Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?” He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”
Luke 3:12 – 13 The Message (MSG)
The third edition of the annual National Tax Debate organized by The Tax Club, University of Lagos, took place on the 22nd and 23rd of September, 2016 at both the Law Annex and the Main Auditorium in the University of Lagos. The theme was, ‘The Tax Trident: Electronic Tax, Nigeria’s Fiscal Reality and Social Control’.This again is a timely effort of The Tax Club which must be commended. What better time to examine the country’s fiscal reality than now? The practicability of electronic collection of taxes is something we may want to explore as a country especially since we would like to be cutting the costs of administration (read here, the National Assembly should start first). We need all the savings we can get. It also cannot be overemphasized that taxation also affects social behavior.
As much as these sorts of conversations are welcome, it is also important that we take action. Year after year, policy makers and influential stakeholders in the Nigerian tax system have the opportunity to hear what the average Nigerian youth thinks about certain tax policies. Year after year, enthusiastic tax students and practitioners have a platform to interact, teach and learn, and even mentor and be mentored. It would be very unfortunate if nothing tangible comes out of it.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The invite went out to 24 Universities. Each University’s team had to turn in an essay revolving around the reform of the Stamp Duties Act. Out of this 24, only ten schools made it to the debate proper. They are: American University of Nigeria (AUN), University of Benin (UNIBEN), University of Ibadan (UI), University of Nigeria (UNN), University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Babcock University (BABCOCK) and the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Nnamdi Azikwe University. This was AUN’s first appearance at the National Tax Debate. For OAU, BABCOCK and UNIBEN, this was the second appearance. All the other universities have featured in all three editions of the event. OAU had a stellar performance on their first outing. They went home with the prize last year. UNN was the winner of the maiden edition. UNN did not go farther than the semi finals last year and UNILAG came second after being knocked out at the qualifying stage two years ago. After a stellar performance at the maiden edition, LASU (Lagos State University) was MIA last year, and did not enter an appearance this year.
One of the highlights of the debate was the Chijioke Uwagbate Orator prize. A sum of #100 000 is usually awarded to the winners. In the two previous years, UNILAG’s Seyi Bioku and Gabriel Aliyu came second, while the winners have been Mr Tola Adebesin of LASU and Miss Igbannugo of UNN in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Sadly, the prize was not available this year.
So this year, the questions on our lips were, ‘Will this be the year UNILAG clinches the first place?’, ‘Will UNN make a comeback?’, and ‘Will OAU guard their title jealously and set a new record by being the only school to win more than once?’
It was straight into the quarter finals. AUN was paired with UNIBEN on the topic, ‘Federalism in the Nigerian Tax System and the National Tax Policy: Strange Bedmates?’ UI had to battle for a spot in the semifinal with the formidable UNN by putting forward superior arguments on the taxation of illegal income. UNIABUJA was paired with UNILORIN on the topic, ‘A centralized body is best equipped to adjudicate on disputes arising from tax administration of each level of government’. OAU had to contend with UNIZIK by debating whether Nigeria is ripe for a major transition into an electronic based tax system. Finally, after listening to BABCOCK and UNILAG the judges had to decide whether they had been convinced that the Stamp Duties Act should be abolished. The teams were judged on the following criteria: appearance, time management, preservation style and content.
UNIBEN, UNILAG, OAU, UI, UNIABUJA, and BABCOCK made it to the semifinals. UNIBEN and UNILAG traded arguments on the justifiability of tax touting in the informal sector. UI and OAU presented different perspectives on the exemption of ecclesiastical bodies from taxation, and UNIABUJA and BABCOCK were left to fight for a place at the finals after debating the legalization of Cannabis Sativa for the purposes of taxation. OAU, UNILAG, UNIABUJA and UI made it to the finals. The judges in attendance were Mr Israel Koledowo of KPMG Nigeria, Mr Athora Zion and Mr Onabola Olukayode of Ernst and Young.
For the first time in the history of the National Tax Debate, the American Presidential Debate format was introduced at the finals. All the schools were to debate on the topic ‘The transition from an oil to a tax based economy.’ The Judges were Mr Akande (Special Assistant to the Chairman, Lagos Internal Revenue Service) Dr Mark Abani (CEO MSCE Worldwide) Mr Taiwo Oyedele (Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services, PwC Nigeria) Mrs Fadahunsi (Deputy Director, FIRS Engagement and Enlightenment team). The event was chaired by Dr Babatunde Fowler. Dr Mark Abani – a seasoned tax practitioner and the CEO MSCA Projects worldwide delivered a lecture on taxation and social control. Again, the University of Lagos failed to clinch the prize, losing out to UI by a margin of 0.8%. But it has set a record, being the only school to take the second prize twice, while OAU and UNILAG are the only schools to have made it to the finals two years in a row. University of Ibadan is the reigning tax champion of 2016!!!
The event was graced by the presence of the FIRS Chairman, Dr Babatunde Fowler, Mr Taiwo Oyedele of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa, Secretary of the Joint Tax Board Mr M.L ABubakar, Prof. G Babawale, Directors and staff of both the FIRS and LIRS, and professors of the faculty of law, UNILAG – Prof. Chioma Agomo, Prof. Joseph Abugu, Prof. Abiola Sanni and Dr Olawoyin SAN, Professor P.K Fogam and the Tax Club’s very own Mr Folarin Philip with Dr Ayoade.
Awards were presented to Mr Fuad Laguda of FIRS, Amasa Monsurat of LIRS, Titi Fowokan of Dangote, Alhaji TK Oseni of FIRS, Mr Taofeek Shittu of Ikeyi and Arifayan and Mr Jimi Aina board secretary of the LIRS for their immeasurable contributions to the growth of the club.
A very big thank you to God Almighty. Yes, it was almost like I would not have been able to cover this event. So, thank You Lord. Thank you Olisa John Tochukwu – correspondent of life – I appreciate you. Yemi Adebo, you are my ambassador of quan. Thank you The Tax Club. Thank you Osibajo Boluwaji, your voice notes are appreciated. Congratulations to Professor Abiola Sanni! Thank YOU for reading this. I hope we join the conversation next year. I hope, most importantly, that this spurs us to take actions. See you next year!!!