Can we meet you?
My name is Eniola Akinoso. I am an Associate with the Commercial Practice Group at Andersen Tax, Nigeria. I am the initiator of TaxVille, an online content hub that simplifies tax concepts and trends in a creative and relatable manner. I graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 2017 and I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2018.
You’re one young lawyer who cut her teeth in an area of specialization quite early. Why and when did you decide to pursue tax law as a career path?
Laughs. Thank you for the question. I did not pursue tax law though, I pursued core tax. This is because I was extremely enthusiastic about core tax, and I still am. I had always been conflicted about the law and core tax career paths since they do not necessary align. I also realized ‘quite early’ that core tax knowledge is not necessarily gotten in a law firm. While certifications such as ACCA could help with requisite knowledge, this would still be redundant without actual day to day practice of core tax. This realization regardless, I persisted in law practice because I am first a lawyer. Also, practicing in the tax and litigation departments of Olaniwun Ajayi LP – a tier one law firm in Nigeria, was a top-notch experience. I was elated at the wealth of knowledge and the quality of transactions I was constantly exposed to. My resolve to pursue core tax as a career path was however made early this year. This decision aligned with my future career progressions and there was no better time to make the switch.
From the Tax Series to TaxVille, what inspired these start-ups asides your love for tax? How well will you rate your impact level over the years?
I had found that many lawyers and fellow Bar II candidates were generally averse to tax discussions. On the contrary, I had an awesome tax experience from my years at UNILAG where I was exposed to the Tax Club, UNILAG as well as various tax competitions and conferences. I had also taken Tax as an elective in my 400 Level under the tutelage of Professor Abiola Sanni and had great scores in both semesters. I could not relate with the lack of enthusiasm I was usually faced with when speaking to others about tax. So, I decided to take it upon myself to show my friends, my classmates at the Nigerian Law School and anyone who was interested that tax concepts are easy to understand if explained in a relatable way. That’s how the Tax Series by Eniola started. I was amazed by how many people were interested in reading the Series and in a short while, I started receiving messages from various people – students from across the country and tax professionals about my work. Some even offered to help in any possible way and I received visits from these people while at the law school. I was glad that my contributions were not futile.
After a while, I saw the need to have a team rather than continue to solely run the Tax Series by Eniola and we formed TaxVille. TaxVille became One year in April and I was delighted that at the time we had churned out numerous articles and content spanning a number of TaxVille projects – Tax Trends, Tax Mania, Tax Terms, Tax Videos and my Tax Story. As at then, we had also proceeded quite significantly with our registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
With visibility comes opportunities – opportunities to showcase your competence on bigger platforms…
The current pandemic has seen an increase in the rush for certification courses. From your experience, how much do these contribute to a successful career in any field?
My career experience is minimal. I’m however of the view that certification courses though ‘very nice to have’ cannot supersede or substitute actual experience in the quest for career success.
In your opinion, what will be the likely impact of the pandemic and the recent tax concessions on the Nigerian economy post COVID-19?
Nigeria was already plagued with various fiscal difficulties before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Apart from issues like inflation (which was recently reported to be at a rate of 12.34%) and our increasing external debt profile (about $31bn), easy to recall is the ban of Kekes and motorcycles from major parts of Lagos which led to a surge in the already dismal unemployment rate (from 14% to about 17%) in Nigeria’s commercial hub. The pandemic left global economies with huge setbacks which has led to a negative ripple effect on our oil exports and by necessary implication, our monolithic economy.
The pandemic has however underscored the pressing need for diversification of the economy and exports, and it is expected that more investment would be channeled into non-oil sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and healthcare post COVID-19. Speaking of investments, it is not news that the Nigerian investment climate in recent years has been hostile, plagued with harsh policies, corruption, insecurity and bureaucratic bottle-necks. These coupled with the further plunge that the economy has taken as a result of the pandemic may clutter the path to the much needed diversification.
The various tax concessions/palliatives granted by the Government have served to ease the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on taxpayers across Nigeria. However, by their nature, palliatives are temporary so we should be concerned with how long the palliatives will last given the gradual shift of focus from oil revenue, the overriding need for government to generate as much revenue as possible and the remote prospects of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
The pandemic has underscored the pressing need for diversification of the economy and exports.
You’ve once told a story of how you got an opportunity through your work with the Tax Series. What advice do you have for students and professionals on visibility and leveraging start-ups to access opportunities?
I have always held the view that visibility comes with consistently creating value that makes an impact on the target audience. For students, this target audience could be faculty members, alumni, lecturers and stakeholders within bodies or areas of interest. The target audience for professionals could be supervisors at work, mentors, potential sponsors, potential clients/investors, etc.
With visibility comes opportunities – opportunities to showcase your competence on bigger platforms and to be mentored by people more experienced in your area of visibility among other things which culminate in increasing visibility, and improving access to further opportunities. I do not think that one has to form or be part of a start up to access opportunities. Ensuring that one has a blend of enthusiasm, track record of demonstrated interest in the target area, good grades and strong interpersonal skills would be a great start in the right direction to access opportunities.
What tips have kept you productive in this season?
I have stayed off social media for the most part and stayed abreast of my goals with an accountability partner. I also take regular work breaks and reach out to some friends, many of whom I draw inspiration from.
Would you consider a reopening of the economy a good decision by the government in light of the rising cases?
Given that Covid-19 cases are rising everywhere in the world with no effective vaccine in sight, there seems to be little utility in hunkering down and waiting for such an unprecedented occurrence to pass while the economy worsens and insecurity increases, among other things. Getting the economy back in motion is a necessity. We should act responsibly by adhering to the directives of government and the requisite health authorities on actions needed to ensure a reasonable level of safety.
I think now is the time for reflection, reprioritizing of choices and actions, spending time productively and adding as much value to ourselves as possible.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, all things being equal?
In five years, I would be a chartered consultant with extraordinary expertise and a considerable wealth of experience in tax and business consulting. Among other similar engagements, I would also be a WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers) Mentor, providing strategic career advice, inspiration, guidance and support to young women so that they can unleash their potential, navigate career pathways, foster their ambitions and nurture their dreams. I am currently a WISCAR mentee.
Any final words?
With the pandemic and various attendant and independent occurrences such as inflation, rape outrage, racism riots, tribal clashes, terrorism, climate change and other numerous things that seem to be going contrary to our plans, mental health and balance is key. I think now is the time for reflection, reprioritizing of choices and actions, spending time productively and adding as much value to ourselves as possible. Taking needed breaks, reaching out to friends and loved ones, maintaining a positive mindset and keeping safe cannot be overemphasized.
Thank you for your time.
It’s my pleasure.