Katsina State’s Plan To Tax Citizens: Are We Trusting A Goat With Our Yams? – By Malam Naini Musa
The gist on the street is that Katsina state executive council has introduced Community Development Levy and Cattle Tax (Jangali). According to Katsina post, Alhaji Faruk Jobe, commissioner for budget and Economic Planning, Stated this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the state executive council meeting. A committee set up for the issue had already submitted its report to the council. Jobe stated that “After receiving the report, we resolved that each adult in the state including none indigene as well as civil servants, male or female are to pay N2,000 as development levy annually. For the cattle levy, Jangali, every cow owner will pay N500 per cow, yearly…”
This is a fantastic idea for the many benefits it will bring. Katsina state is in desperate need of development. It is a young, capable and resourceful state which is still on the path of fulfilling its potential. The journey needs planning, resilience and proper man power, but above all, the resources to bring those ideas into being. Development cost money and we simply are starved of it. Avenues like these will free us from the shackles of lack and provide us with the funds needed for important projects like war on banditry, human capacity development, healthcare, Infrastructure and many more.
At this moment, we are heavily dependent on federal allocations. These funds are largely fixed percentages that we cannot grow out of. We are assigned certain amounts of pocket money and with it, we have to make do with the battalions of challenges on our lists. Many states have grown out of dependence on Federal Government and are capable of undertaking awesome projects of their choice, amazingly controlling their fate. States like Kano, Port-Harcourt and Lagos are prime examples of these.
It will also have a positive impact on Governance. Many Nigerians are indifferent to many issues because of how far removed they are from government. However, with proper taxation, people will be compelled to pay attention to the activities of government. When you pay for something, you demand service. This taxation will inevitably bring forth with it accountability. People will no longer sit back and watch as public funds are carted away, because now, it is their money, they literally took it out of their pockets and contributed. The amount is meager in comparison to the positive consequences that will arise from this levy.
However, if we are going to do this we will have to do it the right way. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. A competent player has to be employed to collect all the data. Without a comprehensively built database, we cannot build this thing. We need to count and register each and every one. Politicking and nepotism must be put aside in favor of competent technocrats. Matters like these are delicate. Who handles this and how we do this will determine the outcome of this project. We either put competent people in charge, come out with a project that will free us from financial destitution and deprivation or do it the usual way, put nepotism and emotion into it and end up enriching a select few at the cost of the greater majority.
We will also have to answer the question of how to collect those funds. State of the art technology must be employed in this project. We cannot allow for loopholes that will surrender public wealth at the mercy of those who wish to siphon it. Middle men must be eliminated to the point of necessity. Point of sales (POS) were developed to link merchants, customers and bank without much interference and this is achieved at the speed of light. This is the awesome power of technology. The same must be conceived for collection of funds. From the taxed to the taxer in a speed of light.
The government must inform the public of the penalty of defaulting on such a levy. We cannot have a system that taxes some law abiding citizens but does not punish defaulters. Setting a penalty for defaulting will also serve as a deterrent to those who wish to abstain from their civic duties. Whilst a gentle hand must be exercised in sensitizing people on the importance of this law, a firm hand must be wielded with respect to implementing it.
The human in me is hopeful for a positive outcome. This is a massive opportunity for us. The part of me that has witness the lackluster manner in which this Katsina state administration handles itself worries me greatly though. They are half way through their second term and you cannot point to a single thing of monumental value achieved in those years. The campaign promise of fighting corruption has failed. Once the accuser, they are now in court having to clear their name after being accused of looting themselves. While I am hopeful for a positive outcome, I am ever vigilant and alert so as not to be romanticized into utopia.
A very worrying factor is the elephant in the room. It is safe to say that must Nigerians see politicians as deceitful and conniving. So far must of them have lived up to that definition. Only rarely does anyone escape it. While it is just a thought, it will be nightmare if it ever comes to fruition that the administration does a fantastic job of fooling us into building a cash cow for their lustful indulgence. It is not controversial to think or suggest that Public funds could potentially be stolen by Nigerian leaders, frankly it is the norm. They have the cars, mansions and the travels to prove it. With election looming closer, it is a possibility that we are providing a war chest for their political adventure. They have not exactly conducted themselves in an ethical manner worthy of good credit.
Mallam Naini Musa
Mallam Naini Musa is a writer and social critic.
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