Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s insightful book about Nigeria’s political and economic survival The Strategy and Tactics of The People’s Republic of Nigeria, which was first published in 1970.
Continued from last week
IT is our bounden duty, for the sake of a new Nigeria, to make a clean break with all these ugly, evil, degrading, and dangerous legacies. And it is to this end that I am advocating the rationalization of the salaries and remunerations paid to or received by different classes of employed and self-employed persons, with a view to drastically reducing the existing gap between the higher and lower income groups.
In doing this exercise, five classes of people will have to be considered:
(i) those employed in the services of the government and its agencies;
(ii) those employed in the private sector;
(iii) self-employed persons;
(iv) landlords, and
In regard to the first and second classes, the approach should be to appoint a team of experts to do a scientific classification and evaluation of employments, and recommend new salary and wage structures which will be in keeping with the socialist system that we want to see established in the people’s republic of Nigeria. In this connection, faithful regard will have to be paid to well-known job evaluation factors such as (1) educational qualifications, (2) period of training, (3) mental aptitude, (4) physical fitness, (5) degree of responsibility required, and (6) conditions of work, all of which vary from occupation to occupation, from vocation to vocation, and from profession to profession. After all these shall have been done, the new gradings, salaries etc., as approved, should be enacted in an Act or Acts of Parliament.
Concerning self-employed persons, none of them should be allowed to keep any income higher than that received by the highest paid person in the public or private sector. In other words, a self-employed person can make as much money as he can, but whatever he earns in cash or kind in excess of the permissible maximum would be taxed out of his hands.
In Chapters 6-8 of The People’s Republic, I have sufficiently dealt with rent and interest which are the incomes of the landlord and the rentier, respectively. Because both of these species of income are unearned, I have advocated their abolition. It is the modus operandi of such abolition that I now discuss.
It is my considered view that there should be no confiscation or expropriation of existing buildings or landed properties which are used exclusively or mainly for hire. But the emergence and growth of new landlordism should be prohibited and resolutely discouraged by every possible means in the people’s republic of Nigeria.
As regards existing landlords, the policy should be that, on their death, their buildings and landed properties should automatically be vested in the Covernment of the State in which the buildings and properties are situated. In other words, in the People’s Republic of Nigeria, posthumous restitution should take the place of instant confiscation or expropriation. Where, in any particular case, it is considered that compensation should be paid to the heirs, assigns, next of kin, beneficiaries, or devisees of the deceased owner, such payment should be based on the written-down or depreciated value of the buildings or landed properties, and should a ttract very heavy death duty. During his lifetime, none of the existing landlords should be allowed to derive from rents, no matter the number and value of his buildings and landed properties, more income than is accruable to the highest paid employed person.
It is necessary to emphasize that only houses and landed properties used for hire are affected. In the People’s Republic of Nigeria, a person may have as many dwelling houses as he can afford to build, and, on his death, they will pass, subject only to death duty, to his devisees, heirs, etc., who will be enjoined by law to use them only as dwelling houses, The same method and considerations, as affect the landlords, should be applicable to existing rentiers, during their lifetime and on their death, in respect of their savings, shares, stocks, bonds, or personal investment of any kind, no matter their number and value. The emergence and growth of new rentiers would also be prohibited and discouraged.
The policy of posthumous restitution advocated here is of paramount importance. It is one of the surest and most effective means by which unjustifiable inequality of income can be eliminated. Why should an unmerited heir or devisee be allowed to live an idle and/or dissolute life on the past labours of another person? ‘In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.’ So runs the earliest ordinance by God to man.
Under the new dispensation, taxation would be made more rational and scientific, and would be used as an instrument both for levelling down and levelling up. Self-employed persons including landlords and rentiers would be limited, as we have said, to a maximum income not higher than that paid to the highest-paid employee in Government or industry and business, and whatever they earn in excess would be taxed out of their hands.
Furthermore, it is my advocacy that the present system of poll tax, which we inherit from the British, and under which a person is assumed to have a given income without any regard as to whether he makes such income or not, should be abolished. Theoretically, the system is indefensible; and empirically, it has been discredited by the civil disturbances-sometimes extremely violent – which it has, from time to time, provoked, since its introduction over fifty years ago.
The net effect of what I have just been saying is, that Nigerians within certain income group, which group will be clearly defined in our legislations, would be exempted from direct taxation. Quid pro quo rates for certain classes of social amenities would be levied on those who benefit from them. In addition, every able-bodied citizen would be expected to contribute, in cash or kind, towards the provision of essential services like education and health.
To be continued
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