GOVERNOR Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, knows that the only way to keep his legion of opponents quiet, is to deliver real democratic dividends.
This is against the backdrop of the fact that he will hardly ever be judged for his strengthening of institutions, willingness to act in a transparent and fair manner, nor his readiness to be accountable for his decisions and actions, which includes prudent use of resources and acts that are as important as the construction of roads and houses.
In Nigeria it will always be by the number of roads, health centers – even when there are no medical doctors to man them- and so on that one will be judged. Contracts must be awarded and the governor would be applauded as hard working. The quiet work of ensuring that medical doctors are trained by the state university, the absence of thugs running errands and such like, is not an evidence of an “action governor”.
So, Yakowa, who by nature is, unassuming and a very contented person, has drastically changed, especially as regards raising resources to fund his developmental projects, which places equal premium on human capital development, as in the provision of infrastructure.
His ambition to drastically increase the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, must be viewed against this background of an emerging and creative perspective to maximize the potential of the sleeping giant that is Kaduna State.
Kaduna State, the third most populous state in Nigeria, with a population of about seven million people, gets between N4.5 billion to N5 billion monthly from the federation account; and an internally generated revenue of about N700 million. Between May 2011 and April 2012, the state has generated about N10 billion, got about N61 billion from the federation account and a paltry N9 billion from value added tax. And of this amount, recurrent expenditure and pension and gratuity gulped about N26 billion.
Add overhead cost, and the huge expenditure on security, this will make the informed appreciate why the Governor had to set up and chair the high powered committee on revenue generation. In spite of paucity of funds, Kaduna State is witnessing massive development in virtually all sectors. This is largely attributable to the prudent management of resources by the Governor and his team, even as efforts continue to block leakages in the system.
Studies show that most states only collect a fraction of their total revenue just as Internally Generated Revenue for most states, account for only about 10 percent of their total revenue. The implication of this is that the bulk of their revenue comes from the federation account and Value Added Tax, VAT. In this wise, when Abuja fails, states are always in a terrible mess.
It was in his determination to change this ugly trend, that Yakowa inaugurated a 21- member committee with the mandate of identifying untapped revenue and workable strategies towards collecting the revenue, a critical examination of the internal revenue machinery and lastly, but more importantly, the implementation of its report. A welcome development because in Nigeria, non- implementation of reports is our second nature. It is indeed the bane of all serious developmental efforts.
From the report of the revenue strategic objective committee, the immediate objective of government is the funding of the entire overhead expenditure of the state government in the short term and in the long run, the more than N4.3 billion huge monthly wage bill of the civil service from IGR. Most people have been asking about the capacity of the state government to achieve this target?
Is the target not over ambitious they ask? A question they ought not ask, considering that the initiative is after all about the development of the state and that finally the government is calling on the people to play their role in the provision of services.
But the indications so far are looking good as the initiative has substantially increased the IGR. Figures from the Ministry Finance showed a 40 percent increase in IGR between January to June 2012, in comparison to the same period in 2011, and this is in spite of the security challenges. It can be made better if professionals who have the habit of charging scandalous fees, but are only willing to pay N3,000 a year as income tax, pay what is appropriate and commensurate with their income.
More importantly, if only the elite who talk the most, but will never pay their ground and water rates, and if only some vehicle Inspection Officers will work for the common good and not themselves, Kaduna State would be free from the “slavery of federation account”.
While, it is true that payment of taxes would always be unpopular, particularly in Nigeria, it must be understood that it has never and would never be popular. Kaduna State has a responsibility to provide services, infrastructure, security, etc.
So, how does it raise the much needed fund to meet its obligations if it doesn’t impose taxes? It must be noted that taxes alone can never provide the entire revenue that any government needs. But it can at least substantially meet the need. And this is what Yakowa wants to achieve.
The duty of the government, in my opinion, remains to ensure that revenue collected is judiciously spent on the well-being of the people. And the duty of the people, the reason for the existence of government, is that they play their part in the social contract – by paying their taxes. The payment further guarantees them the right to ask questions. And this is the beauty of the efforts by governments as they go back to the basics . A development that will invariably help institute a culture of accountability and fiscal discipline.
The Yakowa initiative is highly commendable because it is a total package which has critically blocked leakages in the revenue agencies and worked out a package of incentives to motivate revenue staff. It has also brought charges and rates which have been stagnant over a very long period of time, to new economic realities.
This has been made possible by the inauguration of a governing board for the revenue board, engagement of consultants in the area of direct assessment, tax audits, motor vehicle licensing and ICT software platform to partner with the revenue board.
The government has also, while embarking on an aggressive public enlightenment, set up a revenue court. Having ensured that it actually collects what is due to it, the Kaduna State government has now delved into the issue of untapped revenue sources.
Professionals from Abuja Geographical Information System, AGIS, are presently working with the state government to deliver a Kaduna Geographical Information System, KGIS, promulgation of new laws, like the hotel surcharge law, the exploration of mineral resources would be given a big push when the on -going geological mapping of minerals In the state is completed.
Mr EMMANUEL ADO, a journalist, wrote from Kaduna, Kaduna State.