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Zaid Abubakar: Portrait of Kaduna State Chief Tax Collector

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By Emmanuel Ado 

 

“Great leaders check their ego at the door and empower others to excel” Deborah Gilles

 

Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of kaduna State consistently continues to make very fundamental statements bywords and actions that the most important legacy for any leader desirous of achieving extraordinary results, is to inspire confidence and trust in his appointees that they have the capacity to deliver services to the people.

The indefatigable El -Rufai, is undoubtedly an apostle of C. Everett Koop, a key proponent of the school of thought that believes that “Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Precisely what Nasir El-Rufai in the last 5 years has been doing- imbibing in kaduna State youths- male and female – the sense of responsibility and independence to excel in public service. It’s to El-Rufai’s credit that no young person from kaduna State can hide behind the banner of “no opportunity”,because the reality is that El- Rufai has over patronized them.

El- Rufai’s singular ambition is to internally generate annually a minimum of N70b that would cover wages and administrative costs, without having to wait for the “miserable” allocation from the Federation Account,which hardly covers salaries and leaves absolutely nothing for infrastructural development. All indications point to the realization of the objective,as the Kaduna State Internal Service (KADIRS) has consistently been generating well over N2billion from the paltry N600 million a month,that was standard during the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) administrations. Key to the successes recorded in increasing the IGR, are the reforms embarked by El-Rufai, which frontally attacked leakages,made cash collection a crime and the revenue service the sole collecting and accounting authority, though all taxes and fees continue to be assessed by the relevant ministries and agencies.

By December 2014 the Nigerian economy was already in decline and the revenue projections were not looking good. And because the oil revenues,the major foreign exchange earner was projected to remain much lower than the 2011-2014 boom levels,there was the urgent need to tackle the looming crisis,whichdemanded very tough decisions. The situation was further worsened by the lack of any significant increase in non -oil revenues. The implication was that the accruing revenue was grossly inadequate to provide essential public services and drive infrastructural development, which was very critical for an opposition party that had just kicked out an inept government. The options included addressing recurrent expenditure- especially the high number of political appointees, issue of “ghost” workers – which kaduna State implemented by reducing the number of ministries and an aggressive IGR drive.

In 2015 when El – Rufai assumed office, he had two stark options – to either reform or perish , because government revenues were already beginning to decline due to low demand for crude oil,Nigeria’s major foreign exchange earner. Thankfully the governor chose the path of reforms,making Kaduna State the only state that wasn’t prodded by the Federal Government intoembarking on long over due reforms. The22-point Fiscal Sustainability Plan(FSP) put in place by the Federal Government was an added impetus,because by 2015 most state governments faced crunching fiscal crisis that compelled the Federal Government to offer them financial assistance (bailouts) and to introduce the FSP, which entailed the restructuring of existing short-term commercial bank loans into longer-term state bonds which it guaranteed, soft loans from CBN and Excess Crude Account-backed loans.

Working with Ifueko Omoigui ,one time Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS), El-Rufai embarked on a radical restructuring of the Kaduna State Revenue Board,into a Service capable of effectively raising the much needed finances, for the myriads of projects he has on his table. To give legal backing to the reforms , The Kaduna State Tax (Codification & Consolidation) Law, 2016 was signed into law and ushered in a new era in tax administration in Kaduna State. Thekey highlights of the law; includes making Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service the sole revenue collection agency, Harmonization and centralization of all revenue collection and the Prohibition of cash collection,which made cash collection a crime. The blockage of leakages was the killer punch and in no time the desired results started rollingin,such that by 2017 the revenue had increased from N11.8billion in 2015 to N26.53billion and to N30billion by 2018.The half year results(January to June) for 2019 looks impressive.

Mukhtar Ahmed , the pioneer chairman has no doubt laid a solid foundation,but there are still some challenges that must be addressed for the Service to attain the desired level. And the man on whose very lean shoulders El – Rufai has placed this huge responsibility on is 35 years old Zaid Abubakar, a 2008 graduate of Accounting from the famous Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Abubakar comes with an impressive credentials,that includes a Ph.D. in Accounting, from the Al-Madina International University, (MEDIU) Malaysia. Nasir El – Rufai deserves huge commendation for his courageous decision to entrust the KADIRS to Abubakar whose work experience and formidable credentials show that he has the capacity to manage the Service.

