New tax culture and infrastructure funding

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is known for desire and action to quickly develop the nation’s neglected infrastructure but the money to do so is, simply, inadequate.

Other than the inadequacy of money and need to develop infrastructure, other areas of development such as education and health also beg for attention of the government. Thus, money must be looked for from all directions and above all, the government must be creative and inward looking in its search for the needed cash for development.

Fortunately, the government is neither short of ideas nor afraid to confront the nation’s development challenges. In fact, this week, the present said his administration would continue to sensitise citizens on the benefits they stand to derive from payment of taxes.

The government, the president said, will encourage Nigerians to cultivate the culture of paying taxes by ensuring fair implementation policy and effective utilisation of resources.

The president, who spoke when he received leadership of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) at the State House, said the national tax policy document had been reviewed with the aim of institutionalising a tax payment culture within the Nigerian workforce.

Of course, taxation, so long as it achieves the purpose it is meant to realise, the benefits are immeasurable for the nation. Taxation is one of the essential functions of government, and a fact of life for taxpayers that requires compliance and planning.

One of the most basic advantages of taxes is that they allow the government to spend money for basic operations. These include to raise an army, to pay foreign debt and to build and operate schools and hospitals, among other things.

By funding military and security forces, taxes keep Nigerians safe. Government, which does everything from passing laws to promoting national policies, wouldn’t exist without the tax money needed to meet expenses.

Taxes also redistribute wealth between taxpayers and individuals who receive government assistance. Some taxes are progressive taxes, which means that wealthier taxpayers pay higher proportional amount in taxes. For those who support progressive taxation, this type of tax helps promote greater economic and social equality in society.

The benefit here is that the wealthiest taxpayers help pay for programmes that support lower-income and middle-class citizens while also contributing to the basic services that all taxpayers have equal access to. In fact, these are the same programmes and services that make it possible to achieve wealth in the first place.

Some taxes only apply to certain products, which has the advantage of reducing or discouraging consumption. For example, state taxes that apply to alcohol and cigarettes help to moderate their use. Cigarette taxes also fund anti-smoking campaigns which benefit the public health.

Though not in existence yet, fuel taxes, if introduced, can help reduce demand for fuel and keep demand for fuel in check, while also protecting the environment from overconsumption.

In Nigeria, state and local governments, like the federal government, rely on taxes for their basic functions. Other local governments charge property taxes as well. These governments fund everything from fire departments and road construction to public schools through the taxes people pay each year.

Still, owing to the need to raise cash for development, the Buhari-led administration can initiate more people into the nation’s tax net, especially by giving voters and taxpayers the chance to select and fund special projects that they feel their communities need.

This can be done by allowing voters to cast ballot for or against temporary introduction of tax to fund proposed project in their area. Public transportation, infrastructure and school improvements are some of the programmes that a ballot measure may ask voters to consider.

But, in any event, people have to believe and trust in what their government says. Thankfully, Nigerians trust their president and believe that his administration has made some progress in the past four years. 

However, “a lot more can still be done,” just like the president said. A key step in this regard is to enhance and expand government’s revenue base. Currently, the country heavily relies on oil as its main source of income but that is not enough to meet its infrastructure, social services and security needs.

Therefore, again, like the president said, a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of tax on the economy by the populace and fair and equitable utilisation of same would help in improving government’s revenue shortfalls and, ultimately, lead to development in the country.

Buhari’s order on incessant building collapse

This week, President Muhammadu Buhari said that those responsible for building collapse, which has become recurrent across the country, would face the full wrath of the law.In fact, for those responsible for the building collapse, the president calls their action professional negligence.

Receiving the leadership of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), led by Mr Obafemi Onashile, the president said the recent tragic incidents in Lagos and many other states were reminders of the need to strictly adhere to quality standards on construction projects.

“Young innocent lives must never be lost due to incompetence and greed. Simply put, no corners must be cut,” he said. “I want to assure you that those responsible for such incidents of professional negligence will feel the full wrath of the law.”

Regrettably, crimes are hardly or never gets punished in Nigeria. In most cases, culprits are allowed to escape and encourage to perpetrate more crime.

That culture of impunity must be stopped. After all, the law is there to punish criminals and crime, in this respect, is considered an act that not only injures the specific victim, but also harms society. A person’s harmful acts may outrage the society as a whole. This gives rise to a desire for revenge, and punishing the criminal tends to satisfy that need.

Additionally, having a person punished by society provides some measure of revenge for the specific victim of the act. If society provides an adequate punishment, the need for an individual to seek revenge personally is diminished.

In some instances, laws require restitution to the victim. Criminal law is generally reserved for the vindication of society. Imposing a penalty for a criminal act is also intended to deter that person or others from repeating the act.

If the penalty is significant enough, the lawbreaker, in this case building professionals, will think twice before they cut corners in doing their work. Also, when the penalties are well known and there is public dissemination of penalties for a particular crime, it is expected that others who might contemplate the crime would be deterred from engaging in the prohibited activity.

In the course of human history, the deterrence aspect of criminal punishment has had gruesome chapters, including public executions and leaving corpses of the crucified to hang upon the cross.

When there is a trial, sentencing and punishment imposed, there is often attendant publicity. This publicity is part of the deterrent factor in imposing a criminal penalty. Thus, it’s pleasing to hear the president said to his guests that “by the grace of God, and with your continued prayers and support, the dark days of impunity are gone for good.”

Consequently, the president advised members of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors on what to do; they should pay more attention to how buildings are constructed, shun corruption and avoid cutting corners.

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