GUEST Column by Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Jean-Pierre Legros, Author of “Diversium”, an interdisciplinary theory of Everything wrote: “Nothing is free. Because nothing exists without relationships with something else. Even when a thing is considered independently of the rest (or it considers itself independent), it is constituted by elements that are not. Obstacles to freedom both intrinsic and extrinsic”.
There is an almost stoical and primeval phenomenon with our people. We do not take ownership, either individually or collectively. Maybe it’s an African trait, or just Nigerian, or both. Yet, we have this mentality that we are entitled to everything, including things we don’t strive or work for. So how can we be entitled to something we do not own, and conversely, how can we own something we’re not entitled to?
Our way of life and everyday living confirms this. We do not feel we own our governments, yet we feel we are entitled to whatever they give us. We do not take ownership of our governments. We do not feel we belong to Nigeria (as some of say, due to ethnic and religious differences), Nigeria ia just a contraption, so not worth belonging to, and hence, not worth being owned. Yet, ironically, we are always clamouring for her commonwealth, her resources; for example, during this Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted palliatives that we did not work for (i.e., people who do not pay taxes or anything towards governance now wants palliatives from government; want the government to start distributing money from the oil wells, because they feel the oil is theirs.
Even people in government do not take ownership of government and the country, and that is why to work for the government, e.g. civil service or political office, becomes an opportunity to take their own share of the loot. This mentality has always been there even before Independence. Nobody wants to work altruistically and honestly for the government to deliver services to the general public; it’s always for themselves and to benefit their individual families. Yet, they expect to retire after 35 years of service and be sent off grandly and collect gratuities and pensions, when they hardly worked and all the time, were stealing from government in time of money, time and efforts.
Hear a Nigerian: “What is there to belong to? Nigeria is simply an amalgamation of different people, with untold differences. The so-called constitution which is supposed to represent all these different people has been concocted on faulty ideals and is not representative of the people. Nobody in Nigeria has any sense of belonging to the country, therefore at any opportunity looting for self takes place. In countries where people have a strong sense of belonging, they are keen to develop and progress the country”.
The following is a collection of opinions received on Facebook and WhatsApp platforms about our attitude to taxes in Nigeria (Each paragraph is from a different commentator) I do this because of the diversity of opinions expressed by different people on Nigerian issues. I believe that’s the best way to sample opinions, instead of imposing my own.
When it comes to taxation, no one wants to pay taxes anywhere anytime. A Government that needs taxes put mechanisms in place to ensure taxes are collected from employed residents. Nigerian government apparently doesn’t need taxes to operate. Government directly or indirectly owns the major sources of income. Why should they bother to run after taxes? Why won’t the average Nigerian also demand for some form of entitlement from the revenues cornered by government, just like the politicians and other public servants? If they need it, they’ll put structures in place to capture it. It’s only in places like Nigeria that government functions without reliance on taxes, because apparently, the Nigerian government does not need tax. Fiscal budgets are adequately paid for through other and less stressful sources of income.
Talking about free healthcare in Nigeria, if no country has free health, that is no reason for Nigeria not to have ‘free health’. While it is agreed that oil money cannot do everything, but it could have done a lot. You cannot ask ‘me’ to come and pay taxes to run a system that some consistently loot. Pay taxes to give some people ‘free health’ in Dubai and private clinics in Nigeria and abroad? When Governors and politicians are been flown abroad at whose expense, theirs or mine?
The only benefit Nigerians that can really be felt by all is Health, that’s the only ‘real’ way to feel their government cares. Having said all that, Nigerians are not asking for anything for free, they just want fairness. If they are going to pay, treat us like human beings, give us service, transparency and accountability. Our doctors discharge us into their private hospitals after paying government hospitals to treat us, we still pay.
Paying tax is a civic duty, but Nigerians have abandoned their civic duties. The government does not need to remind citizens of paying taxes.
Entitlement mentality! Nigerians want to enjoy all the benefits of developed societies but they don’t want to pay the price that comes with it.
We don’t really want ‘free’ anything, we want fairness. If I’m paying for government inefficiency, I must be able to offset it against taxes. I must see what I’m paying taxes for, in terms of improvements in infrastructure and services.
Telling us to pay first before complain is no longer working or “Rome was not built in a day” adage is outdated, nothing is been built here.
We will pay tax upfront as we have always done but let its advocate make sure we see the benefits as we cannot see it in our hospitals and elsewhere. Only in Babariga, jeeps and allowances. Let the truth be told.
The government has left income from taxation on the back burner for long. With all the money coming from Abuja monthly, what is the point harassing the populace for taxes?
But that is not the main reason taxation was neglected! It was neglected to keep you and I shut up! When a culvert is said to have been constructed for six million and three million is being spent to launch it, the average man’s attitude is “It’s their money, none of my business!”
