SOKOTO IGR YESTERDAY VS TODAY:PUTTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT

By Dr Basit Yusuf Alkali.

“He who seeks equity must come with clean hands.” This is indeed, an old saying which will ever ring true in the affairs of mankind.

As an active stakeholder in the sector and an indigene of Sokoto State, my attention is drawn to a recent press statement issued by Abubakar Bawa, the Press Secretary to the State Governor, claiming that the previous administration of the immediate past government of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had not encouraged revenue generation. The statement was quoting a speech delivered by the State Governor Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, at the latest Annual Conference of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria in Abuja.

In submission at the forum, the Governor posited that his government met a discouraging taxation system with sharp practices in the collection and utilization of IGR,
claiming that he raised Sokoto State’s Internally Generated Revenue from a quarterly collection of N2.6 billion to N3.8 billion Naira as at the first Quarter of 2024.

I am an avid follower of developments in the revenue sector and I know from facts and data that this assertion is far from the truth and it is to say the least, improper for the Governor of a state to look his esteemed colleagues and other critical stakeholders in such an important issue as IGR, and make careless claims, that stand in the face of facts and figures on the ground.

I was aware that in February 2017 the previous administration dissolved the management of the then defunct Sokoto Board of Internal Revenue and replaced it with an interim management committee with the mandate to improve revenue collection, block all loopholes and create an avenue for professionalism in tandem with national and global best practices and standards.

Through measures to identify and blocking revenue loopholes, the committee was able to raise the revenue profile of the state, as captured by the Joint Tax Board, from a paltry sum of N4.5b in 2016 to over N9b by the end of 2017. And owing to the political will of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to reposition the revenue board, a law creating a new revenue service was initiated by the Government and subsequenty passed by the State House of Assembly in 2019, to review the revenue rates, automate revenue collection, abolish
cash collection, in-cooperate new agencies that were hitherto not captured in the system.

The new law provided for the appointment of a new Executive Chaiman with Executive Directors to pilot the affairs of the Service. Hence, there was significant improvement in adherence to national and International global practices.

Ahmed Aliyu should have told the gathering what they were more interested in, which is what exactly his administration is doing to boost IGR, rather than denying the achievements of his predecessor, which his audience know for a fact and quoting figures that all participants in the conference had a means of verifying as false. It is also grossly unfair for the Governor to bandy accusations of malpractice at an entire administration, without pointing to the specific “sharp practices” he was inferring to.

Using the facts to expose falsehood, verified Joint Tax Board (JTB) data proves that under Tambuwal’s government Sokoto State’s revenue collection rose from N9b in 2017, to N18b in 2018 and N19b in 2019. The fall in collection to N11b in 2020 was due to the effect of Covid-19 lockdown but the collection peaked to N23b in 2021 and 2022.

It is on record that order to reposition the new Sokoto Revenue Service, Tambuwal approved the employment of qualified indigenous university graduates, at least one from each of the 23 local governments of the state and a quota of at least 30% to females which was conducted through an examination and interview so as to engage the most competent personnel, with subsequent training and induction for both management and staff to equip them for the task.

The committee that organized that recruitment process was in fact, headed by Tambuwal’s and current Ahmed Aliyu’s Accountant General,
Umar Ahmed Tambuwal. Sadly, he is the head of the subsequent committee that messaged Ahmed Aliyu’s ego and misled him into making his false claims on the performance of the previous administration in revenue generation.

TambuwaI’s new revenue law also mandated the Revenue Service to collect revenues on behalf of the 23 local governments and remit same back to them, with a 5% fee as cost of collection to the Service. Under the law, full financial and administrative autonomy was granted to
the Service to eliminate the bureaucratic bottlenecks of the Civil Service.

Sadly, Ahmed Aliyu’s government has all but reversed the achievements and spirit of the law by subjecting the revenue service (which has now resumed its pre-autonomy nomenclature of “revenue board”), to his absolute individual control in both collection and administration, in defiance of extant legislation.The revenue structure of Sokoto State is thus currently experiencing the most disorganized period in history, in which revenue is now being substantially collected and managed in cash, instead of the digital and online system that Tambuwal had earlier instituted to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountably.

The only enduring feature of the transformation of the revenue system recorded by the previous administration is its refurbished and completely modernized office accommodation at the Sokoto State Investment House. The permanent and benefiting edifice, which is under construction to provide a conducive accommodation for optimal effective service delivery, is abandoned by Ahmed Aliyu.

Other progressive innovations by the previous administration through which many new revenue sources were identified that now face disruption by the current government include:

Onion Collection: – Sokoto State is one of the highest producers of onions in Nigeria and by extension the African Continent, with the total trade volume of N250b per annum. Hence, a measure was introduced by the Tambuwal government, of a tripartite collection involving State and Local Governments and the unions/traditional institutions with the sharing formula of 40% to the State Government, 30%% to the Local Government, 20% to the Union and 10% to the traditional institutions.

Kabu – Kabu/Keke NAPEP Collection: A daily revenue collection of Kabu – Kabu / Keke NAPEP fees was introduced with an arrangement with the State Government and the Unions with a sharing formula of 60% to the
State Government and 40% to the unions and the introduction of POS machines for the collection of such fees.
Tertiary Institutions/Schools Collections: – All revenues collected by these sources were remitted to the bank through a dedicated automated
account, with a sharing formula of 80% going back to the schools, while 20% was retained as revenue to the government. This significantly improved the collection of
the schools and thus the revenue profile of the State.

These innovations accrued an average total revenue of N24b annually as at 2021 and 2022(JTB data), which by simple arithmetic, translates into an average quarterly collection of N6b and not N2.6b per quarter as erroneously reported by Ahmed Aliyu at the Abuja meeting.

Considering these figures, how
could N3.8b IGR per quarter in 2024 be considered to be growth, under Ahmed Aliyu? Even so, the declarations ought to have been supported by facts on how that collection was made by his government. Rather than quoting off hand figures, he should have provided his audience with verifiable data to buttress his claims, because IGR is not a matter for political gimmicks and rhetoric.

It is obvious however, that the current Governor of Sokoto State views even the sacrosanct development issue of revenue generation as a subject for partisan dispute and acrimony. One of his earliest decisions on assuming office was to sack the entire management of the Sokoto Internal Revenue Service (SOIRS) even though that was in direct contravention of the extant Law establishing the body, which prescribes a specific term in office for such appointees.

As if the defiance of the law was not enough, Ahmed Aliyu proceeded to unilaterally appoint a new SOIRS Chairman who, the same law demands should be screened and cleared by the State House of Assembly before being sworn into office. By that fiat, the illegitimately renamed State Board of Internal Revenue is being run by a illegal Chairman and politically appointed Executive Directors, who lack the requisite professional credentials in tax administration and thus, the competence to help the Governor validate his consequently wishful claims on IGR in the state.

Unlike what currently obtains, the IGR figures during Tambuwal’s administration were corroborated by the ranking of Sokoto as number 17 among the 36 states in Nigeria in IGR performance for 2021 and 2022, with a total collection of N23.6b. Unlike political gimmicks, data and figures donot lie. And the performance of any government in the area of IGR is a matter that can only be proved by verifiable indices, rather than empty claims aimed at securing cheap popularity. If therefore, Ahmed Aliyu wishes to earn some credit in that area, he should do so with concrete, documented proof and a recourse to the best practices under the laws that are nationally and globally upheld.

Dr Basit Yusuf Alkali,
Sama Road,
Sokoto.

By Teen Trust

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