Mr Taye Adeyanju has been a chartered accountant and tax expert for over two and a half decades. He reveals, in this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, that states in the country would be more viable if only they would explore opportunities in the nation’s tax laws.
What prepared you for the leading role you are playing in the accounting profession?
The grace of God. The brilliance, right from primary school and the determination to stand out. I was admitted to the University of Ibadan to study Geography. It was a cousin who advised me that I would be good in accounting. I was never a student of accounting. I asked him why he thought I would be good in accounting. He just said he felt that was the profession I was really fit for. I said it would involve a lot of Mathematics but he said I would learn it. So, I decided to give it a trial. I picked a JAMB form and sent it to UNILAG. It was so easy then. I filled it, attached photocopies of my credentials and forgot about it.
We were home on holidays in UI and a letter came from the church. Our letters usually came from there. My brother brought it. It was a letter of admission into the Department of Accounting. That was how the whole thing started.
When I got there I didn’t know what they were talking about. When they were talking of debit and credit, I didn’t understand it. But I made up my mind to learn. So we continued with it. In Unilag then, the talk was that when you are in accounting, you would spend three plus x years, where x is not less than one. I said to myself, my own x will be zero. So to the glory of God, few of us passed and we spent three years.
How did you get into the practice?
It was during the service year I eventually made a head way in accounting practice. There are four people who really touched my life in accounting profession. One of them is Mr Olusola Adekanola. He is my mentor.
I got to the town of Ilorin for my youth service, looking for where I would serve. It was a place I had never been to before in my life. So, we started roaming the streets. Preferably I wanted an auditing firm. I saw a new firm that just opened at No 10 Stadium Road, I can’t forget that address. I saw a young man, a little older than me, I thought maybe he was the audit manager, not knowing it was Mr Olusola Adekanola.
I went to him. And that changed my life up till now. I introduced myself to him and said I wanted to serve in the firm. He laughed. He said they just started. I said I didn’t mind to start with them. That was in 1984. But he said they could not afford to pay me anything. He now said he would do me a favour. He said he would give me a note to one Mrs Adeyemi, the management accountant of Phillip Morris. He said the woman told him earlier that they needed corps members. So he gave me his card. The next day, I left for Phillip Morris. Fortunately, Mrs Adeyemi was around. There were 20 corps members, but they were looking for the best two they could get. So I went to the woman, and told her I was from Mr Olusola Adekanola.
She was very happy when I said his name. I said I wanted to serve with them. She asked if I could because they were an international organisation. I said yes. She just asked me a few questions. She asked one man to interview me. We spoke for 10 minutes. The man said, “The boy is very good. Let’s take him.” That is how I was accepted.
And already there were other corpers. Then Phillip Morris was giving corpers N150 per month, plus free lunch and free transport. We were the best paid corpers in the whole of Kwara State, including what is Kogi now. Then, Philip Morris also provided us accommodation.
We had wide experience in accounting, book posting, everything. What surprised my boss then was my ability to retain figures in my head. When we had series of figures, the next day when we gathered for meetings I would be reeling out the figures without looking at any note. The other corpers would be wondering. When I was about to finish they asked where I wanted to work and I said an audit firm where I would be able to practise so I could get a licence to practise as a chartered accountant. There was a corper, an Ibadan girl. She read Banking and Finance in London. The lady took much interest in me. When she heard that I wanted to work in an audit firm, she told me about her uncle who was a chartered accountant in Lagos. She agreed to give me a note to him.
I took the letter to Lagos and located the office. With my usual confidence, I asked of the partners. The senior partner was Prince Adegboyega Osungbade. The second partner was a younger man, James Okiti. They asked who I wanted to see, and I said Osungbade because the note was to him.
They asked me to come in, and I went to the man. He started asking me questions. I told him that if he wanted to interview me then, I was ready. So, they interviewed me and they were satisfied with me. He said, “When will you come and start?” This was in August. I said let me start in October. So I started on October 13, 1985.
After spending some time with him, the man said, “This boy, you are so good, you are going to be my Ibadan branch manager”. I said, “But sir, I have just started.” He said, “From the way you are doing, you might as well be our audit manager in Ibadan. Then we need to train you here for just six months.”
So, if there was any audit in Oyo State, I would go with the team. I started acquiring a wide scope of experience. When they decided to open an office in Ibadan, I was appointed as the head. So I was transferred to Ibadan on May 12, 1986, as a manager. These are the things I will always be grateful to God for; the special grace and unmerited favours He always shows me; I was just 26years and I was the head of an organisation.
But what I later discovered there was that I could not read the way I wanted to. I wanted to start preparing for my exam. I was too busy. I was already doing things my seniors should be doing.
I was making so much money that reading was no longer a priority. I told myself I could not continue like that. So, I started looking for a place where I could interact with other graduates who wanted to write ICAN.
To write ICAN I started attending a school, PSG. This was in 1987. At the lecture centre, one of the teachers taking us Financial Accounting, who was working in an auditing firm, said there were vacancies in his company and those interested should apply. I considered it that working with this man would help me in my professional exams. So, I applied for the job and I was offered.
To the glory of God, I met other colleagues who were writing the exams too. About four of us were writing the exam. So, with my previous experience and what I gained in Lagos, at that early age I became a guru. So it became very easy for me to pass my ACA. By November 1988, at 29 I was already a chartered accountant. But in the ICAN style, the result would not come out till January.
As a chartered tax practitioner, how do you see the administration of taxes in Nigeria?
States in Nigeria are not generating enough revenue. States still do not understand the provisions of the tax laws for them to generate revenue. There are some tax laws they are not practising. I do not know of any state that applies the capital gain tax. They are not using professionals for revenue generation. The problem they have is that they keep on doing the usual thing; withholding tax, Pay As You Earn etc. There are other taxes they are not taking advantage of like capital gain tax and capital transfer tax. These are sources of revenue they are not tapping in Nigeria. Through capital gain tax in cities like Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Oyo, the state government is losing a lot of revenue.
What it means is that when you are selling any property, anything that has long life span, a plot or a building, whatever gain you make on it, if you are an individual, your state government takes 10 per cent. If you are a limited liability company selling the property, the Federal Government takes 10 per cent.
I just found out that in Oyo State, for example, I do pay my tax when they come for it; none of them has ever talked of capital gain tax. None of them has talked of capital transfer tax. But because they do not seek the views of experts, they will always be talking of withholding tax and PAYE. And these are just two out of so many they can use. And when they calculate the withholding tax, they don’t understand the computation. I have met some of them on the field. And because our duty is to make sure our clients are not over-charged, we have to tell them to go by the provisions of the law. Look at the way people sell land and property here, and the government of Oyo State is taking nothing.
What would you say was your big break in your practice?
The big break was revenue generation through Adekanola. Because when I was consulting for Oyo State, collecting revenue, we got a good commission of 10 per cent of whatever we generated. We were to source the funds for the state out of which we got our own commission.
How do you see the suspension of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN governor?
I agree totally with Professor Pat Utomi that the appointment of Sanusi was a mistake. Where do you see a central bank governor publicly disagree with his president? Where do you find a central bank governor send a letter to his president and leak the letter to the press? Have you ever heard of that in the whole world? Where is that financial expert that does that? Who commissioned Sanusi to audit NNPC? Is it his statutory role? Now, the question I want to ask is, has Sanusi been auditing NNPC since he was employed in May 2009? Has any other CBN governor done? I listened to the President’s interview and I saw that Sanusi had already been queried by the time he wrote the letter. So, it was a cover up tactic. I am an auditor for 29 years now. So, Sanusi was trying to cover up. There is nothing missing anywhere, because I saw the external auditors’ report of NNPC. The auditors reported that no $48.9billion was missing.
Nigerians easily believe anything negative about their government. If we hear good news we won’t believe it. But even if it is arrant nonsense, we buy it. Chief Obasanjo was a head of state of Nigeria for 11 years. He should have asked Sanusi who appointed him the auditor of NNPC instead of taking what he wrote hook, line and sinker.
I began to have my doubts about Sanusi’s competence when he said the National Assembly spent 25 per cent of the national budget. I asked if he was saying that the National Assembly was spending one trillion since the budget was 4.2trilion.
I am stating this as an auditor of 29 years that Sanusi wrote his letter to cover up his misdemeanour. Are you saying the CBN governor will not look at the meaning of his figure? In a country that budgeted N4.6trn, the Central Bank governor is now saying that N8.8trillion is missing? Does that make sense?