Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, has urged all stakeholders in the country to embrace taxation in the post-COVID-19 era.
The Commissioner stated this while speaking on the aftermath of his participation in a two-day online symposium organised by the Centre for Business Taxation, Oxford University, reiterating that oil has always been unreliable and lessons from the COVID-19 crisis has further affirmed this position.
Olowo, who was among 100 public finance and tax experts from across the globe who participated in the virtual symposium, said that many developing and oil-dependent countries like Nigeria have been left far behind in optimising taxation.
According to the Commissioner, “Nigeria’s current tax to GDP ratio of between four to seven 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 oil revenue 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 different results”, he posited.
He submitted that there is hardly any developed country without effective taxation, stressing that the gulf oil producers are now embracing taxation despite their lower population, higher oil reserves and lower cost of oil production.
Pointing out that the advanced countries of the world are no longer discussing whether to tax or not, Olowo maintained that experts now deliberate on strategies to manipulate policies for optimum impact.
“But in Africa, we are still thinking of how to tax. From discussions at the symposium, it is obvious we are losing billions of dollars to tax manipulation by multinationals and we should look into this urgently”, he declared.
The Commissioner emphasised the need for government to engage more with citizens on tax to gain trust, noting that in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has been exemplary in working round the clock on citizen engagement.
While admonishing tax administrators to re-double their efforts and treat taxpayers as clients who deserve quality service, he maintained that other State governments in Nigeria should learn from the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) which is recording significant success despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olowo also implored the press to focus more on taxation to support the government’s drive to increase revenue, pointing out that unremitted taxes hamper the drive to provide modern infrastructure for the citizenry.
“If we evade or pay lower taxes, we should expect a lower quality of governance. Most of the countries we admire are built on high tax, high-quality governance. We cannot be an exception”, Olowo said.