Celebrating Zainab Isah Mai Masa

April 5, 2021
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By Peter Ibrahim  |

Typically, majority of Nigerians evade tax and most of those that even perform this civic responsibility do so grudgingly. According to the Joint Tax Board (JTB), only 14 million citizens paid taxes in 2017 out of 70 million economically active persons in the country. This ranks the country as having the lowest tax to GDP ratio in the world. Specifically, it ranks 6%, in contrast to India, Ghana and South African which had 16%, 15.9%, and 27% respectively during the period under review.

However, the Governor Nasir El-Rufai APC administration is changing this mindset in Kaduna state. The administration has created a new tax law that consolidated all existing taxes in the state, created the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) as the only revenue collecting agency and ended the regime of cash payments. The new tax law brought many small businesses into the tax net. In spite of this, defaults still abound as not many are keen on paying taxes, believing falsely that oil revenue is enough to provide goods and services for the citizenry.Indeed, the refocused KADIRS embarked on vigorous sensitization campaigns and outreaches, reiterating the importance of paying taxes to government.

In addition, the Service adopted technology and innovations to make tax payments and collection easier. Inter-agency collaborations was also strengthened among all revenue collecting MDAs. These measures have seen a steady increase in Kaduna state ’s IGR, from N12billion in 2015, to N44 billion in 2019 and N50.9 billion in 2020. However, these measures alone were not the only factors that increased the state’s IGR. KADIRS has had to sanction corporate defaulters after all engagements failed to yield fruits. In particular, it sealed off three branches of FCMB and Keystone banks over tax liabilities to the tune of 295 million. Similarly, Kaduna Polytechnic and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria have had to cough out backlogs of PAYE remittances.

On Friday 26th March 2021, KADIRS recognized 23 individual taxpayers, staff of the tax collecting Agency, other revenue generating MDAs, corporate bodies, as well as private organizations for their various contributions to its success story. Indeed, one recipient who stood tall at the Grand Award Night was Hajiya Zainab Isah, who sells masa, a local delicacy, along the popular “Sign Board” bus stop, on the road to Unguwar Dosa, in Kaduna metropolis. She received the Micro Tax Award for paying N100,000 voluntarily, in a country where well-to-do-individuals and businesses are known for evading tax payments. Interestingly, Hajiya Zainab was required to only pay N50,000 under the presumptive tax which her small business fell into.

However, her patriotism and belief in the El-Rufai administration propelled her to pay N100,000. Her testimony at the award night was touching as it was a lesson in Civics. According to her, “I pay tax because I have trust in this government, knowing that it will always do what it says it will do with taxpayers’ money for the good of the people. It is with these taxes that they are providing social services that we are all benefiting from. I call on people to pay their taxes because government means well. I have seen with my eyes the numerous projects the government is executing with our tax money.

In front of where I am selling ‘waina’, government has built a road and it is doing the same all around the metropolis.”In a country where the elites live off the commonwealth and seldom pay taxes or at best pay less that their net worth, Hajiya Zainab’s patriotic act is not just ray of hope that Nigerians will one day get out of this negative mentality of non-payment of taxes but a shining example of how ordinary citizens are contributing to nation building.

Indeed, Citizen Zainab Isah and people like her ought to be considered for National Honours so as to send the right message that it is not only people who hold high offices, or those who bring laurels to the country or accomplished business men and artistes that are so deserving of national recognition. Ordinary people who do extraordinary things, at least within the context of our environment, should be also honoured.

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Peter is a Special Assistant on Media and Communication

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