The burden of multiple taxation in Anambra and the relentless war thereto, amidst COVID 19 Pandemic (Part 1)

By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu

Penultimate week, the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service informed the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Public Accounts at the Assembly complex in Awka that it generated over Twenty Six Billion Naira (N26B) for the Anambra State Government in 2019.

This the Chairman of the Agency, Dr. David Nzekwu said was to encourage rapid development of the State while defending the financial transactions of the agency for the year 2019.

The Chairman/Chief Executive of Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) Dr. David Nzekwu
The Chairman/Chief Executive of Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) Dr. David Nzekwu

Dr. Nzekwu said that of this figure, eleven billion naira was generated from pay as you earn sources, while six hundred and eight million naira was raised from direct taxes among others. He said they registered over three hundred thousand tax payers under ANSSID, noted that it was a novel approach it adopted to increase the number of people in Anambra State tax base. This PAYE figure by Dr Nzekwe was conflicting with the Anambra (N3.4 billion) released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics for Anambra. I may be wrong!

He further revealed that the agency launched and commissioned the Anambra State stamp as another strategy to boost the Internally Generated Revenue profile of the State.

Chairman, Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Public Accounts, Sir Somtoochukwu Udeze applauded the agency for the unprecedented feat it attained last year, even encouraged them to put more efforts this year. The massive onslaught to generate revenue for the state has begun and all these efforts in generating revenue are in a COVID-19 era of 2020. Is it not frustrating, when other states are talking of tax relief?

That was why by August, 2019, it was brazen in Anambra state with tax collection and revenue generation. All manner of things happened including shutting down of banks, hospitals and businesses. It was a no plea bargain and nobody cared.

The Deputy Director/ Head, Taxpayer Education and Enlightenment Team, Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, Sylvia Tochukwu-Ngige in an effort to explain the offensive on citizens particularly their business said it was in line with Anambra State Government’s renewed drive to generate revenue, as mandated by Governor Willie Obiano.

Tochukwu-Ngige had said that Anambra State Internal Revenue Service has commenced another round of clampdown on tax evaders sealing off several private establishments in the State.

Anambra IGR team went everywhere sealing off offices, eateries, Banks, and hospitals to mention but a few. Bex Memorial Hospital Ltd, Obosi was sealed for owing the sum of N10, 199, 285.00 being the outstanding liabilities due to Anambra State government from January 2012 to December 2017.

some revenue agents at work in Anambra state

The Motion Exparte for the exercise was granted by the Anambra State High Court of Onitsha Judicial Division of Suit No. O/MISC,137/2019 between Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue and Bex Memorial Hospital Ltd.

Bex Memorial Hospital Ltd was seized by Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue for Tax Evasion on July, 31st 2019. The hospital was supposed to be offered for sale after fourteen (14) days. These were the fate of several hospitals and organizations operating in the state. Some argued it was selective because so many hospitals, allegedly never paid much. That claims could not be independently confirmed within time frame of this report.

As if brought to justify the government action, an Anambra born international investor, Chief Oscar Udorji was handy to market the essence of taxation as he revealed that he has instructed his bank to remit the sum of seventeen million, four hundred thousand naira to the treasury of the state, as his 2019 personal income tax.

Oscar, the son of late Sir Jerome Udorji of the Udorji Award fame who said he has paid over a hundred million naira as tax to Anambra state government, in the last ten years, and encouraged tax paying by citizens.

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The Ozubulu – born entrepreneur, who was the proprietor of defunct Udorji Football club, told Governor Willie Obiano, in a correspondence that the fulfilment of these obligations were to encourage others to pay tax.

But Governor Willie Obiano moved by the excruciating pains of COVID-19 in the state rather approved a tax refund to all traders and business owners in the state to help cushion the economic effect of the Coronavirus. Obiano approved 10% refund on all personal income taxes paid by business owners and traders in Anambra state in 2019. Has this been done?

