Traders in Akwa Ibom major markets have lamented illegal and multiple taxations on them by market leaders in the State.
Speaking on Wednesday during a virtual meeting organised by Policy Alert, a Civil Society Organization on “COVID-19 Tax Holiday in Akwa Ibom State”, the traders mostly market women said they’ve been molested and brutalised by the revenue collectors who have splinter unions in the market that collect multiple levies from them.
This is coming even after the governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has given tax holiday to commercial vehicle operators, and traders in the State in order to cushion the adverse economic effect of coronavirus outbreak.
‘‘The decision is in line with the World Bank requirements for giving out grants and reward to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the country,” Akwa Ibom Government said.
A trader in Akpan Andem Market in Uyo metropolis, Mfon Okon alleged that some agents set up by market unions are still collecting revenue forcefully from them
According to her, ‘‘here in Akpan Andem Market, every shop is made to pay N500 for electricity, N700 for Uyo Local Government, N500 for security and N1000 as development levy amongst others.”
Another trader explained that different groups would collect the sum of N300 as ticket from each person irrespective of the value of your goods, adding that the level of harassment exhibited by those agents are worrisome.
Also, Ofonime Udoakpan, a trader from Eket revealed that some of these acclaimed government officials stay in the bush track to waylay poor women who carry vegetables and collect money from them in the name of ticket.
This from investigation, has contributed to the high cost of food items such as; garri, water leaf, meat, rice, beans, yam, pumpkin and periwinkle amongst others.
In his submission, the Chairman of the Civil Society Organisations forum, Harry Udoh lamented that informal revenue collection in Akwa Ibom State is fraught with corruption and criminality, adding that most times receipts are not issued after payment.
Udoh who commended the State government for the tax relief urged it to ensure the enforcement so that its efforts would not be sabotaged.
But one of the participants, Michael Inyang said the State government should not just issue tax holiday without first, liaising with the local government authorities.
According to him, local government authorities contract the revenue generation to an individual who pays the money in full to them.
“The person or persons involved will do everything possible to recoup his money and make profits as well. So how do you expect someone who had paid that revenue at the beginning of the year to forfeit his money in the name of tax holiday? I think the State government should meet with the local government chairmen to chat a way forward,” Inyang said.
The representative of Akwa Ibom Internal Revenue Service, Kufre Ibokette said government collects tax according to law and not by tricks, describing those agents collecting levies from market women as thieves because they do not remit the money to coffers of government
However, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport in the State, Mr. Nse Edem reiterated that the State government has withdrawn ticketing and other levies, noting that plain cloth task force would be inaugurated to enforce the decision of the government.
“No more haulage levies, tickets, issue of emblems etc, till further notice. Any person caught is operating illegally and must be prosecuted,” Edem said.