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How Abia State IGR Grew From N15.9bn In 2020 To N20.1bn In 2022 – BIR | READ DETAILS


How Abia State IGR Grew From N15.9bn In 2020 To N20.1bn In 2022 – BIR | READ DETAILS

Abia State’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) grew from N15.9billion in 2020 to N20.1billion in 2022.

This is according to the chairman, Abia State Board of Internal Revenue (BIR), Mr Chijioke Okoronka. In this exclusive interview with Emenike Iroegbu, Okoronka gives an insight into how the Board was able to raise the state’s IGR which was pegged at N15 billion per annum in 2020 to N19,578,331,591.33 billion in 2021, a full year of private sector involvement, and progressed to N20,108,232,055.98 billion in 2022 with a target of hitting N24 billion in 2023.


You’re at helm of affairs in the revenue drive of Abia State, let’s have a view of how Abia State Board of Internal Revenue in your care is fairing with its mandate to raise IGR.

Abia State Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is doing well under my watch. We have had challenges, but equally we have had gains and our gains can be seen from the growth of the state IGR.

The private sector driven approach, combined with civil service administration has made the state experience progressive growth in our IGR drive. This is a state that was pegged at N15bn as at 2020, but within a year of the active involvement of the private sector with the collaboration of the civil service our IGR grew to above N19bn.

By the things that are happening and given the necessary environment and support, we intend to grow it to more than 2 billion per month which gives over 24 billion in 2023. What has anticipated so much to this progress we have done is more of the injection of the private sector driven approach, not just the civil service way; the civil servants are the administrative people that knows what to do, But with the private sector driven approach, there were innovations, there were changes, there were injections of the modern system of doing things that propelled the achievement that we made.

The introduction of ICT, more especially, in the informal sector, like the transport sector, where the E-ticket moved from manual ticketing, in fact it fizzled out paper tickets and became E-ticketing which increased the state’s revenue by more than 1500% from less than 100million yearly to over 1billion naira gross, monthly.

Abia state became the first state to launch and implement it and it was so good and it expanded from just the keke (tricycle), the transport sector to every part of that transport sector to markets whereby the flyer revenue is driven with E-ticketing platform which is a wonderful innovation because that saw the state moving our revenue from less than a hundred million to over three hundred million in the market sector which is a very radical increase. Other technologies were introduced such as the demand notice tracker, which enables us track demand notice distributions with informed enforcement.

The demand notice tracker over the last 2 years have seen to the distribution of over 300 thousand demand notices that are geo-tagged, which made our enforcement process more data drive. In fact these innovations have formed an integral part of our operations here in the BIR and have created more than 1000 jobs for people. We have over 700 ticketers and 300 enforcers, agents, and even casual workers in the field what work collaboratively to realize the steady growth we’re currently having in Abia State.

The increase in these sectors has been steady. I told the governor (Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu) how we needed to fine-tune it the more and expand it because, it reduced faking, it reduced compromise, it reduced a lot of challenges we were having with paper ticketing and all that. with e-ticketing, every keke (tricycle), every bus, every vehicle is tied to its number plate for enforcement and that helped in checkmating faking and others, and like I said, the e-ticketing was so good in that, you cannot duplicate it. At the end of every 24 hours, the tickets are regenerated, the old ones go, and new ones come up. So, that has really helped the state to manage that area that was so volatile and crisis ridden. But today, we are doing so fine that even at the national level, the Joint Tax Board, has copied what Abia has done. Not only in that area, it’s also helping us in enumeration. It enlarges the tax net, brings more new people and more taxpayers as it makes the system to increase the number of people who should pay tax and those who should pay other revenues.

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In terms of enumeration, it increases it because it’s ICT-driven; and I must confess that the private sector that brought the ICT operation changed most things that were done manually and that increased the efficiency of operations.

Speculations out there suggest that the Abia IGR has never grown beyond 16 billion naira. In specific terms, what are the actual figures on both monthly and yearly basis?

