Global economies involve the participation of government as regulators to ensure no fraction of the population is marginalized due to the actions or inactions of certain classes in society as well as ensuring the security of all. This ideology is the foundation for all of the government’s activities which include but are not limited to ensuring a conducive business environment, human capital planning, and development, promoting the general welfare, and imposing taxes to raise revenue for financing these activities.
The business environment in Nigeria is one of the most asphyxiating in the world. From grossly inadequate infrastructure to the bureaucracies of business registration to the politics of implementing policies that favor only a producer in the industry while suffocating the existence of others- I need not play the naming game; the heartbreaking list of inadequacies is endless. Yet all these companies/ businesses have obligations to the government in the form of taxes, corporate social responsibility, etc. Failure to meet up with any of these obligations attracts the wrath of the government in the form of fines- an increase in the company’s financial obligation to the government. These taxes and fines are sources of revenue to the government for financing activities meant to improve social welfare. Well as social welfare has been deteriorating rather than improving over the years, my question is where have all the taxes and fines imposed on these companies gone?
In 2011, some members of the Upper Arm of the House of Assembly, the Senate, moved a motion for the legalization of prostitution in the country as it had become seemingly impossible to eradicate the malaise. In the words of the then Deputy Senate President, “We need to regulate prostitution in this country so that if anyone wants to indulge in prostitution, the person should be registered and issued with a license. If we say we want to stop it, it would be difficult. It is done in other countries; let us regulate it by issuing the license.”
In my opinion, this is an extortionist motion coming from a public officer who is meant to have the interest of the public at heart as I am yet to see a license issued in the country without an exorbitant charge; this license would not have been an exception. Prostitution is a route taken by those who have no option. The life of a sex worker is characterized by extreme scarcity of opportunities, severe deprivation, and neediness. These sex workers often opt for the selling of flesh in a bid to cover basic living costs which should ordinarily have been made accessible by the government. The proliferation of prostitution is a mirror of the proliferation of poverty in the country, yet rather than sitting to deliberate on effective poverty alleviation and achieving inclusive growth, the deliberation was on inflicting more financial obligation on already marginalized citizens.
In 2011/2012, during the initial debate for the removal of fuel subsidy, one of the highlighted advantages was the use of saved subsidy funds to finance development projects rather than enriching the cabals further at the expense of the government’s running cost. Fast forward to 2016, I am yet to identify a development project that is successfully being implemented and can be tied to the funds saved from the then reduction in fuel subsidy. From time immemorial taxes have been paid by older generations with the belief that the benefits will be transgenerational through increased access to welfare benefits. Unfortunately, these welfare benefits are almost non-existent let alone measuring their accessibility. The same song of “pay your taxes” is still being sung. Without being taken too far aback, current tax-paying citizens were owed salaries for months in some states that eventually had to seek bail-out funds from the Federal government to offset the outstanding salary payment. If the revenue raised by the government through tax imposition is not being directed towards increasing the social welfare of the citizens, why do they have to continue paying mandatorily?
It is no hidden secret that public officers and public servants steal, embezzle, and misappropriate public funds. These funds raised from past and present taxpayers tend to find their way into the personal accounts of these officials at the expense of social welfare, yet if an entity or individual defaults in his obligation due to a lack of capacity he is exploited further by the additional sanctions imposed by the same government who have been defaulting on theirs’ since 1960 and are still not been held accountable.
In reality, the “government” is a mask worn by personal profiteers to exploit society and amass personal wealth. This explains the trend of prosecuting public officers for corruption-related charges once they are out of office. I am not saying it is wrong to pay taxes on the contrary I am a proponent of “paying for value”. Countries that impose high taxes make social benefits available and accessible to their citizens. Both the society and government are structured to trade value in the form of taxes and social benefits respectively, however, if value giving becomes one-sided, the relation becomes exploitative rather than mutually beneficial and this is the crux of Capitalism. Therefore for Nigeria to experience the development which it desperately seeks, the capitalist tendencies of public officers and public servants should be identified and curbed without preference and funds channeled to sectors that have geometric capacities to achieve development.