‘Remaining clear in your aspirations enables you exploit opportunities’
As the vice chairman of the Technical Tax Policy Drafting Committee and Secretary to Fiscal Policy Committee, between January 2019 and May 2021 in Nigeria, he supported the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Special Advisers to Mr. President on Economic Matters, as well as other officials to conceive, propose, review and enact landmark amendments to Nigeria’s taxation and fiscal legislation.
Working through various committees, he drove critical fiscal reform efforts culminating in the Finance Acts of 2019 and 2020, which were the first major reforms of Nigerian tax laws in over a decade.
Recalling his experience during the exercise in an interview with The Guardian, Oyetunde said the Finance Act of 2019 introduced the first increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate from five per cent to 7.5 per cent since the VAT Act was enacted in 1993.
“Interestingly, 85 per cent of VAT proceeds go to the states and local governments, with the Federal Government only retaining 15 per cent. As such, the VAT reforms were targeted at increasing revenues accruing to the states to enable them to meet increased spending on salaries following the Minimum Wage increases, healthcare, responding to COVID-19 and other challenges they face,” he said.
Oyetunde was also involved in the drafting, vetting, reviewing and advising on significant subsidiary legislation including all 10 Executive Orders enacted by the current administration. These include the promotion of transparency and efficiency in business environment (Ease of Doing Business), submission of annual budgetary estimates by statutory and non-statutory agencies, Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) and the preservation of suspicious assets connected with corruption and other relevant offences.
He was also part of the team that drafted the executive orders on road infrastructure development and refurbishment investment tax credit scheme, the Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS) and the implementation of financial autonomy for sub-national legislatures and judiciaries.
“In my capacity, I have contributed to the development, passage and implementation of numerous Appropriation Acts, Amendment Appropriation Acts and Supplementary Appropriation Acts, among others. From the foregoing, one can see that there have been many landmark changes to Nigerian laws over the last six years, which Nigerians may not fully appreciate. It is my hope that as the administration continues to engage with our citizens on these and future reforms, the amount of progress that we have achieved will become more apparent,” he said.
According to Oyetunde, the leadership skills he learnt as a member of the Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (AIESEC) during his study at the University of Lagos, have aided his career growth.
AIESEC is reputed to be the world’s largest non-profit, apolitical and youth global development organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is present in over 126 countries, with over 40,000 members and one million alumni.
Oyetunde explained that while at UNILAG over two decades ago, he was actively involved in running the affairs of the association in Nigeria.
“I served in various elective and appointed capacities in the global youth development organisation, which focused on providing a business-oriented platform for global leadership and sustainable development, particularly through the United Nation’s Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals (MDGs and SDGs). During my service with AIESEC between 1994 and 1999, our activities varied from organising student exchanges between Nigeria and foreign partner countries to participating in international summits in Abidjan and Grand Bassam, Cote D’Ivoire; Accra, Ghana; Pretoria, South Africa and numerous cities across Nigeria where we had our 12 local chapters. Notably, our national leadership team participated in the organisation’s first International Congress on African soil, which was held in Durban, South Africa in 1999 and was incidentally chaired by His Excellency, Jacob Zuma, who then was a political leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province.
“My experiences there influenced me greatly and taught me leadership, among others. All I learnt I still put to use till date in one way or the other. Even while at Standard Bank of South Africa, it was an incredibly useful one. The discipline of structuring multi-million-dollar transactions was something I quickly imbibed, and this has proven to be very useful in other areas of my career. Standard Bank was challenging from the point of view of learning new markets, products, structures and systems. However, there was a great deal of support from the incredible product and client coverage teams that we worked with, as it was all about working in teams to achieve optimal outcomes for the bank and our clients,” he explained.
On the significance of quality education to his career trajectory, Oyetunde recalled that during his doctoral studies, he worked as a Fiscal Policy Researcher with the Chartered Institute of Taxation (‘CIOT’) of the United Kingdom, published scholarly articles in leading periodicals such as the Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation (JIBLR) and the CIOT’s Tax Adviser; and presented research papers at various fora, including Jesus College, University of Cambridge, as well as the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) at Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
He added: “I won several academic scholarships with the CIOT and the Centre of Commercial Law Studies (‘CCLS’) at Queen Mary, which facilitated my study tours to Nigeria and South Africa during which I engaged with government functionaries, leading academics and eminent tax practitioners to write up my thesis. All these opened doors for me to work at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Nigeria and Standard Bank Group in South Africa, given my experience and exposure to both jurisdictions during my doctoral studies.”
Asked how the leadership lessons he has learnt over the years could be applicable to leadership at all levels, Oyetunde noted: “Over the course of my career, I have been privileged to learn from the best, and they have inspired me in their own ways. Being committed to assignments and carrying them out efficiently have always been my forte.”
On dealing with opposition as a leader, he said: “There will always be opposition from peers and older people who would contend that either one does not have suitable qualifications or that one does not have the years of requisite experience. But if one is committed to learning and growing, particularly by serving in various capacities that may arise along the way, it becomes progressively easier to brush past these detractors, together with their unhelpful or misplaced criticism and grow into a young leader in your sphere of influence and endeavours.”
He advised young lawyers to be hard working and stick to professional ethics, saying: “Beyond establishing a penchant for hard work and industry, in my legal career, I learnt professionalism, being adequately prepared for meetings and work engagements, being courteous and having good work ethics, as well as the need to constantly achieve and then exceed your career targets. Young lawyers need to put in a great deal of personal sacrifice. I have benefited tremendously from this personal investment and this is evident in the other academic, professional and career achievements I have been able to attain.
“Young lawyers should stay in the course, and have a clear understanding of what they seek to achieve in their internships and tenancy in leading law firms. They should also take their challenges and sacrifices in such firms as paying their dues. Some seniors in the profession may support your development and progression; others may not be as supportive. However, if you remain clear in your aspirations and how you wish to achieve them, you will be better placed to exploit opportunities you encounter on the road to success.”
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