HARD TALK: On The Delta State Government Announced Collection Of Hotel Occupancy, Restaurants And Departmental Stores Consumption Tax

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Recently, the Delta State Government, via the Director of Information, Paul Osahor, was said to have announced to the general public, particularly Hotels Proprietors, Owners of Departmental Stores, Event Centres, Bars, Restaurants, Eateries, etc, that the Delta State House of Assembly has passed a new Law on Hotel Occupancy and Consumption Tax in the State.

And that with the passage of this tax bill into law the collection of Occupancy and Consumption Tax will commence in the State on Friday December 1, 2017. To that effect, all Hotel Proprietors, Departmental Stores and Supermarket Owners, Restaurants and Eateries are required to register with the Board of Internal Revenue as Collecting Agents to the Delta State Government.

Though, it was noted in the said public announcement that the Registration is to enable the Delta State Government adequately set up all registered outlets for the required mandatory collections and corresponding monthly remittances to the State at the end of every Month, however, the big question is, what exactly are they using the tax revenues accrued to the Delta State Government to do in the State for the benefit of the masses? Is the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue just collecting money from business owners and companies in the name of tax, without accountability, and without the Government using such tax for the overall benefit of the masses?

It is one thing for the Government to seek out for other avenues of generating internal revenues through taxation, but it is another thing entirely for the said Government to judiciously and transparently use the same tax collected for the single purpose of improving the daily lives of its people. So, if the Delta State Government is using the tax revenues from the State to construct needed roads and provide all essential social public amenities, then there is justification for collecting such tax revenues.

But where that has not been the case over the years, especially in Delta State, little or nothing is expected by the public from this new tax venture–other than the extortion of business owners in the State. In other words, the Delta State Board of Internal Revenue cannot just be collecting/taxing money from business owners in the State, without a corresponding action on the part of the Delta State Government to embark on developmental projects that are desperately needed in the State.

They cannot be collecting money from people in the name of tax, and then deliberately refuse/unwilling to use same for developmental projects in the State. Instead, the said revenue collected are usually diverted for payments of salaries and allowances of politicians that are of no benefit to the general public. While Tax Revenues are good and intended to keep things running in Government, but this can only be if the said Tax Revenues are used to develop the State or country.

In a situation where Tax Revenues are not accounted for and not used to embark on meaningful developmental projects but are being diverted by payments of salaries and allowances of politicians, then there is practically no point for the people to pay such Taxes since it will not benefit the common masses.

It is no news that the payment of frivolous levies/taxes, unilaterally introduced in Delta State, especially in Warri and environs, has become unbearable and worrisome and urgently needs to be addressed. The existing Board of Internal Revenue and other Delta State Government Institutions and structures that stand as Local Government Councils in Delta State, through the umbrella of the Delta State Government Agencies, Ministries, as well as youths (often referred to as ‘Agberos’), are known to impose all kinds of levies/taxes on residents, business owners, motorists and others in Delta State on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

All they know how to do is to go about taxing the poor masses that are trying to make ends meet. For instance, those of the Delta State Internal Revenue Board are said to coerce and use all kinds of threats to exploit and extort money from business owners, especially ‘one-man business enterprises’ trying to make a living. These set of private business owners, despite paying their Personal Income Taxes, are still exploited and coerced by those of the Delta State Internal Revenue to cough out outrageous sums in the name of tax and levies.

Some members and staff of the Delta State Internal Revenue Board are alleged to be issuing taxes to business owners without properly analyzing and assessing the gross incomes of such businesses. What they allegedly do is to issue exorbitant tax figures to one-man business enterprises for instance (which they know very well they cannot pay), and by so doing, they instill fear in the hearts of such private business owners, and ultimately create room for such private business enterprises to sort/bribe or give them kick-backs for the Revenue office to write-off or forgo them paying such arbitrary issued taxes.

The situation is getting so bad that private investors/companies and prospective entrepreneurs are shying away from the State. Almost everywhere in Delta State, especially in Warri, Effurun, Ekpan, Ovwian, Orhuwhorun, Ugboroke, Patani, Sapele, Ughelli, etc, Deltans and Nigerians in Delta State are frequently being harassed and exploited with one tax/levy or the other by these off-shoots of Delta State Government and its Local Government Councils and their ‘tentacles’.

