The one trillion naira Lagos budget: A look beyond the figures…

For the first time, in the fifty-year history of Lagos state, its government has budgeted a little over N1trillion for its re-current and current activities in 2018. It’s a budget with a 65-35 percent ratio for recurrent and current projects, respectively.
As ambitious as it is, it’s a budget, in which an aggressive drive for internally generated revenue (IGR) would play a leading role. Indeed, the Ambode administration has fanned many a local government operative and uniformed official of the state’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) out to collect such sorely-needed revenue to help the budget.
It’s a pointer to the seriousness with which Governor Akinwunmi Ambode desires to be taken. But, there are some aspects of the aggressive IGR drive that are considered less tidy: complaints are flooding in from a visible member of those captured within range of the IGR.
They frown upon the haste, indecency and insensitivity – all structured on over-zealousness – on the part of the IGR collectors.
Reginald Ibeh, an economist and pioneer image-maker of National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND), for instance – offer that it was necessary for the Ambode administration to organise enlightenment and education workshops, conference and seminars for the IGR collectors.
He was of the opinion that such well-focused enlightenment and education programmes should also include “a special aspect and how well to communicate with the people – individuals and corporate bodies – from whom they are going to collect such revenue. Good manners, indexed by friendliness, politeness and sociability, should be seen as top, key ingredients in the IGR-related skills and behavioural change. The language of peace, understood by those who would pay such revenue should be the medium of communication.”
Beyond that, it was Ibeh’s opinion that a state-wide public enlightenment campaign should be launched by Ambode administration to explain why the people of the state, should not only co-operate with the IGR operatives and pay their taxes, but make it a culture, as part of their civic responsibility. The one trillion budget, in effect, calls for a new orientation in tax drive and collection in three basic directions – on the part of the IGR operatives, individual and corporate bodies.
The state government as the ultimate manager and maker of the policy, and projects into which such funds should be pumped, is the fourth. “People should be persuaded as to why they should pay tax, at any level of the state,” Ibeh said. “They should, besides, be admonished that it’s a criminal offence to evade tax.” As he put “one of the best practices in IGR activities is that of the United States of America, where those who evade tax are sent to prison.”
Still, it’s necessary to remind the IGR collectors that Lagos, like every other part of Nigeria, is not totally out of recession and so, caution and understanding should be exercised. The Nigerian case is that most prospective tax-payers tend to be reluctant to pay tax, because they have never seen any tax-evader given exemplary punishment to deter others.
People, there are, who feel unwilling to pay tax, because of their distrust of government and politics, where their suspicion is so deep because they feel that what they pay tend, in a corrupt manner, to end up in the bottomless pockets of government officials and their associates from outside. If it’s not that, it’s the arrogant and irritating conduct of how government officials and some elected deputies ride in posh, bullet-proof, four-wheel-drive vehicles, with siren blaring, unnecessarily, to the annoyance of other road users.
Such conduct that is almost a regular fixture – almost a life-style – it could be argued, tend to offend the sensibility of regular, but voiceless tax-payers. It’s one that tends to alienate them from the other side of the social contract of tax payment and its effective management. And except such a life-style or the use to which a certain visibe percentage of public money is put is checked, it’s almost certain that prospective tax-payers – individuals and corporate bodies – may feel morally justified to evade it, even if they are well-aware that it’s wrong to do so, and the price they are likely to pay for it is pretty expensive.
And yet, what seems to be going, appealingly, for the Ambode administration is the public goodwill and encouragement it has drawn in response to its programme of comprehensive development, especially in the Lagos metropolis, which includes, transportation, reduction of its notorious traffic grid-lock, so as to save precious man-hours and prevent, to some extent, the damage done to vehicles by over-heating in such traffic, refuse collection, flood control, via clearing of gutters and canals, for instance; security of life and property by strengthening its long-standing liaison with the State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, its aquatic farming programme, in which stakeholders and major actors are given loans at encouraging interest rates, entrepreneurial skill acquisition and training programmes for the state’s teeming youths, amongst others.
Beyond the development of the state, the budget is seen as a show of readiness by the Ambode administration for the 2019 general elections. A lecturer at the Department of History and Strategic Studies, University of Lagos, Irene Osemeka, argued that, “how well the budget would be implemented scrupulously in the provision of infrastructure and making Lagos a destination for foreign direct investment (FDI), would determine its mileage at the polls.”
For its Lake Rice Project – an agricultural enterprise, so unique in the history of Nigeria – in which the Ambode administration collaborates, ambitiously, with the Kebbi State Government, in rice cultivation, so as to make the world’s commonest staple food available at fairly affordable price and, so, help food security, is an impressive case of the state, and for which the Ambode administration is very much applauded.
To be true, the Lake Rice project is a major pace-setter in inter-state collaboration in steeling food security in the country.
These projects, and many more, are expected to profit, immensely, from the one-trillion budget. They are the main justification for the historical financial expenditure and development plan of the Ambode Aadministration.
While development economists are guardedly optimistic that the Ambode administration has a basketful of programmes, in which to pump its 2018 budget, they also argue that the justification for the same budget is the ballooning population of the state – as a veritable source of IGR. It’s the position of Ibeh that the budget “offers the Ambode administration an ample opportunity to spend wisely, in classical economic fashion, and, so, ease the state out of recession.
“Its success in applying the budget and its objectives will rest, in the mass, on spending on productive capital-intensive projects, curbing of waste of funds via budgetary astringency and partnership with the organised private sector (OPS) – in a constructive transfer of resources,” Ibeh said.
If the Ambode administration succeeds in meeting the targets and honest expectations of the 2018 budget, it would have taken a giant stride to make the Lagos state economy one of Africa’s six largest economies; Nigeria’s response to California in the United States of America.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *