The introduction of a new tax regime by the Anambra State governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, has continued to generate varying comments from different quarters in the state.
The governor had on June 30 announced the introduction of a new tax regime in Anambra, noting that the new order will cancel all revenue collection through proxy and bring sanity in the collection process.
Soludo, who disclosed this during a town hall meeting with transport and market union executives in the state, said the new system, which commenced on July 1, would provide digital identity for all state taxes and levies paid, and commercial vehicle operators who make daily payments would not be required to pay again in any public park.
He disclosed that affected unions would receive 5 per cent of any earnings in order to run their separate business locations.
He also ordered that caretaker committee members in Anambra markets be prohibited from collecting money on behalf of the government, noting that moving forward, public parks owned by the government shall be directly handled by the government while private parks are not affected.
The governor said the new tax regime would bring about sanity and accountability in the system while helping him to achieve his dreams for the development of the state.
According to Soludo, the NNPC since February 2022 has not remitted any money to the federation account, as such the states must devise means to sustain their plans.
He said the state government introduced what was considered a minimal levy for tricycle operators (keke) and shuttle buses and others in a move, he said, they would eventually become beneficiaries.
According to him, the state government, after a careful thought process, asked tricycle riders to start paying N15,000 each on a monthly basis.
He said the amount equals N600 daily for 25 days, noting that 5 per cent of the sum will still go to the Keke union after collection for the month.
The governor said the same thing is applicable to operators of shuttle buses who were asked to pay N25,000 monthly.
According to him, motorcycle (okada) operators would be paying N300 daily, amounting to N7, 500 monthly, N21,000 with a discount of N1,500 for one quarter or N40,500 with a discount of N4, 500 for half a year.
Keke riders, on the other hand, would be paying N600 daily at the cost of N15,000 monthly, or N42,000 with a discount of N3,000 for one quarter or N81, 000 with a discount of N9,000 for half a year
Similarly, daily payment for shuttle/buses is N1,000 at the rate of N25, 000 monthly or N70,000 with a discount of N5, 000 for one quarter or N135,000 with a discount of N15, 000 for half a year. For taxi drivers, the daily rate is N700 or N17,500 for one month. They have the option of paying N49,000 quarterly with a discount of N3,500 and N94, 500 with a discount of N11, 000 for half a year.
“The rate of N1,200 daily is for township bus operators at the cost of N30,000 for one month, N84,000 with a discount of N6,000 for one quarter and N162,000 with a discount of N18,000 for half a year. Pick up Van daily fee is N1,000 at the cost of N25,000 for one month, N70,000 with a discount of N5,000 for one quarter and N135,000 with a discount of N15,000 for half a year. All these are applicable in all government-owned parks in the state,” he said.
He stated that part of the proceeds of the tax would be used for the management of different government approved parks and building of roads, provision of affordable health care systems, education and other social infrastructural projects in the state.
According to him, it is on record that before now, the operators pay more than the amount they are being asked to pay, adding that in most cases, on daily basis, the monies end up in private pockets, comprising of touts and other proxy, thereby making revenues accruable to government insignificantly low.
Since the introduction of the tax regime, officials of the state government have been explaining reasons behind the recent policy, arguing that Soludo’s administration meant well for the people.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Christian Aburime, argued that the state had suffered leakages and a largely unaccountable system of tax remittances to the state government.
According to him, the resultant effect was the inability of the state to generate enough revenue to undertake capital projects that would impact positively on the lives of the people.
He added that the blockage of the leakages is part of what Prof. Soludo is tirelessly working to plug so as to eliminate touting systems across Anambra State.
“The era of multiple levies, indiscriminate collection of state revenue, roadblocks and personal enrichment by several interest parties/vested interests have come to an end.
“Government, in all sincerity, cannot continue to allow touts and illegal revenue collectors to continue ripping the state off of its legitimate earnings,” he said.
He stressed that all government levies and taxes’ collection will be done digitally with electronic receipts issued as electronic stickers – a quick response which will employ the use of USSD, will be equally deployed.
