The new inaugurated Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Ota & District Society (CITN, ODS), Surajudeen Agbogunleri in this interview with Nigerian NewsDirect discussed among many things the new tax dispensation Nigeria has waltzed into, issues of inter-state remittance and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria’s revenue from oil & gas sector. Excerpts.
As the chairman of Ota, CITN, What change is your regime bringing to Ota branch and fiscal issues in Nigeria?
As the second chairman of CITN Ota and district society, we want to make sure that we get across to all our professional members in organizations in and around Ota environs.
For example, Ota is the industrial hub of Ogun State, whereby members of CITN are there but they are yet to know that CITN Ota district is in existence.
I want to use this medium to communicate it to them that CITN Ota is at Joju, beside Guaranteed Trust Bank Plc (GTBank), Joju Bus Stop. We do have our meeting every third Saturday of every month which is just for one hour between 11am and 12pm.
The change I intend to bring to the district during my chairmanship year is as it pertains to the technical section. We want to make sure that we keep our members abreast of the current trends in the taxation profession.
We want to make sure that we impact meaningfully the society wherein we find ourselves. For example, the finance act, CAMA—all these things we have to keep our members up-to-date with. In doing this, we need to get consultants who are vast in all these areas. That’s why CITN and Federal Land Revenue Service (FIRS) work hand in hand.
Any new law that relates to tax, the constituency is FIRS. FIRS are close to us and from there, we have collaboration whereby we get a consultant to educate our members to get the information to all organizations within Ota and its environs down to Agbara, Atan, Ifo, Ijoko, Agbado and bringing them together to give them a workshop in relation to the current trend as it affects taxation profession in Nigeria.
These days, it is now taxation because gone are days when the oil boom made money for Nigeria, but now the era of oil boom is gone. We are now in the era of tax.
Every individual needs the service of a tax expert. The next thing is to look for a professional which is why we have chartered tax practitioners who practice the dictate of tax as required by the statute. We are very ready.
When it comes to tax club, we intend to move to secondary schools to ask the small children who are to be abreast on what tax mean irrespective of the department of what they are learning whether they are Science, Art or Commercial class because when they go to the public, the public doesn’t want to know the department they belong to.
Therefore as students, they must abreast of taxation laws.
What are the other avenues you want to explore to increase Internal Revenue Generation (IGR) for Ota as a district?
In Ota as a district, definitely we need money and we need to source for it. One of the ways of sourcing for the money is by organizing fee-paid seminars and workshops whereby we will get a consultant.
We will start by giving out the lectures for free and when they know and see the quality of the training in the seminar or workshop we are giving, then we will tell them that the next workshop is going to be a fee-based seminar asking them to pay.
When they know that they have been enjoying is very good which will add value to themselves and their businesses. They will not mind the fee.
Two, we need to go out to get more members that will add value to the district. For example, about two and half years ago, when we started the CITN in Ota with about 20 members. As at today, we are about 75 members. Immediately I was voted for, in March this year we have started moving out.
We’ll move to Bells University, Covenant University, among other schools. Our members in those organizations and they have started coming to us. We have been to Life Baker, LHS who have commercial department with professionals that are taking them.
We have channeled out all the schools with connection because you must know us and we must know you. We must have the same vision and mission before you admit us in.
The owner of Life Baker, Pastor Samson Arowojolu is our member. He is a Charted Accountant-Fellow, Chartered Taxation Institute. Immediately he heard of CITN, he asked us to come in, and he was very supportive.
He was awarded for supporting our district. Therefore we need to get more value added members that can give us access to their organizations. Those of us that are in practice, we ready to give training, seminar, workshop at no cost to the district whereby we will be able to make money for them.
Considering the impact on society, in Ota where you operate, the roads are not very good. People might be thinking that when they pay tax, the government can make improvement on infrastructure. In terms of confidence, how can government go about it at this time?
In that aspect, the citizens have to make sure that they show responsibility. They must be corporate citizens by paying their tax because if they pay their tax and what they are suppose to pay, the onus is on the government to provide roads. It will be easy to ask the government to come and see our roads.
When you are coming from Ijoko down to the extreme end of Ogun State, the road there is a eye sore but immediately you enter Lagos, you will see tax payers money in action and that’s the problem we are facing.
