By Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
TRADERS in Ajegunle area of Lagos and its environs have petitioned Governor Babatunde Fashola ofÂ Lagos, seeking his intervention in what they perceived as multiple taxations in the local government following alleged new tax regime introduced by the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Authority.
Under the umbrella ofÂ Â Traders Union Coalition Committee, TUCC, a coalition of different market unions in Ajegunle, the traders alleged that between 2007 and now taxation payables by traders have been increased by at least 700%, lamenting that if this recent increment, which is about 300%, is allowed to stay, it will force most of the traders out of business with an attendant socio-economic crisis and social vices.
In the petition by six leaders of TUCC, and titled â€œ Appealing to your office for intervention on the tax crisis in Ajegunleâ€, the traders explained that they were not opposed to paying tax and had always encouraged traders to pay their tax as at when due, opposed to a tax regime designed to suffocate them out of trading and existence. According to the petition: â€œAnother burning issue is the recent astronomical increase in taxes paid by traders, artisans and residents in Ajegunle.
For example, between 2007 and now taxation payables by traders have been increased by at least 700%. If this recent increment, which is about 300%, is allowed to stay, it will force most of the traders out of business with an attendant socio-economic crisis and social vices. We wish to also state that virtually, all the traders are what can best be attributed to as petty traders whose patronage comes from one of the poorestÂ low income earners one can find anywhere in the world because of the very low purchasing power of the people residing in the area and poor infrastructure.
In the face of this gloomy economic reality, it is difficult to break even as small traders and artisans let alone make profit. As we write, the growing high cost of doing businesses (high cost of renting shops, increment in taxes and multiplicity, cost of goods and services, the menace of power failure, etc) has forced many of our members out of trading.
Traders currently have been subjected to and are still being subjected to illegal taxation. For example, the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local government has gone out of its way to charge fees that are not stipulated in the Part III of Decree No 21 of 1998, which stipulates the taxes collectable by the local government authorities. To buttress this point is the fact that taxes like â€œlock-up shop, trade permit etcâ€ are charged, which are illegal and unconstitutional. We make reference to a court ruling between Mr. and Mrs. R.O Jegede Vs Eti-Osa Local Government delivered by Justice J.O Pedro of the Lagos High Court and subsequently upheld by the Justices Monica B. Dongban-Mensem (JCA) (presiding Judge), Dalhatu Adamu (JCA) and Paul Adamu Galije (JCA), all of the Court of Appeal that holds that Local Government Authorities do not have the power to impose taxes outside the provisions of Decree 21 of 1998 and that tax-payers are not bound to pay any tax outside those specified in the decree.â€
Continuing, the traders lamented that â€œtraders and artisans are equally burdened with the heavy weight of multiple taxation.
In many cases, traders and artisans are forced to pay 3 to 4 different taxes such as â€œTrade Permit, Lock-up Shop Permit, Radio/Television Licenceâ€ We strongly hold the view that trade permit and lock-up shop permit are not only illegal but also amount to multiple taxation.
It is instructive to inform that the vast majority of traders/shop owners do not have radio or television but they are forced to pay radio/television licence. And this is outside the tax paid to the Lagos State Government as market groups.
For us, taxation is not an end in itself as perceived by the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Authority, but a means to an end wherein the welfare of the people is prioritized and taken care of.
We hereby appeal to your good office to intervene in this tax crisis before it gets out of hand. We hereby demand that the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government reverts to the old tax and desist from harassing, arresting and prosecuting our members based on this new anti-people tax regime.â€