Like I said, from 2021, we started firstly, by harmonizing all collections. Revenue comes from different windows, by that; it means you have those that are from Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) from the employee sector. You have those that come from the motor licensing section, which is flying revenue and motor vehicle administration. You also have those that are generated by different MDAs with the mandate to generate revenues. But what internal revenue does is to collect and account to the government.

So, the work of the ministry is still there. So, like I said earlier on, there was an increase, though slight increase then from 15 billion in to 19.5 billion in 2021, and above 20 billion in 2022, and as we speak, for the first quarter, we’ve done over 6 billion already. But there are still other revenue windows that have not been brought into the figures that we have for the current year. By the time we get them together, we’ll be netting over 7 billion on average for the first quarter. Going by that, you’ll be talking about over 24 billion naira, which is the base we’re looking at for 2023.

But by the time we factor in all the revenues, you’ll be talking about over 24–25 billion naira, which is above two billion per-month average. But our initial target is to make three billion per month. It’s achievable if the technology and human resources and willpower are there to drive it.

And that is why the private sector driven approach is very necessary. Doing away with restrictive bureaucracy and getting things done the way they should be done, I think, is an achievable thing for us to make a minimum of three billion naira in a month – more especially in those areas that have been established, the flying revenue, the e-ticketing, the one-serve platform which the state also owns and have seen all ministries keying into, to on-board all their revenue heads for seamless collection.

So that all the areas that people have been cutting corners would be blocked while government revenue increases as MDAs get what’s due to them for smooth running of their affairs. We’re putting measures on ground to make sure the MDAs key in and do what necessary; then, we’ll do marvellous things in the state.

What is the compliant quotient of Abia taxpayers? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Abians with respect to tax compliance?

Yeah, with publicity, creation of awareness and enforcement; people have seen how necessary it is for them to do their civic obligations. They have seen also, that taxpayer money is being put to use. For instance, if you go to Aba, you’ll discover that some areas now wear a different look from what they used to be. It’s like what was happening in Lagos when Fawler would always tell Lagosians “this is taxpayer’s money at work,” that’s exactly what is happening here. So, the more you are producing, people are seeing it, they are voluntarily complying. Before now, it was a difficult task for people to pay; but now they’ve seen the reason why they should pay because they’re seeing it at work, two, we have been able to clamp down reasonably on illegal collectors. With the help of enforcement team, we have reduced it by over 70, 80 per cent.

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It is just a few people here and there, that we are still tracking down to make sure that whatever is paid gets into the government coffers and the people get the dividend of that payment. So, I think that people are willingly now complying more than ever before, the voluntary compliance is on the increase.

You talked about the innovations that the application of technology brought into this system, to a layman, this may not easily be understood. What practically different did your agency do from the usual ways of doing things, to achieve this?

An eye opener was just the election period when the government implemented the cashless policy. It was as if it was an impossible task, people now discovered that there are other means of payments and carrying out transactions without touching cash. First of all, we had a law that made it an offense for you to pay cash. So whatever is payable, is paid through the bank, and it’s an automatic thing. If you pay, it’s verifiable. If you don’t pay, it is also clear that it’s not paid.

So with the ICT, we had to establish the central system, and also the Abia One-serve system and other integration processes that made payments, assessments, and confirmation very seamless so that if you pay it is easy for you to get a confirmation of payment, it is also easy for us to prove that you paid, reconciliations are also very seamless. Moreover, there was this introduction of an easy payment method known as“pay small small” to lessen the burden of payment whereby the taxpayer has the option of paying as little as he can every day. So that also helped the taxpayers to key into the campaign very well.

We have also leveraged the use of Point of Sale (POS), Afripay and other payment channels close to the taxpayer to make payment of taxes easier. It’s also easier now for companies to transfer their payments and confirm same through the Abia Oneserve.

So this time around, it has reduced fraud to the extent that these things are traceable and very clear; whether they have been paid or not. So technology has really helped just like the banking sector, today, we’re moving gradually from ATM to Apps and others, so also we’re moving gradually to make it seamless and easier for payments and other operations so that the taxpayer can conveniently pay.