Some of such outrageous levies for which the people in the stated areas of Delta State are being regularly robbed include; off-loading and loading charges, Building Permit, Health Approval Permit, Community Development levy, pick-up and bus stickers, car radio stickers, commercial vehicle stickers, extended tarpaulin levies, hawkers permit/levies, keke (tricycle) operation levies, fire extinguisher fees for Fire Safety Certificate, Private business premises levies, tenement rates/levies etc.

Then there is the gaseous emission/environmental pollution and affluent fees/charges perpetuated by the so alled Delta State Environmental Protection Agency (DELSEPA), that is bent on emphasizing the liability of “all” companies operating in Delta State to pay such levies, and so many other levies/charges too numerous to mention.

This system has been observed running for years and encouraged by the ‘tentacles’ of the State Government. The most disturbing part of all this is that these State and Local Government ‘tentacles’ that are collecting these obnoxious levies/taxes, and using all sorts of cooked-up/fabricated and outdated laws/decrees/Acts/Provisions (most of which urgently need to be repealed and thrown-away by the Delta State House of Assembly and the Delta State government), to extort and demand these levies and taxes from the poor unsuspecting masses.

They hide under such draconian outdated laws to make the whole illegal extortion appear authentic and normal. A thorough look at all the so-called taxes/levies/charges, we would realize they do not in any way justify why they are being demanded in the first place. And this is because the Local Government Councils in Delta State have been non-existence for years.

Small-scale businesses are not left out. A caterer who runs a small restaurant/bar for instance is expected to pay as much as N50, 000 or more. A hawker needs to pay for hawking permit. Imagine a hawker making a living on his petty trading being forced to cough out, for instance, an outrageous N1, 000 hawking permits or more, whereas his/her entire items of trade do not add up to the amount being demanded in the first place. People who run small businesses/stores are constantly harassed because of one levy/charge or the other.

It is shameful that in a society where there is a high level of unemployment, those who are struggling on their own to make ends meets, are taxed and levied arbitrary.
It is absolutely wrong and an extortion of the highest order to have State Government, Local Government Councils and their ‘extensions’ to demand taxes/levies/charges for public services they have not been able to provide. In the advanced countries and other developing countries around the world, State and Local Government Councils and their activities are daily felt by the people.

The collection and extortion of taxes/levies/charges from the general public, without commensurate utilities and public necessities that would account for and justify such collections/taxes, is absolutely wicked, mindless and stealing from the people. And this has to stop! Why collect taxes/levies/charges for public services that cannot be provided and accounted for?
In the UK and US people see the reasons why they have to pay taxes/levies/grants/charges to their State Governments and Councils without being asked or forced to do so. But in our own case in Nigeria, it is a different ball game, and the situation is worst in Delta State.

No responsible State Government will allow and encourage such extortions/exploitations of its populace by the State Councils off shoots or any outlets of the State Government itself. No proactive State House of Assembly will sit down and watch its fellow citizens who supposedly elected them into office, be exploited with all kinds of frivolous taxes and levies by the State, Local Councils and their tentacles. Unfortunately, that is the situation in Delta State.

So, as regard the subject matter, we urge that it should not amount to another means to extort money from the public without using same to better the lot of the public. The Delta State Government and those in the State House of Assembly, should apply wisdom and caution in doing some of these things so that it cannot be used to harass and exploit business owners in the State. These are not the kind of incentives that will attract investors in the State. If anything, it will only scare them away. It is high time we started emulating what is going on in other parts of the developed world.

If the Delta State Government is really interested in taking jobless youths off the streets, then they must apply caution and wisdom in their so-called revenue drive. They should not be imposing exorbitant taxes on “one-man businesses”, most of which are seriously trying to survive because they are forced to depend on generators to run their businesses like eateries, restaurants, bars, hoteliers, factories etc. How many of these businesses are really doing well today?

Many of them are struggling to remain in business. In fact, most factories and businesses in Delta State are closing down because of the harsh-business-environment, and yet, the State Government is only interested in imposing heavy taxes on them. And this has to stop!

By: Zik Gbemre, JP.

We Mobilize Others to Fight for Individual Causes as if Those Were Our Causes.

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