If taxes were collected dutifully, the average man will be outraged and ask questions when egregious claims are made. (I believe this to be the crux; yes, if we all pay taxes, we will have “mouth” to talk and ask questions)
So, we’ve been lured into a fool’s paradise and we’ve developed an entitlement mentality. A “Government this, government that” attitude.
Nigerians are paying for their drugs and those drugs are not subsidised. That is enough contribution. Most are ready to pay for prescribed drugs and they are paying provided they get healthy.
“Which country has “free” health care? As far as I know, in the UK, the NHS is funded by general taxation, national insurance contributions and user charges. While the NHS is generally described as free at the point of use, it is still funded by all of us that work and pay tax. And many of us pay for prescriptions and dental treatment.
Maybe Nigeria needs to put her house in order. Let us call a spade a spade, Nigeria is presently a mess. From simple taxation, tax collection or even resources management. If we cannot have an effective resource management system, then whence cometh the funds to establish and properly “run things” (apologies to my yardies). We look at other sane climes and wish to be like them, whilst we shit on our own doorsteps. It is time to change the same old narratives and mindset and educate the all that we owe ourselves a collective responsibility to do the right things in order to achieve the desired results. Health care is just an example.
In Nigeria, we erroneously believe that the government can and must finance everything from oil money and that citizens must have no part in contributing to the revenue base by paying their taxes.
Even in affluent countries, citizens contribute a major part of government revenue by the tax that they pay.
That’s not to downplay the wastage via corruption, but it still won’t be enough to have good quality health care.
In the USA, health care is technologically advanced but very expensive. And government pays for about 50% through Medicare and Medicaid. The rest is via expensive insurance.
I think we all have this notion that everything in the West can easily be imported to Africa and work for us. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We need to start thinking differently. Western system of economics, health, Governance are not suited for us. Let’s start the difficult talk. Let’s reduce wastage and corruption by 50%, let’s invest in Education, let’s invest in technology, let’s invest in Civic rights, and invest in governance that suits us, not the “yeye” democracy that we are not getting dividends.
Let’s start think differently. The West will NOT assist us, we can learn, but not necessarily implement their system.
We need to start thinking differently; an Oyinbo man will never wear an African attire to work, why must an African wear Oyinbo attire to work in Africa? Why do we neglect ours as not good enough? The orientation must stop. We have a ruling system before the Oyinbos came, we discarded it, why don’t we go back to the drawing board?”
So, which of the concepts do we consider alien and which must be discarded outright in Africa?
Paying tax? Citizens’ contribution.?
All we hear is billions disappearing daily’. Can that happen in the UK, or where the law is strict with public accountability? Pension funds, Health and social care budget, education funds, Elderly peoples care funds, and various other pots of money over here, have you ever heard them disappearing? The Parliament members in the UK who wrongfully claimed above their expenses several years ago, all ended up in prison. Sweden assembly members are riding on group buses, they don’t have cars because the state cannot afford to buy them. A Nigeria example is a Professor heading NDDC, who should have known better the needs of his people; look at him when given the opportunity to serve and how money disappeared ‘just like that’. Shameful!
Free medical facilities in Nigeria will remain a pipe dream without adequate taxation, I agree with that sentiment unequivocally. That there’s corruption in Nigeria is not the issue here, but to draw attention to the fact that Nigerians don’t pay their taxes. I don’t think that’s in dispute.
The real reason why it is somewhat free here in UK is because firstly, it is well funded by taxpayers. Granted we don’t pay correct taxes in Nigeria. But even if we did, the system is so rotten that such monies will usually grow wings and fly away or get eaten by snakes, goats or chickens. Hence funding becomes giant drums of smoke or gas which merely fizzle out. Please tell me any of our systems or institutions that is well run. So, we cannot have such free health care (it is so regarded in UK) as we would always dream. That is my point. The writer seems to be suggesting funding through the introduction of Health Insurance of some sort to the already down-trodden populace with unemployment skyrocketing by the day. This not realistic in my view as this cannot be sustainable with both government and private sector’s dwindling income being the order of the day.
What obtains in UK is a National Health Service established and well run based on a collective agreement and consensus of its workability, funded by the British public money and run by professionals with the utmost sense of responsibility. Now, if the NHS can work in the UK, it is possible elsewhere. It is no longer news that all the Nigerian systems and institutions are infested with corporate corruption and cancerous self-centred manipulations. All we hear is billions disappearing daily.
British public money comes in from taxation and the reality is that that there isn’t adequate income from taxation in Nigeria to cover the kind of NHS and other welfare programs in the UK.
Long Live Nigeria!!!!!