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Despite Challenges, We Have Increased Monthly IGR From N550m to Over a Billion Naira – Muhammad

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Ahmed Yakubu Muhammad, is the Executive chairman of the Nasarawa State Internal Revenue Service (NSIRS). In this exclusive interview with NATHANIEL GBAORON, MoneyCentral’s Northern bureau chief, he bares his mind on the success and challenges of the revenue board since his inception as the Executive chairman. Excerpts…
By March 2022 it will be four years since you and other members of the Nasarawa State Revenue Service (NSIRS) were appointed; what is the journey so far?
I came in together with the members and secretary to the Nasarawa State Internal Revenue Service (NSIRS) were appointed on 15th march, 2018 and resumed duty on 22nd March, 2018.
Immediately we undertook visitation to all the offices across the state and discovered that there was serious infrastructure deficit, poor working conditions, lack of operational vehicles/motorcycles, In fact, the situation was so pathetic that a single motorcycle was shared among four area tax offices within Karu, Masaka, Mararaba and Ado Axis. Secondly, the allocation of the former investment building to serve as revenue house, the office accommodation required total repairs and rehabilitation; this was compounded by the fact that there were four rain storms which completely damaged the roofing which made it fragile and unstable.
Other facilities including equipment, computers, furniture and fittings were also affected by the storms. But the roofing, ceiling, doors were fixed awaiting the release of funds for the second phase of the work. This state of infrastructure is the same or even worse in the whole zonal and area offices as almost all the buildings are rented except for Awe, Keana, Obi, Doma, Akwanga, Keffi and Nasarawa zonal offices. Infact, these offices are not befitting of modern day tax offices.
Furthermore, despite challenges we have increased the monthly IGR from N550m to N1.5 billion naira through introduction and enforcement of property tax, withholding tax on rent, pools betting and gaming, development levy on individuals and capital gain tax. However, establishment of revenue courts by the state government is enhancing revenue collection as nearly forty thousand cases were won.
Apart from increasing the IGR to over a billion naira, can you in specific terms tell us some of the achievements of NSIRS within the time you people came in as members?
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It may interest you to know that when we came in, we stepped up staff monthly impress which cut across all cadre of staff including zonal, liaison and Area Tax Offices, sponsorship of NSIRS staff to acquire their PhD, Msc, Bsc and other professional membership like ICAN, ANAN, CITN, JTB etc.

We also monetize Sallah and Christmas gifts to staff of the board, Introduction of internet services across zonal and area tax offices of the board, installation of office intercom to ease communication in the board headquarters, deployment of armed personnel to manned the board office and executive chairman’s house.

Other achievements are: Installation of AC’s in all the offices and a standby functional office generator that runs 24/7, establishment of revenue courts across 3 senatorial districts of the state. Also the establishment of 2 liaison offices, 8 area tax offices, up to date maintenance of the office operational vehicles which attracts huge sums of money and acquisition of office equipment like desktop and laptop computers for staff of the board.

That’s not all, we embarked on massive engagement of consultants who are presently adding value to the collection of IGR for the state government, training and re-training of staff outside the shores of the state, frequent payments of staff  as at when due, production and introduction of T-shirts and caps to staff to look smart on every Thursday of the week, engagement of more casual staff for the purpose of increasing the IGR collection., massive arrest of criminals who engaged in fake boards documents, enlightenment programmes of the board activities on the mass media, creation of Electronic National Driving License(ENDL) centers in Akwanga, Keffi and Lafia and Massive renovation of ENDL centers, board offices and staff quarters. We have achieved so many things but these are the ones I can remember for now.

What are some of the challenges of the board?

Non implementation of autonomy that is financial/administration autonomy because all the states in the North central zone of the country are autonomous except Nasarawa state. We therefore request for implementation of the autonomy. This autonomy covers both financial and administrative independence which could greatly improve the IGR.

Therefore, we recommend implementation of the administration of revenue law 2020 as amended. As it is, the five million naira monthly overhead cost is grossly inadequate to manage the business of generating revenue for the state.

