How do you pay the federal government? If this question was asked in Nigeria about a decade ago, the answers will be so farfetched from what is available today. Nonetheless, we will attempt to repaint the scenario. First, John who needs to purchase a form from a government-owned establishment travels from whatever part of town to the establishment. Then, he is handed an account number domiciled in a commercial bank to pay a fixed amount of money. John moves again to locate the bank, where he may meet a long unending queue or a closed gate, if he gets there after 4pm.
In between these rounds, John ends up paying more than the actual cost of the form. Some extra charges may be collected at the government establishment when he comes back to change his bank teller to a receipt. Yet, the circle of confusion does not end where John’s story ends. Oftentimes, money deposited into commercial banks by average Nigerians do not get to the government at the upper level. If the government establishment makes 8 billion naira from form purchases, it might remit only 3 million naira to the federal government as revenue, while the remaining funds get diverted by corrupt officials. Banks also profit off these funds, loaning them to the government itself at an outrageous interest rate.
Today, technology has changed this rigorous and shady process, making life easy for both payers like John, and the receiver, which is the government. It has weakened the intercessory roles of government officials when it comes to fund collection. At the click of a button, citizens can pay any government agency from the comfort of their homes and automatically generate receipts. The government can also view these transactions, thereby, drastically reducing paperwork, forgery and underhand practices that used to be the order of the day in most government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
When it comes to how government functions, the development gap between Nigeria and countries like the United Kingdom is not only wide, but hard to bridge. However, in some little quarters, we are making good progress that we should not be completely oblivious of. This progress has been achievable through technology, which in this age and time is fast becoming a great leveler. One of the areas where technology is challenging the system in Nigeria is in payments. The results are quite impressive, and they are not only visible in the private sector. In the management of public funds, technology has aided real-time collection and distribution of fiscal resources. The transparency it engenders has also abetted corruption fight in countries like Nigeria.
With the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as a policy and the adoption of Remita, an efficient technology to power it, Nigeria’s current mode of revenue collection can now be placed side by side with foreign payment platforms serving the same purposes. This is despite the fact that Remita was developed 100% in Nigeria by SystemSpecs.
Nigeria’s technology for revenue collection functions satisfactorily and has been acclaimed as a major success story in the country blossoming technology eco-space.
Much ahead of similar platform such as Gov.UK Pay which kicked off in 2018, individuals paying to the government from all parts of Nigeria are able to do so seamlessly through Remita since the Treasury Single Account was fully implemented in the country in 2015. Gov.UK Pay is an easy-to-use admin tool designed for efficient payment administration in the United Kingdom. It enables individuals who seek to pay the government to make online card payments for services. Users can also easily create a payment link to use in paper forms, letters, or emails.
While the UK provides a wide selection of payment methods aside Gov.UK Pay, Remita remains the sole gateway to Nigeria’s treasury. Remita, however, offers users a plethora of payment options including card payments, e-wallet or any commercial and microfinance bank branch across the country.
Another platform which shares features with Remita.net is United States’ Pay.gov. Pay.gov is operated by the U.S. Department of Treasury. It is a web-based application that allows users to make online payments to government agencies by electronic check, credit card or by debit from your checking or savings account.
A comparison with these two major platforms offering ease in revenue collection from more advanced countries shows that Nigeria is making good progress through indigenously developed technology. However, the government must translate these technological improvements into economic gains for the country as well. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that Nigeria can save as much as US$9 billion – N3.24 trillion by shifting government payments alone from cash to digital systems. Even though revenue has greatly improved, there is need to mandate the adoption of digital payments at all levels of government, be it local, state and federal.