Dr Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, the outgoing Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), says a strong foundation has been laid for the Nigerian tax system, in spite of some challenges.
Omoigui-Okauru, who said this at a media briefing on Friday in Abuja, a day after the Presidency announced her successor, commended past federal administrations for making tax reforms a priority project.
She particularly commended former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua for sustaining the vision for a reformed tax system in Nigeria.
She described President Goodluck Jonathan as ``the real tax collector’’ of Nigeria and lauded him for the historic launch of the new National Tax Policy on April 5.
The policy provides the guidelines, rules and regulations that will regulate Nigeria’s tax system, while forming the basis for tax legislation and administration in the country.
A key feature of the policy is the introduction of a unique Tax Identification Number (TIN) - a nationwide electronic database for the registration and storage of data on tax payers in Nigeria.
Omoigui-Okauru said that the achievements of FIRS in the last eight-years included a remarkable increase in tax collection, which quadrupled between 2004 and 2012.
“Tax collection in FIRS has grown astronomically from slightly below N1.2 trillion (about $7.9b) when we came into office in 2004, to over N4.6 trillion (over $30bn) in 2011.
“This represents growth on both oil and non-oil revenue,’’ according to a brief that was circulated to the media. Omoigui-Okauru attributed the success of her administration to the overwhelming support she received from state governors, the National Assembly, the judiciary, the media, the board and members of FIRS staff.
She recalled that FIRS developed a harmonised tax reform agenda in October 2004, which paved the way for the development of the Medium Term Strategic Plan for the agency, spanning 2004 to 2007, 2008 to 2011 and 2012 to 2015.
“In FIRS, we have been driven by plans and we introduced a very strong performance management culture.
“We just don’t plan, we monitor the plan,’’ she told reporters in her last media briefing as FIRS chairman.
Omoigui-Okauru, who also doubled as Chairman of the Joint Tax Board (JTB), conceded that tax evasion still plagued Nigeria, like many developed and developing countries.
“You cannot completely deal with tax evasion and avoidance; it is not a Nigerian problem alone.
“Tax evasion is just the same way you have crime, you can’t say that no matter how good an environment is, there would be no crime.
“It is a natural part of what we have to address,’’ she said.
Omoigui-Okauru was first appointed Executive Chairman of FIRS in May 2004 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for an initial term of three years.
In April 2008, she was re-appointed to the position for a four-year term, which expires on Monday, April 9, 2012.
The Presidency has already appointed Alhaji Kabir Mashi, Coordinating Director of FIRS Support Services Group, as acting Chairman.