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By Louis Amoke
Recently, the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State announced an impressive increase in the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) receipts through the sterling performance of the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service, under the chairmanship of Mr. Emeka Odo. The accountant-general of the state, Sir Paschal Okolie, while briefing the State Executive Council on the mid-year budget review, declared that the state has grown its IGR to 35 per cent of her total revenue, noting that the state’s IGR receipts for the period of six months (January to June 2017) was N12.4 billion, an unprecedented increase, which he said almost equaled federal statutory allocation of N13.5 billion to the state within the period under review.
The accountant-general also pointed out that the state’s total IGR receipts for 2016 was N14.2 billion; he described the development as unprecedented on the part of revenue collection agencies in the state, under the effective coordination of the Enugu State Internal Revenue Service. He disclosed that the remarkable achievements being recorded in all strata of the economy in the state, especially in the provision of critical infrastructure and prompt payment of workers’ salary on or before the 25th of every month, among others, despite the severe economic recession in the county, were as a result of the impact of the significant growth in the income of the state, through IGR.
Okolie added that an effect of the milestone feat was also the governor’s further directive that all civil servants in the state should be paid promptly on the 23rd day of each month, and the directive has been complied with.
Briefing journalists after the meeting of the council, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, disclosed that, “Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi commended the chairman of Enugu State Internal Revenue Service for his creativity, hard work and commitment, which have led to recovery of massive stolen funds by unscrupulous public officers colluding with corrupt commercial bank officials to defraud the state to the tune of billions of naira.”
From the foregoing, kudos must go to the governor for his sound vision, renewed vigour and sheer dexterity, borne out of his deep-rooted commitment to transparency, accountability, fiscal discipline and prudent management of the state’s lean resources. He should also be applauded for strict adherence to the promises he made to the people of Enugu State before and during his inauguration in 2015.
Gov. Ugwuanyi, in his inaugural address, promised to turn the present economic challenges in the county into huge blessings by looking inwards to harness those potentialities, which free oil money had blinded the state from exploiting. He also pledged to lead by example to pilot “a lean government to free up resources and channel them to the real development issues.”
Consequently, the governor declared, “every revenue-generating agency of government should be ready to generate and remit revenues to fund government development efforts.”
In the same vein, he directed that individuals and corporate entities “should, henceforth start paying tax, as defaulters will not be counted as friends of Enugu State.”
“One thing I must assure you is that every kobo you put into the coffers of government will be utilised transparently and in a way that adds value to your lives,” he said.
In keeping with these promises, in June last year, in a bid to systematically increase the state’s IGR for the delivery of more dividends of democracy to the people, Gov. Ugwuanyi took a bold step and reconstituted the Board of Internal Revenue. The decisive action, which was taken pursuant to Section 19 (1) of the Finance (Amendment) Law of Enugu State, brought on board men of integrity and financial prowess to drive the noble agenda of the state government. It was also in reaction to the dwindling revenue from the Federation Account.
One year down the line, the state’s internal revenue service has displayed high professionalism and has also brought innovation, fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability to bear in the discharge of its responsibilities.
These enduring attributes, no doubt, saw to the remarkable achievements recorded so far by the board, which were responsible for the unparalleled boost of the state’s IGR to an enviable status, contrary to what obtained in the past. For instance, the new board, according to Odo, has, in alignment with the vision of the governor, implemented far-reaching measures to reform the revenue service, eliminate corruption, block pilfering of tax and non-tax income of government and ramp up the IGR in a steady and sustainable manner. It has also prosecuted an innovative and intensive regime of back-duty audits on major tax agents, creating zonal tax controllers, to bring tax officials closer to taxpayers with an accelerated automation of tax assessment and collection process through the institution of an Integrated Tax Management System in the state.
These measures, according the chairman, resulted in the appreciable feats recorded in the first half of 2017, which stood the state’s IGR at over N12 billion, compared to N7.2 billion actualised in 2016, starting from the month the new board was inaugurated.
In a bid to galvanise the support of the judiciary for effective enforcement mechanism to ensure tax payment by every taxable adult and organisation in the state, the board recently established and inaugurated a Revenue Court in Enugu, with a clause that “government will no longer fold its arms and watch while citizens and corporate organisations evade tax and shun their civic obligations.”
This vision attests to the fact that Enugu State is working and truly in the hands of God.
•Amoke writes from Enugu