There is little surprise about the initial reaction to Governor Charles Soludo’s tax reforms in Anambra State. Hardly anyone enjoys paying tax. The Jews resented this obligation to the Roman Empire and tried to use it to entrap Jesus Christ. The contrast between left and right ideologies today plays out more in political economy, specifically, which segment of the population should pay higher/lower taxes?
Thus, it goes without saying that this commonwealth must be pooled from all eligible citizens in the overriding public interest.
Investigations show that Anambra State Government’s present internal revenue system have two advantageous components; namely harmonisation of bills and replacement of manual collection with digital process.
There are two main sides to the protest that supposedly greeted the announcement of reviewed civic and services fees payable by citizens of Anambra State. For some, the taxable services are many while for some others, the applicable rates are on the high side.
However, when critics of the tax reforms are engaged, the too many items go no further than income tax and sanitation levy. And indeed, these are the only general monetary civic obligations. Given the gaps and leakages that characterised the operations in the past, it seems the case that the new system’s high compliance is actually the issue. Those who hitherto enjoyed free services but are now compelled to pay are wont to complain of many demands. With time, they should get used to the reality of meeting their obligation to the State.
The argument of high rate had come from tricycle and shuttle bus drivers. This group who were making daily contribution in the past dispensation were actually paying higher than the current State Government’s assessment. As government spokesmen have taken time to explain, the lower rate was based on five, rather than seven working days of a week and could be paid monthly, quarterly or yearly. Again, the problem appears to be anxiety of change; transiting from a familiar mode, daily contribution to bloc payment.
This adaptation will eventually come through. But while the commercial transporters gradually get used to the new system, the operators and indeed, the rest of Anambra citizens, cannot fail to appreciate the sanitizing of the transport sector the tax reforms have engendered.
The Soludo administration has frontally taken on the touts and illegal revenue collectors who have become a huge nuisance. Their extortions, violence and indiscriminate action are not only a cause of high transport fares but equally endanger road safety and public peace. Now, slowly but surely, the heat is turning on them. The Anambra Joint Enforcement Team (ANJET) is spreading out and making arrests of these enemies of the people across the State. With sustained patrols, arrests and prosecution, it would not be too long before sanity is restored on our roads and markets.
Beyond instilling order on the roads and markets, the blocking of government revenue leakages which the tax reforms target, would bring about other development gains. In the past few weeks, the Soludo administration awarded contracts for construction of over one hundred kilometres of roads. Funds due to Government but hitherto stolen by illegal revenue gangs will be used to finance these and other infrastructure projects.
Dr Obidiukwu, a researcher on Nigeria’s political economy, wrote from Abuja.