Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor
Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor

NIGERIANS have called on the Federal Government to intensify its war against corruption, curb the profligacy of senior public officials and vigorously enforce its tax laws to shore up its dwindling revenues, triggered by the sudden drop in the price of crude oil.
A cross-section of Nigerians, who made the call in a recent nationwide survey conducted by News Agency of Nigeria  underscored the need to adopt such stringent measures to mitigate the adverse impact of the austerity measures on the common man.
The respondents, who noted that the austerity measures would further impoverish the people, also urged the government to pay particular attention to the non-oil sectors of the economy such as agriculture and solid minerals sectors in efforts to earn additional revenue.
They also called on the government to plug all the perceptible loopholes through which funds were being siphoned by public and political office holders. with the dwindling revenue provoked by the global slump in the international price of crude oil, the Federal Government recently announced some measures to cushion its effect on the economy.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the Economy, who made the announcement, said that the government would reconsider the 78 dollars per barrel oil price benchmark provided for in the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF).
She said that the 78 dollars per barrel oil price benchmark proposed for the 2015 budget would be reduced to 60 dollars per barrel.
Okonjo-Iweala, however, said that the government planned to increase tax on some luxury goods and curtail foreign travels by its officials, in a bid to boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and reduce dependence on proceeds from crude oil sales as the main source of revenue.
Her words: we are putting the list together; those who are better off in the society will be expected to give a little more to the treasury.
As part of the efforts to reduce expenditure, international travels within the public service will be severely curtailed.’’
The minister also said that the executive arm of government would work with the National Assembly to accelerate the winding down of some agencies which were not productive to the system, as recommended in the Steve Oronsanye committee’s report. Assuring the citizens of the government’s concern about their wellbeing, Okonjo-Iweala pledged that the salaries of government workers would not be tampered with because of the development.
She, however, reiterated that foreign travels by government officials would only be permitted when they were absolutely critical.
However, the respondents in the survey urged the Federal Government to initiate more drastic actions’’ to tackle corruption which, they noted, had been a bane of the country’s development and economic growth.
Mr Austin Joshua, a university lecturer in Yola, Adamawa, said that the government would be able to generate additional resources to spur the country’s growth if its fight against corruption was more pragmatic and well-coordinated.
The plan by government to increase tax and cut foreign travels will not make any meaningful impact if corruption is not addressed.
The government can generate a lot of money if it can prevent top government functionaries from stealing from its coffers,’’ he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Mob David, a unionist in Yola, said that Nigerians would willingly pay tax if the government was prepared to tackle corruption headlong.
If I have confidence that my tax will be properly utilised, I see no reason why I should hesitate to pay tax even if i am a poor farmer,” he said.
As part of its efforts to address its dwindling revenue and boost its internally generated revenue, the Bauchi state Government said that it had abolished unnecessary’’ overseas trips and medical tourism by its officials. Alhaji Aminu Ibrahim, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Budget and Planning, told newsmen that the government had initiated some measures to address the issue of dwindling resources even before the global recession in crude oil prices.
The government has issued a circular to cut unnecessary overseas trips and overseas medical treatment,’’ he said, adding that government had also made pragmatic efforts to boost its IGR.
“We  are trying to increase the number of people eligible to pay tax and we have captured them under the tax law,’’ Ibrahim said.
Alhaji Salisu Gamawa, the Special Adviser to Governor Isa Yuguda on Budget, said that the 2015 budget of Bauchi State was predicated on the assumption that the price of crude oil might slump.
“Speaking on how to mitigate the effects of the slump in oil prices on the economy, Malam Abubakar Saidu, a resident of Gombe, advised the three tiers of government to diversify their sources of revenue.
Saidu, a lecturer in the Department of Economics, Gombe state University, said that the government could do this by compelling all self-employed persons to pay tax. He also urged the government to explore ways of increasing the taxes of corporate organisations across the nation, while calling on the federal and state governments to reduce the size of their workforce.
Mr Lawrence Mpama, a calabar-based economist, urged the three tiers of government to vigorously enforce their tax laws to boost IGR.
Only  public sector workers in Nigeria bear the brunt of paying personal income tax, while many workers in the private sector do not pay tax at all,’’ he said. Mpama stressed that some political office holders and contractors did not pay tax; adding that those who paid taxes were improperly assessed or under-valued in the porous tax system’ ‘ of Nigeria.
The tax system in Nigeria is very porous. Only civil servants pay tax; we have some individuals in this country who are richer than some state governments and yet, they don’t pay tax.
Many government contractors are under-valued and do not pay what they are supposed to pay as taxes,’’ he said.
Dr Emmanuel Mordi, the former Chairman of the Delta State university chapter of Academic Staff union of university (ASuu) told newsmen in Asaba said that the country’s tax policies were pro-rich and anti-poor.
He urged the three tiers of government to jettison their security vote, which ran into billions of naira annually, as part of efforts to shore up their revenue base. On his part, chief uju Udeme, the President, Delta Association of chambers of commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, urged the Federal Government to cut down on the importation of certain goods such as rice.
However, Dr Ifeanyi Asogwa, a Port Harcourt-based industrialist and Pastor Soji Abioye of the Christ International Gospel church, Akure, urged the government to shift its focus to the development of the agriculture sector.
Government should invest more in agriculture which can create employment for the citizens,’’ Abioye said.
The cleric warned political office holders to watch their lifestyles, which he described as extravagant.’
If they (politicians) continue with their lavish lifestyles, no amount of belt-tightening will save the economy,’’ he said.
Besides, Abioye urged the government to close all loopholes which allowed corruption to thrive in the system.
The Federal Government should stop depleting our foreign reserves; it should also stop taking foreign loans for white elephant projects,’’ he added.
Mr Shina Owoseni, a sociology lecturer in Ekiti State university, Ado-Ekiti, also condemned the lavish lifestyles of political office holders.
The resources we have in Nigeria are enough for Nigerians to live well but our leaders are spending them carelessly,’’ he said.
Dr Seth Akutson, the Head of Department of Economics, Kaduna State University, urged the Federal Government to stop granting import duty waivers, while reducing the salaries and allowances of political office holders, as part of efforts to generate more revenue and prevent economic disaster.
He also advised the Federal Government to constitute a team of economic experts to draw up plans on how to manage the economy during the implementation of austerity measures.
Mr Christopher Ogbonna, a resident of Awka in Anambra, underscored the need for the government to display sincerity of purpose in its efforts to cushion the impact of the austerity measures on the citizens by curtailing foreign travels by its officials.
All the same, Dr Frank Okafor, a Senior Lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, stressed the need for the strict implementation of the country’s tax laws so as to ensure that all eligible Nigerians paid tax promptly.