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CSOs, labour, government collaborate to promote tax justice in Ebonyi By Paulinus Ogbonna 

 

The Civil Society Organisations, labour unions, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Ebonyi state government are to collaborate in enhancing tax justice in the state through mass education and enlightenment.

The initiative was part of issues emanating from a tax awareness march held Friday at the Margret Umahi International Market, Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi.

The event was organised by Neighbourhood Initiative for Women Advancement (NIWA), a civil society organisation, in collaboration with Tax Justice and Governance Platform, with support from Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and OXFAM.

Mrs Nancy Oko-Onya, the lead director, NIWA who addressed traders during the sensitisation march at the ‘Lot 3′ of the Margaret Umahi International Market regretted that the tax system in the state oftentimes placed heavy incidence on the poor and low income earners.

She called for proper assessment before taxation to avoid crippling budding business enterprises in the state with its resultant economic hardship on the citizens.

Onya, who is also the Ebonyi host, Tax Justice and Governance Platform called for total automation of revenue collection in the state to address the issue of leakages.

She maintained that cooperation between the citizens and government would enhance revenue accruable to government for development while restoring the confidence of tax payers.

She added that mutual antagonism on tax matters between government and citizens would be drastically reduced when government utilised tax revenues to address citizens’ basic needs as well as encourage tax collection agents to respect human rights of citizens.

Oko-Onya said: “Also, we have been advocating against using third parties – contractors who are not trained to collect revenues with their untrained boys as task forces.

“This has caused fights and conflicts on regular basis.

“Most times there are no tax assessment by revenue officers making people to be tasked above their earning capacities.

“I think it is high time both the government and the civil society Organisations, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) teamed up to ask questions and have tax education in the state.

“Let’s have a tax grievance address mechanism.”

Oko-Onya commended Gov. Francis Nwifuru for recently inaugurating the state Revenue Appeal Commission (RAC) and his directive to spare petty traders from market taxes.

She called on the commission to make itself accessible to the populace as well as establish appropriate channels of communication for addressing concerns ot tax payers.

“We call on the newly inaugurated Revenue Appeal Commission to have a relationship with the citizens, create awareness about their existence and how the citizens can access them.

“They should not only focus on serving government’s interests; we are talking about tax justice, we are talking about equity, we are talking about distribution of resources generated in the state.

“The Commission should also play a part in that it shouldn’t only be about collecting revenue but, also about what you do with the revenue collected; it should be about tax for service,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Christopher Okorie, the Ebonyi Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said that tax payment by citizens was necessary for development in any society.

He cautioned that the process of revenue drive and collection should have a human face, respecting the rights of citizens.

He stressed that the commission was ready to organise trainings for revenue collectors in the state to enhance their approach to revenue drive.

Others who spoke, including Mr Fidelis Mbam, the chairman, Lot 3 traders union appealed to government and her revenue agents to avoid imposing multiple taxes on them.

He also appealed that revenue accruing to the government through the various taxes should be properly utilised in providing tangible basic amenities in the market and for the entire citizenry.

Mbam expressed optimism that the present administration in the state would address their concerns.

Our correspondent reports that Tax Justice and Governance Platform has existence in 26 states in Nigeria with regional and International affiliations. ENDS//

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