A few days ago, Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, through the reconstitution of the state Board of Internal Revenue, took a bold step towards a systematic increase in the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, of the state for the delivery of more dividends of democracy to the people.
The decisive action of the governor in reconstituting the board was basically for two reasons. First, it was because of the expiration of the tenure of the previous board under the chairmanship of Mr. F.O.C Chime. The second reason was obviously in response to the current economic challenges in the country, which have drastically dwindled the financial status of states and the nation at large to an all-time low.
The reconstituted board, which was made, pursuant to Section 19(1) of the Finance (Amendment) Law of Enugu State, brought on board men of proven integrity and financial prowess to drive the noble agenda of the state government towards improving on its IGR for the prosecution of more development projects and other social services.
It is worthy of note that Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration in just one year in office, despite the harsh economic situation, had completed six major road projects while over 15 development projects are on-going , including unprecedented feats recorded in other sectors of development. His administration had also advertised the award of contract for 25 new roads including three bridges in the 17 local government areas, as part of his administration’s grassroots development initiatives and the contracts will soon be awarded for execution.
The governor, while reconstituting the board appointed a seasoned administrator, banker, journalist, financial expert and businessman, Mr. Chukwuemeka Anthony Odo as Chairman. He equally appointed Mr. Chike Onodugo, Mr. Jude Sunday Egbo, Barr Joseph Onuoha, and a lawyer, Mrs. Chinasa Perpetual Awkadigwe, who serves as secretary to the board, among others, as members.
There is no doubt that because of the board’s significance as the main revenue generating agency of the state, when it was reconstituted, attracted the attention and commendation from the public, especially those who were conversant with the calibre of persons in the membership of the board.
For instance, the choice of the new board chairman, Mr. Odo, was widely viewed by many people as a square peg in a square hole, considering his antecedents in finance and business management, where he rose to become the Executive Director, Corporate and Institutional Banking, Lagos Region, in Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank).
While inaugurating the board, Ugwuanyi noted that the Internal Revenue Service in the state was crucial to the economic well-being of the government and by extension that of the people of the state, most especially in the present “days of severe national economic depression that is threatening the solvency of government at all levels and which is already hindering their operations.”
The governor regretted that the receipts from federation account have been growing progressively smaller, making it expedient for most state governments to depend on IGR to fund their activities and service their obligations.
As a visionary leader, Governor Ugwuanyi revealed that he had envisaged the situation in his inaugural speech, when he warned that every revenue-generating agency of the state should be ready to intensify its efforts to generate and remit more revenues to fund government development efforts.
Consequently, the governor charged members of the newly reconstituted board to raise their performance bar and develop strategies that would achieve significant and substantial increase in the IGR of the state.
He equally mandated them to ensure the effective collection of all the revenue accruable to the government as well as checkmate all avenues of leakages and wastages in the process. He stressed that the prevailing economic conditions had caused government to labour tirelessly to “meet its heavy financial commitments and obligations: to pay salaries, fund development projects, ensure social services and maintain security among others.”
As a leader who is committed to the principles of accountability, transparency and prudent management of resources, the governor called on individuals and corporate bodies in the state not to fail in their obligations to pay their taxes, as defaulters, according to him, “will not be counted as friends of the state”.
He reassured “that every kobo put into the pockets of the government, will be utilised transparently and in a manner that would add value to the lives of the people of Enugu State.”
In his response, the new chairman of the state Board of Internal Revenue, Mr. Odo, who is a member of the Enugu State Economic Advisory Committee, on behalf of other board members, thanked the governor for the confidence he reposed in them to serve and assured him that they will explore and exploit all sources of internally generated revenue to ensure that government meets its obligations to the people of the state.
He promised that they will strive to expand the tax net in the state so that every taxable person and organisation will be given the opportunity to perform their civic obligation of paying tax for the government to continue to be at their service.
According to him, “strategies will also be implemented to grow existing non-tax revenues and expand other income sources of government bearing in mind the economic indices of the state as a civil service driven economy.
He said: “We are aware that the state government is in a hurry to deliver more service to the people, through its development agenda, we shall harness all forms of internally generated revenue to ensure that present administration of Governor Ugwuanyi in Enugu State meets its obligations to the citizens.
“Taxation is our collective responsibility. The new Board of Internal Revenue will be driven by the culture of service, team spirit, transparency, accountability and professionalism.”
From the foregoing, it is clear that Governor Ugwuanyi has come up with a new economic agenda that would help propel a process of increased revenue generation for the state and in a friendly atmosphere for the people to enjoy more dividends of democracy. This strategic vision remains one of the statutory ways out of the current economic quagmire.
The onus is therefore, on individuals and corporate organisations to cooperate with the board by ensuring that they fulfil their obligations of paying taxes regularly for the government to continue to deliver good governance, for Enugu State under Governor Ugwuanyi is truly in the hands of God.