collection, an average of N50 million is realized from tertiary schools in the state, which is split weekly in an agreed percentage between the schools and the government.
There’s however, some way to go. For further consolidation of achievements, a number of additional steps remain to be taken. These generally consist of the total implementation of laws, especially the centralization of state and local government tax systems.
Dasuki’s submission is that the Revenue Service is now more than ever positioned to generate sufficient revenue to service all the recurrent expenditure of the State in the next few months and geared towards achieving Governor Tambuwal’s target of paying workers salaries from IGR as from January, 2023.
The tax and IGR situation of Sokoto has indeed, never witnessed such transformation that pushed the state up for global reckoning. For such a remarkable feat, Tambuwal has earned the position of the Number One Tax Collector in Sokoto State.
He was therefore, duly decorated for the title by the Executive Chairman, SOIR, Aminu Sarki. Governor Tambuwal’s Deputy, Munir Dan’iya wore the colors of Number Two, which is apt, considering his portfolio as the State Commissioner for Local Government, the second tier of the tax system.
Shekara is special adviser to Tambuwal on Public Affairs