Mr. Okon Okon: Breaking Barriers To Meet Target At AKIRS

By Substance Udo-Nature



“An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises” – Mae West

His sweeping strides in AKIRS in the last two and half years easily single him out as a highly respectable, world class professional; renowned management expert; developmental strategist; exceptional corporate trailblazer; a catalyst of positive change; quintessential public service administrator; and patriotic Nigerian in whom there is nothing to doubt when it comes to professionalism and accountability. Whenever and wherever the story of the phenomenal transformation going on in the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service (AKIRS) shall be told, the name MR. OKON OKON, the incumbent Chairman, would be written in gold. This is a bold statement rooted in facts.

On February 12, 2020, AKIRS held a-one day workshop in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, in collaboration with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for members of Joint State Revenue Committee (JSRC). The cardinal objective of that workshop was to refreshen and streamline the technical knowledge and skills of Revenue Officers in the State in line with international best practices and government’s policies and expectations. A brief update was also given on the strides of the agency as it presently stands as a backup to the discourse.

Therefore, it must be observed that the details provided at the workshop were as much as time, space and scope for the day could have allowed. But going by what has been the case in AKIRS in the last three years, not even one full week might be enough to reel out all there was to say about the sweeping changes the service has recorded courtesy of the phenomenon called Mr. Okon Okon.

Conversely, the participants must have been left with too little to reach objective conclusions on the basis of the skimpy highlights of achievements provided by Mr. Okon during the workshop. Again, the demography of the audience, made up of critical stakeholders, captain of industries and economic analysts, including a respectable authority in tax matters and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum Lead Expert, Dr. Mark Abani, was a fitting reflection of the attraction and patronage AKIRS enjoys today.

RELATED: AKSG Generates All Time High IGR of N32.29 Billion in 2019


Hence, for a deeper insight into what Mr. Okon Okon has brought to the agency in a matter of years, follow-up details have shown that there are a thousand spectra to peep through, to have a comparative and panoramic view of AKIRS of yesterday with the one of today. Already, with knowledge of his previous and cumulative record of testimonial breakthroughs, reputable analysts have described the present AKIRS as a million poles away from the stigmatic past of ordinariness in Akwa Ibom State’s revenue generation narrative.

Mr. Okon came into office in April, 2017 at a momentous time Governor Udom Emmanuel knew he needed a thoroughbred professional and goal-oriented individual in that office to join him in propelling his socio-economic blueprint. It is therefore expedient at this juncture to thank the Governor for his characteristic discretion and clairvoyance in having disregarded political sentiments by appointing a trusted and seasoned expert like Okon Okon to partner with. It can be said without sentiments that that celebrated decision has come without regrets!

The trend in the State’s IGR for the last five years indicates the following: 2015 (N14.78billion); 2016 (14.97billion); 2017 (15.96billion); 2018 (24.21billion); and 2019 (32.29 billion). Yet, today’s AKIRS’ methodology and model for tax economics are far from obnoxious, anti-people, elitist, selective or respecter of faces. It is strictly business and proportionate returns to government that has created the enabling environment for business to thrive productively in the State. AKIRS therefore runs on a functional mechanism of mutual understanding that promotes altruism.

The transformation incidence in AKIRS in the last three years is not limited to revenue alone. Having worked in many high profile organizations as a top-notch macro-economist and financial connoisseur, Mr. Okon clearly knows –and appreciates – the vicissitudes and dynamics of ergonomics in boosting productivity and other ancillary factors that can influence output and serve as incentives for performance.

For example, the ambience of today’s AKIRS’ office setting exudes with irresistible therapeutic effect on the staff, thus providing them with salubrious psychological disposition for commitment to tasks and target actualization. This has been backed up with complete digitization of operations, capacity-building, knowledge transfer and sharing, robust diplomacy with tax payers, and enduirng accountability and fairness as mantra of administrative policies.

Yet, the AKIRS boss sees greener pastures beyond the visible shores of the present. He told journalists: “Despite the aforementioned, the potentials of IGR in the State are still under-tapped. It is therefore against this background that AKIRS, in collaboration with Joint State Revenue Committee will be embarking on massive tax awareness and sensitization programmes via town hall meetings across the three senatorial districts beginning next quarter, to create tax awareness and engage taxpayers and the general public.” The aggregate objective is to impress upon minds the obligatory necessity to pay their taxes with neither coercion nor persuasion.

With such lofty achievements, one would have expected the workaholic and prudent Chairman to corner all the credit. Instead, true to character, this loyal steward feels rather comfortable, unreserving and quick to trace the steady rise in revenue generation and whatever strides he has recorded to the reforms in revenue administration initiatives of the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. He situates the current transformation on the granting of autonomy to the Akwa Ibom State International Revenue Service (AKIRS) by the State Government in June 2016, as well as subsequent streamlining of processes to facilitate efficiency.

Although he refuses to gloat these achievements, did the American author, Seth Godin not say that, “Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work”? Does Godin’s fellow compatriot, politician and former professional basketball player, Bill Bradley, not also postulated that “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better”?

Governor Udom Emmanuel’s discreet and clairvoyant appointment of Mr. Okon Okon in 2017 was like giving him an opportunity and platform to further prove his management acumen and enterprising sagacity. That was because the governor saw – and foresaw – a boisterous fountain of capacities in this quiet but proactive social scientist.

AKIRS today is a cynosure of all eyes because the Chairman’s effectiveness is passionately driven by rare individual accountability and pragmatism, without infringement on clients’ comfort and interest. His models and modus operandi encourage expansion of businesses, create the enabling environment for competitive growth, and engender conscientious commitment to paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Although some still prove stubborn and evasive on matters of tax remittance to government, the bulk of what has contributed to the current record still came from honest tax-payers who have freely identified with the present management because of its integrity and friendliness.

As a utilitarian economist, a modern-day paragon and proud beneficiary of the popular “Three Es and C” – Education, Exposure, Experience and Character – Mr Okon’s many years of excellent service in both private and corporate sectors have combined to expose him sufficiently to “what works” and “what does not work” in driving a vision and meeting targets. Safe to say that he came into the Akwa Ibom State Internal Revenue Service with a multi-functional and multi-dimensional template for breaking barriers and setting records.

Without exaggeration or any fear of contradiction, the State has never had it this good and promising. This is the first time in the history of tax management in Akwa Ibom State that it would reach the peak it has reached presently. In all fairness, what has happened at AKIRS in all ramifications in the last three years is simply a textbook proof of the vision, commitment, tenacity of purpose and competence of the incumbent leadership. It has been a steady rise in turnover. It has been a steady spiralling in transformation. It has been salutary progression all the way at all level. It has been good news. Facts and statistics boldly justify this claim.

An uncommon professional in a class of his own, his altruistic advocacy remains a model for leadership integrity, patriotic stewardship, deep sense of duty, impeccable credential of service at all fronts, extensively and consistently demonstrated for decades. Mr. Okon Okon’s unfolding breakthroughs, his unyielding optimism for greater tomorrow, and passion for excellence against all odds at the AKIRS simply bring to mind Oscar Waldo Emerson’s position that, “The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going”. But expectations are still high!

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