21 January 2021

Deputy Secretary-General Calls for ‘Stronger and Fairer’ Revenue Base, Progressive Policies amid COVID-19, Opening Nigeria Tax Dialogue

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s message on the importance of domestic resource mobilization for the Sustainable Development Goals, at the opening of Nigeria’s tax dialogue, held today:

COVID-19 has been a dramatic wake-up call.  Developing countries in particular have found it difficult to respond to the social and economic impacts owing to a lack of fiscal space, high levels of debt and a sudden drop of already very low tax revenues, which has been further exacerbated by barriers to private finance markets.

Now more than ever, we need a stronger and fairer tax base that underpins the delivery of public services for an inclusive and sustainable future.  Progressive tax policies are critical for raising revenue, supporting a diversified economy, improving physical and digital infrastructure and providing education and health care to protect the most vulnerable.

Nigeria has taken welcome steps during this emergency to create jobs, phase out fossil fuel subsidies and invest in social protection, including an unprecedented special public work programme which promises to provide jobs for 750,000 young people.  But, despite the country’s exceptional assets — Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, most populous country and greatest producer of oil — it ranks second to last in non-oil tax revenue on the continent, illustrating the gap and potential for domestic resource mobilization.

Diversifying Nigeria’s economy and revenue from its extractives will be essential to increasing its tax base and supporting a just and inclusive green transition as the world moves towards net-zero.  The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to boost intra-regional trade by 52 per cent by 2022, will be instrumental in fostering diversification in the region and will provide additional opportunities to bolster domestic resource mobilization.

Tax compliance must become an intrinsic societal value.  To achieve this, it is crucial to deploy tax literacy and communication campaigns that highlight the benefits of a well-functioning revenue system that enables Government to care for all and provide the infrastructure and services needed for prosperity and well‑being in all corners of Nigeria.

Strengthened and effective institutions serving the people must become the norm.  All levels of Government, big and small, must play their part to provide services to the people and contribute to domestic resource mobilization.  The private sector must also support this effort by paying their fair share of taxes and collaborating with the public sector to ensure the accountable and transparent use of tax revenues.  Eradicating tax evasion and illicit financial flows in source, transfer and use of resources is tantamount to the success of these efforts and a responsibility of all.

It is time for Government and society to embrace a new social contract that brings prosperity, enables young people to live in dignity, ensures women have the same access to education and leadership prospects and opportunities as men, and protects the vulnerable.

Today, I welcome this tax dialogue as a first step towards identifying the gaps and solutions that Nigeria needs at this challenging moment, laying foundations for a better recovery from COVID-19.  The United Nations is strongly committed to supporting Nigerian efforts at increasing domestic resource mobilization towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in this Decade of Action.

For information media. Not an official record.