Cleric warns C’River politicians against sponsoring illegal taxation
By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
The chairman of Cross River state Anti-tax Agency, Bishop Emmah Isong, has appealed to politicians to stop sponsoring touts to molest the poorest of the poor through illegal levies and taxation, saying that illegal taxations was impacting negatively on the economy of the state with thousands of businessmen relocating to other states.
Isong, who is also the national publicity secretary of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) and presiding Bishop of the Calabar-based Christian Central Chapel Int’l (CCCI), made the appeal, Tuesday, in Calabar in a chat with journalists.
He said that recent development over the matter had shown that powerful politicians were real masterminds and sponsors of the illegal levies, saying the state would benefit more if everyman would join hands with Gov. Ben Ayade to end the menace.
“You can now see why His Excellency appointed only pastors and clergy to handle the anti-tax fight. It never dawned on us what we were brought into until we hit the ground running. We have come to discover that it is Mr. Otu’s goat that ate Mr. Otu’s yam. The touts on the streets oppressing and beating up old market women because of collecting levies are people’s workers.
“They are being sent to those revenue points by people, particularly politicians. The agents are placed in those places as rewards for electoral victories. That explains why activities of illegal taxes and levies surge immediately after elections. His Excellency has also come to discover the political timber and caliber behind illegal taxation in the state. The narrative is that those guys on the streets perpetrating this act are chips of the old block.
“Since we started arresting those violators of anti-tax law, we have been receiving calls from the big and mighty for us to soft-pedal. What we are going to do is that we will hold unto the cubs until the mother lion comes out; but we do hope they’ll repent. I appeal to those sponsoring those illegal tax agents to cooperate with the state government and stop such acts for the interest of the economy of the state.”
The PFN chief further disclosed that no fewer than 7000 members left his church within the past twenty years and relocated their businesses to neighbouring states because of illegal taxations.
Explaining why he took up the appointment, Isong said: “About 7,000 of my members left our church to other states because of an uncomfortable and un-conducive business environment connected to illegal taxation.
“As a financial expert, who was the best graduating student of banking and finance from the University of Calabar, I see my appointment to head the anti tax agency as an opportunity to correct the anomaly, instead of fasting for 40 days for God to retain our members in church.
“There has been mass exodus of people; I mean businessmen from the state, and the reasons are connected to illegal taxation and unfriendly business environment.”
He restated the resolve of the agency to prosecute all anti-tax law offenders, and maintained that the arrest of violators of the state government law on taxation by his agency was a pointer to the fact that the agency meant business.
“Our concern is that our people should go about their businesses without fear of molestation from tax touts, in consonance with His Excellency’s executive fiat which released them from all forms of tax responsibilities, and in line with Cross River state tax exemption law. The governor is very concerned over this matter, and I tell you, the anti-tax movement may turn out to become the governor’s signature project or imprint of his administration,” Isong submitted.
The anti-tax chief also enumerated achievements of the agency to include carrying out sensitisation campaigns across the state, as well as creating synergy with other relevant government organs to give tax relief to the poorest of the poor, who he believed, had been burdened by illegal taxation for long.