BY RICHARD NDOMA
As part of COVID-19 palliatives and in furtherance of the State tax exemption law, the Cross River state governor Sir Ben Ayade on Wednesday inaugurated the anti-tax Agency with a charge to ensure small that scale businesses and peasant farmers enjoy tax holiday.
He insisted that the poor must be protected.
Members of the Agency include Bishop Emma Isong who is the chairman. Rev.Fr Julius Ada is the Secretary. Others are Pastor John Ekpenyong and Rev. Sister Patricia Olom
The governor frowned at the activities of illegal tax consultants who he said impose unnecessary tax on the poor and vulnerable in the state and urged members of the Agency to immediately swing into action.
“I charge you that this responsibility comes with it’s own troubles, you have a choice to do that which is good and the selection of this team is based on your history, it’s based on your profile ,the understanding of your closeness to God and that you will do that which is fair to all manners of people equally and fairly.
“We charge you to ensure that the poor masses of Cross River State and the small business owners do not come under the harsh hands of the desperate search for money by tax consultants”, Ayade told members of the Agency which is comprised of Christian clerics.
Continuing, he further implored the members: “Your responsibility from today going forward is to put and end to illicit taxes on people. We have a tax law here that prescribes the people who are exempted from tax. All those categories of people and those that from time to time will be so announced by the Governor, including every single hotel that has less than 50 rooms in Calabar and the whole state, today are exempted from payment of taxes.
“We have exempted all Okada riders, taxi drivers airport taxi drivers, small saloon owners, small catering and restaurant points popularly called mama put. All those people who sell basic things struggling to earn a living, they have been exempted today from paying tax. We have exempted them because it is better for me as a Governor to rather task my brain, than to tax my people.”
He said he was not interested in generating income from all sources, including imposing tax burden on the small scale business and service providers.
“My governance does not entail that income must come from all sources. If we don’t have enough why do you put pressure on that your brother or sister whose situation is much worse? Why do we expect that people who don’t have scholarship for their children, struggling to pay school fees, struggling to get uniforms, struggling to secure their small businesses, struggling for water, struggling with power and government is providing almost nothing, why do tax them? I think it is injustice.
“This is part of my post Covid 19 response. So as part of the post Covid 19 response action plan of Cross River State we are exempting a larger part of the public from tax”, he quipped
Ayade advised small scale business owners to resist illegal tax collectors, saying: “Anyone who comes to you to demand tax, you have a right to say stop, the Governor has said we should not pay tax and if we have to pay tax, then let me contact the anti-tax agency to tell us whether we fall under the category to pay tax or not.”
He urged members of the Agency to take their assignment seriously as all eyes are on them: “I charge you to take this task very seriously. I want to hear you everyday on radio and tv listing those who are to be exempted and telling them what to do if any tax consultant or any person comes before them. I have abolished tax consultants at this category. No tax consultant is allowed and I give you the powers to arrest any tax consultant you see and we will try him under the Cross River State Tax Exemption Law and jail him for putting pressure on already pressurized people.
“Today is the end of the bullish drive for tax and I know that the team I have assembled is not a team that will collect patronage, it’s not a team that will close their eyes to injustice. I choose only people who are close to God.”
Replying, Chairman of the Agency, Bishop Emma Isong commended Ayade’s passion for the downtrodden and promised he and his team would deliver.
He thanked the Governor for finding them worthy of serving the people of the state.
“Your Excellency today you have proven to the world the kind of politician you are. By inaugurating this agency, your passion for the downtrodden has been proved to the whole world. On behalf of members of this Agency, I wish to thank you immensely for the opportunity.
“It has always been my passion on how we can encourage small businesses to thrive. You have proven to me by this appointment that you are detribalised and I want to thank you so much for believing in me”, Bishop Isong said.