Willie Obiano

The Chairman of Anambra State Internal Revenue Service (AIRS), Dr. David Nzekwu who announced that, said it was part of the economic stimulus package Governor Obiano promised Ndi Anambra to help cushion the economic and other effects of the coronavirus disease.

According to Dr. Nzekwu, “Governor Obiano has directed the Anambra State Government Covid-19 STIMULUS Package Committee headed by the Chairman, AIRS to work out the modalities for immediate implementation of the stimulus package to the beneficiaries”. Was this refund done? Not yet to my knowledge as a cross section asked said they were yet to receive it. But, few weeks later precisely in July, 2020, a massive tax and IGR drive is on in the state. The zeal now to generate revenue to top N26 Billion of last year by over 1000 percent is unprecedented.

Nzekwu used the opportunity to speak on the allegations that staff of Anambra Internal Revenue Service (AIRS) have been harassing Ndi Anambra on the streets over tax and levy payments. He denied the allegation and vouched that none of his staff are out anywhere in the state.

Dr. Nzekwu

He said: “We don’t operate like that at AIRS. Last week we issued tax advisory to Ndi Anambra on how they can pay their taxes online or through designated government bank accounts. Anybody who goes about harassing Ndi Anambra over taxes on the streets is an illegal tax collector. Call the police and the authorities when you see such persons”.

He had done stakeholders 2020 Anambra Tax Awareness with participants brainstorming on the way forward for the Informal Sector Taxation. At the end, the stakeholders pointed out accountability and good governance as the key to achieving effective informal sector taxation.

At the event, the Deputy Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly, Honorable Paschal Agbodike who attributed the low rate of tax compliance across the country to insufficient tax education and the general loss of confidence in government’s ability to appropriately administer public funds called on the people to comply with the state government’s revenue generation policy as the revenue generated has and will always be used for common good.

In his speech, the President, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN), Dame Gladys Simplice says governments at all levels can really achieve its aim of effectively taxing the informal sector, if only they can show prudence, accountability and quality performance in the administration of public funds.

The Chairman, Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, Dr David Nzekwu in his address noted that the state has made commendable progress as regards to compliance, adding that the essence of the tax awareness week was to refresh the minds of people on the best practices and to educate those with less or no knowledge about the tax system of the state and why they must pay their tax as at when due.

Tax waiver in Cross River

This came at a time when Cross River Anti-Tax Agency seeks legislative backing to eradicate multiple taxes and it has called on the State House of Assembly to give legislative backing to its agency so as to eradicate the menace of multiple taxes in the state.

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The Chairman of the Agency, Bishop Emmah Isong disclosed this in Calabar during an interface between members of the Agency and the leadership of the State Assembly led by the Speaker, Hon. Eteng Jonas Williams. He said the Agency cannot succeed without the backing of the Assembly and stressed that the menace of illegal and multiple taxes is the bane of economic growth of the state.

“We bring our cry to you because the governor says he is exempting certain classes of people from taxation. So we are here for you to help us generate necessary legislation to back up our activities and also give us legal legislative framework where we can work because it is not easy to fight a cartel”, he said.

He said people are making millions daily and billions monthly from the state and these monies are not coming to the state’s treasury and emphasized that the Assembly should put an end to this bondage on the people of the state.

“People are making billions from cross river state every month from our investigations and in some of these check points they make one or two million every day and this is a state that says these monies are not coming to them

In his response, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Eteng Jonas Williams said the state legislature will give the agency the support it needs to succeed in its activities.

Decrying the menace of illegal and multiple taxation in the state, the speaker said “Extortion is evil, sinful and we cannot as a government allow this.

The Anambra experience

Bishop Emmah Isong fears captured the situation in Anambra before the tax holiday Governor Obinao announced that was short lived, because, Anambra state by June 2020 has inaugurated community revenue officers who were unleashed into the communities and cities for aggressive revenue generation even with coronavirus pandemic.

some revenue collectors on duty

The State Government approved the engagement of two hundred (200) community revenue officers to collect revenue for government and to help address the challenge of illegal agents masquerading as representatives of government.

