By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin
THE State Government has stopped Yoruba farmers in Okada, Ovia North East Local Government Council from paying N40 million royalty per annum to a high ranking Benin Chief who sublet government land to the farmers.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole, during a visit to him in his office by the Yoruba farmers said Government has recovered the land from the Benin Chief and reverted it back to the state government.
He warned the farmers, who said they were under constant threat by the Chief to pay this year’s N40 million royalty, that “under no circumstance should you pay taxes to an individual and I warn that if you do, we will evict you from the land.”
The Governor explained that the land which the Benin Chief sublet does not belong to him, asserting: “as far as I know, there are only two custodians of land in Edo State. First, is that all land is vested in the state government; the second is the Oba of Benin by virtue of the fact of being the Oba of Benin and the history behind that institution as regards traditional ownership of land.
“As far as I know, government policy across the country is that Nigerians cannot be tenant farmers particularly on government-owned lands, because the land in question is government-owned that was reserved for an individual for the purpose of farming by himself, not to sublet to actual farmers who then pay royalties to him. The only person who can collect royalties in Edo State is the Oba of Benin, no other person as far as I know.
Oshiomhole said there are no second class citizens in the state, and that the state government treats all Nigerians equally : “What you are expected is to pay your personal income tax.
You are an Hausa man, you are an Ibo man, you are Itsekiri man, you are Ijaw and you live in the land area called Edo, you are not a second class citizen. Where you live you have the right to farm. And the money you make from you farming is your money, the only think that the law requires of you is to pay your personal income tax.
“So if you make as much as N10 million in income, we will assess your income tax on the basis of your earning but you cannot pay tax to individuals, no matter how highly placed. I as the Governor I cannot ask you to pay tax to me if I give you land to farm. That land is government land, and when I exercise my privileges as a Governor, it doesn’t make me a governor, it doesn’t make me a landlord.
“Under no circumstances should you pay taxes to an individual and I warn that if you do, then we will evict you from that land. All those lands you are talking about have been recovered by the government of Edo State.
That land is reserved, you are entitled to farm on it within the agreed rules and if any dues are to be paid, they will paid directly to the treasury of Edo State Government” he declared.