Private Schools across Anambra State were on Monday shut down in protest over alleged imposition of tax, extortion and invasion of the schools by agents of the state government.
A coalition of Private Schools’ Union, Anambra state chapter, made up of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and Owners of Private Schools Association of Nigeria (OPSAN), had announced a 3-day sit at home and warning strike for all private schools, commencing on Monday.
A visit to most private schools showed appreciable compliance with the directive on the industrial action which the Union said is their way of registering their displeasure over the imposition of sanitation levy, emblem, stamp duty, registration of business premises, sports levy, beautification levy, signage level, fire service levy and withholding tax on them.
A press release signed by NAPPS President, Mrs Amaka Ezedebego and OPSAN National President, Uzochukwu Nwanonyuo, said private schools in Anambra State have been complying with directives such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE), personal tax, and developmental levy without complaint until the emergence of vehicle branding.
The statement decried the outrageous taxation and levies by Mr David Nzekwu, the chairman, Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue boss.
“We wish to draw the attention of His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano to the outrageous and multiple taxations, levies, by the board of internal revenue; invasion of schools by thugs, destabilization of schools by government agencies; impounding of school buses and forceful disembarkation of school children from their school buses by the Ministry of Transport and Environment.
“We condemn in totality, the use of the police force and Magistrate Courts to extort money from private schools and so on. We, therefore, solicit the governor’s intervention before private schools in Anambra State are submerged in limbo.
“Furthermore, it is against the National Education Minimum Standards Law of Nigeria for persons other than Inspector of Education to enter duly accredited and registered education facilities to demand government revenue,” the statement read.
Calling on the state government to put Mr Nzekwu to order, they recalled that on May 2005, government-approved that private schools only pay the Application fee, registration fee and renewal fee.
They maintained that fees such as business premises, sanitation fees, billboard levies should not be collected from private schools because they are paid directly to the Ministry of Education through government-designated bank accounts.
The union further disclosed that all previous complaints made to the Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha, and other relevant stakeholders demanding that right things be done fell on deaf ears, stressing that any additional levy should be on white paper for authenticity.
“The inability of the Ministry of Education to address these issues we raised prompted our decision to ‘Sit at home’s for three (3) days as a protest to express how badly we have been treated. Consequent upon the foregoing development, we the Coalition of Private Schools Union in Anambra State call on our beloved and amiable governor to come to our rescue by permitting us to pay what we have been paying before as contained in the letter dated September 25, 2012”, the union appealed.
They said the government should see them as partners providing social services with the state government, rather than treating them as business ventures.
In a reaction to the action, Anambra State Commissioner for Basic Education, Prof. Kate Omenugha said the state government has met with private school operators in the state intending to understand the challenges facing the sector.
“We have met with executives of the different associations on Saturday,” she said.
“Our discussions are constructive. The Obiano government is a listening one so I believe that both sides were open during the discussions. We will meet again on Thursday, 19th March 2020. In the meantime, school activities will continue as scheduled”, Prof Omenugha said.