Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country

7 ways Nigerians can apply President Kennedy's advice to Nigeria

The universality of the application of the appeal of late President Kennedy to his fellow Americans is evident. Citizens of advanced democracies worldwide embrace this call to citizen leadership, national service, and patriotism. Here are seven things Nigerians can do for Nigeria:

1. Elect politicians that will adopt the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference as these recommendations will promote democracy and social justice in Nigeria. The promotion of social justice requires an end to the exploitation of the oil producing states. Democracy and social justice require the adoption of income taxation as the primary tool to fund the federal, state, and local governments in Nigeria as it is done in all advanced democratic nations in the world.

I propose a variable income tax rate on the total income, salary plus allowances, with an equal distribution of one third to each of the three tiers of government:

A. 45% tax bracket for total incomes above N36 million naira: 15% fed, 15% states, 15%, local governments in a 15:15:15 per cent distribution.

B. 27% tax bracket for total incomes greater than N24 million but less than N36 million naira, or 9:9:9 per cent distribution.

C. 15% tax bracket for total incomes greater than N12 million but less than N24 million naira in a 5:5:5 percent distribution.

D. 9% tax bracket for total incomes greater than N6 million naira but less than N12 million naira in a 3:3:3 per cent distribution.

E. 6% tax bracket for total incomes between N500,000 naira and less than N6 million naira in a 2:2:2 per cent distribution.

F. Diaspora Nigerians who already pay hefty taxes in their host countries will pay a flat rate of 3% of total income, 1% to the federal government, and 1% to be shared by the states, and 1% to be shared by the local governments.

People with special needs, retirees, and Nigerian workers worldwide whose incomes are less than the equivalent of N500,000 naira per year or less will pay no taxes.

With an income taxation regime, the source of corruption in Nigeria, dependence of oil to fund government all levels of government, will be reduced dramatically, and the oil producing states can be allowed to keep most of the oil revenues after paying taxes to the federal government. The federal, state, and local governments will obtain substantially more revenues available through income taxation. The government will have more money available to pay for the building of robust infrastructural and security projects and to provide more services to the people nationwide.

2. Be engaged, be involved, monitor, and demand accountability especially at the grassroots: at the local government and state levels. Volunteer for charitable events and in community projects.

3. Promote wholesome values in society, and support the rule of law under the constitution that is binding on all citizens in all parts of the nation including equality before the law for all Nigerian men and women, boys and girls. Reject discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Reject or discourage preferential treatment for some at the expense of others.

4. Promote investments in Nigeria, buy locally made products and services, and support the exportation of locally made industrial products, agro-based products, and the tourism industry. Patronize our local tourist sites for vacations, retreats, workshops, and research meetings. Support our local sports teams, and buy and promote local sports paraphernalia.

5. Strengthen and support our institutions, the police, the army, the judiciary, the schools, the hospitals, the local, state, and the federal governments. Teach children the constitution, history, geography, culture, and languages of other ethnic groups. Learn a different language and become fluent in reading, writing, and speaking of at least two of the major Nigerian languages.

6. Encourage the wealthy not to flaunt their wealth, but to give back to society after paying their fair share of taxes: grants, endowments, foundations, scholarships, research grants, and travel grants. Applaud, acknowledge, honor, and celebrate those who do.

7. Exercise leadership in your community and elsewhere. Democracy encourages citizen leadership. In other words, it is the empowered people in a democracy that can exercise oversight over politicians who administer the affairs of the nation. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Taxation will enable the wishes of the people to become the directives of our politicians.

The 38 year interruption in the development of democracy in Nigeria by the military has had a profound negative effect on Nigeria. As in a stockholm syndrome, some are advocating for a return to dictatorship rather than the promotion of democracy and social justice. In a democracy, each person has to pitch in. A democratic nation is only as functional and successful as the combined strength of the individual contributions of the citizens.

Nigerians should ask the legislators at the national assembly to pass a law making income tax the principal tool to be used to obtain the revenues needed to fund the budget at all levels of government in Nigeria. If income taxation is adopted, it will bring ten times more revenue to each tier of government. Taxation is empowering. Empowered citizens empower institutions in a democracy. That is why a democracy does not need the proverbial strong man in charge as in a dictatorship.

With citizen engagement and oversight of government activities, politicians, and institutions, especially at the local and state government levels, there will be better outcomes for all and socio-economic development in the nation.

Abitunde Taiwo

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Articles by Abitunde Taiwo