Seductive VAT Data Raises More Questions Than Answers
The last two Mondays, two newspapers – Daily Trust and Nigerian Tribune – have published data on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the first eight months of 2021. The reports have shed more heat than light.
On Monday, November 22, Daily Trust published an exclusive story entitled, “Kano beats entire five South East in VAT collection.” In the tradition of the newspaper, the story was a serious attempt to explain, in numbers, the tangled mess that VAT sharing has become in recent times.
The newspaper said that in the first eight months of 2021, Kano State collected more in VAT than the five states of the South East – Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia – combined. In other words, the data obtained suggests that the bogey about Northern states leeching off VAT revenue from the South, is just what it is – a bogey.
It reported, for example, that according to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) data cited, Kano raked in N24.4 billion in eight months, compared to the five South-eastern states which collected N20 billion – a repudiation, if you like, of the widely held caricature of some Northern states as parasites.
To drive home the point, the report also cited higher VAT collections by states which had been significantly impacted by banditry, like Kaduna and Yobe, compared with Southern states such as Abia, Cross River, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Imo, for example, as evidence that the VAT debate championed mainly by two Southern governors – Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos – is wrong-headed.
According to the report in the first eight months of this year, and I’m now quoting the exct figures published, Abia collected N2.25 billion; Anambra, N5.56 billion; Ebonyi, N17.21 billion; Enugu, N5.19 billion; and Imo, N 1.01 billion. That adds up to N31.22 billion, and not N20 billion, as the newspaper mistakenly reported.
Then on Monday, November 29, ostensibly from the same set of figures, Nigerian Tribune launched a counter VAT data war.