Today’s ceremony is exceptional because the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue and the Delta State Civil Service Commission are two agencies critical to the success of this administration. It is in recognition of their crucial role in building a new Delta, predicated on the principles of problem solving, resource optimisation and purposeful leadership that we took our time to select members of these Boards.
Permit me, therefore, to congratulate Members of these Boards for their meritorious appointments. The selection process was very painstaking, and it is my prayer and expectation that our efforts in this regard yield the desired results. I hope that you will justify the confidence this administration has reposed in you by giving you such a very sensitive assignment at this critical juncture in our history as a people. You should see your appointments as an opportunity to write your names in gold by demonstrating the timeless virtues of courage, discipline, sacrifice and servant leadership.
To Members of the Board of Internal Revenue, you have an enormous responsibility ahead of you. Whether this administration is able to deliver on its S.M.A.R.T agenda with the promise of prosperity for all depends largely on your success or failure. With the falling price of oil and the attendant dwindling revenue to the Federation Account, the choice before State Governments is to either aggressively boost their internal revenue generation capacity or face bankruptcy.
Since the inception of this administration, the receipts from the Federation Allocation Accounts Committee have progressively nosedived. This precarious situation leaves the State Government with nothing to run the government let alone embark on capital projects after payment of salaries. I must add that this scenario of funding gaps is not unique to Delta State; it is happening in many States in the Federation.
With forecasts that the price of oil in the international market could fall even further in the not-too-distant future, the economic situation is not likely to get better any time soon. Therefore, our survival and prosperity as a State is heavily dependent on the revenue we are able to generate internally. There is no gainsaying the fact that no state or nation can truly develop or become an economic force without developing and deepening its internal revenue generation base.
This is the challenge before us today. And a lot is expected from the Board of Internal Revenue as the major organ saddled with the responsibility of coordinating and collecting taxes on behalf of the government. I must acknowledge that the Board has fared well in the last few years. Statistics from the Joint Tax Board indicate that Delta State is third behind Lagos and Rivers in terms of internal revenue generation nationwide.
But a lot still needs to be done, particularly in the area of compliance. Currently, over 80% of our internally generated revenue comes from the formal sector. That translates to less than 20% compliance level because the informal sector, which constitutes over 80% of the State economy, has not been effectively captured in the tax net. The utmost priority of the new Board must be how to bring the informal sector into the tax net. With determination, vigour and true sense of dedication, I am confident that the new Board cannot only meet, but surpass the N45b target for this year.
The new Board should settle down to business quickly, very quickly, and begin the process of expanding and enhancing our internal revenue generation processes. A good starting point is to embark on an elaborate enlightenment and awareness campaign to sensitise our people on the importance of paying their taxes. This process must involve the various trade associations, professional bodies, business groups, cooperatives and the traditional institutions. Whatever needs to be done must be done to ensure that our internal revenue gets the desired boost.
Many people do not pay tax because they do not see the need to. And sometimes they do not understand why they have to. Paying taxes is not only a civic responsibility; it is constitutionally binding on every Nigerian. Section 24 (f) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (amended) mandates all citizens to honestly declare their incomes and pay their taxes promptly. Very few businessmen and those in trade and commerce are complying with this provision. It is, therefore, imperative for our people to know that not to pay tax is not only a breach of the Constitution, it also portends danger for the economy.
It is at best ridiculous and, at worst, preposterous for an individual who owns a fleet of luxury cars, has several landed properties, and whose children are schooling abroad to be paying a yearly tax of N40,000, while salaried workers pay much higher through the PAYE system as you sometimes see in this part of the world. That is an aberration and I charge members of the Board to do everything within their powers to correct these anomalies where they exist, and ensure that there is fairness and equity in tax administration.
At other times, people don’t pay taxes because they are sceptical of the government and believe, rightly or wrongly, that the money will be embezzled by unscrupulous public officials. But I want to assure all Deltans that this administration is committed to ensuring that every single kobo in the coffers of the State will be judiciously spent to positively impact the lives of the citizenry. Already, even with the current lean resources of the State, this administration is not making any excuses.
We are embarking on infrastructural development, upgrading of the Asaba airport, building markets, continuing the free education and free health policies, revamping hospitals, and rehabilitating three technical colleges in the three senatorial districts. We have also launched five entrepreneurship programmes that are being generously funded by the State to bring prosperity to our people. We are irrevocably committed to fulfilling our promises such that sooner than later our people will pay their taxes without any prompting.
Let me make it clear that we will not fail to sanction any public official who is found wanting in the discharge of his/her duties or misappropriates public funds. Towards this end, I charge the Board of Internal Revenue to take drastic measures to block any leakages and get rid of waste within the system. You should also embark on training and retraining of the staff to equip them with the necessary capacity and requisite knowledge germane to contemporary issues regarding taxation.
As a revenue generating agency of government, the Board cannot afford to have idle hands on its pay roll. Any staff with the mentality of ‘this is government job’ must be shown the exit door. You must discourage and sanction indolence, redundancy, unproductivity, indiscipline, loitering and touting.
Now to Members of the Civil Service Commission, your assignment is no less significant, and certainly no less strenuous. The public service remains the main vehicle for implementation of government programmes, policies and projects. It, therefore, must function effectively to change the fortunes of Deltans.
What is most urgently needed in the Civil Service today is values reorientation. I urge you to make that your priority as you assume office. Our people need to have a mind-set change as a matter of exigency when it comes to government work. You will have to come up with creative solutions to the evils of absenteeism, godfatherism, corruption, nepotism, eye service, waste and inefficiency that have plagued the Civil Service.
The Civil Service is always clamouring for more staff but I will rather like to see better and more judicious deployment of existing staff. There is an unreasonably high number of idling by persons who ought to be busy contributing their quota towards oiling the administrative machinery of the State and ensuring the smooth and effective implementation of government’s policies and programmes.
I am yet to be convinced that the current size of the workforce, which stands at over 60,000 persons is a realistic figure. I would like to see Members of the Commission take urgent steps to ascertain the true situation of things for the good and development of the State. Please permit me to end this address with excerpts from my Inaugural Address on May 29, 2015.
“We shall continue to strive to create an enabling environment for the State public service to perform excellently, and it is our sincere hope that it will justify the trust and confidence of our people. Our expectation is that all public officers should uphold the ethics of the service, conduct themselves with dignity, and take pride in their work.
“There will be progress and development if and when every public officer says ‘I am going to work’, they do that with the understanding that the phrase is more of a verb than a noun, bearing in mind that productivity is the key determinant of economic growth.”
I recommend you get a copy of the address as well as my maiden address to the State House of Assembly for your information and guidance on this administration’s policy outlook.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to formally inaugurate the Chairmen and Members of the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue and Delta State Civil Service Commission.
- Speech at the swearing-in of Members of the Delta State Civil Service Commission, and the inauguration of Members of Delta State Internal Revenue Board at the Unity Hall, Old Government House, Asaba.