Participants at the just concluded workshop on patriotism, civic and ethical responsibility (PCE) have reiterated the overriding need for every Nigerian citizen to ensure prompt payment of income tax as a foundation for any demand for accountability in efforts geared towards national development.
The workshop also urged governments at all levels should also ensure an expansive tax regime that is bound by the principles of equity, certainty, convenience, economy, simplicity, neutrality and efficiency, adding that many states in the country cannot be sustained through their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and that in most instances, their IGR cannot even fund recurrent expenditure.
The forum which was organised in Abuja by Stop Impunity Nigeria Campaign (S.I.N) is a collaborative effort by a multi stakeholder group of civil society organisations, religious bodies and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) aimed at re-orienting Nigerians and promoting new ethical values to free the country from the debilitating effects of impunity, noted that taxation is the foundation of the social contract between the citizen and the government.
The event which attracted participants from the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, civil society including the media, religious bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) added that tax as an instrument of social engineering, is the price of social security and welfare. The participants however lamented that a good number of Nigerians do not pay tax whilst others under-declare their taxable income and as such, Nigeria still depends on oil rent to fund its bureaucracy and service delivery operations.
The multi-stakeholder meeting also observed that the development of a culture of organized giving and charity at the individual and corporate levels is imperative if the country must sustain public spirited work in the national interest, adding that this should be facilitated by a taxation regime that makes such donations tax deductible.
The forum equally harped on the need for the introduction of citizenship education in the basic curriculum of schools for young Nigerians to be able to understand the country’s history, learn from it and inculcate the virtues of responsible citizenship.
The participants further called on the Nigerian middle class to be resolute about actively engaging governance, participate in the politics, vote at elections and champion the cause of new Nigeria that will be an egalitarian and progressive society committed to the development of productive forces, adding value, creating wealth and ensuring that the benefits of national development are available to all.
“There is an ever present need for a national dialogue by whatever name called to discuss and address the fundamental challenges besetting the Nigerian nation. Decree 24 of 1999 which masquerades as the source of authority for the 1999 Constitution cannot be the foundation of a Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria where we the people of Nigeria resolved and agreed to give to ourselves a constitution”, the group further declared in a communique jointly signed by Eze Onyekpere Esq, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Jacenta Torhee (Mrs) of the NOA, Babatunde Adegbesan, Publish What You Pay and Idris Miliki, Centre for Conflict Resolution.
The workshop enjoined Nigerian civil society including organized labour, academia, the media and NGOs to rise up to the challenge of nation building and development, noting that the time has come to move away from leaving the field of activism to only a few advocates who can easily be isolated and their demands ignored.
They also recommended that regulatory agencies should as a matter of urgency, improve on their oversight and regulation of private sector entities that deliver services to the Nigerian people. “In this regard, we call on the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and others to improve the quality of their services”, the forum further stated
In the same vein, the meeting said the culture of road safety should be strengthened through the enhanced activities of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and that the NOA should be supported by all Nigerians in its task of re-orientating Nigerians towards a great nation where people do the right thing to transform the nation while religious institutions in the country should be at the forefront of the campaign for civic responsibility and greater accountability in governance.
They also charged the Environmental Protection Boards and Authorities to improve service delivery, reach out to the people through community development associations and mainstream the culture of environmental stewardship.
The participants applauded the support of the Ford Foundation and the efforts of the Stop Impunity Campaign in the organisation of the workshop which focused on the identification of major issues and challenges in PCE and their links with impunity. Meanwhile, the workshop is also developing a follow up plan of action and strategies for enhancing PCE in Nigeria.