The Chairman of the Joint Tax Board (JTB), Tunde Fowler, has commended Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State for putting in place a proficient and “unparalleled” tax regime, which has ensured that the state exceeded the 15 per cent tax revenue to GDP benchmark suggested by the United Nations for the funding of budgets.
The JTB Chairman, who is also the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), also applauded Mr Ugwuanyi for the unprecedented growth in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Enugu State as well as the judicious utilisation of the said funds for the rapid development of the state.
Mr Fowler, who spoke during the 141st meeting of the board holding in Enugu, which had in attendance chairmen of the Board of Internal Revenue from the 36 states of the federation, also lauded the governor for his quality leadership, giant development strides in the state and “excellent” hospitality.
He, therefore, called on other governors to emulate Governor Ugwuanyi’s measures in enhancing the efficiency and productivity of his state’s Board of Internal Service for improved revenue profile in their various states.
The chairman stated that the objective of the meeting, themed: “Leveraging on ICT for Efficient Tax Administration and Revenue Enhancements, Focusing on States IRS”, was to discuss tax matters and how to provide better services as well as “look at contracts executed with tax payers’ money.”
While further appreciating Mr Ugwuanyi for his effective utilisation of tax payers’ money for the rapid development of the state, Mr Fowler advised the visiting chairpersons of BIR to share the experience with their governors, accordingly.
He said: “As you come to Enugu, you can see how tax monies were used. Following the testimony given by the Chairman of Board of Internal Revenue of Enugu State, Mr. Emeka Odo, as a good friend, all the chairmen are supposed to have the copies of advance sheets to their governors for them to see what was going on in Enugu State and how things are supposed to be done”.
He maintained that tax revenue is “no doubt the only means to ensure sustainable economic and social development,” emphasising their role “as tax administrators to carry out our duties diligently to ensure that all the current tax revenue is collected as at when due.”
According to him, “looking at the figures of Enugu State, I would like to congratulate you (Ugwuanyi) that the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service is living up to its responsibilities in the area of increasing the state’s revenue base. It has exceeded this figure (UN 15% benchmark) already.
“The measures you have taken to enhance the efficiency of your board in Enugu State are unparalleled. At this point, I call on other governors to do what is being done in Enugu State and if within six months we cannot see any difference, we will say something is wrong.
“But, I am sure these measures taken by the Enugu State Revenue Service if taken by other state governors, our revenue profile will improve tremendously”.
Declaring open the event, Mr Ugwuanyi, who welcomed the participants to the state, disclosed that his administration, in realising the need to reduce its dependence on the then dwindling statutory receipts from the Federation Account, “immediately embarked on the reform of public finances in the state to align with our developmental priorities and realities”.
The governor added that the state government also repositioned the state’s Internal Revenue Service through the appointment of a board of seasoned professionals; establishment of new revenue courts; enactment of the Land Use Assessment Appeal Tribunal Law; reorganisation of the board to meet the required standards to deliver the desired results, etc.
“We are glad to report that these measures have made a tremendous impact on our revenue streams, enabling our IGR to peak at N22 billion last year in contrast to the N14 billion we collected in the whole of the 2016 fiscal year”, he added.
Gov. Ugwuanyi noted his administration’s prudent management of the state’s financial resources was responsible for the numerous “unprecedented development programmes” it has implemented so far to make life more meaningful for the people. He stressed that with the lean receipts from the Federation accounts, the state government has continued to pay workers’ salaries on or before 25th of every month; paid all civil servants the 13th month salary as Christmas Bonus and the June salaries despite the non-receipt of the FAAC allocation for the month.
The governor also used the occasion to appeal to JTB Chairman to intervene on the over N18 billion debt in back duty taxes collectively owed the Enugu State government by federal institutions and agencies, namely; the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH); the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN); the Federal Orthopedic Hospital Enugu; the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu; the Federal College of Education, Eha-Amufu; the Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu; the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the National Examination Council (NECO).
Other speakers such as the Executive Secretary of JTB, Oseni Elamah, and Chairman of Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, Emeka Odo, also hailed Mr Ugwuanyi’s good governance and commitment to the success story of the revenue board.