Last week Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha added to the list of controversies trailing his administration by imposing a N3000 development levy on adults in the state. According to a letter to monarchs of 644 autonomous communities signed by the state Commissioner for Government Councils Louis O. Duru, the […]
Last week Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha added to the list of controversies trailing his administration by imposing a N3000 development levy on adults in the state. According to a letter to monarchs of 644 autonomous communities signed by the state Commissioner for Government Councils Louis O. Duru, the traditional rulers were directed to raise about N6 million from an estimated 2,000 adults from each community for development purposes. The letter reminded the monarchs that the governor had since 2016 directed them to compel their subjects to pay the said levy, compulsorily writing the details of payment in each community’s Adult Register, to develop their communities.
The letter said, “Any recognized autonomous community that fails to pay the development levy will be merged with a sister autonomous community that has paid and the salaries/allowances of the traditional ruler of the erring community will be suspended.” The letter also said sensitization meetings and monitoring would be embarked upon to ensure compliance.
Imo State residents and many other Nigerians have condemned this directive and rightly so. The governor has the right to introduce new laws/innovations in the state but there are laws guiding these. What Governor Okorocha is asking for is tax and tax cannot be imposed arbitrarily. Asking traditional rulers to pursue the idea vigorously and threatening them with suspension if they fail is definitely not the way to go. If indeed the governor is desirous of introducing a new form of taxation, he should table the matter before the state assembly and let the members legislate on it. Aside that a matter which affects a large proportion of the society such as this should be thoroughly deliberated on; he ought to have consulted widely before taking a position on it.
As it is at the moment, what he is embarking on is against the law and anyone who defaults hasn’t done anything wrong. That said, one would expect leaders to be thinking of progressive ideas that would improve the lives of their people, so why would the Imo governor reintroduce a retrogressive law such as the poll tax, also known as head tax and levy it on every liable individual? Poll tax was once a major source of revenue for state and local governments. Though the civilian regimes of the Second Republic largely abolished it, the Buhari military regime reintroduced it and forcibly collected it in 1983-5. However, the Babangida regime abolished it in the 1980s and replaced it with Value Added Tax, VAT. VAT is much better because it taxes people who purchase goods or services. It is simpler to collect and also leaves out those who are too poor to participate in buying goods and services.
VAT is now one of the biggest contributors to the Federation Account and Imo State collects its share of it every month, like all other states do. It is therefore immoral to turn around and reimpose poll tax under any guise. Paying the development levy will amount to double taxation, which is not only unnecessary but wicked. Already Imo indigenes just like people in many other states are burdened with several issues coupled with non-payment of salaries in some instances. Why should Okorocha add to that burden?
There is very little to show for what the state government receives from the VAT collected; what then is the justification for further taxation? Governor Rochas Okorocha must be reminded that he took an oath to uphold the constitution and as such should be mindful of the way he runs the state. Imo is not a private entity; it is covered by the provisions of the constitution and cannot be seen to be engaging in activities that are not in line with the law. We condemn the proposed tax in its entirety and urge the governor to use the resources available to him to develop the state in the remaining months left of his administration.