Technology has really helped us and enabled the state to establish both the central system, the Oneserve architecture that has also given a holistic approach to entering the state business environment. You know what you can do in the state, and once you enter it, you get your Abia State Social Identification Number (ABSSIN). This will also guide you in every operation within the state.

It’s now connected within all the MDAs, so that whatever you’re doing here will also be viewed by the entire state. So, the technology has done so well. And we are improving on them, you know, it’s not really easy getting people to key into such changes, but we are gradually moving at a faster rate.

People are buying into it, people are seeing the need for it because they’ve seen results like the MDAs that have also come on board, are today happy because as their revenue generation is increasing, they’re also getting increase in what they are supposed to use in running the office. So they are now working to do more, the more they do the state gets more, that is the result of the ICT.


How much did Aba contribute to the N6 billion generated in the first quarter? Also, we’ve heard about complaints from the government over unprofitable MDAS and parastatals; how much is their contribution to this process?

First of all, Abia is the home of SMEs. In Nigeria, it’s rated as one of the states leading majorly in small-scale industries –and by the enumeration we have done, we have gotten so much into our tax net and are also doing more. By our estimation, there are over 100,000 shops in all the markets in Aba, and we’re also looking at an average of over 100,000 business outfits. Going by that, we realise over 2billion naira annually in each of these areas.

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With the private sector approach, we are getting everybody into the tax net and that is a wonderful one. So because of this shop renovation and other things in Aba, we’re looking at, earning over 2.3 billion from the market as long as things go the way we have planned them, then from the e-ticketing section of transportation, we’re also looking at over half a billion, then we are also looking at signage; signage should be something above some millions getting to more than half a 100 million, that is 0ver 60 million per annum. Then, on that of the parastatals, it has been a difficult task keying them in.

Even when the governor had given directives, most of them have not adhered, but those that have keyed in have testified of the benefits and others are now changing their minds. Others are now keying in, because we know that there is no MDA that is not lucrative, they are. It’s only, like we said, the private sector approach to issues; no longer staying at home to receive alerts without doing anything. If you are productive, at the end of the day, you get reward for your work.

So those things are changing. Most of those parastatals, we are encouraging them and we’re bringing them in to do what they’re supposed to do so that their own sector will be productive also, once it does, and there’ll be enough also for them to run the system. So we are encouraging them to do the needful.

What should Abians be expecting more from this particular agency as regards idea?

Yes, like I told you that tax or revenue is what makes government to run a system, to carry out projects, to do things for the people. So once we get Abians to pay what they’re supposed to pay, as it’s coming, it will make the government to do what they’re supposed to do for them; providing the necessary amenities and facilities that would also lubricate the system for good operation of businesses.

Once they pay and government continues to see that the system will continue to grow. Just like you can stay in your home and log into the website of the Federal Road Safety Corps to process your driver’s license without having to interact with any person, such is what we are now putting in place. We believe that as we go on, those things will materialise. So far some have started operation, like the architecture we are fine-tuning to get the best of it, it will be so robust, that at the comfort of your home, you can do anything and interact with the state government.

Just currently, people overseas can stay at the comfort of their homes and get tax clearance; e-taxing certificates etc. from Abia State. You can get assessed; you can get ABSSIN from the comfort of your home. You can get assessment from there, you can pay online and there and then, it will generate e-TCC for you. We have that in place but are only trying to educate people to use them.

We’re looking forward to working with the incoming governor also, who will carry on with the project that is already on ground, because as the growth is going with political will and support, we’ll be able to achieve the result that we are looking forward to.

Does the agency have a monthly or a quarterly publication of what comes into the ministry?

Yes, I think the design will have those things in place, so that people can go in, just like the creation of the Oneserve, you can launch in and look at what the system has for you in terms of transactions, businesses and everything and also look at what has been on ground, because records speak for themselves. So there are websites, BIR websites, we have Abia website where you can source out these things.

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