Why Ben Ayade is exempting hotels, taxi drivers and other small businesses from paying tax in Cross River
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State on Thursday announced that the state would be exempting some businesses from paying tax in the state.
Exempted from paying taxes are hotels with less than 50 rooms, all commercial motorcycle riders, taxi drivers, airport taxi drivers, small saloon owners, small catering and restaurant points and petty traders struggling to earn a living.
Speaking at the inauguration of an anti-tax agency headed by Bishop Emma Isong, Ayade said the initiative is part of his “post Covid-19 response palliative to my people. 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 taxation.”
However, a journalist based in Cross River State, Agba Jalingo, has revealed that taxi drivers in the state are still paying taxes 24 hours after the governor made the announcement.
“Ayade abolished taxes for taxi drivers and small businesses yesterday, today officials are on the road collecting taxes from taxis,” Jalingo tweeted.
Ayade had said it is better for him to “task my brain” on how to raise revenue than to expect tax from people who are still struggling.
The governor who broke down in tears while making the announcement said he “never knew that five years as governor, there would still be people living in thatched houses in Cross River.
“I almost cried because I knew how prepared I was but it didn’t end the way I dreamt for the state. I wish God would intervene because I really wish I could help. It’s very painful,” the governor said in tears.
This new initiative is coming barely a month after the governor declared that 8,000 youths in the state between the ages of 18 and 35 years would be given automatic employment.
Cross River is one of the two Nigerian states without any confirmed case of COVID-19 while the country has reported more than 7000 cases barely three months after the first case was confirmed on February 27, 2020.
Reacting to the lockdown of businesses and other activities, Ayade, in April, warned that there was a need for the government to protect not just lives but also livelihoods.
In April, he had warned that protecting lives without protecting livelihoods of Nigerians will spell doom for the nation after COVID-19 as hunger will be the next threat to lives.
“Globally, hunger and hunger-related diseases like kwashiorkor and tuberculosis kill about 8.4million people every year and so there will be more pandemic when it comes to hunger,” the governor had said.
“So, we will do all we can to curtail the pandemic from spreading to our state and protect lives too but protection of lives without the protection of livelihoods is a complete imbalance. There must be a holy matrimony between protection of lives and protection of livelihoods.”
However, some Nigerians have criticised the governor for weeping while announcing the tax exemption initiative.
Singer Seun Anikulapo-Kuti who slammed the governor for “fooling the youths”, tweeted: “Oga Ayade d cry cry baby se no be part of wetin Comrade Agbajalingo dey try tell you wen you lock am up for many many months be dis, we all have to join the struggle before you release him. Abeg you can’t fool the youths, fool yourself. Aluta.”
A Twitter user Joseph Effiong wrote: “Gov. Ben Ayade deploys populist emotionalism to deflect the undiscerning from asking hard questions. In bid to elicit pro-public sympathy he plays to the gallery. This is no solution to the poverty – stricken citizens of his state.”
Investigative journalist Fisayo Soyombo described Ayade’s tears as an “image laundering stunt”.
He tweeted “I am not falling for Ben Ayade’s camera tears while announcing “an end to illegal taxing of people”. It’s purely an image laundering stunt that is five years too late!
“Ayade has been Governor since 2015. So, if COVID-19 didn’t happen, he wouldn’t have seen the pains of all those “okada drivers, small salon owners, mama put, small produce farmers, plantain hawkers… all those basic survival people” he referenced in that video?”
A Twitter user with the handle @MrMkpe claimed the governor had given a similar directive in the past which did not yield any result.
“This is not the first time the governor is doing tax exemption, there simply is no enforcement. Don’t tell me there’s a committee please,” he tweeted.
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