By CrossRiverWatch Admin
On the 17th of January, 2017, the governor of Cross River State, Prof. Benedict Ayade, made what not a few Cross Riverians viewed as a shocking and bold statement.
In that statement, governor Ayade, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, damning every seemingly economic unevenness, courageously said that businesses earning below N50,000 should be exempted from taxation of whatever kind.
Mr. Ita had quoted the governor to have made the statement while signing into law a N707 billion 2017 appropriation bill.
I quote in-ter alia: “I am sounding the last warning that henceforth I don’t want to hear anyone who earns less than NGN50,000 a month being taxed in any form in the state… I have warned anybody who is still collecting money from these people to stop forthwith… I have seen poverty in my personal life and I know what that small NGN2000 means to them”
The pronouncement was received with mixed feelings, with residents and citizens expressing divergent views.
But whatever the view, In a normal clime, such statement from a state governor would have been received with immediate execution and implementation of the executive order. But, no, not in Cross River, not under the present government, where the governor says a thing and government appointees do another.
After that statement, officials of government under different agencies have helped to either directly or indirectly shut down small businesses in flagrant disobedience to the governor’s directive.
Penultimate week, there was, on CrossRiverWatch Online and other online news mediums, a rather pathetic story of a poor woman who was harassed, intimidated and her goods confiscated by officials of the Cross River State government acting on the orders of a senior government official who himself physically supervised that callousness.
The poor woman’s only offence was that she attempted to earn a descent and honest living by legitimately displaying her NGN5,000 worth of goods on an area in the city center, an act not known to contravene any known law of the land.
This woman became guilty of a non-existent law, her goods were ‘stolen’ by the rampaging thugs of the state government working on the direct instructions of the commissioner for environment, Mr. Mike Eraye who according to the report personally supervised that uncharitable and uncivilized act.
I refer to a verse in the holy book, Prov. 14:31(KJV) ” He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker…”
I commend the bravery of that woman who dared the thugs and decided that she would rather be crushed by the trailer than allow her only source of livelihood taken away.
I wonder how those officials would feel if that poor woman was their mother or sister.
On a normal situation, the commissioner should have publicly apologized to that woman or better still resign, but I dare say, that will be like telling the mountain to go to Mohammed.
The present state political appointees are either too infallible to make mistakes or too puissant to be cautioned.
How Things Are:
The Cross River State government, in the name of city beautification have decided to plant grasses at every available open space along the highways, while converting existing ones to a no-go area, barricading the areas and practically restricting the public from gaining access by implication robbing them of their well deserved relaxation.
It is important to note that, these areas apart from being a relaxation spot for residents and visitors, have also, over the years served as a business hub for small business.
People go there to hang out with their families in the evening, a stroll around there will witness thriving small businesses.
For example, the small field around Army junction, has for long harbored not less than five mobile photography businesses, three mobile phone recharge card spots, a suya stand not to mention other petty sellers who curry the relax mode of residents while making their money.
Today, that field has been unreasonably barricaded, effectively killing about seven to eight viable businesses, not mentioning countless other individuals who daily depend on the survival of those businesses. At the end of the day the grasses are not well tended and taxable businesses have been forced to close down, robbing the same government of tax proceeds and one wonders who losses at the end.
A walk round the city, will tell a sad story of complete annihilation of many small businesses on the guise of city beautification.
At the popular RCC junction (Calabar-Calabar), I counted no less than four small businesses that have been destroyed by the same government that preaches love for small scale businesses.
I wondered what must have happened to the struggling young men and hard fighting widows, who in a bid to make ends meet, defy every known obstacles stepping into the streets to earn a reasonable living, only for their goods to be ‘stolen’ by government thugs who masquerades as tax officials.
Because of the present government’s harsh ambience for small businesses, young men and women have been sent into the streets to seek alternative means of survival, of which many are likely to take to crime and other unwholesome practices.
Why does this government like acting like the devil, who gives with one hand and take from the other.
I had thought that a forward looking government is rather supposed to seek better options to grow her small scale businesses by carefully formulating policies and framework for such businesses to thrive, knowing too well its significant contribution to the overall growth of the financial toughness of a state.
But the present state government and her officials seem to be playing a reversed side of the card. Adversely tightening economic bolts against her citizens and residents. Businesses are shutting down, government officials are disobeying government directives with reckless abandon while the people are getting poorer and poorer.
The era where the governor says one thing and government officials do the exact opposite must be effectively nipped.
This government and her officials cannot continue frolicking with a business as serious as governance.
This paradox must end.
Edem Darlington, a journalist and social critic writes via [email protected]