The need to re-engineeer the local government internally-generated revenue collection process in Abia State

By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu

Several revenue opportunities are open to the local government councils. They are collection of rates; radio and television licenses; licensing of bicycles, trucks, wheel barrows;registration of births, deaths and marriages; establishment and maintenance of recreational facilities; and regulation of outdoor advertisements,movement of domestic animals, shops and kiosks, restaurants and food and liquor vendors, among others.

Unfortunately, these avenues of boosting the internally- generated revenues of the local government areas have since been relegated to the background due to the over- reliance on the allocations accruing from the federation accounts- a practice which is the bane of not only the local government system as the third tier of the government but both the state and the lfederal government.

Over- dependence on federal allocations have rendered the revenue generating machineries of the local government councils redundant. These days, hardly you see local government revenue officers mounting major and track roads of the rural communities enforcing collection of bicycle licences from bicycle owners. It is no longer fashionable to witness the confiscation of straying domestic animals by local government staff. Before now, straying domestic animals were confiscated and kept in the local government custody. In turn, the owners of the animals would bail them for a fee.

On the other hand, markets were established and maintained by the local governments afterwhich they collect tolls. There were times the local government rate collectors were perceived as near terror by the rural dwellers as they invaded the rural communities to enforce strict payment of rates.

One crucial question seriously begs for answer.And that is:" What has happened to the enforcement of collection of radio and television licences, trucks, wheel barrows, registration of births, deaths and marriages; establishment and maintenance of recreational facilities; and regulation of outdoor advertisements,shops and kiosks, restaurants and food and liquor vendors?" In the days of yore, these were robust revenue generating avenues of the local government system.

Another pertinent issue that demands quick resolution is:"now that the oil economy has dwindled to an abysmal level, would the local government councils continue to depend on the meagre federal allocations?" The answer is no, something serious and immediate needs to be done. And that thing is the revival of the internally- generated revenue process of the local government councils in Abia State. The revenue generating processes need not only to be revived but to be re- engineered.

We cannot continue to rely on the federal allocations.It will be recalled that the collapse of the global oil market in the mid 2014 has exerted serious pressure on the nation economy. Some of the consequences are dwindling government revenues which have exerted budgetary pressures at various levels of government.The export revenues have also been affected by this trend, while the macro- economic variables have deteriorated with the Naira exchange rate devalued, causing rising inflation and higher interest rates.

There is an uphill task for the local government chairmen to copy the wonders Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is performing in the state by rejigging their internally-generated revenue process. Recently, the monthly IGR of Abia State hit N1billion. This is a far cry for an IGR which was fluctuating between N500million and below. Gov. Ikpeazu has also promised to raise the IGR to N2.5billion by December this year.

This feat did not come in isolation. The state has invested a lot efforts to see that this comes into fruition. The state has rejigged its IGR process by making sure that the leakages that bedevil the process are plugged. It is also making frantic efforts to see that all taxable Abians are brought into the tax net; harness the tax system and provide adequate information to tax payers. Gov. Ikpeazu and his team deserves kudos for this. The local government chairmen are expected to emulate these foot steps.

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