By Louis Amoke
Recently, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State announced an impressive increase in the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) receipts through the sterling performance of the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, under the chairmanship of Mr. Emeka Odo.
The Accountant General of the State, Sir Paschal Okolie, while briefing members of the State Executive Council on the mid-year budget review, declared that the state has grown its IGR to 35% of her total revenue, adding that the state’s IGR receipts for the period of six months (January-June 2017) was N12.4billion – an unprecedented increase which he said almost equalled federal statutory allocation of N13.5billion to the state within the period under review. He also pointed out that the state’s total IGR receipts for 2016 was N14.2billion, describing the development as unprecedented on the part of revenue collection agencies in the state, under the effective coordination of the State Internal Revenue Service.
The state’s Accountant General disclosed that the remarkable achievements being recorded in all strata of the economy in the state, especially in the provision of critical infrastructure and prompt payment of workers’ salaries on or before 25th of every month, among others, despite the severe economic recession in the county, were as a result of the impact of the significant growth in the income of the state, through her IGR.
He added that, an effect of the milestone feat was also the governor’s further directive that all civil servants in the state should be paid promptly on the 23rd day of each month, noting that the directive has been complied with.
Briefing journalists after the meeting of the Council, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, disclosed that “Gov. Ugwuanyi commended the Chairman of Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, Chief Emeka Odo, for his creativity, hard work and commitment which have led to recovery of massive stolen funds by unscrupulous public officers colluding with corrupt commercial bank officials to defraud the state to the tune of billions of Naira”.
From the foregoing, kudos must go to the governor for his sound vision, renewed vigour and sheer dexterity, borne out of his deep rooted commitment to transparency, accountability, fiscal discipline and prudent management of the state’s lean resources. He should also be applauded for strict adherence to the promises he made to the people of Enugu State before and during his inauguration in 2015.
It would be recalled that Gov. Ugwuanyi in his inaugural address promised to turn the present economic challenges in the county into huge blessings by looking inwards to harness those potentials which free oil money has blinded the state from exploiting. He also pledged to lead by example to pilot “a lean government to free up resources and channel them to the real development issues”.
Consequently, the governor declared that “every revenue-generating agency of government should be ready to generate and remit revenues to fund government development efforts”.
In the same vein, he directed that “individuals and corporate entities should henceforth start paying tax as defaulters will not be counted as friends of Enugu State”, stating that “one thing I must assure you is that every kobo you put into the coffers of government will be utilized transparently and in a way that adds value to your lives”.
In keeping with these promises, in June last year, in a bid to systematically increase the state’s IGR for the delivery of more dividends of democracy to the people, Gov. Ugwuanyi took a bold step and reconstituted the State Board of Internal Revenue. The decisive action, which was taken pursuant to Section 19 (1) of the Finance (Amendment) Law of Enugu State, brought on board men of proven integrity and financial prowess to drive the noble agenda of the state government. It was also in reaction to the dwindling revenue from the Federation Account.
One year down the line, the state’s Internal Revenue Service has displayed high sense of professionalism and has also brought innovation, fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability to bear in the discharge of its responsibilities. These enduring attributes, no doubt saw, to the remarkable achievements recorded so far by the Board, which were responsible for the unparalleled boost of the state’s IGR to an enviable status contrary to what was obtainable in the past.
For instance, the new Board, according to its Chairman, Mr. Emeka Odo has, in alignment with the vision of the governor, implemented far reaching measures to reform the Revenue Service, eliminate corruption, block pilfering of tax and non-tax income of government and ramp up the internally generated revenues in a steady and sustainable manner. It has also prosecuted an innovative and intensive regime of back-duty audits on major tax agents, creating Zonal Tax Controllers to bring tax officials closer to tax payers with an accelerated automation of tax assessment and collection process through the institution of an Integrated Tax Management System in the State.
These measures, according the Chairman, resulted in the appreciable feats recorded in the first half of 2017, which stood the state’s IGR at over N12 billion compared to N7.2 billion actualized in 2016 starting from the month the new Board was inaugurated.
In a bid to galvanize the support of the judiciary for effective enforcement mechanism to ensure tax payment by every taxable adult and organization in the state, the Board recently established and commissioned a Revenue Court in Enugu, with a clause that “government will no longer fold its arms and watch while citizens and corporate organizations evade tax and shun their civic obligations”.
The message handed down by the Chairman was so clear and instructive that “with the commissioning of the Revenue Court, it will no longer be business as usual” as “tax evaders will surely be prosecuted in accordance with the law” for “a situation where some major institutions and individuals treat tax issues with levity will no longer be tolerated”.
It would also be recalled, that Gov. Ugwuanyi while inaugurating the board, last year, noted that the Internal Revenue Service in the state was crucial to the economic well-being of the government and by extension that of the people of the state, most especially in the present “days of the severe national economic depression that is threatening the solvency of government at all levels and which is already hindering their operations.”
The governor regretted that the receipts from Federation Account have been growing progressively smaller, making it expedient for most state governments to depend on Internally Generated Revenue to fund their activities and service their obligations.
As a visionary leader, he revealed that he had envisaged the situation in his inaugural address when he warned that every revenue-generating agency of the state should be ready to intensify its efforts to generate and remit more revenues to fund government development efforts.
Consequently, the governor charged members of the newly reconstituted board to raise their performance bar and develop strategies that would achieve a significant and substantial increase in the internally generated revenue of the state and equally mandated them to ensure the effective collection of all the revenue accruable to the government as well as checkmate all avenues of leakages and wastages in the process”.
One is equally pleased to recall, that the Chairman’s promises during the Board’s inauguration, last year, to explore and exploit all sources of IGR and expand the tax net in the state, among others, to ensure that government meets its obligations to the people of the state have come to a reasonable fulfillment one year after.
According to him, “strategies will also be implemented to grow existing non-tax revenues and expand other income sources of government bearing in mind the economic indices of the state as a civil service driven economy.
“We are aware that the state government is in a hurry to deliver more service to the people, through its development agenda, we shall harness all forms of Internally Generated Revenue to ensure that the present administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in Enugu State meets its obligations to the citizens.
“Taxation is our collective responsibility. The new Board of Internal Revenue Service will be driven by the culture of service, team spirit, transparency, accountability and professionalism.”
From the above narrative, one is compelled to appreciate the governor’s deep commitment to fulfilling all the promises he made in his inaugural address to the letter.
This is evident in all his administration’s enormous achievements since its inception ranging from rural development, provision of critical infrastructure, prompt payment of workers’ salaries, qualitative and affordable education, healthcare delivery, investment promotion, agriculture, security, among others.
This vision has gone a long way in attesting to the fact that Enugu State is working and truly in the hands of God.
Amoke, writes from Enugu State.