In a manner that has become a consistent pattern with officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government, the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, for want of any viable message for the people of Lagos during a recent visit to the State, declared that people were leaving Lagos in droves as a consequence of heavy taxation imposed by the State Government.
It is no surprise at all that the steadfastness that the Lagos State Government has brought to the management of its Internally Generated Revenue and the attendant improved and consistent performance over the years will continue to be mind boggling for all those who do not appreciate the need to move from the past and adopt innovations in order to improve the lot of the society.
The fact remains that Lagos, the economic and social hub of not just Nigeria, but the entire West African sub-region, continues to attract an inflow of people like the bee to the honey, in pursuit of their means of livelihood daily.
For whatever it is worth, Arch. Namadi Sambo deserves to be pitied. If his itinerary coming on this trip in an election year had included the inspection, not even commissioning, of any ongoing ambitious programmes or projects initiated by the Federal Government for the good of the people of Lagos State, he may have been better preoccupied and avoided the gaffe.
It will be good to share with him and his fellows a simple narrative of what was done differently in Lagos State. It is never too late to learn.
The Lagos State Government had for long realized that the state, with its enormous social and economic potentials, cannot continue to depend on the allocation from the Federation Accounts if it must deliver on the popular expectations.
Measures were then introduced to drive efficiency in the tax assessment and collection regimes by effectively plugging loopholes and leakages in the system.
The result was the leap in the accruable to the coffers of the State Government.
With this enhanced revenue profile, the government embarked on ambitious infrastructure upgrades to meet the critical areas of need like never experienced before.
At any given time, not less than two hundred roads, not leaving out those of the Federal Government, are being executed.
The Lagos State Government is not just “doing it” on the tube and the press; the testimonials abound all over the state for the people to see, feel and put to use.
Without doubt, Sambo himself would have, during this visit, marvelled at the new look of Lagos even if he moved around all of his time in the city flying a helicopter.
To cut the story short, the confidence level in the government appreciated significantly and a symbiotic relationship evolved, a government and its people became development partners.
The ordinary people even keyed into the system voluntarily bringing down the cost of tax administration and enforcement.
The lesson for the Federal Government in all of these is that if the Presidency can summon the will power to rein in its members and ensure that oil receipts and accruals from other revenue heads are properly accounted for and remitted to the Federation Accounts, Nigeria would be better and the citizens would be happy.
If the Federal Government had avoided situations where individuals present claims in billions of hard-earned money spent on hotel accommodation, air travels and all other such excesses in diversion of public funds, the Nigerian economy will not be in the sorry state it is today and we would all have been better for it.
Nigerians would have been better secured and the people wouldl feel the presence of government even in the remotest part of the country.
The Vice President is not known for courting controversies, but as a junior partner in Nigeria’s uninspiring Presidency, he cannot but speak during public engagements.
Rather than join the gabby gang in Abuja, simple greetings and a few compliments will do instead of making non-residential claims that are lacking in facts.
If it is anything to do with Lagos the State Government will readily avail him of accurate data that could assist him to make informed deductions.
Now that he is back in Abuja, he can share his Lagos experience with his principal and impress on him without delay that the little sunshine left out there is still sufficient to hang fabrics out to dry.
History will not forgive them for running a full course of four-year Presidency without any legacy. If they lack the capacity to contend with other complex challenges confronting the nation, they do not have to be geniuses to plant a block of classroom or a paediatric ward in each of Nigeria’s public primary schools or general hospitals in the remaining five months of their tenure to at least appease yet impressionable children.
Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to HE Monday, 29th December, 2014