Against the background of a dwindling national fortune occasioned by the downfall in the international price of crude, Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner, and other internal economic disequilibria, it behooves all the tiers of the federation to devise and /or expand other alternate sources of revenue in order to carry out their obligations to the citizens.
Though there are signs that the drop in the federation account will be less steep than feared, with the global economy as uncertain as it is, initiatives such as could ensure a sustainable revenue stream has, indeed, become a national priority. The FCT is no exception. Matter -of-fact, with its teeming and diverse urbane population, the need for certain, assured measure of solidity in the FCT is an issue of over-riding import. As it is obvious, the immediate past minister of the federal capital territory, Senator Bala Mohammed was under no illusion as to the threat of a cooling economy and thus, the initiative for the establishment of the federal capital territory internal revenue service. Notwithstanding that it took almost an eternity before the bill was finally passed earlier on in January and followed with the presidential assent in February, the establishment of the service was a stitch in time. Remarkably, the service under the chairmanship of Mr Ari Isa Mohammed is living up to expectation, a fact once acknowledged in the federal executive council. In keeping with the main objectives of the establishment of the service and his own commitment to citizens of the FCT, Mr Mohammed has through his pragmatism and experience contributed to running the service since the board was constituted in May, with rigour, transparency and professionalism, minimizing risks and taking necessary steps to successfully scale up developments in the city.
The Internal Revenue Service has a mandate to net at least 40billion Naira in annual internally generated revenue for the FCT, to enable the FCTA meet its ambition of providing the city residents with a superior quality of life, albeit, at a reasonable cost. Without doubt, the challenge before the FCT internal revenue board is huge and requires experience, enough of which Mr Mohammed is believed to have garnered. It is instructive, however, to point out that given the dynamics of the Nigerian capital city, more than his stridency and principle, the committee must show nuance and pragmatism in the combative determination of the FCTA to achieve a truly fair deal for the FCT residents. There is no gainsaying the fact that Abuja infrastructure is showing signs of ageing and is yielding to wear and tear arising from over-use, and will need to be replaced. New settlements would have to be opened and developed to livable standards. The government of the city is expected to meet the increasing demands for additional services without substantially increasing property taxes. In this regard, therefore, the chairman of the board must further bring his business acumen to bear in the task before him.
There are significant opportunities for sustained growth in the FCT. Expectations are rife that the internal revenue service management would go beyond the traditional revenue sources to evolve newer, more progressive and innovative undertakings such as business investments, and extend its vision into sectors such as tourism, mineral exploration, among others, to tap into the abundant human and natural potential of the FCT. Prudent and committed management, however, remain indispensable as the IGR agents are equally expected to ensure a debt- free balance sheet for the FCT.
The internal revenue service is primarily charged with the assessment, collection of, and accounting for revenue that accrues to the FCT in addition to other related matters. The task before Mr Mohammed is a tall one which he cannot afford to bungle. In life there comes a time when you must rise up to your own true value. For Mr Mohammed, this is the time to move ahead and shift into top gear. The future of the FCT will be defined by its financial ability to meet its primary and advanced responsibilities to residents; to live up to the ambitious dream of being among the best 20 capital cities of the world in 2020. Interestingly, those who manage its financial hub have got a huge role to play in it. They must be able to apply innovative thinking to create new opportunities.
By and large, the challenges of satisfactorily financing the huge developmental needs in the FCT require a concerted effort. The service must be able to proactively harness inputs and sincere commitments from the area councils as well as marshal the opportunities available in the private sector. It’s three months so far and the creation of the FCT IRS can safely be said to have entrenched a promising orderly fiscal process in the FCT which is under an increasing need to put both its expenditure and income in context.
Wada writes from Abuja.