Some traders and transporters in the South East Zone of the country have expressed worry over the menace of incessant collection of taxes and levies in the area, especially by touts and market unions.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on the effects of multiple taxes on businesses in the region revealed the situation was assuming alarming dimensions in recent times.
In Anambra, respondents say the menace was prevalent in the transport sector where touts operating in the name of different unions collect tolls supposedly on behalf of the state government without proper accountability.
A shuttle bus operator in the area, Odira Nnalue, who disclosed they were still paying multiple levies, said the effort of the Anambra Government to centralise the collection had not been effective.
Nnalue said though the government had directed them to pay a one-off levy every month, touts have continued to collect money from them every day as union levies.
He said the problem of multiple levies, coupled with the high cost of petrol and vehicle maintenance, was affecting most businesses.
A filling station manager, who wished to be identified simply as Godwin, said they were charged levies on different revenue heads which were merged into a consolidated tax.
For Ogonna Ofodike, a shop owner, said traders in Anambra State also faced cases of multiple taxations, as they are made to pay levies under various heads, including stallage fee, market development, market traders fee, pollution/sanitation fee, biometric market registration, and market operation fee.
But the state governor, Chukwuma Soludo, said his administration was addressing the menace of multiple taxations.
The governor, who was speaking at a stakeholders’ engagement in the state, said his administration was evolving a progressive, simple, and technology-driven tax system to eliminate touts and reduce the burden on businesses.
“The touts will be eased out of the way, because these people collecting the multiple levies are illegal agents who ensure that 90 percent of the money collected enters private pockets. They do not come to the government.
In Ebonyi State, business operators said the development was causing difficulties and setbacks to their businesses, ranging from increases in purchasing prices of items and generally harsh economy.
They urged the Federal and State Governments to put the activities of tax collectors on serious check, especially those on the highways and within the state.
They claimed that between three and four taxes were randomly being imposed on people doing business in the area.
Ukasha Muhammed, a Goat Dealer and Resident, maintained that monitoring their activities would enable the government to ascertain and tackle the challenges.
Muhammed noted that the highway’s multiple charges include, haulage, veterinary services, and transportation, among other charges.
He said businesses spend between N10,000 and N50,000 as total expenses on each animal (goat and cow) from the point of purchase.
“After multiple taxes and levies experienced on the highways, when you come down to the state, you will pay another taxes, making goods to be costly in the market.
“The revenue collectors in the state are also not helping the situation. We pay between N300 and N3,000 per goat and cow respectively for IGR (internally generated revenue,” Muhammed explained.
Another dealer, Haruna Sariki, alleged that most of the collectors who pose as public and private revenue officials, imposed multiple taxes on businesses.
Sariki urged governments to check the excesses of illegal roadblocks usually mounted in the guise of revenue collection along highways as well as imposters in the state that frustrated business operators.
He said a goat is selling between N70,000 and N150,000, depending on the sizes as against N25,000 and N45,000, while multiple taxation for a truckload of cattle often amounted to N1.8 million, as against N600,000.
Chinedu Mba, a Tricycle operator in the state said the taxes were worrisome to them, while Amaka Okereke, a Fashion Designer lamented that the activities of the tax collectors always get her confused over who the authentic groups are.
Okereke urged governments to streamline the collection and control the activities of revenue and tax collectors, as they keep tagging names to levies paid repeatedly.
In Enugu State, multiple taxation is also a challenge, with petty traders, who are officially within the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) decrying the high prevalence of multiple taxes and levies within the state.
A survey of some local markets in Enugu revealed that some of the taxes and levies were introduced by their market leadership, local and state governments officials.
The taxes/levies range from security levy, sanitation levy, annual levy to late packing fine/levy.
Other new levies introduced and their collection fiercely done daily, include daily wheelbarrow hawkers’ permit and daily ground space levy, among others.
John Okezie, a petty trader within Mayor Market, Agbani Road, noted that the burden of taxes, especially the ones paid daily, was becoming overwhelming on traders, who at times experienced low patronage.
“I pay N150 each day for the ground space to display my cucumber,” Okezie said.
“After paying this money, the patronage is not coming to offset my transport and feeding for the day. It becomes painful parting with the N150 to the market leadership,” he said.
Another trader in Ogbete Main Market, Chibuzor Nwanna, called on the state and local governments to call the market leaders to order through harmonization of the various taxes and levies paid in the market.
Nwanna said that one trader alone paying up to five or six different taxes and levies within a month is much, adding that “as it stands, we only trade for five days within a week”.
“I think that payment of these levies/taxes is putting more economic hardship and pressure on traders in the market while the economy and patronage had continued to drop for about six months now,” he lamented.
A wheelbarrow hawker in Kenyatta Market, Joy Ogbodo, said she paid N100 per day even though the vegetables she sold were just above N1,000.
“The authorities and whoever cares to listen should help us. At least those of us selling items that are closely worth nothing should be spared from the daily levies,” Ogbodo pleaded.
A POS operator, Chioma Iyiveze, lamented that the effect of multiple taxations was really biting harder on Small and Medium Enterprises in Enugu state and Nigeria at large, as it denied the enterprises the opportunity to expand.
Iyiveze said in Enugu, struggling SMEs were forced to pay all sorts of levies, ranging from land rate, ESWMA, Water rate and other undocumented tax.
“It is painful, especially with the current increases in transportation caused by the hike in petroleum products across the country,” she lamented.
Meanwhile, the state Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, recently launched the Single Interstate Road Stickers (SIRTS) and the Single Haulage Fee (SHF) in line with the Joint Tax Board (JTB) initiative.
The governor said it took the bold step to promote uniformity in the application of road tax laws in the state and beyond to avoid double or multiple taxes. (NAN)