Outrage over Soludo’s plan to tax wheelbarrow pushers, others

Outrage has continued to trail planned levy on wheelbarrow pushers and allied workers in Anambra State, by the state government.

A civil society organisation, Open Alliance for Civil Society and Non-State Actors, led by Chris Azor, on Monday, asked the state government to come up with convincing explanations within the next one week why such a class of people should be levied at a time like this in the country.

The group said all over the world such vulnerable groups were being given palliatives and tax exemptions following the COVID-19 pandemic.

It would be recalled that Governor Chukwuma Soludo, had ordered the registration of wheelbarrow pushers, tricycles operators, operators of shuttles, minibuses and allied vehicles in the state.

The move, it was gathered, was to streamline security and revenue collection in the state as well as ensure their contributions to the state’s internally generated revenue.

A statement by the permanent secretary, Anambra State ministry of transport, Louisa Ezeanya, indicated that the exercise would be done through biometric enrolment.

Ezeanya said the exercise would be carried out by the ministry in collaboration with the Anambra state internal revenue service.

She said: “The ministry of transport, in collaboration with the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, is undertaking the biometric enrolment/registration of all commercial vehicle operators – wheelbarrows, tricycles, shuttle and minibuses, mini/semi-trucks, tippers, lorries and heavy-duty trucks operating in the state.

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“The exercise, which is in line with the directive of the governor, will last for four weeks from June 2, 2022. All commercial vehicle owners and drivers/riders are hereby directed to comply accordingly.”

In another statement by the ministry, the permanent secretary said: “In line with Mr Governor’s directive, the ministry of transport has commenced the recertification/revalidation of all private motor parks in the state at no cost.

All owners of private motor parks in the state are to proceed to the ministry of transport, Jerome Udoji Secretariat, Awka, with copies of the ministry‘s approval letter for their parks and e-receipts of payments of approved motor park fees from October 2021 to March 2022.

“Kindly note that the exercise will last till Tuesday, June 28, 2022, after which enforcement will follow. All private motor park owners in the state are strongly advised to note the above and comply accordingly to avoid sanctions.”

Reacting to the development on Monday, Open Alliance for Civil Society and Non-State Actors, described the development as unfair, adding that such class people would rather need palliatives and tax exemptions in the prevailing circumstances in the country.

It said, “Open Alliance for Civil Society and Non-State Actors, Anambra State, a foremost coalition of stakeholders for transparency and accountability, has written to the appropriate authorities of state actors in Anambra, requesting clarifications on the purported taxing of the core poor and most vulnerable groups, especially wheelbarrow pushers and the like.”

The group said it has written to the commissioner for transportation and the chairman, inland revenue service, seeking detail clarification on the propriety of the exercise.

Azor added, “We have been inundated with calls and complaints from stakeholders demanding to know the reason for what they described as insensitivity of the state government and its handlers. The impression they give is that the government is taxing the core poor (wheelbarrow pushers etc).

“Nigeria and other countries all over the globe are giving tax exemptions, with palliatives and social protection to the core poor affected by COVID-19 and sundry emergencies and general economic downturn. The state government can come up with other innovative strategies to raise revenue, rather than stifling the poor and vulnerable. We, therefore, humbly request that the state government come up with convincing explanations within the next one week.”

When contacted, the press secretary to the governor, Christian Aburime, said the initiative was geared towards streamlining the state revenue collection as well as for security purposes.

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