The Land Use Charge (LUC) in Ondo State has registered a huge support from the people of the state thus shoring up its Internally Generated Revenue to N1.7billion in June this year as against N1.5 billion last reported.
The Chairman of the State Internal Revenue Service, Mr Tolu Adegbie who gave the figures said if the trend continues, the State IGR may hit N4.5billion monthly in few years time.
He said that schools, corporate organisations, individual property owners have now bought into the scheme by signifying interest to pay the LUC and PAYE.
“Every day, we get letters from companies, schools, organisations voluntarily coming to pay LUC and their PAYE and to be part of the process on their own volition. The response has been very encouraging, only few people are not paying.
“Most of our efforts are yielding results and people are propelled because they can see transparency and that what the Governor is using the money for is right.
Allocation from Federation Account to the state keeps going down yet projects have not stopped and the Governor has not borrowed money from anywhere,” he affirmed.
He noted that sustainability of the trend is very important so that in a few years, the state could conveniently pay her workers’ salary and execute projects without waiting for allocation from the federation account.
According to him, any state that want to have economic development must focus on sustainability of its income. “Sustainability is, the key,” he posited.
Adegbie said there is a masterplan for the economic growth of the state which requires continuity in governance, citing the example of Lagos State which he said has recorded sustainable level of economic growth and development.
Realizing the fact that for an organization to succeed, its management must look at people who are doing well in that sector and how they are doing it. Adegbie said he and his team understudied Lagos and Kwara States taxation system and thereafter designed a model for Ondo State.
He disclosed that the agency made some recoveries between June and December last year from some organizations operating in the state totaling N5.7billion while assuring that the tempo will be sustained.
His words: “As we speak, we are supposed to generate N29billion, this is the set target for this year. By the grace of God, we will keep moving on. Any state that wants to have socio-economic development must focus on sustainability of its income.
“Look at the growth in IGR in Lagos State, it has been sustainable for over a long period, so, that is our model. The recoveries are there, but at the same time, we are growing our capacity for the regular tax.
“For instance, an organization that has terminal oil well in Ondo State and has not paid tax to the state government in the past 10years. Another one has not paid tax to the state government in the past 20years. So we went after all of them and the one that has not paid tax for the past ten years started paying and from them alone, we got over a billion naira . They are still owing us backlog of arrears of tax which they promised to pay soon”.
Adegbie who averred that citizens have the right to demand for projects from government in their respective areas only when they have fulfilled their civic responsibility of tax payment noted that tax evasion is inimical to development.
“If you do what is right, you can ask questions, and honestly in Ondo State, we have been blessed with a governor that is result oriented. It is not because I am working for him, it is what we can all see, that actually, this money is being spent on what is right.
“Federal allocation is going down, yet projects are going on. So, how is it being done, it is the ingenuity of the state government, it is the taxes of people who have continued to cooperate with the government.
“So if we have a governor that is doing the work as it should be done, we should provide that sustainability to help the state develop and equally enhance strong foundation.
“Taxation should be marathon as government’s developmental plan is a marathon. If you travel abroad, you will see that they keep developing, development does not stop, it is the ripple effect of citizens’ compliance with taxation policy”.
Adegbie noted that the law on Land Use Charge was passed in 2014 and that the tax is to be charged on all land users across the federation while states like Lagos had long commenced the implementation of the policy.
On efforts of the agency at checkmating corruption among revenue collectors in the state, Adegbie affirmed that it uncovered about 25 cases of diversion of collected revenues in year 2018 while stressing that perpetrators of the offence were made to pay back the diverted funds.
He added that the concerted efforts of the agency also resulted in the discovery of a cartel of revenue fraudsters who were subsequently apprehended and handed over to the police for prosecution.
“People came to us, a lot of schools complaining that they paid Land Use Charge to some people who came and said they are staff of OSIRS and they wrote down their names and telephone numbers and they paid Land Use Charge to them.
“When the new Land Use Charge started in August and we got to them, they said they had paid, and there was no receipt to that effect, then the tax payers produced their (Officials’) telephone numbers and how much each person collected, we confirmed from them and each of them said they would bring the money, claiming that they were just keeping it for the payers and they quickly returned the money, even with the money they collected in 2017.”
He averred that such corruption cases have drastically reduced as feedbacks he gets daily from the fields indicate that revenue collectors now embrace transparency in all their activities.
Adegbie however solicited the continued cooperation and support of Ondo State residents in tax payment in order for the agency to achieve a sustainable tax level.