Mr Okon Okon, Executive Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service, AKIRS, at the opening of the 2nd public-private sector dialogue on improvement of revenue organised by State2State in partnership with AKIRS, on Wednesday 28th June 2022. (Credit: Info & Brand Mgt. Unit, AKIRS.)

By Abasifreke Effiong, Uyo.

The Executive Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service, AKIRS, Mr Okon Okon, said the agency is working assiduously to expand its taxpayers’ database and ensuring that existing taxpayers pay correctly the taxes due to the state.

Mr Okon stated this at the opening of a-two day public-private sector dialogue organised by the Nigeria – State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness Activity, State2State in collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service, AKIRS.

Akwa Ibom is one of the six states in Nigeria benefiting from State2State Activity, a USAID-funded project intended to help benefiting states improve how to plan and budget, raise revenues, increase civil society participation, and oversee service delivery in the health; education; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sectors.

The dialogue held on Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th June in Uyo, was aimed at aggregating stakeholders’ inputs for formulating an acceptable strategy to improve internally generated revenue collection, administration and utilisation in Akwa Ibom State.

Mr Okon said AKIRS is working closely with relevant stakeholders particularly in the informal sector to bring taxable adults and businesses in the state into the tax net and raise its taxpayers’ database from its current statistics.

“We have made significant improvement in our taxpayers’ database since we came in, but the statistics still fall short of what we should have considering our population estimated at about 7 million people.”

“We are also facing another challenge of having people on the database not declaring their other sources of income. Many people who are working for the government and in the organised private sector are not declaring their side businesses, so they are only paying PAYE and PIT.”

He said the import of the dialogue was to bring all stakeholders across sectors together and continue to encourage them to see the need to pay relevant taxes to the government, adding that citizens cannot hold leaders accountable if they are not contributing to the IGR purse through taxation.

“We are dialoguing to improve the welfare of Akwa Ibom people. Thia dialogue is important to emphasise why we should pay our taxes. The civic responsibility of citizens in the social contract is payment of taxes, while the responsibility of the government is serving the people, providing enabling environment for businesses to thrive.”

On utilisation of revenue by government, Mr Okon lauded the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, for providing visible value for taxpayers’ money through quality social services and infrastructure.

IGR improvement: State2State, AKIRS hold 2nd public- private dialogue Stakeholders at the opening of a-2 day dialogue on IGR improvement in Akwa Ibom State organised by State2State in partnership with AKIRS. (Photo Credit: Info & Brand Mgt. Unit, AKIRS.)

The Akwa Ibom state lead on State2State Activity, Mr Borve Paago-Imabel, said the dialogue was the second meeting with the stakeholders and it is aimed at deepening deliberations on inputs collected during the first session for the purpose of forming a revenue generation strategy that will improve the IGR of the state.

He said working with AKIRS and stakeholders in the private sector, the State2State team has come to understand the enormous challenges the state was facing in collecting revenue and ensuring tax compliance.

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Mr Paago-Imabel lauded AKIRS for the interest, dedication and resoluteness demonstrated by her staff towards ensuring an improved revenue collection in the state, expressing optimism that Akwa Ibom will within the shortest time lead the comity of states that can fund itself without relying on allocation from the federal government.

“This dialogue is held because of the strong bond of partnership forged between the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service and the State2State project. Let me commend AKIRS for ensuring that her staff show enormous interest and also participate in this dialogue.”

“Before we started this project, we have heard how States are often accused of not doing much to raise their IGR but working with AKIRS, we understand the challenges that face state in ensuring that revenue are collected and ensuring compliance at each level.”

“We are pleased with the seriousness shown by AKIRS. Our collaboration with AKIRS is for enhanced revenue collection and compliance.”

“For this second dialogue, we are trying to build on the report of the first dialogue so that we can finalise a revenue strategy that will help improve revenue collection in Akwa Ibom state”, Mr Paago-Imabel said.

The dialogue received contributions from the leadership of private business associations including, Keke Owners and Riders Association; Akwa Ibom State Integrated Private Schools Association; Uyo Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture UYOCIMMA; Akwa Ibom State Tax Justice and Governance Platform, a coalition of CSOs working on fiscal governance; market women associations, among others.