The Community Revenue Officers will be in-charge of revenues of government coming in from their assigned communities.

The chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, AIRS, Dr David Nzekwu revealed that while outlining the procedures for the new mobile distribution of integrated bills in Anambra State, which has already started.

Anambra IGR Boss, Dr Nzekwu display revenue collection kit

The mobile distribution of harmonized bills was an innovative system introduced by the AIRS to enable tax payers in the state to pay their tax directly to the state government’s coffers and prevent over and double taxation while guarding against revenue fraudsters, who extort unsuspecting Ndi Anambra and businesses.

He explained that Governor Willie Obiano approved for the engagement of the community revenue officers to step up the agency’s manpower in transparent revenue collection in the state, explaining that the new innovation will now integrate business Premises, ASWAMA levy, ANSAA bills, and other bills and levies into one, while payment will still be made through ANSSID numbers at designated commercial banks.

As if that wasn’t enough, the state government again introduced the Unified House Numbering and has directed payments of N3,000 each into State Government’s IGR Account.

The order was coming from the Anambra state Signage and Advertisement Agency led by Chief Jude Emecheta. The agency has ordered the general public particularly landlords that all payments for house numbering should be paid to Anambra state government IGR account, on house numbering.

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A release signed by the management of the agency, noted that penalty awaits defaulters, adding that as soon as the inter-state lockdown is relaxed, it will start erecting the unified Anambra number plates on all the houses that have paid.

Anambra Signage Boss who doubles as Chairman of Willie Obiano support Group, Chief Jude Emecheta said the House numbering levy would enable government generate the necessary revenue to sustain the overall development of the state.

As if unconcerned with the COVID-19 ravaging the world, the Chairman Anambra State Internal Revenue Service, AiRS, Dr David Nzekwu encouraged his staff to put in more efforts in generating revenue for the state, while acknowledging the tremendous increase in the state IGR. And he has pledged to raise the state IGR to nothing less than forty billion naira (N40B) in 2020. This is where the frustration is coming from as every effort is geared towards making it a reality.

He stated that every company who fails to file their Annual Tax Returns after the stipulated date of January 31st 2020 would be debited with the sum of five hundred thousand naira penalty, while the individuals would also be debited with the sum of fifty thousand naira respectively if they fail to file theirs after 31st March, 2020. The field officers were given target to generate IGR.

He said, he had already written to the state Head of Service and the governor intimating them on the issue of filing of Annual Tax Returns by individuals and civil servants.

The meeting was coordinated by the Head Assessment and Collections, AiRS, Mr, Chika Ofomata who briefed the participants on the agenda of the meeting which bothers on key performance review, new direction for Direct Tax Assessment, and guidelines for 2020 year of assessment and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for Assessment officers.

And with the tacit support of the Anambra State House of Assembly, it’s a walk over for the IGR Board, as the Anambra Assembly rather asks State revenue services to sustain sensitization.

The House of Assembly passed a resolution urging Governor Willie Obiano to direct the Chairman, Anambra State Internal Revenue Service to embark on a continuous sensitization programme to ensure prompt payment of taxes and levies by Ndi Anambra as well as take proactive measures to check tax evasion in Anambra State. The House passed the resolution following a motion sponsored to that effect by the Deputy Speaker, Dr Paschal Agbodike.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Chief Obinna Emeneka, called for continuous sensitization of the people by the Anambra State Internal Revenue Service on the need for regular payment of tax.

The Member representing Nnewi North Constituency, Honourable Nonso Okafor urged taxable adults to always pay their tax to enable government provide social amenities for their benefit.

The Speaker, Right Honourable Uche Okafor called on the Agency to intensify efforts in this regard and read out the resolution of the House, while the lawmakers supported it through a voice vote.

Continue (part 2)The burden of multiple taxation in Anambra and the relentless war thereto, amidst COVID 19 Pandemic (Part 2)

Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD. Odogwu, a culture and tradition aficionado and a foodie is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, publisher and Conversationalist @ among others.

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