Abakaliki - The Ebonyi House of Assembly has faulted the state government’s arbitrary taxation policy and subsequently, summoned three commissioners to appear before it next week.
The affected commissioners are Chief Moses Ogodo-Ali (Environment), Elizabeth Ogbaga (Commerce and Industry) and Dr Dennis Ekumankama (Finance).
The affected ministries outlined various categories of taxes and levies on the people, which have caused protests by several groups and heightened tension in the state.
Chris Usulor (PDP - Ezza South) while commenting on matters of urgent public importance, noted that the ministries negated the true requirements of the law governing such taxations.
"This development has caused untold sufferings on the people who voted us into power and endangers the security of the state due to the protests and acrimony which greeted the taxes’ enforcement.
"The law made by this House of Assembly stipulates that it will approve all taxes and levies by organs of the state’s executive arm of government before putting it to the public.
"The actions of these arms of the executive arm of government contravene Section 23 of Ebonyi Environmental Protection Agency Law of 2015.
"This law stipulates that all charges, taxes, rates, among others, by the executive arm of government should firstly be presented to the House of Assembly for approval."
Usulor expressed regret that the concerned ministries commenced enforcement of the taxes without recourse to the House and commenced the destruction of stalls and shops belong to the citizens.
"I therefore move a motion that the House summons the affected commissioners before it, to explain their actions and provide other necessary information," he said.
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Seconding the motion, Frank Onwe (PDP - Ohaukwu North) noted that the multiple taxes were levied on business entrepreneurs and firms.
Chief Obasi Odefa, Deputy Speaker of the House, said it was regrettable that a beer parlour owner and radio repairer were given outrageous taxes of N129, 000 yearly.
Onu Nwonye (PDP-Ohaozara West) urged the House to halt the trend because those affected by the taxes would still be needed to vote for the members and other politicians in the 2019 general elections.
Francis Nwifuru, the Speaker of the House, criticized the arbitrary taxation, noting that the House was obligated to make laws that would protect the peoples’ interest.
"The affected commissioners are therefore, summoned to appear before the House on a date to be decided upon next week, as the assembly will not fail in its duties towards the people.
"The House Clerk should communicate these resolutions to affected officers and also inform the state governor that we are summoning his commissioners," he said.
The members also passed a vote of confidence on the speaker while congratulating him on his victory at the elections petition tribunal.
The House also screened the governor’s nominees for the Abakaliki Capital Territoty Development Board (ACTDB), State Board of Internal Revenue and Local Government Area Advisory Council.
Meanwhile, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Association of Mass Transit Operators, Ebonyi Chapter, on Wednesday withdrew services due to the high tax introduced by the state government to boost Internally Generated revenue (IGR).
Activities were paralysed and passengers stranded for several hours in Abakaliki due to the action.
Reacting to the development, Gregory Isiofia, the Manager of Peace Mass Transit, Emmanuel Eluu of Onitsha South Mass Transit, and Chijioke Ayogu of Romchi Mass Transit called for a downward review of the tax.
They said going by the tax, the state government required them to pay N50 per passenger as manifest fee which amounts to N700 per vehicle and N100 for toll fee, totalling N800 for each trip.
"All private mass transit in Abakaliki closed down even at the local government and our passengers stranded because of the development.
"We pledge readiness to abide by government polices but call for reduction of the tax to avoid any hardship to the public," the transporters said.
Also commenting, Gregory Inyiaba, the National President, Association of Mass Transit Operators (NAMTO), said the association was in support of the state government’s IGR drive but pleaded for a more friendly payment modality.
"We are still dialoging and not challenging the government because we know government develops the state with the taxes generated to make life easier.
"We are in support of paying the taxes and also concerned about the modalities."
He said the association regretted any inconveniences the situation had caused the passengers and the public.
"We appeal that the state government look into our plight as we are compelled to pay many other numerous taxes to the state government in addition to paying workers’ salaries," Inyiaba said.