Nigeria: Enough of Tax Burdens On Nigerians

14 October 2019

Since the evolution of government, tax imposition on people has always been a vexatious issue, and revolt against taxes considered unjust had played significant roles in the collapse of empires like the Egyptian, Roman, Spanish and Aztec. Similarly, the Magna Carta, the American and the French Revolutions are few examples of historic events that either originated as a tax revolt or had it as a component.

Historically, there have been about 361 tax revolts between pre-1500 AD and the present 21st Century with the 20th Century witnessing the largest number (135), while the 21st Century which is yet to come to a close has already recorded 85 revolts.

In Nigeria, as early as 1929, the famous Aba Women Riot was triggered by the imposition of tax on women by the British colonial authorities acting in consonance with warrant chiefs.

In 1947, the Abeokuta Women Revolt also known as the Egba Women Tax Riot, was also waged against the Nigerian colonial government for imposing unfair taxes on women. Then there was the Agbekoya Parapo Revolt of 1968-1969 and others. Judith Byfield, associate professor of history, in a study, found that these revolts by women transformed Nigeria in significant ways.

Today, there is reason to believe that unfair taxation is back, with individuals and business owners consistently complaining of multiple taxations by different tiers of government in the country. The decibel of protest has risen sharply since the Federal Government signaled its intention to raise the Value Added Tax, VAT, from 5 percent to 7.5 percent. There is also the proposed Communication Tax Bill pending before the National Assembly, and the plan to bring back toll gates on Nigerian roads which is another form of tax.

While Nigerians are not averse to paying taxes, there is visible anger in the land and little or no reason for the people to be happy paying taxes or having the government increase the taxes they pay in a country where the citizens provide virtually everything for themselves. In Nigeria, people provide their own power, water, security; sand-fill their flooded and crater-riddled roads, provide healthcare services for themselves, build private schools, buy electric cables, poles, and transformers of which they are compelled to officially donate to electricity distribution companies before they can be installed.

Overburdening the people, or taxing poverty, as some people have put it, is certainly not the way to go. There are other ways government can shore up its revenue base, even with taxation. It can widen its tax base to capture a lot of income earners who have for many years escaped the tax net. Corruption is another drain pipe for government revenue. Then, there is the unnecessarily bloated cost of governance.

If all these leakages are plugged and the economy is managed prudently, there will be no need to impose more taxes on an already impoverished population in a world where the trend is lifting off tax burdens from the citizens.

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