Lagos State Tax Stakeholders Conference

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday addressed the State’s Seventh Annual Taxation Stakeholders’ Conference expressing joy that taxation has enabled the State to gain financial independence and take its destiny in its own hands.


Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN)

In his remarks at The Haven, Ikeja GRA venue of the Conference, Governor Fashola said by committing to the payment of tax, Lagosians have advanced the State’s budget from a paltry N14 billion Naira fourteen years ago to half a trillion annual budget in recent times.

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CEO of the States Internal Revenue Service and Chairman Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Babatunde Fowler 

Noting that this is the seventh time that the people have gathered in January to talk about tax, the Governor declared, “It shows the undying spirit of the people of this State that when they commit to something they deliver it”, adding, “This year, more than N467 billion was budgeted and about 70 percent of that is now being funded by you individuals. That is the independence you have gained by taking your destiny in your hands”.

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Dr. (Mrs.) Onikepo Akande

According to the Governor, while many states in the country are today borrowing to pay salaries as a result of dwindling resources engendered by corruption, the State has continued to pay salaries of its workers without having to borrow money from anywhere.

“Today we are beginning to see dwindling resources to states.  400,000 barrels of crude oil is beginning to disappear. In the morning we will hear that $69 billion have not been accounted for, in the evening they would say it is now only $12 billion they are looking for. It is bad enough to look for one dollar of public fund. But the result of all these is that the resources to the states are dwindling. Some states are borrowing to pay salaries. But your State continues to pay salaries without having to borrow money”, the Governor said.

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He noted that the stakeholders’ questions on taxation have gone down drastically when compared to the early days of the conference when he had to answer over 30 questions.  This, he said, shows that the idea and the compelling benefits of paying tax have become a way of life for the people of the State.

The Governor paid glowing tribute to the memory of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who, according to him, blazed the trail of financial independence through taxation, saying, “Nothing that is happening here is different from what happened during Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s time. That Government blazed the trail for achieving and recording many firsts. But it did so only because people paid taxes”, adding that even the late sage’s strategy was not new “because many countries of the world had recognized that the payment of taxes was the first step to prosperity”.

Governor Fashola shared with the audience a text message sent to him by the Director for the Department of African Studies in the University of Oxford titled “Lagos Taxpayers Survey and Behaviour” in which the author congratulated the State Governor for being able to win the hearts of Lagosians by “providing quality public services and spending tax revenues well”, adding that “it is the best way to build the Social Contract between citizens and there Government”.

He assured Lagosians that his Government would not be complacent based on the text message or any such accolades saying, “It does not mean, however, that our work is finished. We must now begin to look at how to make it more efficient for us to pay, more conducive to collect”. He, however, noted that that there are still a significant minority of Lagosians in the formal sector who are yet to be persuaded to pay their taxes urging such people to come into the tax fold in order to contribute to the development of the State. On alleged multiple taxation, the Governor explained that the only time taxation could be considered multiple is a situation where the three tiers of government, federal state and local governments tax an individual or organization on the same item showing slides to explain the different kinds of taxes that obtains in different sector of the economy in different countries.

Responding to the question on water supply by a stakeholder, Governor Fashola said in addition to what his predecessor built before 2007, his administration has, in the last six years, built 15 macro and mini waterworks that has added 30 million gallons of water to the water supply in the State. “Apart from the Iju Water Works build by the British about 1913 or thereabouts the next major water works that we built was Adiyan Phase 1 which was built about 1991. . Since then we have built small macro and mini waterworks. In the last six years, in addition to what my predecessor built, we have built 15 adding 30 million gallons of water”, the Governor said. He said Government has now committed to bigger water projects like the Adiyan Phase 2 which, according to him, is now under construction. “It will finish in 2016 but I will not be here as your Governor. But we have awarded the contract; we have put the financing in place. Your Governor in 2016 will come and switch on that waterworks to give you 70 million gallons of water a day”, he said.

He said Government is also adding 25 million gallons of water at Odomola adding that it is working with some developers from Singapore to do that while also upgrading the Ishasi Waterworks from 4 million to 12 million gallons of water adding that the project   is almost completed. “This is just a few of what we have on-going in the area of water. So it is work in progress and we will get water as we go. But even if we supply all that water we will still learn to conserve water”, the Governor said.

On the question of getting land documents and ensuring that the land  bought is from the right source, the Governor warned that unless people stop cutting corners while speculating for land, they would always risk being defrauded adding that in civilized societies nobody goes to do land transactions without the services of a lawyer. “You have to employ the services of a lawyer and pay him so that he will manage your risks, so that if you lose money on the advice of a lawyer you can sew him for professional negligence”, the Governor said recalling a story recently in which an Estate agent was on the run because he had 13 flats to rent but he collected rent from 100 tenants.

“That is because the tenants did not seek professional advice. Again when we begin to cut corners we are only helping to deepen unemployment. When you decide to become your own architect, your own accountant, you can no longer complain that your son who is an architect has no job, you have taken his job”, he said.’ On the different taxes like that accrue in the different sectors of the economy such as the Hospitality industry, Governor Fashola said the choice of a particular life style attracts the kind of tax levied citing what obtains in Housing in London and Hotels in South Africa to buttress his point.

“If you can afford to enjoy yourself in the hotel, they believe you can give something to help the poor. If you can afford to drink Champaign for N80,000 at least you can afford 5 percent of that amount to help those who are looking for food. This is how it is done in all those places.  “This is a lifestyle tax. It is also a way that societies distribute wealth that those who can afford luxuries must contribute something so that those who have not can be taken care of. Free education is only free for the children but the teachers must be paid and other workers who contribute to the education of the children. It is only if those of us who have something give a little of what we have that we can provide for the vulnerable and for the weak in our society”, the Governor said. In her Presentation earlier titled “Women and Taxation”, former Minister of Industries, Dr. (Mrs.) Onikepo Akande , said because women have become professionals in different fields and wage earners, they should pay tax as much as men do pointing out that women were no longer mere housewives depending on their husbands.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief Executive Officer of the States Internal Revenue Service and Chairman Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Babatunde Fowler said the Government was charging 12 legal practitioners, 13 oil and gas executives, 26 individuals from different sectors, one medical practitioner and one sports personality to court for refusing to pay their taxes.

Highlight of the event was the giving of awards to winners of the Secondary Schools Essay Competition on Taxation in both Junior and Senior categories, the recognition of old Tax Compliance Awardees and the Presentation of Awards to tax compliant individuals and Corporate organizations  by Governor Fashola and Mr. Fowler. Present also at the colourful event were members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioners for Information and Strategy and Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba and Mr. Ben Akabueze respectively, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Lateefat Okunnu, Chairman House Committee on Finance, Hon. Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, Traditional Rulers and Market Women leaders as well as other prominent individuals and stakeholders.

 SOURCE: (HAKEEM BELLO – ) Photos by Kunle Fakulujo for Trendy Africa Nigeria.

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