Pix: A cross section of participants at the dissemination session of the OBC
The Community Life Project (CLP), Nigeria’s leading advocacy group promoting constructive civic engagement, inclusion and participation of grassroots citizens in governance decision-making and community development, has designed an application to support the informal sector in the Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area.
Known as the Oshodi Business Connect (OBC) App, which can be accessed on www.oshodibusinessconnect.com, it is an integrated one-stop IT solution for managing revenue collection and increasing the tax net.
The Oshodi Business Connect is also an Integrated Directory and Online Service. It has three interfaces – the Mobile App, the Taxation Database and the Online Market Store.
It allows revenue officers and traders to register businesses using the Mobile App while also allowing traders to register their businesses through the Online Market Store. The details of registration are captured in the Taxation Database.
Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support local businesses, the OBC allows the LG to build and maintain a directory of businesses in Oshodi – Isolo LG. With the OBC, the council officials can easily know the number of businesses and where they are located in Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area.
The OBC also makes it possible for the LG to generate tariff bills for specific businesses and send to such businesses. It keeps track of payments made by the traders. With the OBC, the LG can push governance and other information through the App to traders.
The data collected can be downloaded for further analysis; thus, aiding proper planning, improving revenue mobilisation strategies and policies that will expand the growth of local businesses in Oshodi-Isolo.
With the OBC mobile App, traders can send evidence of payment and public complaints to the Local Government, and verify their payment records. The local traders can also easily put their businesses online to attract more customers. It allows them to create their webstore and upload their products. Customers can review these products and reach out to them thereby expanding their business frontier.
This is part of a project aimed at promoting a fair and an inclusive tax system in the Informal Sector and increasing the level of compliance by Informal Sector Workers to payment of tax, and Local Government rates and tariffs. The App is also designed to enable the small scale businesses track their taxes and rate payments with LGA as well as engaging with the government on how to eliminate multiple taxation and exploitation.
At the formal dissemination which followed the public launch, attended by officials of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LSIRS) and budget officers from different LGs in the state, CLP’s Executive Director, Mrs Ngozi Iwere explained that it was a forum to popularise the pilot project initiated at the Oshodi-Isolo LG. “OBC opens access to the digital economy for local businesses. When citizens’ income increases, they are willing to pay more taxes”, she said.
At the recent Public Launch, Iwerre said the Oshodi Business Connect App is a project funded by USAID to enhance local businesses. She further stated that the aim of the App is to solve crucial problems of multiple taxations, adding that with the use of the App, “local businesses will get more customers from the online platform. They can verify their tax payments, send complaints to the Local Government using the App, and also hold government accountable for their taxes.”
Vice Chairman, Oshodi-Isolo LG, Mr Timothy Oso, who unveiled the OBC for public use, pledged the readiness of the LG to build capacity and enhance the success of local businesses. He urged the artisans and community groups who massively attended the event, to go home and tell everyone to get onto the Oshodi Business Connect App. He also thanked CLP and USAID for their support and contributions towards the development of the project.
Mr. Charles Abani, Chief of Party of USAID, noted that the public launch was another opportunity to stress the role of the people and the government on taxation. He said that the people have a responsibility towards the government by paying their taxes while the government has a duty to be accountable in the use of public funds. He also urged the Local Government to be more transparent and accountable; adding that the Oshodi Business Connect App would help to improve transparency and accountability in the system.
Francis Onahor, CLP Programme Manager, who spoke in pidgin English, explained the functions of the App and what they stood to gain from using the App. He walked the informal sector members through the process of registration, tariff verification and the process for adding new products to their online store.
The event provided another interface with many artisans who wanted to know if this was not a ploy to increase the tax that they are currently paying. But Oso allayed their fears, saying that the normal rate paid by the people for tax would still be the same..
Iwerre also disclosed that the outcome of CLP’s research survey showed that members of the informal sector were willing to pay tax but there’s a downside because they pay multiple taxes, and that they want to know the appropriate amount to pay. She further noted that with the Oshodi Business Connect App, the informal sector would now be able to know what they are paying.
Another artisan asked if there was any arrangement to help them acquire education that would help improve the quality of their work. Responding, Oso said that there are plans to train them on their various skills. He however said, the training would be limited to only those who have registered their businesses on the OBC App.
The programme was anchored by Lateef Adedimeji, a Nollywood Artist, who passed through CLP’s Youth Academy.
The launch was attended by 373 participants from various artisan groups. They include the Nigerian Automobile Technician Association (NATA), Professional Carpenters and Furniture Makers Association (PCFA), Nigerian Battery Technician Association (NBTA), Grinding Machine Operators Association, Nigerian Union of Tailors (NUT), Nigerian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologist (NASHCO), Photographers Association, Jewelry Makers and Sellers Association.
Other artisan groups that also graced the event include the Nigerian Welders Association (NWA), Lagos State Vulcanizers Association (LSVA), Lagos State Barbers Association (LASBA), Nigerian Association of Refrigerator and Air Conditioners Practitioners (NARAP), Shoe Makers and Cobblers Association, Tiles Association, Community Development Association, Lagos Medicine Dealers Association, Hoteliers Association, Phone Repairers Association and Radionic Association.