Awka – Anambra State Government has identified non-payment of taxes and levies by the bulk of residents in Anambra, as chiefly responsible for the paucity of funds it faces, in its efforts to provide the kind of infrastructural facilities it envisions for the state.
The Chairman of the Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue Service, Dr. David Nzekwu, disclosed this at the Revenue House in Awka during a review of the tax situation in the state between 2019 and 2021.
In Anambra, critics have taken a swipe at the Governor Willie Obiano-led administration for its abysmal performance in the area of road infrastructure.
The matter has also been worsened with the coming of the rainy season which has many parts of the state inaccessible due to very deplorable condition of the roads.
But according to Nzekwu, people complain bitterly about absence of social amenities in their domains but blatantly refuse to carry out their basic civic responsibility of paying taxes and levies to enable government exercise social security schemes for the citizenry.
The Anambra Tax boss said it was worrisome that residents of major commercial cities of Onitsha, Awka and other places across Anambra, do not pay taxes, revealing that people are owing government over 70 billion naira at the moment.
He further disclosed that associations, unions and other groups as also part of the cankerworms stealing government revenues.
Nzekwu alleged that groups like tippers association, market unions and a host of others, gang up in the guise of collecting revenues for the government but in reality, syphon internally generated revenues government would have judiciously deployed to provide basic amenities like roads and other public infrastructure.
“Different groups form themselves as associations to control the revenue of the state and that revenue theft seemed to be situated in the markets where a group of persons called leaders ascribe the title of government revenue officials to themselves and collect money from traders, shop owners and many others, only to defraud the state government.
“Ose, one of the markets in Onitsha, contributed about 17 million naira to the state coffers in 2020 while Main market Onitsha generated about 58 million naira last year which is a far cry from what both markets and other markets across the state should have generated as IGR. From the foregoing, we observed that the influence of market associations, landlord associations, petroleum dealers associations and a host of other associations have drastically affected revenue collections in Anambra state,” he said.
The Anambra revenue boss emphasized that Anambra state could exist without federal allocations if the citizens pay their taxes and levies.
He was optimistic that the state government could realize over N100 billion to run the affairs of the state, adding that the revenue target for the year 2021 is N36 billion while the benchmark for last year was N26 billion.
Nzekwu emphasized that revenue collection is not a responsibility of associations but the statutory responsibility of the board of internal revenue service as provided in the law enacted by the state legislature.
Although, he pointed out, that the agency may have challenges in managing illegal collections on the roads, no individual was authorized to collect revenue on behalf of the state government except the board of internal revenue, adding that the names of tax collection agents are published by the agency to enable members of the public to know as well as identify those authorized to handle revenues on behalf of government.
Nzekwu made it clear that the Anambra State Board of Internal Revenue does not work with associations and unions, encouraging tax payers to individually go to the bank to make payments directly to the government coffers, using their State Social Security Identification, ANSSID numbers to avoid being defrauded by impostors and impersonators masquerading as government tax collection representatives.
He said, “We have had cases where staff of the agency are coming not to collect taxes but to serve demand notices and they were molested. That is unacceptable. People need to be aware that there is a serious punishment for obstructing the revenue officer from performing his or her duty. There is no need for people to beat up our staff because they are doing their job.”