Oyo state government under Governor Abiola Ajimobi is really courting one controversy after another. This year alone, it introduced what I described as fictitious screening for ghost workers, then it attempted to introduce its proposed entertainment tax which many stakeholders that spoke to IBPulse unanimously opposed. Even as the dust was yet to settle, government hit us again with what many described as an attempt to privatise secondary schools in the state. It then said that only thirty schools will be affected attracting hard knocks and commendation at the same time.
Well, a new controversial policy is on its way and it will affect house owners in the state. According to a statement released by the state government’s communication team, in line with the government’s quest for aggressive revenue generation which will shore up its dwindling internally generated revenue, house owners in Oyo state (popularly called landlords) will be required to pay property tax on their private buildings.
Announcing this development, Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun, stressed that the evaluation and collection of property tax would begin from the private residence of the governor. According to him, the government had commenced the process for an aggressive revenue drive that would witness the collection of land use charge, revenue and taxes on properties and businesses located within the state.
The commissioner assured residents that the ministry would embark on door-to-door advocacy and enlightenment campaign to sensitize members of the public about the new tax and payment regime before hitting the roads.
Arulogun said, “The State Executive Council resolved that due to the dwindling allocation to the state from the Federation Account, the government of Oyo State would embark upon a more aggressive revenue drive.
“Members of the state executive council and other political functionaries have agreed that all dues and taxes derivable from their salaries would henceforth be drawn from source, starting from July this year.
“Government has decided that properties located within the state must be taxed and it will start with the personal house of the governor. Members of the state exco have been given up to July 15 to comply with the payment. We want to set god example for others.”
He added that any member of the state executive council whose tax had not been paid up to date would have such money deducted from source before other members of the public were dragged into the tax net.
Land Used Charge
IBPulse also gathered that Oyo state government is planning to introduce a re-certification programme of landed properties across the state called Land Used Charge to boost the state’s financial base. The government is assuring people of smooth payment as Point of Service (POS) machines are already in government offices for easy payment.
The government officials claim they are rolling out new methods to guard against leakages and it would engender electronic payment system that makes cashless transaction easier.
New tax offices
The government is not joking with this tax strategy. As a matter of fact, it is claiming that all property in the state had been enumerated and payment of taxes would be enforced through the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy; it added that tax offices had been opened across the 33 local government councils in the state.
Introducing Personal Income Tax
In addition to the property tax, the government is also working on something it called personal income tax targeted at all self employed individuals in the state. It is expected that all residents in the state would be expected to have completed payment of their Personal Income tax by the end of March every year.
To ensure that it is able to achieve its set goals, the government is engaging the services of a consultant on internal revenue generation, Mr. Bicci Alli who stressed that all withholding taxes, rates and levies relating to business transaction must be promptly paid into government coffers.
According to him, the Board had made taxes and allied payments easier for the people as individuals that were self employed would have their taxes statutorily deducted and paid to the government while withholding tax on contracts and levies on businesses would be paid as at when due.
Reasons why the new taxes will fail
None of these new taxes had been introduced into the state’s constitution and the House of Assembly is yet to introduce them into the state’s Land Use Act suggesting that I or any citizen of the state can easily get a court injunction to stop their implementation. That’s not all.
Just like the government’s failed moves in the labour, education and entertainment sectors, this new hyperactivity on taxation is destined to die on arrival because it seems as if the government is yet to really learn how to get things done in a democratic setting. No matter how great and ambitious your idea is, it will definitely die if not properly introduced. Truth be told, most of the policies of the state government are necessary and would have succeeded if the government had introduced them through a more ‘people-centric’ approach instead of its now familiar autocratic way of introducing new policies.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi followed President Buhari to the Whitehouse, so allow me to use President Obama’s way of introducing new policies.
He couldn’t achieve much progress on guns control because there is powerfully strong opposition to it. He didn’t just compel everyone to be on board. His health reform bill tagged ObamaCare was fulfilled through extensive deliberations with stakeholders; he even had to travel across the 52 states in the USA to sell the policy to the people – he didn’t sit in his office, bring in a ‘consultant’, call a press conference and compel the people to fall in line with the new policy. Real democratic leaders don’t do that.
The proposed property taxes are really destined to fail because I can’t imagine someone from one tax office locking – or breaking into my house because of a new tax which wasn’t in place when I built the house. I trust a house with two Alsatian dogs and Sule the Hausa security guard will not be approached by the tax collectors since some landlords in many neighborhood have licensed guns and can shoot intruders and trespassers.
By the way, I am very sure the policy can only be implemented in Bodija GRA and other areas where the enlightened and the rich are living or you want to tell me that the tax collectors will successfully collect revenues from houses in Bere, Popo Yemonja, Ayekale, Oremeji, Oritaperin and other core Ibadan areas without getting the beating of their lives?
What needs to be done
The governor and other rich men in the society can easily pay the tax but not the teachers and civil servants that had to obtain loans for years before they could buy enough blocks to build two rooms with nylons as windows. These are the people that are yet to receive salaries since last December. How does the government want them to find money to pay taxes?
Will they steal or rob banks?
For the self employed citizens in the state, many are already paying dues and charges to local government, market touts and other legal and illegal revenue collectors. I believe it would be totally unfair for them to be asked to pay even more tax and dues – especially when they are not enjoying anything directly from the state government.
I get it, Oyo state government needs more money cos if not, it wouldn’t be borrowing yet again from the federal government. But the real question is – has the government blocked all the leakages and totally prevented wastage of public funds? Can the governor account for every kobo it has realised this year? Is every resource maximally utilized? Is there no corruption in the state government? Are people not ‘blowing’ government money as Nigerian politicians do?
The reason why the government should be ashamed of thinking in the first place of taxing the people more is largely because it is seriously disconnected from the people as every household is a government on its own. In my neighborhood we pay for everything on our own – security, road, electricity, water, health and several others. We are currently contributing to replace the electricity transformer that got spoiled last year. Why didn’t the government help us get one? Will we pay for the transformer and still pay tax to the coffers of a government we don’t directly feel in our daily lives?
I believe it is only when the people are directly feeling the impact of governance and not on social media or on TV that they can commend and volunteer to pay to help the government. But for now, the larger chunk of the population sees government as filled with people who are there to eat as much as they can of the national cake. So the consensus is – let them eat the national cake all they want, we that are not in government will work hard and keep our resources close enough.
Honestly, if the government really wants the people to pay tax, it should show them reasons why. Telling us the state revenue is dwindling isn’t enough to make me part with my hard earned resources. I can only do that when I see that I am directly benefiting from the government. For now, I’m not.