Plan International, an NGO, on Thursday called on the Federal Government to tax wealthy Nigerians in order to build the economy and provide social protection for the poor.
Dr Hussaini Abdul, Country Director of Plan International, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos.
He explained that it was imperative for the government to adopt a new value added tax system in view of the current economic recession.
Abdul, who spoke with NAN on the side line of the Progressive Governance Lecture Series, noted that Nigeria was among countries that still enjoyed the least value added tax in the whole world.
He identified tax increase as a way to boost revenue in times of recession by taxing luxury lifestyles.
According to him, resources for social protection can be acquired from the rich and powerful, including those who fly private jets, live in hotels and own fleets of cars.
“This is the only country where someone will own fleets of luxury cars worth up to N100 million and drive for 500km without paying a dime.
“These are hard decisions the government must take after investing so much in building roads.
‘’The rich should rather pay more, not those riding bicycles or motorcycles, but those in cars should pay to maintain the roads.
“For those driving trucks, they won’t only pay tax but the goods in the truck should be weighed and charged, that is what is done all over the world,’’ he said.
He said the state of the economy was badly affected by over-dependence on oil in the past with no investment to serve as a buffer, hence the need to generate additional revenue.
“We can’t live in denial of the state of the economy; the economy had been largely dependent on oil and the global prices of oil have badly gone down.
“When we had tremendous resources as a country we did not make the required investment, today we do not have enough resources to serve as a buffer,’’ Abdul said.
He urged government to protect the rights of the poor and vulnerable and ensure that their needs such as food, education and health were not taxed.
According to him, the poor should be protected and not exposed to tax, adding that those living in luxury should be taxed to build the economy
He called on government to create new jobs, build infrastructure and generate more revenue through agriculture to get out of recession.
“Investing in infrastructure such as roads that would enable farmers’ access their farms produce and market place.
“We can also invest in rail that would serve the people better, move goods easily and our roads will last longer,” he said.
He identified the provision of education and health services as areas that required strong protection and investment to ensure that the rights of children are protected.