Each time the government announces new taxes or jerks up the costs of already existing services, Nigerians shift uncomfortably in their seats, haunted by the unaccountability that has shrouded the collection and collation of taxes in the past. An identical reaction was recently drawn when the government announced that toll gates would return to some roads, and the costs of some of the products and services manned by the Federal Road Safety Commission will increase. The question on the lips of many Nigerians verge on what good these will do. This question is not at all without basis.
For many Nigerians, toll gates evoke all that is wrong with Nigerian roads; for many, it is also a metaphor for the country`s bumpy ride to development.
Nigerians are always left bemused as why they should part ways with huge sums as taxes when the government does puzzlingly little to justify the enormous taxes imposed and collected. Worse still, many Nigerians have no doubt that most of the taxes imposed on Nigerians end up as proceeds for corruption or perks for expensively assembled governments at different levels.
There are taxes for virtually everything. Yet, the Nigerian government through the agencies that collect and collate these taxes takes it upon itself to lament from time to time that the taxes are not enough, or that people are not tax compliant enough.
Business owners have to pay through their noses as do the consumers of goods and services. Yet for all it makes from taxes, the country is yet to transform the lives of its citizens. Public infrastructure is mostly in a shambles and the necessities to engender a better life for Nigerians are in critically short supply.
Nigeria`s journey to nationhood has been one of mammoth difficulties. Lord Lugard`s 1914 contraption of convenience was always fractured from the beginning. Those fractures were well concealed until Nigeria erupted into a civil war seven years after its independence.
The Nigerian Civil War was internecine and attritional, irreparably damaging the fabric of Nigeria within three bloody years. It is no exaggeration to say that the country has not remained the same.
Renegade members of the Nigerian military, whose reckless excursion out of their barracks and incursion into politics precipitated the civil war in the first place, still took their turns at different times to have a run at the country`s highest office. They lingered, doing irreparable damage to Nigeria`s democratic credentials until they beat a hasty retreat in 1999. They have remained on the horizons of power, dishing out unwelcome and unsolicited advice about the direction Nigeria must take much to the chagrin of Nigerians who do not by any means have short memories.
Just as the toll gates which are being reintroduced would lead to unnecessary congestion on our roads and milk Nigerians of hard earned money, corruption has been another rock in the road of Nigeria`s journey to nationhood. So entrenched in Nigeria`s culture has corruption become that many Nigerians no longer see anything wrong with the deadly vice.
Contractors retained by the government to build public infrastructure have to pay their way through the jobs. At the end of the day, in order to balance their own books, they execute the jobs shoddily and move on like vultures to the next contract to be ripped apart with nothing to show for it.
Nigerians are not at all averse to taxation. The pangs of taxation in Nigeria is directly traceable to the fact that Nigerians cannot see tangible benefits from the taxes they pay. The day the Nigerian taxpayer will begin to see their taxes judiciously used for their own good, taxation will become appealing to many.
Kene Obiezu, Abuja