By: Saied Tafida
Challenged by the need to change the poor living conditions surrounding him while he was growing up in the North Eastern Nigeria, Saied Sulaman Tafida made the decision to walk the path of improving transparency. He started volunteering, with NGOS when he was 18. He observed that most of the Sub-Saharan countries are rated very low by the World Bank in the ease of starting a business and paying taxes. This is, in addition to the complex opaque budgeting cycle these countries operate. Thereby creating haven for corruption as an impediment to the expected growth and development in the region.
Saied decides to work on civic engagement and taxpayer education in Nigeria, by opening the system and educating taxpayers on their rights and obligations. He guides citizens on how their taxes are accrued and expended by the government and how to follow the government and ask questions. He believes that achieving a corrupt-free and transparent system that increases revenue will help reduce poverty in Nigeria. To expand his reach he established a volunteer platform – followtaxes.com for people with like minds to reach a broader target. The platform works to enhance tax knowledge as a weapon against bribery and corruption; train entrepreneurs on basic financial literacy, record keeping, and taxation; provide tax guide to a start-up business that cannot afford a professional and follow the taxes collected and ask questions.
They use the website to reach wider coverage, using English in Nigeria and French in Togo to redefine participatory governance by presenting government data in fetching formats: simple tweets, interactive format, and infographic displays. They have hosted radio programs and market shows in local languages to reach their audience who leave in the rural areas that do not have access to the internet. And they use pamphlets, poster designs, and community engagement to engage people around them.
They believe that, for sustainable tomorrow, every citizen has the right to know how his/her taxes as expended in the delivery of public infrastructure and services. It is important also for everybody to pay his/her taxes and engage the government on transparency as a stakeholder. Their website will very soon offer toll-free mobile and online feedback solutions, to trigger discussions around the taxation and budget. With the aim of taking the budget beyond being a news item, to becoming a focal point of debate among Nigerians.
Saied sits on the fiscal transparency and citizen engagement working group to help Nigeria on her journey to implement the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan and he work further to strengthen democratic institutions in Nigeria with yourbudgit.com to OpenKaduna Kaduna State Government Budget in Nigeria. An open budget project that aimed at bringing people closer to the government by improving citizen engagement.
No wonder he was selected to join the Mandela Washington Fellowship of Young African Leaders. A network of young Africans with the skills and motivations to spur growth 2014 by President Obama, and he as singled-out by Secretary of State John Kerry as a youth worth emulating in Norther Nigeria, when the secretary Visited Nigeria in August of 2016.
Contributed by Saied Tafida. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.