The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group and Oxfam International have urged the federal and state governments to intensify efforts in the collection of taxes from citizens. During a multi-stakeholder dialogue in Lagos, the Program me Officer, Public-Private Sector Transparency and Accountability Officer, Oxfam International, Henry Ushie, said that the government, both at the federal and state levels, had been soft on wealthy people in the society.
In a statement, he said, “In retrieving taxes, I think the government has been soft on the rich but that is not the same with the poor. These rich people, including the multinationals, always find a way within the law to evade tax. “Our system also allows these big companies to operate for some years without paying a dime. It will not be wrong to say the government has not been proactive on tax collection.” While noting that the government had yet to explore all the avenues to retrieve taxes, he stated, “We have only explored 20 per cent of those who are taxable, which means 80 per cent is still untaxed. We should be able to bring these people into the tax net.” Ushie argued that if a person spoke with the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service or Federal Internal Revenue Service, it might say it did not have the manpower to go after people who evaded taxes. “But if we can harmonize our scattered database systems, we can track everyone who is taxable through their Bank Verification Number or other means,” he added. The Chief Executive Officer, NDEBUMOG, George Anthony, stated that it was the civic responsibility of every citizen to pay tax, regardless of how terrible a government could be. He explained, “Paying tax is the responsibility of every responsible citizen but people don’t have an interest in it due to the poor social amenities and the state of the economy. However, when you pay your tax, you have the moral right to demand effective service and accountability from the government.”