The Lagos State Inland Revenue has sent a notification email to individuals residing in Lagos to pay their personal income annual tax on Monday, 20th of March. The email reads that:

“As the year progress, we will like to remind you to your statutory obligation to file your annual personal income tax returns for 2023 income year, as stipulated under section 41 of the Personal Income Tax Act Cap P8 LFN 2004 (As amended).  The section compels a taxable individual to file a return income with or without notice to the relevant tax authority within 90 days from commencement of every year of assessment”.

However, it should be recalled that this is coming after the xenophobia on Igbos in the weeks preceding the general elections and the state elections on the street of Lagos.  The question that begs for legal answer is; why is EVERYBODY required to pay tax and SOME PERSONS required to vote? Or, to put it more specifically; why are the Igbo’s expected to pay tax and denied the right to vote?

The provision of section 20-32 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria never made a provision for indigenes, but citizens. That is, everyone is a citizen regardless of where they live or come from subject to the conditions stipulated in that section in defining who is a “Citizen”. Hence, the nexus between Indigenes and voting need to be examined carefully.

It may be argued that the right to votes was not explicitly provided for in the Constitution or the Electoral Act, 2020, however, by implication, the provision of Section 77, and Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act and the Registration of Voters Act (Section 1 (2)), made provisions for “CITIZENS” and not Indigenes, to vote and be voted for.

If the Igbos residing in Lagos, who by laws are citizens of Nigeria, are eligible to pay tax then they should be eligible to vote. It is a trite principle of law that you cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. The legal framework for voting has balanced everything. However, there is need for the Constitution to be explicit on this issue.

In proffering solutions, it is expected that the government should not demand from the Igbos what they cannot give them; stop living the “what ought to be” life instead of the “what is”. Also, the government needs to also stop being a demagogue but pragmatic to their daily actions; it is necessary to develop a level of native intelligence and know how to apply same from time to time. There is also the need to come to fact with that Nigeria is not a Nation but different Nationalities coming to its evolution into a state.

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