AS the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari winds up within the next nine days, it is understandable that Nigerians are looking back at the passing four years to see if (and where) the “change” the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, promised showed up beyond mere propaganda. While the regime’s performance in the economic sector can at best be described as tepid, two federal institutions stood out by dint of their internal innovative initiatives beyond the general template of the regime’s economic agenda as contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP.
These were the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under its Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, under its Executive Chairman, Dr. William Babatunde Fowler. Emefiele, who has emerged as the first CBN Governor to be appointed for a second five-year term since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, earned his place in the Buhari administration through the highly successful Anchor Borrowers Programme for agriculture (especially rice production). He also stabilised the Naira without compromising the steady growth of our external reserves. Fowler’s FIRS, on the other hand, has met the expectations of many Nigerians that he should take the “magic” he performed at the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, LIRS, to Abuja. The FIRS has now become the Federal Government’s dependable organ for the steady accretion of non-oil, tax-based revenue to service the Federation Account. Fowler halted the instability that pervaded the FIRS since the tenure of Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru ended in 2012. Former President Goodluck Jonathan had replaced her with Alhaji Kabir Mashi. But in March 2015, Mashi was replaced by Mr. Samuel Odugbesan who remained in acting capacity until he was replaced by Fowler. Whereas under Fowler, the LIRS increased from N600 million in 1999 to N20 billion per month in 2015, the FIRS moved from below N2 trillion per annum in 2015 to initial N3 trillion in 2016, N4 trillion in 2017 and N5.3 trillion in 2018, which is more than half of the 2019 Federal budget. In addition, through the Tax Identification Number, TIN, initiative, 45 million taxpayers have now been brought into the federal tax net. With the steady implementation of the ongoing innovations, the future of taxation assuming the lion’s share of federal revenue in place of oil is bright indeed. The Buhari regime has done a great job towards putting taxation in its proper place in our national economy. Indeed, Nigerian taxpayers can now genuinely look forward to priding themselves as the primary providers of government revenue for good governance and development. This will eventually augur well for accountability, safeguard against corruption and promote zero-tolerance for government ineptitude. We hope efforts will be made to foster continuity and consolidation in this sector.