As part of COVID-19 palliatives, the Cross River state governor, Prof Ben Ayade, has inaugurated the Anti-Tax Agency with a mandate to ensure that the poor, low income earners and peasant farmers enjoy tax holiday.
He insisted that the poor must be protected in furtherance of the state tax exemption law.
Ayade handed down the mandate while inaugurating the members of the Agency at Government House House Calabar on Tuesday. The members include Bishop Emma Isong as chairman, Rev.Fr Julius Ada, Secretary, Pastor John Ekpenyong, and Rev.Sister Patricia Olom as members.
Frowning at the activities of illegal tax consultants, he said they impose unnecessary tax on the poor and vulnerable in the state and urged members of the agency to immediately swing into action.
“I charge you that this responsibility comes with its own troubles as you have a choice to do that which is good. Besides, the selection of this team is based on your history, your profile and the understanding of your closeness to God. Therefore, ensure you will do that which is fair to all manners of people equally and fairly.
“Further ensure that the masses of Cross River and the small business owners do not come under the harsh hands of the desperate tax consultants searching for money.
“Your responsibility from today going forward is to put and end to illicit taxes on people. We have a tax law here that prescribes the people who are exempted from tax. All those categories of people and those that from time to time will be so announced by the Governor, including every single hotel that has less than 50 rooms in Calabar and the whole state, today are exempted from payment of taxes.
“We have exempted all Okada riders, taxi drivers airport taxi drivers, small saloon owners, small catering and restaurant points popularly called mama put. All those people who sell basic things struggling to earn a living, they have been exempted today from paying tax because it is better for me as a Governor to rather task my brain, than to tax my people.
“My governance does not entail that income must come from all sources. If we don’t have enough why do you put pressure on that your brother or sister whose situation is much worse? Why do we expect the people who don’t have a scholarship for their children, struggling to pay school fees, to get uniforms, to secure their small businesses, struggling for water, struggling with power with government providing almost nothing to pay tax? I think it is injustice.
“This is part of my post-COVID-19 response. So as part of the post COVID-19 response action plan of Cross River State we are exempting a larger part of the public from tax”, he stated.
Ayade advised small scale business owners to resist illegal tax collectors, urging members of the agency to take their assignment seriously as all eyes are on them just as he empowered them to arrest and jail any tax consultant who will ho against the Cross River State Tax Exemption Law.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Anti-Tax Agency, Bishop Emmah Isong, commended Ayade’s passion for the downtrodden and promised that his team would deliver.
Isong, who doubles as the National Publicity Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, said: “Your Excellency today you have proven to the world the kind of politician you are. By inaugurating this agency, your passion for the downtrodden has been proved to the whole world. On behalf of members of this Agency, I wish to thank you immensely for the opportunity.
“It has always been my passion on how we can encourage small businesses to thrive. You have proven to me by this appointment that you are detribalised and I want to thank you so much for believing in me”, Bishop Isong said.