By Abubakar Yusuf
Following the judgment of the Appeal Court, Abuja division, for parties to return to status quo on the judgment of the Federal High Court (FHC) Port Harcourt Division instituted by Rivers State Government, the stage is now set for legal fireworks to resolve the contending issue.
The status quo has put to rest cynicisms, threats and insinuations as well as campaign of calumny against Nigeria’s Revenue House by states and a halt to a law enacted by Rivers and Lagos State Governments on the stoppage of VAT collections from Federal Government to various state governments.
The week-long altercations and exchange of hot words between the FIRS, the collector of Federal Government revenues, Rivers, Lagos state government along with other states warming up to take the agency to the cleaners for carrying out its statutory functions, under the guise of the judgment of the FHC in Port Harcourt, is now subject to judicial interpretations.
With the readiness of the FIRS to approach the courts for further interpretation and adjudication and the pronouncement of status quo ante by the Appeal court, it behooves on all other federating States to suspend further actions, so as to put to test further, the judicial administration in Nigeria.
It is simple, logical and unambiguous the judicial pronouncement by the Appeal court, in spite of instigations from high legal personality that may encourage or allow States into venturing to the collection of VAT for selfish reasons, as any counter action will be illegal, prejudicial and capable of overheating the polity among the federating states that may lead to needless crises.
If the agitations from States is not inordinate and self centred, the clear judgement of the Appeal Court and the general apathy from some states was enough impetus to lay the issue bare before our judicial system and administration.
FIRS is out to protect the overriding interest of the federating states, with an improvement in revenue collections including VAT shared among the three tiers of government without reservation.
The institutional framework and independence declared by the FIRS and zeal to improve revenue collections in Nigeria is enough to allow status quo, bearing in mind the patriotic efforts of the management of the Revenue House, to mop all available revenues and outstanding to the benefits of all Nigerians.
The assertion and insistence of the FIRS as the only revenue collections agency of the Federal Government including VAT until the final judgement by the Apex Court, the highest court of the land is justified of its confidence in the judicial system, as well as doing the needful to safeguard the economic, social and political system in the country, along with continuous infrastructural development.
Nothing can be more patriotic than the action taken by the leadership of FIRS to stem the tide of underdevelopment, financial crises, economic woes that could trigger multiple crises at this period of COVID-19 in its third wave.
With FAAC funding deteriorating on monthly basis, but for the intervention of FIRS collectible revenues which accounted for over 70% monthly allocations to states, it will be innocuous to cave into the selfish stance of some states under the guise of fiscal federalism and anticipated restructuring without harnessing the available natural endowment, but with only eyes on collectible funds in revenues.
The success story of historic N650 billion made by FIRS is enough evidence to allow status quo in the interest of Justice, Fair play and National interest, as the feat by the Revenue House is still fresh on our mind.
The triggered likely loss of over N3 trillion in revenue expectations by the country will be a colossal damage as well as stem recovery of over N5 trillion revenue evaded by tax payers declared by anti-graft agency, the EFCC, the N800 billion tax liability on the part of multi-choice among many others, as well aggressive payment/pursuance of all other outstanding tax claims scattered all round the private and public Institutions in Nigeria.
It behoves on the Revenue House on both its managerial and religious commitment to double revenue generation in 2022 to over one trillion and two trillion naira, a trend that will comfortably and single handedly put the agency in good stead to fund the monthly FAAC allocations in Nigeria and others.
All hands must be on deck by the federating states not to see FIRS as an arch enemy, but as partners in progress for the progress, development and advancement of Nigeria.
With strong criticisms all over the world on perpetual borrowings by Nigeria government, and admonition from top stakeholders within and the global world, including the legislative arm of government of Nigeria, it is imminent that collaborative efforts with states and local governments will stem the tide of infrastructural decay, through annexing more funds for both capital and recurrent expenditures.
The assertions and agitations from state governments will not only further strengthen our democratic practice and Institutions, but will stabilized the collaborative efforts to address persistent tax evasion in Nigeria.
FIRS has taking the lead to address the age long practices of shortchanging both the government and its citizens, what is needed now, will not be confrontations and agitations, but supports in actions and in some instances inactions, towards reverting Nigeria to the good old days of economic, social and political stability.
Our leaders both at the states and federal level should show remorse and display consensus and concessions not minding the political, tribal and ethnic divide, but for the singular efforts and drive towards a better Nigeria.
All hands must be on deck to join forces with the FIRS, so as to institutionalize and inculcate the art of paying revenues due to states as at when due, and as a basic obligations by citizens towards all round emancipation.
FIRS is a law abiding agency, and will be ready to abide by the decision of the apex court in the nearest future, not the insinuations of cut in its staffers salaries, commissions and allowances, but will be applicable to all category of workers in view of any decisions to that effect, hence the avoidance of such unforeseen circumstances by the FIRS and the government.
Having navigated both through natural and artificial phenomenon of global health challenges of COVID-19 with few moths lockdown, amidst many others, and the EndSARS that affected the revenue yield of governments, it is germane to nip in the bud any unforeseen and politically motivated decisions that will not augur well for the country.
The effort is already a win-win strides geared towards economic stability and viability rather than the divergent views of different stakeholders against the thriving Nigeria state.
The exemplary leadership and institutional framework of the FIRS under Mohammed Nami is worth replication not only in government revenue generating agencies, but other sectors of the economy.
Yusuf, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja