The Nigeria Labour Congress has called on the Economic Community of West African States to implement policies and programmes to close widening inequality gaps in the region.
NLC Tax Justice Officer, James Eustance, made this call while leading a Road Walk to the ECOWAS commission to create awareness on the recently released OXFAM report which revealed that “69 per cent of Nigerians were living below the poverty line’’.
According to the Oxfam Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, governments in West Africa are the least committed to reducing inequality on the continent.
The report noted that while a small but growing number of people were becoming rich in the sub-region, the vast majority were denied the most essential elements of a dignified life.
It noted that in spite of remarkable economic growth driven by extractive industries, access to quality education, healthcare and decent jobs, was low for majority of the population.
Eustance said that if the governments did not radically increase their commitment to reducing inequality, the crisis was likely to be worsened in the region.
He said: “Governments must promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labour market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholders.
“ECOWAS needs to prioritise tackling inequality and develop a regional action plan to drastically improve the region’s performance.”
He said Nigeria and its West African counterparts must do more to promote tax justice, saying the current trend of overburdening the poor was worrisome.
Eustance called for progressive tax laws which allowed payment of tax as one earns, noting that this current practice had made the rich become richer and poor becoming poorer.
He urged the Nigerian Government to protect Africa’s wealth through an effective tax regime that would provide a tax haven for some people.
He said: “There must be tax justice that would make the rich to subsidise the poor and not the poor subsidising the rich as currently is the case, a situation where only the working class and the poor pay tax is unacceptable.”
The Director, Human Resource, ECOWAS, Amelia Kone, received the inequality report on behalf of the Head of the Commission and promised to relay every information to him.
She expressed optimism that he would act accordingly after studying the documents.