Nigerians have always being tax payers, this may not be that obvious but really they do – government agents from local to federal level need a lot to learn to make sure taxes go to the right purse.
When I was little in the 80s, in the then Oranmiyan local government, almost every adults pay their taxes, even the non-government staff.
People like my father makes his payment without any reminder, it was a flat rate for farmers. For the traders, it is mostly collected in the markets.
The other way to make sure fewer people slip through the net at the time was to make it mandatory that all school children produce parent’s tax receipt in the beginning of academic year.
This system was far from perfect at the time, in fact it was open to lots of abuse and double taxation as people sometimes get taxed twice if unable to produce receipts at check points, however hard a lot of people paid up.
The biggest factor that contributed to people’s resistance is that there were no public improvement whatsoever to show for the government revenues so over time, taxation of public stopped altogether.
Fast forward a few decades later, despite the population increase, it seems the percentage of people paying any form of tax in the same area has reduced significantly. Today, only tax paying adults are registered businesses and civil servants.
The myth of taxing poor masses
The poor masses wanted to pay taxes, lots of challenges for sure, however, if this hasn’t stopped Lagos state from collecting taxes within the state, surely Osun can do the same.
For example a friend in Ogun state got taxed flat rate of 10k naira/annum for dried food stuff shop. People with similar source of income in Osun got off with paying no tax.
As it stands today many small enterprises in all of our towns are not paying any taxes to the government because no one is asking them or the misconception that everyone is poor so exempt from tax.
However, this same group of poor masses somehow are very happy to comply with the religious rule of 10% earnings tithe and sometimes, they do accept more or less according to individual economic blessings.
I wonder, if Nigerian churches could be so clever to instil in people the need to secure their ‘heavenly home’ through taxation, surely it should not be hard to convince the same group of people to pay towards improving their earthly surroundings.
From what I know growing up in the area, people’s resistance to paying taxes has nothing to do with being poor, if there is more transparency in the collection and spending of people’s contributions – they will happily obliged.
If any government is able to educate the people of Osun state on the importance of taxation, it will be Ogbeni Aregbesola as people love and respect his work.