YALIVoices: Tackling corruption through sound tax education

Saied Sulaiman Tafida is a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow from Nigeria who created the Followtaxes initiative to promote transparency. He details how he started and expanded the organization.

Followtaxes was designed to improve fiscal transparency and curb corruption by presenting businesses and citizens with comprehensive materials so that they can learn about and pay taxes in sub-Saharan Africa. By using simple and interactive platforms, we’re able to educate taxpayers on their rights and obligations and inform them about how revenues are accrued and spent. And since the people we’re trying to reach live in rural communities, we used a combination of local radio, leaflet distribution and community town halls — or public policy dialogues (PPD) — to communicate. Over time, we’ve expanded our offerings to include opportunities for people to become consultants on fiscal transparency.

To get the word out about Followtaxes, we used a multipronged approach to communicate to those who needed the information most, which included making radio broadcasts, distributing leaflets and holding town halls.

We knew that radio is popular among residents and is a critical means to raise awareness about the project and earn the trust of taxpayers. With over 2 million listeners, we took to the airwaves to discuss the project. However, this was only one part of our approach because consultancy requires time to speak in person and answer questions.
Collage of four photos showing people talking on the radio promoting Followtaxes (Courtesy photos)

At first, our role was to educate, but it evolved to include facilitating dialogue between taxpayers and government authorities, our key stakeholders. We do this now through town hall discussions.

Similarly, the stakeholder policy dialogue forums have built the capacity of some trade associations in northern Nigeria as part of an effort to foster a culture of transparency in government revenue and taxes. The projects have created a direct questioning-and-mediation line between taxpayers and the tax authorities in cities in which the projects held its stakeholder engagements.Two photos showing a participant registering for a town hall and another asking a question holding a microphone (Courtesy photo)

So far, we have trained more than 62 groups and hosted six PPDs, and we are planning to host six more before February 2018 across Nigeria.

Followtaxes co-founder explaining tax processes to a street seller in Abuja (Courtesy photo)Our efforts have proved successful; people living in rural areas have shown interest and asked questions about record-keeping, taxation and following taxes. We have increased awareness on Open Government Partnership (OGP) Nigeria and received a sizable number of inquiries and invitations for tax education from rural communities in Nigeria. It’s through these outreach efforts that we can provide a platform where government and citizens interface on critical issues. Our efforts have led to partnerships with other civil societies in enhancing fiscal transparency and building entrepreneurs, including BudgIT, PERL/ECP-DFID Kaduna, Safiya Foundation and Ilimi House.

Presently, Followtaxes is part of the think tank working group in the Implementation of the Nigeria National Action Plan on OGP, and we are part of the steering committee to the Kaduna State, (Nigeria) OGP for improving fiscal transparency and social accountability. Now, our challenge is finding the best ways to enhance its access to more Africans and empower citizens with the right knowledge toward cultural reorientation.

Interested in Saied’s work? Learn how you can stand for integrity on our YALIUnites page.