“Governor Soludo wants the best for the people of the state and it is therefore incumbent on Ndi Anambra to give his government full support and cooperation in the march to building a liveable and prosperous state.
“Operators in the Anambra transport sector should avoid making payments to individuals. Anambra State revenues can only be paid to banks and their designated agents and insist on being receipted,” he stated.
Protest against tax regime
Worried by the new regime, the tricycle riders protested and blocked major roads, grounding economic activities in the state.
The protest was triggered by a decision by Soludo’s administration to tax tricycle riders and shuttle bus operators for monthly payment, instead of the daily payment obtainable.
Members of the group with placards had complained bitterly against the high tax rate by the state government which they described as harsh and outrageous.
“They (officials) are asking us to pay N15, 000 to the Keke union, and a daily payment of N500. Our daily ticket used to be N450, and we were even appealing to the government to reduce it because it is high, but instead, they increased it to N15,000,” they said.
One of the Keke riders, Ifechi Ikoro, told Daily Trust on Sunday that they had written several letters to the state government to save them from the extortion from touts.
According to him, despite their cry for help, the government chose to increase their burden.
Another rider, Mike Uchenna, said the country was already hard, and the governor cannot create additional hardship for them by imposing levies on them.
According to him, the policy is inimical to their success while urging the governor to lessen their hardship.
“Most of us are graduates who are managing our lives because there is no job. Some of us are driving Keke on hire purchase basis and if the levy is sustained, many riders may not be able to meet up with their payment,” he said.
However, a few days later, another group of tricycle Operators declared support for Soludo on the new tax regime in the state.
The leader of the Tricycle Operators of Nigeria, Awka zone, Prince Collins Ozojiofor, stated that the demonstration was to inform the governor that they are solidly behind him and that they were not part of those he called hired impostors who blocked some roads in the state recently, claiming dissatisfaction with the new tax regime.
According to him, the Keke operators are happy that the government is intervening to save them from the touts extorting money from them over the years.
“We hope that the new tax regime will stop the harassment and illegal tax collection in the state,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday investigation revealed that markets are also levied, though only markets in Awka, the state capital, have been asked to pay the new levies.
The breakdown of the Eke Awka market fee are Market stallage fee – N4,800; Market development fee – N2,400; Market traders fee N3,000; Pollution/sanitation fee N2,000 and Biometric market registration N700.
One of the traders at the Market, Chidi Uba, said that the government does not consider their plights before levying them.
According to him, the government should have addressed some of the challenges in the market before coming up with its tax regime.
Another trader, Mr Kene Obunna, said it was sad that the government was just forcing people to pay revenue without correspondent facilities in the market.
An elderly woman, Mrs Nkiru Obi, who hawks vegetables in the market, said that it was tough for them to come to the market and pay multiple taxes every day.
According to her, she pays up to N600 any day she brings vegetables to the market, adding, “If you argue with the collectors, they will beat you without minding your age.”
Daily Trust on Sunday also gathered that the barrow pushers were levied N5,000 every month.
The Head, Taxpayer Education and Enlightenment Team, Mrs Sylvia Toochukwu Ngige, however, said that the protest is ill-advised as the governor had simplified the payment of taxes for tricyclists and others.
“Instead of many illegal payments they make in a day, which had even amounted to over N1,000 daily, the governor has said they can only pay N600 on monthly basis,” she said.
Taxing the poor?
Meanwhile, some analysts have faulted how the state started its levies from the poorest of the poor who needed assistance to climb up.
A public affairs analyst, Mr Patrick Chijioke, said that the state governor ought to have started with the rich who earn much and pay less or nothing to the state.
According to him, the levies are outrageous and anti-masses.
The convener of Recover Nigeria Project, Comrade Osita Obi, said he is in support of the new tax regime in the state.
According to him, he is a supporter of paying tax to the government and demanding accountability from the government.
“I am one of those who believe that everybody must pay taxes according to his or her earnings. The poor and the rich are supposed to pay tax and we must support the tax regime to develop the state,” he said.
According to him, taxes are what countries like Britain use to run their affairs and develop the country.
He, however, urged citizens to demand accountability from the government in the management of the resources.