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Zacch Adedeji: Walking The Talk At FIRS 

By Sikiru Akinola While many did not see the appointment of Zacch Adedeji, Ph.D coming, only few had doubts about his capacity last year’s September…

By Sikiru Akinola

While many did not see the appointment of Zacch Adedeji, Ph.D coming, only few had doubts about his capacity last year’s September when the steering of the wheel of the all-important revenue collection agency of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, was entrusted in his care. This is because, before then, few months into the Bola Tinubu administration, he had held sway as Special Adviser on Revenue to Mr. President. He was appointed from the National Sugar Development Council, NSDC, where he made his mark.

A clear example of opportunity meeting preparedness, Zacch as he fondly called, would not want to fail in any assignment put in his care. He leveraged on contacts he has built over the close to three decades he has been involved in public sector finance being an accountant from day one. With that small diary that never leaves his hand and with his voracious reading habit, he is always in tune with current realities and always ready to listen. Anybody who comes across him would attest to the fact that he is a believer in team playing. Don’t send anything you haven’t read to his mail. He would devour it that you who sent him would forget that you forwarded it to him.

One would think a spirit has been leading Zacch right from secondary school when the idea to study accountancy first came, at the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, where he was the institution’s scholar. That feat earned him the Gani Fawehinmi scholarship. At the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, he proved his mettle when he had a first class in accounting. He would later go on to receive a master’s and postgraduate degrees from the same department and institution. As providence will have it, he was awarded his doctoral few weeks after his appointment.

Despite all his attainments, one wonders where he derived his humble mindset from. It’s not a matter a matter of stooping to conquer, he wants to carry everyone alone and also to make everyone have a sense of belonging in the project. To a fault, he is accessible to everyone that matters at the Service. In native intelligence, he is deep. Everywhere is Zacch’s office, an habit that has endeared him to top management staff of the Service. Only recently, he spoke about the need to upgrade all top management officers’ offices so as to be conducive for meeting. Instead of them coming to his office, he goes to any office as and when due to conduct business. Zacch can stand up from his seat in his office and begin an office-round, to check up on everyone. That alone energizes them and leads to optimum performance.

From carrying out major review within the Service to introducing major workers’ friendly policies, Zacch is committed to raising the nation’s tax collection but not at the expense of killing the business. Anyone who has listened to Zacch speak will confirm his regular saying that President Bola Ahmed’s number vision is to banish poverty and to do that is why FIRS’ plan under the Iwo-Ate born first-class graduate of accountant is to tax prosperity and not poverty— to tax return not investments, and to tax the fruits are not the seed. What that means, as Zacch usually says, is that FIRS’ approach to tax administration in Nigeria is of shared prosperity because the vision as a tax administrator is to access fairly, collect equitably, and keep responsibly. The target this year, the audacious 19.4 trillion naira must be surpassed. This is building on the close to 13 trillion generated last year.
In order to make things work seamlessly and also to improve efficiency to alleviate compliance burden on taxpayers and collectors, FIRS migrated the annual filing of Transfer Pricing Returns, and Country-by-Country Reporting (CbCR) notifications from e-TPPlat to the TaxPro-Max Platform, using their regular login credentials. It wasn’t done without human face, it gave existing and prospective taxpayers up to 30th June
2024 to fulfil all pending filing obligations. Apart from this, FIRS waived the administrative penalties previously imposed or to be imposed by the Service or in accordance with the Income Tax (Transfer Pricing) Regulations 2018 and the Income Tax (Country-by-Country) Regulations 2018
At the recently held Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators, CATA, which he leads as president, Zacch increased capacity building to enhance tax administration processes among members of the global body.

He believes that tax collection will help the present administration in achieving majority of its electoral promises and to put Nigeria on a firmer footing, FIRS, under Zacch, places emphasis on taxpayers as those are the only customers it has.

At the recently-held Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators, CATA, management meeting held at Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London, which he is fortunate to lead as president at this auspicious time, Zacch did not let it slide without calling on members of the global body for increased capacity building. This, according to Nigeria’s number one tax man, is to enhance tax administration processes among them.

Marketing Nigeria further after the CATA event, Zacch, when asked by Channels TV about the country’s tax landscape and his plans, explained that “If you look at general landscape and you see the antecedent or the plan Mr. President has done is to first of all reset economic fundamentals because if you are to tax the prosperity, there must be a good economic environment. That is why we removed subsidy. Not only that, the Central Bank also unified the rate to make sure that we have equitable access to good market economy. Mr. President also set up a Presidential committee on tax reform and fiscal policy because one of the major problems we have is the multiplicity of taxes and we’ve done our assessment that what gives us roughly more than 85% of our taxes is not more than nine taxes. So, why do we have these 46 taxes? So Mr. President set that up and when you look at all those things, it’s just to put fundamentals in place to make sure that the tax administration system actually serves the purpose it’s supposed to serve which is one, the equitable distribution of the national wealth and also to be able to mobilize domestic revenue for economic development.”

Not done, Zacch revealed that the Bola Tinubu administration’s plan for tax, when properly looked into, is going into fundamentals so that the nation can have a sustainable way of domestic revenue mobilization. Assuring that the country is better going by everything the administration has done in the close to a year in office, he noted that President Tinubu’s idea of not increasing taxes but to reduce the number we have to a single digit has done wonders.

“If you look at the commencement of consumer credit which is what will return the purchasing power to people. The plan we have today is that we are focusing on civil servants because of their fixed income and certainty of their income. In the next 12 months, it will cover the whole country and that is the goal to cover the entire manufacturing base because then we would know that people have purchasing capacity. So, for us, tax is just a consequence of our actions and that is where see me as the chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service. I work more on economic fundamentals,” Zacch had added in the interview.

Zacch rarely has the time for personal stuff again as he’s been found useful by the incumbent administration. That confirms the saying that the reward for hard work is more work.

Akinola is Technical Assistant (Media) to the Executive Chairman (FIRS)

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