This is so because allowances of all auxiliary staff, Duty Travelling Allowances (DTA) for official trips for all categories of staff affected, taxpayer education, media and other cost of communication and periodic or monthly organized tax drive, maintenance, repairs and fueling of vehicles and generators for headquarters, zonal and area tax offices, maintenance repairs of electrical appliances including computers, and other office equipment’s, staff monthly impress for executive chairman, board members secretary, directors, liaison officers (Lagos and Abuja), unit heads, zonal and area tax officers is quite huge, hence, the need to improve the monthly overhead cost through full implementation of the autonomy.

The staff strength of the board as at May 2018 was 147 but now due to death and retirement of seven members of staff including the board members.

This is grossly inadequate to cover the entire state. Moreover, half of the workforce are non-technical staff. The board is compelled to rely on auxiliary staff like corps members, students on industrial attachment and N-power which is not sustainable and healthy for sensitive office like the state revenue board, hence, the engagement of 245 highly skilled auxiliary staff who are mostly graduates which is a serious drain on the five million (N5,000,000.00) overhead.

We also recommend regularization of the auxiliary staff to allow for effective enumeration, assessment and collection of the state IGR.

The immediate past administration was very supportive of the Nasarawa state internal revenue service, in 2013, it acquired two brand new Hilux and four Hyundai saloon cars for the board. Similarly, in 2018, his Excellency, Umaru Tanko Almakura released also a brand new Toyota Hilux for the executive chairman, a refurbished bus and two fairly used Golf 3 and Toyota Corolla salon allocated to Karu, Abuja and Lagos offices and ten motorcycles distributed to area tax offices across the state.

Similarly, we appreciate a fairly used Hilux released to us by his Excellency governor Abdullahi Sule. Most of the vehicles have worked for 7-10 years and therefore depreciation sets in and the cost of maintenance is on the high side and therefore affecting the business of revenue generation, hence, the need to have more operational vehicles. Another thing is training.

The three basic training of the Joint Tax Board (Intermediate, preliminary and final course on inspectors of taxes) is rich in contents but not sufficient for a planned modern tax office and therefore there should be a well packaged additional training locally and internationally for the staff to meet the ever increasing challenges of the modern tax administration. On this note, we appreciate his excellency governor Abdullahi Sule’s recent approval for the chairman to travel to the UK as recommended by the Joint Tax Board (JTB).

How do you tackle these challenges?
At the moment, the Nasarawa state internal revenue service has embarked on complete consolidation and automation of the state IGR from assessment, collection and maintenance of taxes and subsequently, the introduction of bank 3D central billing system deployment to accelerate the process but we look forward to the spreading of process to cover the entire state MDAs.

Furthermore, the collection of IGR in the state is carefully coordinated by the NSIRS for accountability, transparency and consolidation. It may interest the people to know that as a result of the reform going on in the tax administration in the state, between January 2018- September 2021, a total of N40,261,377,683.46 was generated as against N17,858,863,097.69 by NSIRS between January 2014 to December 2017 was generated representing a 44.36% increase in IGR.

Similarly, we have between 2018 to September, 2021 recovered the sum of N1,440,909,959.19 and 8,961,523,462.88 from the banking sector and federal MDAs workers respectively, totaling N10,402,433,422.07. At the moment, we are also working on recovery from the post IPPIS period with an expectation of over N20 billion naira, which is to be achieved in collaboration with the JTB office of the Accountant general of the federation and the federal ministry of finance.

More so, the NSIRS under my leadership has spearheaded the passing into law the Nasarawa state revenue harmonization law 2020, recovery of over N300 billion for Nasarawa state government and the introduction of a central billing system which has reduced leakages of revenue drastically and automation of the processes.

What is your message to the people of Nasarawa as regards to revenue collection?

We would like to assure that with full implementation of autonomy the N3 billion naira monthly revenue generation target is achievable with anticipation of more.
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