By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Dr Rabiu Olowo, has stressed the need for Nigerians to embrace taxation as the most potent way out of COVID-19 consequence.
Olowo made the remark at a 2day Academic Symposium on webinar, organized by Centre for Business Taxation, Oxford University, United Kingdom where he expressed fear of survival for developing countries with heavy dependence on oil in the post COVID era.
Olowo noted that oil has never been a reliable source of financing a country of Nigeria’s magnitude and diversity describing the current pandemic as a reality check for the nation in order to position herself for the future.
The Commissioner who was among hundreds of world-acclaimed public finance and tax experts that took part in the online discourse across the globe stressed that forward-looking nations of the world have advanced their course beyond dependence on oil.
According to him, “Nigeria’s current tax to GDP ratio of between 4 to 7 per cent is very far from satisfactory. This has been an issue for some time but the COVID-19 economic crisis provides a renewed opportunity for stakeholders to frontally confront this problem.
“We cannot be waiting for the oil to develop our country when its volatility is a well-known problem. We need to summon the political will to embrace tax. We cannot be doing the same thing and expect a different result,” Olowo stated.
He noted that there is hardly any developed country without effective taxation. “Even the gulf oil producers are now embracing taxation despite their lower population, higher oil reserves and lower cost of oil production.”
Olowo added that advanced countries are no longer discussing whether to tax or not but are now deliberating on how to manipulate policies for optimum impact.
“Nigeria is still thinking of how to tax. From discussions at this symposium, it is obvious we are losing billions of dollars to tax manipulation by multinationals and we should look into this urgently.
According to Olowo, “For government, there is a need to engage more with citizens on tax and to gain trust through such engagements. In Lagos state, Governor Sanwo-Olu has been exemplary in working round the clock to engage citizens and this is achieving the result.
“For tax administrators, you have to redouble your efforts and to treat taxpayers as clients who deserve to be served.”
He further urged other states to learn from the Lagos State experience having recorded significant success despite the COVID-19 crises.