We are again encouraged by the good works of the Government of Rivers State led by his Excellency Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi CON and efforts to resolve the confusion/conflicts regarding which tier of government or department /Agency is the appropriate collection authority for various taxes and levies in Rivers State.
Having said that, permit us to draw your attention to the following concerns by members and affiliates of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), who are senior staff in their respective places of work. We also appeal that you give due consideration to these concerns raised by the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) for and on behalf of our affiliates and members in Rivers State. We say this because we will NOT obey any law that is made deceitfully by calling for public hearing and thereafter ignoring the concerns of stakeholders raised at the public hearing when crafting the law!
1. THE BILL WILL HOPEFULLY STREAMLINE TAXES AND LEVIES IN THE STATE:
Permit us to state that our support for this bill , which is for the harmonization of taxes and levies in Rivers State is based on the fact that we expect it to streamline the taxes and levies collectible in Rivers State, minimize the current confusion regarding which tier of government or which agency/department of government is the appropriate authority for the collection of each tax and levy in Rivers State, which had many times lead to double or multiple payment of the same tax and levy by the residents and business community in Rivers State. Again, it should address issues around jurisdictional conflicts between the various tiers of government with respect to the collection of taxes and levies in Rivers State. To this extent, it is a welcome development and we belief that this BILL if sincerely and properly crafted, will provide another opportunity to create investment-friendly environment in Rivers State.
2. THE BILL SHOULD NOT INTRODUCE NEW TAXES AND LEVIES:
We will however support this bill for the harmonization of taxes in Rivers State to the extent that it will not be used as a ploy to introduce any new form of taxes and/ or levies in the state. Our position is informed by the provisions of section 1 (2) of the bill which states that “the Commissioner in Charge of Finance shall from time to time modify the first and second schedules to this law by adding, deleting or altering the schedules in order to bring them in conformity with the provisions of any law providing for the payment of taxes or levies in the State”. These are very wide powers which should not be vested on a single officer. It is also suggestive that government may be planning to introduce new forms of taxes and levies in Rivers State.
Our position is further informed by the surreptitious manner in which the Federal Government rather than increase the tax reliefs due to Nigerian workers deceitfully increased the burden of the workers through the new Personal Income Tax Amendment (PITAM) Act 2011. This is the reason why many workers have noticed a sharp increase in their tax liability, a huge reduction in their take home pay and the mesmerisation of the salary increases via salary relativity and minimum wage.
The PITAM was basically used to increase the internally generated revenue due to the various state governments and this made a fool of the minimum wage struggle by the Nigerian workers. It should therefore be obvious by now that Nigerian workers and the unions that represent them will not support any increase in taxes and levies and hence the need to clarify that fact. Moreover, the Nigerian workers are yet to derive reasonable value for the enormous taxes and levies currently being deducted from their salaries. It is therefore no longer acceptable to assume that the priority of government at all levels is only to legislate and enforce taxes and levies on the citizenry without any legislative and enforced guarantees for tax dividends and benefits. Nigerian workers have endured this impunity for so long with excruciating consequences. It is in line with this line of thought that the just concluded Joint National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of PENGASSAN and NUPENG on Friday November 16th 2012 demanded that the Federal government further amends the Personal Income Tax Amendment Act 2011 to provide adequate reliefs to lessen the burden of workers.
3. THE BILL MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH RELEVANT FEDERAL LAWS:
Essentially, this bill in our opinion seems to apply the same principles that were applied by the Federal government in crafting the Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004. The import of that Federal Act is that it sought to deal with issues of multiple and illegal taxes and levies by streamlining and harmonising all taxes and levies approved for collection by Federal Government, State Government and Local Governments. To this end, it is important that the Rivers State House of Assembly and the Rivers State Government act within the provisions of the Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004 in all matters relating to taxes and levies in Rivers State. This Bill which seeks to harmonise the taxes and levies collectable by the various tiers of government and Agencies /Departments of Governments in Rivers State must not be used to circumvent the Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004.
To this end, permit us to respectfully use this opportunity to ask the Rivers State House of Assembly to carefully cross check and ensure that there is no aspect of the bill that conflict with the provisions of Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004 and item 8, Part 11 second schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 .This is because the Rivers State House of Assembly , being a state legislature , lacks the power to legislate on taxes and levies outside the provisions of Part ll in the schedule to theTaxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004. Moreover any legislation made by the Rivers State House of Assembly on Taxes and levies, which is inconsistent with the Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004, an Act of the National Assembly, and item 8, Part 11 second schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, will be void to the extent of its inconsistency.
To this end, we have attached herein a copy of the Taxes and levies (Approved List for Collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004 for your guidance.
It is important to state that the workers and entire residents are following with keen and cautious attention, with the hope that this harmonisation will provide an opportunity to re-position Rivers State as the preferred investment destination in the Niger Delta and we expect that your efforts will be applaudable. In addition, the manner of tax collection and enforcement of taxes should be similarly reviewed, especially as the Rivers State House of Assembly finalise on the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue Bill.
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Rivers State Council supports the spirit and intent of the bill for the harmonisation of taxes and levies in Rivers State to the extent that it will not be used as a ploy to increase the tax or financial burden of workers and to the extent that it conforms to the Taxes and Levies (Approved list for collection) Act T2, LFN, 2004 and item 8, Part ll second schedule of the 1999 Constitution.
We therefore most respectfully request and appeal that you give due attention to our concerns in the interest of long standing cordial relationship and industrial peace and harmony in Rivers State and in Nigeria.
For: TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF NIGERIA (TUC)
RIVERS STATE COUNCIL
Comrade Hyginus Chika Onuegbu JP, ACTI ,FCA