…tasks civil society with educating the public on importance of taxation
The Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen Ph.D, has said that lifting Nigerians out of poverty caused by the myriad of economic challenges would require a paradigm shift.
Speaker Abbas, while addressing a delegation from the Civil Society Leaders Forum on Social Protection, which paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja on Wednesday, said the current challenges Nigerians face due to fuel subsidy removal would soon be history.
He called on Nigerians to see the current economic hardship as the natural effects of some tough decisions, saying a level of difficulty has to set in before things could get better.
“Restructuring takes time as it has to get difficult before it gets better, and that this is the beginning. People need to understand that there will be difficulty along the way to better days,” the Speaker said.
Reacting to statistics presented before him by the forum on the place of Nigeria in the global poverty index and why conditional cash transfer should be seen as a veritable tool of achieving social protection, the Speaker assured the delegation of his leadership’s readiness to partner with the civil society to engineer lasting solutions to socio-economic challenges faced by Nigerians.
He said: “Since I became Speaker, I don’t think I have engaged any organisation that has made me feel a bit down on the revelations of where we are as a country and the enormous challenges that we are facing (like yours).
“Thank you so much for being blunt, frank, and sincere about where we are and the likelihood of the consequences and how things can turn out if things are not done right. But I assure you, under my leadership, we will act.”
Speaker Abbas stressed the need for a shift from the old way of approaching policy issues with a view to achieving new results, just as he said his office would take up the challenge by creating a channel for social dialogue between civil society and the legislature as suggested by the forum.
“We need to partner with you so that you can continue to furnish us with information about where we are. You should continue to keep the pressure on us to really be on the right track so that we will be able to deliver and change the fortunes of this country.”
Speaker Abbas also spoke to the question of partnership between civil society and the legislature for better budgetary allocation to critical sectors of the economy.
“I must have to also emphasise to you that when it comes to budgeting, our key issue in Nigeria is low revenue generation, and you need to widen your scope in enlightening Nigerians on the need to pay taxes.
“Taxation is key to financing the budget in any nation, but we have a very low generating ratio in terms of revenue through taxation than other sources. If we can come up with an initiative on how to expand the revenue nets of the government, I’m sure more resources will be made available for critical sectors, which include education, infrastructure, agriculture, and health that you mentioned earlier,” he said.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, outlined the challenges brought on poor Nigerians by the inability of successive administrations to prioritise social protection as a means of tackling poverty.
He also informed the Speaker that there are six key areas of concern that the 10th Assembly must urgently intervene in, using relevant legislative instruments, which included a permanent dialogue mechanism between civil society and the legislature; partnership on budget and policy issues; effective implementation of the Public Procurement Act (2007); proper oversight of the National Social Investment Programmes Agency, among others.