Abubakar comes to the job with several advantages,chief being his background as a core “tax man” and the fact that he is coming from the FIRS where as a tax auditorhe had the duty of ensuring compliance by taxpayers. The good people of kaduna State,and companies operating in the state are hereby put on notice that a Daniel -or is it Zacchaeus the tax collector has come to judgement. Abubakar breathestax compliance and so understandably so much is expected from him , not just from El-Rufaiwho appointed him,but also from the staff of the Service- the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg- who eagerly look forward to him replicating the welfare package of the FIRS, which tremendously helped transform the hitherto comatose organization into a world class agency in the kaduna State Internal Revenue Service. And there is absolutely nothing Abubakar can do about the huge expectation to replicate the Ifueko Omoigui Midas touch that changed the fortunes of the FIRS – it would always be there- a reference point.

Abubakar, at the end of what will be first of many tenures , would most certainly be assessed by the government by his collection,which is expected to be exponential and by the staff which he obviously needs to motivate so as to achieve the target by El-Rufai, by the improved welfare package he puts in place. Abubakar, certainly has everything he needs to succeed ,because El-Rufai like the leader that he is, likes multiple perspectives on all issues, because of the advantages of differing opinions in decision making. Abubakar, has several cheques thathecan cash to ensure that he meets and surpasses the target for KADIRS. It’s expected for instance that he would push for a review of the 2016 law, which having been operated for sometimes should be reviewed to swiftly addressidentifiable weaknesses in auditing and legal frameworks.

Though presumptive tax,which targets the informal sector has been introduced,its impact in the overall collection is rather dismal. It’s expected that the centralization of collection and ease of payment through the deployment of PoS and other electronic payment system, would help turn presumptive tax into gold. It’s to the credit of Abubakar that he has given a firm commitment that no new taxes would be introduced, but that abandoned tax lines like the development levy etcwould be revived, thusfurther wideningthe net of taxpayers and thus improving collection. The recent recovery of N9.3 billion in backlog of personal income taxes from some federal government institutions like the famous Ahmadu Bello University(ABU),Zaria would definitely ginger the Service to go after the others agencies who are in default. The KADIRS by dragging ABU Zaria , to court has sent a strong message that it has the capacity to go after any agency service and collect what is due to kaduna State Government.

Abubakar’s, consistent,solid academic records and of service everywhere that he has worked, shows that he is not a fluke nor a flash in the pan. He graduated with a B.Sc in Accounting with a CGPA of 4.41,narrowly missing a First Class from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He went on to acquire a Master of Science Degree in Accounting and Finance, from the same Ahmadu Bellouniversity Zariain a record timeand subsequently a doctorate fromthe Al-Madina International University, (MEDIU). Malaysia.

Abubakar, is a worthy Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) UK. An Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) , Associate Chartered Accountant, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria,(ICAN). As in school where he easily picked up the M.K Lawal Foundation Merit Award for the best Graduating Student with Distinction in Commerce,he was to repeat the feat by picking ICAN Merit Award, for the Second Overall best result. El-Rufai has provided Abubakar with a platform to prove himself as a public administrator,and if he succeeds,which he is determined to there are so many future possibilities considering his age. Luckily Abubakarhas picked up some experience managing older colleagues, having been Secretary General of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria(ICAN) Zaria District Society and Chairman. And thankfully he is humble.

Before his appointment as Executive Chairman, Abubakar had lectured at the Shehu Idris College of Advance Studies(CAS),Zaria where he taught auditing and investigation. Obviously his teaching experience during his compulsory National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) came in handy. What teaching lost seems to have become the gain of the corporate world,first it was Bitmas Integrated farms Zaria, that hired him as supervising accountant to midwife their multimillion enterprise. In search of further challenges he staged a second missionary journey to teaching as hejoined the Department of Accounting,Ahmad bello University Zaria with the responsibility of teaching tax management and planning. Like they say,a gold fish has no hiding place, as Abubakarwas once again snatched from the Ahmadu Bello University, by the Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS) as Tax Auditor with the responsibility of ensuring compliance, monitoring of taxable individuals,matching returns with payments- an assignment that has adequately prepared him for his latest assignment – Executive Chairman Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service(KADIRS).

Post script: Definitely the last has not been heard about this Abubakar who has always left his mark on the footprint of sands wherever he had found himself.

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