In history, very often, the coming of a man of uncommon drive and vision to a human setup usually leaves an indelible footprint that people refer to long after they have gone. That is why people still talk about NAFDAC under the late Dr Dora Akunyili, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under General Muhmmadu Buhari (retd) and FCT administration under Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Of course, there had been many CEOs before and after the aforementioned, but these names also crop up whenever it comes to gauging high standards of public service. Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) under the leadership of its Executive Chairman, Mr. Muhammad Nami, is just about six months old, but it is already showing signs of great promise, probity and courage like the examples above.
I wish to underscore from the onset the obvious fact that the present management of the FIRS under Nami, especially at this critical period of national economic crisis orchestrated by COVID-19, conspicuously bears the landmark of professional competence, commitment and patriotic service to the nation.
It is on record that in less than six months of assumption of office, Nami has introduced plausible transformational policies that have seen a new face of FIRS in terms of technology-enhanced tax collection, expansion of tax net in the formal and informal sectors that have continued to receive commendations from critical stakeholders. This has been no small feat towards enhancing the present administration’s policy measures for ease of doing business.
As soon as Nami took over, it became crystal clear to all that, at last, the nation’s revenue house has a new vibrant leadership and management that is driving creative and result- oriented reforms with desirable outcomes much to the ovation of industry players, as well as staff members of the FIRS.
One of the success stories of Nami at the FIRS is that under his leadership, revenue collection and taxation processes have become easier and hassle-free. The modernisation of revenue collection through introduction and reinforcements of cutting edge ICT has eliminated the hitherto outmoded system that made revenue collection cumbersome and made some revenue officers susceptible to sharp practices and corruption. Branded shops, super stores, general supermarkets, standard restaurants and eateries are among the organisations affected.
Under Nami, processing and collection of tax clearance certificate (TCC) has become easy and fast. Same thing with collection of value added tax (VAT) and Stamp Duty largely due to digitisation, a situation that helped to free the system of time-wasting and suffocating bottlenecks. This system allows deduction of stamp duty, withholding tax and Company Income Tax (CIT) from their contractors at the point of payment after which they are to send immediately same to the FIRS.
As the executive chairman noted, the significance of this process cannot be over emphasised. According to him, “This is better for everybody as we would all have to do less reconciliation and enforcement activities, and we can, therefore, use the saved time to expand the tax net,” he said.
Besides, the FIRS boss has taken one of the most anticipated moves in Nigeria’s tax administration which goes to show that his vision at the revenue house reflects a comprehensive aggregation of public and private players in line with national interest. This step has not only been missing but it has increased the revenue drive of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, a loophole which Nami is determined to close in order to shore up revenue collection drive.
This move is the strategy to capture thousands of persons and corporate entities in the tax net, especially with special focus on multinational companies that have been defaulting and evading paying Company Income Tax (CIT) close to 10 years now. The FIRS boss has taken the bull by the horns to see that all tax defaulters and evaders are brought into the tax net.
According to him, “A number of multinational companies operating in Lagos State have not paid CIT since 2011 as they appeared to have perfected the illicit act of profit shifting to escape paying tax.”
The disclosure by the executive chairman of FIRS in this regard is eye-popping. It shows how many corporate organisations had been denying the country the needed revenue through deliberate act of economic sabotage by evading or defaulting in the payment of CIT.
It is sad that several multinational companies failed consistently to remit their tax to the FIRS by covering up their pioneer status in order to get tax exemption for a period of five years instead of three years as required by law, and they were allowed to have their way.
It is instructive that only Nami-led management has demonstrated requisite courage and patriotism to go after such criminal defaulters. This is a huge plus to the Buhari administration’s efforts to enforce financial transparency and ease of doing business in the country.
–Ajala, a financial reporting researcher, writes from Oregun, Lagos.
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