Not many Nigerians especially business owners in the Federal Capital Territory ( Abuja ) are amused that Abuja Municipal Area Council levies N100, 000 emission permits on business operators for the emission of gas from generators and other heavy duty machines.
A letter the Environment office of AMAC and addressed to a bakery stated that the levy was for the discharge of harmful substances into the air, water and land. The letter warned that failure to comply with the directive could lead to arrest of the bakery operator.
AMAC claimed the directive was in line with the provision of Section (2C) of the fourth schedule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended under the function of the Local Government Authority and Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act part (iii) Section 25 which established the Local Council Authority to regulate, enforce and collect levies for the interest of public health.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, this tax is obnoxious, insensitive and capable of placing more financial burden on small businesses in Abuja already overwhelmed by multiple taxation.
It is important to note that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are the engine of growth of most economies across the globe driving innovation, economic development and job creation. More than 90 percent of the world’s businesses are MSMEs, and in the emerging markets, they are responsible for 80 per cent of newly created jobs.
Sadly, the federal and state governments are asphyxiating small businesses in the country through multiple taxation.
For example, in Abuja some business owners pay up to 26 taxes which include Bicycle and Cart levies, parking tax, entertainment, tenement, business premises and local council.
Others are billboard, Radio Permit, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Fire Service and many others.
We recall that Hotel Owners Forum in Abuja had cried out severally that consistent multiple taxations on hotels in the Federal Capital Territory could force them out of business.
The question often asked is should business owners suffer for the inability of the government to provide the basic needs of the populace like regular power supply or conducive environment for businesses to thrive? The gaseous emission levy is simply putting the burden of governments failures on the over stretched MSMEs. Yet, this is just one example of such oppressive policies.
According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Nigeria ranks 171 out of 190 countries in getting electricity which is seen as one of the major constraints for the private sector.
World Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, had said that Improving access and reliability of power is key to reducing poverty and unlocking economic growth in the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot agree less.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2019 had said that the federal government had pumped in about N1.5 trillion in intervention fund into Nigeria’s power sector in the last two years.Yet Nigeria has not been able to generate more than 5000mw of electricity.
It needs not be said that business owners in trying to stay in business use generator sets. This is expensive and has pushed the cost of production to the roof top. Now they are being taxed for trying to survive and generate employment for thousands of unemployed youths despite the harsh business environment in which they operate.
To be sure, it’s not only in FCT that business owners are saddled with different taxations, it’s the same all over the country .
It is pertinent to note, therefore, that multiple taxations occur where the tax is levied on the same person in respect of the same liability by more than one State or Local Government Council.
According to experts, multiple taxation depletes returns on investment, erodes the capital base of listed firms, and subsequently trigger business collapse .
Granted, the government at all levels are on an aggressive revenue drive in the face of dwindling oil revenues but that should not be do
ne at the expense of the survival of businesses as it is capable of driving more people into the pool of the unemployment market.
In view of the foregoing, we call on AMAC to immediately suspend the gaseous emission tax as in our view it is senseless, inconsiderate and capable of killing more businesses. The tax can only come into place when the government has provided 24 hours power supply so that businesses can run effectively without the use of generator sets. .
The government should also find a way of harmonizing some of these taxes that business owners are daily complaining about. We insist small businesses should be encouraged and not killed on the altar of obnoxious revenue drive by governments and their agencies