In Nigeria, we are about 200 million, hardly do we have about 10,000 Nigerians, high net worth individuals that are paying correct tax. We have them in multitudes. Instead of them to buy phone of N20,000, they buy phone of N800,000.
They are patronizing some companies that are registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the government can easily tag them.
When you go to those companies that are registered with CAC, find their returns and they can easily get customers that patronize them, ask them whether they pay what they are suppose to pay in terms in tax.
By the time you check, they will tell you that they’re paying what they are suppose to pay but are they paying what they are supposed to pay?
The reverse is the case because some people may have about 4,5,6 streams of income but they will disclose only one. The one they report are the ones they are reporting at everyday and involved in. The remaining four or five streams of income will not be disclosed.
At the end of the day, if they want to travel from here to Abuja, they will travel on first class and I will be on economy but we are to arrive at the same place at the same time.
Before my inauguration, we wrote to the State Internal Revenue Service asking them to come and see the chairman. They replied us that they are yet to have a chairman.
On the day of inauguration, I learnt that the chairman has been appointed, and we are going to meet them to tell them the problem that the masses are facing.
We are the one interphasing, because we suffer the same problem. They do listen to the people that come to them not the people that are just on the road. When you go to them and they know that you have the voice, you can talk and the masses will easily hear you.
How can Ogun State especially Ota improve on its IGR amidst this COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic affects everybody worldwide and the government is sensitive to the public. They did not want to come out and ask for tax.
For example, in Ogun State for the past three or four years they have not been sending the tax monitoring agent Officers to the public because then the election and all the problems.
Immediately after the election, when they knew that the new government comes in, and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
As I speak, Lagos State and Ogun State will not send their tax monitoring agent officers to the people until next year.
It is part of giving the corporate tax citizens to stabilize and they’ll come back next year to meet the people.
It is very difficult to compare the IGR of Ogun State with Lagos State because they are not at par.
During the era of Senator Ibikunle Amsoun, after Lagos State, Ogun State is the number two in terms of IGR followed by Rivers state.
But the gap between Lagos and Ogun is very wide because of the high population of Lagos State. Though they don’t have large land area but they have a lot of organizations located in every local government and LCDA; money is coming in every year.
Also in terms of the allocation from the federal government, we can’t compare what Lagos State is getting to what Ogun State has.
Ogun State is also trying because they enjoy Ota- Lagos, Mowe Ibafo -Lagos,. Many people working in Lagos reside in those areas.
The past governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosu introduced residency law and made sure that the residency law works.
Do you think workers in Lagos State residing in Ogun State still pay tax to Lagos, despite the fact that a policy has been introduced to correct this?
That’s why Ogun State should send their tax monitoring agent Officers to the companies where those people are working.
I remember when I was on payed employment, the people living on Ota, Ijoko Ogba Ayo, Mowe and I was working in Anthony, Lagos but I do deduct and remit it because I am from Ogun State.
Most of people in Ogun State Internal Revenue Generation service are waiting until when people report to them that they will want to meet them.
As at today, this is what many people are doing, they deduct the tax and remit it to Lagos State Internal Revenue Service because part of the money that is supposed to go to the Ogun State Internal Revenue Service is going to Lagos State and Ogun State is not pursuing it rigorously.
When you go to ministries, they will tell you that it is government work, but there was improvement during the era of Senator Ibikunle Amosu.
Do you think the federal government was sensitive about the CAMA law especially in relation to the churches?
When it comes to religious matters, the federal government was sensitive.
If I tell you that I see a vision to you and you need to buy a handkerchief for N1million, if you’re bouyant you will give it to me.
In my church, I am the chairman of the board of directors. My wife is the vice-chairman board of directors and my children are board members.
The same CAMA law is also applicable to the mosques. Interestedly, It is the members that are aggrieved and crying to those who know how to echo their grievances to the government. That’s when the debate started at the National Assembly and before you know it, it got government’s approval.
The people representing us and making the laws are living with us. They themselves are going to mosques and churches, therefore they know what is applicable.
If I say that God called me, I should not be living on the hard-earned income of the people without accountability. In coming with it–the law–I think they are in order.